Clash of Hexennacht:Volume3 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Days to Say Goodbye
I run along
To become life-sized
“We called it a Halloween party, but since we held it before the end of October, the end of the month is going to feel somewhat empty.”
Kagami commented as she viewed a calendar on a spell circle, so Hunter looked around the area.
“And we really had a party last night, didn’t we?”
Girls in uniforms were crouching down everywhere she could see in the afterschool courtyard. They all held translucent plastic bags.
“I didn’t think the party would end with picking up the trash. …And we never really left the terrace up top.”
“It is called joint responsibility, Horinouchi. Being Student Council President is not easy, is it?”
Horinouchi refused to voice any agreement, but that was likely her form of pride.
So Hunter decided to go along with it without complaining.
It was a job.
They were at the flower garden that gave a view of the Honors Division building to the north. They were on the path cutting between different levels of flowers that bloomed in fall.
Instead of just littering, it looked more like people had dropped things while enjoying themselves, but there was still a fair bit of trash between the flower beds and the path. They picked it up with metal tongs and stuck it in their bags, but…
“Oh, I just remembered there’s another event today. Had you heard?”
“I had,” replied Horinouchi.
Kagami and the Rank 3 only tilted their heads.
Hunter shrugged and opened a spell circle for those two.
“European U.A.H. is having their Wand Viewing.”
“Wand Viewing? What might that be?”
Kagami’s tone made it clear she had a good guess, but Hunter answered anyway.
“They’re rolling out mass-produced Magino Frames for Hexennacht.”
“Hm? But don’t they have us for Hexennacht?”
“The Black Witch had her troops descend from the moon during the previous Hexennacht, right? This is meant to combat those and for use in case the Rank 1 is defeated.”
“That’s right,” replied Horinouchi. “I would like to call them our backup, but they have their own problems to deal with.”
“You mean European politics?” The Rank 3 asked the question in her mind. “There are a lot of European witches in my division, so I hear about it from time to time. In Europe, they have already estimated a few patterns for the damage they will take on Hexennacht and they are already beginning the power games for after the battle.”
Hunter sensed a resignation distinct from anger in the girl’s voice. Which meant…
…Has she changed as far as that’s concerned?
In the past, she probably would have been angry that someone would not be working to protect the world.
But now she gave off an air of exasperation.
…Yeah, that’s it.
She was disappointed that the people she was to protect only saw this threat to the world through a political lens.
She was now on the side of the protectors. She no longer thought the entire world was just like her and she instead tried to see it as something she needed to protect.
Hunter had also been called a fool in the past few months.
She could not act like Mary’s better and she felt more camaraderie than anything. Of course, if she actually said that, the Rank 3 would insist she was wrong.
…She needs to eat some meat and chill out.
Despite that thoughtful point, everyone had their own dietary habits. And while Hunter thought about that, Kagami lightly raised her right hand and faced Hunter.
“That is what Europe is doing, but what about America?”
“Yeah, you’d think we’d be in on that, wouldn’t you? …But to be honest, American U.A.H. is different from the other U.A.H.s.”
“That’s right,” replied Horinouchi. “Japanese U.A.H. has a military alliance with America, so it too is rather unique. That’s why it could build Shihouin Academy and the Ranker System.”
Horinouchi felt Japanese U.A.H.’s uniqueness was thanks to her mother and her companions.
After all, this was the battlefield the previous Hexennacht’s witch had chosen. Horinouchi’s mother had been lost, but one of the Troika had remained as the headmaster and created Shihouin Academy.
“In a way, the previous Hexennacht divided the different U.A.H.s.”
The European nations had received a powerful blow during that Hexennacht, but America had possessed enough emergency reserves and military power to make up for the damage they took. That had allowed America to partially leave as a U.A.H. member and to act independently. European U.A.H. had lacked the military and technological power to boss American U.A.H. around and it would have been dangerous to be dragged around by something like that.
Thanks to America’s sense of gender equality and their forces spread across the globe, America’s fleets had been quick to recover and had worked to transport emergency supplies and ensure the safety of the sea and air routes. That had helped to make their presence known.
“At the time, Europe had agreed to have Hexennacht here because using a small eastern nation as the battlefield would prevent any damage to Europe. But in the end, Europe was severely damaged and there was even a major exodus of their witch forces.”
The European witches had had a simple reason for leaving Europe.
“Europe had abandoned this eastern land and made it a battlefield. To take revenge and to assist the recovery, witches from Europe and elsewhere gathered here. In a way, the headmaster’s decision to create a witch training institute here was a natural development.”
“But that would create a dearth of witches in Europe, wouldn’t it?” asked Kagami.
…You know the answer already, don’t you?
So Horinouchi answered while well aware this was a farce.
“That is why the European nations created a joint U.A.H. to assist their recovery and to strengthen the EU. Their own witches had left for Japan, so they had to create a native-born unit.”
“And today is the long-awaited rollout of their mass-produced Magino Frames for Hexennacht. Europe likely intends to use this to climb onto the stage of international politics. Japan has Shihouin Academy, so we will express our joy that Europe has a way to defend itself while we remain on our guard for possible interference.”
A lot of information would be reaching the Horinouchi family, but Koutarou and the Horinouchi family itself would be working with the Imperial Household Agency to shut it down.
“This was my mother’s battlefield and is now the home of her successors. In a way, this is an inviolable land where no one can interfere.”
“Of course, that’s why foreigners like me come here for connections,” added Hunter.
“Yes, it is oddly lax about that… Well, I have my connection to Shinto as well.”
Every country and organization wanted the knowledge and techniques of the witches that had left them. That could be useful if it meant official support, but…
“Hexennacht is a right given to the Rank 1 here, at the forefront of witch history. That is one thing that no country or organization can deny.”
That much was certain.
Yeah, thought Hunter.
“So while we might officially cheer them on, America and Japan’s U.A.H. and political response to Europe is basically, ‘don’t you try anything funny’. Personally, I’ve been getting the occasional footage of European U.A.H.’s Magino Frames, so I’m curious to see the official deployment.”
“How many are there?”
“Ohh?” gasped the Rank 3.
This was about European U.A.H., but Hunter still felt somewhat proud.
She guessed Mary’s world had not had that many witch-level fighters.
“Although some of them will go to Russia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America.”
“Oh? It does indeed sound like they are considering the post-Hexennacht power game.”
“So anyway, America’s higher ups only see this Wand Viewing as an annoyance.”
After saying that, Hunter noticed something.
The surrounding students were focused on them.
I see. So this place is a lot like the world in miniature, realized Kagami.
Witches could be seen as the forefront of indigenous culture and a civilization’s secret techniques.
To have them gather here made Shihouin Academy a version of the world in miniature, but at the same time…
“Given who is supporting them and thinking about them, this really is the world in miniature.”
Most of the European witches were probably proud of the coming Wand Viewing.
A third force would be supporting Hexennacht in addition to the Ranker Battles and American U.A.H.
In a way, Kagami was grateful.
…But whatever the other countries might want, this place is inviolable.
According to Horinouchi, that was also true for the witches at this academy.
A belated thought occurred to Kagami.
…It must be the same for the witches at Horinouchi’s place too.
Leaving their old organizations and becoming maids had been an extension of that inviolability.
I see, she thought while resuming her trash collecting.
“It is still a mystery why Koutarou is with the Horinouchi family, though.”
“She says you’re a mystery, Head Butler!”
“She says no one needs you around, Head Butler!”
“She says everyone wants you gone, Head Butler!”
“Can you stop making worse and worse assessments of my position here!? I am here because I served Lady Mitsuru’s mother!”
“Head Butler, we all know that, so you would need to tell Lady Kagami.”
“B-but I’m pretty sure I’ve told her that before! Huh!? Huhhhh!? And if you’re willing to use our equipment to spy on them, why not head out into the open and wait on them!?”
Once the conversation was mostly over, Hunter began picking up more trash.
It was a simple task. As before, she used the metal tongs to pick up trash on the pathway and next to the flower beds and put it inside her garbage bag.
She passed by a few people as she did. Most had filled their garbage bags enough to be on the way to the trash pickup zone by the front gate.
She saw someone wearing an Honors Division hood walking through the flower garden. The girl was always looking after the flowers, so Hunter sort of saw her as part of the background. The student was gathering trash from among the flowers, so Hunter realized all of the students were using the day to clean up after the previous night’s party. And…
“Miss Horinouchi, what do we do about the broken flowers?”
Mary asked that while walking past a flower bed with a clear outline of someone having collapsed there.
…Did someone trip during the party?
Some of them had apparently been drinking alcohol, so that was hardly surprising.
And Horinouchi shook her head.
“The headmaster manages this flower garden, so some divine protections are in effect. A healing divine protection will return the broken flowers to normal. Cleaning up the trash is to ensure the divine protections can flow properly.”
“Lady Headmaster seems to enjoy gardening and flowers.”
“Does she?” asked Hunter.
Kagami pointed to the spell circle open above her shoulder. Her servant was sunbathing inside it, but that was not her point.
“Her spell circles have a flower motif.”
“I remember her showing me a potted plant when I visited her office,” agreed Mary.
Horinouchi agreed while tying up the top of her bag.
“She has pushed for the forestation of Kantou Plain as well.”
Hunter had heard that was a personal matter, but she had also heard it was quite largescale.
“Kantou was mostly torn up during Hexennacht ten years ago, wasn’t it? I hear they ultimately started using spells for soil recovery and a strengthening of the entire plain in north Kantou.”
She had seen the land while riding a fighter from the Atsugi region, but she had also seen giant craters in the Saitama and Ibaraki regions.
“But from what I saw from the air, it hasn’t been very effective.”
“Still, it’s a wonderful thing as long as it is even a little bit effective. That will give people hope. Don’t you think so, Rank 4?”
Mary joined the conversation, but Hunter felt like she was being used as an excuse.
…Sh-she can be such a pain!
Horinouchi understood how Mary felt.
She was unsure whether or not she should get close to others. She felt it would “all be over” if she got too close and drove the other person away, so she tried to keep some distance between them.
Assuming she was not imagining or misunderstanding things, Horinouchi felt the same way at times.
Based on Kagami’s actions, that girl never felt that way at all, but…
…Hunter’s more on Kagami’s end of things.
But Mary was on Horinouchi’s end of things.
It was not just recently that Horinouchi had felt that which “end” someone was on was determined by how they recovered after a relationship came to a sudden end.
For a long time, she had remembered her mother without making any kind of recovery and she had used that grudge to drive her toward Hexennacht.
Then she had been unsure what to do when an idiot had cried for her.
Mercy was not needed in the Ranker Battles, so there was no room to worry about others. And with her power and excellent grades, she was naturally distanced from the other students.
In the past, she had carried the grudge of her ended relationship and sought Hexennacht.
But someone had cried for her.
There was no pride in having someone cry for her after defeating her.
But to cry was to win.
There was nothing to be done about it.
And when she thought back now, she felt like that moment had returned her to just after that relationship’s end. She did not know if that was true or not, but she decided to accept it now because it was convenient.
Believing in uncertain facts was a witch’s job.
But she hoped that this really was a fact.
And with that in mind…
…Mary must feel the same way now.
In her case, the end of the relationships had occurred much more recently. It was a fresher wound, so it came to mind more easily. Changing so quickly would be too much to ask, so she ended up keeping her distance.
Looking at it that way, having Kagami by my side in the Buddy System really helped me to recover, thought Horinouchi.
…Why am I emphasizing Kagami’s presence so much!?
She knew why. It was the same reason kids with no communication skills would grow so attached to anyone who was nice to them. Mary was probably the same there.
But it seemed to Horinouchi that Mary had Hunter too. Base on how Mary had entered the conversation, those two seemed to get along fairly well.
Then she should be fine, thought Horinouchi while walking between the General Division building and the gym to arrive next to the front gate.
They had apparently called professionals from the mainland to pick up the garbage bags. Three garbage trucks with a Kanagawa mark were parked there and a few students were taking the bags from everyone.
Those girls turned around and saw Horinouchi’s group.
They gave shouts of “Kyah!”, “Hyah!”, and even the incomprehensible “Uhah!” and then scattered.
Their underclassmen ran away. Some of them added in midair dashes or made a front flip before vanishing into thin air, but Horinouchi simply watched them go.
“What was that about?”
What was so exciting about holding a garbage bag and metal tongs? But Kagami nodded next to her.
“Our costumes last night must have had an effect.”
In other words…
“Dressing up as each other makes us look even more like a couple than if we wore matching costumes.”
Mary agreed with Kagami.
Exchanging one’s possessions was a necessary part of her original world’s marriage ritual. Most engagements began with the groom dedicating a number of things to the bride’s family.
When the brigadier general had attended the wedding of one of her field officers…
“I see! This is Nagoya-style, isn’t it!? Curse my sister. So we have her half-remembered knowledge of this to thank for the existence of kombu in this world!”
Mary had not understood that, so she had decided not to think about it.
At any rate, those two had left quite an impression the night before.
A holy knight and a shrine maiden were both jobs that served a god.
The others were different. Mary only had to imagine herself or Hunter in place of those two. If a karate fighter or criminal showed up at night and asked to trade clothes with someone, it would clearly be a crime. Any nearby elementary schools would start having the children head home in groups.
But from Horinouchi’s point of view…
“What are you talking about!?”
“Oh? Horinouchi, it is not like you to deny something that has already been decided. The internet is already flooded with pictures of the two of us.”
Kagami displayed them on a spell circle. After a moment, the Rank 4 commented on them.
“Kagami, you took these yourself, didn’t you? I don’t know about the anti-curse divine protection on them, though.”
“Y-you leaked the ones I placed the anti-curse divine protection on, didn’t you!?”
Mary simply found herself writing this off as Kagami being Kagami, but was that a kind of dependence?
Meanwhile, the Rank 4 pointed toward the garbage trucks.
“We’re already just standing around, but…”
Oh? You seem to know those two well.
“But why not throw out this trash and go to Horinouchi’s place for a break? You come too, Rank 3.”
…Are you a god!?
But after that brief thought, Mary’s self-control kicked in and another response escaped her lips.
“Don’t decide that for me, Rank 4!”
…She really is a pain…
Not that she’s the only one, thought Hunter as she glared at Horinouchi and Mary.
She pointed at her garbage bag and the garbage truck.
“Well, let’s just think of that as the Rank 3’s habit of arguing with everything. So let’s go throw out this trash, okay?”
“Ho ho? So are you going to take me on after that?”
Mary glared at her. Damn you’re tall, thought Hunter, but she knew from their previous fight that her own speed was greater.
Then Horinouchi reached out a hand.
But Kagami grabbed that hand from the side.
“Wait a moment, mother.”
“I am not anyone’s mother!”
The underclassmen at the trash pickup zone looked back and nodded, but they avoided commenting on the issue.
But despite all that, Mary looked down at Hunter and spoke.
“We never did settle things between us.”
“Eh? You want to do that again? Or rather, you’re still doing that?”
Instead of answering, Mary raised her garbage bag.
Then she looked at the glove on her hand and narrowed her eyes.
“Let us settle this with the amount of trash we can gather.”
“Oh?” Kagami crossed her arms. “When it comes to gathering trash, Mary’s height allows her to gather things from further away in a single motion! Hunter has a disadvantage there!”
Another voice followed hers. It sounded a lot like the Head Butler.
But it vanished for some reason.
Did it come from over here? wondered Hunter as she looked toward the gate, but she did not see him there.
Was she just imagining things?
The maids held Koutarou down behind the front gate.
They had already taken up position here and the Head Maid had spotted Horinouchi and the other girl from behind the gate.
“We drew their attention. Remain as silent as possible as we shift from capture to transportation.”
“Um, what are all of you doing?”
“You can’t tell?”
The Head Maid gave him a serious look and a maid answered while pressing her ear against the ground.
“You were going to say ‘Well done, Lady Mary!”, but she is not yet one of our girls, Head Butler.”
“That’s right,” replied a maid confirming the safety of their escape route on the sidewalk alongside the gate. She used SWAT hand signals to order everyone forward. “Your time on the front line and interacting with her on a daily basis has tricked you into accepting anyone that Lady Mitsuru has opened up to.”
“But in the original sense, a witch is something that lives in your home. …We cannot use ‘well done’ on witches who have not entered the home.”
Koutarou reflexively prostrated himself when he heard that.
“Truly…you are truly a master of the Well Done arts!”
“As long as you understand, Head Butler. …Now, we need to evacuate. If Lady Hunter and Lady Mary fight, it raises the odds of them both ending up as one of ours.”
With that, the Head Maid left the edge of the gate.
A spell circle appeared next to her face. It was…
“…From my old home.”
That would be the German Air Force’s 200th Division. It was a communications spell circle bearing the airship mark of the U.A.H.G.L-200, so this was news from the organization she had belonged to.
…What could that be?
Koutarou saw the look on her face change. She immediately looked over as if she could see straight through the gate.
“Head Butler. …Send instructions to all of the maids. Have them use all of their contacts. And have them gather at the Horinouchi home and the General Division dorm room.”
“What is going on?”
The Head Maid turned back, pushed up her glasses, and opened her mouth.
“Schlacht. Something that follows witches everywhere.”
Hunter did not look away from Mary.
A message from the 7th Fleet had suddenly arrived in a spell circle next to her face, but it was not a wide-band warning meant to inform her of an emergency. Since she could put it off, she decided to do just that because the current situation was dangerous.
…Are they photographing stuff again?
To ensure she remembered about it, she fixed the coordinate so it would follow along next to her.
Her attention was directed forward. Mary held up her garbage bag with the school gate, the south pier plaza, and Tokyo Bay in the background.
Hunter responded with a shrug.
She did understand why the Rank 3 was acting how she was. Mary had a hook to interact with them, but she had not overcome the barrier yet. That barrier being Hunter, who had been the entrance to the other day’s Ranker Battle.
She likely understood that Hunter, Kagami, and Horinouchi did not want either of them to be higher than the other, but…
…She’s the type that can’t stand for something to be unresolved.
Thanks to her time doing karate, Hunter knew there were people who could only make friends with someone by defeating or losing to them. And based on what she had seen of the Rank 3…
…She isn’t the type that needs to win.
That meant she had left the witch Rankings after losing to Kagami.
In that case, Hunter did not need to treat Mary too carefully. It would be quite nice if defeating her would not make her bitter, and that made Hunter somewhat fond of the Rank 3’s character.
That girl could face forward even when she lost.
However, there was a “but”.
Their conflict would be meaningless. In fact, it could even do damage. Hunter did not know how useful their power would be, but if they were to provide support on Hexennacht, then they were the next line of defense after Kagami and Horinouchi.
She also had to admit that the Rank 3 probably understood that.
Someone who could face forward even when she lost was stewing over an unresolved outcome, so she was trying to pick a fight. But if she was being realistic about this…
In that case, thought Hunter with a bitter smile.
“Why has this jobber from another world been hanging out with us all day?”
It was blatant provocation.
…Wh-what is she thinking!?
Horinouchi was confused by Hunter’s harsher than usual comment. And just when it had looked like Hunter was managing to get closer to them, too.
Had something been building up inside Hunter until she snapped? The public TV show “Try and Be Gay” had mentioned that eating nothing but meat gave you a shorter temper. Hunter had been watching it with them and she had had this to say:
“What about the people who don’t eat meat but still lose their temper at the drop of a hat and attack at full power?”
…Thinking back, why did she ask me that with such a serious look on her face?
Regardless, the situation was underway. Mary nodded at Hunter’s provocation.
But Horinouchi noticed something about her expression as she nodded.
She was smiling. Her eyebrows were raised, but there was no harshness there. And…
“What is this American stalking horse saying when she’s ranked lower than me?”
Horinouchi saw Mary and Hunter throw their garbage bags at each other again.
Hunter reached forward and grabbed one and Mary swung her hand outwards to snatch the other. Hunter spoke when she saw Mary lightly spin her bag around.
“Oh? Oh? You wanna do this?”
“No, I am fine with giving you Rank 3.”
“Eh? You’ll really give it to me!?”
“Yes, once the Brigadier General and Miss Horinouchi are Rank 1, I will be Rank 2 and you will be Rank 3.”
“Okay, it’s on now!”
Horinouchi wondered why that last line had been in the Kansai dialect, but she guessed it was some kind of karate skill. At any rate, the two of them seemed to understand this was a verbal battle and not a physical one.
Or if it was to be physical, it would be through the medium of exams or trash collecting. So…
…Mary understands too.
Even if she was stewing, the girl knew her purpose here and would avoid any pointless battles. She would stick to the kind of conflict common in everyday life.
That may have just been how witch arguments worked.
And Mary had chosen to remain near them.
She had to have a number of thoughts on losing her home, but she was here because she was suppressing them and thinking about what mattered most now.
So Hunter responded in kind.
Instead of being meaninglessly mature, she approached Mary with an attitude that allowed her to respond to those arguments at any time.
Being “understanding” of Mary would only distance her. After all, they stood at different positions. Mary was still stewing, but the rest of them had accepted everything as they faced Hexennacht.
Mary wanted to be the same, but she could not. However, kindly ignoring that would only hurt her.
Hunter was not ignoring all that.
“I’m ready to go whenever you are.”
Hunter was likely the only one taking on that kind of behavior so she could accept it all. They had already determined Mary’s position in relation to them.
…That’s our relationship.
Mary understood that too. The two of them faced each other but then they both looked Horinouchi and Kagami’s way.
Kagami tossed her garbage bag to Hunter and Horinouchi handed hers to Mary.
A wind passed between and below the two garbage bags.
Oh? thought Kagami.
When did she get so close?
It was a student in a Shihouin Academy uniform. The short girl hid her face with her hood and she passed between them with a quick footwork.
She took the very shortest route.
That was partially due to their position right in front of the garbage trucks in the trash pickup zone.
Passing between them was more direct than circling around them.
But something caught Kagami’s attention.
…She did not act like we were in the way, did she?
It had been natural.
Her running steps had danced between them like leaves floating down a river.
But it was not quite right to say she had danced between them either. She had simply passed between them.
There had been no resistance or obstacles to her movements or landing.
Hunter caught the garbage bag the girl had passed below and turned back toward Kagami. It was obvious what the look in her eyes said.
“You want to eat katsudon, don’t you?”
“I was thinking those movements went beyond light!”
By the time those words reached Kagami, the hooded girl was leaving her trash with the garbage collector. And…
“That girl…” said Horinouchi as she left her garbage bag with Mary. “She’s the Honors Division student who was looking after the flower garden before.”
The girl left her trash with the garbage truck and turned back toward the four witches walking up behind her.
Her hood hid her face.
But the four witches each stepped aside to open the way.
The girl must have known what they meant because she used her “passing through” way of walking to lightly sway her body while her feet carried her straight through.
She used the forward and back motion of her body to walk forward not too fast and not too slow.
She simply walked straight through and toward the flower garden on the north end of the courtyard.
“That really did go beyond just light. Not that she was floating or anything.”
Hunter commented on the girl as she left two bags with the garbage collector.
…That’s different than me.
She based her actions on her footing, so her footsteps tended to be loud. She could silence them if she wanted to, but that would change her standard movements.
She had only seen for a moment, but she could guess some things from the hooded girl’s movements.
“Is she an elemental type?”
Like wind or something. She probably used spells associated with a natural element. But…
“Were we just being careless for her to get that close without any of us noticing?”
“That’s a good question,” said Horinouchi with a bitter smile.
They were answered by a quiet laugh.
It came from the garbage collector who had taken their bags. She sat on top of the garbage truck and was probably a witch. She wore a sanitation department jumpsuit, but she held a broom under one arm and stroked it like a cat.
She looked into the distance between the General Division building and the gym. Hunter looked in the same direction and saw someone walking north.
The girl’s movements looked unremarkable from this distance, but…
“That girl is always like that,” said the garbage collector witch. “Every single day.”
The driver gave his own comment while closing the tailgate to compress the garbage bags.
“She brings the withered flowers and rotten stakes from the flower garden. …All of a sudden we find her standing there.”
“I was right,” said Horinouchi. “She really is the one always looking after the flowers. I believe she’s in the Honors Division’s third year.”
“She’s a quiet girl. I’ve never heard her speak,” said the witch on top of the garbage truck. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen her with a servant either. But how should I put it? …I can’t even feel one’s presence.”
She doesn’t show her servant? thought Hunter with her curiosity piqued.
A servant was necessary to summon a Frame. There was an exception standing right next to her, but she refused to let there be another.
…So is she hiding her servant or is there no point in bringing hers out?
Kagami raised her right hand.
“Is it possible to never bring out a servant?”
Hearing that, Hunter and Mary both looked above Horinouchi’s shoulder.
The Suzaku had appeared on its own and it was reading a horse racing newspaper. But when it noticed them…
It silently entered its spell circle.
After what was clearly the sound of a door shutting, the spell circle vanished and its owner frantically waved her hands back and forth.
“U-um, it’s been passed down for generations, so it’s an adult! It’s allowed to gamble!”
“What kind of explanation is that?”
“Well, Dikaio also shows up without being called for.”
“My Macabre is generally out because I always keep my Magino Frame active. It hides so as not to eat up too much power, though.”
Hunter’s Hedgehog was much the same.
There were of course times when a servant was not evident, but…
…I’m not sure I could keep that up every day.
“You can’t sense one?”
She asked the witch on top of the garbage truck.
The witch nodded with the afternoon sun behind her.
“Right. That kind of thing is important for my job.”
“That’s right,” said the driver as he leaned inside through the passenger-side sliding door. The witch on top raised a hand toward Hunter and a spell circle appeared on the back of the truck. It was likely for a barrier spell.
Garbage produced where witches lived could be unknowingly affected by spells, so this would seal that away. This was necessary because the trash dump was outside the school.
…Back home, Tuesday was the day for spell-related trash.
Sometimes the dumpster would set on fire and sometimes it would grow legs and run away.
But according to this witch who could detect ether in the trash…
“I wonder if she really doesn’t have a servant.”
“Well, there are a number of styles and the Honors Division is for the more unique ones.”
“But wouldn’t she have trouble in battle without being able to summon a Frame?”
“That might be why she’s in the Honors Division.”
Hunter had to admit that was a good point.
“The Honors Division isn’t so much for the highly skilled as it is for users of highly unique one-off spells.”
“Then,” said Hunter while thinking about what happened before. “Was it dangerous to let her get that close?”
“If she was a Ranker, I suppose,” said Kagami.
“Even with a surprise attack, pseudo-passive reflexive defenses are standard, aren’t they?” asked Horinouchi. “I kept my right hand free.”
Hunter was shocked.
“Um, but…” said Hunter as she faced away from them.
Kagami had to agree.
“I was on the left and you were on the right, Horinouchi. And you were handing Mary the bag with your left hand, so were you planning to shoot without letting your opponent see your right hand?”
“You need to subconsciously prepare yourself in case something happens.”
I would expect no less, thought Kagami as Horinouchi glanced over at her.
“But I think you noticed her first.”
“Because she moved along our current of motion.”
“Our…current?” asked Mary.
“A trace of your presence is found along the line of your motion,” explained Kagami. “It is like your hair blowing in the wind. And when someone is purposefully following that, it is quite noticeable.”
“I believe it was the wind or something similar.”
That girl had been drawn in by their walking motion. She likely used a light step normally, but when she approached some other “motion”, she was drawn in yet did not fight it.
By not resisting it, she followed that current and moved forward.
That was how she had slipped between them.
She had not interfered in their actions.
“In a way, it is a method of piercing something without interfering with it. Although it still felt like she was getting in our way because she was using our movements.”
“Is she the evasive type?” asked Mary.
Kagami had to agree on that point.
“Of course, if she can evade, she can also circle around you or make a surprise attack. She can turn her evasion into an attack. Although Hunter would be our expert on footwork.”
“She wouldn’t be able to turn that movement into the solid footing needed for a powerful blow.”
“True enough,” replied Kagami just as the garbage collector witch spoke from the top of the truck.
“Everything looks dangerous to the upper Rankers at this time, doesn’t it?”
She laughed as the garbage truck started to move. It drove forward, made a U-turn, and then drove on the road to Tokyo.
Kagami saw the next garbage truck approaching and Horinouchi noticed some people behind them.
“More people are coming. …Let’s wash our hands and then go to my room.”
“Lady Mitsuru has announced she is returning!”
“And Lady Mary is coming with her! Now we can use ‘well done’ on her too!”
“Wait, everyone!” shouted Koutarou as he quickly climbed over the wall surrounding the academy. “We have a more pressing matter! We must inform Lady Mitsuru!”
“But, um, Head Butler?”
“What is it!? What could be wrong with informing Lady Mitsuru of this urgent news!?”
“This school’s walls have an anti-intruder barrier set up and the warning just dropped below three seconds.”
He looked up and saw the number on the spell circle.
It was zero.
Mary heard what sounded like a lightning strike far to the southeast.
…I wonder what that was about.
Well, these things happen a lot, she decided. In the Spell Division, lab walls were blown down at a rate of two or three a week.
But aside from that, the fact that she had been called to Horinouchi’s room held important meaning.
…Does that mean she’s accepted me as one of them!?
Based on how Horinouchi had invited her, the girl had likely already seen it that way.
“Thank you very much.”
When Mary bowed, Horinouchi’s shoulders shook and she turned around.
“Mary is very polite about these things,” said Kagami. “But you are quite generous, Horinouchi. You even let me borrow one of your rooms.”
“Not only do you invite people over, but you just moved in without asking!”
Mary just about asked “Isn’t that being a little too loose?”, but she decided not to when she remembered Horinouchi’s true name. That forbidden word could easily be used against her.
…She truly is frightening!
Shinto was frightening indeed.
At any rate, Mary followed Horinouchi to take her up on her offer.
But then the Rank 4 raised her right hand.
“Oh, hey. …They’re starting something interesting.”
Mary looked back to find the Rank 4 opening a video spell circle, but…
“…is that?” finished Kagami.
“Well,” said Horinouchi. “That looks like the European U.A.H. Wand Viewing we discussed earlier.”
- Parody of the Japanese cooking show Tameshite Gatten.
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