Part 157: Ange's Choice III
Video: End of the Miracle
BGM: Thanks for being born
"The Witch of the Future has the power to interpret things how she pleases and rewrite what happened. However, there is just one fact that she can't overwrite, no matter how much she struggles."
"...And that is... death. You cannot overcome any concept of death, be it physical or mental. It is the single blade of truth with which witches of the past can strike down witches of the future..."
"...Ah, ah... ah..."
"Hang in there, Ange."
"You decided to accept it, didn't you? You decided to live on, even if no one came back alive, didn't you...?"
"...I know... I know, but... I know, but...!!!"
Despite everything, if she was favored by a miracle by some chance, maybe someone would come home after all. It doesn't matter when. It could be ten years later or fifty years later. It doesn't even matter if they've forgotten my face... I believed that someone might come back someday... And I decided to live with that tiny hope in my chest.
...Even though I had accepted everyone's death for a time, even though I had seen it in the Book of the Single Truth, even so, I thought... that it wouldn't be so bad... to believe in a miracle a little, would it...? A miracle that you believe in when you know it won't happen... is hope. And so, the witch who knew that miracles don't occur... had ruthlessly torn that away.
"I know...!! But, but!!"
"Even the big brother you're crying to right now... is already dead."
"Onii-chan isn't dead, he's here!! Right here!!!"
"Don't cry, Ange."
At Battler's shout, Ange bit back her tears.
BGM: Goddess gardena
"Whether we're alive or dead means nothing to you."
"Th, that's not true... I want you to live...!"
"That's not it!! You can get beyond life and death, right?!!"
Ange didn't understand what he was telling her. So, stunned into silence, she frantically considered what her brother was trying to tell her. Battler slowly lifted his face... and stared at Bernkastel.
"That's right. I have the sickle that reaps all hope and miracles. So I must be what you say."
"...You're a reaper... who stole away the hope that kept Ange alive... and lured her towards death."
The one who had thrown about truths of the past, stealing the future from Ange's eyes and forcing her to look only at the past. And, the one who had thrust the hope-crushing Single Truth in front of Ange, gently pushing her from behind as she, of her own accord, took that step from the skyscraper's roof off into the world of nothingness.
"And now, I'll free Ange from the spell that you represent!! Ange won't be trapped by the curse of the past anymore!! She'll step forward into the future!! But not into the emptiness of the abyss that you're trying to lure her into. Ange will live strongly, in the future starting in 1998!!"
"Humans are wretched creatures, who walk into the future while staring back into the past!! That's why they easily plummet into pitfalls and flip over like comical fools!!"
"Come, Bernkastel!!! A witch of the past like you can't block the radiance of the future!!"
"Aha, ahhahahahahahahahaha!!! Yes, let's go, by the rules of your game!! I'll give you some closed room riddles. But, since I'm short-tempered, overpowering, and easily bored, I'll give you all of them at once!!!"
Bernkastel spread her hands, and it seemed as though a halo or angel wings were spreading out behind her.
Bernkastel, who had traveled the sea of Fragments for many, many years, had gathered these countless closed room mysteries as souvenirs from all over the place. All of those rays twisted at once... and aimed towards Battler. It was as though infinite giant snakes had turned their heads to stare at him.
"...If you fail to shoot down even a single puzzle, then this is goodbye. I'm not as forgiving as Beato, who gave you until October 5 at midnight to give your answer. If you don't answer immediately, you die."
In that case, this wasn't 'mystery' anymore. This wasn't an intellectual game, but a merciless assault.
All at once, hundreds of guided lasers known as mysteries shot at Battler. The complex geometric figure drawn by those blue lasers was nothing but divinely beautiful. Each one was a mystery. Trying to solve each one in this oppressive hailstorm would be like threading a storm of approaching needles. Battler flew freely through this vast space, dodging the beautiful blue streaks of mystery as he shot them down one after another. The entirety of the mystery knowledge he had built up to this day told him the answer to each puzzle. Each time his eyes glowed with the answer, one of the mysteries shattered. However, that mystery was only one out of hundreds. This hardly rose to the level of 'opposition' or 'resistance'.
"There is no unsolvable mystery, just like there is no inescapable fate."
"Watch, Ange. Don't miss what I'm trying to show you..."
By now, the bundle of mysteries looked like one giant snake with blue streaming behind it. Battler skillfully dodged it, precisely splitting its many fangs off one by one. Even though he knew it was a useless resistance, like trying to pick up all the grains of sand on a beach one by one.
"Not bad. Classic mysteries were your specialty, right? Then what about twists on the genre? Let's see if you can handle more and more mysteries from all times and places."
Even though Battler was still fighting the giant snake, wings appeared behind Bern once more. And... they gave birth to seven more huge snakes. It now looked like a great dragon with seven heads.
"...Onii-chan!! This isn't possible anymore!!! Please, just run away!! You can't beat Bernkastel!!"
Battler's expression remained calm. However, his whole body was covered with sweat, and he was breathing hard. It was clear that he couldn't overcome this onslaught, though Battler himself refused to admit it. Battler wiped away his sweat... and fixed his gaze on the eight snake heads that surrounded him in three dimensions...
"In that case, if I'm going to be seeing you off as you try and step forward into the future, I must not surrender to a miracle again."
"That's right. But I'll still harvest your miracles and hopes. All of them, without mercy."
What was now an eight-headed dragon... opened its eight jaws. It looked for weak points from all angles, hoping to swallow Battler in a single gulp. He wouldn't be able to dodge any longer.
"Ange-san. If you're expecting a miracle, then I have some bad news for you."
"Beato has now been completely destroyed, and that has even been announced in red. Do you know what that means?"
"Since Beato has been destroyed, the Golden Land has been destroyed also. That means that they all have vanished. In other words, you no longer have any friends who can conveniently show up and save you from this pinch."
Even EVA was a resident of the Golden Land. After bravely breaking the key's seal earlier on, she had probably hidden away somewhere. However, now that Beato had been destroyed, all of the residents of the Golden Land had met the same fate as ice under the sun... Any faint hopes that EVA was hiding in the shadows, ready to save them from this final pinch... had been completely crushed from the moment that Bernkastel had smashed the golden heart...
No longer was there anyone who could save them. There was no hope that any factor which wasn't here now could ever save her brother. And herself? She could only watch from where she stood.
If I help, will I be able to bring about some kind of miracle...? But I don't know that much about the mystery genre. I've only watched Beato's game Fragments, gathering some basic training on how to fight. At best, I can avoid slowing him down, but I can't protect my brother. But... I can't just watch...
"O, Onii-chan...!! Let me fight too...!!"
"Stay back! Just... keep watching. And think."
"Think about what...?!!"
"...How I felt... when I was six..."
"You've lived for 12 years looking for the truth. But that's not your real, greatest wish."
"...My... greatest wish..."
"To protect that wish and the hope, we prepared this final game. However, unfortunately, you've wasted that chance. So you'll have to abandon that hope as you step forward into the future. But even so, even so, if you have strength in your heart, you can have it."
"Remember. Your very first wish. Even after learning the Single Truth, remember."
The Single Truth. Even after learning the heartless truth, that everyone is dead and that no one will come home, remember. Remember your very first wish.
All of the palely glowing snakes... ran through Battler. Battler was stained red, surrounded with a cloud of blood. Then, he stumbled, and in the end, he looked at Ange. Ange... couldn't say anything in response. The light in Battler's eyes faded, and, slowly, his body began to fall... It reached the ground... and gently landed like something settling on the ocean floor.
Ange rushed toward him, and looked at the final face of her dead brother. His eyes were opened wide, filled with an unwavering determination until the very last second...
"...Was Ange-san ever that good at mysteries?"
"Well, she's nothing compared to Battler."
The waving snakes raised their heads... and surrounded Ange. Ange... had no blades to fight with. She could only cling to her brother's dead face, saying his name over and over.
"This is a surprisingly boring ending. I guess this is checkmate."
The eight snake heads... all attacked at once. Ange held her brother's dead face, thinking about his final words...
My very first wish... That could only be one thing...
BGM: Worldend (solo)
That fueled my life for 12 years, until I was finally worn out and abandoned my own hope. And, in exchange for the hope I'd abandoned, I searched for the truth. Then, at the end of the truth, I was forced to see a brutal ruthlessness that I didn't need to, and as a result, I was faced with the true despair of knowing that no one would come home. The final hope, which I had abandoned but hadn't been able to let go of completely, was crushed.
The Single Truth. If only I didn't know that, I might still be able to hold that faint hope.
If you have strength in your heart, you can still have it.
Remember... your very first wish.
BGM: The Sin
Battler was coughing. Impossible. His whole body had been pierced, and he had been completely dead. For him to cough would be too much of a miracle to be possible.
"What?!! Why?! Battler died!! So why, why was he revived?!"
Battler rose to his feet slowly. Though blood still dribbled from his mouth, his expression was fearless. However, Ange didn't stand up. She kept sitting, her head lowered.
"Wh, what in the... why, my master?! The dead can't revive!!"
"Impossible!! Battler is dead!!! How can he revive?!"
"...Onii-chan... is alive..."
"I've used the red truth!! I've said that Battler is dead, right?! So why, how did he come back to life?!?!"
"Even if the whole world says he's dead, I'll be the one person in the world who believes... Onii-chan is alive. And, someday, he'll come back to me."
"That's right. As long as you don't lose that hope, there's no miracle that can be crushed!"
"Y, you stand before the Witch of Miracles, and you speak of miracles yourseeeeeeeeeelf?!! Uuuuurrrrrgggggggghghh, swallow them, grind them up, erase both siblings noooooooooooooooww!!!"
The eight wriggling snake heads transformed into a massive whale jaw... and swallowed everything.
"There is someone. Everyone... will protect me."
The cruel whale of mystery that tried to swallow everything... was gouged deeply by a massive wedge. This deeply pounded wedge could only be used by those who had talent and a deep love for mysteries.
The woman who stood back to back with Battler, launching stakes... was very, very clearly...
"Beato?!?! How?! Your death has been announced with the red truth!!"
"...Just what is your red truth...?"
"The red truth is absolute!! A perfect truth, which no one can overturn no matter how hard they try!!"
"Even if the whole world gets together... and denies the truth about my family... even if that's forced in front of my eyes as the Single Truth, I won't acknowledge it. After all..."
Ange slowly rose to her feet. Around her, the shapes of people slowly appeared, and they also rose to their feet. One after another, a whole crowd of them. They were... Ange's family, her relatives. Everyone from Rokkenjima. That wasn't all. Everyone from the Golden Land, all of the fantasy creatures appeared, and following Ange's lead, they rose to their feet. Then, all of them glared at Bernkastel.
"...Y, you... weren't you just a Witch of the Future...? Just a powerless witch who could only shed tears of regret for the past...?!"
"I am the Golden Witch, ANGE Beatrice. My titles are the Golden, the Endless, and the Witch of Resurrection."
"...You've reached it, haven't you, Ange?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Onee-chan. After all those long years, I've finally reached it."
"I always knew you would be able to reach it."
"Thanks, Onii-chan. I've accepted it. Accepted what your last game was trying to teach me."
"Disappear, stupid delusions!!! I can't... I can't accept something like thiiiiiiiiiiis!!!"
They were the same as the marks left by Bernkastel's great snakes. However, the glow inside these... was gold. Then, they wriggled, combined into one single mass, and transformed into an eagle with two wings. It wasn't one-winged anymore.
Those spread wings... made Bernkastel and the whale shrink back.
"The Ushiromiya eagle never looks back."
"And it never gives up...!!"
The golden eagle easily swallowed the blue whale with its wings, grinding it to bits. And it didn't let the whale's master escape either. It was now Bernkastel's turn to run. Bernkastel didn't fight the golden eagle. She couldn't. In this world of Ange's, where even the red truth couldn't hurt anyone, just what sort of attack could have any effect?
She frantically ran this way and that, throwing one wedge of red truth after another at the Ushiromiya family.
She repeated this over and over again, but no one fell down. Ange wouldn't accept it, so they couldn't pierce anyone.
"Th, this is... Can Endless Nine really do this...?! E, even the red truth... doesn't work?!! Just what is this golden truth?!! What kind of golden truth could defeat red truth...?!!!"
"A believing heart. This is 'our' consensus. Compared to the truth that we all acknowledge and share, your red truth can't hurt anything."
"...So long, Bernkastel! This time, it's really checkmate."
"I... I... won't accept this, I woooooooooooooooooooooon't!!!"
It then slammed into the vast ceiling... and there was an incredible explosion accompanied by an earthquake. From the cracked ceiling, along with many falling chips, a single black cat plummeted... and slammed against the floor.
Erika ran up to it, repeatedly calling out to her master, hugging it. Then, she realized that it was still breathing, and simultaneous expressions of relief and shock rose to her face.
"...Don't worry. I won't let you lay a finger on my truth, and in the same way, I won't lay a finger on your truth either."
"...She looks like a wet mop."
"Call it a free scolding for her own good."
"Beato. Don't act too cozy with my big brother. I still haven't accepted your relationship, got it?"
"*cackle*cackle*! It was your own foolishness to revive me! It's too late. My charming subordinates and I will be tormenting you until the day you die!! And I'll make you watch Battler flirt with me every day!!"
"Wow, this is pretty convenient. Looks like this resurrection magic has an off switch."
"Wha... wai... An...!!"
Beato kept appearing and disappearing like a lightbulb turning on and off. Ange seemed to be enjoying herself.
"Go easy on her, Ange."
"Sure. If you say so, Onii-chan."
"Ange, you're incredible!! Uryu-!!"
"Ange-sama!! Congratulations on becoming a Witch of Resurrection!! This way, we'll all... be with you forever!"
"Yeah, that's right. Everyone. The anti-magic toxin doesn't matter one bit. You'll be with me for all eternity."
"Nice, Ange. Well said!!"
Everyone surged forward, squishing Ange. They tried tossing her into the air, but dropped her onto her butt, and everyone laughed. Ange looked a bit resentful, but when her brother lent her a hand, she got up and joined the circle of smiles...
A quiet applause greeted them. Featherine, their witness, had acknowledged their victory and was clapping for them.
BGM: Engage of Marionette
"There is no need to be so hostile. I am congratulating you."
Featherine smiled serenely. Then, the cat overlords broke their positions in their constellation and lined up behind her. It was clear that this was not only a peaceful action, but part of a solemn ceremony.
"You have defeated my miko. And I thank you for sparing her life. As you can see, she was my cute pet cat, who never ceased to save me from boredom. If she died, boredom would overcome me as well."
The true strength of this being, who referred to Bernkastel as a pet cat, had already been made clear during her fight with Lambdadelta. Even so, Ange spoke.
"...I... won't forgive you for killing Lambdadelta."
"My, that doesn't sound like the words of a Witch of Resurrection. Can you not revive her whenever you wish?"
"Huh? I can revive her...?!"
"It's okay! I'm sure that Lady Lambdadelta has been revived somewhere, thanks to your power. There is no need to worry."
"Indeed. She has already been moved to the audience seating I prepared for her. Do not fear. I will take good care of her."
"Really?! That's... wonderful..."
Ange finally relaxed and let the tension leave her whole body.
"Well now. Battler. You are now the sole Game Master of your final game."
"...True. That cat of yours will probably retire after that."
"Perhaps you should carry on with the final ceremony of your game... My miko is as forgetful as a cat, but she can sometimes be as persistent as one. I suggest getting it over with quickly."
"...Yeah. I'll take that suggestion."
"I shall be your witness and write a detailed account."
BGM: Thanks for all people
Battler nodded silently. Then, he stepped out of the crowd and motioned for Ange to follow him. As Ange passed by each member of the Ushiromiya family, they cheered her on, giving words of encouragement. Battler took out the golden key and handed it to Ange. It now had the same glint it had possessed when he had first given it to her.
Then, two doors appeared out of thin air on either side of them. They had a stately design, making it clear that this was a very important decision.
"...Am I supposed to pick one without any hints?"
"Of course not. I'll give you a hint. By now, it should be an easy puzzle. A simple puzzle with two answers. And you'll choose your answer by opening one of the doors."
"I see... Okay. So this is a continuation of that Halloween party. I fell asleep during that party, didn't I? I'm glad to finally wrap that up properly."
"Beato. Come forward."
"*cackle*cackle*. This is your fault for falling asleep before my puzzle. I'm glad I've gotten a chance to tell it."
"Sorry about that. It sounds like it'll be pretty tough."
"Uryu-! You'll be fine, Ange!"
"Kihihihihihi, I wonder about that."
"*cackle*cackle*! Prepare yourself. It's a tough one!"
"...Calm down, Ange. It's an easy puzzle. Do you remember what your brother told you at the very beginning, about how to choose the best possible option...?"
"Battler, you're giving too many hints. This is the triumphant return of Lady ANGE, Witch of the Future. All you have to do is watch over her."
"...True. Then I'll hand it over to Beato. I'm counting on you."
"Indeed. Then let us begin."
Ange gulped, then stared up at the witch's face.
Then, she slowly spread her fingers.
"Look carefully at my palm. I'm not hiding anything, correct?"
"...Yeah. There's nothing there."
"Watch closely. I'll make a fist, and then stretch out my index finger."
She stretched out her index finger and held it right in front of Ange's eyes.
"Watch the tip of my finger closely. Ready? It'll be fast."
The witch rapidly lifted her index finger high into the air, pointing at the heavens. Just as Ange looked up to see the finger raised high, it swung down as though trying to dodge her gaze. In that manner, up, down, left, right, then left again. Ange, feeling as though she'd lose if she couldn't keep up with the fingertip, swung her face this way and that, looking serious.
The witch's hand moved faster and faster. Ange didn't lose track of it. Then, after the high pointing finger was swung down all of a sudden, the index finger curled up again, and the hand was held in a simple fist.
"Ready? I'm going to open my hand..."
And there... was a cutely wrapped candy.
"Was this a trick or magic? That is my puzzle for you."
"Go ahead, Ange. Give your answer. Is this a trick or magic...?"
I... know. I know what the answer is.
"If your answer is 'magic', open this door. If it's 'a trick', then open that door."
I had already decided my answer.
My friends. You have traveled far, and learned everything there is to know about this tale. I'm certain that you already know the answer as well.
Is it a trick, or is it magic?
2. Which ending would you rather see first?