Part 48: Zepar and Furfur
"I, I hope Father likes sweet foods..."
"Oh yes, he does like them. In fact, he seems to enjoy eating pretty much anything. Hohohoho."
After waiting for the master of the study to be out, Beato and Kumasawa entered the study. Then, they quickly cleaned up the books on the desk, set down the basket they had brought there, and opened it up. Inside... were several cute cookies cut out in a butterfly shape. They set out a cute plate and neatly decorated it with the cookies. It was the kind of slight adornment that the person eating wasn't likely to even notice. The whole setup was filled with that sort of feeling.
"This is... all I am able to do right now."
"To think that I would give Battler cookies... Why should I, the ruler of the night, do so much for a guest who comes so rarely?"
Then, the study door swung violently open. It was Battler, with Genji by his side... Battler's eyes went wide for a second when he saw Beato there, but his expression quickly went blank again.
"Father, please excuse me. I didn't come here to get in the way of your important game..."
"How were you able to get in here...? Wasn't this room locked?"
"...My apologies. I lent them a key because they wanted to surprise you with a gift."
"See, have a look...! Beatrice-sama baked these cookies with all her soul, hoping that you would enjoy them."
"Kumasawa-san and Genji-san taught me... I never knew Genji-san was so good at baking cookies."
"Hohoho. He hasn't done it much of late, but Genji-san used to cook many things long ago. He was especially good with sweets...!"
"Y, yes. It's a gift for you, Father. I sincerely pray for your victory in this important match..."
Battler looked at the plate on the study desk that was piled up with beautiful cookies... and the message card of encouragement lying next to it, and his face twisted with a complex expression, which might have had traces of both sadness and anger contained within it...
Genji urged him to consider saying some words of gratitude to Beato... Battler understood. He had no reason to respond to this kindness with displeasure. Even though he understood it logically, he couldn't help but give a small exasperated sigh.
"Don't make me say the same thing again. Please clean it up and take it away."
"M, Master, couldn't you just try one bite...? Beatrice-sama worked hard to make them for your sake..."
"...I am grateful for her feelings. I'm in the middle of a vital game right now. This is the final game... and it's vital both for me... and Beato as well. So please. Try not to trouble me any more than is necessary."
"That's just too sad for her...! I'm glad that you are grateful for her feelings, but can't you show it by taking just one little bite...?!"
...Battler hung his head to avoid her gaze. The expression on his face caused Beato more pain than any he had shown her before...
"...Kumasawa, please clean this up and take it away."
Kumasawa clung to Battler, but he turned his back to her...
"...My... apologies... Let's clean this up, Kumasawa-san..."
"I won't allow it. By making this gift, Beatrice-sama gave it her all to try and support you in the only way she could. To tell her to take it away without eating a bite yourself... how can you trifle with a woman so?!!"
"If you call yourself a man, you should at least try a bite when a woman makes you a handmade snack!! If you truly intend to crush a woman's feelings like this, I, Kumasawa, will not back down even if it kills me! No I won't!!"
"K, Kumasawa-san, you've done enough for me already..."
"I won't allow it!! Master, do you think there might be poison inside them?!"
...Yeah. If Beato ever came to give me cookies... Of course I'd think that she'd put some kind of crazy poison in them...
She asked me if I thought there'd be poison in these? Do you really think... that cookies piled up in such a neat and cute way... could possibly have something bizarre hidden inside...? And... who could possibly imagine... that Beato would ever make something like that... she said... Because of that, Battler couldn't bear to look at Beato's innocent reaction, which was completely free from any malicious thoughts of slipping poison into the cookies...
Beato quietly started to clean up. Every now and then, she sniffled. Kumasawa continued to glare at Battler, but she then gave a small sigh and helped Beato clean up. However, the hardness didn't disappear from her expression.
"...My apologies, Father. Please excuse me."
"Don't call me that..."
"Don't call me Father. Beato never called me that."
"Y, yes, as you wish... My apologies."
Hanging her head so low that her chin touched her chest, Beato hurried out of the study. After giving Battler a look, Kumasawa chased after her. Kumasawa threw the door open a bit violently, and the footsteps of the pair rapidly disappeared off into the distance...
"If she were anyone other than Beato, you'd think of him as a true enemy of women, is that it...?"
"...I don't have a clue why Onii-chan and Beato act so friendly together. Right now, I think of Beato as our greatest enemy, the one we must defeat. Still, even so... As a woman, I can't say I like Onii-chan's reaction."
"Though I can understand Battler's feelings a little. What a sad state of affairs."
I still don't understand what kind of antagonism or connection there was between them. However, Onii-chan probably views Beato... as a friendly rival, if not something more. Onii-chan's reason for defeating Beato isn't to destroy an enemy out of hatred. It feels like he wants to give a sincere answer to her questions. Yes. I can't deny the fact that their fight isn't based on hatred... but on a stronger emotion.
"...And on top of that... Beato really is something to remain dedicated to Onii-chan all the more even after being treated so coldly. I agree with the other, older sister Beatrice. I can't understand why she's so dedicated to Onii-chan."
"And, though it may take a thousand years, that single factor that you don't understand must be passed on to the Golden Witch Beatrice we know so well..."
"...Yes. I understand that. Knowing this Beato is connected to knowing that Beato. And that may be able to explain the greatest piece in this crazy game, if not the game board itself..."
"Such a mysterious witch..."
Though she said those words, Featherine wore a confident smile on her face. Her sarcastic confidence, as though she already knew the answer, was unchanged.
"...Beatrice. I want to ask you something."
"Y, yes, what would you like to know, Ange-san...?"
When Ange asked her question, Beato, who had been reading a Fragment book in the shadows of the study, jumped.
"B, because he created the piece that I am..."
"...In that case, why are you so dedicated to Ushiromiya Battler? Is there some rule that pieces must obey the Creator that makes them?"
"There is no such rule. Pieces are tools, like a knife. If the Game Master uses them well, they can be quite useful."
"However, if you use them incorrectly, they can hurt you as well. Whether the tool is used as a tool or a weapon, that has nothing to do with the tool's own will. It is merely the result."
"In that case, why are you so dedicated towards Onii-chan? It's almost as though... that's your goal as a piece."
"Y, yes. That is the goal that gave birth to me."
"Did Onii-chan, the one who gave birth to you, give you that goal?"
"That's not it. As the Game Master, Battler merely set 'a piece with that role' on the board. Also, the one who gave birth to this piece... was the first Game Master and the one who created this game, Beatrice herself..."
"...Aaah, this is getting confusing. In other words, you keep calling Onii-chan 'Father', but he's not actually your father. You're just calling him that affectionately, because you feel that you must dedicate yourself to him."
"Y, yes. I think that's true. Father was the one who placed me on the game board. If he hadn't, my piece would never have had a turn. So, the reason I exist here right now and the reason I am able to devote myself to my goal... is all thanks to Father."
"...I see. So that's why it makes sense for you to call him Father. In that case, who told you to devote yourself to Onii-chan? Gah, that must have been the first Game Master, Beato herself. Aaaahh, this is so confusing."
"You wish to ask her why she must serve Ushiromiya Battler, correct? However, she cannot give you that answer. She was given nothing but the goal itself. Only the person who gave her that goal knows the reasons for which they did so."
"...I see. 'Consider that as well, child of man', right? So, that means you already have an idea and you're laughing at my confusion."
"*cackle*cackle*. You really are just perfect for my miko..."
"...I will... do anything for Father. My existence will bring Father happiness. That is my one and only pleasure. And..."
At that point, Beato hesitated.
"What? And what?"
"...What the hell. If you only wanted to serve him, I'd say you're just another furniture of the witch, but you want him to acknowledge your efforts? That's less like furniture and more like..."
Ange stopped mid-sentence.
...I don't... get it. The guiding force behind this Beato's actions... is that of a girl who adores Onii-chan. But then, what does that make this Beato? If the first Beato liked Onii-chan, then she should have adored him and done things for him herself. Why would she create 'a piece of herself', a separate entity, to do it...? This way, even if she does attract Onii-chan's attention, it will be towards the piece version of herself, not the creator who made that piece.
If I ever like someone, I'll probably want to do things for them. But of course, I would want to do those things myself. After all, I would want him to notice 'me'. It's as though this love is destined to go unrewarded... No matter how devoted she is, she will never get anything out of it. And she's doing this out of her own free will... Beato's actions look no different from those of an average girl in love. She's devotedly doing all she can for him, dreaming that her kindness will eventually be acknowledged. Why would Beato create a piece like this...?
Is putting it in terms of romance a bit too confusing? Then let's try using food as an example. It's as pointless as creating 'a piece to eat food for you'. No matter how much food your piece eats on your behalf, you won't get any less hungry, right? You are the one that wants to eat. There's no reason for having a piece do that in your place. For most jobs in the world, you can get someone else to do it for you. However, with love and food alone, there can never be any meaning in letting another person do it in your place.
That's right. This Beato was created as a 'piece'...because of an impossible reason... Though at a glance, she looks like just a normal girl, the more I know about her, the less I understand, like an imaginary number...
"Right. The former you spoke to everyone without even using honorifics."
"...However, simply possessing that knowledge doesn't mean I can refer to Father quite that informally. I'd like to do my best... and start by calling him Battler-san."
"I'm surprised you haven't gotten discouraged after being treated so coldly."
"...Fath... no... Battler-san is in the middle of an important game right now. His opponent is the formidable Lady Erika, piece of the great Lady Bernkastel. It's no surprise that he was in a bad mood when I stepped in at a delicate moment in his game, just as it was starting to reach the critical part, and called Battler-san by that name he doesn't want to hear..."
Apparently, Beato still wanted to devote herself to Battler, even after being treated in such a cold manner. Though to an outsider, it just looks as though she's being snubbed, it doesn't faze her at all. It truly is the blindness of a girl in love...
"At times, love can make the invisible visible."
Beato once again immersed herself in the Fragment book that the former Beato had written. She was trying to find something about the Beato that Battler desired. Ange shrugged, as though saying 'well, I don't get it'. Featherine laughed when she saw this, as though hinting that an 'innocent young woman' could never understand. Ange grumbled something back unhappily. It seemed that their give and take had no effect whatsoever on Beato as she sat in the shadows of the library...
There was no color in this dimly lit room. However, for just the short time that the plate of cookies had been placed there, the room had seemed at least a little cheery... Battler's gaze drifted over to the table, which no longer had anything on it. When he did, the cookie plate that had been there until a second ago was revived. However, it was an illusion. Though the cookies could be looked at, they could not be touched, much less eaten...
If Battler wished, he could make it possible to 'touch them' or 'eat them', but it would be an empty sensation. It would only give the touch and taste that Battler desired. He no longer had any way of knowing what kind of cookies they had been.
BGM: Worldend (solo)
On the reception sofa across from Battler, a cloud of gold butterflies slowly gathered, and took the form of the old Beato.
"'Pu ku ku ku! Hearing that from Milady makes them all the more dubious.'"
"...Seriously. Any cookies you made would obviously have some kind of strange poison in them."
"'Shocking that you should think so. Even if I did put something in, it'd be no worse than the kind that does this and that to your other thing. Uhyahyahya!'"
"'Since you do that sort of thing all the time, Battler-kun will never agree to eat them.'"
"'Huh? Putting things in someone's food is pretty basic, isn't it? Fingernails, bits of hair, magic charms, Fragments of love... eheheheheheheheh! What would you people put in?'"
"'Yes, ma'aaam!! I wouldn't put anything in them! I'd just eat them all myself!'"
"'Obviously. Do you have to be so predictable?!!'"
"'Well, they say a girl's gotta grab by all three sacks★ The first step is the stomach, right? Next comes the wallet... so what could the third one be?! *giggle*★'"
"'If I could catch a guy's attention, I'd want to make him sacrifice his body, heart, and soul to me! That's why I pour all my power and affection into my cooking.'"
"'Heheh, in any event, making someone eat your food is probably a frontal attack that has gone unchanged through the ages.'"
"'Ridiculous. How pathetic to think that you couldn't grasp a single man's heart except by relying on such simple tricks.'"
"Ooh~? So does that mean you've ever succeeded in grasping a man's heart, Onee-sama?'"
"'Battler, there's nothing weird in it, so have a bi~te. Don't think you'll ever get a chance to eat my handmade cookies again★'"
I slowly stretched out my hand... out to the illusion of the cookie plate... and touched it. Just before I did, it became a cloud of gold butterflies, and vanished into the darkness of the study. The illusions of Ronove and Virgilia also disappeared. However, the illusion of Beato alone still remained on the sofa.
BGM: My Dear
"...Do I really need to say it?"
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*. The more the new 'me' differs from the form you wished for, the more you are reminded that I can never be revived again, correct?"
"*cackle*cackle*! If you let a good woman get away, you never get a second chance. So, only now, you've finally realized what a good woman I wa~s."
Beato lay sprawled on the sofa and looked up at the ceiling. Battler also turned his back and moved to the window. For a while, there was silence.
"I think you understand, but..."
"...I do understand."
"...I know. Even though that Beato is you without a doubt, she's a different being than the former you... and I can say with certainty... that you will never revive again..."
"My soul, femininity, sparkling personality, and splendid character were cultivated in a thousand years spent as a witch. Unless an exactly identical thousand years is traversed, it is impossible to become me. And so, at the moment you decided to create me, my personal history contained differences."
"Yeah. That damn Bernkastel has already guaranteed that you'll never revive..."
"However, you still hope for it, don't you?"
"One day, the new 'me' trips and lands on her head, and all her memories of the past are restored! You were hoping for something like that, weren't you?"
"Ahyahyahyahya! A delusional plot like that wouldn't even pass in a light novel these days!"
"...Shut up. In the past, you also... You waited and waited... for me to remember... and take notice..."
Then, what is it?
"...Hmph... Well, at times, I did continue the game believing that you would eventually notice and remember, that a miracle would occur."
"...How did it feel? How did it feel when you were playing with me?"
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*... As they say, look inside your own heart..."
...It's tough. If only she didn't look so much like you, I would have kept my cool a little better.
"...I would if it was you. It'd probably make me feel a lot better. But... that Beato... isn't you."
"If it isn't me, who is it?"
"...It's someone very like you... but not you."
"However, there can be no doubt that she is me."
"...True. She is you, and at the same time, she is a different person."
"In that case, the new 'me' really has it rough. She's being treated like a plaything in my place. *cackle*cackle*, how truly pitiable."
That might... be the contradiction inside me. Because the new Beato seems like a different person, I can't accept her. Even though I know she's a different person, she keeps reminding me of Beato's face.
BGM: Thanks for Being Born
"She does share my blood, so consider her a daughter that closely resembles me. After all, she is my double, but hasn't lived a thousand years, so calling her that is not incongruous."
"Imagine that I have died, left behind a daughter... and entrusted her to you. That way, won't it become a little easier to think of how to deal with her?"
"That's actually a good analogy. It's unlike you."
"Do not jest. That is my daughter. She is the child I left behind after my death."
"...You are free to press my likeness upon her. You may also let loose your pent up resentment on her in my place. Making her bear my sins and torturing her as you please may calm your grudge. If that doesn't match your tastes, you can also guide her down the right path so that she does not end up on the inhumane road that I have tread."
"...She was made to devote herself to you since the moment of her birth. If you wish, you can mold her into any shape you desire. With a miracle of a thousand years, she might even become me."
"...So, I could even strip her naked and drag her around with a chain, like you did to me once."
"*cackle*cackle*. Yes, at this point, even greater humiliation would be possible..."
"...So, she is... your double... and your daughter..."
Yes, she is exactly the same person, the same piece, which was created once more by the rule called Beatrice. However, when I can't accept it that way, I could have interpreted her as being Beato's daughter, and found a clear guidepost on how to interact with her and smooth the uncertainty in my heart. Finally... I... I understand how cruel... I was to her then... My tears poured to the ground, and when I followed them with my eyes...
It was... the message card that had adorned those cookies. I rushed her, telling her to clean up and leave right away, which was probably why it had fallen to the floor unnoticed. I picked it up, and read the message on it. It was... extremely short, pure, and sincere. It's so clear, that I should be able to read it.