Part 34: ???? II
...Of course, Beato was nowhere to be found. It was just me... isolated and alone. That's alright. Even so, I won't stop thinking.
Okay then. What were Knox's Commandments again...? I'm sure Dlanor explained most of them when slamming me with them. Of course, even I recall them vaguely. What was... the first one, again...?
When I muttered about what the first one was... As if answering my question, Dlanor's subordinate appeared. Without bothering with an unnecessary 'hello', she told me nothing more or less than what I wanted to know.
"...Yeah, that's it. The 1st. The culprit has to be one of the people mentioned in the early part of the story."
In other words, does that mean the culprit must have appeared already... by the first game...? True, that is the most basic of basics in the mystery genre. A given.
...A given...? Have I really... kept that as a basic assumption...? With each new game, the number of people in this tale keeps increasing. That violates the closed circle rule. By that point, everything gets screwed up. Did I give up on the inside, thinking that the true culprit or mastermind must not have shown up yet and that reasoning was therefore useless...?
If I read this tale as a fantasy, new characters keep showing up to the point where even having demon kings or gods or creators appear wouldn't be strange at all. Even if the true mastermind first appears in one of the last Episodes, I'd have to accept it. However, if I read it as a mystery and stick with that conviction... Then there's no need to worry at all about anyone who shows up later. Because Knox's 1st clearly states that it's impossible for the culprit to be anyone who appears later on in the story.
However, this is one way of thinking. This time... I'll forget about the Devil's Proof completely... and try to borrow the power of the Decalogue in my thinking. After all, I've already said myself that I won't be able to reach the truth without a multi-angled outlook.
...Even the first of Knox's commandments... denies the existence of an unknown person known as the witch from the very start. If I had followed that in the truest sense... I might not have suffered so miserably in the 2nd game.
"Allow me to speak. Knox's 2nd. It is forbidden for supernatural agencies to be employed as a detective technique."
Dlanor's other subordinate appeared without a sound... and gave me an answer to my question. That's right. A detective can't go around using magic.
"So, if this is a fair battle... does that mean that, like the detective, the culprit also isn't allowed to use magic...?"
"Allow me to speak. Know that the interpretation is up to you."
"Yeah, that. Sure. I'll interpret it my way."
If this game is a battle between me and Beato... Then because this tale is solvable, no elements will appear which make it impossible to solve. In other words, things like magic mustn't appear. When they do appear, I shouldn't suspect that the mystery element is breaking down, but I should instead question why it was shown and suspect the witnesses and observers.
BGM: F Style
Depictions of magic, which couldn't exist in a mystery. By showing me that, she forced me to think that this tale wasn't a mystery, and therefore, that reasoning was impossible... and I surrendered... However, if I had believed unshakably that it was a mystery... It would have been completely obvious to doubt the witnesses who claimed to have seen it.
Also, at the end of the 1st game, it was revealed that this tale was passed on to people in the future by that message bottle. Someone had written about this crime... this tale. In other words, this tale is all part of a world which includes the personal opinions of an observer, namely, the person who wrote that message in a bottle. In other words, the observer isn't God. It's a human. Therefore, there's no guarantee that this description is truly impartial.
By the end of the 1st game, it had already been made clear that we've broken the constant premise of the mystery genre: that the story itself must be seen through the eyes of God. For that reason, it's possible to doubt even the observer, as well as the witnesses. If I could've doubted this much, then no matter how many seemingly unsolvable displays of magic appeared, I wouldn't have had to blindly accept them and give up...
...If I get obsessed with this, all of my reasoning will end here. However, I had to believe. I had to believe... that Beato was trying to fight me through this tale. Because it's a fight, that means I've been given a chance of winning. By giving me that... doesn't that mean... that reasoning is possible?
...This part... is tough. Unless I believe that the cruel witch took on the risk of losing to try and have a fair fight with me, I can't get past this part. Just like Virgilia said, it's just like love. If I can't believe that Beato is fighting me head on with everything she's got, I won't be able to reason any further than this.
...Sure, I'll acknowledge it. Unless we acknowledge that we 'love each other', we won't be able to get any further. When Virgilia ran out of patience with the two of us, shy and incapable as we were of acknowledging that out loud, she gave me that red truth instead.
...What the hell. It's like 'Satou-san in class A says he likes you~'. Like hearing a love confession via a friend...
...I really am... pitiful. Reasoning... is love. If we don't love each other, the reasoning won't start. In that case, how can we say that we love each other? 'If you think you can solve it, just you try.' 'You're incompetent, like hell you can solve it.' Yeah, according to George-aniki, you call that sort of thing 'tsundora'. Heheh, that brutal witch is finally starting to look a bit cute.
...If I meet her again, I wanna try saying 'You're such a tsundora'. If I meet her again, somewhere...
"Allow me to speak. Knox's 8th. It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not presented."
"Allow me to speak. Knox's 6th. It is forbidden for accident or intuition to be employed as a detective technique."
It must not be solved with clues that aren't presented. And, it must not be solved by relying on accident. If this tale is made in a way that it can be solved... We can read this the opposite way. In other words, clues must be prepared so that the case can be solved. And, it has to be made in a way that it can be solved without relying on an accident.
If I can believe that Beato is challenging me to a fair game where reasoning is possible... I can be sure of that. In other words, Beato has already left me clues, hints, and messages in this tale.
...It isn't from the Decalogue, but Erika or someone said this: There are three riddles to be exposed in a mystery.
All of this means that clues related to these three riddles are already present inside this tale. No, strictly speaking, it's like this: Because she wanted me to solve these three riddles, Beato scattered hints about. Though whether I'm capable of catching those or not is another matter...
Even if you think a riddle you propose is easy... it might be difficult for the person trying to solve it. In that case, it's only natural that there will be a difference in how difficult it is for either person. Therefore. As Beato goes through each successive game, she watches me closely... and tweaks the game as needed to get a good arrangement.
If I surrendered and lost the will to fight, the game would no longer remain on an even footing. Therefore, in order to make me regain my will to fight, from the 3rd game onwards, she set things up in a way that made it easier for me, giving me tips on how to fight and a few hints. Virgilia and Ronove obviously appeared so that they could help me. Also, though we still had the usual crazy magic shows, she gave me the metaphor of the Braun tube trial, as well as tips on how to fight back. I finally understood how to fight, and most likely, at the end of the 4th game... Beato managed to have the all-out showdown with me that she had probably wanted.
...Then, Beato acknowledged that my abilities had become full-fledged, and entrusted me with her heart... entrusted me with explaining this tale, didn't she... In that case, it was really dumb of me to boycott most of the 5th game just because I was so disgusted with those two witches...
All I need is to search for the truth in Beato's game. On the contrary, I should probably... thank those two witches just a little for continuing the game in Beato's place, now that she's gone and left everything to me. Of course, I doubt those evil witches were trying to do anything of the sort...
Culprit. Crime. Motive. The answers to those three ultimate riddles... the hints... must be scattered throughout the previously shown tales. It's probably a very faint light, like trying to find beads that have fallen onto a sandy beach. They're definitely there. However, they're so faint that unless I believe strongly, there's no way I'll be able to find them.
"Please. Allow me to speak."
"...What is it...?"
Video: And Then I Knew
"...Right now... through this tale..."
"Know that for reasoning to be possible, a trusting relationship is required."
"...Yeah, I know. In fact, ..maybe I finally noticed just now."
It's something that has been repeated over and over again throughout the tale... persistently so.
Slowly, the tea room dissolved into darkness... Then, as though I was slowly sinking into a pitch black sea, I passed through the crevice of the long journey I'd taken with Beato... and kept on falling and falling... It was a bizarre experience... like crossing over the boundary of sleep while still conscious. The several tales before became faint bubbles... no, were they small shining Fragments? And were scattered like stars amidst a pitch black sky.
I kept sinking on and on... into that sea...
The tales up until now... one after another... after another...
Vergilius guided Dante to Mount Purgatory, and brought him below the feet of the eternal lady who waited at the top, Beatrice. Therefore, the innermost depths lay not at the bottom, but at the peak of Mount Purgatory.
The eternal lady... had been waiting there for Dante... the whole time...
...To the depths, no... to the peak... of Mount Purgatory...
...Idiot... You... really are... an idiot...
He woke from the sleep of death, and bit by bit... his sense of pain came back to him... On Battler's face, which still looked up at the heavens as he hung there pierced by the longsword, a suffering and alive expression gradually returned...
Battler... noticed. The whole time, Beato had been snuggling up against him... sleeping.
And when he held her, he knew... that it was not Beato... but her crumbling... remains.
So, when Battler just tried to hold that form as fragile as ash, just like a sand castle made on a beach... which has been washed away by a small wave... it fell apart and lost its form... At Battler's feet... lay nothing but the ragged remnants of Beato's dress... and a pile of ash. No, on top of that pile of ash... he could see something sparkling gold.
It was... the husk... of a single gold butterfly... which had been torn to bits... And so, Battler... knew...
I've... definitely reached the truth... However, I wasn't able to do it... while Beato still remained in this world...
I've finally... reached the truth of this crazy riddle you've created... Just... like you wanted...! I didn't lose heart... and I finally... made it there in the end... So why... did you lose heart... without waiting for me...? You believed so strongly, didn't you...? That I'd... definitely reach the truth... So, why...? Why... couldn't you believe with me... and wait...?
You aren't the one who's been forcing an endless torture on someone else. It's me...! I've been the one putting you through a cruel torture...! You resisted until the very end and kept on protesting to me... And even though... I've now finally... reached that truth... To think that you... couldn't wait any longer... and that it's all too late...
It's my... fault...
I forced her to endure this torture. In fact, she's been doing a wonderful job sticking through it for so long... Over and over and over again, you kept on protesting to me, and because I was so incompetent... it was as though I couldn't understand the truth.
His scream of pain... filled the sad cathedral...
The sad witch who wasn't able to let Battler know of the truth. The sad man who wasn't able to understand the witch's truth. Battler's howl of anger and sadness rang out for that pair...
The clock hung in the cathedral showed that it was 24:00 on October 5th, 1986. Time was up... for everything...
You're kidding me... don't set something like a time limit on this difficult riddle you're so proud of...
You prayed for and bet on the power of a miracle... one so unlikely that it was totally impossible, less likely than finding a bead you've dropped on a sandy beach... And that means I've now truly arrived at that miracle. However, your time... didn't last long enough... If I had reached this point even a little sooner... If I could have seen the truth...!! Even if it had been right before time was up, I might... have been able to save you...!! But right now, I've been run through pathetically. I can't... even hold what remains of you...!
As I attempted to pull the longsword out, I tried stretching out my arms and kicking my feet, struggling to at least touch her remains... but nothing worked.
...At that time, I noticed a golden glint on the palm of my hand.
That small Fragment of gold... was the only piece of Beato... that I was permitted to touch...
I cried with all my strength, gripped that Fragment... and pressed it against my head, apologizing. Why couldn't I reach the truth earlier...? Then I pressed it to my chest, promising that even now, I would never again lose... the truth...
When I pressed my hand against my chest, the sword piercing my chest cut my wrist, and blood dribbled out. That blood spread throughout my fist... and it must have... soaked that gold Fragment with my red blood. It must have been... the only way of telling her... that I'd found the truth she had wanted me to know about... I clutched the wing of the gold butterfly... with my freshly bleeding hand... and pressed it against the red sword which pierced me...
At this point, Ushiromiya Battler... knows. And he understands. He's found... this tale's... everything...
At that time, it seemed as though... a faint golden light leaked out of the gaps in his clenched fist. The two witches had their backs turned, and Erika was laughing at Battler's corpse.
At that time, Battler's chest... no, the red longsword that pierced Battler... began to sparkle gold from deep within his chest...
"...What's going on...?"
"B, Battler is... what... is this...?!"
Battler coughed up blood and groaned. His consciousness... came back. His will to live, his will to fight... came back...
The red longsword which pierced Battler... could no longer be described as such. By now, it had become a golden longsword. Then... slowly... slowly... it pulled itself out of Battler's chest...
It finally pulled itself out of Battler and started dancing through the air... then stood up in front of Battler's eyes as though it knew who its master was. Battler, crawling on the floor and moaning, grabbed the golden longsword... and though it looked painful, he slowly... rose to his feet once again.
"Th, that glow... i, it couldn't be..."
Lambda stared wide-eyed at that bright golden glow in awe... When she noticed that Battler's resurrection wasn't part of a script Lambda had thought up, Bern also frowned slightly...
"...Sorry. Retrials will not be permitted. Chiester Sisters, eliminate this resurrection illusion..."
"Understood. 45, 410, firing permission granted."
"...999, you say... impossible...!"
The Chiester Sisters hesitated, unable to carry out Bernkastel's orders...
"Lambda. What kind of farce is this? The Illusion of the Witch has been completely destroyed, and the trial ended with our victory."
"...Sorry, Bern. You'll have to stick around a bit longer."
"Isn't that right, Ushiromiya Battler...?"
"Request for a retrial accepted. The assembly of witches retracts the adjournment of the Court of Illusions!!"
"O, objection. The trial has already been concluded and the results have even been announced...!"
"Objection overruled...!! All verdicts are overshadowed by new truths!!"
"Objection!! Not only has Battler been banished as a player, he also doesn't hold the rank of witch...! He isn't qualified to call for an appeal...!"
"...Wh, what did you say...? B, Battler got... the rank of a witch...?!"
The rank of a witch, which she had desired for so long, had been granted to Battler so quickly. And on top of that, this wasn't anything temporary. This was an official, proper authorization by Lambdadelta. Erika couldn't accept it, and her face turned bright red...
"...Hmph, hehehehehhahaahahahahahahaaah!! Looks like that kid's game really will keep us entertained until the very end...! Sure, I'll play along...!"
"O, of course, my master...!! There's no need to worry at all!"
"Anyway, Chiester Sisters, my master ordered you to fire, right?! How long is it gonna take you to carry that order out?!"
"E, error code 999! A, an access code is required to target the territory lord...!"
"...Nyeh. I told you he'd do it nyeh."
"Territory lord...?! Who is?! Who controls this Fragment?! I do...!!"
"...Territory lord... You don't mean... Battler is...?"
"Yes. Ushiromiya Battler has been authorized as the official territory lord of this Fragment...!"
"That means Battler's understood everything about this world, this tale, this game."
"...In other words, he's reached the position of the game's master. *giggle*, I'll bet you don't want to believe it, right, Bern?!"
"Yeah, I don't want to believe it...!! Okay, I'll test Battler to see whether he really understands everything...!! Erika!"
"Too bad, Erika. Just when you were finally appointed as the territory lord of this Fragment, you've been deprived of that title."
"The new territory lord of this Fragment is Ushiromiya Battler. *giggle*, is it awful? Hey, hey, don't you feel just awful?! How's it feel to be deprived of that title just when you'd finally gotten it?! How's it feel?!"
Battler spoke with the red truth allowed him by his status as a sorcerer.