Part 105: Breakdown of the Witch Illusion
"Oh, is that all? But aren't the next two years pretty fun...?"
"We don't need them. After all we've heard in the past games about your inner conflict and how you suffered, you don't need to say any more."
"...You mean... the conflict of the furniture with incomplete souls?"
"There was a duel. The result had almost been decided. However, the year 1986... was incredibly merciless."
"...I'll bet you cursed your fate."
"Yes. If it had been one year sooner. Or else, one year later."
"The duel would've been settled, though the way it got settled would've been different."
Silently, Clair hung her head.
If only I had been given time... Or else, if I hadn't been given time to worry...
"I decided... to abandon everything."
"Like the ceremony in which I inherited everything from the previous Head, I decided to abandon myself to the fate known as a miracle."
It may be more accurate to say that I abandoned myself to the choice of the roulette. I... we... could not even decide our own fate, so we let fate decide everything for us. Perhaps one of us will find what they seek. Or, perhaps all will be joined and released. Or, perhaps someone will put a stop to this folly.
"...No matter which fate the roulette chose, I planned to obey its ruling. I will not resist fate. After all, whenever I have tried in the past, fate has always been heartless to me..."
Clair hung her head and let a single tear drop down...
BGM: The End of the World
So, out of her limited fate, she tried to create the infinite. By entrusting her fate to God, she tried to create the infinite. However, this did not mean that she was resigned to her fate. She spun the roulette of fate with an unshakable and certain will. A certain fate, where absolutely no one could escape if the epitaph was not solved. And all of it sealed up on the island. Clair as well.
October 4th and 5th, 1986, were sealed away by an absolute and certain will, and she abandoned herself to that short span of time and the many fates that could be chosen on that island.
"Yeah. There's no need to say any more."
"...After watching how I have wandered through a dead-end of fate, Lion, do you see how great a dream you are to me?"
"...I'm... a different possible 'you'."
"The happiness you live in makes me jealous, but even more overwhelmed... with happiness. The future you represent is a possible one. Right now, that fact is my salvation."
"...Live with enough happiness for the both of us. I'm glad I got to meet you once... at the end. You have my thanks, Lady Bernkastel."
"...I'm just carrying out your funeral. There's no need to thank me. Well, it's about time to end this. It's about time to send the dead to the land of the dead."
"...Yes. This is my funeral, after all. It's time for me to go back to where I belong."
"Don't make that face. And please, rejoice that you are not me. After all, I rejoice in that fact as well."
"...I'll live. I'll live life for the both of us..."
"Thank you. Live in happiness. And someday, find yourself a wonderful person. I pray that you live as a human, without awakening as a witch. That you have a whole and single soul... and love one person with all your strength... I hope you live your life like that."
"Will-san. I thank you for being an observer. You aren't the one I truly wanted to understand me, but you have saved my heart."
"I... understand you. I don't neglect the heart."
"...Are you sure?"
"Yes. For me, the important thing is whether the person understands me, not how well I know them."
...The one I wanted to understand didn't. A person I don't know did understand. There's nothing sad about it. On the contrary, I'm grateful for this miracle. A person was able to understand, even though he has no relation to me.
"You are a good observer... and the only one who has managed to understand me. That connection is strong enough."
Video: The Curtain Falls
BGM: Goddess Gardena
"...Lion. Get back."
"Huh? What's going to happen...?"
"In the mystery genre, there can be no death unless the detective performs the last rites."
"...Will just stopping your heart be enough...?"
"When you mourn the dearly departed, do you put just their heart into the coffin?"
"...Got it. That which was born from earth will return to earth. I'll return all of you to the earth."
"Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Illusions to illusions. And dreams to dreams."
"...Then let us begin. This is my... burial."
"Whenever you're ready."
"Let us start. This is almost like the end of my last game."
Light gathered at Will's back, and a sword materialized there. Slowly, he drew it out.
BGM: Golden Nocturne
"...I'll cut the truth out from the fiction. Come."
Following Will's lead, a similar sword appeared in Clair's hand. Its tip glinted silver, the opposite of Will's.
Will's pitch-black slash cut across Clair's body at an angle. The blade passed through her like she was water, but its tip sent golden flower petals scattering.
The razor-thin black blur sent golden flower petals scattering again...
"Illusions to illusions. Let the man of illusions go to where he belongs."
"First game, fifth twilight. The last moments of the sacrificed boy with a stake in his chest."
"Illusions to illusions. The witch and stake of illusions can pierce naught but illusions."
"First game, sixth, seventh, and eighth twilights. Three corpses lying in the closed room of the singing girl."
"Illusions to illusions. Illusions are the blind girl's song. Illusion of a closed room."
"...Well done. Yes, it seems you really are splendid."
"...That was a risky game from the very start. What if the guy really wanted to see that dead face and just stepped inside?"
"That's what it means to abandon one's self to fate."
"...And that's the roulette you were talking about."
"Illusions to illusions. The gold truth locks the lock of illusions."
"Second game, second twilight. The corpses of the two who are close are not close."
"Illusions to illusions. Illusions who have fulfilled their role do not leave a corpse."
"Second game, fourth, fifth, and sixth twilights. In Natsuhi's closed room, none are left alive."
"Earth to earth. No one would dispute that a coffin is a closed room."
"Second game, seventh and eighth twilights. The two sliced to death by the red-eyed phantom."
Every time the blade passed through Clair's body, golden flower petals flew everywhere. The petals covering her heart were being torn away, bit by bit. The Illusion of the Witch was breaking down... and becoming flower petals.
"Third game, first twilight. Six corpses connected by the linked closed rooms."
"Illusions to illusions. In a closed room ring, the end and the beginning overlap."
"Third game, second twilight. The corpses of mother and child lay together in the rose garden."
"Earth to earth. No falsehoods in their final moments as told."
"Third game, fourth, fifth, and sixth twilights. Three corpses lying in the mansion."
"Earth to earth. No falsehoods in their final moments as told."
"Third game, seventh and eighth twilights. The corpses of husband and wife lay exposed under the arbor."
"Earth to earth. The obvious culprit wields a mutable blade."
"Fourth game, first twilight. A massacring storm sweeps through the dining hall."
"Illusions to illusions. Tales woven by the gold truth return to illusions."
"Fourth game, second twilight. The two young ones face their trials and pass away together."
"Illusions to illusions. Tales woven by the gold truth return to illusions."
"Fourth game, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth twilights. None of the runaways are left alive."
"Earth to earth. Illusions to illusions. Silent corpses, adorned by fiction."
"Fourth game, ninth twilight. And none shall be left alive."
"Earth to earth. Illusions to illusions. When fiction is shut up inside a cat box, it becomes truth."
BGM: Goddess Gardena
As proof, the chapel was now filled with golden flower petals, which danced around like gold snow.
"Who wouldn't want their last moments to be like that?"
The gold snow was like confetti at the finale of a show. The curtains were finally falling on the stage that was her.
"...Then, one final question."
Clair slowly raised her hands. The sword she held became golden rose petals and melted away. She stood there, arms wide, waiting for the final strike...
The pitch-black blade that Will swung high... cut down Clair's form. At the same time, she was blown away by a gust of wind. Her human form crumbled in an instant, became a storm of golden flower petals, and was torn apart. After she was blown away, a golden heart remained in midair, but it too was swallowed by the torrent of wind and broke down into flower petals. The gold torrent of wind swirled around the chapel... Then, the swirl of petals scattered out of existence... and vanished...
A few remaining petals danced around like snowflakes, and those final vestiges decorated the chapel beautifully.
There stood Clair, whose tale had ended. Then, slowly, softly, she faced the audience and bowed.
The long, long tale she had just finished telling was being given a massive applause. It went on and on. And on and on. The stage slowly sunk into the darkness of oblivion.
...People are born with sin... and live life to obtain forgiveness from someone. Or perhaps they are born with riddles... and live life searching for someone to solve them. Here, all of her riddles had been solved, with no lingering regrets.
People are riddles. They want someone else to solve their riddle. They live life wanting someone to solve the riddle that they are, the most difficult riddle in the world. They want someone to look at the riddle they are. And they want that person to solve it. For her, that wish has been granted...
...Her soul will wander no longer. Sleep in endless peace, in your cat box coffin...
BGM: Thanks For All People
Everything had become dust, vanished as though there had been nothing there in the first place, and all was silent once more. Come to think of it, even the sound of rain is gone. The rain must have stopped at some point.
"...Meeting you was her salvation."
"I... hope so."
"She cursed herself and her inescapable, dead-end fate... and gave up. Meeting you, a happy miracle in her eyes, saved her in a way nothing else could. So don't make that face."
"That was a pretty tasteful ending... for you."
"...Auau only told me to carry out the funeral. Well, I just called a facilitator, you, and let you do everything."
"Thank you, Will."
"In Clair's place, I want to thank you. Thanks for cutting off all the lingering regrets... for a 'me' of a different fate."
"...I thought I'd see a bit more head clutching and blind confusion from you."
"I understand now. I realize how happy my life has been. If fate had toyed with me... and if I was living in another world, I might have gotten stuck in the same dead-end of fate. However, thanks to an extremely improbable bit of good luck, I live in this world. I now know how much that means... how much it's worth."
"...What's up? Why the significant look?"
"I thought decent witches didn't exist, but I might have to change that theory."
"Don't worry, no need to change it. I only joined that kid's game to kill some time. And, though I lost, I enjoyed playing. That kid died without folding up her game board. I just took charge of cleaning up... as thanks to her for letting me play and because it's the loser's duty."
"...I was sure you'd be a lot crueler than this."
"I thought this'd be a cruel game that neglects the heart."
"This tale of intertwined loves ends thanks to an absolute and certain willpower. Out of respect for that certain willpower, the Witch of Certainty made that kid a witch for just two days."
"...Even within this limited span of two days, I've been able to enjoy an endless kaleidoscope. I won't be bestowing my favor, so no miracle will occur. However, even that ending is something that child wished for."
"...In the end, what was the truth behind the endless tales?"
"Who knows? We can't say for sure... That's what makes it a cat box."
"When you open the box, you get a tale where no trace of the mansion remains, and no one except Eva survives. Now that Eva has died without saying anything, all the truth is inside the cat box. Endless possibilities, all kept within a limited box."
"...Now that I think about it, maybe the whole island where she lived and died was the Golden Land."
"If you can call a cat box a Golden Land, that is. By the way, Battler has written up the most fun tale imaginable of the inside of the cat box."
"That's right. It's the happiest possible tale for her, which he thought up himself."
"It was a really fun, love-filled, happy tale. I also think... that tale was the most fitting one to put in her coffin."
"No, that's wrong."
"...You heard Clair. You are her hope and her salvation. More than anything else, you living on in happiness will be her salvation."
"...Live happily. That's all you need to do to be that kid's miracle."
"Yes. I'll live happily enough for the both of us."
"...I'm surprised you found this kid. Didn't you have to search through about... 200,000 of them in that vast sea?"
"Such trivialities are all I am capable of."
"And now, the funeral is over. As promised, I've released the barrier. Once you leave, time will start moving again like normal."
"So, you're done with us now. If I don't get back quickly, Diana'll start scratching the curtains."
"...We weren't together long, but thank you for your help."
"So long. Be happy... for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of other 'you's."
When he left the chapel, a beautiful after-rain sky stretched out above him. That sky, which was a mix of rain clouds, gaps of sunlight, and the tint of twilight, had a beauty to it that couldn't be described in words. Will slowly descended the stone stairs, stepping in the puddles. Then, he waved without looking back... and left the chapel behind. His form and footprints gradually faded away... until there was no trace left.
"I have you to thank as well. I believe I said some fairly inconsiderate things to you. You have my apologies. You taught me something very important."
"...What is it?"
"No, it's nothing. It's been a century since anyone's thanked me, so I wasn't sure how to respond."
Bernkastel shrugged, then floated up into the air. Then, she looked up at the beautiful seven colors of light shining in through the stained glass... and spoke as though someone was looking down on her from there.
"I'm mean, so I won't give any more hints than this. There are no witches who don't think. After all, witches who don't think either die or turn to seaweed."
"...Yes, now you can look back and have a drink, while seeing how much of your theory was right. I'm tired of playing the part of the bad guy... and of being a miko. You're done with me now. Bye, Lion. And bye to you too, observer witches."
Bernkastel burst and disappeared. A single golden flower petal glittered. Lion picked it up. It was the only trace of a miracle that remained in this chapel...
At that time, cheery voices could suddenly be heard. It was the relatives. They came out of the waiting room, one by one.
"Mom. My apologies. I was just thinking about something."
"Looks like the rain's finally stopped! Finally some good weather!"
"Everyone, let us return to the mansion. I have been told that Beatrice's funeral is over."
"Dad, where's the Head?"
"He'll be here in a sec. Today was pretty crazy. Playing along with Dad's little funeral show was a real pain."
"You shouldn't say that. It was a very important ceremony."
"That's right. I think it was very important for Father."
"I'm starving. Gohda-san, think you could cook something up for us?"
"Yes ma'am! I'll prepare some tea at once."
"...Where is Lion...?! Lend me a hand."
"Our family head...! There you are."
As Kinzo came out after the others, Lion ran up to him.
"Yes. And I'm sure that Beatrice's soul was saved."
"...How could you know that?"
"I was with Beatrice until a second ago. And I saw her leave on her journey with no regrets. That's how I know."
"...I guarantee it."
"I see. If you say it, then it must be so."
The relatives left the chapel one by one. Lion left too, giving Kinzo a shoulder to lean on.