Clash of Hexennacht:Volume3 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: And the Truth
The truth is not in the depths
It is in the center
Is that because the earth is round?
Hunter was unsure whether or not she should go with them, but she ended up doing so.
…I wonder what the others would say if they knew I was hanging out with the European U.A.H. Representative.
She checked and found the 7th Fleet had taken the range of the Rank 1’s spell into account, so they had chosen to stop in the ocean off of Chiba instead of landing at Yokosuka. Thanks to that, they would not arrive until past 3 AM, but…
…Does that mean they can provide backup during the Ranker Battle at 4?
Depending on how the Rank 1’s spell spread this time, they could be restricted from taking off from and landing at the bases on land. If the Rank 1’s environment covered all of Kantou, they might not even be able to communicate with Yokosuka, Yokota, and Atsugi.
In that case, the 7th Fleet out at sea would have to immediately relay the satellite information as a general HQ.
The crew was likely making sure everything was set up for that in the fleet command room.
“If the flowers bloom on ether, we’ll have to go with physical objects. Look, the orbits of 3 satellites fit our needs, so can’t we drop them down on her? Once they accelerate, she won’t be able to escape.”
“So it would be the US army’s first meteor strike!? I like it! Hey, bring out another round of drinks!”
Hunter decided to forget she saw that.
At any rate, Lisbeth unsurprisingly brought them out into the night, but where they went next was unexpected. The European U.A.H. Magino Devices still surrounded the school, but…
“Are we not leaving the campus?”
“This is the courtyard…isn’t it?”
Based on Horinouchi and Kagami’s speed as they walked out ahead of Hunter and Mary, they did not know where they were being taken either.
But it was apparently within the campus where they lived.
As they walked north, they occasionally passed some students who were out to get some food or drinks.
…Is that where we’re going?
Hunter somehow knew the answer. It was the center of the school. The structure at the center of the courtyard.
There was a clearing with a radius of 50 meters and the building in the center resembled a bell tower.
“The underground mausoleum?”
“Why are you taking us here?”
Kagami looked around while listening to Horinouchi’s question.
They were walking down a corridor with a width and height of 5 meters and bluish-white sterilization divine protection lights on the ceiling.
The walls and everything else were white, but the large lace pattern carved into the walls was likely an emblem providing a divine protection that ensured peace for the souls laid to rest here. But…
…I thought the underground mausoleum’s entrance was locked.
She had looked around to a certain extent after transferring in.
“Are you allowed entrance here?” she asked Lisbeth.
“This place was originally built by me…no, by us.”
“You mentioned Fleur’s servant before, didn’t you? There is something I would like to show you concerning that. As a ‘guest’.”
Their surroundings changed. Rows of gold-colored bronze doors appeared along the walls.
Each of the doors was positioned at waist height. They were about 1 meter tall and 30 centimeters wide.
The ornamented single doors had a relief and a name engraved in them.
“Graves for ashes? But who do they belong to?”
How many of them were there? The corridor seemed to continue forever, but Lisbeth answered without turning back.
“Those who, in death, wished for the safety of this world were chosen. If you have officially joined this academy, then you will visit this place each year.”
“Yes.” Horinouchi spoke quietly. “This place is for the people who died during the previous Hexennacht.”
Horinouchi realized Kagami was looking her way while walking alongside her.
“Horinouchi. If your mother is here, I should have bought some flowers to greet her.”
“Brigadier General! If you need some, I can go buy them!”
“That will not be necessary,” insisted Horinouchi.
“You can only say that because you must be bringing her flowers regularly.”
Was Kagami praising her or teasing her?
…Probably the latter.
But after turning a few corners, the passageway curved and the doors vanished from the walls. Then some paint drew yellow diagonal lines at their feet.
“Aunt Lisbeth? We’re leaving the area for guests.”
“Stop calling me ‘aunt’. And I am well aware of that.”
She pointed forward.
A metal door covered the full width of the corridor.
It was labeled “Off Limits Zone” and Lisbeth raised her right hand in front of it.
She held a card key.
“Only a handful of people have one of these. From here on, I will be a formal guest.”
With that, she stuck the card in a slot on the door and slid it down.
The door did not open.
After a while, she looked back in front of the unmoving door.
She tilted her head and repeated the action a few times, but the door still did not budge.
Of the 4 girls watching, Horinouchi looked back at the other 3 who nodded.
“Aunt, that isn’t the reader’s slot; it’s just a gap in the device. So…”
She grabbed the card away from Lisbeth and pressed it against the sensor. A chime rang.
“Thank you for using our card.”
The electronic voice seemed a little off, but Lisbeth took a breath and spoke.
“I knew that. I really did. …What’s that look for, Mitsuru? You don’t believe me, do you!?”
“That’s right, Manko. Starting today, you need to be an honest Manko.”
“You be quiet!!”
But the door slowly opened. A chill reached them from what was revealed on the other side.
“A large room?”
The round room there was dark and still.
Horinouchi followed Lisbeth into what could be called a great hall and only then realized how dark it was.
The room was about 15 meters across. There were bluish-white lights on the walls and ceiling. There was also a faint light coming from a raised platform in the center of the floor. The only other light came from…
Hearing Hunter’s comment, Horinouchi realized there were indeed plants covering the walls and floor.
And the flowers growing from them were glowing enough to faintly illuminate their surroundings.
It was enough to make the floor more black than dark and for the angle of illumination to reveal the shape of the walls and ceiling.
Then Horinouchi realized Lisbeth had sped up in front of them. She was walking toward the center of the hall.
“So it really has weakened this much…”
Wondering what she meant, Horinouchi walked through the ankle-deep plants and found a servant at the edge of the light in the center.
“A flower dragon!”
It was a white dragon formed from white lily-like petals. Some red provided an accent on the edges of the petals.
She had memories of the Headmaster using one, so…
“This might be Fleur’s servant.”
“No, it’s too far away from the battle this evening. And it doesn’t seem prepared for remote support.”
The flower dragon noticed them, but it remained in the center of the hall and simply turned around. Horinouchi began to approach it, but Kagami called out to her from behind.
“Wait, Horinouchi. Look to your feet.”
She did so. In another step, she would have reached a shallow fence of climbing roses. It was not even 30 cm tall or thick, but there was something contained inside the fence.
It was a glass-covered coffin. And…
When she looked down, she saw a familiar face. The eyes were closed and it was entire devoid of motion.
“What is this…?”
Horinouchi’s downward gaze saw roses filling the glass box.
And a metal plate was installed above the Headmaster’s head.
The given date was the end of October from 10 years ago.
…The day of Hexennacht.
She thought about what this meant, but…
“It can’t be. She’s only sleeping, right? I mean…”
When she looked back down below the glass, she noticed something.
In the rose-filled coffin, the Headmaster’s body was hidden by a sheet, but the shape visible through the sheet was not that of a whole body.
Kagami stood next to Lisbeth who had taken a half step behind Horinouchi.
“What is the meaning of this, Lisbeth?”
“You can’t tell?”
“I can take a guess, but I would like to hear it from someone who knows.”
“Is that so?” Lisbeth’s shoulders drooped. “My friend Shihouin Cerisier died that night. …She died taking out the Black Witch’s minions who would have otherwise killed me.”
The servant known as a flower dragon looked up at them and fidgeted like it did not know what to do. Lisbeth narrowed her eyes toward it and continued speaking.
“She believed we would win the battle. And, Mitsuru, she believed that your mother would be safe…so on the verge of death, she made a promise. She said she wanted to fill the world with flowers to erase the scars of the battle. When we were still trainees, she had always looked after the flower garden.”
“That’s really surprising…”
“That is very harsh, Horinouchi.”
“I-I meant the part about my mother!”
On the other side, Hunter lightly spun her right arm as a sign to “wrap it up”, so Kagami gave her an OK sign and spoke.
“But what happened after that?”
“Things might have been different if she could have spoken with her child like Horinouchi…like Mitsuyo did. After we preserved her body, we returned to find her in her home.”
Someone who should have been dead had returned home. In that case…
“No, it was her ‘regrets’ given physical form. Think of it like a tape imprinted with her will.”
Kagami raised her right hand when she heard the word “tape”.
She looked at the others to find Horinouchi and Hunter had tilted their heads too.
“Then an MD…”
Kagami knew that one, so she raised her hand, but the other three were still tilting their heads.
Lisbeth cleared her throat.
“…A memory card?”
“Let us go with that.”
When the others nodded, Lisbeth turned around and forcefully struck the empty air with her Normal Device.
Hunter and the others stepped back in surprise, so Kagami held her palms forward to calm them.
“The generation gap is always cruel. We too will age like that eventually, so we must make sure we do not end up like her.”
“Kagami, you’re not helping her by saying that.”
She turned back around to find Lisbeth glaring at her and sighing. Finally, she opened her mouth again.
“At its foundation, her spell contains the concept of ‘growth’. In other words, ‘life’. So just before she died, she took a mold of her life and imprinted it with her remaining life force.”
“What does that mean?”
“She used her body as a vessel to allow her regrets to remain in this world.” Horinouchi looked up as she explained. “That means the Headmaster we’ve met was only her regrets, doesn’t it?”
“It does. That was Shihouin’s final spell. It is only because of her immense power that it has been able to exist at a nearly physical density for so long. This is where the vessel is stored. But her will and memories were clear enough to see herself as the real one, so we allowed it and worked as ‘her’ backup. But…”
Lisbeth looked to the slowly fading light of the glowing plants on the walls.
“Her life used to shine brightly in here, but it has grown so weak.”
She looked between Kagami and Horinouchi.
“So I have a request.”
“I will hear it.”
“Heh.” Lisbeth laughed without a smile on her face and then she told them. “Defeat her daughter Fleur and free the two of them.”
When she heard that, Horinouchi realized why Lisbeth had brought them here.
…She said it had to do with why Fleur never showed her servant…
The flower dragon looked up from the floor and tried to always keep a certain distance from them. But…
“Are you saying Fleur’s servant isn’t the flower dragon here…”
“This flower dragon is Cerisier’s servant. Fleur’s servant is…”
Horinouchi did not need to hear the rest of that sentence.
“The Headmaster is Fleur’s servant, isn’t she?”
Kagami suddenly uttered that single word.
She held her right hand forward and looked to Lisbeth.
“Does Fleur know this?”
“Of course. Cerisier gave herself and her great power to Fleur so that she might survive the next Hexennacht. And those two have improved on their spell and fought until they reached this point. So Fleur thinks that as long as she continues being a ‘good girl’ by fighting and winning, she will never lose her mother. But…”
Lisbeth indicated their surroundings with a sweep of her hand.
“At this rate, Cerisier’s soul will be worn down until it disappears. If she participates in Hexennacht, I doubt it will last. …It is only just barely holding on now.”
“So if we defeat Fleur in the Ranker Battle, it will remove the Headmaster’s need to protect Fleur and Fleur’s need to be protected?”
“Yes.” Lisbeth nodded. “That is why I am here. To free my friend’s soul after I once accepted this situation and thus bound her to it. I once told her to live, but now I am cruelly telling her to die. …However, she was never one to do what I said. And she isn’t now either.”
“So that is it.”
Horinouchi heard Kagami mutter those words.
She looked over to see Kagami raise her index finger and point at Lisbeth as if striking at the air.
“The Lady Headmaster said she would not welcome you as an academy official as long as she held the position of Headmaster. …She understands the situation as well, doesn’t she?”
“If she disappears, she will give that position to you.”
When Horinouchi heard that, a few things clicked into place inside her.
That exchange had indeed occurred that evening.
Lisbeth, the instigator of the battle, had hesitated and the Headmaster had chosen to accept the battle.
“Does the Headmaster wish to protect her daughter Fleur and to achieve victory on Hexennacht? Or does she wish to lose and free Fleur from this conflict?”
“Fleur should actually understand this too. But…”
“Yes,” agreed Horinouchi.
She had lost her own mother, but her mother had not left any regrets.
…I wonder why not.
If she had known about Fleur and the Headmaster’s relationship at the time, would she have been jealous?
But at this point she was not.
She had once refused to look up at the moon due to her grudge over losing her mother, but that had changed.
Was Fleur able to look up at the moon alongside her mother’s regret? No, it seemed different somehow whether she was able to or not, but was that only because Horinouchi was arrogantly rejecting the possibility that others were happy?
“Horinouchi,” said Kagami. “Fleur has realized the truth…just like you did. But she refuses to accept it, so she refuses to look down even as she walks along a bridge that will eventually come to an abrupt end.”
“Isn’t it arrogant of us to shove her off of that bridge?”
“Then what would you do?”
Horinouchi tried to answer that question, but…
No words came out.
She had expected herself to say something clever, but…
…I don’t know.
“That is fine.” Kagami looked her straight in the eye. “After all, you have never seen someone being placed in the same circumstances you used to be in.”
“When that happens, will you turn her into what you used to be or will you be able to make her what you are now? You need to think about what you will do.”
“D-don’t act like you know everything.”
But she understood what Kagami was saying.
She did not know if they could defeat the Rank 1, but the light of the plants around them did not lie.
The Headmaster’s soul was at its limit. And since Shinto dealt with souls and she was its representative…
“Putting it to rest is my job…”
“Yeah.” Hunter crossed her arms behind her head. “We’ve got a copy using the Headmaster’s soul as fuel and someone who’s grown dependent on that copy even though she knows it’s a lie. …But even though the copy isn’t sure this is the right thing to do, she continues wearing down the soul for the daughter that adores her. We can’t let this keep going.”
“Then Horinouchi. …Let us stop this. If she vanishes, nothing at all will remain.”
“…Can you make it in time?”
Mary’s narrowed eyes were lowered toward the glowing plants. She was likely using the amount of light to calculate out their master’s amount of ether. And the look on her face was not promising. But…
“I do not know. Whether we do or not depends on what happens next,” clearly stated Kagami. “But as things are, we will be forced to see her die a second time. And this time, she will truly leave nothing behind.”
“We will stop this. It is necessary for our own ambitions, but what comes after that is up to those two.”
Moonlight filled the courtyard.
Oh, dear, thought Headmaster Cerisier. I never liked the moon because it reminds me of Hexennacht, but when I’m with Fleur, I’m more worried about her.
Fleur did not fear the moon.
It was unclear if that was due to her mother’s presence or just part of her personality.
But when she let the moonlight wash over her in the flower garden where everything looked white and dark blue…
“How pretty, Fleur.”
“Mama, you would already know that if you didn’t refuse to go out at night.” Fleur spread her arms in front of the blossoming flowers. “I picked up all the trash today to make it nice and pretty! See? Look, mama! I looked after them, so they’re blooming so much this year!”
The flowers continued as far as the girl could spread her arms and as far as the eye could see, but had the garden always been this large?
She had forgotten after only viewing it from above for so long.
This was late in coming, but she was glad she had come to learn this now. In the past, her daughter had barely been able to look after the potted plants in the house, but now she could make all this.
A smile naturally came to her lips.
“How pretty, Fleur. I hope they can continue blooming forever.”
“Don’t worry! If I do what you say, the flowers will never wither! They’ll continue spreading forever! And…oh, I know! If I defeat the Black Witch, you won’t have to fear anything anymore, right!?”
Fleur walked over and looked up at her.
She grabbed her mother’s hands, shook them up and down, and spoke with a smile.
“Like worrying about leaving me all alone!”
That was her regret. It was the worry that had prevented her from leaving this world.
…If Mitsuyo was here, she would probably scold me over that…
She had to smile bitterly in her heart at that. And it was concern over this that had brought Lisbeth here.
She had built up her current surroundings in an attempt to not worry anyone, but now she was certain her current friend and the friend in her memories were worried.
I’m a failure of a Headmaster, she thought as Fleur tilted her head in front of her.
“Mama, is something worrying you?”
“Yes. …I’m worried whether or not you can be a good girl, Fleur.”
“Then don’t worry.”
“I’ll defeat the Black Witch, so then we can be together and I won’t have to be alone, mama! So if I’m ever not a good girl, scold me and correct me. If you keep doing that forever, I’ll always be a good girl! So…”
Her daughter looked in a certain direction: the heavens.
The Rank 1 spoke with the moonlight filling her eyes.
“I’ll have another challenger tomorrow morning, but this is sure to be the last one. Mama, let’s win this together and then go defeat the Black Witch, okay!?”
After leaving the mausoleum, Hunter realized how terribly exhausted she was.
…Even if you can’t see them, there are things like ghosts and regrets there…
Horinouchi must have noticed because she slapped them each on the shoulder in turn. The sound was louder than the hit felt, which Hunter found impressive, but…
“That lightened me up more than I expected, Horinouchi,” said Kagami. “I could use one of those next time my shoulders are feeling stiff.”
“This has more to do with your mood.”
Meanwhile, Lisbeth raised a hand.
Hunter and the others also raised a hand, so the woman smiled bitterly.
“That should be enough. Don’t hold back in the battle tomorrow morning, okay?”
“If you will be monitoring the battle, be careful. Her attack is indiscriminate.”
“True enough.” Lisbeth turned around and walked toward the main gate on her own. “Hurry to bed, children.”
“You just had to say that, didn’t you?” muttered Hunter, but the woman was already gone.
A few of the distant Magino Devices were changing position.
“What is that?”
“Oh, I got some information from Atsugi saying an additional 300 witches are arriving from Europe, so those are probably guiding them in.”
“So Lisbeth truly intends to protect this place, does she?” asked Kagami.
“I suppose so,” agreed Hunter.
When she pointed toward the General Division dorm and began to walk, everyone followed.
There had been some lingering summer heat when she had fought Mary near here the other day.
But now the air felt chilly.
The season was changing and Hexennacht would be here by the time the moon changed.
It’s all happening so fast, she thought before speaking.
“The European politicians probably really did want to control this place. I think European U.A.H. used that as bait to get the EU and NATO to mass-produce those Magino Devices. But European U.A.H. actually wanted to make Hexennacht inviolable.”
“But if the politicians had taken the initiative, things could really have gone in the direction they want.”
“Yes, and that’s why the witches had to make a show of taking Shihouin Academy themselves. I bet that’s what the 1000 Magino Devices were for.”
It had been a largescale bluff. And…
“That means this place is worth that much.”
With those words, they entered a small plaza. It was known as the vending machine plaza. Mary took a step forward.
“What would you like?”
“Some kind of fruit juice,” answered Horinouchi. “Do you want a soda, Kagami?”
“I feel like tea.”
“Then I’ll have a soda,” said Hunter.
Mary also chose a soda.
All 4 of them sat at different seats at about the same time.
Also at about the same time, they all opened their drinks and started drinking. Kagami was the first to speak this time.
“I feel like we should perhaps just leave them be. Is that just me being soft?”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Horinouchi.
“Even if she is a fake, that Lady Headmaster is real to Fleur. And in way, she is real to me since I never knew the original one. So…”
Someone interrupted her as she looked up toward the sky.
Unsurprisingly, it was Horinouchi.
“You are too kind, Kagami.”
Hunter understood enough to agree.
In front of the streetlights and vending machine lights, Horinouchi smiled a little and looked to Kagami.
“And do you think you can win?”
“As long as I have you with me, there is no way I can lose.”
Kagami tried to distract her with a counterattack, but even as Horinouchi blushed, she sighed to lower her angrily raised shoulders.
She lightly shook her hair and spoke to Kagami.
“Kagami, if you are unsure of something tomorrow, just leave it to me. I too know the Headmaster quite well. …Although maybe I shouldn’t say that when I didn’t know what she really was.”
After their short break in the courtyard, the 4 girls headed back while holding a quick strategy meeting. After that, Kagami and Horinouchi settled down for some sleep, Hunter started for Atsugi, and Mary took up a position on the General Division dorm rooftop as a guard.
And at 4 AM the following morning, Horinouchi, Kagami, Fleur, and the Headmaster gathered in front of the main gate. On the Headmaster’s signal, they flew into the northern sky.
Lisbeth had to watch them go and she waved from the main gate to Mary who was on top of the General Division dorm.
“I suppose it would be a good idea for my unit to join forces with America. Preventing any other countries from acting would likely be best for Hexennacht.”
“We are recovering from 10 years ago. I will not let anyone else interfere.”
|Back to Chapter 10||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 12|