Part 51: Self-Reliance II
"That's right. She's the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"And that's why you need to choose very carefully, right?! How can you be so rash?!!"
Eva and George could be seen beneath the eaves of the guesthouse. George had revealed his engagement with Shannon. Eva's anger had exploded almost instantly. This had been no more than George had expected, so he had responded with an ice-cold calm...
"...Did you sleep with her? She told you she was pregnant to force you into a marriage, didn't she?!"
"How rude. I'm a strong believer that chastity is to be preserved before marriage."
"Then why an engagement?!"
"I asked her. She accepted. What more could be needed?"
"No, it's all wrong!! Marriage isn't as easy as it seems in manga or whatever you're thinking of!!"
"What about her parents? Relationships between the two families? Are you some stray alley cat, or are you Ushiromiya George?!! How could you be so rash now, when you might even be selected as Grandfather's successor?!! Why didn't you consult me...?!!"
"I'm consulting you right now. No, not consulting. I'm just reporting. I've never counted on being selected as Grandfather's successor. In fact, I'd rather refuse if it did come to that. I want to build up my own country and castle from scratch, just like Father did."
"N, now listen here...!! Do you realize how hard your father has worked to get here?! That's not something you could duplicate just by imitating him!! Do you understand how often he was saved by luck and coincidence before now?!!"
"And he got through it because he had a wonderful life partner by his side... you. Sayo is the kind of person who'll support me and make me be reborn as an even stronger man. You've praised me for becoming the adult that I am, but that could never have happened without her."
"Huh...?!!! Are you listening?! George?! Just let your mother handle this for now. Cool your head and think very carefully! Shannon isn't the only person interested in you, right...?! Ayumi-san from that marriage meeting really took a liking to you!!"
"First I've heard of it."
"I thought you knew...!! Her parents were also very impressed by you!! If you really dream to build your own castle like your father, Ayumi-san is the one who'd really be able to help you, right?! Do you intend to betray her feelings?!"
"...There's nothing to betray. There was never any special relationship between Ayumi-san and me. We just had a marriage meeting and our parents got all fired up afterwards. You made us go out together several times, but we never even looked at each other."
"Ayumi-san is a well-bred, modest woman, isn't she?!! She just couldn't look at you because you're a man and it would be embarrassing and ill-mannered...!! If you can't feel anything from her unless she looks at your eyes, then just tell her that. I'm sure she'll look at you in the future...!!"
"You want me to marry Ayumi-san because it will benefit you. You aren't pushing that engagement for the sake of anyone but yourself."
"I haven't, have I?! What's a parent's job?! It's to look after the long-term welfare of their children, right?! We've been looking down upon your entire future from a great height!! And from our vantage point, we can see that you're letting your momentary youthful emotions lead you down the wrong path!! That's why I'm saying what I am even though I know you'll hate me for it!! If I didn't care for you, we wouldn't be having this fight! I'd just tell you to marry whatever strange girl you like and leave you be...!"
"You hear me, George? Leave this to your mother. There's no need for you to meet with Shannon-chan anymore. We'll take care of everything for you. Don't worry, we won't do anything bad to Shannon-chan. After all, it's thanks to her that you've grown so much... We won't forget that. So leave the rest to us... George..."
Sometime during Eva's rage, tears had started to drip from her eyes. As though those tears had caused him to hesitate, George turned his back and sagged his shoulders... Even George is a child of man after all... Though he understands that marriage requires nothing more than the love of both people, he can't get over his desire for his parents' acceptance... And so, he is trapped between the tears of the mother who has always helped him and the fiancee he chose... or is he...?
"All my life, you've done a great job raising me, and I'm grateful for that. When I have children and become a parent, I'll become a parent like you. I'll be the kind of parent most worthy of respect in the entire world, one who can truly fight for his children's sake."
With his back still towards her, George threw away his umbrella, and slowly stepped out from beneath the eaves into the rain. Then, he slowly turned around. It was, without a doubt, the familiar face of Eva's beloved son. However, he was now his own man, self-controlled and independent enough that their blood connection might be forgotten.
"I think that's just about enough."
"From now on, let's stop talking as mother and son. I am George. You are Eva. Let's forget that you're my parent and let our true intentions ring clear. The reason you want to choose the person I marry... is for financial reasons, public appearances, and so that you can posture in that still continuing quarrel between you and your siblings. You have no other reason."
"You'd do well to just give up and admit it now. I'm about to share my point of view with you. I suggest you do the same. After all, you will lose."
No traces of love and respect for his mother remained in George's eyes. There was only a frigid glare as he gazed ruthlessly down at the witch who was trying to bind his future.
"...George, why... are you looking at your mother like that...?"
"Because I'm not looking at my mother. All I see is a wall, a trial... that's standing in the way of the future I'm trying to grasp."
"...You're only human. I know that you have dreams and ambitions, and that you're still chasing after those. And, I think that's a wonderful thing. We also know how hard it is for a person to chase their dreams without giving up."
I need to inherit your wonderful strength. I've learned a lot from my parents, my friends, and Sayo... and I've grown.
"And the last thing I've learned, acquired and perfected... is the real Ushiromiya George! Now I'll overcome the final barrier... you!!"
Eva had disappeared. The pouring rain landed evenly across the ground everywhere. No, it was blocked very slightly in one place. However, there was no one there.
...Standing on the ground isn't the only way to block the path of the rain. Then, could it be...
Video: George VS EVA
BGM: Worldend Dominator
In the rain-filled sky, with the moon that shouldn't have been visible behind her, was the Golden Witch of the future who had finally obtained everything of the Ushiromiya family. Even the drastic change in his mother's appearance didn't faze George. On the contrary, he seemed to be moved by her boldness. Because his mother had honestly and truly displayed... her true nature.
This way, I can confidently show her my true self...
With that first step, he felt something odd beneath his feet. He knew that this sticky sensation, which didn't quite feel like mud, represented his mother's arrogance trying to prevent him from making that first step.
"I used to read to you all the time when you were little, didn't I? Do you remember your favorite story, 'Journey to the West'?"
"...That takes me back. That's probably the first fantasy I really loved."
Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, wanted to become a god and was tested by Buddha. 'If you can jump free from the palm of my hand, I will acknowledge your wish.' Then, Sun Wukong managed to reach what he thought was the end of the world, and found five pillars standing there... only to discover that they were Buddha's fingers, and that he still hadn't left Buddha's hand.
"...Are you saying that's what my first step is like...?"
"Why not just look? Watch your feet!!!"
At George's feet, on the pitch-black earth soaked by the pounding rain... There was what appeared to be a slightly red sash that glowed ominously... and blocked George's first step. It was deep, viscous and it held George's foot in place. From Eva's perspective, as she looked down from the sky, it looked like a vast red spiderweb that radiated out with George at the center.
"...That's right. This is me. This is me, being tied down by countless studies... and raised for the sake of your ambitions."
"No, that's not it. Let me make it so that you can understand. I'll show you."
"And then, you'll realize the truth!! Ahahahahahahyahhaaah!!!"
Then, it lifted him into the air like a deer caught in a net and swung him about. EVA's insane laugh was as innocent... and as cruel... as a grade schooler happily swinging about a bag filled with her gym clothes.
"*giggle*giggle*!! Come on, try to remember, okay? What happened on Tuesday...?!!"
"Gyahh!! Guh, gggh... I remember. That was piano lessons. I still cringe whenever I hear 'I Stepped on the Cat'."
"You did violin in kindergarten. That's the sort of instrument you'd expect smart kids to play, right? But you didn't seem to have the talent. Then we switched you over to piano!!"
"Then, do you remember Wednesday?!"
"And Thursday? Ahhahahahahaahahahha!!!"
"That was the day for supplemental lessons. You were just terrible at subjects with memorization, weren't you? You could apply your knowledge but were horrible at learning by rote, a classic 'he can do it if he tries' kid!"
"...That one stung. Those are the most annoying words a kid can hear at a parent-teacher conference."
"'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.'"
"That's a British aphorism, isn't it?"
"Gah, gwah, gghhh...!!"
George was bound hand and foot by the bright red spiderweb, reduced to the witch's plaything... She would innocently swing him around, then smash him about, all with an insane laugh. Again and again.
"Do you remember Friday?!"
"...Of course. As far as after-school lessons go, that one was pretty unique. A school you go to with your parents can be trying in more than one way."
"'Don't buy your child a fishing rod, go fishing with him.'"
"You do like a British education, don't you Mother... Uwah!!!"
"But it was the most effective! That's when I realized!! Kids don't grow unless their parents watch over them!! If children are sprouts, then parents are the sun! No plants will bud, and no flowers will bloom without the sun!!"
Still bound hand and foot, George was thrown, slammed, and smashed. He could do nothing... He was still like Sun Wukong, unable to leave the palm of his mother's hand. However, since he wouldn't surrender, he could still show resistance at any time...
"...That's when the tutor came."
"He came to our house, which made it much easier, right?!"
"...It was a pain having to invite some other person into my own private room every week. I hated the smell of sweat left behind when he left... so much that I can still remember it."
"He was a wonderful teacher who drilled a scholarly attitude into you! His monthly fees were on par with a lawyer's consultation fee, and it was well worth it!!"
"...And the following days, Sunday and Monday, I didn't have any extra school and could finally rest. How ironic. Have those extra classes from Tuesday until Saturday held me down all this time? I really am just like Sun Wukong."
"*cackle*cackle*!! Yeah, if you're arrogant enough to think that you can escape from the palm of my hand, you'll be crushed by Buddha's five mountains!!"
Sun Wukong, who wanted to become a god, was crushed by the five mountains of fire, water, wood, metal, and earth, and sealed away. These are the five elements that the days of the week, Tuesday through Saturday, are named after in Japanese. Only now did George, who had always admired Sun Wukong, recognize this greatest of ironies.
"Just like Sun Wukong, you need some reflection and punishment for your arrogance. If you show that you're willing to reform yourself, I'll release you."
"That's not being released, it's brainwashing... Ugh!!"
"There's no need to think about anything! Why not just leave everything to Mama?! I'll decide everything for you. That's the best kind of life for you!!"
"I've found the most intellectual woman in the world ready to sacrifice everything for you!! I've paved the way towards success in everything!! And eventually, you will be chosen for the highest honor in the Ushiromiya family, the position as successor to the head!! And then, you will begin your true life...!"
"A first step? Don't make me laugh. You still haven't even been born yet!! This isn't my web that you're caught in. You're still inside my caring, nurturing womb!!!"
George was slammed against the ground over and over. It was a heartless atrocity, unlike anything one would expect a blood-related son to receive. However, in Eva's eyes, perhaps even this was a sign of love for her precious son...
The human-shaped lump of flesh wrapped in the red bag was slammed over and over, then thrown high into the air... where it was caught in a massive spiderweb in the sky, still covered with fresh blood. While he hung there as though crucified, George did not even twitch... Even if he did have some power to resist remaining to him, the red web holding him there would have held even that in check...
The rain, which had been falling non-stop since the beginning, quietly tormented and pitied George...
"...However, an ill-considered engagement is a whole different matter. It isn't because there's a problem with her. Understand that..."
"...'Don't criticize your child's friends. Criticize their actions'... right? That's another British saying."
"...I really did raise you to be a smart kid. No, I am raising you. You're still inside me, right...? You need to be nurtured a little longer. Okay, that's enough punishment, so apologize to your mother."
The spiderweb released George reluctantly. Then, it threw him to the ground beneath the cloudy sky...
It was all George could do to get up on his hands and knees. Though he wiped the mud away and stood his ground, he still couldn't raise his head...
"...Everything you've done so far, you've done... for me, haven't you...? Thank you... thanks for everything..."
"That's right. You must hate me now. But one day, you'll thank me. I'm sure you'll understand how much I loved you."
"Being bound by all those extra classes from Tuesday until Saturday, was a result of your efforts as you tried to raise me to be a great man..."
"...That's another British phrase. 'To wrap a child in blessings is the greatest education of all'."
"...Thank you. In return, I'll give you a British saying."
"'Even if you strike all the trees in the forest once with an ax, you will not fell a single tree.'"
"...Hmm? And what does that mean...?"
The man drenched in mud and fresh blood... straightened his crooked glasses, and slowly stood up. Though he was covered in filth, his appearance had a divine quality to it, something that could only appear on a self-controlled man, not one who had merely been dozing in his mother's amniotic fluid.
"I cannot count the number of things I've learned from Sayo. She taught me, courage and chivalry, how to be ambitious and witty and humorous, and just a little stylish."
"It's ironic. Almost all of the things you say are so wonderful about me... didn't come from you at all."
"G... George... are you... are you still...?!! Time to get back in Mother's womb!! I'll nurture you in a sea of warmth once more!!!"
As EVA howled, a bright red spiderweb appeared at George's feet once more and tried to scoop him up into the air again. However, that instant... A powerful magic circle could be seen in the area surrounding George for just a moment. Faster than he could be scooped up by the spiderweb, George jumped, and with a sharp kick of the heel and a magnificent forward flip, he cut the shackles of that spiderweb apart.
That smooth movement proved that he had possessed the power to escape from those shackles all along. He had willingly allowed himself to be bound by that web.
"...Everything I owe you for what you've done, I've paid back now with pain. Thanks to that, I can finally leave the nest for good. It really is necessary. Parents and kids should fight now and then."
"George, wh, why must you disobey me so completely, and with that girl?!?!"
"It looks like you really, do need to let go, Mother. Then, I guess it's about time."
"T, time for what?!"
BGM: Mortal Stampede
The curtain of spiderwebs that EVA shot out in defense were all too slow. George weaved through them in that instant, and the next, he was right before her eyes...
EVA jumped out of the way of a kick that would have knocked her feet out from under her, then blocked the second half of George's double roundhouse with a high kick of her own.
"I guess there's one thing I can thank you for teaching me."
"O, oh, and what day of the week was that...?!"
"It's the martial arts training we focused on during long breaks from school...!"
"...Ha, kyahhahahahaha!! I'm glad, George, to hear you're grateful for at least one thing!! Your mother is happy!! Kyahhahahaaaah!!!"
EVA's swift feet flashed like lightning. Low, low, low, mid-level attack. As George's head fell forward, she caught it in both hands as though she was about to smash it against the ground. It was then met with EVA's knee as it rose like a bolt of lightning from the earth.
"...You're right. Learning martial arts with you was the most fun time for me."
"Then now is the most fun!! Isn't it fun, George?! Isn't it?!!!"
"Is it fun to play, with your son like this, Mother?"
"Yes, it is!! You are my precious son, and I'll love you lots and lots inside my womb!! I even love it when you kick in there!!"
"Got it. But this kick's coming from the outside of your belly."
George's knee buried itself into EVA's abdomen. An instant before she felt the pain of that fierce attack, EVA watched her son's kick with a proud smile... and then she vomited.
"Gwaah!!! Gghh, ggwaagh!!"
"You are getting on in years, Mother. Maybe it's about time you held back on wearing childish clothes like that."
Her chin still covered in vomit, EVA looked up at George with a twisted anguish. She could see how pathetic her face was by her reflection in his glasses.
The violent lightning and rain... made time freeze. George's beautiful kick... had stopped an inch from Eva's chest. However, the power of the red magic circle surrounding George... had already pierced EVA's body. Though he had stopped without hitting her, blood poured out of EVA's back. No wound had been left on her chest, but her heart had been torn apart...
There were no convulsions. Her life had been ended without leaving her even an instant to writhe about in pain...
"...I know you're somewhere over there. Gaap."
As he straightened his glasses, George spoke to the rose thicket behind him. Then, a pitch-black hole opened in the air there, and Gaap jumped out.
BGM: Happiness of Marionette - Omake
"Thought you were there. Thanks for not interfering. I'm glad we were able to keep it between mother and son."
"But of course not. I wasn't here. You summoned me just now."
"It doesn't matter either way. I have something to ask of you."
"Do I have to listen?"
"...Will you refuse to listen...?"
With his back still facing her, George reset his glasses. The threat in his voice held the solemn presence of a king who could control demons. That presence made Gaap gulp, and she licked her lips before bowing respectfully to his back.
"I like hot guys, but I like monarchs even more. Your wish is my command, o demon king."
"...I want you to lay her body to rest in a place fitting for a woman who admired the head of the Ushiromiya family, and who lived her life with the misguided dreams of that position."
"So, in Kinzo's study?"
"No, the VIP room will do fine. That never-opened VIP room on the second floor of the mansion."
"...Ah, that room. As you wish, Your Majesty."
Gaap approached EVA's corpse and lightly tapped the ground with her right heel. When she did, a large hole opened up, swallowed both Gaap and the corpse, and closed. After a while, a small hole opened in the air, and the staff she always carried, which was marked with the One-Winged Eagle that symbolized the head of the Ushiromiya family, was spat out into a puddle... Because the corpse would no longer have any use for it...
George slowly approached that staff, and stepped down hard on the tip. When he did, the staff spun violently into the air, and after passing by the blue moon which honored the demon king, it flew into George's outstretched hand. The instant he grasped it... Another fierce lightning bolt landed nearby, and when the flash disappeared, the staff he had been holding became a spray of gold butterflies... and vanished. It was as though George had crushed the staff out of existence...
"...I... I can't believe... you attacked your own mother..."
"...It's the person who loves you first in the world, and the last one you have to separate yourself from. That's what it means to leave your home. This is the courage I need to show to take Sayo as my wife."
BGM: Kina no Kaori
"...Even though it was just within the game... Even though it was just a piece... I didn't like having to kill my mother. However, that was the trial you set me, so I saw it through."
He stared at the two demons. The demons looked at each other, then showed their surprise with their now-familiar exaggerated gestures.
"Indeed it was, Furfur! George-kun's determination is the real deal! It seems I've misjudged you. Please accept my apologies!"
George chose not to go along with this almost theatrical conversation. He just quietly looked down upon the game board, found the piece representing his mother, which was right next to his, and tipped it over.
This was the trial that Zepar and Furfur had set for him.
It was similar to the game within Beato's 4th game, where they were given three options as part of a test to select the next family head. However, a pair of lovers will never abandon each other's lives. So, they were automatically left with just the option of sacrificing the life of another instead. In fact, it was merciful that they only had to choose the life of one person other than themselves, instead of all.
And besides, it only meant taking those lives as pieces on the board. For the versions of themselves to whom the game board was the only world, this was a tragic parricide, but to these ones who stood around the game board in this witch's smoking room... it was nothing more than a movement of the pieces, representing George's will to overcome his parents. However, the fact remained that the demons had ordered them to take these lives, even if it was just within one of the endless Fragment worlds...
George appeared to have distanced himself from the events on the demons' game board, but Jessica still seemed to resist the idea of stealing another person's life, even if it was only their life as a piece on the game board.
"...Heheh, have you been scared stiff?"
"N, no... T, the Beatrice that Battler-san desires... would not be shaken by the likes of this..."
""Well then, who will take the next trial?!""
"Please choose the next victim! It doesn't matter who!!"
"Please name the next challenger! Any one of you may go!! If no one speaks up-"
"...That means I win, doesn't it?"
"Yes, that's right! If so, congratulations, Ushiromiya George!!"
"The key that leads to successful love between you and the one you cherish-"
""We will now proudly gran-!!""
As the demons delightedly named George as the victor, they were interrupted by the next challenger.