Part 38: Game Master
Now, however, an unusually large number of people were present.
BGM: The Great Detective Knows
"...I don't care what... as long as it's fun enough to relieve my boredom as I crush it."
"Leave everything to me, my master! I will perform to my fullest and give you the results you desire!"
"Yeah, you'd better. I kept making strange faces all the time last game thanks to you... Thought I might start getting wrinkles."
"Th, there's no need to worry. The beauty of my master's face is without peer, no matter how wrinkly it may get."
"Eheheheh! It's rare to see Bern in such high spirits. Beato's game board really is something else."
"A tiger dies and leaves behind its hide. Looks like Beato has died and left behind her game."
"Even though chess still exists, no one knows the name of the person who invented it."
"Oh, you're right! Kyahahaha, poor game inventors!"
"Come to think of it, Battler-san has really kept us waiting, hasn't he? Is he still setting up the sixth game?"
"...Gertrude. How have Lord BATTLER's preparations PROGRESSED?"
"Please, allow me to speak. Know that he will be finished very soon."
"If he's kept us waiting this long, he must be pretty confident in his plan. He really humiliated me in front of my master last time. I'll defeat him no matter what it takes...!"
"And you in particular! Make sure you don't screw up again...!"
"...I will meet the challenge with all of my strength."
However, in order to prove it, Battler would have to run this game by himself and carry it through to completion. In other words, if Erika could crush this game of Battler's, she would, in effect, wipe away the dishonor of that last game. Though Erika was chomping at the bit to get started, it was taking Battler quite some time to show himself.
At that time, a swarm of gold butterflies popped into existence and formed a human shape. From the shape of that familiar dress, everyone immediately realized who it was.
Video: The Reborn Beatrice
BGM: The Candles Dance
"Ah, look, it's Beatrice-san. And I thought you'd died and disappeared last time."
"...Beatrice the player is the one who died last time. This is probably just a piece... Battler's piece."
"Even if she is a piece, it does not change the fact that it is HER."
Beatrice gave an elegant curtsy as she appeared. This humble entrance was so vastly different from her usual high-pitched laugh that it made the long-awaited start of the 6th game feel even more ominous than it otherwise would have...
"...Aha. Father? What's that? Is this some new scheme?"
Not only had Beato started talking in an unusually polite manner, she had also used the word 'Father'... probably referring to Battler. For an instant, everyone was stunned into silence, but they quickly realized that this was setting up some kind of scheme, and they grinned.
Beato wasn't the type who could keep up this kind of act for long. It would probably fall apart in a few seconds, leaving her laughing and cackling rudely at everyone. Erika, who was itching for a fight, went for Beato almost at once.
"I can't believe that incompetent Battler-san reached the truth of your game."
"...I'm sure Father understands it quite deeply. He really is good at that sort of thing."
"...You're pretty lucky, aren't you? If Battler hadn't become the Game Master, you wouldn't have revived again. Or maybe I should say you're really unlucky."
"Well, after all, I'm going to pay you back in full for last time."
"You're just one of Battler's delusions, so I'll erase every part of you and knock you down into the abyss of oblivion."
"I too cannot allow you such an easy victory. I, uh, look forward to having a good, clean fight."
By this point, everyone realized that something weird was going on. There was no doubt that the face, the dress, and the hair were all Beatrice's. However, her expression was different. Even though she had Beato's face, Beato would never show anyone an expression like that.
"...Just who... are you?"
There was a heavy silence. Lambdadelta spoke for everyone there. At first, Beato had worn a smiling yet blank expression. However, when she realized that the mood had gone suddenly stiff, her expression finally darkened, and she hung her head.
BGM: Witch in Gold (cembalo)
"...You appear to be Lady Beatrice... but is that TRUE...?"
Even Dlanor was forced to ask despite the rudeness of the question. That was how much... this woman... who appeared to be Beato... was not.
"...Am I somehow different... from the Beatrice everyone was expecting?"
"What... are you talking about?"
"Wait a second, don't tell me you have amnesia or something...?"
"I, I was only born recently, so I have no memories at all. H, however, I will study hard... in order to become the Beatrice you all expect-"
Battler's voice came out of nowhere. His tone was very slightly cold. Beato's expression looked like that of a young girl being scolded.
With a swirl of gold butterflies, Battler appeared. His dignified bearing and appearance were fitting for the ruler of this game. However, his expression was gloomy... and his gaze was directed at Beato.
"I, I just wanted to help you however I could, Father..."
"Go. To your room."
He spoke both softly and forcefully. Battler didn't leave her any room for debate. Beato hung her head and curtsied as she prepared to leave the room...
"Y, yes, what is it, Father?"
"...My name is Battler. Never call me by another name again."
Beato melted into a swarm of butterflies and disappeared.
This was the first part of the tale with Battler as the Game Master. The witches had all expected him to come forward with some flashy, big developments, so they were all fairly confused. Their mouths were still hanging open.
"Pardon me. Please forget what you saw just now."
"Hmph, so, are you trying to trick us with this? You're scheming to give us the wrong impression, like another North Wind and the Sun strategy, aren't you?"
"...Is there something WRONG?"
"Don't worry about it. It has nothing to do with you people."
"I see. Then it's of no importance."
"Alright, Battler Please start up the new game right away! You've kept us waiting so long, it's gotten totally boring!"
"Sure, looking forward to it. What's the title?"
"...'Dawn'. As in, the Dawn of the Golden Witch."
"Of course, the winter sun is quick to sink back below the horizon."
"Of course, my master. I'll drag it back down for you right away."
"At least your title is <good>, Battler-san. I'll give you that much."
"I'm glad you like it. Then let's get started. The 6th game will now begin."
Battler solemnly announced the start of the game. Compared to his fired-up attitude at the end of the last game, where he and Erika had sworn to settle everything next time, he was extremely quiet now...
BGM: Look Back
"I'm surprised too. I don't have a clue what's going on. In fact, I don't even get why Beato's revived in the first place. I just finished reading it a second ago, but at the end of the previous tale, didn't she die just before Battler reached the truth?"
"There are two kinds of death in this world. One of them is when a piece is taken from the game board. This is only a death within the bounds of the game, and these lives can revive over and over again each time you start a new game."
"...And that's why the witches are so merciless when it comes to taking those lives..."
To the witch players, the lives of those characters who appear on the game board are no different from pieces on a chess board that take other pieces and get taken. After all, these pieces will be set up again when the next game starts.
"Maria's Sakutarou is a prime example of these."
"...Sakutarou is Onee-chan's piece...?"
Yes, that does make sense.
Though he's nothing more than a stuffed animal in the real world, on Onee-chan's game board, he is a full piece, no different from any other piece.
"But, I wonder. It might be easy to revive a piece on the witches' game board, but Onee-chan was unable to revive Sakutarou in her world."
"...That's because she lost that completely unique stuffed animal that was his vessel. Because of this, the conditions for that piece's existence were violated, and it became impossible to revive him on Maria's game board. The only reason you were able to revive Sakutarou on the game board was because you once again satisfied the conditions for his existence, correct?"
Maria onee-chan was only unable to revive him because she had lost the stuffed animal that was his vessel. If, like the rest of my family on Beato's game board, she hadn't needed a 'vessel' for him, she would have been able to revive him as often as she wanted.
"Got it. I see that Sakutarou might be considered Onee-chan's piece. At least, as long as his vessel was okay, he could have been revived over and over again."
"Correct. As long as his vessel is safe, he can be revived over and over again. That's what the life of a piece is like..."
"...That's the first kind of death in this world. What's the second?"
"Not the piece, but the real Onee-chan's death, right?"
"It doesn't have to be her death. Loss of interest or concern would have the same effect. When Maria grows up from playing with stuffed animals, then 'Maria the game player' will die. It's as quick and easy as turning off the switch on a TV when you get bored of it."
"...I see. In that case, 'Beato the player' completely gave up on winning during the last game, so she died and vanished. If so, and if Beato thinks she has a chance of defeating Onii-chan again, she'll come back to life, right?"
"Logically, that is true. It's the same for humans, witches, and even gods. If they lose interest and concern, they can die at any time. And if they regain that interest, they can revive at any time."
"...However, though the concept of time does not exist in the world of gods, who can revive whenever they want, time shoots by like an arrow in the human world, and it is not so easy there..."
"That's true. Skipping school for one day might not be a problem, but if you skip for three days in a row, it'd be really hard to convince yourself to go back."
"And what if that stretched out for a month, a year, a decade? What if it lasted for a thousand years, like the world of witches?"
"...I see. If you skipped for that long, it would mean your 'death' as far as society is concerned. If you remained dead for that long, not only would you be unable to catch up on all you missed in the world at large, you'd also lose any motivation you might've had when you left. So, even though you'd be alive, you could say that you'd died once. You would never again... be able to regain the self that you once were, It would never revive."
"Beato lost any chance or hope of winning. Even though she knew this, she pretended not to and kept on fighting for many, many games."
That Beato, who just sat around the whole time with empty eyes in the 5th game... must have been her corpse. She had managed to remain on the game board despite it all, but then even that corpse was wiped away... If Beato had been the Game Master at that time instead of Lambdadelta, the game board itself would have vanished at that moment, and everything would have ended.
Come to think of it, Beato started to lose the will to fight back near the end of the 4th game. When Beato loses her will to fight, the world of this game disappears. However, the witches wanted to keep playing in this game board world, so Lambdadelta bound Beato in place with the curse of that shackle. She used that shackle to make sure that the game board wouldn't disappear, even if Beato did lose the will to fight. In chess, this would be the equivalent of removing the set time limit for each turn, making it endless.
However, simply having the game endlessly paused on Beato's turn would cause the witches to die from their illness of boredom. That's why Lambdadelta took the position of Game Master. Starting then, Beato's existence was no longer one of the conditions necessary for the game to exist. That's probably why the shackles binding her to the game board were released. And that explains why she disappeared in the 5th game...
BGM: A Single Moment
"The 5th game was a form of charity on Lambdadelta's part. She merely showed Battler some mercy as the Witch of Certainty, acknowledging his strong desire to reach the truth no matter what..."
"...How can you call that charity? It's just those fickle witches killing time."
"...Let's get back to the point. So, that means this weird Beato isn't the player Beato. She's just a piece Beato."
"True. If that is the case, she should become the Beato everyone knows. I imagine that is the Beato that Battler wants..."
"...You mean, he wasn't satisfied with just a doll?"
When playing with dolls, one can project the personality they most desire onto the doll. However, since you are acting out their part, nothing unexpected can ever happen. You cannot hope for any unanticipated happiness. In the human world, there is nothing so boring as a pre-established harmony. That's why, though a doll can become a person's best friend in the world, people eventually get bored and outgrow them...
Onii-chan only wants the real Beato. He couldn't bear having a doll that only acted like Beato...
"She is a piece, so that's only natural. Pieces move according to their player's directions. And they are incapable of moving in any other way. I see what it is Onii-chan wants. Then, just who is this weird Beato?"
"...Battler might be trying to revive Beato in the truest sense. It is the never-dying dream held by children of man."
"You just used the red to say that wasn't possible."
"...'That Beato' has no chance of reviving. However, that doesn't mean that it is impossible for 'Beato' to be born again... Have you forgotten? I believe that Bernkastel herself revealed Beato's true form at the end of the 1st game..."
"...Now I remember. She said something about how Beato exists as the incarnation of the rules."
"Information began to be accumulated based around that rule, and in the end, it took the form of the witch known as Beatrice. If that pattern is followed once more, the same Beatrice will be born again, and perhaps one could call that a resurrection..."
"That interpretation is probably accurate... In short, this Beato is a chick that might become that Beato."
"And that means... this pure and lovable kid will eventually grow into that screwed up, crazy witch."
In other words, that Beato is a baby version of the Beato we all know. So, just like how no person is born evil, the newborn Beato isn't evil either. Even though she really is a different person, if you measure her by her basis... her soul... then maybe you really could call this a resurrection. However, this reality can't possibly be easy to accept. Though she may technically be Beato herself, she is also, without a doubt, a different person. And that way she acts... would make anyone feel as though something's out of place...
"How entertaining... Hearing you read aloud is far from boring."
"...I wonder if you even really need someone to read aloud for you. It looks like you already know everything."
"I only reached that thought because I am engaged in a conversation with you. My thoughts are more numerous than the stars in the sky. I only appear to know everything to a child of man like you."
"...However, without you here, I am nothing but a weak, sickly person without even the power to think..."
"If you'd just said that in the first place, I'd have agreed to read for you a lot more easily."
"...My mood just happened to improve. Don't get an over-swelled impression of yourself. I think of your life as nothing more than a leaf one has lost after using it as a bookmark..."
"'Please keep reading already'. Is that pretty much what you're trying to say? Ok..."
"Heh... Far from boring. You really do make an excellent miko."
Featherine rocked back in her rocking chair and looked up at the ceiling, laughing as though the conversation itself was pleasant for her. Ange was slowly figuring out how to deal with this strange witch.
...This person was also... bored. When a sick person has been in bed for a long time and gets too bored, they sometimes act in a rebellious way. On the other hand, they also get a little bored of being treated kindly all the time. She may want to be respected for her superiority, but it's probably more interesting for her when she's spoken to rudely.
...What a coincidence. That's exactly how I used to be.
BGM: Look Back
"It does seem so. It has caught my interest as well. Let's read her tale too."
"Oh, sure, as you wish, my master."
When Ange raised her hands like a conductor, the bookshelves in this bizarre study responded.