Part 40: True Feelings
The typhoon would be coming very soon. The clouds hadn't yet grown thick, but they were moving quickly.
The only thing on Natsuhi's mind was the plan to cover up Kinzo's absence this year as well. Krauss appeared to have suffered a stomach ache from the stress and was sleeping in his room. Jessica and Kumasawa had left in a boat to go shopping and greet the incoming relatives on Niijima. The servants had been busy since the early morning in preparation for the family conference, the greatest event of the year...
Shannon and Kanon were getting the guesthouse ready.
"Good point. It is a pain to clean up here as well. Even so, I like cleaning the guesthouse."
"Yeah, it's nice and quiet without Madam and all the annoying servants."
Shannon smiled bitterly as she performed a detailed examination of the guest room. Did we forget to clean anything? Do we need to restock anything? She diligently gave the room one final check over...
"You checked everything thoroughly last night too, didn't you? You really are dedicated."
"It's days like this that you tend to get pranked if you're careless. You can never find important things when you need them, and things that were supposed to be closed turn out to be open."
"That's because you're too careless. You don't pay attention while you work."
"I guess that's why you're helping me check. Thanks."
"...There's nothing to thank me for. If you were a bit more alert, I wouldn't have to help at all."
"...*giggle*. But the truth is, you just want to be with me, right? You're such a kid."
"Th, that's not it at all... It's all because you've been so ecstatic about George-sama lately. You're messing up so much, I can't let you out of my sight."
"*giggle*... Kanon-kun. Let's chat a bit."
"...We can't do that now. We're working."
"N, nothing's going on in particular. If you have time to talk about that, let's just finish this... wah-"
Kanon had--very obviously--been trying to change the subject. Shannon had then snuck up behind him and pushed him down onto the bed.
BGM: White Shadow
"...Because I have work to do..."
"Liar. You don't actually have any work at all."
Shannon and Kanon had switched roles. Normally, Kanon was the one in control, but when it came to romance, it was the opposite. As Shannon had said, Jessica and Kanon were supposed to have been the ones to go greet the relatives at the Niijima harbor. However, Kanon had suddenly claimed that he had work to do, so Kumasawa had gone instead. Kanon... didn't have any work to do. Shannon knew this...
"Milady told me. Despite what happened after the cultural festival, she really does like you, Kanon-kun."
"...Even though I'm... furniture..."
"That's right. And I'm furniture too."
"...But despite that, you're in love with a human. Even though that's impossible."
"You think so...? Maybe, we are furniture... just because we think that."
"I don't have any special feelings for Milady Jessica. I only think of her as the daughter of the family we serve."
"You know, there is a chance... that George-sama will propose to me tonight."
Shannon wore an incredibly peaceful smile on her face, but Kanon could tell that there was no way she'd let him change the subject. Kanon realized that she must have made him help out here in the guesthouse in order to talk to him about this, and he clicked his tongue softly...
"I think I can."
"That dream future that George-sama has imagined for you two... is something you can never give him."
"...We aren't humans. We're furniture, inferior to them. George-sama only thinks that you're human."
"...W, well, that is true, but..."
"I'm impressed that you've managed to trick him for this long. Do you really think you can keep tricking him like that forever? Even though you still haven't been able to tell him that you're furniture."
"...Being furniture or being human... has nothing to do with this. I believe that George-sama will accept all of me."
"And yet you don't have the courage to check and make sure."
As Shannon looked up at the ceiling, she spoke of the imagined future that she and George would create. Though some anxiety over the future appeared on her face, so did joy from discovering what it was like to live with love. As Kanon watched this vivid dream he was being shown, he knew that none of his words would reach Shannon anymore...
"...Hmph... You can just do what you want. Once you've said something, you're incredibly stubborn."
"Yep. I want to live life my own way. I'd like to stop being afraid, about who's furniture and who's a human."
Kanon walked over to the window silently. He saw the rose garden filled with boring, gray flowers in bloom...
He realized that Shannon was acting above her place. And he knew that her tale had no chance of a happy ending. However, he also knew that no words of his could change her mind now that she had made her decision.
BGM: Blue Butterfly
"What I want to know... is how you feel about Milady."
"...I have nothing to do with the two of you."
"Do you really... feel absolutely nothing, for Milady?"
"...No, I don't, as I keep telling you."
"Why do you think that's a lie?"
"I know. I'm your big sister."
"You don't know. You can't know what I'm feeling...!!"
"I do. I know everything about you, Kanon-kun."
"If you really do know, then why did you ask?! Aren't you completely satisfied and overwhelmed with George-sama?!! And anyway, I love you for being such a sincere person!! That's why... I'm rooting for you in the only way I can!! Otherwise, even I...!!"
Kanon finally turned to face her, honestly and openly telling her his real emotions. That was what Shannon had wanted to hear. And after hearing that, she closed in even further on Kanon's true feelings.
"You can't leave it at that. I won't let you."
"Then what should I do?!! What do you want me to say?!!"
"Don't try to dodge by saying 'I wanted to love her'. All you need to do is honestly tell me what you really feel."
"Milady is... too dazzling for me!! The way she lives is dazzling, like the sun!! That's why I love her...! I was so happy when Milady stretched out her hand and asked me to walk with her!! No, I still am happy!!"
"You love her, don't you?"
"Yes, I do!! I love Milady!!"
In fact, by saying it aloud, he finally understood how he truly felt. As passionate tears welled up in his eyes, Kanon finally accepted it... He couldn't stop the tears from dripping down his face.
"When you turned down Milady's confession, were you sad?"
"I was!! I never realized that a lie you make yourself could be so sad, so painful, so excruciating!! And I just couldn't forgive myself for hurting Milady with that lie!! I believed that I didn't deserve to ever fall in love again!!"
"But you did deserve it. You know what? Whether or not you deserve to fall in love is something that you decide for yourself. Being furniture or not has nothing to do with it. Once you decide that it won't work out, then it won't. You mustn't be so rigid. I gave myself, overambitious furniture that I am, the right to fall in love. So you're capable of it too."
"I'm capable of falling in love?"
"Yes. If no one else will give you that right, I will."
"...I'm certain of it... George-sama will propose, to me tonight."
"When he does, I will accept. I intend to leave this island and start a new life in our new world."
"If that's the path you've chosen, then I have no say in the matter."
"I'll leave this island, and after that... I'll never return again. I'll have to say farewell to you, Kanon-kun."
"...You're right. We won't... see each other again, will we?"
"If... if you do love Milady from the bottom of your heart, and if your feelings are at least as strong as my feelings for George-san, then you and I will have to settle whose feelings are really stronger."
"This way is best for both of us. Don't give up on your feelings for my sake."
"Even though my selfishness might keep you from your happiness...?"
"I'm fully aware of it. My happiness... is hurting you as well."
We have no choice but to hurt each other. As she said this, Shannon turned her back to Kanon... As Kanon watched Shannon from behind, he was struck by her strength... and the love she still felt for him despite everything.
"Me too. I wouldn't have lasted this long without you. And that's why I was able to meet George-san."
"Yeah. And I wouldn't have realized how dazzling Milady is... if it weren't for you."
"I won't abandon my emotions. I'll focus only on my feelings and ignore everything else, and I won't look away when I trample over your heart."
"...Me too. I won't use you as an excuse to hide the way I really feel."
"Whether my love bears fruit... or yours does. We will both rejoice in the result."
"Yes. I promise. And if I win, I will love Milady... and treasure you."
"Thank you. But if I win, I'll forget you and this island and leave this place forever."
"Yes. Whichever of us wins, that person will pursue their love with all they've got. Even if they know that love will be unrequited."
"Yes. After all, by now..."
They left the boat one by one, making fun of Battler... Gohda wasn't the only one to greet them. Kanon was there too.
"...I hope that your long journey went smoothly. Welcome to Rokkenjima..."
"Ah, good, good."
Gohda complimented Kanon in a whisper. Kanon ignored this, looking just a little sour, and continued to greet the incoming relatives.
"This is your first time meeting Gohda-san and Kanon-kun, isn't it, Battler-kun?"
"Uu-! It's Maria's first time meeting Battler too! Ahaha!"
"Gohda-san's a splendid chef. He's the only reason anyone'd ever want to come to this island."
"I am most honored. Battler-sama, I do hope that you look forward to your meals during your stay."
"I can't wait...! I'll be looking forward to it!"
"Long time no see, Kanon-kun. You seem to be in high spirits today. That's great."
"...Y, you think so...?"
"Oh yes. Your face is looking brighter today. I can't tell if it's your complexion or if your gaze looks a bit more gallant."
"Hahah, it must be a growing phase. That's how a boy becomes a man."
"You usually look as though you're about to pass out from anemia. You're a bit different today."
"You've got some vigor. A boy can change a lot in just three days. I guess this means even Kanon-kun's gettin' a bit more manly!"
"We aren't making fun of you, okay? We're all complimenting you. *giggle*"
...Kanon had sworn to start changing the way he lived bit by bit. However, he had only meant to change within himself, and hadn't expected that it would show on the outside. He was a bit shocked to hear that his expression had changed so much that people had apparently noticed as soon as he opened his mouth. No, maybe the real surprise should have been that his normal expression must have looked so incredibly sullen in comparison.
"...So, does my face really look that bright today?"
"Hohohoh... It looks that way to me as well. Did something good happen? *giggle*giggle*"
Even Kumasawa was saying it. Kanon, unable to see what his own face looked like, hung his head in embarrassment.
...When they reached the rose garden, they could see the others entering the guesthouse. Then, he saw Jessica running towards him from there. Is even Milady Jessica going to say that I'm in a good mood today? Kanon hung his head even deeper. And so, almost as though he couldn't control himself, Kanon spoke first.
BGM: White Shadow
"Huh? A... hahahahahaha. Well, you know. You aren't usually the type to come out and say hello of your own accord. That's probably why everyone was surprised..."
"...I apologize for not going with you earlier, Milady."
"Huh? Oh, don't worry about that... I'm the one who's sorry for asking you to come all the way out to Niijima with me to meet everyone... I know how busy you must be today..."
"I... didn't have anything in particular to do. You were just so dazzling. So dazzling that I couldn't bear to be with you. I was just weak."
Jessica faltered, uncertain what Kanon was talking about. However, she realized that this was something too important to be laughed off.
"...Did something happen, Kanon-kun...?"
"...I see. So George nii-san is going to propose this year after all."
Jessica thought that this change in Kanon's appearance was probably caused by a change in his state of mind. She thought he was sad that he and Shannon would soon be parting ways. Kanon realized that Jessica was probably thinking this. So, he spoke to her clearly and honestly. Because he wanted her to know.
"I decided that, I would stop working here if Nee-san ever quit."
"...I know. So, are you going to quit too?"
"I'm not sure anymore. I feel that, if I quit, I might lose sight once more of something, that you shone on like the sun and revealed to me."
Jessica was stunned, unable to understand what he was saying. However, she did realize that he was trying to tell her something important. And so, she was able to accept that his next words were neither a lie nor a joke...
BGM: Blue Butterfly
"...I, I like you too...!"
"You live your life like the sun... and I want to try walking that path alongside you. I have the feeling that, with you, I'd be able to get away from the part of myself that I hate for being furniture."
"You aren't furniture, Kanon-kun. And you weren't born just so that you could become a servant! A boy your age should be enjoying life much, much more...! Ha, hahahaha. I'm the one who's dazzled. You're so dazzling... I can hardly see."
"These are my genuine feelings. I'm... sorry for trying to hide them for so long. I apologize for hurting you on that day... in my cowardice."
"That's okay. Just hearing you say that... makes me happy."
"So, so that I can be with you all the time, I plan to stop being furniture. I ask that you give me some time to do that. Please forgive this last bit of weakness."
"Th, there's nothing weak about you...! You've shown me. You've shown me that you have the extraordinary courage to change yourself from the way you used to be. So, I'll support you until the end, and I won't rush you until you're ready."
"...If I am the sun lighting your path, that's because I wanted to shine more brightly than anyone else so that you'd look only at me. Without you, I'd never have become like the sun. So, I'll wait. As long as needed."
"Thank you, Milady."
"...'Milady' is a bit stiff, don't you think?"
"May I... call you by your name?"
"Sure. Oh, but only when we're alone, okay? Otherwise, it might make things difficult for you."
"...Good point. Shannon and George-sama are doing the same, it seems."
BGM: White Shadow
Kanon hung his head, at a loss for words for some time. But it was true. If Shannon hadn't told him about the engagement, he probably wouldn't have been having this conversation at this moment.
"...Yes. Because she said that, I was able to think deeply."
"Ah, come on. You heard about Shannon and you wanted to see what love felt like yourself, right?"
"...Th, that's a pretty straight answer. W, well, when I watched those two... I was pretty envious myself..."
In truth, the real reason was different for both of them. They had been shown the courage needed to speak up and tell the person you love how you feel. This was the reason for both Kanon and Jessica.
"...So, what should I call you?"
"Jessica works fine."
"...Just saying it like that... would be a bit embarrassing."
"Then you can use 'san', at least at first. Why not try it out? Come on."
"Good, that'll do for now. And I'd like to call you by your name, Kanon-kun. You have a real name... besides Kanon, don't you? I imagine it has the character 嘉 in it, like Kanon does... Wh, what could it be, ehehe..."
"O, oh, how is it written?"
Jessica tried tracing out various characters on the palm of her hand. Then, Kanon used his own finger to write out his name on her hand...
"You write it as 嘉哉..."
"...So, you're Yoshiya... kun... Yeah, that's a great name. Totally better than my weird name..."
"That's not true. Milady Jessica has a wonderful na-"
"Hey, say it again...!"
"Huh? M, Milady Jessica has-"
"One more time!"
"M, Milady Jessica has a wonderful... um, is something wrong?"
"...*giggle*. No big deal. Thanks. Yoshiya... kun."
The red, red flowers of the rose garden seemed to celebrate the two lovers whose feelings had finally connected... The scene was watched by one not human, who gazed out quietly from beneath the rose garden arbor...
Come to think of it, those two had never called each other by their names until now. Jessica hadn't known Kanon's true name. Kanon hadn't called Jessica by her name. By calling someone by their name, people acknowledge the worth of that person's soul. That is why names are sacred. Getting permission to say someone's name means that they have acknowledged your soul.
"...Is that why... Father wants me to call him by his name...?"
No... that's probably wrong. When Father sees me, it reminds him of that other me... the past me. And I'm sure that 'me' called Father by his name. However, that probably doesn't mean Father would be happy to hear me call him by his name. After all, I am me... and not the Beatrice my Father knows well.
What can I do... to help Father...? How can I be useful to him? That's the only reason I was born... Hanging her head, Beatrice sat all alone in the Golden Land's arbor that was next to the rose garden...
This scene was watched by the Witch of Theatergoing and her miko as they sat across from each other...
"I never thought I'd see you feel compassion for Beato..."
"...It'd be too cruel to call this Beato and the former Beato the same person. They're completely different people."
It may be that, by the rules, this Beato is 'the' Beato. However, saying that would be horribly unfair to her.
"...Battler must be very depressed to have revived his former rival and have things end up this way."
"I can sort of understand Onii-chan's despair. However, I can understand how this child feels as well. No person can become a replacement for another. Not even the past version of themselves."
Compared to the young boy and girl who had found new versions of themselves and called each other by their true names, this witch looked very feeble. The witch knew that she was an illusion created in the image of the person she once was. And she also knew that it would only hurt Battler to try and pretend to be that person.
"...And even so, this Beato wants to be useful to Battler. How admirable."
"Is that the purpose for the witch known as Beatrice?"
"...That is what she claims. She says that she was created to be of service to Battler."
"So, the Beato who was born for Onii-chan's sake eventually commits a serial murder and drags Onii-chan into a bizarre game that she calls eternal torture? I don't get it."
"I believe you also understand that one can become a different person over a thousand years..."
...At the very least, Beatrice was once a pure creature who was born for Battler's sake. It is also very clear that, in her current feeble state, she does not possess any of the courage or the motivation needed to bring about those fearsome serial murders. If so, that means the sinister witch we all know must have changed during the thousand years since her birth.
"As you get closer to the world of gods, the concept of time becomes increasingly vague. Six years can become a thousand, and a thousand years can be nothing more than a quick nap. One can fit an eternity long enough to be deserving of the title 'one hundred year old witch' in a mere two weeks..."
In other words, the pure Beato transformed into the cruel Beato... during those six years that could be called a thousand... So, does that mean something bad happened during those six years that made her hate Onii-chan?
"That doesn't make sense. During those six years, Onii-chan not only stayed away from Rokkenjima, he even stopped using the Ushiromiya name. Onii-chan had nothing to do with that change. Her hatred must be totally misguided."
"...Kumasawa-san. There's something I'd like to know."
"Hohoho... Very well, what is it?"
"...My name is Beatrice... isn't it?"
"Yes, that is correct. You are Beatrice-sama, Milady."
BGM: Mystic Forest
"I think Father wanted me to be that person. I think that might be why... He was disappointed because, no matter how much I looked like her... I am a different person."
"That isn't true... You are you, Beatrice-sama herself. You have merely lost your memory of the past after being newly reborn... Even without your memory, you are still Beatrice-sama. You are the same person whom the Master loves."
"...So then... how can I regain those memories...?"
Beato looked at Kumasawa with hopeful eyes, as though praying that she would tell her the way. Kumasawa averted her gaze unhelpfully, as though trying to say that she would, if only such a way existed...
"If I can't regain them, can't you at least tell me what kind of person the Beatrice Father loved was?"
"Th, that is something I can tell you, but..."
"I cannot use magic. However, if the witch Father desires could use it, then I will learn. I want to become the witch he desires. That's the only way I can repay Father for creating me."
"A chick of a witch... very interesting. I've taken a liking to her, Ange. I shall allow this chick to make use of my study. Let us open the door which leads back to the world of witches."
"...So, you're going to make her read aloud the stories about her previous self. Yes, I want to know too. The tale of how the Golden Witch Beatrice was created."
BGM: Melody (instrumental)
A golden splash welled up around them. It was a cloud of gold butterflies. With a golden flash, the form of the old lady transformed into that of a witch in a dress...
"You may pass through a different thousand years. If you wish, you may even return back the way you came."
"I'll move on forward. I don't want to spend a thousand years in this garden drinking tea. I, Beatrice, was born for Father's sake. So I want to live for Father's sake. Please tell me... about the Golden Witch."
...The great witch spread her arms, communicating the other's unbending determination to the brilliant heavens. At that moment, a brilliant light covered the two of them, and before they knew it, they were in a strange study.
There sat the master of these archives, the great old witch, and her miko. Virgilia gave a deep and elegant bow.
"...It is the greatest of honors to be in your presence. Lady Featherine Augustus Aurora, the majestic Witch of Theatergoing, Drama, and Spectating."
BGM: Look Back
"Sure, sure, as you wish, my master. You could just tell her that you want to see her story."
"Miko of the Witch of Theatergoing. I leave Beatrice in your care."
"...Pleased... to meet you..."
"...The Beatrice you're trying to become... was suffering from something. At the very least, you've been released from that for now. Will you really go on a journey to regain those shackles...?"
"Y, yes. I want to become the Golden Witch. That is the reason I was born."
"I, the Endless and Finite Witch Publius Virgilia Maro, ask that you make her journey through Purgatory a pleasant one and that you grant her your protection."
"Huh? Oh, uh... Let it be known that as the miko of the Witch of Theatergoing and as the Endless Witch and Apprentice Witch of Resurrection, I, ANGE Beatrice, do accede to your request and all that stuff..."
"...Yep. I know a lot about you."
"Please teach me. What kind of person was I?"
"Sure. And I'll want you to teach me. Why did you become the person you were?"
"...In this archive, the Fragments showing the tales of all your games up until now are stored as books. By reading them, you should be able to learn everything that has happened before now..."
"By reading them, can I become the Golden Witch...?"
"...To become the Golden Witch, one must solve the epitaph of the gold. And this trial cannot be skipped, not even by Beatrice herself..."
"I, I'll do my best. So please, let me read the books in this archive...!"
"...As worthy of admiration as ever. Why do you want to go back to being like that so much...?"
"I do not know what I was like then. However, if that me can be of use to Father, I want to become it."
Ange sighed resignedly. No words would stop this girl's feelings of respect.
Ange was the miko of the Witch of Theatergoing. She could do nothing except watch over the stage. Yes, they weren't actually interfering with the play. This was just a bit of directing... to shine the spotlight onto the tale of Beato's past. Even this was nothing more than the Witch of Theatergoing watching a play.
"...You are free to stay in the archive or leave the archive or even return to the archive again later. In compensation, I will watch your play."
"Watch my play...?"
"...It means you can do whatever you want."
"Th, thank you very much, Augauau... umm-"
"She likes it when you call her Featherine."
"Thank you very much, Featherine-sama..."
After being welcomed in by Featherine, Beato left on a journey to know herself. That tale connected the old tale with the new one. It wove them together. The thousand year old tale about her returned to its starting point, becoming a snake eating its own tail.
The ring of that snake began slowly, bit by bit, to turn into the shape of a small island floating on the sea. That island was... Rokkenjima. The thousand years of the witch born on this island... were tied to the island. Was it a thousand years, or just six? Or did this tale start even further back into the past?
Beatrice went out on a journey to find herself...
The breaking waves had grown fierce. The ferryboats probably wouldn't be coming for a while now. The crashing thunder told that the island had been sealed off from the outside world. A thick rain poured down, mocking the fools outdoors who had to rush pathetically to find shelter. No longer would anyone be able to leave this island. And no longer would anyone be able to reach this island. No one, unless blessed with a miracle.
There was another flash of lightning. The retinas of all who saw it were filled with white.
BGM: Patchwork Chimera
As though suddenly remembering, it coughed violently several times, filthily spitting out the sea water that had filled its stomach. She then tore apart the velcro of her life jacket and threw down the reason she had been able to float here without so much as a thank you.