Clash of Hexennacht:Volume4 Chapter 13
Chapter 13: I Shall Shoot the Shadow
Face your target
There are no dreams
Where there are no enemies
Hunter felt herself relax.
An enemy large enough to block her view had existed within that unending dance of scattering light shards.
But now there was nothing there and only the ether light whirled around in a city-sized vortex.
A voice rang over her spell circle. It was not from the 7th Fleet. It was from Mary.
The girl’s next line told her this was a pressing issue that required top priority.
She used Hunter’s name.
Horinouchi realized three things happened nearly simultaneously.
The first was Hunter’s nearly-destroyed Hedgehog entering a forced ascent.
Before she could wonder why, a line of black pierced through the sky.
The high-speed shot looked a lot like flames, but it suddenly changed direction in midair.
It scored a direct hit on the Hedgehog. No, Hunter made sure it did.
Horinouchi understood. The black cannon blast had flown in from far ahead and it had been targeting her.
Most likely, Mary had intercepted it during her descent. She had not been able to actually hit it, so she had reaped and bent the area of space it would pass through.
It had remained on a path toward Horinouchi, so Hunter had taken the hit instead.
“Horinouchi…! It’s okay!!”
She wanted to answer “what is?”, but she was not sure she could after seeing something far beyond Hunter.
A figure stood above Sagami Bay off the coast of Kamakura.
The moonlit figure’s armor was broken and clothing was torn, but…
Black light raced from the ocean and repaired the standing colossus. The damaged areas, the lost portions, and the broken materials were all repaired. It swung the sword it held to test its strength.
“The Black Witch…!”
She was not unscathed. But…
“That wasn’t enough to defeat her!?”
“It can’t be! Lady Mitsuru’s attack couldn’t destroy her!?”
“Not even Lady Mitsuru’s attack power was enough!?”
“If Lady Mitsuru’s attack isn’t enough, then nothing in the world is!”
“That’s fairly insulting to Lady Mitsuru, you know!?”
Shouko briefly did not understand herself.
…I’m not sure.
She had come to destroy the world because she felt she needed to be rebuked.
But if the product of her imagination would rebuke her, she wanted them to surpass her, the one who had imagined them.
But she nevertheless continued to resist them. She thought that was because she lacked the guts to accept that rebuke.
…I’m not sure.
If she had just accepted it, it would have all been over.
But she had resisted.
The method was simple. She had pulled back the sword she had been swinging toward the Hedgehog.
She had fortunately been prepared to move at a moment’s notice due to her wariness concerning Akerindou’s appearance.
She had pulled her body and the sword backwards and then slammed her power against the incoming shell.
The Magino Device main cannon was fired from the length of the sword and she had used that for a close-range collision as she fell back.
The power had collided and the blade had shattered.
But the shell had exploded and knocked her backwards as she tried to move back.
The next thing she had known, she was standing in Sagami Bay. However…
She was still standing, but that attack had been quite effective. Reacting to it and repairing afterwards had required a lot of her resources.
She was worn out.
But there was one thing she knew even in this situation.
“I can still imagine this.”
“Shouko. …To be honest, this is dangerous.”
“Your imagination might be fine, but the rules of this world are cornering you.”
With that, Amaze displayed a spell circle before her eyes. Her ether temperature was displayed on a cage-like decoration.
That was her Phlogiston Heart.
The black pulse was full of cracks and close to shattering.
…Oh, I get it.
The Satanic Frame was fine as the Black Witch, but…
…They’re starting to surpass me.
She had the clearly unfair power of imagination and creation, but she was still being cornered.
The Phlogiston Heart was more than just the heating of a witch’s ether. It was the strength of her heart.
She had power and she could repair any wounds, but her heart was accepting that her opponent was reaching her level.
“I wonder what happens if my Phlogiston Heart breaks.”
“At the very least, you will lose your powers as a witch until it recovers.”
“You will lose your power of imagination and creation as the Black Witch…and our bond will be temporarily severed. Because our ability as a witch has been written into the framework of this world’s rules.”
Horinouchi saw the enemy beyond the ether shards that blew through the air like spring flowers.
She was undamaged and her power far surpassed Horinouchi’s. But…
…Is she tired?
No. That was not it.
She seemed to just be standing there, but that was due to Horinouchi’s intense focus. The shattering pieces of the Hedgehog appeared to be falling in slow motion, so everything appeared frozen before her eyes, just like the target immediately before she fired.
Her mind was clear.
And she realized that the Black Witch indeed did not move right away and was probably creating a slight “pause” before her next action.
That gap was not due to exhaustion. Nor was it due to carelessness, resignation, anger, or hesitation.
“Is it relief…?”
She had likely realized something and reached a certain conclusion after drawing out all her strength, dodging, attacking, breaking, and recovering it all.
On top of that, Horinouchi thought about the girl named Kagami Shouko that Fleur had told her about.
…A girl who wanted to stop herself.
Were they her children? No, they might be distant descendants, but they would not be her direct creations.
And now they were fighting evenly with her.
What would happen if she was bound by the Phlogiston Heart rule?
She could secure an endless supply of ether and repair any damage, but her Phlogiston Heart reflected her will to fight and her willpower. If she really did want what Fleur claimed she did…
“You understand now, don’t you?”
They had already proven something here.
“We can fight on your level or even higher.”
She gestured toward everything around her.
“So this is the correct answer.”
…That’s probably true.
She could not help but understand something as she was driven into a corner and tried to reverse what had happened.
She could reverse what had happened, but the fact that she had to meant they had gotten the upper hand here.
Her own imagination had surpassed her as her enemy. She had somehow managed to recover, but…
…That doesn’t erase the fact that they outdid me.
She might be able to erase the fact from her mind, but it would not erase the actual fact.
In that case, this was enough.
This world had surpassed her.
I can stop myself.
This is enough.
“I haven’t been rebuked yet.”
“Amaze,” said the Black Witch. “How many worlds have I destroyed?”
“I lost count after two thousand.”
“I see,” said the Black Witch. “I see,” she said again with a nod. “Then…they would probably want to know why I was treating this world so much better. Because I destroyed them. They would want me to be fair. …They would want to know why I suddenly became such a good girl. If I’m to be rebuked, they would say the only correct answers are for me to destroy or be destroyed.”
So the Black Witch faced dead ahead and spoke to the vermilion bow-user.
“How dare you…!”
She spoke the words that were correct for the Black Witch.
“How dare you…! How dare you try to break our creation…!”
Mary saw the giant Device standing in Mogami Bay swing its sword at high speed.
The blade launched the same pitch black attack that Mary and Hunter had stopped earlier.
Her Ira was already broken and she had entered a descent that allowed her to land safely.
Hunter was the same, so there was nothing to protect Horinouchi.
And Horinouchi launched an attack.
A white arrow shell collided with the black shot.
Their effects canceled each other out.
…Are you serious!?
There was only one appropriate response to equaling one of the Black Witch’s attacks head-on:
“Well done, Man-…nouchi!”
She had trouble deciding which name to use and screwed it up.
The Head Maid watched the ultra-precise shootout that had begun in the eastern sky.
It was nothing more than an intersection of cannon blasts.
But their method of defense was strange.
They negated the enemy’s shots with their own and then launched another shot of their own.
The Black Witch held up her sword, caught the light on the blade, and sent it flying back once the light turned pitch black.
Meanwhile, Horinouchi used simple rapid-fire to pierce the enemy’s shells and get her own attacks through.
The high-speed rally drew the afterimages of several dozen ballistic paths between them and it all accelerated.
“Well done, milady!”
They raised their voices as one to praise their master.
Horinouchi sped up. Her opponent did the same in response. No, the Black Witch was raising her speed as high as she could imagine. In that case…
“I will show you the rapid-fire of someone with official training and practice…!”
“Well done! Well done indeed!”
Shut up, Hunter.
But there was one thing she came to understand here. Every part of her that had its beginnings in that night ten years ago would find its result in what happened tonight. She hoped that result would be a good one, but…
She focused. The high-speed back-and-forth left a trail of afterimages, but each individual light felt like the result of the last ten years.
“Time for the Serious Mode my mother taught me!”
She bared her right shoulder to lighten the arm nocking the arrows. The night breeze felt chilly on her skin.
“Here I go!”
She continued her rapid-fire.
Shouko felt satisfied.
During the exchange of light and power, Amaze opened several spell circles. They displayed the state of the battles and resistance occurring across Japan and all over the world.
Her reinforcements had already arrived all around the globe and the flames of war were spreading all over.
Cities were probably being destroyed and engulfed in flames while so very much was lost.
If she knew she could be rebuked, she could not just let it end like this. The worlds she had already destroyed would never allow it.
So she continued the exchange of power while watching the battles around the world.
The people were resisting her and what she had imagined. Some of them would probably fail, but the very act of resistance was a stark contrast to ten years ago.
She did not know if they could do it now, but she was certain this world could greatly surpass her imagination.
Constant resistance was a necessary part of imagining.
So they could overcome everything.
Some of them had the talent to surpass her imagination.
The entire world had evolved so it could surpass her imagination.
The common people could join together and surpass her imagination.
So what about me?
If this world surpasses me, will I be left behind?
“I’m not sure.”
She did not know and she did not want to know. The answer might be different, but…
I had no talent.
My world fell apart.
I had no friends.
Where did I go wrong? Or was there some other answer for me?
But there was one way of escaping this anxiety.
“Amaze. If I do defeat this world…”
“Yes, I am prepared to create the next world.”
“I see,” she said before testing it out. Their speed was still rising, but it was still within what she could imagine. “Did you know? My power is almost identical to my sister’s. With the exception of Amaze.”
After descending to the surface, Hunter saw the rally overhead.
But suddenly, she saw the Black Witch’s giant Device reveal a certain trick.
The 3km Queen-style suddenly spread its arms to either side.
If that was all, it would have looked like some kind of pose.
But it was not.
The giant Device held a black sword in its right hand.
For a moment, Hunter thought there was something wrong with her eyes, but there was not.
The giant Device also held a black sword in its left hand.
“She duplicated it!?”
That was right. Other than the Book of Creation, the Black Witch had almost the same abilities as Kagami. Which meant…
The Black Witch’s giant Device crossed its swords to block Akerindou’s attacks. And then it swung both arms.
“…This ends here.”
The twin swords fired twin blasts. They were launched with slightly shifted positioning and timing and they flew straight toward Akerindou.
They were moving far too fast to dodge and the two attacks on different paths could not both be negated.
And they were both on a collision course.
Horinouchi was prepared to take a hit.
The best choice was probably to activate a three-arrows defense and stop both shots. But…
…That shield can’t cover a wide enough area!
She knew she could not afford to give up.
So she breathed a surprisingly optimistic bitter laugh. She made up her mind, faced the two incoming attacks, hurriedly fired and activated a defense spell, and…
“Who was it that turned me into such a positive thinker?”
As soon as she said that, she saw the Black Witch bring the two swords together after swinging them.
Horinouchi had assumed she was using the double swords to double the number of shots fired and number of responses required from Horinouchi, but that was not the case.
She brought the two blades together and swung both arms horizontally.
“She’s firing with double power!?”
A shot with far greater speed flew toward her through the gap between the previous two.
Horinouchi was sure she had been hit.
She had hurriedly put together the three-arrows and fired a shot, but…
…I wasn’t fast enough?
She heard the cacophony of impact and shattering armor. The atmosphere vibrated and ether light exploded.
She had been hit. There was no questioning that.
But something odd had happened. Other than the vibration in the air…
Akerindou was not shaking as it fell apart, it did not lose balance, and she felt no damage whatsoever.
She looked to her shoulder and saw the Suzaku had left its spell circle. The vermillion servant had gathered all its things in a cloth carried over its back, but it looked around and then at her.
It silently stepped back into the spell circle.
…Looks like you packed up for nothing. And how did you tie that cloth anyway? Well?
Anyway, Horinouchi could see no change.
Akerindou remained intact and, in a scene that seemed to be happening a lot lately, Kagami was there.
“Horinouchi, could you warn me next time if you are going to be firing your three arrows? It was horribly difficult finding the right timing to intervene and the shot deflected by your three arrows just about hit me, so it was just difficult all round.”
“Well, um, but…”
She had no idea what was going on.
She only knew that something weird was happening. But that change was probably so large that she was having difficulty seeing it all. So…
“Kagami…does anything here seem odd to you?”
“Good question, Horinouchi. We really should have saved the world and been done with all this by now, so what are we still doing out here?”
“That’s true,” said Horinouchi as she finally realized what it was.
She looked to Kagami in her Holy Knight outfit and to the sword Magino Device positioned vertically as a shield in front of Akerindou.
“Why are you heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!?”
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