Clash of Hexennacht:Volume3 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: That is an Illusion
The world’s bonds
Can come from anywhere
And in any form
Koutarou saw the image superimposed on the sky.
He lay on the grass just outside the wall on Shihouin Academy’s southeast side.
Earlier, he had triggered the security system by carelessly crossing the wall and had been hit by a lightning strike, so he could not move.
The maids sat around him, but…
“Oh, tell us when you can move again. We’ll be having a tea party.”
He moved just his fingertips to send a report to academy security.
“The previous alarm and lightning strike were nothing to worry about. I was merely performing a test.”
He did not specify what kind of test.
He simply watched the spell circle next to the tea party until his body’s tuning divine protection kicked in.
He watched the European U.A.H. Wand Viewing with a few doubts in his mind.
…What is this?
Below a colorless sky, he saw a location surrounded by forests and mountains.
It was a vast space.
More than just an airfield, an entire city’s worth of space had been cleared.
It was made of rock.
Based on the sunshine, it was an elevated region. A tall forest surrounded it on the south, east, and west while a mountain range rose to the north. The mountains formed a right angle because the cleared area had been made level.
The cutting of the mountain was strange.
A straight line had been cut into the rocky base of the mountain as smoothly as slicing tofu.
The cut had to be over 30 km long and its height exceeded 2 km in places.
But as far as Koutarou could tell from the footage, the cut was a perfectly straight line. A waterfall spilled from a gap in the layers of rock and it flowed into an artificial river below the cut, but the scale was too large to grasp.
“Lady Lueger created that on her own. She said she wanted somewhere where the other U.A.H. leaders and the politicians couldn’t interfere and the she created it in a single night,” explained a European maid who was brewing tea on a travel sheet spread out on the grass. “Lisbeth Lueger is one of the Troika and the German representative. She is also currently the strongest witch who returned to Europe and supported that land after all the other witches left.”
She seemed to remember something else.
“Oh, and she gets mad with a smile on her face if you talk about her age.”
“Precisely,” said an unexpected voice from the footage. “As long as you remember, Green Moon. Your skill was lacking, but I see you haven’t forgotten what I scolded you over.”
The footage was not a two-way transmission and it was supposedly being broadcast worldwide via satellite. But the Head Maid commented while pulling a sandwich baguette out of a midair spell circle.
“Women can always hear you when you spread rumors about them, Head Butler. This is the same as Lady Kagami and Lady Mitsuru noticing when they are being monitored from satellite orbit.”
“Can she not notice you, Head Maid?”
“I am not spreading rumors.”
Women are scary, realized Koutarou, but that thought was immediately thrown from his mind.
He saw movement in the footage.
Koutarou saw ranks of witches.
The witches in the clearing wore black Normal Frames as per the ancient legends.
But those ranks were spread incredibly far apart. The witches were each about 300 meters from each other while lined up in rows and columns. But given how wide the clearing was, even at that distance apart…
“We have a primary force of 2000 here.”
Blowing wind accompanied the voice from the footage. It felt like a cold wind, but that may have been because it was the north wind blowing down from the dry mountains. Now, what were those 2000 U.A.H. members going to do?
…Will they summon Magino Frames?
That was supposedly the number of mass-produced Magino Frames they had.
And a voice spoke a single word from the footage.
Immediately, light appeared in the dully colored clearing. It appeared in the hands of the witches.
“They’re gunblades. Are they like Lady Kagami’s?”
“Single-edged? They look a bit like kitchen knives.”
As the maids commented, black blades appeared in the hands of the spread-out 2000.
They were straight, single-edged swords and they were non-transforming types with a built in cannon. But…
“They have a combined power system and it looks like the main engine has been reinforced.”
“So they can’t move while firing?”
“They’ve gotta move for themselves. More importantly…”
Koutarou knew what they were going to say next.
The 2000 had raised the swords in front of their eyes as if praying.
Then far, far more ether light than before exploded into the sky.
“That was fast…!?”
“Eh? They didn’t have to build up their mood first!?”
The maids’ surprise was to be expected.
…They can rapidly move from Normal to Magino like Lady Hunter!?
That was exactly what was summoned into the dry sky.
2000 straight, single-edged swords were drawn into the colorless sky.
Hunter gasped a little.
…They’re really showing off.
They had rapidly summoned their Magino Frames immediately after summoning their Normal Frames. Normally, that required heating up their Phlogiston Heart in their Normal Frame for a stepped increase.
It was possible to prepare a keyword for increasing their willpower and to keep their Phlogiston Heart perpetually and stably heated for a quick Magino summoning.
But this was different from that.
“It’s how they’ve split up the engines.”
“You know what they did, Hunter!?”
“Why pass this off to her?” asked Horinouchi while glaring at Kagami, but Hunter did not mind.
Hunter spread her arms to either side to indicate a straight gesture and then pointed near the center.
“They have a large engine here that’s probably for both firing and propulsion.”
“The same engine handles both of those?” asked Mary with a tilt of her head.
Her Magino Frame’s annihilation spell was powerful, but the Frame’s mobility was unimpressive and its armor was thin. According to Mary…
“Generally, a Device has three different engines: one for attack, one for movement, and one for defense. Which one receives the most focus determines the majority of a Device’s characteristics.”
“Right,” replied Hunter. “When the Form and Device – combined into the Frame – grow large and complicated, the power needed also grows. That means they need separate power for attack, movement, and defense. That also requires heating up your Phlogiston Heart for all three. But…”
She pointed at the base of the Magino Frame barrels on the footage.
“What happens if you only have two?”
Kagami crossed her arms and answered.
“The three categories of attack, movement, and defense become the two categories of (attack + movement) and defense?”
“Yes. Their attack and movement systems are linked. That requires only two areas for heating up your Phlogiston Heart. But since they can create an engine large enough for twice the capacity, it can really help heat up their Phlogiston Heart. …That’s probably what we just saw.”
“Why have the rest of us not been doing that?”
“If you combine your power source for attack and movement, you can’t move while attacking and you can’t attack while moving,” answered Horinouchi. “Of course, you can always send some excess power over, but that is dangerous in battle.”
“I see. In other words…” The corners of Kagami’s mouth rose. “These Magino Frames are specialized for two things: sniping the Black Witch and her minions that descend from the moon and ramming right into them without firing.”
That is a ridiculous idea, thought Horinouchi.
“These were mass-produced, but I doubt they would stand a chance if they fought inside the Black Witch’s seal. Their range of tactics is too limited.”
“Then why produce so many of them?”
“You do not understand, Mary?”
When Kagami said that, she and Horinouchi turned toward Hunter.
And Hunter shrugged.
“This is what European U.A.H. is thinking: The witch in Japan can fight the Black Witch however she likes, but we will use these 2000 Magino Frames to defend Europe.”
“In other words,” said Horinouchi. “After Hexennacht, they will let Japan take the honor of having fought the Black Witch, but Europe will be the unscathed land that can rule the world afterwards. Is that what you mean?”
If so, it painted this Wand Viewing in a new light.
“Is this European U.A.H.’s way of stepping away from Hexennacht?”
“It is not,” answered Kagami.
Horinouchi turned toward her.
“What do you mean? Don’t you think it would be difficult to oppose the Black Witch with these Magino Frames?”
“Do they have an ace witch by any chance? Oh, maybe that old lady who has been speaking?”
“What did you just say?” replied the voice in question.
Hunter glared at the footage and Horinouchi raised an index finger in front of her nose.
…That’s the kind of person she is, isn’t it?
But she was still bothered by what Kagami had said.
“Are you saying that member of the Troika is going to join the Ranker Battles?
“No, they would not need to do that. European U.A.H. has a simpler way of joining Hexennacht.”
As Kagami said that, something happened in the footage.
The 2000 black swords had their blade tips raised toward the center of the heavens and those tips began to glow.
They were spell circles.
“Yes. That is the right answer.”
Horinouchi heard Kagami speak and she saw light in the center of her vision.
The spell circles opened on the 2000 sword tips joined together to form a single giant circle.
…They’re combining their power!?
Not all of them had done so. It was only the 1000 in the center. But the spell circle stretched to more than 5 km across and a word appeared in the center.
It was a movement spell, but not one that carried something over a distance. All of that power was being poured into…
“A teleportation jump!?”
More than one part of that seemed impossible to Horinouchi.
Teleportation spells were well known as witch spells. They moved objects not by carrying them or by shifting their location. Instead, they altered their location. These spatial jumps or distortions were powerful movement spells, but they were also known for another factor.
Their restrictions and necessary conditions were very strict.
After all, to link two points in space, the spell had to affect both “here” and “there”.
That meant activating a spell somewhere you were not.
It meant doing something somewhere other than where you were.
“Is that difficult even for the witches of this world?” asked Kagami.
“Can you eat or study in a place you aren’t?” asked Horinouchi. “Magic is what allows us to do things like that, but altering the location of objects is very difficult.”
The accuracy and power needed grew immensely as the distance increased, so…
“Most teleportation spells are limited to the user’s field of vision or they need a ‘receiver’ at the other end.”
The former was a short-range teleportation. The latter was the stereotypical type of spell known as a “gate”. A location or partner acted as a physical focal point to link the teleportation spell.
Horinouchi herself had done something similar to a gate a few days before.
“Miss Horinouchi, when you used your Cave Opening on the annihilation spell I used for high-speed movement, you did something similar to this. I automatically acted as your ‘receiver’.”
But what they saw here was different.
European U.A.H. intended to send the 1000 blades somewhere.
“Are they bringing these identical Magino Frames together and synchronizing them to use a spell that requires immense power?” asked Kagami.
“And it required the sacrifice of simplifying their attack and mobility into one,” added Horinouchi before addressing another of the impossibilities she had thought of. “But where are they planning to send the blades!?”
“That is simple,” said a witch’s voice.
It did not only come from the transmission footage.
It descended from the sky surrounding Shihouin Academy in every direction.
“Right there. To the new school for witches.”
A moment later, 1000 blades measuring 50m surrounded Shihouin Academy.
The witches watching the footage were slow to notice.
The 1000 blades had vanished from below the teleportation spell as it burst and scattered.
But none of them imagined those swords had all arrived in the sky around them.
They first felt it as a wind.
Thick masses of air pushed in at them from every direction. And when they turned their gazes against the whipping air currents, they saw what was there.
The blades were lined up vertically in the sky.
1000 straight swords surrounded the academy as if preparing to slice into it.
Horinouchi viewed the 1000 swords surrounding them like an open-top dome.
She also heard Koutarou’s voice over a transmission spell.
“Lady Mitsuru, you know that a number of countries have troops stationed in Japan to prepare for Hexennacht, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I think we know that.”
Hunter opened a spell circle in annoyance, but the external transmission spell circle grew distorted.
The surrounding Magino Frames linked together their barriers to create a “wall” blocking any communications.
The mainland should have been visible from here, but it seemed to be shimmering.
If light was being distorted too, then it was adequate defense for a Magino Device. Their attack and movement were linked, but defense seemed to have its own independent power source.
She sensed the presences and heard the sounds of the surrounding students moving and raising their guard. Some of those witches would be from Europe.
But at the moment…
“Everyone has fortified our defenses!”
Mary had connected to the school network to grasp everyone’s actions.
Her Spell Division contained a lot of Europeans, so if they were working to fight this…
“Was this an independent action on European U.A.H.’s part?”
“Yes, Lady Kagami,” answered Koutarou.
“In that case,” said Horinouchi. “The other nations are generally in charge of protecting us here and of taking the defensive role during Hexennacht, right? Why would they be doing this now?”
Hunter took issue with that dismissive description, but Koutarou had more to say.
“Well, this is very hard to say, Lady Mitsuru,” explained Horinouchi’s Head Butler who was in charge of liaison work. “But the European nations are demanding administrative authority over Shihouin Academy. …They say it is to manage the execution of Hexennacht and the selection of the witch who will take part.”
“Ho ho?” said Kagami with a nod.
Since that did not worry Horinouchi, her thoughts were probably accurate.
In other words, she added in her heart before speaking.
“Is this what you were talking about before, Kagami?”
“Hexennacht is no more than a political card to these nations.”
Kagami sounded entirely bored with it all.
…Not that I want her to enjoy this…
Did that mean this had not exceeded her predictions?
Kagami then pointed her thumb back toward the main gate behind her.
Horinouchi knew what that meant. After surrounding them so noticeably, their opponent would arrive through the proper entrance.
“But don’t witches like using the back door?” asked Horinouchi.
“This is politics.”
Horinouchi was calm enough to shrug that off with a “well, whatever” and she picked up her pace.
But as they walked emptyhanded toward the main gate, Kagami spoke with her back to Horinouchi.
“If the Black Witch is indeed defeated, the successful witch’s country will have a large advantage over the other countries.”
She sounded just as disinterested as before, but Horinouchi responded while moving up alongside her.
“You mean in influence and military power, right?”
“Military power?” asked Mary a step behind them.
The answer came from outside the group. It was Koutarou.
“Yes, that is right. To defeat the Black Witch is to create a threat greater than the Black Witch.”
“Ever since the middle ages, the witches of this world have been accepted as a legitimate military force,” added Horinouchi.
Mary had come from another world, so it must have seemed odd to her even if she had the knowledge.
“It may not be as obvious in Japan since witches gathered here after crossing national borders and it is especially hard to tell here in Shihouin Academy, but since they still have to focus on national borders in Europe, they have a tendency of viewing a powerful witch as a weapon.”
“That is exactly right, Lady Mitsuru. …And I believe this incident comes directly from that viewpoint.”
“Then,” began Kagami. “Those nations are attempting to supervise us because we have yet to settle those issues?”
“It would seem so, Lady Kagami.”
Hunter raised her hand when she heard that.
She looked up into the sky and finally sped up her slowing feet.
“Oh, looks like my people are taking the academy’s side.”
“Are you talking about that light in the southwest sky?” asked Kagami.
“A lunar surveillance F-18 ascended vertically and is sending an optical transmission this way.”
“Morse code? Won’t European U.A.H. notice?”
“No, this is the 7th Fleet’s personal code. There’s no cracking it because it’s based on the number of letters in the behavioral standards form that changes weekly. And the standards form is handwritten by the second-in-command, so bad things will happen if an unauthorized person reads it. …Right now they’re stopped at Hawaii and they can apparently leave to hold the other nations in check once their preparations are complete.”
Hunter’s spell circle displayed the communications that had supposedly been blocked. It had been sent to her by the 7th Fleet that supported her, but…
“The header says ‘Watch this, European U.A.H.’ and the attachment is the official specs of those Magino Devices floating there,” explained Hunter. “Look at this. It says they have three main engines. And they even sent out a test wand just like that. They made us all think this was the normal design.”
So they set us up, realized Kagami with a bitter laugh.
Seeing this world fighting itself like this made her wonder if her sister’s personality had grown even worse. But…
“The fact that they would set all this up to give themselves even a slight advantage in a later age may be proof of how rich a world this is.”
“I’m not sure if that’s self-flagellation or a compliment,” commented Horinouchi.
“I am merely impressed. In a way, this is a moving scene. And I take it Hunter’s people will be responding to this.”
“But won’t that just confuse the situation further?”
“Probably.” Hunter crossed her arms. “Makes you wonder why they’re just stirring up the embers.”
Meanwhile, they arrived at the main gate again. A few people were standing beyond it.
The witches in black Magino Forms were older than Kagami’s group.
She realized this was her first time seeing witches not affiliated with Shihouin Academy.
She had flown over America during the battle with Hunter, but she had not run across any local witches. She had assumed that was a “gap” in the world her sister had created, but…
“There are some.”
Once she said that, Horinouchi held out her right hand to stop them.
“Do you have something to say as Student Council President?”
“No, someone else wants to speak first.”
As Horinouchi spoke, spell circles appeared all across the sky above the academy.
The witch communication devices blossomed all around them and in all parts of the academy. They were shaped like flowers.
That was exactly who they displayed: the headmaster. She was likely looking south from her office’s window. The room provided the background and the footage was shot from a somewhat low angle as she spoke to everyone.
“I must warn you.”
This was a simple rejection.
“Set foot in my academy and you will be deemed an enemy. Do you understand, European U.A.H.?”
…She just defined her opponent.
Defining a phenomenon to understand and grasp it is how witches use power, thought Horinouchi. That was why the headmaster named her opponent and warned the surrounding Magino Frames.
“My academy is inviolable. I believe we promised as much ten years ago…Lisbeth.”
She spoke a name.
Yes, Horinouchi could see that person. The witches in front of the main gate split apart and a single individual approached.
It was a tall woman.
She wore a black cape, hat, and boots. An eyepatch covered her right eye. Her hair had some gray mixed in, but her face did not look aged at all.
Horinouchi’s mother would have been the same age had she still been alive. And Horinouchi naturally accepted that fact as she spoke.
“Come any closer and you will be deemed an enemy, Aunt Lisbeth.”
Lisbeth stopped as if she had only just now noticed her.
She was right in front of the gate.
“Long time no see. And do not call me ‘aunt’.”
Hunter took a deep breath behind Horinouchi and whispered a question.
“Kagami, who’s the old lady?”
“I do not know, but this woman, who is clearly past her thirties, is most likely an important individual.”
“Um, you two? Why not be nice and stick to ‘older than us, but possibly at double our score’?”
…She can hear all three of you!
As Horinouchi thought that, a voice arrived from straight ahead. It started as a quiet laugh.
“I can hear you, Ranker girls.”
Lisbeth also held up a spell circle that displayed a document.
“I am U.A.H. Representative Lisbeth Lueger. Based on U.A.H.’s decision, I have arrived to place Shihouin Academy under our protection.”
…So that really is what this is about.
Kagami and the others had been right.
“The witches of the world view Shihouin Academy as the site of their decisive battle and a facility to train in, so we have decided we must protect this academy while you are determining who will take Rank 1.”
This really was what Kagami had mentioned, but…
“European U.A.H. is trying to control Hexennacht like this, isn’t it?”
Mary nodded in agreement with Horinouchi, and…
…This means they see who controls the world as a problem in addition to the Black Witch.
Kagami stood a half step ahead and she asked Horinouchi a quiet question.
“How strong is she?”
She was referring to the witch named Lisbeth who stood in front of the main gate.
…She is very skilled, isn’t she?
Mary could tell at a glance. And that was without any kind of observation spell.
The uniform the woman wore was likely a Normal Form, but it truly was clothing.
It was not panels as soft as cloth or something that simply took that “form”. Ether formed threads which were woven together into a uniform.
The higher Rankers could do that much, but each piece of this woman’s uniform was made differently. They all used different thicknesses and colors of thread.
“Yes. She is a uniform fetishist. I sense great skill in her….”
Horinouchi clenched the fist behind her back so hard the veins bulged out, but Mary understood she was not trying to tell her anything.
Horinouchi did, however, look back over her shoulder to glare at Kagami.
“She is the third witch who formed the Troika with my mother and the headmaster during the previous Hexennacht. My mother died during Hexennacht, but the headmaster created Shihouin Academy and Aunt Lis-…Miss Lisbeth helped construct the modern form of U.A.H. She is now the German representative.”
“In other words, she was the Rank 2 or 3 a decade ago? …But how strong is she now?”
A voice answered Kagami from beyond the main gate.
“Rushing to action will accomplish nothing, current Rank 2.”
Lisbeth followed up those words by looking into the sky. Her smile may have shown approval of their behavior.
And with that smile intact, she spoke to the headmaster.
“We have no time, Cerisier. Transfer control of the academy to me.”
“That will not be necessary, Lisbeth.”
Mary saw a quick reaction to the headmaster’s response.
Lisbeth’s expression changed.
The headmaster had essentially rejected her, but…
…That wasn’t anger.
The ends of her eyebrows had lowered just for a moment.
Mary saw the shift in Lisbeth’s expression.
It looked like hesitation or displeasure at the rejection, but it soon vanished.
A moment later, she opened her mouth with her eyebrows raised. Her gaze was powerful as she glared at a spell circle in the sky.
Was she protesting or persuading? They never found out because someone else suddenly appeared.
As the headmaster spoke, a small form descended from the sky behind the spell circle.
The girl wore a pink Normal Form and wielded a hoe-shaped Device. She landed between Mary’s group and Lisbeth.
Her back was thin and slender, but the strangest aspect was her face.
Perhaps to hide her face, the girl wore a gas mask.
And her movements were hard to follow after she straightened back up from landing.
Her movements were smooth and felt perfectly natural, so Mary began to speak.
“You set foot inside,” said the headmaster at the same time.
It had likely been when Lisbeth’s expression had changed, but she had taken a half step inside the gate.
And the pink girl moved to punish that action.
She rushed forward.
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