Part 159: Magic Ending
I walked over to the door that represented the answer I had chosen. Then, I put the golden key into the keyhole, and turned to face everyone.
"...That's right. Sorry."
I gripped the key tightly and twisted. Then, the key and the door flashed brilliantly... and slowly faded away. Beyond the door... was a strangely colored space. If I step into this, I'll reach the future I chose. Before taking that single step, I spoke without turning back.
"The Ushiromiya eagle never turns back. So I won't turn around, but I'll say this! Thank you, everyone. But this isn't goodbye! I'll always be with you all!!"
"Yeah. You won't turn back. But we'll always be standing behind you."
"...That's not it!! Despite it all, I still believe. I'm positive... that everyone will come back!!"
"That is good. Ange. I look forward to the day when we all meet again."
"Ange, my adorable granddaughter. We may be away for some time. Here, don't forget this. It's your prize from that quiz party."
"...This was lying next to me when I woke up on the sofa, wasn't it? This was... my prize."
"Take it back to the future with you, and treasure it."
I... took a step forward. Forward... into the future.
I might have had my eyes closed for a very long time. Even the sparkles below me... seemed blindingly bright.
The wind was cold. However, it told me that I had returned to reality. I was standing with one foot outstretched... over the sea of light below me. How long have I been here? Since the moment I was lured by Bernkastel, just about to take a step off the edge, time has probably been stopped for me.
I slowly... pulled my foot back in. Then, I leaned against the fence and sat down. The sky... was far away. But so was the ground. This whole time, I've been in this sad place, so far from both of those worlds.
I can't... go to the sky. In that case, I have to return to my world.
"And the elevator is probably the way to go. I've had enough skydiving. Yeah, there really is no chance. No chance of me jumping down from here and surviving by some miracle."
Some Witch of Miracles has already guaranteed with certainty that such a miracle couldn't happen, after all.
Then, I finally noticed them. The guards that President Okonogi had assigned to me. They were approaching the fence with forced smiles and sweat dripping down their faces, trying not to startle me. That's right. I got away from these guys before jumping off, didn't I?
"W, well, as far as that... goes..."
"...Sorry. If I jumped, I guess you'd really catch it from Okonogi-san."
"Ange-san... it's dangerous there. For now, please come back to this side..."
"Let me stay here a bit longer. It's okay. I won't get any sudden ideas. Does one of you have a cell phone?"
"I want to talk to Okonogi-san about something. Would you mind calling him?"
The guards looked at each other, then rushed to take out their cell phones. They were worried that I might get annoyed and jump off, leaving them to take the blame.
"Th, the president has picked up... Here..."
"Thanks. Hello, Okonogi-san? Yeah. Sorry for calling all of a sudden. No, it's excellent news. A bit of an early Christmas present. I'm giving all of the Ushiromiya group to you. That's right. In exchange, I have a few things I want."
As she gazed down at the sea of stars spread out on the ground below her, Ange spoke. She spoke of how she would live from now on. Ushiromiya Ange's strange and mysterious adventure... ends here. But my life will continue. After all, there's already something for me to do.
I am ANGE Beatrice, witch of Mariage Sorciere.
As Ange opened the door and vanished from sight, the residents of the Golden Land disappeared as well. Afterwards, only Battler could still be seen. He had now finished doing everything he could for Ange...
"...Close the door. I believe there was some rule about closing this door?"
"Yes, that's right. The rule said that you needed two people to close it."
"Hey, Aunt Eva."
"I told you to stop talking to me like I'm an old lady!"
The two of them stood to the left and right of the door that Ange had vanished through.
"Ange. Let there be happiness in your future."
"After all, we'll always be with you."
Then, the two of them held their hands out in front of them. As they did, a door popped into existence and closed. Then, the door itself faded away...
"...And now, we have completed our role."
"Yeah. This marks the end of the pieces' purpose."
"You have worked hard, both of you. And with this, we shall clean up your game board."
BGM: The End of the World
At a glance, it looked as though the City of Books was starting to fall apart. But that wasn't it. Battler and EVA's world... was being cut off from the City of Books. The world broke apart bit by bit, and the ceiling would probably fall in soon.
"This is goodbye, Battler-kun."
"Yeah. See you later. And, someday, I'll leave Ange in your hands, Aunt Eva."
"At least at the end, try calling me EVA nee-san, will you?"
"See you later, Erika. Somewhere, someday."
"...Both Ange and I were Witches of Truth. So... just what was the difference between the two of us?"
"...Yes, what could it be?"
"I was... a witch who suffered through the truth. However, I turned my back from that truth. She, on the other hand, was a witch who continued to believe in her truth, even after learning the truth. If she was the real Witch of Truth, then what kind of witch was I?"
"That's right. You... aren't a witch."
"...<Good>. I'd forgotten."
"We'll meet again, someday. Wherever there's a crime, the detective's sure to be there, right?"
"Yes. When another crime occurs in the Ushiromiya family, I promise to appear."
"So long, great detective."
"So long, my rival. I look forward to the day when the two of us can cross blades again."
Those... were the final words the two ever spoke to each other.
A terrible roar and a cloud of dust blew by, covering everything. And then, everything vanished. Nothing remained. Battler and EVA were both gone. The City of Books was wrapped in silence.
"Yes, Great Lady Aurora."
"...You will take care of my pet cat. Now, I shall go too. There are some things that must be cleaned up in this world as well."
Before too long though, the crowd exploded with a shower of questions about what she meant by this.
"Th, that's... too cruel...!!"
"You can't do this after dragging us along this far!!"
"Madam Hachijo, we have come from far and wide to see it, correct?! How can you... do this now?!!"
"A, a fraud, this is all a fraud...!!"
"Was it really Ushiromiya Eva's diary? Are you sure it wasn't a fabrication you created?!"
"You think you can get away with something like this?!! Show us the book!!!"
"Children of men can be so hideous. Neither you nor I have the right to read what lies in there. However, now that I think of it, this has been quite an entertaining show. Children of men who disturb the sleep of the dead and spread rumors for their own entertainment can be quite amusing, at times like this. Let us go, Bern. I have had my share of entertainment for the night..."
A black cat jumped onto Hachijo's shoulder, and she disappeared off to the side of the stage, the Book of the Single Truth in her arms. Only the angry yells of the massive crowd remained...
And so, the people began to lose interest in Ushiromiya Eva's diary, even doubting whether it was the real thing. Though the weekly magazines were in an uproar over Hachijo Toya's apparently fraudulent claims, there were some who began to say that the Rokkenjima mystery itself was an indiscreet desecration of the dead. It wasn't likely that Rokkenjima could rest in peace just because of something like this. However, people were slightly more hesitant to show open interest in the Rokkenjima mystery in public.
Rokkenjima will probably never find peace. However, even so, compared to how it was before, life will surely be easier. Because, as the years pass, the dust will slowly pile up on it where it lies in the depths of oblivion. At the bottom of the deep sea known as the depths of oblivion, the cat box of the witches will probably get slowly buried as the years pass.
With the tale of that golden rose, let us mark the end of this long story. In the darkness, there was a massive roar and an earthquake. When it passed, dawn began to rise over the endless night...
"We're in the wreckage of an old submarine base. Do you remember...?"
"It's where it all started."
"*cackle*cackle* The place where we first met, two generations ago."
"Hahaha. Sounds pretty romantic if you put it that way."
Battler and Beato... could be seen in the ruins of Rokkenjima's underground submarine base. The cave's mouth opened to the sea, and the gentle sound of the waves drifted in along with the cries of the seagulls. It seemed that the typhoon, which had closed off the island for two days, had finally gotten bored and gone away.
Of course, it wasn't from the time of the war. It was modern.
"Pile this up on the boat. It's heavy."
"Whoa. This is a gold ingot. I thought they all got buried."
"I thought something like this might happen, so I snuck this one out beforehand."
The single heavy gold ingot was dropped into the boat. I'm not sure how much this is worth by itself, but it must be quite a lot.
"Have you ever driven a motorboat before?"
"You're joking, right?"
"It's easy. I'll teach you."
She wasn't used to this, but after several mistakes, Beato finally got the engine started.
"If you go out that way and hop from island to island, you'll see Niijima before too long. Then, you can just land on a sandy beach."
"...Aren't you coming?"
"I cannot. I am the master of the Golden Land. I cannot leave this place."
"What's to be gained from staying?"
"What's to be gained from going?"
"...I cannot. I have already committed countless sins in countless worlds. The number of lives I have taken, sins I have committed... is too great."
"But you haven't committed any sins in our world."
"No, that is not true."
"Go. Go while I'm still in a good mood. Otherwise, I may seal the island in a storm again."
Battler suddenly spun around. When Beato turned around to see what was going on, her body was suddenly lifted into the air.
BGM: Thanks for all people
"L, let go...! Th, this isn't safe...!!"
"Enough screaming. Listen carefully, Beatrice."
"I'm going to kidnap you."
As Battler quietly gazed at her with serious eyes, Beato was lost for words.
"If you have sinned, then it's my sin as well for making you do it. So, let's carry your cross together."
"As long as I live, I'll carry your cross. Let's leave the Golden Land. You and me, together."
Beato was now too shocked to say anything at all. Then, tears poured from her eyes, and she covered her face. Battler gently set her down on the boat. He undid the mooring ropes. Now there was no longer anything tying this boat to the island.
Controlling the boat as Beato had taught him, Battler slowly guided it out...
As the seagulls flew this way and that, the feathers they dropped in the water seemed to celebrate the boat's departure. The brilliant sunlight told them that they were now free of the island's curse.
...The sky, now freed from the seal of the typhoon, seemed too bright to be real. Feeling hot, Battler took off his jacket. It was swept away by the wind and danced through the sky. However, instead of panicking, Battler just smiled as he watched it go. Beato also watched it go... No, she watched the island go. Rokkenjima, and the Golden Land she had spent a thousand years in.
"You will. You won't have a magical butler, but there's lots of conveniences out there in the world. There are all kinds of things you can't find on Rokkenjima. I'll... show you this world of ours."
"...Will I... be able to live...?"
Beato repeated the same words again. Battler knew what she meant. However, no matter what answer he gave, he wouldn't be able to resolve her problem now. However, there was a way to resolve it. Time... and heart. Little by little, bit by bit. Like a chain being cut by falling drops of water, he would have to sever the curse of the island gradually, over a long period of time.
It might take a long, long time. However, someday, she will be free. That's what I believe.
"I am the sinful witch, who toyed with hundreds of deaths on that island. Your world... is too brilliant for me."
"No, you have to live."
I answered immediately and forcefully.
"...Is that... truly the only way to atone for my sins?"
"That's right. And you'll definitely be able to do it someday. Trust me."
"Come on, don't look at me with teary eyes. It's embarrassing..."
"*cackle*cackle*... Forgive me. Then, at the very least, would you close your eyes?"
"Wh, why should I... Hey, your face is pretty close..."
"Foolish man... You ought to be cursed for taking the witch away from the Golden Land. That's why you must close your eyes."
"...I... it's... embarrassing for me too."
Then, they slowly drew back. He tried to open his eyes, but just got punched.
"Don't look, I told you not to look at my face!!"
"C, come on, what's there to lose...?!"
"You have no delicacy! Don't open them, not yet!! Why? B, because I want to kiss you again...!!"
The next kiss... was on his earlobe.
"H, hey, quit it...! Now this is getting really embarrassing...!"
He knew he'd get hit again if he opened his eyes, so he resisted with his eyes still shut. Then, after sighing and tickling his ear, Beato spoke in her usual cheerful, bullying voice.
"Yeah, I know. You're an evil, cruel witch."
"And so, I cannot atone for my sins. I'm the sort of witch who can cackle over hundreds of deaths...!"
"Ah, come on... But it's just like you to say that."
The Golden Witch had vanished... like a dream or an illusion. And... so had the single ingot they had carried with them.
BGM: Cocoon of White Dreams - Ricordando il passato
Men wearing suits were packing a heavy-looking attache case into its trunk.
"Let me handle all the rest. We'll take care all of the troublesome work."
"I'm counting on you. I'm sure Aunt Eva would be glad to entrust it to you, the person she trusted most."
BGM: Song without a name (Instrumental)
Ange's expression... was peaceful. It was hard to imagine that this was the same person who had always looked so dark to Okonogi.
"...In her later years, the company president was very ill. She might have said some fairly harsh things to you, but I don't believe that was how she truly felt."
"I know. Even I said things I shouldn't have on my bad days."
"You think so?"
"...I thought you would never forgive the president as long as you lived."
"You're the one who taught me, Okonogi-san."
"I did? Did I say something?"
"Did I say something that pretentious? Hehhahahahahahahaha."
"It's been a long journey. It really has been a long journey, all just to understand what you told me that day."
Of course, Okonogi understood. He understood that, in her heart, this had been a long journey.
"Contact me when you decide on a new home and account. I won't let you want for anything."
"Any problems with the Sumadera family?"
"Leave that to me. We have your power of attorney as our rallying point. Thanks to that, the Ushiromiya group has a united front. Because of what you did, Ange-chan, the business built by the former president has been protected. I truly believe she would be joyful at your decision."
"I'm just making you deal with all the hard stuff."
Since there was no clear successor, the group had been in danger of splitting. Amidst this, Ange, who had inherited a large portion of the group's stock, was closely watched to see how she would act. However, since Ange had shown no interest in any of this, and had gone around talking about things like selling all their assets and donating everything to some charity, the group had grown very shaky indeed. There was even a chance that an outsider, such as the Sumadera family, would step in and destroy the Ushiromiya group. As disturbing as it may seem, it's a fact that some even wished for the center of all this trouble, Ange, to disappear...
...However, because Ange had a change of heart and decided to help do what was best for the Ushiromiya group that Eva had brought together, the worst-case scenario had been avoided. Okonogi had been named as Ange's successor. Now that he had Ange's trust, there was no more reliable ally to be had. Okonogi himself had certain plans he could carry out based on the knowledge that Ange trusted him. Okonogi, who had carried great responsibility in the Ushiromiya group thanks to his position as Eva's closest confidant, was the most natural choice to be Eva's successor, and thanks in part to his ability, everything had now been wrapped up smoothly. This way, the Ushiromiya group was secure. By now, the Ushiromiya group was the only thing other than Ange herself to hold the Ushiromiya name, so she might have thought of it as her last tie to her family.
"Thanks. Just knowing I have a place to go back to, I can set off on my journey in peace."
"What are you going to do from now on?"
"I'm going to become an author."
"An author? To write novels?"
"It doesn't matter what. It could be novels or picture books. If I have any skill at drawing, maybe I'll do a manga. What I do doesn't matter. As long as I can share my heart with someone."
"...Sounds like you've set a noble task for yourself. I'll be praying for your success."
"Thanks. If I manage to publish a book, I'll send you a copy."
"I look forward to it."
The car's trunk was closed with a clunk. Apparently, all of her luggage had been loaded.
"Ah, yes, allow me to introduce you to the driver. He's a protege of mine. He is trustworthy, and you can rely on him for anything. Oh, and he worked as a guard for the old president for many years, so you might recognize him."
"...As long as it isn't Amakusa."
Achoo! The man walking out of the driver's seat sneezed.
"Hey, Amakusa, just what have you done to her?"
"...Well, he was always the most flippant of Aunt Eva's guards. I was hoping for pretty much anyone else."
"But he was also the one closest to you, wasn't he?"
"...At least listening to him talk can be pretty entertaining."
"The boss assigned me to be his contact with you. If you ever get into any sort of trouble, just let me know."
"And what if I ask you to go buy me toilet paper?"
"Then I'll buy you some feminine hygiene products to go with it."
"...See? The guy's a creep."
Okonogi guffawed. I got into the back seat.
"I guess this is the last time anyone will call me by that name."
"Let me know when you've decided on a new one."
Okonogi patted the roof of the car. At that signal, Amakusa honked the horn and removed the hand brake...
"So, until you've decided on a new name, I guess I'll be calling you Lady."
"That's fine for now."
"...Okay. Where are we going? North? South?"
"Why don't we try leaving the main island? I'd suggest Hokkaido. Huge meadows, giant clouds! A novelist writing stories in a log cabin... Sounds awesome."
"Great, let's head south. I was planning to do the opposite of whatever you said anyway."
"Heheh, that's pretty harsh."
"I'd like to go someplace hot. A town with a view of the sea."
Ange closed her eyes. Things had been pretty crazy lately, and she was tired...
"Understood. By the time you open your eyes, we'll be in an unfamiliar land. But it'll be a warm town with a view of the sea."
"Can't wait to see... what you choose."
The car got onto the freeway. It was surrounded by the great river of cars heading east and west. By now, no one could tell which point was the car she rode in.
Changing her name didn't mean that she had given up on being Ange. This was Ange's... No, ANGE Beatrice's mission.