Part 147: Hachijo Toya II
Video: Simultaneous Duels
"I refuse!! By definition, it is impossible for a closed room murder to take place inside a perfect closed room!"
"The chain might have been repaired after it was destroyed! The door might have been repaired after it was destroyed! The wall might have been repaired after it was destroyed!!"
"My closed room doesn't involve anything being repaired!!"
"<Good>! This really is getting fun, Battler-san...!"
"Sorry, but I don't have time to play with you right now!"
"I'm sorry too, but as a fellow Witch of Truth, I can't let you get in Ange-san's way."
"...Come to think of it, you're a Witch of Truth too, aren't you? I see, that makes you a sort of mentor to Ange."
"The Single Truth!! It is the supreme, the ultimate!! Only a Witch of Truth can break down all barriers that stand between her and that truth!"
"Is this Single Truth of yours really so important...?! There are lots of things in this world that aren't worth knowing. How important is 1986 to Ange, really?! It isn't important at all!"
"*giggle*giggle*! You're probably right! No matter what happened or didn't happen in 1986, it won't change anything for the Ange living in 1998! There's no point in learning that truth. However, there is just one thing that will change."
Erika transformed her reasoning into a scythe's blade and lashed out at Battler over and over. Battler also created a blade from his reasoning and attacked Erika over and over. In the middle of all this, he questioned Erika, the girl who, like Ange, called herself a Witch of Truth. Just what is the point of exposing the truth?
"You're right. Knowing certain things often changes the way a person lives her life. In that case, I have one hope as her blood relative. I hope that, at the end of my game, Ange finds a better way to live her life."
"By learning things, people change the way they live, but not always in a good direction. There are plenty of things in this world that you'll be more comfortable not knowing."
"The number of ticks living in the seats on a train. Those urban legends about nasty stuff in the tap water. The world's full of things you'd be better off not knowing...!!"
"The Book of the Single Truth probably can teach Ange what happened on this island. But what's the point in her knowing that?! It'll just increase the sadness she's felt for 12 years! How many more years will it take for her to find happiness as an ordinary girl...?! How many years will it take for her wounds to be healed...?!!"
Ange's desire to find the truth is hurting her, regardless of what the truth actually is. Though her deep wounds were slow to heal, they did begin to do so during those 12 years. However, Ange kept picking at the scabs. In her search for the truth, she tore at those wounds herself, opening them up once more...
"Who cares about that?! The truth is everything! The truth is justice!!"
"It's a disease everyone gets at least once, usually in middle school...! They just love to find out all those things adults are hiding!"
"And don't you think it's fun to find that out?"
"Yeah, totally. Reading dirty books wouldn't be nearly so fun if you didn't have to do it in secret."
Ange was breathing heavily. The Book of the Single Truth was right before her eyes. If she could just defeat Beato, she'd be able to take the book to Bernkastel, and then she could read what was inside. Even though the truth of the final family conference on October 4th and 5th, 1986, was right there... the Golden Witch stood in her way. Her anger and hatred spun around inside her head, wiping out the composure that she needed to create theories.
Ange shook her head several times, clearing away everything that got in the way of thinking. However, no matter how many times she thought it through, the closed room sealing her in the chapel was perfect. Ange wasn't particularly familiar with the mystery genre. However, she knew about all the Fragments containing Beato's games so far. Her knowledge was shallow, but it should still have been enough to give her a good foothold. However, no matter how many blue truths she shot at Beato, none of them even made the witch flinch...
Beato just blew them apart with the red truth and an elegant wave of her pipe.
"...Are you trying to say that I could never solve this puzzle?"
"I'm just buying time until Battler finishes dealing with Erika. He's the only one who can bring you to your senses."
"Bring me to my senses? You're the ones doing this to me by hiding the Single Truth!! That's why I'm fighting you!! This is my right!! As the final member of the Ushiromiya family, I have a right to know the truth!"
"Indeed. And that is the purpose of this final game."
"...That's right. Without this final game, I wouldn't have been given a chance to reach the truth. At least for that one thing, I'm grateful."
"But as for what happened in 1986... As for who took your relatives and your family away from you... As a human, your desire to know the truth is quite natural. However, even knowing this, Battler decided that it would be best if you didn't return to 1986."
"I know what Onii-chan's trying to say...! He's telling me to look to the future and live, instead of being stuck in the past, right?!"
"Correct. Battler wanted to use this final game, to show you that."
"In that case, there's no need to keep waiting for my answer. The answer's <No, thank you>, Golden Witch...! Back in 1986, I was already dead. I've wandered about like a ghost for 12 years since then...! And when Aunt Eva died, I lost my only reason to stick around on this Earth as a ghost! That's why I decided to do one last thing before ending my life!!"
"And that thing would be learning the truth of 1986?"
"Yeah! Something wrong with that?!?!"
"Indeed there is, foolish girl!! So, when you do reach the truth, you plan to die...! In that case, I can't let you have it...!! I must trick you and blind you as much as I can... to keep you alive! Battler wants you to live...!!"
"Living without truth is no better than dying!! I'm trying to find the truth so I can live!!"
"You just admitted you were searching for the truth so you could die."
"Yeah, that's true. Then let me rephrase that...! I'm trying to find the truth so I can die!! I offered up my life when I made my contract with Bernkastel!! All so that I could learn what happened that day!! That Single Truth will be the souvenir I take with me to hell!!!"
She had tried every theory, idea, and even nonsense that she could think of. However, none of it had any effect on Beato. Powerless and frustrated, with the Book of the Single Truth right before her eyes, Ange bit her lower lip.
"At first, this was supposed to be a game in which you were given a key. A key that would let you decide your future."
"Liar. You wanted to hide the truth in this chapel, them make me choose a door that leads to some optimistic future. That's not a choice! You're trying to decide for me!!"
"Parents have the right to prevent their children from making unsuitable choices."
"I'm not a kid!! I'm an 18 year old woman, who can think and act for herself...!!"
"Fool!! You're just a six-year-old girl, who can't think of anything except the past!!"
"And whose fault is that?!! Because of you, I've been stuck as a six-year-old all this time!! Now it's time for me to tear apart your illusion covering the truth!! Yes, now that I think about it, it's not this chapel that you've locked me inside! Since that day in 1986, for all these years... you've had me locked away in a closed room where I'm all alone, and where no one will tell me the truth!!"
"And now... I'll tear your closed room apart with my own hands!! Yeah, it's useless, it's all useless. I know the trick to your perfect closed room!! Repeat it!! 'You murdered me immediately after shutting me into this closed room!'"
"...! I refuse."
"Of course. You've been killing me for 18 years. Thanks, Beatrice. If you hadn't reminded me, I wouldn't have figured out the trick."
"...Ange. You are young, and you have a long future ahead of you. In fact, you are a Golden Witch living in the future, are you not? Then live in the future. Just how much is a truth of the past really worth? Isn't the truth of the future, the truth that you will create yourself, far more important...?!!"
"My life is trash. My whole family died, leaving just me behind. That's why I'm going back to them once I've gotten my Single Truth."
"If you learn the truth, you'll just have to accept your family's deaths...! Haven't you ever thought about living on, hoping that by some miracle, one of them might have survived? And that someday, you might get a chance to see them again...?!"
"I'm not worried about that. Even the Witch of Miracles couldn't find a Fragment like that."
Some days, I hoped that this might be a sign that they had escaped the explosion and survived. That hope gave me the strength to live on. However, that hope wasn't strong enough to support me for 12 long years.
"So, even though I wanted to know the truth, I was unconsciously averting my eyes. I felt that learning of my family's deaths for certain would force me to deny any possibility of someone miraculously surviving. But I'm tired of living on and on, with nothing but that impossible hope of a miracle to keep me going."
"That's why I decided to accept my family's deaths. I decided to accept the truth, no matter what it is. That's why I became a Witch of Truth...!!"
"...How foolish, to be blinded by the truth of the past and unable to see one's own future...! Forgive me, Battler. I was not strong enough to guide your sister to a proper future..."
A blazing blue wedge appeared in Ange's hand. It was long, thick, and shaped like a spear.
"It looks like being overly vague with the cause of death backfired on you. So long, witch of illusions. <See you in hell>."
The blue spear seemed to crucify Beato against the window.
"Game set. So, this is Aunt Eva's diary, the Book of the Single Truth."
Ange picked the book up from where it lay on the altar, sealed in crystal.
"...If you read that, then by your contract with Bernkastel, you will die... Learning the truth just to die? Ridiculous...!!"
"That's right. I'm looking for the truth so I can die. At least let me choose how I go. I'm not an idiot. I know the real me is still floating in that starry sky."
I won't be able to return here again. When Bernkastel told me that and walked off the roof into the black sky, I followed her into the empty air. That was the contract.
I wanted two things from Bernkastel. One was for someone from my family to come back. The other... was revenge. I wanted to destroy the Illusion of the Witch that hid the events of that day. I wanted to reach the truth. However, the first of my wishes couldn't come true. After all, even the Witch of Miracles couldn't find a Fragment where my family came home.
So, she wordlessly questioned me. She told me that I couldn't reach the truth unless I had the courage to end this worthless life, living like a ghost and hoping someone might come back. So, she walked out into the open air, and I followed her. Yes, now I can understand. When I offered to trade away my life, I made one wish and gave up on another. I wished for revenge against the illusion that hid the truth. And now, I have succeeded in that revenge, defeating the master of that illusion and obtaining the Book of the Single Truth. What I gave up was my naivety, my continuing belief that someone from my family might come back. And now, I can accept that my entire family is dead.
"You really think you can heal my wounds by saying they'll always be watching over me from the clouds, like some kind of fairy tale?! I'm ANGE Beatrice, Witch of Truth!! I'll free myself from that life as a ghost, waiting for a miracle that'll never happen! I'll end my life as a noble martyr who's reached the truth...!!"
"...Didn't you come to understand the power of magic through Maria's grimoire...?"
"Yeah, I understood it. And then I despaired when I realized how powerless it was. And that's what Onii-chan is trying to force me to use now, isn't it? If I believe, if I use magic, then my family will always be by my side."
"...Don't take me for a fool!!! You think that kind of magic, that illusion, that daydream... can heal those 12 years?! And how am I supposed to go on for decades and decades into the future?!"
"Someone, come back to me, someone!! But no one's coming back!! So, at least tell me what happened that day!! Bernkastel said she'd tell me...!!"
A blinding light poured out of the chapel. It seeped from the windows and the cracks of the door, even reaching as far as Battler's and Erika's eyes.
"It would seem that comrade Ange has completed her task. It looks like you've used some useless seal, but to my master, that'll be easier than thawing frozen saury fish."
"Master said I could play with you until Ange finished her task. I've had enough fun from this reunion, so I think it's time for me to leave."
Erika gave an elegant curtsey.
"Why did you talk Ange into looking for the Single Truth?! Your master must know...! That truth doesn't mean anything for Ange!"
"Yes. All truths in this world are meaningless. In the end, 'meaning' comes from the mind of each individual human. Even when there is a Single Truth, it can mean different things to different people! The truth has no meaning in itself! There's just one reason why I'm still stuck on the truth despite it all!"
"Because you're a detective!"
"<Good>!! But Ange-san isn't a detective. To her, the truth itself is the finish line. A way to mark the end of her unhappy life. Now, she's finally finished the last purification ceremony...!! She's a one-night Witch of Truth, focused on learning a certain Single Truth before she dies! A temporary witch for the short time until she slams against the ground!!"
"I won't let Ange die!! No matter how tough it gets, she has to live!! That's the only thing all of us want...!! If she lives, all sorts of magic and miracles would be possible...!!"
"If only you'd put your arm around her shoulder and told her that directly, you might not have lost. What do you say? Just by hearing you howl, see how far Furudo Erika's reasoning takes her."
He yelled towards the chapel, but Ange probably wasn't even there anymore. Battler's yell was swallowed by the empty pitch-black sky and the sea of rampaging goats...
"Comrade EVA. Our mission is complete. Let's withdraw."
EVA appeared in midair and cackled.
"Sorry, Battler-kun. I wasn't strong enough. For 12 years, I protected that kid my own way."
"However, she's decided this for herself. She's 18 years old now. Don't you think people should decide how they live their own lives?"
"...Sorry for being an overprotective big brother."
"Later. I'm Lady Bernkastel's piece at the moment. It's time for me to leave."
"I'll see you later, comrade EVA."
EVA held her palm open... and a small, pointy, blue Fragment appeared there. The Fragment burst, and with a blinding flash of light, EVA vanished. It was the same light that had seeped out of the chapel earlier. Pieces cannot leave the game board. However, the Voyager witches alone could come and go. This was probably some sort of magic that Bernkastel had given them.
Erika opened her palm as well, and the same sort of Fragment appeared there.
"...Wait. We haven't settled our fight yet."
If he could steal the Fragment in Erika's hand, he would be able to go to where Bernkastel was. The seal surrounding the Book of the Single Truth would probably be melted easily with Bernkastel's power. However, even so, it would take her some time. If he could steal that Fragment, he would have a chance at bringing Ange back...
"What is there to settle? Time's up. However, if you feel like taking one last hit, I'd be happy to oblige."
He had known that Erika couldn't resist the challenge. After all, Battler already knew what Erika's trick was. He'd figured it out just a second ago. Even while he spoke with Erika, he had been thinking about it inside his mind. He could finish her with this last strike... and take the Fragment...
"Let's go, Erika. This'll decide it...!!"
"This'll be the last one before I go, so go ahead and give me the craziest of your hilarious theories."
"Your closed room definition claimed that the walls, windows, floor, ceiling, and chain were all unbeatable!! However, there was one possibility that I didn't check because it was too ridiculous!"
"And that was whether or not the chain could be set from the outside!!"
What a ridiculous answer. However, if you blindly assume that a lock made by an unbreakable chain makes a closed room unbeatable, then this truly would be a perfect closed room. The blue wedge flung from Battler's hand plunged straight into Erika's chest. As she winced in pain, her hand shook, and the Fragment she held flew into the air.
Erika's blue scythe swung out from behind her back, catching Battler in the side as he stretched his hand out towards the Fragment. Battler's hand... didn't reach it. The Fragment returned to Erika's hands once more.
"It looks like our tricks were equally ridiculous. The mystery nuts would've been furious, don't you think?"
"But I disagree! To me, the process of exposing that ridiculousness is ecstasy!! That's why I'm Furudo Erika, the detective!!"
"...Dammit... You figured out the answer a while back, didn't you...?"
"Not true. I thought it up between the time you let loose your blue truth and the time you stretched your hand out to grab the Fragment. I've just been buying time since the beginning. I only started reasoning a second ago!"
Erika broke the crystal barrier that surrounded them. Then, she flew high up into the sky, looking down on Battler and laughing at him as she gave a final bow.
Like she'd actually wait just because I told her to. With a blinding flash, Erika vanished. Ange had gotten the Book of the Single Truth and returned to Bernkastel. Battler and the others had no way to leave the game board. Everything... had come to an end...
"...My apologies, Battler... I let Ange get away..."
"I'm sorry too. I've let them get away. It's all over..."
Battler had created this game for Ange. Now that Ange was gone, the game board no longer had any purpose. And even if that weren't the case, even now, the game board was being chewed apart by the goats, like a single leaf floating on a sea of nothingness...
Thanks to Gertrude and Cornelia's seals, the mansion was protected from the second floor up. The door to the Golden Land was now open wide enough for a child to slip through. The smaller people, including Maria and Sakutarou, slipped through it.
"Indeed. To my eyes as well, it seems to be so."
"F, Father...! Is the door open yet...?! It looks like they're about to break in through the windows...!!"
"Krauss-sama, there is no need for you to fear. An Eiserne Jungfrau barrier is not so easily broken."
"Very soon, it'll be big enough for adults to go through too. Don't worry. We'll make it in time."
"B, but... there's knocking and banging everywhere, and-"
"Stay calm and wait. After all, there is nothing for us to do but wait."
And they were plunging their fangs and fists into the walls and windows, trying to crush them. So, there were goats stuck to all the windows in the hallway, smashing their thick arms against the windows in a way that would terrify anyone, even if they knew about the barrier. However, anyone watching the group of goats gathered at the top of the big staircase on the other side of the barrier would probably feel a different emotion. Instead of terror, it was a sad, empty sort of emotion.
The barrier was drawn across the landing at the top of the hall's great staircase. Beyond that barrier, everything had already been eaten away. Was it even possible for those who stood in the hallway of the upper floors to believe that this was the Rokkenjima mansion? By now, no one looking at this scene would be able to imagine such a thing. Forget the hall or even the whole first floor... Even the ground itself was almost gone. The sea of goats had eaten everything apart long before this. They had eaten apart the hall, the pillars of the mansion, the floor, the ground, the sea, the very concept of the island... every part of the game board Battler had created. And now, the only leftover was the upper part of the mansion, which floated along in empty space.
"To what do you refer?"
"...The goats, in their eagerness to chew this island apart, have eaten up even the ground they stood on, dropping themselves into NOTHINGNESS."
This had once been a huge entrance hall. Beyond it had been a vast rose garden. There had been so many places to stand upon. However, now, holes had been dug everywhere, and nearly everything outside the mansion was completely gone. Some goats were clutching to the few remaining footholds and pillars, still eating away at them.
"...It should be known that to expose the truth is to kill."
"Why can't humans live without killing, I WONDER. Throughout their long history, so many have prayed for miracles, but in the end, they eat up their own chances at receiving a miracle, eating up the very ground they stand on and falling into the ABYSS..."
They saw a goat chewing the same pillar that was holding it up, which, unsurprisingly, fell into empty blackness along with the goat...
"...If learning means eating away at the same hopes and dreams that keep you alive, that would mean humans are born just so they can die. We're taught that we have to live. However, almost everything that we accomplish in life ends up killing us..."
"...Don't think about it. You'll just get a headache."
"As a single human, I want to ask. Is learning a crime?! Is living in ignorance the only way we can have hopes and dreams...?!"
"...Both living with knowledge and living in ignorance have their benefits, as well as their shortcomings. You're even free to choose which path you take. That's what makes humans powerless."
"While people can learn, they cannot 'unlearn'..."
"And so, the all-knowing god has stepped in for the sake of the humans who cannot do this, marking out things that should be learned and things that should not be learned."
"...Too much curiosity... can kill... your hopes and dreams."
"Humans are pitiable beings, who are unable to simply avoid those things which should not be LEARNED. Lord BATTLER can hardly be blamed for failing to teach this to Ange."
"...And now Ange's gone. This game... is over."
Struck dumb by Will's words, everyone fell silent. Only the sound of the goats eating everything away rang out hollowly... Even if they escaped to the Golden Land, these goats of emptiness would probably chew into that realm as well. Even if they got away for the time being, nothing would be resolved. It was all set in stone now. They had no way to resist the future's violent attempts to tear the cat box of the past open.
"If a human's foolishness makes them throw away their own hopes and dreams in the end, then I want to believe in those things until the last second."
"...Your resolve is impressive."
"I'm the embodiment of the one hope held by the Beatrices of a million worlds. So, even at times like this, I have to be everyone's hope. I'm not giving up on this game yet."
"...You're not giving UP?"
"I'll keep waiting, believing in a miracle, until the last second."
"So, you'll keep struggling on and on until it's all over?"
"That's right. After all, last time, when we were surrounded by that pack of terrifying cats, we were prepared for death, weren't we...?! But Lambdadelta-san saved us...! If we had given up, if we hadn't had the strength to believe in a miracle, then I'm sure we'd have been erased before help could come."
BGM: About Face
How long had she been there? Lambdadelta was leaning on the handrail of the staircase, eating popcorn. Want some? She held the cup of popcorn out, but Lion declined the offer.
"...Battler-kun told us. He said Ange-chan made a contract to learn the truth in exchange for her own life."
"Going by your conversation just now, that was no contract. After all, living and seeking the truth so they can die is what humans do anyway, right? In other words, Ange has spent all of her life trying to learn the truth. All Bern did was shorten that time to a single instant."
"...When Ange-chan lost her hopes and dreams, she stopped valuing her own life. How can she be given hopes and dreams again? What can be done to help her find a reason for living?"
After tossing the last bits of popcorn into her mouth, Lambdadelta threw the empty cup into the abyss of nothingness...
"...Bern wasn't really pushing that kid to do something she didn't want. She was giving Ange a chance. Or should I call it a choice? Then, Ange made the choice she wanted, appeared on the game board, and now, in her game against Battler, she's making her own choices again. From start to finish, Ange's game has always belonged to Ange. Right now, I'm just a casual observer."
"...So, not a particularly enthusiastic observer."
"Maybe. It's a play with an obvious ending. So, I've decided I might as well take my leave."
"...So, you'd stop watching a play just because you think you know how it will end? Even though it might reach a climax you didn't expect?"
Lambdadelta licked her salty fingers. Then, she stared at Lion challengingly and grinned.
"...Huh...? Are you talking to me, the Witch of Certainty, and saying that the outcome is certain...?"
"That's right. I guarantee it. Ange-chan's game won't end like this. So please, don't leave your seat. We won't leave either. There must be something we can do. And... that will surely lead her to a better future. This tale will definitely have a happy ending. So keep watching until the end. I beg you."
"...Even though I, the Witch of Certainty, have already announced that this tale won't have a happy ending...?"
"Who gets to decide what makes a happy ending?"
For a while, there was a tense silence. With a confident gaze that seemed to be saying 'are you serious?', Lambdadelta stared at Lion. However, Lion's eyes didn't even twitch. For some time, they both stared into the other's eyes without flinching...
Suddenly, Lambdadelta let out a large sigh and stretched.
"Well, I have nowhere better to be. Sure, I'll stick around a bit longer. If you get me some more popcorn, that is. I'm feeling like caramel flavor this time."
"If you come to the Golden Land, we'll serve you as much as you like."
Lambdadelta waved at them with a thin smile. No one was quite sure what this meant, but it apparently signified her surrender in her own way.
"...That's pretty thin, actually."
"And as gentle as the Sea of Japan!"
"That is a very rough SEA."
"...Please, allow us to speak."
"It would seem that she mixed up her metaphors."
There was some muffled laughter. Lambdadelta is the witch who gives strength to those who possess unshakable willpower. She might have given Lion a bit of magic for that absolute belief in a happy ending.
"You better not let me get bored, okay? If you do, I'll leave right away."
"Of course. I'm sure Battler-kun will be glad to welcome you as well."
Lion understood. In order to fight back against Bernkastel, who had taken Ange outside the board, they would need the power of another who was capable of leaving the board. Their last hope was to make sure Lambdadelta didn't abandon this game. However, judging by Lambdadelta's expression as she hummed to herself cheerily, actually asking her for help was probably going to be a problem...
"What a spectacle! Not a sight you see every day!"
"...How have matters progressed UPSTAIRS?"
"Ah, right, we came here to tell you that!"
"Hey, everyone, sorry to keep you waiting!"
""They say the door to the Golden Land has opened...!!""
"Let us GO. This place will not be safe for LONG."
Everyone who had been sitting on the staircase got up.
"I guess this is goodbye, Rokkenjima the beautiful."
"...True. It may be a shadow of its former self, but this is the last time we'll see it, isn't it?"