Part 101: Journey to the Golden Land II
"I see, the great demon Gaap. Very well, my friend, you will now be Gaap. You may call yourself by that name!"
"Oh, wonderful. So, you've finally given me a name. It's a relief after being nameless so long."
"In that case, I would be honored to receive a name as well. Being nothing more than the head furniture lacks flavor, does it not?"
"Maria. I need a name for this guy too. He is also a great demon, and serves as my butler. He is a subordinate whom I can trust."
"Uu-... Ronove, I guess. The 27th ranked of the great demons...! It's said he'll give you reliable underlings!"
"My, what a coincidence. The family name of my double, Genji, is Ronoue."
"Hoh, that truly is a coincidence! I see, it seems this is the best possible name for you. Very well, you shall now be known as Ronove...!"
"Oh, how pleasant it is to be called by one's name. I thank you for this wonderful name, Lady MARIA."
"Just as the form can be a vessel, so can the name be a strong vessel. For unknown creatures of the other world, simply gaining a name can greatly increase their magical power...!! That's why names are important. Uu-!"
"True, names are important and wonderful. Right, Lia?! You can call me Gaap now, okay...?!"
"Gaap. A splendid name. And I'll ask you to stop shortening my precious name...!"
"Pu ku ku ku...! So, you're Virgilia, the one who guides travelers to Beatrice? That is also a splendid name. Perfect for Milady's teacher."
"Yes, I do like it a lot. A name is a life."
"Maria, thanks to you, my friends have found names. I am deeply grateful...!"
"Uu-uu-! Now it's your turn, Beato! Draw pictures of my bunny friends! Like you did for Sakutaro!"
"Hmmm, very well. Lend me that grimoire."
"Uryu-! Beato's drawings are really great. I can't wait to see!"
"What'll it be like? What'll it be like? Can't wait to see the bunnies! Uu-uu-uu-!!"
"They were in a forest band, were they not? A band, a band... Hmm. Yes, something like..."
Though she is still young, she already has a powerful self-image, and possesses enough knowledge of the magical world to surprise even me. Together, we called ourselves Mariage Sorciere and made each other's magical worlds deeper and richer...
"So, a name can become a great vessel. How very profound."
"It's very important to have a form for a vessel, but a name is just as important."
"Indeed. Those with names leave a greater impression than those without."
"It's not just about forms and names. By knowing more and more about them, you can make them exist much more strongly. So, I'll think up lots of stuff for you."
"Did you do this for Sakutarou as well?"
"He is a lion cub, correct?"
"Sakutaro's a vegeta-lion, so he doesn't eat meat. But everyone else thinks he does, so they're scared of him. But Sakutaro's also a scaredy-cat, so he's just as scared as the others. Ahahahaha, Sakutaro's such a coward."
"Uryu-. I don't eat meat. I'm not a scary lion."
"Oh, look, a flesh-eating sparrow...!! *flap*flap*flap*."
"Uryu-!! Sparrows are scary! Whoosh."
"Wahaha, sparrows don't eat meat."
"Sakutaro's a coward, so he thinks they do. Kihihihihi."
"D, did the sparrow go away...? Uryu-..."
"You're such a scaredy-cat, Sakutaro. If you keep this up, Sakusuke and Sakukichi will start making fun of you again, right?"
"Uryu...! I'm not a scaredy-cat!"
"Ah, the sparrow's back! *flap*flap*flap*!"
"Nooo, I'll be eaten!! Whoosh."
"Hahahaha. Sakutaro is quite entertaining. Then, are Sakusuke and Sakukichi his siblings?"
"Yep. They're his little brothers, waiting for him at home! Sakusuke's a lot more reliable than Sakutaro, and Sakukichi is so skillful, he can do anything. But they're all really good friends...! They all play together on my bed."
"Your bed must be covered with lions."
"Yep. So I call my bed Lion Land! But there's lots of other animals too! Uu-!"
"Lion Land, is it? It sounds like fun."
"...By interacting together, all of MARIA's friends can reinforce their own existence. A great world."
"I guess that means we should work on deepening our relationships as well. By strengthening our bonds, our existence and magical power will grow stronger and stronger..."
"Let's expand our world more and more! From what I've heard, Maria's world has far more than just Sakutarou and the bunnies! We can't let her beat us!"
"My, my. In that case, shall we find more minions for ourselves?"
"It's no fun with just the gold butterflies. After all, they cannot speak...! I'd like some chatty minions who can talk, jump around, and fight with each other."
"True, of course it'll be better to spice things up around here."
"Here in Mariage Sorciere, we have learned how to expand our worlds and create new minions. By now, you may create new minions as often as your imagination allows..."
"Milady, what about those? Could you make vessels of those dark tools you found when cleaning out Goldsmith's storehouse?"
"Oh, perfect! Minions created from dark-looking vessels like that will surely be fitting for me...! There will be more and more of us, and it will get very lively here...!"
"Uu-! We get more and more new friends...! That's my magic! And Beato can take my friends and give them a form. You can make them grow...!"
"You create, and I grow. Hmm. That's Mariage Sorciere for you! Hmmm, still, bunny ears are pretty hard...! It might take some time before the bunnies manifest themselves."
"Make sure you make them cute."
"But of course. This is where I get to show my skill...!"
Doing that is no different from giving birth to new life. When a human gives birth to a child, they give it a form, give it a name to identify it by, and deepen its character by raising it in the world. Mariage Sorciere is doing exactly the same thing. In our world, we can create whatever creatures we think of, give them forms, give them names, and make them friends we can interact with.
We were engrossed with our game in this world called Mariage Sorciere. At least, Maria was engrossed. She would badger me to play this game every time she came. And, of course, I was too. However, when Maria started happily writing something and I just sat there for a while, I must admit that I sighed and looked up at the sky, making sure she didn't notice... It's fun to increase the numbers of our minions. They make things lively, so I do not tire of it. I may have tired of my minions alone, but when I can interact with Maria's minions as well, that does not happen.
It takes two people to create a universe. I now have that second person, so I am satisfied...
BGM: Soul of Soul
And yet, one little part of me... is not. It truly is a tiny part. After all, it's so much fun playing with Maria that time seems to fly on by. But even so, when I look up at the sky, during those short moments, I feel an empty feeling I can't describe...
I know... My universe is not complete. My apologies to Maria, but she is not the second person I want to create a universe with. No matter how much I nurture my world with her, the roots of love in my heart leave gaps. Four years have already passed since that day. He left saying he'd come for me riding a white horse, and I was the only one without a letter. And he even said that he probably wouldn't be returning to Rokkenjima...
Is this... love? I always believed that love was so much sweeter, so much more intoxicating. But now, I don't know anymore. Though I long for him so much it's maddening, I can sometimes feel hatred underneath. However, even that hatred is wrapped in adoration. The roots of love have remained in the corners of my heart all this time. Even though, at some point, I gave up hoping that Battler would return. However, the roots of love stayed right where they were.
...In other words, even four years later, I still believe. He will come back someday. The flower of my love has curled up and withered as though against the winter cold. However, the root is still alive. And, it is always, always waiting for him to return, waiting for a chance to bloom beautifully again.
I'm grateful to Maria. Mariage Sorciere has eased the burden on my heart so much. If we hadn't met like this, I may have withered away along with that root. Even this incomplete universe is necessary for me to remain alive now. I must live on... until I can create my complete universe. Until that day... I will not be complete. Though I have a form and a name, no matter how deep my world grows, I will not be complete.
BGM: Mystic Forest
I accidentally muttered what I had been thinking. Maria stopped talking to Sakutaro. I regretted that my slip of the tongue had ruined this fun time, but there was a long silence before I could smooth it over... I laughed, but it probably sounded hollow. Maria, not knowing why my face had suddenly changed like this, looked taken aback.
"...Though my minions will each deepen this world and their own existences, becoming full, I alone will never be complete."
"...I know why I will not be complete."
"It's because you don't have enough magical power."
Maria answered instantly. Beatrice has lost her magical power and is unable to regain the power she once had. That's how the story goes. So, Maria's answer was correct.
That's right. I may be incomplete because I have lost my magical power. In that case, if my power becomes complete, and I revive in the truest sense, will my world become complete as well? Does that mean... that the person I want to nourish a universe with will come back? If, as I claim, I really was able to control miracles at will in the past with my magic... Then if I succeed in reviving, will that miracle occur without fail?
"...That's right. It's because I do not possess enough magical power."
"Poor Beato. It must be pretty inconvenient with your magical power still weak."
"I want to get it back... quickly. My old power."
"I guess you'll have to do that then."
"...What do you mean by 'that'...?"
"The ceremony of resurrection. The ceremony of the portrait's epitaph."
If you read that epitaph literally, it does sound like a witch's resurrection ceremony. To Maria, who believes in witches, that epitaph must be a ceremony in itself. Unlike the other family members, it seems that she's not very interested in the location of the hidden gold.
"...If that epitaph's riddle is solved, one might learn the location where Kinzo hid all the gold I once gave him."
"That's the gold you created with magic, right?"
"Indeed. A crystallization of the great magic I possessed in those days."
"In that case, if you get that gold back, your magical power will go back to normal."
"It will. Uu-! It's got to be your resurrection ceremony...! I'll help, so let's solve it together. And then you'll revive! And when you do, you'll take me to your Golden Land...!"
"That's right. I did promise that I would take you to the Golden Land."
"You said that all wishes are granted there...! There's no black witch there, just a nice Mama...! And I might even meet the Papa I've never seen before...! Of course, there won't be any school, or homework, or bullying friends, and we can live happily ever after...! Hey, Sakutaro, doesn't that sound fun! Uryu-!"
Then, must I face the epitaph's riddle? If Kinzo's children struggled uselessly over it, how could a complete stranger like me solve it...? If I did happen to solve it, that would surely be a miracle. Will doing that bring about another miracle and return my miraculous power to me...?
Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown. You who seek the Golden Land, follow its path downstream in search of the key...
As you travel down the river, you will see a village. In that village, look for the shore the two will tell you of. There sleeps the key to the Golden Land.
"...There may be villages down that river, but what is this shore the two will tell you of?"
The one who obtains the key must then travel to the Golden Land in accordance with these rules... So, those who do not have the key need not read the rest. I do not understand it, but that's how this riddle is. It's practically unsolvable, so solving it would be a miracle. That much makes sense...
I felt a stabbing pain in my body. The anti-magic toxin had burned my skin. Some human is probably approaching. I erased my form. Multiple sets of footsteps approached. It was Genji, Shannon, and Kanon too.
"Yes. I hear that even some of the servants have written it down and taken it home with them."
"...If you solve this riddle, will you really find ten tons of gold?"
"Yes. There can be no doubt of that."
"I don't understand. The puzzle may be a tough one, but why is the Master showing the location of his precious gold in a place where everyone can see?"
"...That is the Master's magic, and also a bet. The Master believes that the one who solves this difficult riddle will contain Beatrice-sama's soul within them."
"...That's a strange bet... uh, magic..."
"Hmph, looks like he's taken his occult fanaticism as far as it could possibly go."
"Shh. You shouldn't say that..."
"...All are allowed to try and solve the epitaph's riddle. Of course, the servants are no exceptions. Will you try to solve it?"
"N, no... I could never solve such a hard riddle.. And..."
"Even if I had ten tons of gold, I can't think of anything in particular I'd want to use it for... I'd be more than happy if these peaceful days continued forever."
"Looks like you and George-sama have been pretty close these days. I just hope being distracted doesn't make you even more of a klutz."
"Th, that won't happen."
With a backward glance at this conversation, Genji walked up to the portrait... and looked up at the witch.
When they saw what Genji was doing, Shannon and Kanon immediately went silent. Genji, who was the head of the servants, the closest in age to Kinzo, and the one whom Kinzo called a friend, probably understood Kinzo's heart better than anyone else. What did he think when he looked at this portrait...? Neither Shannon nor Kanon could tell.
"...Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown."
Suddenly, Genji started reciting the epitaph. Shannon quickly nodded to show that she was listening, but it wasn't clear whether he was talking to her at all. Genji, his back still to them, continued.
"The Master would not describe Odawara as his beloved hometown."
"...I've heard that he lived far away."
"Th, though we don't know where it was..."
Genji turned around and spoke that single word.
"...O, oh, is that so...?"
"I see, so that explains what Krauss-sama always used to say. Remember him talking about how the Master liked areca nuts?"
"...Come to think of it, Krauss-sama said that those were a luxury item, like tobacco, that was popular in Taiwan... So that's why the Master..."
In the half-century before the war, Taiwan was under the rule of Japan. Many Japanese had moved there, seeking a new frontier. Kinzo's family was a branch family of the Ushiromiyas. Apparently, they were only distantly related to the head family, so they were able to form a new life and a new future, without being constrained by the head family in Odawara... Shannon and Kanon nodded their understanding, but they didn't know why Genji had suddenly broached this subject.
"...So, there was a river with sweetfish in it in the Master's hometown in Taiwan, and the key is there?"
"Don't be so stupid. There has to be several rivers with sweetfish in the area."
"W, we don't know that for sure, right...? I don't know where the Master lived in Taiwan, but there might have been only one river there. If so, that must be the place."
"You're too optimistic. There's no way the riddle could be solved that easily."
"...The Master says his magical ceremony will gain more power if more people try to solve the riddle. You must try as well. Everyone has been given the same chance."
"It's not like we have any chance. So stupid..."
Genji spun around. Shannon and Kanon hurried to follow after him. When his footsteps receded and silence returned, a gold butterfly flitted out from among the shadows.
Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown. In other words, a sweetfish river running through Taiwan...?
"...There are many rivers in Taiwan. Kanon was right. How ridiculous."
...However, the word 'Taiwan' interests me. That taciturn Genji muttered it without anyone asking, but does it actually mean something? Clearly, Genji's saying it has something to do with the epitaph's riddle. It's almost as though that was a hint for solving it...
"...Though I do find it stupid, very well, Genji. Why don't I play along with your farce for a while?"
Taiwan... I have traveled the world these past thousand years, but I know nothing of the place.
"...To counter my ignorance, I shall need a crystallization of knowledge. That which is smoothed out and pressed into many sheets, what is called a book."
Where might I find a book about Taiwan? Kinzo's study is the first place that comes to mind if one is looking for books. But that won't work. The charm on that room prevents me from entering. In that case, the book archive...
The books that don't fit in his usual library are stored in a place called the book archive. Of course, there are countless books just in this place. The archive has everything from valuable books to apparently worthless books, all packed together like an antique shop. There was a golden glint in the keyhole of the archive's door, and a gold butterfly flitted out.
"Stinky as ever, I see. Dust, mold. Yes, the stench of knowledge."
...Well now, how can I find a book on Taiwan amongst all this? The prospect is almost dizzying. However, I realized right away. If I wanted to quickly find out about Taiwanese rivers, I didn't want a book on Taiwan.