Part 5: A Proper Mystery II
BGM: Moonlit Night
However, this second pair was in a world that the first couldn't see, where golden roses bloomed.
It felt as though Beato muttered something. For the first time, it felt as though she had been able to communicate something. Surely, she had taken an interest in the black tea and felt like drinking it... Thinking this, Battler took Beato's cup and her hand, making her hold the cup...
Beato's eyes trembled sadly, and her fingers shook. Almost as though she couldn't even move her fingers as she wanted to... and was mourning the fact that she could no longer enjoy the tea she had once loved by her own power... That's how she looked... So Battler put his hand on Beato's, grabbed hold of the tea cup, and lifted it to her lips... Then, though it was only a single mouthful, Beato sipped.
The days in which they had been in a killing-fest with red swords and blue wedges... already seemed like the distant past. Now, not only was Beato unable to do that, it was even difficult for her to make her body do as she pleased. Even just drinking a mouthful of black tea like this was hard...
Of course, Beato didn't respond.
"...What happened to you...? Is this... another strategy? Are you pretending to be in a slump so that you can shock me later?"
"...If that's what you're after, the same trick won't work again, so give it a rest. If you keep acting like that, even I'll start to feel out of whack."
"Hey. Isn't it about time for you to start laughing loudly, saying 'Caught you, dumbass!' or something? Any kind of joke stops being funny if you use it too much. Especially if it's a rehash."
"Laugh. Just like you're cackling over there as you drink with Aunt Natsuhi."
"...Can't you at least grin...?"
BGM: About Face
Those sudden words... were exceedingly cruel.
"How can you say that for sure?! Quit trying to steal away Beato's right to laugh."
"...Oh, should I say it in red then...?"
I shook my head furiously. Then, with an expression that didn't reveal her thoughts in the slightest, Bernkastel spoke while looking at Beato's face. And I didn't understand the word she used in the slightest.
"...What are you talking about...?"
"You said something interesting in a previous game. You said that this would be torture where you both torment each other. That was right. It's torture for Beato as well. And, you won that torture game. That's why Beato's soul was killed, and why she became a doll-like corpse."
"Are you saying, that I did this to Beato?"
"The battle ends when one of you loses the will to try and win. As far as the battle between you and Beato goes, the conclusion was already reached last time. Well, it probably happened without you noticing though."
"...In that case, why hasn't the game ended when I've already won? Why is this game still continuing?"
"The shackle attached to that girl's ankle. That's a rule Lambda made."
Even if Beatrice tries to yield or gets discouraged or gives up, she isn't capable of stepping down from the game. That's the rule. Or maybe it's a curse.
"That's why you're able to be here now. Remember? Remember how I saved you?"
Bernkastel stared at me... It's true I wasn't aware of it, but just maybe, I was saved by her.
"In the same way, Lambda is supporting Beato. And this time, Beato is on the verge of giving in. That's why Lambda's been giving her support this time, to keep her from giving in. That's what the shackle is. By refusing to let her resign, she's saved Beato within the game."
"...How does that work?"
"Normally, there are only two ways for this game to end. Either one side will accept defeat and resign, or one side will win the game with a checkmate. Beato was about to collide with the first way. That's why Lambda crushed that chance and managed to just barely avoid losing. That's a wonderful bit of support within this game."
In that case, the only way left for this game to end... is for me to win. At the very least, until I do win, this witch called Lambdadelta can probably try to buy time for Beato's condition to turn back around. But, that would just prolong Beato's suffering even more... Neither of us want that.
Both Beato and I fought with all we had trying to win. The game repeated several times because we were both giving it everything we could muster. Then, that one time. We confronted each other head on with all of our strength. And then, Beato acknowledged her loss. She said she wanted me to end this game... and entrusted everything to me.
So, Bernkastel's words are the truth. She said it was my fault that Beato has become a living corpse. That's true. But it's something both of us wanted.
Now that the game has been resolved, for it to continue any further would be torture without end to Beato. Nothing more than a nightmare. I have to give her a perfect checkmate, end this game in the truest sense, and give Beato a peaceful sleep... For that reason, I'll keep fighting.
But by continuing the game, Beato's eternal torture will continue. It felt as though I could only let her sleep peacefully by slowly strangling her to death...
"...I'm starting to feel like truth doesn't matter anymore. That way, the game doesn't matter as long as Beato is satisfied. Beato resigned. I'll ignore the truth about this Illusion of the Witch and return home with my family. Is there anything wrong with that?"
If only Lambdadelta hadn't placed the curse of that shackle on her, this battle would be over already. That's why I found it detestable. This game, where I have to torment Beato even more to end it... is detestable.
"...Whaat's this? Beato has started to look like she's in pain every time you get closer to the truth, so you're suddenly going easy on her...? Then just go as easy on her as you can. And why don't you just let Beato win while you're at it? Then your little sister can have a lonely, tragic future forced on her endlessly."
"That's not how it is..."
I know this isn't the time to start feeling compassion for Beato.
"In that case, make sure you kill her. Kill this witch without fail."
Even though Beato was right there, Bernkastel spoke without holding back...
"Your goal is to kill this woman. In the last game, you said it at Beato's request. You said 'I'll kill you'."
"...Yeah, that may be true, but that doesn't mean you get to complain about it."
"Did you know? When you tear one of your fingernails out, it's better to do it in one go. Pulling it out like you do... Timidly, twisting and slow... hurts much, much more. What you're doing sounds much more like torture to me."
"If you have any compassion, kill her all at once. That's how killing works."
"That's none of your business. I'm the one to decide how to perform her last rites. You and that Lambdadelta witch have nothing to do with this. I'll kill her. I won't let anyone else do it."
"...As long as you don't lose that willpower. I'm betting on you. Alright? Make sure you don't forget."
"...I get it."
"I know what Lambda is after. She wants to make you lose your will to fight just like Beato, to make you a pair of living dolls, and to keep this world in perpetual equilibrium. You don't want that, do you? I wouldn't like it either."
"Why should I care about what you want? Still, I won't throw this game away. I won't abandon the responsibility of fighting with Beato."
"I'm glad our goals are the same. So, this means you'll be able to kill this child without any hesitation, right?"
I have no way of knowing whether those words eased her pain or hurt her. But because of this dull tingling in my chest... I believe that she must have been hurt. I have no way of knowing what the silent Beato feels. If I believe she's been hurt, is that any different from her being hurt? And, if I didn't think I hurt her, would I have been able to get by without hurting anyone?
"Yeah... No problem."
"It's the same as it was with Kinzo. Beatrice doesn't exist. This is a fake illusion of a witch that Natsuhi created, believing that she thought up a brilliant plan to overcome hardship by borrowing a witch's power. The only reason it looks like the two of them are drinking together is because Lambdadelta, the Game Master and the one who is telling the story interpreted it that way."
"If you stare without a fragment of love for Natsuhi, you won't see illusions like that. That's why with my eyes, all I can see is Natsuhi all alone, drinking her tea in silence."
"That's a delusion that Natsuhi's showing us. Beatrice doesn't exist there."
Beato mumbled softly. It was a small voice that made it sound like she was in pain. The thorn of Bernkastel's truth had stabbed into her chest.
"...Yeah, that's probably true. I think your theory is right. But don't say that in front of Beato."
"It doesn't matter where I say it. This is Beato's world."
"...Also, it's not like I'm protecting Beato, but there is a possibility that Aunt Natsuhi really is drinking tea with some unknown person X calling themselves Beatrice. This scene takes place a year before everything. The number of people on the island on this day has never been shown with the red truth."
"...Sure. Even Lambda hasn't said anything in red about the number of people on Rokkenjima on this day."
"In that case, it's possible for Aunt Natsuhi to claim that she really did drink tea with a woman calling herself Beatrice. Just like I can't deny your theory, you can't deny mine. That means you can't say for sure whether the Beato there is an illusion or not."
"...Oh, the cat box theory? That might have worked on Beato, but it won't work on me."
There was a violent sound of glass breaking, and the Beato joking about Natsuhi's newlywed years and laughing happily... was erased. A lonely wind blew, and the one person who remained on the bench drinking tea with a tired expression... was Aunt Natsuhi, all alone...
Beato... groaned. I could see clearly that she was in anguish. Another illusion of the witch had been smashed, calling Beato towards death. In short, this is what the battle to let Beato sleep in peace is all about...
A second ago, Bernkastel likened our fight to the torture of tearing fingernails out. If I have to tear them out anyway, then my last bit of compassion towards Beato should be to minimize that pain. In other words, even if I want to minimize the pain, I still have to cause it. I have to accept... that look of anguish on her face... And at the same time, I realized what a merciless thing the red truth was.
...Right now, in this rose garden, there is no one except Aunt Natsuhi. In other words, there are no observers except for Aunt Natsuhi. So, if that lone observer were to say that she'd had some tea with Beato, no one should be able to refute that. If no one can refute it, doesn't that mean it's the truth?
Aunt Natsuhi is enjoying the roses and drinking tea together with Beato. How could anyone have the right to mercilessly trample that pleasant moment...?
"In a battle with a witch, it's a blade that sometimes tears your theories apart, but sometimes becomes a weapon you can fight back with."
"...I know. So what?"
"Don't use it without reason."
"A blade is a tool if you use it when you're supposed to, but it's a weapon if you use it out of malice."
Certainly, Aunt Natsuhi hadn't really been drinking tea with a witch. However, saying that with the red truth probably has nothing to do with our game.
Our game is the tale of October 1986. The two days of the crime give us more than enough time to injure each other with our red and blue blades glistening.
"This isn't about the Illusion of the Witch. It's about Aunt Natsuhi's privacy. How could anyone have the right to expose that?"
"...Do you want to acknowledge that a witch actually existed here and drank tea with Natsuhi? Weren't you trying to deny the existence of witches?"
"...Yes, during the game of the two day period from October 4th to October 5th, 1986. But I have no desire to question whether or not witches exist outside that game board. In the first place, it's impossible to deny the existence of witches because of the Devil's Proof. And, according to the rules of this game, saying something like that in red is a forbidden move that leads to a stalemate. You can't deny the existence of witches even with the red truth."
"...True. I never thought I'd hear you talk about witches existing. Not bad, Lambda. You've done a good job of making Battler stuck between his human culprit theory and the thought that it doesn't matter whether witches exist or not. She really excels at controlling a human's heart. Looks like I'd better start helping you out even more."
"I really couldn't care less about you two. Disappear. This game is between Beato and me. We're gonna keep this game to ourselves."
Bernkastel disappeared, leaving only that unpleasant laugh behind.
After that, all that remained was Natsuhi, sipping tea all alone, Beato, her hand still on the tea cup as she stared blankly at the surface of the liquid, and me.
"...Bernkastel and Lambdadelta... Virgilia called them your friends, but... you really should choose your friends more carefully. Or wait, maybe they actually make a good match with an ill-natured person like you..."
Beato didn't answer. Battler took Beato's hand, made her hold the cup again, and brought it to her lips. Beato made a quiet sound in her throat and drank another gulp...
Then, Natsuhi's lonely teatime ended. That truth, which was only Natsuhi's and observed by no one else, had been defiled. In Natsuhi's world, surely... that tea party, which had been peaceful despite her annoyance at Beato for making fun of her too much, had come to an end, and the two of them had split up.
However, in Natsuhi's exposed truth, she was all alone. Natsuhi tottered away.