Clash of Hexennacht:Volume4 Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: There Are Also Those Going[edit]

Hexennacht v04 149.png

If walking together brings us closer

Are we distant because we aren’t walking together?


The girl had not spoken with another person in a long time, so she tried to judge whether she was doing it right.

Was she talking too much?

Was she getting too excited?

Was she looking down on them?

And so on. She worried about the conversation while imagining what she looked like and how she was being seen.

But it was true that she was not changing herself to match the other person. She had no intention of making that other person uncomfortable, but she wanted to avoid restraining herself to match them.

She did not have to do that with Fleur. In fact, Fleur would not let her.

If Fleur didn’t like something, she would say so. If she liked something, she would celebrate it. But she did not hold it against the girl when she did not like something. They would say what they thought and reply with how they felt, but there was no real criticism there.

The girl asked a sudden question as Fleur paid for the gifts.

“You’re kind of refreshing, Fleur.”

“Yeah, yeah! That’s cause I took a bath!”

“No, not like that. I’m saying you just come out and say whatever you want.”

“Oh, do I?”

“You do,” confirmed the girl.

How should I explain this? she wondered before finding the answer.

“You don’t try to persuade me.”

“Hm? Did I do something wrong?”

“Eh? Well, no.”

“Then it wouldn’t make sense.”

Could you please make some sense when you speak? quietly thought the girl, but those leaps of logic seemed to be Fleur’s thing. That said, the girl could kind of see the logic that filled in the gap.

If she was not being accused of doing something wrong, there was no need of persuading the other person of anything.

Ohh.

When choosing the gifts, Fleur had made a lot of comments about what she liked and disliked, but that had all been about personal preference.

The girl had been choosing things based on the region of origin and what a recipient would want, but Fleur had only been looking at things based on what she personally would like.

And the final selections that Fleur had lined up on the corner were the ones that they had both decided would work.

The girl had recommended things based on what was “right”, but if that was all that was needed, the things Fleur liked would have vanished from the counter.

What remained were not things that she had persuaded the girl would work or things she had selected based on some logic of her own. They were simply the things she liked.

“Oh, sorry. I was a little too presumptuous, wasn’t I?”

“Press-ump-chus?”

“Um, what I mean is…I gave some weird advice.”

“That’s fine. I mean, I got to choose them in the end. You’re the better person for helping me out, and making a mistake here isn’t going to hurt anything.”

Ohh…

The girl grew painfully aware of her own desire for control, but she also doubted that saying that would actually get through to Fleur.

Is she saying I can do whatever I want since I didn’t do anything wrong?

The girl felt like that was not quite right, but she also had another thought:

“I like the way you think.”

“That’s what my mama was like!”

Fleur smiled as she grabbed the bag of gifts which was quite large. She ensured the old woman behind the counter that she could carry it and then turned toward the girl.

“Mama said not to use your power when it comes to grudges or fighting over the TV channel. And I’m bringing these to the people who stopped me when I was close to doing that!”

Since Fleur was not in Shihouin Academy, did that mean she had done something when fighting over the TV channel?

She did not seem like the type to hold a grudge, but the girl had no way of knowing the actual situation.

Oh, trying to figure out someone else is a lot like trying to read their expression, she thought. And…

“——————”

Her thoughts turned to herself.

What had she been like long ago when her sister had made a lot of decisions about – or rather, critiques of – her.

She remembered trying so hard to meet her sister halfway and to read her sister’s expression that she had ended up complaining that “you’re always like this!” despite that contradicting her attempt to meet her halfway.

At the time, she had felt oppressed, so she had felt a need to push her sister back no matter what it took. But…

Wow.

She had seen herself as fighting back, but had her sister even been trying to persuade her of anything?

Her sister had often spoken of the logic at the base of her likes and dislikes, but if she had always left the ultimate decision with the girl…

No.

That was not it.

Her sister had never said the decision was the girl’s.

But…

“——————”

She had a thought while looking to Fleur.

The decision here had been Fleur’s even though the girl had never said so.

It was contradictory to think the decision was yours only if someone else gave you authorization.

How had her sister seen it?

What is the point of this? she wondered to mentally distance herself from the issue. Why am I thinking about this now? she also wondered in surprise.

She had met and spoken with people like Fleur before.

So why was it only resonating with her now?

“Is something wrong?”

Fleur peered over at her from the right, so the girl shook her head.

I’m not sure.

“Something reminded me of old times.”

That was probably it. She had come here and learned that a familiar person had come here. When she had reached out her hand, that person had scolded her.

So was she able to think like this now because she had grown up? If so…

“Fleur. Shall we go?” The girl pointed out of the station. “You’re incredible, Fleur. More than I imagined.”

“I am incredible.”

When Fleur agreed, hope filled the girl.

“And the people who helped you out must be incredible too.”


“Hey, Hunter! Why do you have to grab the fries with your hands!?”

“Oh, c’mon. It’s too soon to become a mom, Horinouchi. Wait like 5 more years.”

“Brigadier General, please stop placing your order by saying, ‘I want everything from here to here’.”

“Mary, the standard life is not enough! Meeting people is what matters! Meeting people!”

“Wait, that’s way too much, Kagami! Keep it low enough that I can write it off as a Student Council expense!”

“Um, in that case…waiter, I want everything from here to here.”

“What did I just say!?”


Fleur was kind of hopeful about this girl with her.

She had not asked the girl’s name. After all, her mother had often told her it was rude to carelessly ask a witch her name because it might involve her true name.

Fleur’s own name was not a problem because her spell forms had been created jointly with her mother. And she was presently not exactly living as a witch.

They walked down the road.

It was still not quite night, but the late October sky was plenty dark. It was even darker at the dorm, she thought, but this was normal for here. It was the same as when she had tended to the courtyard. She remembered what the sky looked like at different times.

And she realized something about the girl as she spoke to her.

She’s smart!

Back when they had been buying the gifts, the girl had proven to know a lot about the specialty products, geographies, and histories of different regions of Japan. That seemed like a lot of information, but that might just be the way of things for a knowledge-type witch.

And the tempo of conversation was different.

When speaking with her mother, conversations had been all about a rapid back and forth. When they had disagreed on something, they would sometimes just agree to disagree. And even when one or the other conceded to the other’s side, they knew that was a plus. That was all because they were confident in the fact that they cared for each other.

Conversations with the Honors Division had been all about individualism. To show the proper respect to each other, they had generally never gotten any closer to each other.

She had envied the General Division on that front, but she had stayed where she was because her spells and abilities would have stood out.

That had kept her from making any friends and it had extended her life in the courtyard as the Rank 1.

But now she was successfully speaking with the girl walking alongside her.

They were not just throwing words back and forth like with her mother, but she was not keeping her distance from a complete stranger either.

They were talking about things they wanted to talk about. Fleur would tell the girl about things that happened at the dorm. The girl would tell Fleur about her family. If Fleur did not understand, she would make a joke. If it was funny, she would laugh.

Most of it was complaining, but they both partially agreed that that was just how things were.

As long as they did not take the other’s side too readily, neither one of them fully controlled the conversation and they maintained their freedom.

Fleur had learned this from her mother. Her mother had taken her side, but had once taught her this:

“Fleur, I am on your side. I will trust you no matter what. But I will not see your enemies as my enemies.”

“Why not? Isn’t that weird?”

“Because once I make your enemies my enemies, we will be controlling each other.”

She had not understood at the time, but thinking back, it had always been like that.

She fought alongside her mother plenty of times, but her mother had obviously been forcing herself to do it.

And in the very end, her mother had protected her.

If her mother had made Fleur’s enemies her enemies, then she would have attacked instead.

She would have fought back.

Of course, that would have meant using up her power and vanishing.

But her mother had made her own decision, separate from Fleur’s will, and protected Fleur.

To the end, her mother had been on her side but not been controlled by her and acted independently.

That was the reason why. So…

“—————”

Just remembering that filled her with a tremor and anger, but she understood that her mother had done what she had thought was best. Fleur herself might have been the worst back there, but her mother had not been controlled by her.

According to Lisbeth, a servant normally took its master’s emotions into account, but…

“Fleur, you are still ranked too low. Do you understand? …And you should think the same of me.”

That last part seems like what she really wanted to say, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

At any rate, she had come to understand her mother’s stance while tending to the field in the reconstructed region. She could distance herself from the unpleasant things by staying busy and she had seen a certain meaning in that.

Before, she had felt perfectly happy just remaining by her mother’s side, but she could now think back on their conversations as being quite meaningful.

And when she looked back at her memories like that, she regretted how little she had understood at the time and mourned the loss of her mother here now, but she was glad she at least had the option of reporting on these things in front of her mother’s grave.

She had changed a lot.

She had a lot of thoughts on all this, but so much could remain the same because her mother had made sure everything was in order. If she had been controlled by her mother, she could not have been like this now.

As for the girl walking alongside her…

“What is it?”

The way she looked over reminded Fleur so much of herself.

The sister who often came up in the girl’s stories was the opposite case from Fleur’s mother.

That sister had apparently been a powerful enemy of the girl’s desire to be an author. The girl had tried to get her sister to say she liked her stories, but she had gone too far and ended up getting into arguments.

But the girl seemed to understand that liking something was about personal preference, not objective logic.

Fleur found it interesting how the stories the girl told had the mysterious skill to make her say “Really!?” She often came across it in manga and dramas, but she could now tell that the mechanism really did exist.

She did not understand it quite enough to say “I see”, but she was pretty sure the girl was right about her and her sister not quite being on the same page.

Her sister had her preferences and her sister could explain what those were, but when the girl heard that, she felt like she was being rejected.

But that was not it.

Her sister was merely explaining that she liked things her way, so she could not quite see what was so great about one particular aspect and she found some other aspect more appealing.

Yeah.

The girl wanted to overturn that in her own way, so she likely wanted her sister to fully face her.

And she seemed to have realized that about herself.

“It’s exhausting.”

“Oh, yeah. Knowing that only makes the hurdle taller, doesn’t it?”

“That’s right,” said the girl. “I mean, I need to think about what my sister meant when she would talk about the way she likes things.”

“Isn’t that simple? …After she gave the reasons for her critique, she didn’t tell you to change your story to match, right?”

“You mean…?”

Fleur’s mother had not been controlled by Fleur to the very end.

And Fleur had not been controlled by her mother.

So when her mother had vanished, it had been of her mother’s free will. So…

“She was telling you to do whatever you wanted. And to do it in a way that she and everyone else could understand.”


I see, thought Fleur.

When she saw the girl’s look of surprise, she trusted that she had said the right thing.

Back then, her mother had seen her off while remaining herself as much as possible.

That way Fleur could be with others while remaining free.

This was the same.

So Fleur said more.

“I hope you can make something that can be enjoyed by not just your sister but everyone else – like me – as well. When you do, I’ll show it off to my mama. And to everyone else too.”

“Oh, um, sure…”

The girl looked sort of pale when she faced Fleur.

“Is something wrong?”

“No, um…”

The girl had been trembling a bit for a while now, but now she took a deep breath.

“I’m not so sure.”

“About what?”

The girl responded with a lowered-eyebrows smile.

“Can I really catch up to what I created?”

“Eh?”

Fleur did not understand what that meant. But just from the sound of it…

“That was kind of cool!”

“R-really?”

“Yeah!”

After a pause, the girl gave a thumbs up.

“Yes, yes,” said Fleur to show her approval. The girl then chose the right path at a fork in the road. The path to the left looked brighter, but…

“Oh, if you’re going to that family restaurant, this way’s faster. …This should take us there.”

It did not. “Huhhh?” said the girl with a tilt of her head. Fleur patted her on the shoulder and they laughed together as they walked back the way they had come.

As they did, a sudden voice spoke up.

“You are getting carried away.”

It came from the girl’s handbag. Fleur was a little surprised, but then she remembered the girl was a witch.

“Your servant?”

“Oh, yes. That’s right,” she answered with a tone of resignation but a definite smile. “It’s named Amaze.”


Hunter was more interested in Fleur’s whereabouts than the fries.

She was pretty sure the other girl could make it on her own since they were the same age, but she also wanted to avoid not noticing when she arrived.

I really can’t see outside the window…

She had learned over the past few days just how dark it got outside, but it was more of a problem today. But she could not use a night vision spell inside the bright restaurant, so she asked a question of Horinouchi who sat across the table from her.

“Horinouchi, can I use an infrared night vision spell?”

“Going the see-through route, Hunter!?” asked Kagami.

“What are you two planning!?” protested Horinouchi.

“Don’t react to middle school level knowledge,” complained Hunter.

That got annoying fast.

So she instead opened a communication spell circle and contacted the 7th Fleet.

“Oh, hello? I can use GPS, so can you cast some ether detection from overhead on an anti-personnel level? There’s a geosynchronous satellite up there right now, isn’t there?”


“Did you hear that, Song Café!? Hunter’s target is an individual! What has come over that girl!? Is it a rival in love!? Or a guy who rejected her!? Does it even matter!?”

“Don’t open the firing tube without my authorization!!”


I hope this doesn’t end badly, thought Hunter, but she was fairly certain Song Café would help keep things under control. If Song Café was not there at the moment…oh, well.

At any rate, the GPS spell circle she held displayed the surrounding area as viewed from the sky. It was a real time view that updated every 3 seconds. The resolution was 5cm per pixel. Since the disturbance of the air was removed, it was quite well done and a person was displayed with about 6-9 pixels.

It was dark, but by increasing the brightness and reducing the color saturation, the streetlights and lights from homes stood out. She could see the streets quite clearly.

She also saw the people walking there. Due to the ether detection placed over the image, the people emitted light.

The ether light seen through the family restaurant’s roof was brightest for Mary, followed by Horinouchi and then Hunter. She tapped the screen to check on each of them.

Kagami was unable to carry ether with her, so nothing was visible for her. Also…

Is this her?

An especially large ether reading was walking from the station along the main road they had seen earlier.

It was Fleur. She was apparently not using spells for her rehabilitation, and that may have been why her ether was only partially leaking out.

At any rate, Hunter had located her.

“Have you located Fleur, Rank 3?” asked Mary who sat next to her.

“Yes, she’s on her way here. She should arrive in about 3 minutes, I think.” Hunter breathed a sigh of relief. “But it would probably be best if we went out to meet her when she arrives. …After all, she’s coming alone, so she might not know this is the right place.”


Fleur realized the girl’s pace was gradually growing lighter.

Does she like family restaurants?

The girl had said she often went to this one. She had used it to rest when she was feeling unwell and she had mentioned her sister as usual.

It seemed to be an important place to her.

But Fleur did have a question: The girl had said nothing about meeting someone there, so why was her pace growing lighter?

A word familiar to Fleur suddenly came to mind.

A grave?

That was where no one was waiting for you and yet someone was still waiting for you.

Of course, a family restaurant was not a graveyard. Then was it a prominent location from her memories where she went to think about things and report on her current self, just like Fleur did when she visited her mother’s grave?

Fleur had someone waiting for her.

Did that make her fortunate when compared to this girl? And while she thought about that…

“Ah, wait, wait.”

“Eh?”

The girl must not have noticed her pace had gotten so quick. She briefly looked shocked but then smiled and looked back toward Fleur.

“…Oh, sorry. I was feeling kind of impatient.”

“For someone who claims to fall ill easily, you sure are energetic.”

“That might be thanks to Amaze.”

“They do say illness starts from the mind,” said the handbag.

“That’s true,” agreed Fleur. And, “Want to join us inside?”

The girl thought for a bit as they walked below a streetlight. And finally…

“Hmm, no thanks. I’ll stay on my own.”

“I see.”

Fleur nodded and felt no regret. The girl must have been prioritizing her own memories. Probably memories of her sister.

Fleur just had to wait until they left to think about what to do.

“We’ll probably be making a lot of noise, so if you change your mind, feel free to join us.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Fleur waved a hand dismissively as they approached the light shining from the family restaurant.

And then the girl spoke quietly.

“I wonder if people like you will be able to stop me.”

“…? From doing what?”

“When I try to do something bad.”

“Isn’t that for your sister to do?”

“Most likely, my sister is to me what your mama was to you. And…”

And…

“If I can’t stop myself, I’ll never be able to stop relying on my sister.”

Hm?

Something seemed off about that. Fleur thought about what it was, and…

“The only options for stopping you are us or you alone?”

“Eh?”

The girl did not seem to understand what that meant. She laughed as they both entered the light.

“That’s right. Thank you, Fleur.”

As she said that, the family restaurant door opened from the inside. Fleur assumed it would be some customers leaving, but it turned out to be the group she was meeting there.

Oh, they’re all there.

Fleur was still with the girl, so she decided it would be best to introduce her.

And when the girl looked straight ahead instead of at Fleur…

“Um, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want, but what is your name?”

As soon as she asked that…

“…Shouko?”

The answer came from straight ahead.

From Kagami.

Everyone looked back at her as she froze in place with the restaurant’s light shining from behind her.


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