Part 79: Fissure
I make my way back to the hotel in tatters. I've been staying at this place for a while now. None of the staff want to bother with me, all things considered. Can hardly blame them.
Tch... I knew he was a beast, but...
That doesn't make losing any less frustrating. He beat me so soundly that I can't even bullshit my way out of it. One punch to the gut, followed by one to my right cheek. That's all it took to knock me over a bunch of glasses and bottles before passing out. Alan dragged me outside afterwards, and I was officially expelled from the bar. Pretty upsetting because they have good booze there.
Heh. Sure does hurt.
I try my best to laugh the way she did, but it leaves me feeling empty. Alan didn't beat me senseless for fun. He got what he came for while he was at it. All because I was stupid enough to hold onto something dear to me. Fitting for a loser like me, though. I pull out the very object that may symbolize just how stupid I am. A ring ever so important to me. Guess he has some compassion, considering he didn't steal it from me. Then again, he's probably got a photographic memory when it comes to jewels thanks to his job.
The scenery outside my room's window is far too bright for a dimwit like me. I collapse onto my bed after taking a shower and I fall asleep almost immediately.
Recalling the events that followed his victory over Federico, Alan mumbles to himself as he walks.
A ring, of all things...
Having dragged Federico out of the bar, Alan proceeded to look through his belongings. Neither his wallet nor phone held any valuable information. His credit card may have been useful at one point, but Alan already knew Federico's name. He did make sure to jot down his contact details, just in case.
Just as he was ready to give up, he noticed Federico holding something tight in his hand. He must have grabbed onto it right before passing out, which meant it was something dear to him. He pried Federico's hand open and picked out a small ring. While modest, it did have a diamond encrusted in it. Alan could tell at a glance that it was real thanks to his line of work. The ring itself was simple, but the mount was well adorned. There were initials engraved inside, too.
A bit old, but well taken care of. Based on the design, I assume it's an engagement ring.
Alan committed the ring to memory, took a few pictures just in case, and then placed the ring back in Federico's hand. He ponders a number of things as he continues to walk. Researching Federico's ring will likely lead Alan to his regret. It's only a matter of time before Federico's elimination, then. Alan figures that the same applies to Scale, too.
Of course, Alan does not consider people who are all talk a threat in the first place.
Which was exactly how I felt about Federico Carminati at first.
Alan's evaluation of Federico has changed significantly now. As such, he will not hesitate when the time comes to elect him. The issue lays beyond that point. Rinka and her friend, Hebinata Miharu.
It truly is cruel that only one can survive this.
Alan states the obvious as he smiles to himself. Not from some sense of inner peace, but from his expectations.
06/26 (TUE), Evening
Miharu, Naomi, and myself gather at Lion House after school, just as we arranged.
Sorry for making you close up shop early...
No worries. Not like we run the place to make a profit, anyway. All the regulars are fine with it, too.
We have important things to discuss today. Things we'd rather not have other people hear. Things regarding the secret behind Divine Selection that Miharu has kept bottled up. Just as we drop our bags and move to our usual seats, the door opens.
Oh, sorry. We're actually closed right n-
It takes a moment to recognize who it is due to the way the light is shining in and concealing their face. He's already inside by the time I figure out who he is.
This place looks even nicer than it does in the photos! Hahaha.
Numeral IX, Scale Jones, is standing right in front of me. Not only is this the first time we've met in the real world, it's also the first time we've spoken.
Why are you here?!
Miharu glares at him. It's clear that she's wary of him. Naomi tries to stand, but I gesture for her to stay seated.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, should it? It's only natural to assume that Shishimai Rinka would have my information if Miharu was able to protect herself from my election.
Following that logic, I'll be eliminated next. Thing is, I can't allow that to happen while Alan and Federico still remain. I am working under a just cause, after all.
Mind explaining why you tried to eliminate Miharu, then? Why would you do that to someone you're allied with?
No pleasantries are required between participants meeting for the first time. All that matters is gaining the upper hand.
I suspected you were working with Odette Malencon, though that seems to have been my mistake. For that, I apologize.
His answer is clear and concise to the point of being suspicious. It almost sounds like a canned response he practiced beforehand in anticipation of being asked that very question. He can't be trusted. I figured as much based on what I'd heard from Miharu, but meeting him in person only confirms it.
Spare us the nonsense and get to the point. You're here to cut us a deal so that Rinka won't elect you, right?
If that's the case, please get on with it.
I-I'm fairly certain you should try to make him leave...
You must be the victim of that terrorist attack at Amecha before it was undone. Glad to see you're doing well.
Don't you dare...!
Hahaha! Calm down. I have no intention of doing anything to her. For now, at least. Just as Miharu said, I'm here to make a deal with you. A promise, if you will.
I make sure to keep my guard up as he continues.
Us three will be the only ones left after Alan and Federico are eliminated. I might know of a way for all three of us to survive, given that scenario.
He looks serious as can be. Around thirty seconds of silence follows. I realize that he's suggesting the same idea that Miharu shot down this morning, but I don't know how to reply. Miharu is the one to break the silence with an overdramatic sigh.
That's the best you could come up with now that your back's against the wall, huh? You're hoping for a peaceful resolution here, but unfortunately that method won't work.
If all three of us elect and subsequently protect ourselves, we'll be left with no one able to elect another.
I just said it won't work, but fine. I'll fill you in on the secret I was about to reveal, but you'll have to go away after that.
Doesn't seem like I have any choice but to agree.
Surprisingly enough, he goes along with it. Scale makes his way into my cafe so he can hear her out.
Rinka, you remember your promise from this morning, right?
I can tell how serious she is from her expression. She made me promise not to hate her after hearing whatever this could be. My mindset hasn't changed, so I nod my head firmly.
This entire ritual is called Divine Selection, so I assume you've taken the time to consider what exactly is being selected, correct?
Everything starts with this question.
BGM: He Reveals me the Answer
The ritual of Divine Selection is one that changes fate itself. It is the sole method by which one can escape their death. That's what Parca told us. What purpose is being carried out through this ritual, though? She never said anything about that. I never even thought why, considering I was so preoccupied with ensuring my and Miharu's survival.
I have my own suspicions about the whole thing, but they've only ever led me to more questions.
Escaping death is merely a circumstance of this entire ritual. Its true purpose is to develop a suitable vessel for the goddess.
Miharu goes on to explain what she means.
Apparently, Parca can't remain in the Court of Fate beyond the twelve week span that encompasses Divine Selection. To be more accurate, the Court of Fate can only be maintained for twelve weeks. Thus, Parca cannot remain longer than that. I'm not too sure about the logistics, but basically... she needs us in order to keep living.
I said vessel, but it's not like our bodies are what become vessels or anything. It's our dreams, and the worlds born from them, in which she resides.
The dream world. According to Miharu, the dreams we have are all part of the dream world.
Parca claimed that dreams serve as headstones in a graveyard of possibilities that we once had, but also as part of our individual metaphysical worlds.
Parca exists in a plane above ours, thus lives within our metaphysical worlds... or something like that. Can't say I understand what any of it means. The metaphysical refers to something without form. As a philosophical concept, it represents experiences that exist beyond our perception of space and time. So basically, it borders on the supernatural. Parca herself said that we couldn't be cognizant of such a conceptual world without some work on her part. That's why the Court of Fate was created. By linking our dream worlds into one shared space, we thus become cognizant of it.
So what is Parca, then?
I'm afraid I don't know that much. What I do know is that she's undoubtedly not human, and that her existence is far beyond our comprehension if she truly is a deity.
S-So Divine Selection is basically... a system put in place to find a body for Parca to live in?
Miharu nods in response to Naomi's question.
Why must twelve people compete against each other, then...?
It's still a fact that whoever makes it through to the end gets to live, right?
Yup. That's one of the reasons why I said this method won't work, though.
Just as I'm about to ask more questions, Scale butts in. It's the first time he's spoken up since Miharu began her explanation.
I can't be the only one wondering how you know all this, Miharu. Brilliant as your mind may be, I find it difficult to imagine that this all stems from mere conjecture.
His question is one that I, and most likely Naomi, are curious about.
It's simple, really. I just so happen to be the survivor of a previous Divine Selection, as well as the goddess' vessel up until this round began.