Clash of Hexennacht:Volume4 Chapter 3

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Chapter 3: It Flows[edit]

Hexennacht v04 095.png

Going is always beautiful

Because you can return or look back


The girl bent forward a little as the light of the nearly setting sun washed over her.

Her back rose and fell as she tried to catch her breath.

She was on a road. However, this road sloped up a hill that was nearly a small mountain. It was a fairly wide, one-lane road. A slope up and a slope down existed on the left and right of the road, but those slopes were covered in dried leaves and thick with trees.

The girl coughed once and then twice below the branches.

“Wow.”

The breath that escaped her throat sounded surprised.

“I’m way healthier than I used to be.”

This is better!?”

“Now, now, now,” said the girl as she pulled a largish cup from the plastic bag she held. She shook it a few times while sweating in the autumn air and then she stuck the straw in and took a sip.

Still leaning forward, she swallowed a couple of times.

“Okay, it’s perfectly melted and perfect to drink!”

She straightened up and looked down the slope.

She saw something beyond the trees.

An iron fence. It was painted black, it had spikes on top to keep off birds, and it was at least 2m tall. It also had cables wrapped around it in places for security.

Inside it was a landscaped line of trees and a lake.

She could not see any further than that, but the girl still glanced in that direction.

“Let’s get going.”

“You aren’t going to take a look? You aren’t going to say hi?”

“I could see the whole thing from the bend up above. You can’t see any of it when the angle’s wrong, though.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I wanted to see something else.”

“You aren’t here to see the mansion?”

“No,” answered the girl with a bitter smile as she hurried down the road.

By the time she passed a group of a few cars, she had caught her breath. The autumn evening had fully arrived by then, so her pace picked up and she had worked out a way to walk and drink through the straw at the same time.

“Yeah, I always wanted to do this.”

“Were you in a restrictive environment?”

“No. I just never decided to do it myself.”

“I’m glad I could accompany you in this personal growth.”

“C’mon, that’s just creepy. This was only a whim. …My sister had no trouble doing this kind of thing, so maybe I just wanted to caution her.”

“Oh, this is getting more complicated, so I’ll pass. I’m here to listen to the stories you come up with, so I’ll hear you out if it’s part of that.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said the girl as the slope reached the city and the forest on either side of the road ended.

Her vision opened up.

She could look down on the city all the way to the station. The sun was shining on her back from this position. Its light washed over the city, so the girl’s gaze followed that and then moved beyond it.

“Oh, are those the 1000 Devices that came to Tokyo Bay?”

“They should just barely be visible from here. And I believe there are 1500 of them now.”

“Then that must be them. Want to go get a better look?”

The bag by the girl’s side responded with a sigh.

“You won’t last.”

“We should be able to see them from Shinagawa.”

“Shinagawa? Why?”

“When I used to meet up with my sister afterschool, we would take a break at a family restaurant on the river there.”

“Your family was wealthy, wasn’t it? Were you studying lower class culture?”

The girl glared at and slapped the bag from below.

“I apologize,” it said.

“Good.”

With the light shining on her back, the girl walked toward the station. And…

“Look, my school is that way and my sister would get off one station ahead and come meet me because ‘it is on the way’. …And when I wasn’t feeling well, we would stop at that family restaurant.”

“And when you were feeling well?”

“There was a place on the river bank that was part of the park…over there. My sister would go buy something for me.”

As the girl explained, they reached the slope leading to the station.

“Wow, this takes me back. This is the road, this is the road. It never seemed like a slope on the way there, but it’s a decent way down when you see it from the top like this. I need to remember that.”

“Are you going to say this in Shinagawa too?”

“If the family restaurant is still there.” The girl smiled a little. “We celebrated my sister’s birthday there once.”

“Lower class style?”

“Again, Japan doesn’t have that harsh a class divide… Well, we do, but it’s pretty flexible. We went out for her birthday, but the roads were congested and we needed to take a break somewhere, so she suggested we celebrate it there.”

“And?”

“They had a seasonal menu, so it was full of things we’re always seeing but never get served at home, right? We had fun ordering all sorts of things and, since it was my sister’s birthday, mom and dad decided to let us do it. Long story short, it was amazing.”

“Having fun is the best thing to do at times like that.”

“It really is.” The girl gave another small smile. “How many years ago was that now?”

“Was it before you met me?”

“…You don’t actually have to figure it out, okay?”

The girl added “and knowing you, you probably would” as she sped up her pace.

The station came into view. After leaving the road and choosing the stairs leading up to the terrace, a train arrived at the station from the east.

“Oh, the one we want will arrive to meet that one!”

The girl watched the flow of people around her and she predicted the timing of the train as she climbed to the terrace. She put the empty cup and its bag in a terrace trash can and saw a train to the west.

She would make it in time. The sun had descended quite a bit. But…

“Let’s go to Shinagawa. …That’ll be our last stop.”


Horinouchi never knew quite what to do with herself when traveling by bus.

Almost all the seats were filled with people from the academy and they kept glancing her way.

I must have become famous at some point, she thought, but she had probably been that way in the first place. Previously, she had traveled in a private Horinouchi family car or “flown” there using a transportation spell. But…

In Kagami’s original world, everyone must use this sort of transportation method.

She had heard it was a world without the concept of ether, but it was also possible that Kagami herself did not have the ability to use it and thus she or her entire world had simply not “noticed” the ether.

But how would witches like them live without that kind of power?

She had trouble imagining it, but as far as transportation was concerned, they would be unable to fly. Unless they had personal flight devices, they would have to walk, ride a bicycle, drive a car, or use public transportation such as trains.

Hunter seemed like a compromise since she would ride on fighters, but maybe that was different.

At any rate, Kagami had recently started suggesting they hold meetings and waste time at a Shinagawa family restaurant, but Horinouchi sensed that she had some kind of reason for that.

Shihouin Academy and the Horinouchi family were of course busy preparing for battle and Yokohama, Sakuragicho, Kawasaki, and further south were full of evacuating people as well as the witches and U.A.H. members moving in and out, so things were more oppressive than usual.

Yokosuka in particular never seemed to sleep even when viewed from the living room lounge at night. Atsugi and the 7th Fleet out at sea continued to exchange fighters monitoring the moon and they were likely dropping off people who rode them like Hunter when they passed above Yokosuka.

In that case, visiting somewhere different from normal and doing things in a different way than normal was a decent choice.

To be honest, the view of Shihouin Academy and the 1000+ Magino Devices floating above Tokyo Bay seen out the Shinagawa family restaurant’s large window seemed like something from a different country entirely.

She had once commented on that view at night.

“That is a scene that shouldn’t exist.”

“It will soon be that way, Horinouchi.”

You make it sound like it will just happen on its own, she thought, but it seemed like her feelings had been validated since Kagami saw it the same way.

Ever since then, they would visit Shinagawa once a day and it had become very important to her, even the dull trip there and back. When she had gotten permission from Lisbeth on the 3rd day, she had expected to receive a warning, but the woman had been much more positive:

“That’s a great idea! Yes. Spend some time away from here. That would be for the best. You definitely don’t want to have everyone gather together at night and fight over the TV channel! Got that!?”

Why the emphasis on that? wondered Horinouchi, but that was apparently important.

They had started to run out of conversation topics, but then…

“…You said you had a lot to tell us about the Book of Creation, didn’t you?”


For Horinouchi, that was an important element of their upcoming enemy.

But Kagami smiled a little and shrugged before speaking.

“Well, it is really more the story of my sister. Just because she has that does not mean she can do anything about us. And all I can tell you is what happened and what its powers are. …Should I tell you that here?”

“We’re on the bus, you know?”

“I can use a noise-cancelation spell,” suggested Mary.

Horinouchi held out a hand to say “wait” just as Hunter, who had previously grown silent in front of some kind of communication spell, suddenly turned her spell circle around for them to see. She turned back from the seat in front and asked a question.

“Oh, should we call Fleur?”

Horinouchi had recently noticed that Hunter seemed more willing to make requests when she knew someone better.

But besides that, this particular request was rare.

“You can contact Fleur?”

“The Special Equipment Division tends to act as a manager on the scene, so the European U.A.H. Representative seems to come to me for that kind of thing.”

Is that so? wondered Horinouchi as Mary nodded and spoke while viewing Tokyo Bay through the window.

“There is no sign of the enemy, so it should be fine. …And I am worried about her too.”

Since Horinouchi and Kagami would be the main fighters on Hexennacht, Lisbeth must not have wanted to burden them with managing the group on top of that. When it came to their effective authority, they tended to decide things as a group, but Mary rarely took the initiative and Hunter tended to defer to Horinouchi and Kagami.

“In that case, we will have to decide. …How about it, Horinouchi? Are you ready for a reunion with the person you slashed at and held to your giant breasts just the other day?”

“There was a lot of unnecessary noise in that question, but I don’t mind.”

However…

“Will Fleur be all right with it?”


If I had to say whether there’s any hope for her, I’d have to say no.

That was Hunter’s opinion of Fleur’s chances as a witch.

During the last Ranker Battle against her as the Rank 1, she had lost her mother who had acted as her servant. The academy had also lost its headmaster which effectively left them without someone to negotiate with the other nations, but Lisbeth had filled that role.

But Fleur was not so lucky.

Her environment spell used a massive amount of ether and she had been getting a lot of help from her mother in order to control it all.

More specifically, Fleur had handled the acquisition and use of the ether while her mother had kept it stable and otherwise supported her.

In that case, Fleur has plenty of her own talent.

She was like a framework and a powerful engine. That might look cool as a drag racer, but without a maintenance crew, she could not corner or brake as a car.

“She’s tried a few things, but she apparently loses control every time.”

“Does it go off on its own?”

“From what I’ve heard, not anymore. Even if she uses a small spell, the power is so great that it quickly grows saturated and bursts.”

“So she lacks a controller,” said Kagami while bringing the dragon child out onto her shoulder.

Instead of just looking over her shoulder, Hunter had brought her knees up onto the seat to completely turned around to face the back.

“That’s why she’s staying at the dorm for the training ground in the reconstructed region of north Kantou even though she’s part of the Honors Division.”

“Eh?”

Horinouchi frowned at that one. She said “umm…” while looking the other way, so Kagami nodded and patted her shoulder.

“Yes, yes. That is right, Horinouchi. Fleur is living the farming life now because you hinted that the flowers blooming there were left by the Lady Headmaster.”

“I-I wasn’t asking her to do that!”

“It’s probably part of her rehabilitation now that she’s lost her servant,” said Hunter.

“That’s right,” Mary as she turned sideways to look back. “Without her servant, she can’t control her power. The Spell Division’s nursing and healing classes teach that living in an environment separate from spells is the best way to remind her how to use her own power.”

“That’s it. She could have stayed at Shihouin Academy and gone through rehabilitation by stacking up blocks by hand and things like that, but Shihouin is pretty busy right now and it would probably be cruel to have her just sit around in the same place as her mother’s grave.”

That last part was on Lisbeth’s instructions.

Is that being too strict? Hunter wondered, but she had trouble saying since she had been supported and raised by witches after losing her father.

“That said, her life there has stabilized, so she’s apparently returning once before Hexennacht to figure out what to do about her personal items here and the Headmaster’s grave below the academy. …And since she’ll be visiting, we’re supposed to deal with her.”

“Wait, when was that decision made?”

“Just a bit ago. …Lisbeth said she couldn’t handle it because someone caused trouble.”

Horinouchi brought her hand to her head and Kagami simply laughed next to her.

“That means we have no other choice when it comes to Fleur for today,” said Kagami. “We can prepare some way of passing the time tomorrow, so it might be best to discuss the Book of Creation now.”

Mary opened a spell circle.

Hunter immediately checked the bus driver’s seat. The driver was looking their way, so she displayed a Ranker ID sign frame and a “classified business” sign frame that used the authority of American U.A.H. She then cast them both toward him.

Using that, she could rent out normal transportation, especially more flexible ones like buses, but they only wanted to talk right now.

She raised a hand, made eye contact, and pointed forward. The driver seemed to mistake what she meant because he stepped on the gas, but…Well, close enough.

“Are the bus lanes busy today?”

“Brigadier General, Most public transportation finished transporting evacuees in the midafternoon, so I think only the lanes heading back will be congested.”

Mary’s really getting used to life here if she looked into that in advance, thought Hunter.

Then Kagami clapped her hands once. The sound spread out, but it did not echo back. That’s an annihilation type, isn’t it? thought Hunter, considering Mary’s specialty. Then Kagami spoke.

“As I said before, this world and many other worlds were created by my sister. I was used to find fault in them. And what my sister discovered and used as a collection of documents was the Book of Creation.”


Kagami remembered a few clear divisions.

It began with that statement by Shouko.

It had been a love story with an Egyptian setting. As the older sister, Kagami had seen it as an important step when her sister first attempted a romance story. It had been an excellent drama of love and hate from those who had known each other in a past life but had only realized their feelings after being reborn, but Kagami’s first thought had been “Aren’t they doing today what they should be doing tomorrow?” And when she told her sister that, Shouko had scolded her:

Why don’t you understand romance, Kagami!?

But the culture, civilization, or atmosphere depicted there had certainly seemed to be on a different level from before.

“Yes, it had a different atmosphere.”

“Kagami, when you suddenly comment on your own thoughts, we can’t know what you’re talking about.”

She had no choice but to explain everything she had been thinking. And then…

“It was not about the food or the politics. It was…the temperature? How dry the air was, how much that makes you sweat, the scent of the wind, the…‘flavor’ of the sand, I guess you would call it. How it felt to trudge through the sand. It was all written there in the text.”

“It was written there?”

“It was,” she replied. “It was almost written like she had found documents describing it all and could not help but use it. So I remember feeling a harsh difference between the main story and those sensory aspects.”

“And what did your sister say?”

“ ‘Oh, yeah, you can tell!?’ She seemed delighted by it. …It was not a document or a report, so I asked her if she could write something I would want to read.”

And what happened after that?

“Next it was Europe. The story took place in a mountainous region at around 3000 BCE. It was a magic story based on a megalith culture and…come to think of it, there is someone in our class who uses stones, isn’t there?”

“If you mean Aria Notice, she’s been traveling between her assigned post and the quarry in Yamanashi to help defend Yokosuka.”

“What kind of spell does she use?” asked Hunter.

Kagami started to explain because it was amusing, but she was stopped by the girl next to her.

Regardless, what had happened with her sister?

“After that, it was a historic-seeming story that took place in ancient China. It was about performing flood control on a large river while being oppressed by a great force. It had no romance or fantasy elements, so I quite liked it and rated it well.”

“Are you referring to magic as fantasy…?”

Horinouchi glared at her, so she gestured for her to calm down. Horinouchi then tilted her head.

“From what you’re saying, it sounds like it wasn’t so much the stories that changed. It’s more like the background or the setting rapidly gained more depth.”

“Well done noticing that, Horinouchi.”

“You’re exaggerating,” she said, but Kagami was not about to agree with that.

“I noticed the same thing as you, but I forgot to wonder why that was. I simply thought my sister, Shouko, was working hard at her stories. But that was a mistake on my part.”

After all…

“By that time, she had already found the Book of Creation and had most likely begun interacting with it.”


The word “interacting” felt off to Mary.

She had already heard Kagami talk about her sister when they were back in Mary’s world, but that relationship with the Book of Creation had not seemed out of the ordinary since it was a common thing in her world.

But after living in this world for a while, Mary’s standards had changed and it sounded different to her.

Also, she could use this world to picture Kagami’s world which had lost all spells. That likely meant she had grown and expanded her viewpoint, but…

“That’s strange.”

“What is, Mary?”

“The word ‘interacting’,” she said. “In my world and this world, it is not unusual to find artifacts with a will of their own. But, Brigadier General, you claimed there were no spells or even detectable ether in your world. So how could your sister ‘interact’ with a book?”

That had sounded perfectly normal to her before, but after living here, she knew how strange it was.

“There shouldn’t have been any spells in your world…so it’s strange for that book to be the lone exception.”


Oh, that’s right, thought Hunter.

“For that book to be an intelligent artifact, Kagami’s world would have to have ether and spells, but as far as Kagami knew, neither of those things existed there.”

That was a contradiction. How could that work?

“It seems a certain law existed in my world.”

“What was that?”

“Contradiction allowance,” answered Kagami. “All contradictions are ultimately ‘allowed’. And thus it was not a problem. Or so the Book of Creation told Shouko.”


Hold on, now, thought Hunter as she saw Horinouchi’s mouth spread horizontally.

Hunter knew very well what the girl wanted to say.

“Wouldn’t contradiction allowance be the ultimate law that means ‘anything goes’ in the end?”

“Yes. But that power should at least exist in this world and the others I have seen. Because my sister made them with the Book of Creation.”

Kagami leaned back in her chair a bit, crossed her legs, and took a breath.

“When I praised her for how well she put together her settings, she got all excited and brought out a book. She apparently found it in our father’s library and it looked like a hardcover that had been remade a few times. My sister claimed it was an amazing history book and that it would answer anything she asked of it. …I could not read what it said, it was made of something like a cloth instead of paper, and it appeared to be brand new, so I assumed it was something my sister had made. I thought it was a little strange, but I did not believe in such artifacts at the time. So I thought she had a dictionary or app to translate it into Japanese and that she was working to keep the truth from me.”

Also…

“She eventually stopped bringing it out to me. Instead, she would allude to her interactions with it. She would say it ‘told her’ about something or that it had ‘answered’ her question. …I just thought it was a figurative way of talking about a book she was obsessed with and I thought that was acceptable since the background worlds for her stories had grown much more precise, even when they were original. Artists are always a bit eccentric, after all.”

“Well, I suppose you would think that in a world without spells or that kind of artifact.”

“But how did you learn the Book of Creation was an artifact?”

“I did not, even in the very end. …I was still ignorant when I was sent to the first world and it was only after seeing a few worlds destroyed that I realized these worlds were ones my sister had created. And that they were only the ones she created after growing so obsessed with that book. …I found intelligent artifacts to be ordinary parts of the destroyed worlds and I was shocked when the pieces started fitting together in my mind.”

She continued with a self-admonishing “but”.

“I do remember what I said just before my sister stopped bringing the book out to me. When she continued to insist that it spoke to her, I asked her why, if what she was saying was true, there were no other such books or phenomena in the world.”

“That would be a pretty good point in a world without that kind of thing.”

Oh, that exasperated look on Horinouchi’s face seems rare.

The bus slowed as it passed through a checkpoint between the bridge and the mainland. A left at the intersection led to Yokohama, straight led to Kawasaki, and right led to Shinagawa.

“Oh.”

Hunter grabbed onto her chair back as the bus made a wide right turn with more momentum than normal. It started down the bus lane toward Shinagawa.

“The evacuation congestion has mostly cleared up, hasn’t it?”

Mary pointed that out while looking up into the sky out the window, so Kagami nodded.

“Is that a testament to how well my sister made the world? Or did the world only become this way after the creator left? …I would suggest the latter, but my thinking did not reach that point at the time.”

I should have noticed back then.

“Kagami? What did your sister say when you pointed that out?”

“She snorted and said all of that sort of power had been combined into that book of hers.”

“That’s a pretty good excuse.”

“Thank you, Hunter. That is what I thought too.”

So she had asked another question:

“Why had the person who made the book done that? If such a convenient power really existed, would it not be better for it to be distributed across the world?”

“And what did she say?”

“She could not answer and never again let me see the book.”

“Hmm,” said the other 3 while covering their faces with their hands.

“…That’s a tricky one,” said Horinouchi.

“If that artifact was real, then your sister really would have seen you as a stubborn big sister…” said Hunter.

“When I heard about this before, Brigadier General, I was on your side, but now…” said Mary.

“Well, that just means I am not a perfect person. That was the one and only mistake in my life.”

Horinouchi gave her an amazing look.

“But anyway,” said Kagami. “What my sister said was true. And she has created and destroyed several worlds. Many of which were made based on advice from me. …But someone helped her do so.”

“…That would be the Book of Creation, wouldn’t it?”

“Amaze.”

The other 3’s eyes widened when she spoke that name with a bitter smile.

That reaction was amusing, but not surprising.

“That is apparently the Book of Creation’s name. My sister told me, but do you know what I said when she did?”

After a pause, Hunter raised her right hand.

“If it was a super ancient artifact, why is its name an English word?”

“Exactly. …But I should have noticed. First, that people are more easily swayed by what they agree with than by a sound argument, but also that my sister had already begun interacting with the Book of Creation.”

“Then,” said Horinouchi. “Was Amaze a name your sister gave to the Book of Creation?”

“Exactly. Well done, Horinouchi! Now, do you know what that means?”

They should. This was a world of artifacts. It was the territory of witches. So…

“As its namer, my sister uses the Book of Creation as what you call a servant in this world. The owner and the possession. They accepted each other and can thus use ‘creation’ that exists higher than this world’s laws.”


Horinouchi felt like she had just heard something unbelievable.

Mary had heard this before, but she must have gotten something different out of it this time because her lips twisted into a frown.

And Hunter was indeed an engineer from the Special Equipment Division:

“Being able to make anything and ignore all the laws is just plain cheating.”

“Is it, though? I have high hopes for you all. Especially Horinouchi.”

“Wh-what do you mean?”

Kagami turned to face her.

Their gazes audibly met and Kagami spoke before the tremor could fill Horinouchi’s entire body.

“Everyone holds infinite possibilities. Do you know what I mean?”

Knowing her, there had to be some twist to this. So when she mentioned “possibilities”, she meant more than whether you could or could not do something.

Most likely, the infinite part was what mattered. Because they were talking about the Black Witch’s ability to use creation which ignored the world’s laws.

So when thinking of creation in terms of the infinite…

“…You mean imagination, don’t you?” She seemed to be asking for confirmation. “The act of creation requires that you first have the idea to make something. And that is the power of imagination. Even if the Black Witch has infinite creation, she is still limited by her own imagination. So…”

There was one thing that could be infinite.

“We just have to surpass the Black Witch’s imagination.”


Mary heard Hunter mutter the power phrase “well done” under her breath.

Well done…!

She repeated it in her own mind, but that was exactly right. To add some of Hunter’s native language that would be “Yes, well done!” Thus…

“I think so too,” confidently said Mary. “Miss Horinouchi’s imagination will be effective against the Black Witch. That much is certain.”

“F-flattering me like that won’t actually give me any ideas about what to do.”

“No.” Hunter shook her head. “Anyone who has been on the receiving end of your attacks would say the same thing.”

“It’s called learning from experience,” said Hunter, completely deadpan.

Horinouchi covered her face with her hands and turned toward the window, so had they said something wrong?

“…Oh.”

The bus came to a stop, just like it had a few times already since arriving on the mainland.

They were 3 stops away from the usual place at Shinagawa. That reminded Mary of something:

“Rank 3, where did you arrange to meet the former Rank 1?”

“I figured the station area would be crowded today, so I told her to come straight to the family restaurant. I did send her a map, but I also told to call me with her phone if she had any trouble.” Hunter seemed to realize something. “Oh, and Fleur isn’t even using spell circles as part of her rehabilitation, so I guess she’s effectively living just like Kagami would have in her world. …I’m guessing she’s in a train approaching Shinagawa right about now.”


Now, I’ve done it, wholeheartedly thought Fleur in the nighttime crowd.

This is bad. This is really bad. I just keep forgetting things. If mama was here, she’d scold me, but if she was here, I bet I wouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place, so I’m just hopeless right now!

But no amount of complaining was going to improve this.

She had screwed up regardless.

“…I didn’t buy any gifts.”

The light from Shinagawa Station behind her was interrupted by the shadows of people moving this way and that. They seemed to be taking a break as far as evacuations for Hexennacht were concerned, but she could still hear voices telling people where the gathering spots for different regions were and where the lines for high-speed buses were. Of the normal people, the elderly and those with insufficient combat spell training were being urged to evacuate while those with sufficient training were forming a volunteer unit of defenders.

According to the dorm mother, support was arriving from Scandinavia, Australia, and other regions latitudinally removed from Japan, where Hexennacht would primarily be fought.

They were coming from the far north and south because, during the previous Hexennacht, the damage had begun at the point of the barrier from Tokyo Bay to the ocean off of Kanagawa and had spread along the rotation of the earth from there.

But that had nothing to do with her now.

Gifts!

“Since you’re going all the way there to visit,” the dorm mother had told her, “you should bring them something.”

The woman seemed to be using a fairly limited vocabulary, but the odds were good she had mistaken Fleur for a foreigner due to her name. But 2 hours ago, the train had left while she tried to decide whether she should buy some food at the station. And at the time she had only thought “Whoa, it’s moving!”. She had not noticed her automatic failure to buy any gifts until she got off the train, told herself “Did I forget anything? I don’t think so. Nope, definitely not!”, and then realized the truth with a horrifying sensation like everything she had eaten was exiting through her butt.

I can’t believe this.

The dorm mother had told her that gifts were important. After all, they implicitly told someone that her home was safe and prosperous.

“Is it a type of good luck charm?”

“Yes. Part of it is bringing them a piece of that location, but it also shows that you are doing well enough to send them a gift like that.”

What the woman had said next was important.

“And the Rank 1 there is Miss Horinouchi, isn’t it? She is from a shrine, so you should probably follow that kind of etiquette with her.”

That had affected her the most.

What would happen if she failed to be polite?

Will she slash me and fire on me from point-blank range again…?

She doubted that, but on the way here, she had heard about that duo scaring people by suddenly summoning their Magino Devices for no reason.

Did that mean they were already prepared to fight?

And what would happen if she impolitely showed up with no gifts?

They’d probably blow away the family restaurant.

Did anywhere around here sell products from northern Kantou? And the Rank 3 had probably thought she was being considerate, but the directions she had sent to Fleur’s cellphone were as follows:

“Once out of the station, follow the main road for 200m. Face north there and you’ll see a hawk emblem sign. Head in that direction for 53m.”

Are these supposed to be mission instructions or something?

Well, if I get in trouble, I’ll just use a taxi, she decided just before noticing how congested the roads heading down that way looked.

Oh, no.

Maybe I should use a spell circle to search for the route.

But she immediately shook her hand and stopped. She was in rehabilitation.

She must not use spells.

After losing her mama, she had started having trouble with her spell ability.

If I had been more skilled at controlling spells, I wouldn’t have put as much of a burden on mama. So I can’t rely on spells during rehabilitation, but what am I supposed to do about the gifts and arriving at the meeting point, mama? This is when I really want to rely on you, mama! Isn’t there a saying in Japanese describing this feeling, mama!? Oh, I know!

“By the time you want to show filial piety, your parents are gone.”

No!!

If anything, that’s backwards. Sorry, mama.

“Hmm.”

She told herself to calm down and set her priorities.

First, she had to think about finding some gifts here. The traffic situation would change while she dealt with that, so she could put off figuring out how to get to the meeting point until later.

So for now she needed to look for a map.

With a station this big, it was sure to have a map of the station and the surrounding area. Then she had to use that to find somewhere she could buy the gifts. But…

“Where’s the map?”

To be blunt, there were spell circle displays. But those were controlled by one’s own ether readings. And that meant she could not use them during rehabilitation. She had even gone out of her way to buy a non-reactive ticket on the way here. She wondered if this insistence on following her own rules just made her hardheaded.

She checked the road in front of Shinagawa Station and the walls of the surrounding buildings, but there was no information sign anywhere.

I’m screwed, mama!

Her mother would probably not know what to do with these constant updates, but what else was she supposed to do?

“…Ah.”

She saw someone leaving the station.

They stood out because they wore a school uniform different from the one Fleur was wearing now.

And she’s coming out.

Overall, Shinagawa Station was sucking people in. That was partially because it was time for people to be headed home, but it was also an entrance for evacuees.

If that school uniform girl was leaving, did that mean she was a local?

“Um.”

Wanting to ask someone who knew the area, Fleur spoke up.

And she tried to be as friendly as possible so she would not seem suspicious.

“Do you have a moment for me, cutie?”

The girl holding a white handbag by her side did not even try to hide the suspicion in her eyes.


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