Clash of Hexennacht:Volume3 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The Relief of Simply Watching Over
What is this
Brand new form of flirting
Between a shrine maiden and holy knight?
Koutarou was reminded what it meant to be bullied.
…And yet they’re supposed to treat me like our U.A.H.J. division chief.
“Oh, don’t move, Head Butler. Move and it could become an emblem and activate a spell.”
The maid in front of him pressed a foundation puff against his cheeks.
They were in a dressing room created by the partitions set up in the dining hall. It was set up for boys, but since Shihouin Academy was a witch school, he was the only one using it.
As for what he was using it for…
“Why am I dressed like a maid?”
A redheaded maid answered him while hiding a medal below her eyepatch.
“Well, you know? It’s like how they would treat a child as the opposite sex to trick any evil spirits and rid those spirits of all meaning. And there are going to be a lot of witches taking it easy today, so you have to be careful as the only guy.”
“And yet I have some of the best passive divine protection spells in the country.”
His complaint had no effect on the maids. They used eye shadow, lipstick, and other terms he normally never ran across to give him his “costume”.
Partway through, Horinouchi poked her head through the curtain forming the partition.
“Koutarou, are you-…”
She burst out laughing as soon as she saw him. As she looked away and tried to suppress the laughter, someone else spoke from beyond the curtain.
“What is it, Horinouchi!? Has something horrible happened to Koutarou!?”
I really don’t want her to see this, he thought from the bottom of his heart, but he also prepared himself because he knew Kagami would see it eventually. And at the same time, he was usually one of those helping prepare and he had done that today as well, but…
…It all feels different when I’m also a participant.
He could hear the voices of the students gathering outside the partition.
The party was being held inside and outside the dining hall, so it covered a wide area. They had more outside lights on than usual and a lot of bonfire-like fires had been lit. All Koutarou and the maids had to do was cook and serve the food. That was the same as always, but…
“Where are your costumes?”
“Eh? Oh, we’ll do that very last. And when we do, Head Butler, we’ll give you another costume too, okay?”
“Then why even dress me up like this!?”
He was answered by a witch silently shoving lipstick against his lips. Only afterwards did she expressionlessly speak.
“Ohh, sorry, Head Butler. If you don’t stay quiet, I’ll accidently write a sudden-death emblem, so please keep silent.”
Everyone’s more normal than I expected, thought Hunter.
There were bunny girls as well as dog girls and cat girls who had simply changed the ears and tails, but there was also a goat girl that she was pretty sure was a demonic symbol. But in addition to the baseball and soccer players…
“Kagami, what kind of athlete is that supposed to be?”
“A kabaddi player. It is most known for repeatedly jumping left and right. That over there is a sepak takraw player, but even I initially mistook her for a handballer.”
As Kagami (who wore a shrine maiden outfit) looked disappointed in her own mistake, a bowling pin walked past her, but Hunter wanted to believe that was not a familiar or something like that. As for Hunter herself…
“Hunter, what are you? A fighting game character?”
“Um, yeah. I’m the protagonist of Storm Apocalypse. You can pull it off with a karate gi and kendo armor. You also need a golf club to go with the karate.”
“My sister always liked the rival character in that.”
“So she liked rampaging around with a powerful character, did she?”
Meanwhile, a criminal approached. The criminal had her arms passed through a metal frame and she dragged around a metal ball chained to her ankle.
“Oh, brigadier general, Rank 4. This is where you were.”
“Just because you’re always an executioner is no reason to become a criminal as a change of pace.”
“This was a classmate’s idea. I intended to come as an executioner.”
How little creativity do you have? wondered Hunter, but she held her tongue. Also…
“What are you gonna do about your hands?”
Mary moved her hands inside the parallel holes. Then she pulled them lightly back.
“Heh. This is just a costume, so I can easily remove them should the need-…”
Her wrists clunked against the wooden holes and came to a stop.
She tried a few more times, but they would not budge. Why am I not surprised? thought Hunter while glaring at her.
“Did your friends do too good a job for you?”
“…Brigadier general, can I cut this away with my annihilation?”
“Is the criminal planning to become a jailbreaker?”
“And if you remove that, wouldn’t you just be wearing old pajamas?”
“Y-you just had to say that, didn’t you!?”
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” replied Hunter as Horinouchi approached through a group of girls dressed as the British Queen’s Guard.
The confused voice came from Mary.
And Hunter fully understood that confusion. Kagami did too, but…
“Dressing up as each other, huh?”
Hunter sensed the bitter smile on her lips as she commented on the two girls’ costumes.
“Kagami’s dressed as a shrine maiden and Horinouchi as a holy knight. …You couldn’t have made it more obvious you were dressing up as each other.”
Horinouchi wanted to say it had not been intentional, but she knew they would never buy that.
The idea had come from a casual comment Kagami had made as they went shopping to prepare for the party during the post-exam break.
They had been in the Yokohama shopping district that smelled of soy sauce and oyster sauce.
“Now that I think about it, we are allowed the Buddy System for Hexennacht, but even though we get along well enough for me to call you Manko, I know very little about shrine maidens.”
“Part of that sentence does not fit with the rest of it!”
But as they ate and drank steamed buns, soup, and jasmine tea at the table in front of a Chinese restaurant, Horinouchi had lent Kagami a handkerchief and explained all about shrine maidens.
And as a result…
“So the shooting spells are your personal technique and the shrine maiden part is only relevant to the foundation!”
Horinouchi had considered throwing the teapot at her, but she had restrained herself since it did not belong to them.
At any rate, Kagami seemed to have really liked that conclusion.
“Okay, I have a better understanding now! And since it does not require shooting anything, I will go with a shrine maiden costume!”
“Why is your decision based on that?”
“And you will be going as a holy knight, right?”
Horinouchi thought she had done a good job of expressing her doubts through her expression, but the idiot in front of her had simply smiled while flipping through a picture book of The Water Margin she had bought at a souvenir shop in Chinatown.
“But, Horinouchi! My holy knight fashion is merely a result of this world and Dikaio reacting to my burning heart of justice, so I have next to no knowledge of holy knights. That means I must leave it to you to study up on the holy knight part! I know you can do it, Horinouchi!”
Thinking back on it, Horinouchi could tell it was her own fault for not vehemently protesting.
And that brought her back to the present.
She was a holy knight.
She had not wanted to dress up exactly like Kagami and she could not sew herself anything like a power arm.
So she wore armor and a cape on the shoulders and a skirt that spread out from her waist. She had made it herself and she had been severely lacking in information, but…
“You look lovely, Horinouchi.”
“Your shrine maiden outfit is one of our ready-made ones, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I was surprised to find the chest size could be special ordered in ‘Lady Mitsuru’ size.”
“A-are they trying to reveal my personal information!?”
“What is wrong with that?” asked Kagami.
Kagami then reached a hand out toward Horinouchi and maintained that stance.
It would have shamed her for Horinouchi to not take her hand.
But Horinouchi knew it would be meaningless for her to do that to Kagami and Kagami was also well aware of that fact.
She felt like she was being tested, so she spoke in an attempt to keep them on equal footing.
“Don’t you have something to say?”
“My hand is lonely, Horinouchi. At this rate, my fingers will die of loneliness.”
“There’s no helping you, is there?”
She took Kagami’s hand.
What was that “oh” for, Hunter? You don’t have to say anything.
Not even Horinouchi knew who her anger was directed at. But…
“Now, it’s about time for the party to officially begin! But first, the headmaster has arrived!”
Koutarou stood on the entrance stage dressed as a maid, gave his announcement through a microphone, and then loudly applauded. The surrounding maids continued with the applause and the students realized what was going on. A group wearing cardboard boxes and a group dressed as firefighters began clapping and the rest followed.
And just as everyone thought the stage was set for the headmaster to enter the room, the dining hall’s entrance opened and someone walked through.
It was the headmaster.
However, she was wearing a student uniform that did not even come close to fitting her and her hair was done up in twintails. She carried her own microphone, stood on the stage, and struck a pose.
“Good eeeeevening! Please welcome your new schoolmate, Shihouin Cerisier!”
Two buttons burst from the uniform’s stomach.
On the opposite coast, the people living in Shinagawa saw a bright white light from Shihouin Academy in the center of Tokyo Bay to their northwest. It happened during dinnertime and a lot of houses still had their windows open due to the lingering seasonal heat, so a lot of people saw it.
Barely any of them knew what the light was, but an old witch who owned a general store near Shinagawa Station did. The witch was known as the Sculpting Granny because she could form a straw doll starting from any part of the body and she currently held a doll made from a folded cigarette box.
“I-is that what I think it is…!?”
“Wh-what is it, granny!? Do you know what it is!?”
“That is the light of a tsukkomi spell that can only be activated by a group of witches!”
“Have you gone senile!?”
She threw a right hook at her grandchild and said more.
“And that is the highest level of tsukkomi spell…the Whiteout!”
In a manga, that would have been three full panels of pure white, thought Hunter as she viewed the scene.
The headmaster was quickly carried out back by the maids and a stuffed bear on a chair took her place. With all eyes on him, the crossdresser struck a pose and gave a shout.
“Let the festivities begin!”
Horinouchi had a surprising number of thoughts about the party.
After all, the school’s different divisions and years were mixed together. They were not divided between school building like they were during the school festival and they were not in competition like they were during the athletic festival.
They were allowed to mingle together here.
She was glad she had the maids, Hunter, and Mary with her. A lot of witches had come to greet her and the underclassmen had come to encourage her or to ask to have a picture taken with her.
She had refused the pictures because they could be used for curses, but after ensuring it did not violate each other’s taboos, they had shaken hands and spoken together. She felt it had been a worthwhile time, but…
The heat of the place seemed to get the better of her, so she made her way to the rooftop terrace.
She rested her elbow on the railing by the entrance and the wind carried the smell of the food to her. The festive atmosphere seemed very strange to her and she stared forward.
She could see people gathered in the lights below.
In addition to the outdoor lights, people were carrying pumpkin-shaped lanterns. They dangled from sticks and cast their orange light on the road.
Some were picking up food at the dining hall and returning to their dorm while others were resting in the courtyard.
As the lights moved within the courtyard forest, they looked like will-o’-the-wisps.
…You can see pretty far when you come here at night.
As she stared out into the courtyard forest, Kagami arrived next to her.
“The courtyard’s vending machine plaza is surprisingly far away.”
“The mausoleum is the center of the academy. It’s equally distant from everything else.”
Kagami’s eyes were focused on a brightly-lit spot beyond the leafy rooftop of the forest. Below that white light was the mausoleum and the vending machine plaza.
“Horinouchi, about that mausoleum…”
“My mother is not inside, if that’s what you’re asking. Due to the erasure of the phenomena surrounding her, her body was sent in for an autopsy. When it was returned…I assume they were being considerate because all of her injuries had been ‘healed’. So she is now resting below Horinouchi family land.”
Horinouchi understood that Kagami was hanging her head while looking at the lights and moving costumes down below.
She did not see it or know it, but she understood that Kagami would be doing that.
So she spoke.
“Kagami. Tears will not bring her back.”
“I do appreciate your tears.”
…I-I’m a little too easily won over, aren’t I?
She went too far with her lip service.
But there were some things she could only say when it was dark and there was light down below.
The night really does have a way of making people honest, doesn’t it? she thought. So…
Kagami had once told her something. On the pier when Koutarou had told her about Horinouchi’s mother, she had shed her tears and said…
…It saddens me that you were filled with sadness.
Was Horinouchi thinking the same thing now?
She was not sure.
“Do you need something?”
“If I ever thought something on a level equal or even greater than you…would that mean this created world had surpassed the Black Witch?”
Kagami looked up and laughed bitterly.
Horinouchi felt herself blush when she heard it. It felt like Kagami was laughing at everything she had been thinking.
“Well, that was rude!”
“I apologize. But if that is the case, then you have already defeated the Black Witch.”
“Of course, silly.”
Hunter climbed up from outside the railing she was resting her elbow on. She pulled herself up as if by a rope instead of with a pull-up motion and she stood on the other side of the railing.
“You need to be more open with your thoughts, Horinouchi.”
“Calm down.” The criminal skillfully climbed up as well. “Miss Horinouchi.”
Miss? she thought, but she could not fault the girl for being polite. And…
“You fired three rapid shots from the South Pole and they were multi-stage arrows at that. Shouldn’t we assume that has already surpassed anything the Black Witch could have imagined?”
“So you’re going there, are you…?”
But was that really true? She did think she needed firepower to defeat the Black Witch and most witches had firepower at their foundation, but based on what she had discussed with Kagami, she had a feeling there was something more important than that. Namely…
“If we cannot surpass the Black Witch in imagination, firepower is meaningless no matter how great.”
The Black Witch would understand the means of expressing firepower, so she would make those things her own and strengthen them as far as her imagination would allow.
They could not defeat her like that.
Creativity was what mattered. They needed something the Black Witch could not imagine. Or something she could not deal with even if she could imagine it. If they could think like that…
…Would we be able to win?
They only had to surpass the Black Witch.
It was a simple idea, but it led to something else. It was something the Head Maid had mentioned during the exams.
“During the battle for Rank 1, my mother found a power that allowed her to oppose the Black Witch.”
Just as she said that and Kagami nodded next to her…
She heard the Head Maid’s voice from further back on the terrace.
There was no stairway up on that end and there had been no one there when Horinouchi had arrived.
But the older witch called to her in this nighttime atmosphere that had become less than festive.
So she turned around along with Kagami, Hunter, and Mary.
Everyone was there. It was all of the Horinouchi maids.
Is that a costume? wondered Hunter.
The Head Maid was wearing a military uniform. It was the U.A.H.G. uniform which was based on a German Air Force uniform.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen that. I guess it was true that the 200th Division was brought back.”
“Even in my generation, it already belonged to the Federal Republic,” said the Head Maid with a smile.
Similarly, the maids behind her wore different uniforms.
Only going on the ones Hunter recognized, the one behind the Head Maid was from the KSK, the airborne troops of the German army. If the 200th Division was no longer performing bombing missions, then their only connection would be how seriously Germany was about witch strategies.
There were also familiar SAS and SBS uniforms from the UK, but the one in the blue beret of the D11 metropolitan police special forces was standing out front. That may have been a sign that the real authority concerning Hexennacht was laid at the queen’s feet.
There was also one from France’s GIGN, a group Hunter had once defeated in training back home, and one from Australia’s SASR, a group that had been a lot of help during the battle against Mary. Canada’s JTF-U.A.H. had apparently been causing trouble in some territorial conflicts back home. Poland’s GROM was known as an emergency response unit, but that worked well enough since emergencies were an everyday occurrence these days.
She also saw the JSDF uniforms of a ninja unit, regional troops, and military police.
…It’s kind of impressive they can get along without more conflict.
But more were from America than anywhere else.
“If my people saw this, it’d probably be like a class reunion.”
She had heard there was a witch from MARSOC who had been a former Ranker, but this was her first time seeing the woman. There were enough SWAT uniforms to form a platoon, some familiar SEALs, some in berets, and a few in suits.
She saw a few ethnic types that looked like gypsies, but since she could see a few different varieties there, she guessed there some Yenish in addition to the Roma. Although she did not know enough to know which were which. There was even one who was clearly an indigenous African, but their madman style was way too conspicuous.
“I have to admit, there’s a lot of you.”
“Yes, there are. …It has been ten years since Lady Mitsuru’s mother’s defeat. And in that time, this many people have gathered here.”
As the Head Maid said that, someone stepped out in front of the group. A figure in the armored uniform of a Japanese U.A.H.J. combat unit stood alongside the Head Maid.
He removed his helmet to reveal the butler’s face with makeup still intact.
…That’s just scary!
I need to cancel that out by eating some meat later on, decided Hunter as the butler spoke.
“Lady Mitsuru…and Lady Kagami too.”
Everyone lowered their heads.
“Every last one of us will provide backup during your battle against the Rank 1.”
Horinouchi accepted her subordinates’ bow.
She had seen this a few times before. They had not been wearing those uniforms, but they had all expressed their expectations for her in this way several times.
But it was somehow different this time.
That was partially due to the important Ranker Battle coming up, but…
There was a reason they wore their various uniforms.
They had hidden their identities and arrived as witches, but now they were revealing their origins.
Most of them still had some connection to their former organizations. But they were at best a reserve member. In some cases, it really was just a connection and that organization would provide no support.
So this was only a show of their former glory.
People who had held so much power were now supporting her. That was what this meant. But…
This did not place any pressure on Horinouchi. They had their expectations and they had their thoughts, but…
“Let’s win this together.”
She understood. Just a few months before, this would only have been a show of strength, but now she could say it for real.
“That is what I intend as well. I could not have won up to this point if I had been alone.”
Yes. Ever since a strange visitor had arrived, she had gained a partner within the Buddy System and she was not alone.
So she understood that everyone’s expectations would assist her from here on.
They expected her to be someone worthy of being given their strength.
This was not just a delusional hope.
Power could be handed over to someone else. So the Head Maid smiled and spoke with her head still bowed.
“I am pleased to hear that.”
It looked like Head Butler Koutarou would be the first to raise his head, but then a witch in a police uniform raised her head prematurely before quickly lowering it again. Since the surrounding witches tugged her back down by the uniform, their cooperation seemed adequate.
Then they all stood up and Koutarou spoke.
“We do not know who your opponent will be in the Rank 1 battle, but we have a rogue factor of our own.”
“Do you mean Kagami?”
“I see.” The girl in a shrine maiden costume crossed her arms and lifted the corners of her mouth. “Just as we know nothing of them, they know nothing of me. Is that what you mean?”
“We believe that Lady Mitsuru could win even on her own.”
None of the maids made a move when Koutarou said that.
They had their pride as her supporters. So…
Horinouchi prepared to thoughtlessly tell Kagami that did not mean she was unneeded, but Kagami spoke to the others before she could.
“So the one Horinouchi can most rely on during battle is me.”
“You are all leaving your precious Manko with me, aren’t you?”
…Well done, brigadier general!
Mary thought about what she had just heard.
…Way to earn their trust by using Horinouchi’s true name!
Immediately afterwards, Horinouchi hit Kagami with a fairly sharp side kick.
Everyone enjoyed the festive atmosphere, the food, the conversation, and the liberation from the exams, but they all felt like something was missing.
However, that something arrived without warning. They heard a voice.
It came from the dining hall terrace a story above them. The usual two stood next to the railing like it was a stage.
“Everyone was being so considerate to sum up a number of issues at once, so why in the world would you start calling me Manko!? Why would you suddenly call me Manko here!?”
“I only said it once, so calm down, Horinouchi. There are times when a girl just cannot resist.”
“Try a little harder to resist! …And stop laughing, Koutarou and Head Maid!”
“Yes,” said one of the witches.
She looked up at them as the criminal tilted her restraints along with her head and the karate fighter in partial kendo armor shrugged.
“Well done, Rank 2!”
Everyone else nodded and raised their pumpkin lanterns. Beyond those lights, the holy knight grabbed the shrine maiden by the collar and protested on the stage.
They all laughed as if to say this was more like it.
It was an excellent party. It ended with laughter and led into the next event.
“The Ranker Battle.”
That was right.
“The final Ranker Battle is coming up!”
The headmaster sighed and lightly spun around in her office.
Her reflection in the mirror was still wearing a school uniform.
“The uniform is different from when I was a student, but the girls these days have excellent figures…”
She thoughtfully rubbed the stomach with its missing buttons. She looked pathetic, but she knew there was a smile on her face.
…This is so much fun.
She could immediately recall equally fun times from her days as a student.
“If anything, it was usually me cutting loose, Mitsuyo getting dragged into it, and Lisbeth moving in to support us.”
She continued with a “but”.
“How will it work from now on? No, I suppose we’ve already moved beyond that.”
A few spell circles were opened on her desk. They were images of the party someone had taken. The faces of the witches were blurred out by an information concealment spell, but some of them were a selfie taken by a girl in a gasmask.
The headmaster smiled a little as she looked at them.
“It’s about time that Miss Horinouchi and the others learned everything. And…”
The last of the spell circles was a communications one with a U.A.H. seal. It was from…
“Lisbeth Lueger. One of the current U.A.H.’s founders and their current General Commander of the Asian region. I know what it is you want, but do you understand what that will mean?”
As if to check, she took a picture of herself in her current outfit and attached it to her response.
“It will mean war. You’re prepared for that, aren’t you? That too is a witch’s party, Lisbeth.”
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