Part 47: Magic of a Different Interpretation II
George slammed his last card down, ending the game with his victory once again. Everyone gasped in unison. The cousins' room was filled with laughter as they enjoyed their card game...
"Whoooooooa, so you really did have it, George-aniki! Damn you... damn you six of spaaaaadeeessss!"
"Your eight of diamonds was pretty nasty too. Aah, I was so close, ahahahahaha!"
"Uu-uu-uu-!! You're incredible, George onii-chan! You won again!!"
"Yep, looks like we've won again. Ahahahahaha."
Maria couldn't really hold her own in an all-out battle. So, she had teamed up with George, which was why she was celebrating his victory.
Kanon winced and let his cards drop to the table. The game of sevens that Kanon and the cousins had been playing had been a fierce battle. Normally, they would take things easy since Maria was there, so this sort of game was rare. Kanon had started taking the game seriously, unwilling to lose, so George and Battler had responded and the battle had grown fierce.
Unlike Battler, who was carefree enough to enjoy it whether he won or lost, Kanon's mood changed drastically with every victory and defeat. It was less of a dislike for losing and more that he just wasn't used to playing. He wasn't used to trading a few wins and losses with his opponents, so he took even losses within a game seriously. Since he had resolved to win and had unfortunately challenged the veteran players George and Battler, the result was plain to see. As Kanon slumped his shoulders, Jessica slapped him on the back.
"Hey, you almost had it...! Ahaha, I love fighting, all-out like this!"
"...Whether we went all-out or not, if we just lose in the end, it's all pointless..."
"Are you kidding me? If you really gave it your all, who cares if you lose? If you lost after hardly trying, then you'd be grumbling and complaining about how you'd have won if you'd taken it seriously, right?"
"That's right. People who really give it their all never complain. Those guys are always cheery no matter what the result."
"That's right. And those people are scarier than anyone else. They always learn something from their experience and grow."
"...Very true. I was a coward, so I could never learn anything. I see that I am still immature."
I am furniture, so it is useless to dream. Because he had rigidly believed that, he had distanced himself from everything and shut himself away. However, during that time, Shannon had undergone many life adventures. And now, her hand is resting on the door separating furniture and humans...
The old Kanon would only have seen this card game as a way to pass the time. However, the new Kanon was now capable of gaining something new from this experience. That could probably be called... growth. When time passes, furniture does nothing but rot. Being able to grow... is a privilege given only to humans.
BGM: White Shadow
"...Actually, I had a lot of fun. Not only that... I now understand why doing things like that is fun. Thank you very much for forcing me to come."
"Let's challenge ourselves more and more. And let's go and find more and more things you didn't know about."
"...O, oh, by the way, about what we were talking about... ever wanted to try playing guitar? W, well, it's not like I'll force you to or anything, but..."
"...It must be very difficult."
"Y, yeah, I guess. But I'll do a good job teaching you, and I'll even practice with you. Well, I guess I'm not that much of an expert myself, hahaha..."
At first, Kanon was scared that he might make a complete fool of himself if he touched a musical instrument for the first time in his life. It was because he knew that screwing up like that would make him feel bad. However, Kanon was starting to learn.
"It's only natural that I'll be bad when I first start. If I just try to run away from that, I'll never learn a thing for all eternity. I'll never achieve anything."
"Yep. Isn't that why people love it when they feel themselves improving? Even I sucked at making my left and right hands move at the same time when I first started...! But I slowly got the knack of it, and it started to feel more and more natural...!"
"...I'd like to reach that level too. If one path to that goal is playing music with you, Milady, I would love to do that with you."
"Yes. I'm sure I'll be horrible when I start, and I might even make you lose hope in me at times. But if I've given it my all, even messing up is no big deal. That's what I learned from you all just now."
"...Hahahahahahaha, you're embarrassing me..."
"Now, I like you even more, Milady. Because I averted my eyes for so long, even though you shone like the sun, I never noticed you when you were right there next to me..."
"Eheheheh. Then I'd better work even harder to make you like me even more... Ehehihi, hahyahyahya..."
Kanon's serious and competitive words were more than enough to make Jessica shy. However, Kanon's expression unexpectedly clouded...
"...Milady, the reason I like you is so clear. Because of that, I can't bear not knowing."
"N, not knowing what...?"
"Th, that's not true, okay?! There are all kinds of good things about you, Kanon-kun..."
"...Let me swallow my pride and ask. What about me made you like me, Milady?"
Kanon hung his head. He had never learned anything, so he had never been able to take the lead with her. And yet, it made him sad and frustrated that he had always been the one-sided recipient of her affection... and could do nothing but respond to it.
Jessica was lost for words. After all, compared to the reason that Kanon had started to like Jessica, Jessica's reason was a lot more vague. She had heard Shannon talking about her love with George, and at school, she and her friends had always talked about relationships with boys. There would have been nothing strange about a girl fascinated by the idea of romance developing an interest in a nearby member of the opposite sex. However, if you put that into words, it would be misinterpreted to mean that any nearby boy would have done just as well...
However, at this moment, her heart was filled with nothing besides her own feelings. She really did like Kanon, and she truly wanted to fall in love. As a result, they might end up together, or they might not. However, if she reached that result without holding back, she could accept it no matter which it was. That's why she was able to become serious about her emotions. However, she couldn't find the right words to tell Kanon this.
When Kanon saw Jessica bite her lower lip in frustration, he finally realized...
"...I'm such a fool."
"Th, that's not true...! A, after all, it's the first question any girl would like to ask after being given a love confession...! Th, the question 'What part of me do you like?'..."
"It was immature of me to ask you that. How could anyone like someone so immature?"
"W, wait, that's not..."
Jessica panicked, trying desperately to explain how she felt. However, Kanon was calm. And then, he spoke.
"In that case, I want you to like me... the way I already like you. I've decided to change myself so that can happen. I can hardly imagine that you would like me the way I am. But someday... no matter what..."
"...Yeah. I'm absolutely sure you'll become a wonderful person, Kanon-kun. A guy so cool that I can't keep my eyes off you. Until then, I'll stick by you all the way. We have plenty of time...!"
"...What about time?"
"When I talk about furniture... it usually saddens you. However, this is something I must talk to you about. And it is also something I must fight for with all my soul."
"What are you talking about...? I don't want to hear any more of that 'I'm furniture so I can't fall in love' talk. You're a human, not furniture...!"
"Yes. I would like to become human. However, I am still furniture."
"In that case, just do it...!"
"The witch taught me once. The single element of this world. She said it was love. It's something that humans born into this world can take for granted. However, it is not something that those not from this world, who were born as furniture, can take for granted. In order to gain it for themselves, they must have magic or a miracle."
In the same way that Nee-san and George-sama... would never have ended up as they have without borrowing the power of that golden butterfly brooch.
"...What don't you understand? Let me hear it."
"Since this game began, a large portion of the time has been spent on Shannon and Kanon's determination to fall in love. I have no problem with interpreting that as a story of growth and teenage determination for a girl and boy who call themselves furniture. However, one of the assumptions they make feels really out of place to me."
"...Why is magic necessary? Is that it...?"
"Both Shannon and Kanon... call themselves furniture. These furniture have always claimed that there cannot be love between furniture and humans. At that point, the magic of the golden butterfly brooch comes into play, and as the miraculous result of that magic, love is established between Shannon and George onii-chan. That's what they claim."
"Could it not be merely that forbidden love between people, of different classes would be impossible to manage without a miracle of magic...?"
"Good point. I can accept that Shannon and Kanon, who are servants in forbidden love with members of the family and suffering for it, might debase themselves as furniture."
"...Then what is it that you cannot accept...?"
"'Without the power of magic once more, marriage will be impossible'. That seems to be common knowledge between Shannon and Kanon. I just can't understand that part."
After meeting in secret for quite some time, George and Shannon had finally gotten engaged. Both were fully prepared for it emotionally, and though there would be some trouble with the relatives, it would probably be impossible for anyone to prevent their marriage by this point.
"Exactly. Now that George onii-chan has sworn to protect his lover for the rest of their lives, he has no need to fear opposition and disinheritance from his parents. On the contrary, you might even consider that a perfect test for his love for her. In other words, they will be married no matter what. No one can stop them. And they have both consented to the engagement."
"No one can stop them or impede them. Trying to break apart lovers is a foolhardy venture..."
"Yeah. And that's what's strange. There's no need for magic."
If George and Shannon had wanted Eva's approval for their engagement... Then magic might really have been necessary. After all, Eva had forbidden his relationship with her. No matter how much George spoke on Shannon's behalf, the chances of Eva being convinced were very near zero. If that were the case, it would be understandable if they wanted a magical miracle to make Eva acknowledge that engagement.
"However, George onii-chan has already sworn to it. He doesn't care whether his parents approve of the engagement or not. Yeah. There's nothing standing in the way of their engagement."
"And Shannon should know that well herself. So why is it that now, on this night where the proposal went so smoothly, she's still praying on a miracle of magic?"
"...The furniture claim that she will not even have the right to marry without that miracle..."
"And there you go. It means that Shannon has accepted George's proposal, but she knows that there's still some kind of barrier that can't be overcome without a magical miracle. And that barrier isn't something that they can overcome by their own efforts. That's why they need this miracle called magic."
"Why do they need magic? If two people love each other, what other miracle could they possibly need to be together?!"
"...Hmm, I see..."
Featherine listened to Ange's interpretation, smiling in a satisfied way. Apparently, she had already reached that conclusion and enjoyed watching Ange finally manage to do the same.
"There's nothing standing in their way. They're already in a loving relationship even without the golden butterfly brooch. It'd be no surprise if the relationship they've started lasts for years and eventually results in marriage. There's nothing standing in their way either."
"...As long as they don't seek approval from Krauss and Natsuhi, it seems that they will not need a magical miracle either..."
"Exactly. Kanon watched how Shannon lived, and changed his own way of life. Then, he let his true feelings be known and started a relationship with Jessica onee-chan. There's no need for magic anymore."
"...If it were a one-sided love, then he might need a love charm or something. But their feelings are already mutual. They've already communicated their intentions to one another. So why do they still need a miracle?"
Both furniture were in relationships of mutual love. There shouldn't have been any need for a miracle any longer. So why... do they still desire some miracle? And on top of that, the single brooch was portrayed as bestowing only a single miracle. It felt almost as though Shannon was hesitating because, if she used up that miracle for herself, Kanon's chances at love would be automatically sealed away for eternity...
"...So, you ask why love is not permitted without the miracle known as magic."
"And also, there's this golden butterfly brooch that's supposed to give the lamenting furniture the love they so strongly desire. Just what on Earth is that?"
"...So, it can only have an effect for those who believe in magic and witches."
"Correct. So, Shannon, who was capable of interacting with me, was able to make use of its benefits. However, if Shannon had dropped it in a sandy beach and someone who knew nothing picked it up..."
"...If that person was shrouded in the anti-magic toxin, they wouldn't be able to make use of the brooch's magic power..."
"Precisely. A witch's magical items often lose their power if they are not handed over directly. However, just as how a witch can manifest herself if her existence is acknowledged by a great many humans and the anti-magic toxin disappears, the power of that magical item can also be preserved if it is believed in by a great many people."
"That's ironic. No matter what kind of magic we witches give out, everything depends on whether the human we give it to can accept it."
"I have heard that the same goes for medicine. Even with the exact same medicine, humans who know of the medicine's effect experience it to a greater degree."
"...Oh, I think I understand. When taking cold medicine, I've gotten the feeling that it's more effective when you read the description on the bottle."
As she listened, Beato thought that magic sounded a bit like a charm. When most humans think of magic, they think of incredible miracles being performed one after another in front of a crowd. However, this true magic that the older sister spoke of sounded almost like a charm, something that had no effect if the person using it didn't believe.
...Shannon's heart was captured by George bit by bit as he grew by leaps and bounds. However, she had given up, thinking that one of a different class such as herself would never find love with him. That was when Beatrice had given her the golden butterfly brooch and encouraged her. Giving up means that you have zero chance of success. However, with the power of magic, if you think that there just might be some chance of your wish coming true, the odds of it happening are greater than zero, at the very least. Zero remains zero forever, but if even a faint probability exists, it would be no exaggeration to say that a miracle had occurred since the time that probability had been zero.
Humans can use magic to take 'resignation', by which they themselves make the probability of success zero, and cancel it out. When a human does not give up, though their chances of success may be small, those chances do exist. And the more determined they become, the greater those odds rise. It was easy to imagine that Shannon had made earnest wishes upon the brooch, believed in its effect, and tried little things over and over again to get George to like her.
"And those who make others believe are witches."
Those who make others believe... are witches. That's an interesting way to put it. If you think about it, it's true.
Let's say a witch steps out into a spotlight, waves her staff in front of a crowd of onlookers, and makes a rabbit appear out of thin air. The many people who see it will surely think that it was a sleight of hand. They might wonder at how it was accomplished, but they would be sure that it wasn't magic, and they would applaud the splendid trick that had appeared to be magic. But what if... What if they performed a sacred ceremony inside a great ancient temple in front of a crowd of believers... and ended up with the exact same result? Would any of the people there think that was a sleight of hand?
In fact, in the ancient past, when magic tricks as a form of entertainment didn't even exist and divine spirits were worshiped, this would doubtlessly have been a miracle of magic...
"Oh? Will the witch who cannot use magic now perform it for the first time?"
"H, here I have an empty tea cup. There is nothing inside it."
"Yes, it is empty. *giggle*, and then?"
"You take it... turn it like this... and place it upside down on the table."
"Heheheheheheh. And then? What next?"
"Umm, l, let's both close our eyes and chant the incantation."
It was... the same magic that had been used to give Maria candies. Beato the elder grinned and closed her eyes. When she saw this, Beato slowly chanted the incantation.
"Hmm. Come, try to remember. What was inside the cup?"
As she chanted, Beato slowly opened her eyes and made sure that the older sister was repeating her with her eyes closed. Then, a single gold butterfly appeared out of nowhere... fluttered down onto the overturned cup, and scattered away in a golden splash.
"May I open my eyes now?"
"...Y, yes. Please open your eyes and inspect the contents of the cup."
"Well now. Let us see how well your first bit of magic has worked."
Taking her time and dragging out the suspense a little, the older sister... lifted up the cup.
"H, how is it...?"
When the cup was lifted up, there lay... a single golden rose petal.
"C, could this be... magic...?"
BGM: A Single Moment
"It may be viewed as a trick. It may also be believed to be magic. It all depends upon the toxin of the individual..."
"Then again, while this can explain some of the magic that's been used in the past, it can't explain everything."
"To get back to the point, all this stuff about believing in magic and charms... It doesn't answer the question: 'What was this golden butterfly brooch, which allowed the furniture, who strongly believed that they could not love, to finally find love?'"
"...If we blindly accept the story of those two Beatos as true, might we assume that magic had the power to cancel out their 'resignation'?"
"'Why mustn't furniture fall in love?' 'Why is the power of the magic brooch necessary?' Yes, it does seem at a glance as though what you and the Beatos are saying provides an answer, though a vague one. However, let me say this as a Reader. I can't accept this as you've presented it."
"You cannot accept it, you say...?"
"...The tragedy those furniture were struggling to resist was something much more immense than this would allow for. I doubt they could reform their way of thinking just because they were given a charm for making relationships."
"It's true that the brooch gave Shannon the chance she needed to get together with George onii-chan, but after that, she said she wanted to deepen their relationship without borrowing the power of magic, and she even tried to give the brooch back to Beato. At that point, she supposedly rejected the miracle of magic for a time. In that case, why is that power necessary again?"
"Well now. Perhaps there is no way to say it except that love and marriage are very different things."
Featherine laughed lightly. She had probably formed a theory of her own and was laughing at Ange, who hadn't reached it yet.
"Let me hear it. What's your view?"
"I'd like to keep that to myself for just a while longer. And of course, watching you form doubts and let your mind race is one the joys of being read aloud to. If I gave you my views, you would accept them and stop thinking. Then, having you read aloud would be no fun."
"...So, you're having me read a mystery novel you already know the answer to, just so you can enjoy watching me blunder about."
"Well, I am the Witch of Theatergoing. If you wish to laugh at my bad taste, please do not hold back, my miko."
"'Wa ha ha ha.'"
"Pft, *giggle*giggle*, hahahahahahaha..."
And that magic probably permeates deep into the world of us humans as well. However, though it does permeate so far, the power that dwells within magic is small. Visiting a shrine to pray for success on a test is something that many people do. However, not many people will actually credit that visit as the reason for their success. Praying like this contains no power except as a calming influence. In love, where even a small chance and a little bit of courage can cause a major change, this power might cause a massive upheaval...
However, would this insurmountable fate that the furniture claim to be in the middle of... really change because of something like that...? I think that in the past, the magical power of the brooch as it joined Shannon and George was little more than a good-luck charm. However, at this point, the magical power that the furniture are seeking from the brooch...
...It's not something as vague as a charm. It feels much stronger, like a whole different interpretation of magic. If you believe in a sleight of hand, it becomes magic. But that's no more than a child's trick. And that only explains one part of magic. They... are hoping for something. They're hoping for something with much, much more power... for true magic, not a sleight of hand.
"There exists a magic charm that the Golden Witch Beatrice gave to Shannon in exchange for smashing a mirror, and which made her love succeed. That's what this is."
From his pocket, Kanon pulled a single wing from a gold butterfly. Though it was a single wing, it was easy to tell from its shape that it had originally been part of something with a butterfly motif.
"The magic of this brooch gave Shannon the chance she needed to start her relationship with George-sama. However, before that magic was fully realized, she left it to me. So, thanks to the power of this brooch, I gained your affection, Milady."
"That's not true... I started liking you because of my own honest feelings..."
"...Thank you very much. You are human, so you do not believe in witches or magic. It's only natural. However, as furniture created by magic, my very existence here is proof that the miracle of magic exists."
"S, sorry, what are you talking about...?"
Jessica sort of grasped the gist of what Kanon was trying to say. However, she couldn't understand it, and had to ask him to repeat it with a bitter smile...
The brooch had lost its power when it was split in half. However, if it was ever joined together again, its magic would be revived. It would revive the miraculous power that could join furniture and a human together...
"However, a single brooch can only grant one person's wish. Only one of us furniture can be joined by this single brooch."
It was the single live coal of love that the old, shrilly-laughing Beatrice had sown. That Beatrice had likened humans who were tormented by this coal to ripe fruit and had enjoyed it evilly. However, the magic infused within this seed... was real. It was the only crystallization of magic that the Golden Witch Beatrice ever left in this world...
Its glint... increased.
BGM: F Style
"It's okay. But please don't look right at it. It'll blind you."
The glint grew even stronger, shining like the sun. Jessica didn't need Kanon to tell her to put her hands over her eyes... As the light grew stronger, a sound like the roar of the wind or the tide also grew in intensity. The sound of the wind and rain outside had already been overwhelmed... Jessica could no longer even stand, and she crouched on the floor... A flood of sound and light... Until it withdrew, Jessica could do nothing but moan...