Part 89: Goddess's Vessel
BGM: Rinka's Room
07/01 (SUN), Night
Sunday evening. Having taken the shinkansen back to Tokyo, I return to Lion House not long before the last train. I cast my mind back over today's events.
I got on the very first train available to see my gran. She was in the hospital. While fine, they said she had suffered a minor sprain. Even something like that can take a while to heal when you're old, so I'm a bit worried. Once we were alone, she told me everything that happened between midnight and morning. She seems to remember both someone assailing her and someone saving her. Easy to guess which one Alan was.
Apparently he told her that Scale had kidnapped her for money. Not only that, but that he also dealt with Scale. He recommended that she go to the police, but she opted not to. She believed that Scale would learn from this and regret his actions. If it were anyone else, she would have reported them immediately, but she was fine with it so long as she was the only victim. To that effect, she told the doctor that she twisted her foot in the bathroom.
She's oddly stubborn at times like this. Once checked out of the hospital, we went back to her relative's house, where she made us some coffee. It had been so long since I saw her that I could feel my tear-filled eyes burning. Not because I was lonely or sad. It was out of relief from knowing she was fine. She wasn't bothered in the slightest by how I'd been running the store. In fact, she was happy that I was still running it in her absence. Most importantly, though, she said she was worried about me. That alone made me feel at ease. I was worried about how the store was doing, so I made sure to ask her about it. As I thought, Lion House was currently in the red. Apparently that wasn't an issue, though. I'm not too sure on the specifics, but my gran was making enough from her real estate venture to balance things out. She really did have everything together.
There were plenty of things I wanted to talk to her about. School, the regulars at Lion House... Naomi and Mao... And Miharu, too... Most of all though, Divine Selection. That and my determination to live. As it turned out, I couldn't bring most of it up. That was fine, though. I was able to remind myself that I still had a place to call home. That my gran would be there for me. She was as strict as ever, though. The moment I let it slip that I had school tomorrow, she told me to head back home so I could make it on time. It'd take over four hours to get back, but even so, she was relentless.
Her plans to come back next week got cancelled thanks to her sprain, too. Instead, she said she would stay there until it had fully recovered. It was fortunate that she got away with something so minor, but I was a bit disappointed that I'd have to wait longer to treat her to some coffee. She had some parting words of wisdom for me, too.
You shouldn't hate or resent people. What's important is getting to know them. ...So she said.
I never once mentioned Scale or Yu, and yet it's like she saw right through me. Maybe it was easy to do when it involved someone you raised. I nod to myself in reaffirmation. Divine Selection is tonight. I won't resent Scale if she's forgiven him. I still have every intention of eliminating him, though. That's a choice I've made for myself.
In that case, there's only one thing I can do. Get to know and remember him. Having settled on that, I get myself ready and crawl into bed.
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
07/01 (SUN), Midnight
Good evening, my lovely little slaves to fate.
I take a look around the Court of Fate. Only five participants remain.
Numeral I, myself.
Numeral II, Miharu.
Numeral III, Federico.
Numeral IX, Scale.
Numeral XII, Alan.
It has certainly gotten rather lonely in here, hasn't it?
And I bet it makes you feel all tingly inside.
Goodness, how very rude! I'll have you know that the loss of people to converse with has me quite upset.
Another rude person, I see. What is it that you want?
Spare me your dramatic nonsense. Is it true that whoever survives will become your vessel?
Alan fires a blunt question at her. He must have heard about it from Scale. I doubt Scale would give that info away for free though, so they must have exchanged information. Parca averts her eyes from Alan for a moment. Not just for fun, though. It looks like she wants to examine Miharu's expression.
Hmph... That answers my question.
You may feel free to reveal your information to someone and have them eliminate you, should that not be to your liking.
I just wanted to confirm the truth. The final participant will still be able to live on once all is said and done, correct?
That is correct.
That's fine, then.
Like hell it's fine! Someone wanna explain this to me?!
Parca takes a good look at all the participants following Federico's question. My eyes meet with hers. She is smiling.
You seem to be the only one unaware, judging by their overall expressions. That being said, I do feel myself in the mood for a chat. Very well. Allow me to divulge the tru-
Scale interrupts her. He is glaring into Parca's eyes. No doubt that I'm the cause behind him doing so. It's of no concern to me, though, so I just listen in on their exchange.
Someone's going to get eliminated tonight, so would you mind not talking about what happens after someone survives? Hearing about a future they'll never get to experience won't do them any favors.
Point taken. Of course, I do find pleasure in the desperation you're showing right now, as well.
Hmph... You won't let up until the bitter end.
I sneak a glimpse at Alan and notice that he actually has the makings of a smile on his face. If there's anyone who my impression of has changed the most since Divine Selection began, it's him. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that he's changed, himself. There's no way the person from back then would save my gran.
If there's anyone planning on electing me, please reconsider! I'm begging you! I did what I did because I didn't want to die...!
Scale crumples down to his knees and smacks the platform he stands on. Not a single person addresses him, though. Instead, it's Parca's voice that rings out.
Allow me to begin tonight's election.
The clock we've become accustomed to begins to move.
Revolve, O' Clock of Fate!
A clock hand points at me. Parca's gaze follows.
Will you be electing anyone tonight, Numeral I?
...Yeah. I elect Numeral IX.
Why?! Your grandmother ended up just fine in the end!
Did you do something to her...?
Dammit... I might as well do as much damage while I still can...!
He shoots back up to his feet and starts to scream. There's some English mixed in there, but I can't understand any of it. Even so, it's easy to tell he's just swearing at us.
Do be quiet.
Scale's screams become inaudible, as if in response to her command. You can see his mouth moving, but no sound escapes his lips. He eventually notices it as well, which casues him to stop.
I won't be electing anyone tonight.
The dial turns to Scale.
Sounds like we can hear him again. He locks his gaze onto Miharu before shouting again.
I elect Numeral II. I'll break right through anything she tries to pull this time and eliminate her.
Ahaha. How pitiful. He has no grounds on which to do that, correct?
It is as you say. No elections may occur between those who have protected themselves from one another before.
Scale sits down following that, like he's suddenly lost the will to live. I can't tell what he's thinking anymore. The dial continues its revolution, this time pointing toward Alan.
I am not electing anyone.
Parca makes her way back to the center of the room once we're all done. She signals the next step in her standard ethereal tone.
With that decided, Numeral I and Numeral IX... Allow me to begin the election procedure.
The platform beneath me begins to rise the moment I nod in assent. It makes its way up in a spiral-like movement at a consistent pace. Eventually, I reach an area I've become familiar with.
This marks the second time I've been to the upper stratum. I've come to bear the burden of my decision. Standing across from me is, of course, Scale.
BGM: Do You Understand?
Bet you hate my guts, huh? Not that I can blame you when I took that old hag hostage. Might've even hurt her in the process. Electing me out of revenge is a just action. Though I'm sorry to say, my actions were, as well.
There's nothing more important than the desire to live. That's why everything I did was necessary. Just remember, no matter what I did, I'm still human. A human you're going to kill.
...I'm aware of that.
He continues to glare at me. I know what he's doing. He's trying to get information out of me by having me sympathize with him. Funnily enough, I find his determination to do so almost... admirable. I can't comment on whether his actions were just or not, but at the very least, there's not a single person who would deny his will to live.
My gran already forgave you. That means I hold no resentment or hatred toward you.
Putting on a bold face, are we?
Feel free to think what you want.
I pause for a moment before I continue.
You told me about your life. Now you stand here, still determined to live. I won't forget any of that. It won't stop me from eliminating you, though. That's why you have every right to curse me. And by doing so, you'll give me the opportunity to know the real you.
Is that so? In that case, rescind your election right now.
I'm afraid that is not possible. Even if she were to agree, one cannot renege on their election at this stage.
Parca butts in on our conversation. Much like last time, she seems to have appeared sometime after the two of us completed our ascent.
Sorry, but I didn't plan on doing so in the first place.
I make my intentions clear to her. I find myself surprisingly calm in this situation.
Lemme ask something else, then. What would happen if I just stayed here forever? As you know, I'm very much opposed to the idea of dying.
Hmm... the passage of time here certainly differs from that of your reality, but remaining here for too long would cause a great deal of interference in the fate originally in store for you. To that effect, you may become unable to return to the real world.
Does that mean I would just stay here forever, then? That'd be the same as not dying, right?
No one has ever tried before, I'm afraid. It's hard to say what would happen.
BGM: Fated Selection
Interrupting the two of them, I open my card book. The cards in my possession float out in response.
Aw, must you be so rash...? Fine, fine. Please select your cards.
I won't tell you to man up. In fact, clinging onto hope as much as possible might be the best way to go about it. Truth of the matter is that we'll probably never see eye to eye. I doubt you want someone like me to understand you and your desire to live, either.
I pick out the first card containing his information.
His name is Scale Jones.
Damn right. I don't want some brat like you thinking they can understand me. There are lots of things that frighten me, you know. That's why I love gathering information. Almost as much as I love photography. The more you know, the less there is to fear.
On the other hand, no one knows what death truly entails. It's not hard to imagine why it's the most terrifying thing when you follow that logic, isn't it?
He died in an accident.
I choose another card.
Oh, right. I should probably mention that half of what I told you about my life was a lie. That whole thing about a friend who killed himself over his dad's scandal was phony. As for the paparazzi, I only went for that because there's more money and freedom there. Hate to disappoint you, but I'm more interested in a comfy lifestyle than adhering to some sense of duty.
Granted, you won't care even after I reveal that, will you? You'll just see it as me trying my best to live. It's funny. You say you won't understand me, but here's the thing.
His regret involves a gold medal.
I read the final card's contents, making sure to keep my eyes locked on him all the while.
I'll never understand you, either.
All three cards float away from me once I'm done. When they reach the middle of the Court of Fate, they converge and form a triangular shape, which causes light to spill out from them.
You're a weird one, Shishimai Rinka.
I can't see Scale's face anymore thanks to the light.
BGM: Fall Into...
The scenery switches to a highway with more than three lanes going either direction. I'm inside a car that was easily going over sixty miles per hour, chasing down a fancy car in front of it. Inside that car were a man and woman, both barely visible. A number of other paparazzi had been chasing them, but they eventually gave up. Scale was the only one remaining now. He'd have his hands on a massive scoop if he persevered here. And then-
He lost control of the car along a sharp turn, throwing him into the opposite lane and in front of an oncoming truck. The impact of the crash obliterated the car. A photograph he had kept with him in the car entered his line of sight as his life faded to black. A photo of his best friend from college. A friend who faced false allegations of drug abuse, the fallout of which caused him to commit suicide. He was the same age as Scale and a candidate for the track and field events at the Olympics. The car and its driver may have been crippled beyond saving, but the camera hanging from the latter's neck was somehow intact.
I had to calm myself down once I was done seeing the moment Scale died. It really is too much to be shown another person's death.
It's someone else's death. I'll never forget Scale, but that won't stop me from following the path I've chosen for myself. That's why I can cope.
How did you find his death?
I'm not about to give my opinion on that.
My response is short and to the point. She's taking pleasure in our struggles against one another. Even worse, she's making no attempt to hide it. She reads out Scale's cards to me with indifference after that. My answer must not have been to her liking.
Do decide on which card to obtain by the time you reach the lower stratum.
My platform begins to move after I receive her instructions, slowly making its descent. That's how my second election ends.
I lock eyes with Miharu upon my return to the lower area. She takes a moment before nodding. She must have realized where I'm going with this.
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
I'll take Numeral II's regret.
Miharu's regret. Miharu likely expected it the moment she knew I was going to eliminate him. This is necessary for us to elect and protect ourselves from one another. More importantly, her willingness to let me have it is proof of her trust in me. I have to admit, its contents are a bit surprising. Written on it is none other than my own name. Surprised as I am by this, it makes sense to me now, considering her confession. She really cares for me this much...
Miharu is blushing next to me, but she makes an effort to seem inconspicuous.
Tonight's session resulted in one eliminati-
BGM: Do You Understand?
Heavens. I'd prefer to not be interrupted during my oft-rehearsed lines.
Who cares. More importantly, you said you'd explain that whole vessel thing once the election crap was done.
What else do you want me to say, exactly?
Tch... Well, I get that the last remaining participant becomes a vessel for you. I also get that becoming a vessel doesn't get in the way of that person's survival in the end. Much as it creeps me out, it's fine as long as we get to live.
I wanna ask about what happens after that, though.
After that, you say?
Does whoever becomes your vessel get access to your powers, too?
Having been told the full story by Miharu already, I know that isn't the case. She mentioned being able to talk with Parca in her dreams, but nothing about being able to use her powers. Parca just uses your body as a place to stay. You don't become some kind of divine being or anything. If anything, it's basically the same as making a folder on a computer named Parca and encrypting it.
I mean, is there any merit to becoming your vessel?
You earn the privilege of conversing with me in your dreams.
Ain't no one interested in talking to a runt like you. Hell, that's a major downside! Dammit. I'd have trouble sleeping at night knowing you're gonna turn up.
Oh? You had best remember that this 'runt' is the goddess of fate. I have the ability to reshape fate itself.
Federico isn't the only one taken aback. Miharu seems somewhat surprised, herself. Same goes for me.
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
Of course, I have my own will. Fate can only be changed by the whims of the goddess. There's little I love more than being entertained. As such, I may be willing to change fate should my vessel keep me as such.
You're rather impetuous for a goddess.
Yet a goddess all the same. I advise you to keep your tongue in check while speaking to a being who exists in a place your tiny brain cannot begin to fathom. The fate of you people is nothing but a hobby of mine.
Heh... I take it back, then. I'll make sure to keep you happy if I become your vessel.
Oh, I'd much rather you be eliminated. You probably reek of alcohol.
Both of them end up laughing as they make fun of each other after that. I guess he's hardly normal if he's made it this far.
She had the ability to change fate while inside me...? Does that mean she did so at some point?
Miharu lets her thoughts slip out. She catches herself and checks to make sure that Alan and Federico didn't hear her. I can't bring it up now, but she might know something we don't in regards to Parca's intervention with fate.
Of course, only one of you here can become a vessel for me. If you have the time to ask questions, I advise you focus on your own survival instead. As for now, I bid you all farewell. May we meet again next week.
We've somehow ended up with even more questions this late in. That being said, I can tell that we're about to enter the final stretch.
[END OF WEEK NINE (PART B): FOR JUSTICE]