Part 145: Black Cat Scratch Marks III
Video: The Siege, Part 2
"I see, if the opponents are calling it a mystery...!"
Blood-red longsword in hand, Dlanor slowly walked forward. Behind her walked Will, tapping his back with his black blade.
"I cannot wait to hear your OPINIONS."
The crowd of goats stepped back. Though they had been so vicious against the fantasy creatures, they stepped back when faced with this pair wielding swords of mystery.
"...There have been a great many closed room murders on this game BOARD. Choose whichever you please, and we will parry all of your ATTACKS."
"No. We don't have to defend anything."
"...INDEED. A mystery is always the source of the CHALLENGE. Why should we be forced to play DEFENSE?"
"Do you guys get it yet?"
Blue truth cut the goats apart. That blue truth dwelt within each and every one of the riddles in Beato's games so far. What about the closed room with the chain, first game, second twilight? What about the closed room of the chapel, second game, first twilight? What about the trick to killing Nanjo, third game, ninth twilight? There was no end to the blades. The countless riddles Beatrice left behind became blades, 'challenges' that tore the goats apart.
If they wanted to deny fantasy, they would have to make a counterargument. They would have to deal with every single trick as a mystery. However, while most of the goats called themselves anti-fantasy, they had no answer for the mystery.
Well, every now and then, there was a goat who did have an answer.
"...There were multiple culprits all working separately, and it just happened to look like a single culprit..."
"Van Dine's 12th. There must be but one true culprit."
"...Y, you mean... everything but that is... f, forbidden...?!"
"Boring, right? To have a genre like that. Personally, I think mysteries should be more flexible."
"...The Ten Knox Commandments... and the Twenty Van Dine Rules... a, are behind the times..."
"The definition of the mystery genre is... changing with the era... I think..."
"Tch. They're getting rebellious."
"Perhaps we are behind the TIMES."
"In that case, let's see if you have any theories that can satisfy us."
The whole crowd of goats charged them. In their fangs, each of them carried theories to crush Beato's closed rooms. The bodies of these goats were different than the ones who had become corpses so easily just now. They had mystery-style answers to several closed rooms. So, it would take several blade hits to give them a fatal wound. However, Beato had left many blades behind. All of them were exceedingly sharp. So, the pair of inquisitors didn't think this would be a desperate battle.
The goal is to use all your imagination and knowledge to challenge each of the riddles head on. Doing this is the greatest enjoyment of the mystery genre. So they laughed. Both Will and Dlanor laughed. With smiles of admiration at the theories the goats had put everything they had into, they countered with blades from all the closed rooms. The crowd of goats was no longer an encirclement, but a great wave threatening to swallow the pair up. And yet, the pair repelled the enemy without giving an inch. They resisted firmly, cutting through the wave of wailing goats. It was like an ice breaking ship knocking a path through a frozen sea.
"Knox's 3rd, it is forbidden for hidden passages to EXIST!!"
"...After the hidden passage was used, it was welded shut and became unusable, so no hidden passages existed at the time of the inspection..."
"...These are all fake murders, so no one is actually dead... So, all closed rooms were constructed by the so-called victims..."
Dlanor hesitated for just an instant. After all, this cliched and simple theory managed to get around both Beato's closed rooms and the Knox Commandments. Dlanor saw nothingness inside the goats' massive jaws...
Surely, the jaws of that goat had closed over Dlanor's head. However, the upper and lower jaw were no longer connected, so the upper half slid off to the side.
"Look like even the great Knox never forbade fake murders."
"There are many splendid mysteries besides murder."
The goats hadn't backed off far enough to let the pair have a nice, long chat about mystery. The next massive figure immediately enveloped them. Will's blade drew a diagonal slash across its chest, but it only cut through its clothes, leaving no wound.
"...?! The Twenty Wedges don't work on this one."
Dlanor also hit it with her longsword, but still, it just cut its clothes without leaving a mark on its body. Could it be that this goat... had a theory that didn't violate Knox or Van Dine...?!
In an attempt to stop the goat from saying any more, Will and Dlanor hit it with blades from every closed room, as well as stakes from the Ten Commandments and the Twenty Rules, but none of it had any effect. Slowly, the goat clenched its massive fists together, and raised them up high.
"...After all, after all...!!"
With a roar, Will slammed into the goat giant with his body. Though its massive bulk bent back slightly, Will was still leaping into a deathtrap. However, if he hadn't done so, he wouldn't have been able to protect Dlanor. The goat grabbed Will. It lifted him up and held him high in the air. It was like a little kid showing off his favorite toy and waving it around...
"Let's hear your theory. If I'm to hear a great theory before I die, it'll be a fitting end for me."
"...Van Dine and Knox are useless for making theories..."
"Gyagg... gghh... gghhh...!"
The goat's massive hands closed on Will like a vise. All the bones in Will's body were creaking.
"...Let's hear... your theory. Guh, aah..."
"After all, making theories for any of Beatrice's games... is a waste of time..."
"What do you mean... gggyahh...!"
"...This isn't an orthodox mystery, so thinking about it is just a waste of time... I won't... accept Beatrice's game as a mystery... There are no answers to the tricks. It's all, all... just an illuuuuusion..."
Will's head was lowered, so his face couldn't be seen. However, the arm of the goat holding him was shaking. The embrace of those log-sized arms with superhuman strength... was being slowly pushed away by Will's shaking arms...
"...Thinking is just a waste of time...? You say that... and call yourself a mystery fan...?"
"...Mystery is like chivalry. You fight with the noble rules that you've created, with pride in the stance you've taken. Is it worth being a coward if it'll help you win? Does losing make the whole fight meaningless if you fought with everything you had? It isn't about winning and losing, it's about applauding the will to fight even in the most dire circumstances..."
"...Guh, ghh, ghh, gggg!!!"
The goat's arms were now spread wide, and it looked as though Will was now the one pushing it back. Will's face was covered in shadow and couldn't be seen.
"...People like you, who call themselves mystery fans even though they never even try to solve it like a mystery... You're the ones I really can't stand!!!"
Will slammed his forehead into the goat's now unprotected head.
Will hit it with his head over and over again. His forehead had been torn apart by the goat's fangs, but he kept on hitting it. Van Dine and Knox may be behind the times. The mystery genre does progress with time, just like the world around it. However, there's one thing that never changes.
That is... pride. What is a knight proud of? Not victory. He's proud of the courage that lets him stand up to anyone without fear. Will couldn't forgive the kind of coward who could turn tail from a fight and then brag about it. People who call themselves mystery fans but who have no pride were the only ones Will just couldn't bear. The goat, unable to put up with this anymore, threw Will down to the floor. Then, he lifted his fists again, determined to crush Will to pieces this time.
"Come! You probably will beat me to a pulp, but that'll be no victory for you. You'll destroy your own pride with your own hands!!"
"...Pointless, pointless... This is no mystery, so why make theories? Thinking is just a waste of time, useless, useless, useless, die, die, die..."
A fist like a cannonball swinging down towards him... was the very last thing Will saw before he shut his eyes.
Battler smashed his fist into the goat's mouth... and smashed teeth bounced off the celling.
"If you stop thinking, it means you've given up on the story being a mystery. Which means... as far as you're concerned, this game is a fantasy."
Battler lifted up his arm. Realizing this was a signal, Lucifer and Chiester 00 jumped.
"If you've stopped thinking, you don't deserve to be an actor on the stage. Stop trying to sound smart, and go eat some popcorn from the stands or something."
The goat lifted his fist again, then swung it down at Battler like a hammer.
"...If you've surrendered to fantasy!!"
"That just makes you another target nyeh...!"
"Begin recognition of hostile elements...!! Mark all targets vulnerable to magical attacks in our HMDs!!"
"Kids who surrender to fantasy get to deal with us!!"
"...And if you have a theory, we will hear it OUT."
"We'll welcome those people with open arms. Out of respect for them, we won't hold anything back!"
"Oh, but it would seem that this is BATTLER-sama's time to shine."
"...While I would like to listen to all your favorite theories, both mystery and fantasy, this isn't your game right now. No matter how much you future Fragments try to deny us, this is no time for me to be defeated..."
A golden glint gathered in Battler's hand. It was so bright that the whole hall was bathed in gold. Golden butterflies flitted about, as though the whole room was being swallowed up by the Golden Land. Battler lifted... his golden longsword high.
A slice of the golden longsword flooded the hall with a sea of golden light. Then, the whole group of goats clambering about the hall turned into clouds of gold butterflies and scattered. Even so, only about a hundred of them had been wiped out. Before long, the massive crowds of goats outside would probably come pouring in.
"...Just a bit longer until the seal is finished. Sorry, but I'll have to ask you to hold out here a bit longer."
"Of course, Lord BATTLER!"
"Otherwise, we wouldn't get to show off!"
"You know, you two could try fighting just a little."
""Just the MCs!!""
Their excessively blunt refusal drew a few strained smiles. However, it had lessened the tension in the room just a bit.
"BATTLER-sama, leave this to us!"
"We won't allow the corrosion to proceed any further!"
"And not one of us will be left behind."
"Of COURSE. We are all precious pieces on Lord BATTLER's game BOARD."
The Seven Sisters of Purgatory, the Chiester Sister troops, and everyone else nodded forcefully.
"They're managing to hold their ground down below!"
"The door to the Golden Land is still opening slowly. It will still take some time though."
"There you have it. We'd better start buying some time ourselves...!"
The sea of goats that covered the ground below them was jostling about more and more. By now, even the sea surrounding the island had disappeared. The horizon was gone, and the chewed up island was now floating on an eerie emptiness like space. The goats that flooded the edges of Rokkenjima seemed to be spilling off the sides.
"Looks like that's it for this game board..."
"As long as there's a Game Master and pieces, the game board can always be laid out again. As long as you have two people together, you can create any sort of game."
"...True. Where on Earth is Ange...?"
"Where did you hide it?"
"That's right, the chapel...! What's happened to the chapel?!"
"It's still there...!"
The chapel looked like a white building floating in the pitch-black sea of goats. Yes. This was strange. There was no way those goats, who consumed everything, would go out of their way to avoid just the chapel.
Outside the chapel was a sea of goats. Very soon, the earth around the chapel would be eaten away, and it would probably end up floating on nothingness. The rampage of the goats, as they devoured everything and chanted the tragedy they imagined with one voice, was truly making a lot of noise. However, none of that reached the inside of the chapel. Ange finally broke the magic seal on the entrance and stepped inside...
However, in the face of ANGE Beatrice, Witch of Truth, the one who sought the truth and could sweep aside all forces that prevented her from finding it, no barrier was absolute...
"...There it is."
A single book, tightly locked, rested on the altar. It was the hidden diary that Ushiromiya Eva had written in even in her later years.
It was the one Featherine had shown her in the world of 1998. This time, I have the key. I gripped the gold key that sat in my pocket, the key Onii-chan gave me. As I approached the altar, I saw that the Book of the Single Truth was wrapped in a strange bending of the light.
"...So, this is that seal of the Game Master that Bernkastel talked about."
The Book of the Single Truth was sealed in something like a crystal. It was a seal made by the Game Master's authority. This was on a different level than the breakable magic seal on the chapel door. No matter how Ange used her power as a Witch of Truth, this couldn't be broken by anyone except the Game Master. However, this time, Battler wasn't the only Game Master.
"Hmph. So sorry, Onii-chan. Bernkastel is also a Game Master. I just need to take it with me and have her break the seal."
Ange slowly approached the altar...
"This is my little sister we're talking about, so yeah, probably not."
"Then what will we do?"
"Looks like we've got nothing to go on but brute force...!"
At that moment, a fierce impact hit the pair of them.
"Damn, what the hell is this?!!"
"Battler...!! Gghh, what is this?!"
It was a barrier, a massive cage of crystal. Battler was shut inside a crystal cage like a tower, so large that you had to look up to see the top.
"Beato, I need you to take care of Ange...!"
"What will you do?! Can you break this from the inside all by yourself?! Is this... a closed room barrier?! Who could have-"
"...There's only one person who'd challenge me with a closed room. Looks like our final guest has finally arrived."
"You don't mean..."
"Go, and take care of Ange...!"
Beato left Battler to handle this on his own and headed for the chapel. Battler took a deep breath, then smiled daringly...
The answer was a laugh. Yeah, that's right. That laugh is enough.
"Looks like you're doing well."
"I'll bet you did. I believed too."
Battler flung off the cape of the territory lord.
It would only get in the way. And, it would be a rude way to welcome his final guest.
"So, this crystal cage is the ring for our duel. A chain deathmatch with nowhere to run."
"...Now that you mention it, we're always fighting over closed rooms with chains."
"Then let's use that. Make it a real chain deathmatch."
"I'm prepared, but what about you?"
"...I am. I told you, didn't I? I believed too."
At the same time, they both brandished their mysteries, sealing the other in a chained closed room.
BGM: Dread of the Grave - More Fear (remake)
At the same time, they were both sealed inside a closed room locked with a chain. Of course, it was easy to set and unset the chain from the inside. However, stepping into their opponent's chained room would be difficult. They were fighting to the death with two chain closed rooms at once. There could be no better closed room duel for this pair, which had battled with theories concerning chained rooms so often.
"It wasn't a suicide, it wasn't an accidental death, it wasn't a death by illness! I really was killed by you, Battler-san!!!"
"It was a murder committed by slipping poison gas through the crack of the door, by filling the room with water and drowning you, by sucking the oxygen out of the room and making you suffocate!!"
"There was no poison gas, there was no drowning, there was no death by suffocation!!"
"Hahahaha, ahhahahahahahahahahaha!! A closed room murder with poison gas? Death by drowning? Suffocation?! *giggle*giggle* Ahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
"Crazy, right? It's funny, isn't it?"
"Red truth!! Ushiromiya Battler was stabbed to death!! Let's say the weapon was a knife, stuck right into his back!!"
"<Good>!! Nothing beats a classic closed room!!"
"Then why don't you try it too?!"
"I'll take that challenge with the red truth!! Furudo Erika was stabbed to death! The weapon was a knife, stuck right in her back!!"
"Interesting!! I'll tear your closed room to biiiiiiiiits!!"
"Battler is busy at the moment with other business. For now, I shall be your opponent."
Unless that riddle was smashed with blue truth, Ange wouldn't be able to leave the chapel. After shrugging impatiently, Ange finally faced Beato.
"Is this the first time I've fought you directly...?"
"Oh, is it now...? Very well, let's see what you've got. However, Battler isn't here at the moment. When he's not around, I sometimes forget to hold back."
"What a coincidence. I feel the same."