Clash of Hexennacht:Volume4 Chapter 10
Chapter 10: If You Direct the Way
Yes, yes, yes, this way
It’s probably safe, definitely safe
I haven’t gone that way myself, though
Fleur had been dismissed as a battery.
On Lisbeth’s merciless instructions the night before, some witches had greeted her with smiles and taken her to a waiting area in Yokohama.
She had assumed the waiting area was for evacuees, but it was full of witches. Lots and lots of witches.
She had heard a number of things there. Kagami’s condition was stable and Horinouchi’s group was prepared for battle.
Her mother had often told her about the preparations that would be made for Hexennacht. If she had still been the Rank 1, she would have been there herself.
So she had mostly known what was going on and she could simulate it in her mind better than a lot of those actually involved in it. Based on those memories, she knew the inland area was relatively safe.
Since the battle would be held off the coast of Kanagawa, being as far inland as Kawasaki would have been better, but Yokohama had plenty of places to have fun and that gave her more motivation to protect it. So first of all…
“So what am I supposed to do as a battery?”
“What was that ‘eh’ for?”
“Miss…Fleur? Do you have some kind of artifact?”
When she asked, it sounded like they were prepared to use a drain spell to supply themselves with Blessings, but…
“Generally, the land’s keystone or some other artifact will have been charged at a shrine or temple, so we can extract Blessings from that.”
“Wow! So you’ve never seen a human battery before! Neither have I!”
They decided to try it out, so they found a convenient keystone nearby and attempted to transfer her Blessings into it.
Five seconds after they began, the keystone split apart and ether burst out, which was no fun for anyone.
“That wasn’t my fault! It’s Lisbeth’s fault!”
“I heard that,” said a disembodied voice.
Curse that old lady.
At any rate, Fleur did not feel like she had used up any Blessings at all.
“Am I just really pent up because I haven’t been using any spells lately?”
That got her displeased looks from several directions, but that happened a lot.
The witch in charge of the drain spell was from Eastern Europe and belonged to Shihouin Academy’s Spell Division. She was a second year, but she knew a lot about indigenous spells related to herbs and soil. So they quickly found a common interest.
“Right!? Right!? Those flowers are the best because you can use them to get all sorts of cats to show up!”
“Yes! And if you make an even stronger potion out of it and have someone drink it, they’ll be horny for like three days straight, which is always hilarious! I had my crush drink some, but he ended up fucking a neighborhood tree and got questioned by the police! So I must rank lower than a tree!”
“You actually did it!?”
She was a practical sort of witch, so it was a lot of fun.
At any rate, they managed to supply Blessings to keystones, statues, and protective charms which were small enough to carry around, but Fleur did not feel any weaker for it. In fact…
“I feel like…you know how they say bleeding a little stimulates hematosis?”
“U-um, none of our equipment can hold it all, so please don’t go all out!”
But after all that, she had been dismissed. As for why, it was looking more likely that the inland area was going to be part of the battlefield, so if she was not going to the waiting area in Fujisawa, she was to help the people evacuate and take shelter.
She had no way of moving herself and she considered evacuating with them if necessary, so she parted ways with the drain witch and moved out into the thick of things armed with guide lights. She had also been given a helmet with the following explanation:
“You’ll understand once you get there!”
Five minutes later, a black doll had fallen on the waiting area and caused a real mess of things. But now I’m this crosswalk’s guardian deity.
“Hexennacht is a lot different from how mama described it.”
Something was different this time.
The first one to notice was Mary who had already sensed that presence in her previous world.
They were on the border between the Uraga Channel and the ocean at an altitude of 7km. To stabilize Hunter’s shellfire, she had formed an open barrier with her annihilation spell and she kept the water level inside it.
She was briefly confused when that appeared behind her.
Why? she wondered before remembering that such questions meant nothing with this opponent. Thus…
As soon as she sent that transmission, she saw light in the northern sky.
Lisbeth was confronting the Black Witch.
Lisbeth did not immediately attack.
The other witches in the area had yet to evacuate, so she had to buy some time. But the black Magino Device floating in front of her was an even more refined version of the one she had seen in her memories countless times.
…It looks a lot like Kagami’s Device.
It was a non-transformation type, but it was a Multi-Device that could fire projectiles of light from the blade.
And the enemy spoke while facing her from atop the Magino Device.
“I will do you a favor. This will be the final battle. Because I intend to destroy this world. So…”
The Black Witch raised her hand.
Lisbeth assumed she was launching an attack, but that proved incorrect. Far overhead, a new blackness appeared from beyond the black river the witches had worn down.
“Lisbeth! A fifth enemy formation has appeared!”
That was not all. Something like lightning fell from the moon to the ocean off of Kanagawa.
It looked like an instantaneous bolt of lightning, but it was not. The path the lightning took told Lisbeth what had happened.
She cursed at the Black Witch who smiled in the moonlight.
“I have released the seal. Because ‘I am here’,” she said. “You can’t exactly complain, can you? …Forget just using your champion. Come at me as a group, witches. After all, I have already eliminated the strongest witch you had been building up.”
So that’s how she’s doing it, thought Hunter.
…The Black Witch removed her own seal and says she wants a death match.
That seemed like a huge plus for the witches, but it was not actually.
Where should they go? How should they fight? Where should they fight?
They suddenly had to answer all of those questions.
Not only could they no longer use most of their plans or strategies, but even with so many more witches available, only the ones as strong as Hunter herself could hope to hit the Black Witch with their attacks.
Plus, the Black Witch could use her descending reinforcements as a diversion.
She understood the situation. She totally understood what she needed to do. And supporting Lisbeth was not the answer.
“We need to support Miss Horinouchi so she doesn’t go on a futile rampage!”
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
“I-I am not going to go on a futile rampage!”
20km above the ocean off of Kanagawa, the black reinforcements could be seen splitting into two branches far overhead. One branch descended toward Yokohama and Kawasaki while the other flowed far to the west.
Horinouchi knew the sealing barrier had been neutralized.
The barrier blossoming around her had absorbed the lightning from the sky and shattered.
The method was simple: read the ether pathways forming the barrier – that is, its structure within the ley line network – and send in enough ether to overload it. The ether overflow would blow away any spell fixed there.
The method itself was simple, but accurately reading the barrier’s structure from the moon would have been extremely difficult.
…Of course, she can do it without going through all the normal steps.
If the Black Witch could imagine it, she could use her power in a way that intervened. It may have been simpler to say any phenomenon she could imagine was automatically turned into a spell.
Horinouchi could logically explain how the barrier had been destroyed, but it had looked like being crushed from above.
In that case, the latter explanation was probably accurate.
And she was about to fight an enemy like that. Or she was supposed to have.
“The Black Witch is at Shihouin Academy, isn’t she!?”
“You can’t, Miss Horinouchi!”
She knew why Mary was stopping her. Firing from here would not accomplish anything.
“You’re telling me to wait until the battlefield is better prepared, aren’t you!?”
“Eh?” said Hunter.
After a while, a spell circle arrived, displaying an overhead-view diagram of Tokyo Bay. A red dot appeared in the center, spread outwards, and stopped after fully covering the bay.
“Do you know what this is?” asked Hunter in monotone.
“The Black Witch’s barrier or her attack range?”
What is this? she wondered with an odd sweat after more than five seconds passed.
Mary’s voice finally gave the answer.
“Miss Horinouchi, that is the extent of the damage if you fired one of your standard shells at full power from that altitude.”
“A standard shell?”
She watched as the red range grew even further. The eastern end passed the Boso Peninsula and reached the Pacific Ocean.
“And this is with a reinforced shell,” said Hunter. “Still wanna shoot?”
…Well, shooting is still an option on the table.
If it was guaranteed to defeat the Black Witch, Hunter thought that was a perfectly valid choice.
But that opponent was the problem.
They assumed the Black Witch had the ability to neutralize anything they could normally imagine.
That was why they had not had the 7th Fleet send in a wide-range attack spell with a missile.
…If only we had Kagami…
You never knew what that idiot was going to do, but she had a way of finishing things.
“Rank 3, what are you thinking about?”
“…About getting rear-ended high in the sky near Brazil.”
“Miss Horinouchi can be just as bad.”
Don’t make it a competition, thought Hunter, but Horinouchi was pretty bad. Firing from the pole and the Geo Frame had both come from her imagination.
Horinouchi had not realized it herself, but Hunter kind of understood why Kagami had accepted her. When Kagami first met her in this world and copied her Device construction spell, she must have found some kind of originality there. Kagami had seen something that surpassed her own ideas, so she had concluded that Horinouchi stood on the forefront in that field.
…And she stands on the forefront of attack power too!
Kagami must have seen that going in.
But that imagination advantage had grown much weaker now.
“Horinouchi? Can you hear me? The destruction of the seal barrier shows that the Black Witch knows your location. That means you’re standing on the board of her imagination. Of course, there’s nowhere to run on this battlefield, but we do have a chance of distracting her for now.”
“The European U.A.H. Representative is going to battle the Black Witch…!”
…So Horinouchi is going to regroup with Hunter and Mary.
That’s for the best, thought Lisbeth. They did not need to come support her. After all…
“I was judged unworthy ten years ago, so joining me will not allow them to win in the ‘now’.”
After speaking that line, she saw the Black Witch nod atop her Magino Device.
The Black Witch held a book below her left arm, pointed at Lisbeth with her right hand, and then pointed into the western sky.
“Then to clean up after ten years ago, I will destroy the now and the thereafter.”
“Well, aren’t you full of yourself…!”
Lisbeth could tell how tense her brow was as she had her Magino Device leap forward.
She had it leap, not fly. She instantly filled the gap.
“Go, twin swords!”
Koutarou controlled several battlefields.
The European U.A.H. HQ at Shihouin Academy was not currently functioning. Their equipment seemed to be running, but…
…Has Lady Lisbeth begun to fight!?
Depending on the outcome, the European U.A.H. HQ could lose all decision-making ability and would only function as an information relay point.
Currently, the U.A.H.J. HQ set up at the Okunitama Shrine in Fuchu, Tokyo, seemed to be giving commands and making decisions according to a program, but most of the information processing that had been sent to the European U.A.H. HQ was being sent here instead.
Koutarou could see the movements of Horinouchi and the others they were in charge of and he could see the status of the battle that had begun at Shihouin Academy courtesy of the European U.A.H. HQ.
The Head Maid had once worked for Lisbeth and she was scanning and processing the data arriving from European U.A.H. Countless spell circles stacked up and she even used a foot pedal spell interface to work through it all.
“Head Maid! …Someone take over the trajectory calculations for the Head Maid!”
The Head Maid glared back at him for that. It was a sharp look, but he rivaled her when it came to glasses.
“Head Maid, let someone else handle all the trajectory calculation processing. You have more important matters to work on.”
The Head Maid eventually nodded and then looked back toward the spell circles.
“…Well done, Head Butler.”
“I am not saying it again.”
As she returned to work, some of the witches around her raised their hands and groups of spell circles flew over to them.
…What was that?
Koutarou felt like she had said something incredible, but his brain’s processing could not keep up.
And the rest of you, enough with all that whistling. I need to focus on this work coming in. After all…
“Lady Lisbeth has begun a close-range battle with the Black Witch…!”
Man, I’m getting old! concluded Lisbeth with such refreshing self-awareness that it shocked even her.
They had just completed a rough circuit of Tokyo Bay and they were flying south. A shockwave caused pillars of water to erupt on either side of her as she pursued the retreating Black Witch.
She was already moving too fast to hear the sound around her.
The nighttime bay reflected the moon and waves were formed by the land battle and anti-air fire.
And the Black Witch fired endlessly to keep her away.
Her attacks were massive. Even the secondary cannons had as much power as the main cannon of Lisbeth’s Magino Device and the Device itself showed no wavering in its speed or trajectory.
…So this is creation instead of ether gathering…!
Amid the endless shellfire, the sword tip would occasionally turn Lisbeth’s way and the main cannon would fire.
The attack would split the bay, draw an arc through the air, and vanish into the sky. Lisbeth was known for her one-hit kill attacks, but even she felt a chill. But as she evaded and continued pursuit, she had a definite thought.
…I have gotten old!
In the past, she could have dodged a barrage like this barehanded. It was not for nothing she had been able to take on Cerisier’s environment spell and she had had a much easier time getting her surefire attack through there than Mitsuyo had.
But she was being worn down.
Am I whitewashing my memories? she wondered, but she cast aside that line of thinking.
“This isn’t whitewashing! I really was incredible in the past…!”
But now she was getting old. That was only natural. But if she did what she had to as someone older, there was a different path for her.
“Give me strength…!”
Her own power was not enough to continue pursuit while dodging a homing barrage of at least 32 shots.
So she delegated the evasion route processing to the others.
She set an observation spell to send over the enemy’s movements and chose the best combination out of the reaction patterns instantly returned to her. She included her own decisions in the mix to cancel out any lag, but…
“I’m still being worn down!?”
The damage to her Magino Device was already beyond “light”. But…
I told you long ago not to call me that. But that definite underclassman gave her permission.
“Your Phlogiston Heart has reached max heat! Please focus on attacking!”
Koutarou saw it on an ether detection spell circle.
A mass of light appeared between the dots representing the Black Witch’s Magino Device and Dragoon, Lisbeth’s Magino Device.
He knew what had happened. Even from Enoshima, the sky was bright above the Uraga Channel at the south end of Tokyo Bay.
“…Was that a full-power blast from the Black Witch!?”
Petals of light scattered around them.
The Head Maid and the other witches had flipped around their spell circles and turned them to flowers. They had instantly processed evasion routes for hundreds of shots and destroyed the completed ones so they would not get in the way.
They sped up. It looked like all of their work had briefly grown slower, but…
He understood. Their burst of acceleration was not just in response to Lisbeth’s request for processing.
“Are you processing predictive patterns as well!?”
“It is a maid’s duty to predict her guest’s requests.”
What should he say about her saying “guest” instead of “master”?
“Well done, Head Maid.”
When he said that…
The Head Maid looked back, blushed, and froze in place for just a moment. And all the other witches…
As they shouted abuse, the Head Maid quickly struck empty air with her right arm. Values settled into all of the spell circles and were returned. They were sent to…
“Senpai! The rest is up to you!”
The Black Witch saw a single answer.
…So there are several ways to surpass my imagination.
She had long thought of two ways.
One was to have a genius opponent utterly outdo her inventiveness.
The other was for the entire world to evolve such that everyone rose above her imagination.
But what she saw now was different.
The witch fighting her here was likely in the top five of this world. But she was focusing on pursuing the Black Witch above all else. The only talent needed for that was her instincts for evasion and Device control.
But she lacked that. This witch had probably always excelled at close-range combat. The design of her Device made it clear the long-range attack cannons had been added on afterwards.
The Black Witch could shoot down an opponent like this by staying on the move and firing a barrage of homing shots.
And yet the black blade remained on her tail.
She skipped off the surface of the Uraga Channel, spun through the air, and broke through the barrage even as it tore into her.
The Black Witch understood this trick. Countless spell circles flowed around the witch on the Device and they shattered to sublimate the text written on them.
She was supporting by a large backup crew.
“So that’s it…”
This was a third method of surpassing the Black Witch’s imagination.
Even if each individual was ordinary, what would happen if they gathered together and worked together as a single whole?
This was a collection of data and control.
This quantity and multi-faceted accuracy were impossible for a single genius to produce.
A sense of purpose created it faster than the world could change.
The Black Witch alone could not fully read the product of that gathering. So…
“Don’t underestimate us, Black Witch…!”
The enemy witch yelled at her while ducking and leaping through the sky.
“We are not alone…”
“We can become one…!”
The black gunblade accelerated. Spell circles displaying its destination shattered as it raced through the sky.
Endless cannon fire flew its way. Some flew in clusters of straight lines and others circled around to the side or back, so there was no overall standard.
But the black gunblade moved forward.
As if to say it knew where it would not be hit, it evaded and advanced at the same time, which ultimately became a series of gentle curves.
“Go, Dragoon! This is your final job!”
The cannon fire arrived from extreme close-range now. But…
“You did a wonderful job, underclassman…!”
With those words, the black gunblade accelerated.
The clusters of incoming shells were homing. It directed its blade directly toward them.
“…My blade can break through!”
The Head Maid realized their trick had been set up.
She had understood this ever since Lisbeth had taken such wide evasive action.
She had understood that Lisbeth’s close-range blade could slice through even above-average cannon blasts.
Lisbeth could slice through the attack and continue forward, so why had she chosen to dodge instead?
As someone who had known her in the past, the Head Maid was probably the only person who knew why.
So she had done it.
She had kept that power hidden instead of using the Magino Device blade when it would not really matter.
“I made sure it would provide a decisive blow in the end. …Does that work for you, guest?”
The black gunblade caught up with the pitch black sword.
It did not hesitate to charge right into the many homing shells arriving from dead ahead.
The gunblade’s blade sliced through one of the shells like a piece of fruit.
All that remained was to fly forward.
So she did.
Pillars of water burst from the ocean on either side and the shockwave scattered that water into a whirling mist as the gunblade artlessly slipped through the single shell gap.
That power simply moved straight ahead.
A moment later, Lisbeth swung the Device in her hand atop the gunblade.
At the same time, the Magino Device’s blade glowed and power raced along it.
“I shall cut you down…!”
Immediately, another power opposed it.
It was the Black Witch’s sword. The Black Witch herself spun around while standing atop it.
It was a light motion, as if there was no core to her body, but the motion swung around the Normal Device controller that she held.
“This still ‘matches’ my imagination.”
The Black Witch’s Normal Device launched black light on the level of a main cannon blast.
The counterattack perfectly matched Lisbeth’s timing.
The Black Witch heard the air bursting and saw the black light smash the enemy.
Fragments of the black gunblade Magino Device burst outward while surrounded by the fog created by the explosive blast. They quickly struck the air and flew into the distance.
…That ends that.
The sound could not keep up.
She simply saw the components of the blown-up Device return to ether light and scatter.
The Black Witch lightly swung down her Normal Device sword.
“Next. I had wanted to recover some ether, but…”
She noticed something odd as she said that.
The mist and fragments of the enemy witch’s Device were vanishing into the distance behind her, but for some reason, she had a detailed view of that result.
The object she saw there was compressing to the sides, like a cat narrowing its eyes.
…What is this?
As soon as she wondered that, the distant enemy Magino Device’s final component returned to ether light.
It was the cannon. But there was one thing she could not see.
“Where did the sword go…!?”
The enemy Magino Device had a gunblade design, but among the destroyed parts, she had only seen the cannon that had been added on almost as an afterthought. So where was the rest?
“Shouko! …Spatial cutting!”
Amaze gave that warning just before something appeared.
The surrounding scenery squeezed in and bent before the center shattered and it appeared.
“A black sword…!”
The enemy Device was upside-down as it split the air as only the sword.
And the enemy witch stood atop the flipped blade.
She was unharmed.
Lisbeth simply moved.
The cannon had been added to her Device after the fact. She could focus the power on the blade and the acceleration system by purging it, but that severely reduced her ability to gather ether.
If she was going to abandon the cannon, it had to be at the very end.
Her underclassman had predicted that the enemy would have another attack ready even if Lisbeth sliced through the enemy’s shells with her blade.
That witch had not been very thoughtful in the past, but that must have changed.
She had suggested discarding the cannon just in case.
Lisbeth could have gone in for a hit with the very first attack, but that probably would have been blocked.
She was up against the Black Witch. The Black Witch’s imagination could probably account for even that kind of last-ditch effort.
After moving right in front of the enemy while expecting to get hit by a close-range counterattack, Lisbeth had used the Device’s spatial cutting to drop the Device itself downwards.
“I said I would cut you down, didn’t I?”
The enemy’s attack hit the purged cannon and now Lisbeth delivered the final blow.
She could do this.
She had a way. She placed a hand on her eyepatch and pulled a Device from there.
It was a single-edged sword. It matched the one she already held in the other hand. Instead of just raising them, she reversed her elbows and wrists to cross them and raise them together.
“Sever, twin swords…!”
While upside-down, she sliced open a spatial fissure.
“Impressive,” said the Black Witch while feeling a slight flush to her cheeks. “Then I have something to show you. Both in appreciation of the imagination you have demonstrated and to ensure you never use that method again.”
She simply spread her hands, dropped them down from overhead, and stated the form of her creation:
Lisbeth saw empty space spread out before her eyes.
Her vision told her she had caught up to the Black Witch.
Except that was not what had happened.
…Were our positions swapped!?
It was the same method the Black Witch had used to come here from the moon and to accelerate her reinforcements. Not taking it into consideration had been their own failing.
If Lisbeth had still had her cannon, she could have used its ether fuel for acceleration and escaped. But…
“…I used it all up.”
She had used up herself, the others, and…
“My frustration and regrets from ten years ago…!”
She had done everything she could, and this was the result.
She did not even need to look back. She knew her own power.
Her Magino Device would be sliced apart and scattered by the spatial cutting she herself had launched.
What was the Black Witch thinking as she watched from her swapped-out position behind Lisbeth?
“You aren’t all that impressive yourself, Black Witch,” said Lisbeth as the light and noise of her Device’s destruction washed over her. “If you can’t imagine a new method, you should come to my school.”
“True enough,” said the Black Witch as she watched the explosion of her enemy’s fully-destroyed Magino Device.
She had indeed been quite insulting to her enemy.
It had been sudden and effective, but she had responded with something old. So…
“I won’t use this method any longer. …That was the latest method ten years ago. Let’s just leave it at that.”
This battle had ended everything from ten years prior. From there, she secured the ether light from the enemy’s exploding Device.
…I will settle this with the current latest method.
What was that? She had already revealed it once, but…
“Summon Satanic Frame!”
The fifth wave she had called had arrived in the sky above, so she looked up at it and smiled.
“This is the end, products of my imagination…!”
The Head Maid accepted that all information processing requests from Lisbeth had ceased.
And at the same time, another maid gave a report.
“Head Maid! And Head Butler too, I guess! I’m picking up a massive ether reading at the Uraga Channel!”
“You guess!? What do you mean you guess!?”
Pipe down back there. But they all knew what this was. The ether reading had been described as “massive” not “powerful”. So when they looked back, they saw something beyond the hills of Zushi that hid Uraga.
…Is that a knee?
A Queen-style Device rose more than 3km tall.
At this distance, they could only see up to the bottom of its chest.
This is a nightmare, she thought.
The sword it held was the original Magino Device increased to several times its size and the fifth wave of enemies descended behind it like a cape.
That nightmare personified began to move.
Beyond the hilly region, it started to enter the Yokohama region as if to head vaguely toward Tokyo.
The main battlefield was not the ocean off of Kanagawa.
Fighting there would give an advantage to Akerindou and the other Rankers.
Did the Black Witch not want to assist the enemy or did she simply like the cities of Yokohama and Kawasaki?
And just as the Head Maid wondered what to do about that giant being…
“Head Maid, instruct everyone to prepare some tea.”
The Head Butler’s words reminded her who she was. No, she had been trying to do that herself, but she had been looking at herself in the wrong way.
To refresh her mood, she raised her right hand to her forehead.
She took a deep breath, snapped her fingers, and swung her hand outwards.
“Understood, Head Butler. …Anyone who is free should prepare some tea. And add some snacks as well.”
“Wah,” cried out one witch among the sighs of relief.
She held a report saying the enemy’s fifth wave had arrived. And it had begun to destroy the Yokohama region as if to support that giant Device.
This was a crisis. However…
“A witch must not fear a crisis.”
Once she said it, she felt that way herself. A witch’s words held power. That was what this was.
Because she knew just how tense she was, she formed a small smile on her face. And all she had to say was what she honestly thought:
“Don’t worry, everyone. …Lady Mitsuru and the others will emerge victorious. That is a foregone conclusion.”
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