Clash of Hexennacht:Volume3 Chapter 10
Chapter 10: Finishing This Comes First
This simple method
Reminds me of
The word satisfaction
The meal was steak and katsudon, the perfect choice for a pre-battle jinx.
Horinouchi and Mary sat next to each other with Kagami and Hunter across from them.
After they finished a fulfilling meal, which included Hunter asking for an extra steak, Koutarou opened a spell circle in front of their table.
“This is the footage from Lady Hunter and Lady Mary’s battle this evening.”
“Oh, the one you edited with my people.”
The image played on the spell circle had no excess information and was corrected for backlight and anything other distractions.
They all looked to the Rank 1’s spell.
…The Ranker Battle is at 4 AM. Lady Mitsuru and Lady Kagami have less than 8 hours.
Hunter and Mary were here too in the hopes that they could be of some use.
That was wonderful.
As the head of the Horinouchi family, Horinouchi Mitsuru had to hone herself even further than the previous generation since her mother had been lost.
She was powerful, but she was also well aware of that and would show concern for others in an almost parental way. But that was different from making friends who would stand alongside her.
Koutarou had honestly thought she would live her life alone.
Even if the previous generation had been lost much too soon, she had had a husband and friends.
But given the 10 year span between Hexennachts, her daughter was taking on that challenge during her student years. That was unavoidable thanks to the policy of the Shihouin Academy’s headmaster and the Ranker Battle system.
…But those fears are gone now.
Horinouchi Mitsuru could enjoy her time with her friends and consult with them, but those friends would also risk their lives alongside her. It had only been recently that Koutarou had learned that their “Lady Mitsuru” could grow angry or laugh at other people’s jokes or grow exasperated with someone.
And she had come to terms with the loss of her mother and she could face the Black Witch without falling into despair or belligerence.
Besides how this all played into Hexennacht and the Ranker Battles, Koutarou felt she was becoming an appropriate leader of the Horinouchi family.
Well done, milady. With those words in his heart, he began to speak.
“Now, about the enemy’s…that is, Lady Shihouin Fleur’s spell.”
Horinouchi listened to Koutarou’s explanation as she watched the video.
The screen showed cherry trees scattering lots of flowers into the air.
“Lady Shihouin uses an explosion spell specialized toward the traits of a flower. The spell itself is a simple explosion and this footage shows that both physical and spell shielding are effective against it.”
“But this density is insane…”
“It’s like the entire atmosphere turns into an explosive. Like with a dust explosion. Look.”
Hunter indicated the footage recorded from her vision. Flowers were blooming from the cherry forest floor and those would grow larger before the flower flew into the air.
Horinouchi did as instructed as saw the flying flower finally fall to the ground, where…
“It blooms again.”
The fallen petals scattered and each one breathed life into new buds, which grew leaves, a stem, and then a full flower.
It took less than 5 seconds.
“Do you get it now? This is creating an environment.”
Which meant one thing:
“While they’re exploding, the unnecessary ones become seeds which spread the explosion spell through natural growth, right?”
“That is correct, milady.”
Koutarou opened a map showing Tokyo Bay from overhead.
…Shihouin Academy is in the center.
A blue dot appeared over the center of the academy. And it scattered smaller blue dots in every direction.
This was probably a diagram showing the spread of flowers by the Rank 1’s spell.
They floated like clouds as they gradually spread.
And they suddenly accelerated. Just when the flowers seemed to hit an indefinite boundary, that boundary burst and the flowers covered Tokyo Bay while accelerating to 2 or 3 times the speed.
Just as Mary pointed out, the blue grew to a red that indicated a greater top to bottom thickness.
After exceeding an altitude of 1000 meters, that acceleration linked with the acceleration of the flowers spreading out down below.
When Koutarou zoomed out the Tokyo Bay map to show the whole region of southern Kantou, the flowers quickly spread further west until they covered half of Tokyo. Their thickness surpassed 7000 meters.
“If there are no obstacles, the flowers will reach this state in about a minute and a half.”
“Is this expansion caused by the seed-creation we just mentioned?”
“Yes. As the scope grows, fewer of the flowers need to explode, so the further it spreads, the more flowers can be used to increase their spreading power.”
“And based on the video, the flowers create their own environment and that environment grows stronger the denser the cloud of flowers is. That means the cherry trees grow and the number of flowers increase. When real plants are packed together like that, the central region weakens, but these evolve, starting from the central region and spreading in waves to the outside.”
The stages of acceleration seen on the diagram were when that evolution created a new version.
“Based on our calculations, it would only take about half an hour for the flowers to cover half the earth’s surface while reaching the troposphere at their thickest point.”
“Plus, in that environment, the flowers will bloom on any attack spell,” said Mary while lightly tapping her fingernails on the table. “Even my annihilation spell was turned into flowers and scattered en route. Even if the Black Witch uses attacks remotely and sends in her minions, they should be scattered as explosions once they enter that environment.”
“As a Hexennacht countermeasure, this creates a surefire and perfect defensive environment against the Black Witch. That is the Rank 1’s plan.”
“Wait just a moment.”
Kagami honestly thought this was a well-made method.
…Flowers that use ether as fertilizer, hm?
Magino Frames themselves were made of ether, as were spells.
This had been entirely designed as a witch countermeasure. And…
…It has some complex effects and combinations of effects for a spell, but it is most impressive that she allows it to grow on its own as a plant and even evolve.
That would be the result of building the spell like a program and doing some selective breeding.
But Kagami did have a question.
“Where is she getting all that ether from?”
“After the spell begins, we believe the flowers absorb ether from the ley lines to grow on their own. During this battle, the coastal shrines and temples detected a change in the ley line levels they were measuring.”
“But there would have to be an initialization phase and a way to control it after it’s begun,” pointed out Horinouchi.
“No, we think the control is mostly left to the flowers and trees. The detonations use a chain reaction, so she shouldn’t need to manage the entire region.”
“No, that isn’t true.”
Mary cut in while stopping the footage of the chain reaction explosion. She zoomed in on a region of overlapping explosions.
Several bright explosions filled the evening sky, but there were also flowers scattered between them.
“Do you see this? Some of the flowers were not detonated.”
“And what do you think of that, Mary?”
“Most likely, the flowers within a certain range are labeled based on their grade and the situation. The Rank 1 can choose to detonate or not detonate them based on those labels.”
“Can you do that?”
Mary spread her hands and bent her right pinky down.
“With 9 lines, I can manage them all the way to the other side of the planet.”
Hunter whistled, but Mary only glared at her.
“My annihilation spell is a line. At best, I can create a barrier wall with it. But the Rank 1’s technique goes beyond a 1D line or a 2D surface to create a 3D mass. What do you think, teacher? As a brigadier general, what do you think of this level of ether extraction?”
“The pure amount being extracted is probably greater than I can pull off.”
When Kagami admitted that as an obvious fact, Hunter threw both hands into the air.
“Then how are we supposed to defeat her?
That’s a good question, thought Horinouchi.
No, she could generally see what they had to do.
And Kagami must have picked up on that because she looked her way.
“Yes, how can we beat her? What would you do?”
All three of them answered at the exact same time.
“Get close and shoot her.”
“Get close and shoot.”
“Get close and shoot at her.”
“Well done, milady! Such a simple plan!”
“They get along so well.”
“That’s right. My fortunetelling also said it’s important to get close to someone before making your move.”
“Of course, the real question is how to get close to her.”
Hunter had a strategy in mind.
“We settle it before it reaches pandemic levels.”
“Agreed. Before her created environment can reach the next level, we must approach her and destroy her Magino Device. If necessary, we can attack the spell user herself to prevent her from attacking and to knock her out.”
That was probably what it would take. And they already had a method of doing that.
“Will that mean immediately shooting after a rapid Magino Frame summoning?”
“We already know how to do the rapid summoning and shooting things is your specialty, Horinouchi, so there will be no problem there,” said Kagami. “But this will not be that simple. …At the start of a Ranker Battle, especially one directed by the Lady Headmaster, both sides will already have their Frame at least partially ready.”
That was the problem. If the Rank 1 had her Magino Frame and environment established from the very beginning, the battle would immediately become much more difficult.
…Because her Magino Device is an environmental accelerator…
They would win if they could destroy that, but its very existence was dangerous. If she summoned it in advance and put some distance between them, things would end up the same as that evening.
“Could you keep your distance and wait until time runs to win by default or something?”
“There is no time limit rule. The battle continues until one side has won,” explained Horinouchi. “And in an endurance battle, I think the Rank 1 would have an advantage since her created environment can absorb ether and return to ether.”
“Then what do you plan to do, Horinouchi?”
“Well,” said Horinouchi as she opened a spell circle. “I will use multi-stage armored shells.”
“Multi-stage armored shells…” repeated Hunter under her breath. “Huh? Aren’t you always using those?”
“You know what those are, Rank 4?”
“Well, yeah. I was hit by a lot of them in my Normal Form before.”
Why did that lead the Rank 3 to glare at her? But back to Horinouchi’s shells…
“It’s those ones where the tip increases their penetrative power and the inside provides an impact.”
“They aren’t all like that. Different effects can be added in as stages.” Horinouchi opened a simple diagram showing a shell inside another shell. “These have two armored layers specialized for penetrative power and the core shell within has a focus on the purification effect. The armor layers will be purged when a certain amount of flowers have bloomed on them. If I have an acceleration spell automatically kick in at that time, I think they can avoid our opponent’s lock to a certain extent.”
“Couldn’t that knock them off target?”
“Given the size of a Magino Device, I want to fire from within 3 kilometers.”
For 500-meter Devices that was more or less close range.
But they would have to do that. And…
“We need to think up a countermeasure in case she manages to start her flowers growing on their own, but I think approaching her Magino Device will work well there too. She can’t blow herself up with her own bombs, right?” Horinouchi looked to Kagami. “So we approach while firing. Once we’re at close range, she won’t be able to attack lest she destroy herself.”
“I would assume she has a defense system for just such a scenario,” said Kagami. “But it is true it all comes down to getting close. …And luck would have it that I can repair my armor mid-battle using my ether extraction. At least to a certain extent. And if it comes down to it, we could board her Magino Device for a direct battle.”
“So you’re saying we actually have a fair number of options?”
“But she would not be the Rank 1 if she did not have a way of crushing those options.” Kagami placed her elbows on the table. “Now, we know we can at least picture a scenario where we have the upper hand. We can wait until we have calmed down more to picture a scenario where she has the upper hand. And we have enough time to picture ourselves overcoming that scenario. …But I have one question.”
“What is it?”
“Koutarou? The Rank 1’s name is Fleur, correct? How much of her spell is inherited from her mother, the Lady Headmaster, just like Horinouchi’s spells were inherited from her mother? Also…”
Kagami asked one more thing.
“Since Horinouchi’s mother fought in the previous Hexennacht, that means she defeated the Lady Headmaster. Are there any records of that?”
“Well done, Lady Kagami.”
Koutarou praised Horinouchi’s partner’s question.
But he was not the one to answer it. Instead…
“Milady, please answer her.”
“Yes. Kagami. …Look this way. We can eat dessert after we’re done talking.”
Should we serve it first? It is already lined up on the counter.
Hunter was staring in the same direction, so they ended up serving it first.
“Now, then. …Even if it is that time of year, shiratama anmitsu with cream is a nice jinx dessert since it looks like the moon.”
“Do you care more about the state of the world or dessert?”
“I simply enjoy eating with everyone.”
Horinouchi spread her mouth horizontally but then glanced toward Koutarou.
She was about to discuss the past, so he nodded back at her, as did the maids waiting behind him.
And then Horinouchi spoke.
“The headmaster’s spell is a lot like the technique used by Fleur, the Rank 1.”
“I see. Was it that advance information that allowed you to push it back with a barrier spell when you summoned Akerindou?”
“I doubled it and pushed the front barrier with another barrier behind it. Even if the flowers bloom on the front one, it can still be pushed from behind until it explodes. Of course,” she began before sipping at her thick tea and wiping her lips with a kaishi. “Once we are near the center of the environment, both of the layers will probably have flowers bloom on them.”
“So you are saying the headmaster also used flowers and explosions as an environment spell?”
“No. She simply scattered flowers from her Magino Device and made the ether around them into the same. That allowed them to be ‘planted’ on other Devices and spells. The natural budding and growth that Fleur uses must be a result of selective breeding.”
“I see,” replied Kagami. “And how did your mother fight that?”
“Well.” Horinouchi nodded and gestured drawing a bowstring while making sure she did not get in Mary’s way next to her. “By speeding up her shells, she hit the headmaster before the headmaster’s spell could get at the shell. That was her only option because Akerindou’s loading area could only create a whole crystallized ether shell at the time, so she could not create multi-stage armored shells.”
“And?” asked Hunter. “In that battle between moms, yours won?”
She trailed off but then gave a clear answer.
“There are no records left of that battle.”
Horinouchi saw the other three frowning.
“I mentioned before that there are no records left of Hexennacht, remember?”
“The eraser, huh?”
If that was what they were calling it, then that was exactly right.
“Yes. When my mother settled her battle with the headmaster, she used a spell that was also effective on Hexennacht. I don’t know if it was created spontaneously or if she had prepared it in advance, but whatever happened there was erased by the Black Witch. So…”
She said it.
“Not even the headmaster herself remembers.”
That is a troublesome trick, thought Kagami.
She sipped some tea to alter the flavor in her mouth and then crossed her arms.
“Would it not be more accurate to say you just do not know where to find it?”
“I think it would be best to work at a way of improving what we already have. Isn’t that more realistic than pursuing some mystery?”
“That is very like you, Horinouchi. And I agree that is best.”
“But,” said Hunter. “They’ve been building that spell up for the last 10 years, haven’t they?”
“Yes,” confirmed Koutarou. “Compared to our old records, the flowers now have countless variations and can bloom anywhere. They are likely attempting to respond to any and all situations.”
“In other words, it has been specialized and changed to perfectly seal off their enemy.”
“But what would happen to the surface if the flowers are detonated while covering half the earth or more?” asked Hunter.
That was a major concern for Hunter whose homeland had been badly damaged.
This meant the intercepting witch could end up doing the same thing.
“The side effects of my shots are pretty bad, but that environment is on another level entirely. It split Tokyo Bay this evening, and it could do the same to other regions. The Hexennacht witch’s goal is to defeat the Black Witch, but that environment spell is trying to do that at all costs.”
“It’s easy to complain after you’ve lost,” said Mary. But she did not even look in Hunter’s direction as she continued. “And as another who lost, I agree. I intend to become a winner, but I refuse to accept monsters.”
“This girl sitting across from me is a real pain the ass…”
Those two sure get along, thought Kagami, but something else was bothering her.
“Horinouchi, you seemed to notice something during the battle. What was it?”
“Well, that Rank 1 summoned her Magino Frame without a servant.”
That was true. And to go further…
“When we were throwing the garbage out, someone said they had never seen her servant, right?”
“Yes. The sanitation witch did.”
Hunter looked up.
“Does that mean she really hasn’t been using a servant all this time?”
“…? But she isn’t from another world like the brigadier general, right?”
“Might I provide some information concerning that?”
A sudden voice reached them from behind.
Koutarou and the maids quickly turned around to find someone in front of the counter.
The woman was drinking a glass of beer she had taken without asking.
Kagami saw Lisbeth raise her glass while wearing a black suit.
“I am honored that one of this world’s creators knows my name.”
Someone else “broke through” and appeared behind her.
It was the Head Maid.
She had pierced space itself to make an appearance and she held a knife meant for serving food.
The Head Maid first looked to the girls.
“My apologies, milady. It would seem we forgot to monitor the entranceway.”
“You just skipped right past Koutarou, did you not?”
Hearing that, Koutarou looked back, looked to each of the girls, and shook his head.
“No, I don’t mind. Lady Mitsuru is the master here, so I don’t mind at all.”
“It really bothers him, doesn’t it?”
“Mary, putting it like that does the most damage of all.”
But Lisbeth smiled bitterly.
“Explaining why I am here would have been a pain and I doubt you would understand regardless. So I snuck in through the main entrance, stealthily used the central elevator, and held my breath as I walked down the middle of the hallway. And to resupply for my infiltration, I am drinking a beer. Stealth is a lot of work, you see.”
Hunter glared at Horinouchi who waved her hands back and forth when she noticed.
“N-not everyone I know is like this.”
“That is right, Hunter. Everyone Horinouchi knows is an innocent saint. Right, Manko?”
“You be quiet!”
But laughter followed.
It was Lisbeth. She ignored the knife at her throat and brought the glass to her mouth.
“So you can smile now, Mitsuru?”
“I was angry. Weren’t you watching?”
“If you can get angry, you can smile. But if you ‘smile’, you can also hide your anger.”
She stepped forward as she said that.
But the Head Maid did not pull back the knife at her throat. She gathered strength to hold her hand in place as a warning not to move.
“What a dull blade.”
But Lisbeth continued forward regardless.
Her neck passed through the knife.
“An illusion?” asked Hunter.
But it was not. A closer look showed what had happened. There was a cut through Lisbeth’s neck.
No blood or anything else flowed out, but there was a definite pulse there.
“This is spatial cutting. I am not embarrassed to cut myself at this age.”
“I’m glad to see you’re still so healthy.”
“Yes.” Lisbeth stopped next to the girls. “Now, then.”
Just as a will-o’-the-wisp servant appeared on her shoulder, a Normal Device jutted out from her hand.
Mary immediately stood up.
“How dare you…!”
She raised her voice, but Lisbeth was looking straight at Kagami.
And the woman spoke calmly with the straight sword still held vertically.
“You have good instincts. You have supposedly seen hundreds of worlds fall into ruin and now I can see that’s likely true.”
“I’m honored you think so.”
Kagami remained seated, but her right hand was casually extended overhead. The fingers seemed to be grabbing something in midair, but…
…Don’t tell me…
Ether light sprayed out in a horizontal line. It moved from the window to Lisbeth with Kagami’s raised hand in the middle.
After the ether light scattered, something appeared there.
“A Normal Device…”
“My Dragoon is a double sword.”
It was obvious now what Lisbeth had done. As soon as the first sword had appeared, she had cut space too quickly to be seen and hidden the other sword there.
“I cut it quite thinly, but I must be getting old if you saw through it.”
“No, you can chalk that one up to me being awesome.”
“This girl...” muttered Horinouchi before standing up.
Mary turned toward Horinouchi in confusion and saw her brushing her long hair back with a hand.
“So did Kagami pass your ‘test’? Then what do you want, Aunt Lisbeth? …If you aren’t just here to play around, do you have something to show us?”
“You could tell?”
“You said we would not understand if you explained why you are here, so I assume you want some of our time. Where do you intend to take us?”
The maids tensed, but the corners of Lisbeth’s mouth rose. The smile was more of satisfaction than amusement.
“Mitsuru, you really are clever. So let’s get going.”
“Again, where to?”
Horinouchi asked again and looked the woman in the eye. The European U.A.H. Representative used her thumb to point to the north behind her.
“It isn’t far. …There’s something I should show you. Here in this academy.”
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