Part 58: Detective Proclamation
"It feels strange. I used to think that the witch's side had such a huge advantage. But now that I'm on that side, I see that that's ridiculous. It's almost like that game where you stick knives in a barrel and try not to stab the mustache guy inside."
From the perspective of the human side, it feels like trying to shoot at a target hidden by mist. But from the witch's side, a random shot might become fatal.
"...The old 'me' played games like that all the time."
"Yeah, it's almost like Russian Roulette. Even so, you believed that I would eventually notice, and stretched those games out to the limit."
"...It may be impudent of me to ask, but just what is it that you noticed, Battler-san? At the very end of your games with the old 'me'..."
It was a strange question. Even though, in the past, Beato had always been the one posing it to Battler... Now that Battler had figured it out, Beato was the one asking him about it...
"Would you mind telling me what it is...?"
"...Telling you would be... easy. But I don't want to tell you. I'm not trying to be mean. I just want... to believe in a miracle for a bit myself."
Yes, this was the single miracle seed that Battler had left behind. If Beato could remember a certain something without being told, that would prove that Beato had truly revived. So he wouldn't tell her. It was Battler's final seed... which existed because he still couldn't abandon his hopes that Beato would revive.
"If you can't tell me, then I won't ask. If I have displeased you, please forgive me..."
"Don't worry about it. I'm just stubborn. "
As she watched that sad smile, Beato's chest tightened. He was looking at her... and seeing the old her.
Yes... I must become my former self... for his sake. My older sister who gets burned by spiderwebs, and I who don't, must become one. Surely, it's more useful to him if I go on a journey to find myself now... than if I simply watch over his game.
"How do you feel about this game? Do you think you can win?"
"I intend to win. I'll win... and end this eternal torture, just like Beato wanted."
"When it ends... what will happen to the world...?"
"Who knows. I wonder. However, that is what we wished for. So, no matter what the result is, I'll accept it."
"...What will happen to me...?"
Beato was... uncertain. Even she was probably no more than a piece in this game. If the game ended, then would she, one who had been born out of that game's rules, disappear...?
"...The rest is a secret. I'll be waiting for the miracle... for you to remember all of that by yourself."
After smiling bitterly for just a second, Battler laughed and told her not to worry. Apparently, it was best if she avoided talking to Battler about her previous self...
"...Well then, I'll go check on my opponent for a bit. I can't wait to see what kind of twisted logic that idiot thinks up next."
"The old Battler-san did a lot of that too. My favorite was the one from the first twilight of the 2nd game, when you said the culprit killed everyone by feeding them small bombs."
"Aaaaahhh, the highlights of my dark past... Please forget that ever happened..."
"Yes, I will try."
Battler became a cloud of gold butterflies and disappeared into the darkness. Beato kept bowing until he disappeared completely... To fill in his place, a single gold butterfly appeared... and became Beatrice the Elder.
"Yes. I want to know more about you. And... I want to know what the real me is like. I want to become like that."
"Of course, I also want to know about my future self. Didn't we reveal everything about ourselves to each other for that purpose? However, we did not become one. I cannot understand what we must do to become our single self."
"...What can we do to become one...?"
"I have high hopes for the trials of Zepar and Furfur."
"You mean the miracle of magic given to the victors?"
"I wonder if that magical miracle means becoming one. I will find my true form. You will fulfill Battler's wishes. Battler will also be happy, and all of us will suddenly have what we want."
"...This is a trial, right...?"
"It means we cannot lose to the other two pairs."
"...George-san and Shannon-san, Jessica-san and Kanon-san. I can only grasp happiness... by trampling over them..."
"The conditions apply to all of us. If one of the others succeeds in love, the other two groups, including you, will be trampled over."
"Some people will find love, others won't. In that case, you can put those two groups on a scale. However, the scales for our trial have three plates, and two must lose for one to win... That seems horribly tilted..."
"Who knows? It might mean that successful love is worth two destroyed loves. You're too insecure, little sister. If you can't put your desire to answer to Battler's expectations before your uncertainty of what happens to the losers, you won't be able to win anything."
"...You're right. I won't give up our victory. I don't like doing this to the others, but there will be no hard feelings between us and them."
If I do lose... I'll give my strongest blessings to whichever of the lovers wins. So, I'll fight with all my heart and soul, so that I have no lingering regrets... and I'll win that miracle of magic.
"We started by testing the waters. Battler seemed pretty eager too."
She had just come back from a fierce fight with Battler, where she had gathered information by making demands for the red text. It was the old, familiar kind of fight, reminiscent of the time that the red text had first appeared, or that the blue text had first been permitted...
"And the result...?"
"First, in all cases, it was the victims themselves that constructed the closed rooms. Also, those closed rooms were perfectly preserved until Krauss's group broke them open. Also, I confirmed that during that period, all sorts of interference from the outside were impossible."
Erika reported this proudly as though it had been a great battle, but Bernkastel looked bored as she listened. After looking at her blankly for a second, Lambdadelta spoke her opinions frankly.
The victims had sealed the closed rooms themselves. And, that had been preserved until Krauss and the others had broken the closed rooms open. And, no one had been inside the closed rooms except for the victims. And, Krauss's group, the ones who had broken the room open, were not the culprits...
In this way, she had managed to win several little red truths like these. Normally, simply collecting such vital information would have been enough. However, the master witch, tired with boredom, had expected a much more flashy, argument-winning victory instead of this bland result.
BGM: Fishy Aroma
"You mean Purupurupikopuyo?"
"N, no, not that...! It's not impossible for certain well-known drugs, such as insulin, to bring about a temporary state that mimics death. Battler did not counter that with the red truth. In other words, my blue truth worked...! I... I think we've started with a victory."
To sum up Erika's report, all she had done was listen to the red truths Battler had wanted her to hear. Only the information Battler had wanted out had been shown, and she hadn't been able to strike at any weak points. She was like a kid who had gone out shopping, then forgotten her job and only bought candy...
...However, this was all the players on the human side could do. Without the detective proclamation, she could only fight by collecting dull bits of information like that. However, her master had been expecting more than that sort of dull fight... So, she had tried to give her report energetically, to make it seem as though they were in a superior position... But no matter how much she tried, the cold expression of her master remained merciless...
"...Your blue truth worked...? If he didn't cut it down, it's probably just because it was too stupid. You call yourself a great detective with reasoning like that..."
"I... I did try to examine the corpses with care, to the best of my abilities... However, I don't have the detective's authority, so we can't be certain..."
"Wait a second, weren't you the one who decided not to make the detective proclamation? Didn't you say you wanted to raise the stakes to make up for your disgrace last time?"
"What's wrong? Are you saying you can't win against Battler without the detective's authority...?"
"Th, that's not true, my master. I... I could easily defeat an incompetent like that, even without the detective's authority... It's just... this style of fighting is a little different from what I'm used to, and I haven't gotten the hang of it yet..."
Personally, Erika was the sort of human who held a very large advantage. Her knowledge and powers of memory and insight were ahead of the pack, and most likely, no human could be more suitable for the role of detective than her.
In the witch's game, it's either 0 or 100. In other words, everything is either the red truth, or it isn't. If a normal human was worth a 10, her exceptional power would probably rate a 99. However, it could never be 100. Since it wasn't 100, it couldn't be absolutely certain. So it didn't count as red truth. For example, the examination of the corpses that Erika had worried over in the fight just now. If she had performed it with the detective's authority, she could have said with 100% certainty whether they were alive or dead. However, without the detective proclamation, it was 99%. There was a 1% chance that she made a mistake, and that overturned the foundation of the examination.
Erika had gained the detective's authority and become the Witch of Truth because Bernkastel had supplemented her talent of 99 with an additional 1... Just because Bernkastel wouldn't give her that one, in the world of witches, Erika's 99 was treated exactly the same as zero... Even her great assistant Dlanor couldn't be fully used without a power of 100. When working under an Erika who had lost the detective's authority, Dlanor's red longsword lost its power. Dlanor was also irritated that she couldn't provide full assistance... She had tried several times to convince Erika to use the detective proclamation, but Erika had stubbornly refused each time...
"...Why not do it... if you want...?"
There was no need for anyone to explain... By now, it was clear that Erika hadn't abandoned the detective proclamation by her own will.
"Yeah, pretty much. The games won't continue forever, and I've lost my bet with Bern. In this game, Battler will prove that he's reached the game's truth, and then Beato's game will be destroyed in a big victory for the human side. And a big victory for Bern too. Well, supposedly, but you look unsatisfied for some reason."
"...Yeah, I'm not satisfied. I didn't want such a boring victory."
"The victory you did want had Beato's game board being torn to bits and Beato's true, pathetic form exposed, humiliated, and trampled on. But this victory of Battler's isn't quite like that, is it...?"
"...All this about love... and promises. To end the game quietly and let her sleep in peace? That sort of ending would make anyone vomit."
"I didn't give Battler all that advice so that he could end things like that. I had his little sister turned to scrap meat behind his back. I had his parents and family killed horribly over and over again. That was all to spark a desire for revenge against Beato."
"And now... what kind of ending is this...? Have I won? Of course not! Battler's gotten his hands on a victory that neither you nor I can stand. I had to withstand a staggering period of boredom just to come all the way out to this territory, just so that I could see Beatrice lamely and pathetically torn to bits. I didn't come here to sip from a rotten yogurt Fragment like this!"
"Aw, your angry face is wonderful too, Bern. I see, so this is why you wanted to straighten things out for yourself at least once at the end."
"It's all the fault of this moron piece screwing up all the time in the last game! Because of you, this game board that looked like it'd be entertaining for many thousand years... is all... wasted...!! Filth, trash, scum!!"
"...M, my apologies, my master... I will definitely... bring you a victory, so please forgive me..."
"If you couldn't win with the detective's authority in the last game, how do you expect to defeat Battler now that he's the Game Master...? You don't have a chance at winning even with the detective's authority. So why bother with it?"
"True, if you can't win anyway, then the detective proclamation isn't necessary. The lack will just make your loss all the more certain."
"And therefore, if you manage to win in this even worse situation, that would be a miracle worthy of me. If and only if you can do that, I'll be able to forgive you."
"Y, yes. I will surely... show you that miracle...!"
"Like hell you can, scum."
"All you can do is thoroughly expose your wretched self in a horrible punishment game, with your only weapon taken away from you... and even through it all, you'll still roll over playfully and beg to keep me entertained, scum."
Gold butterflies gathered in the darkness and took the shape of Battler. Though he had just arrived, he seemed to know that the mood was dark.
"It's just a rehash of the closed rooms Beato made in the past. I'll take that to be a compliment for Beato."
"It seems your fight with Erika wasn't bad either. Think your serial murders will move along smoothly?"
"...Who knows? My role isn't to carry out serial murders. It's to use that process to show you closed rooms that are impossible without magic, and thereby achieve victory for the witch side and prove that I have fully understood this game. No, there's one more thing."
"To settle things with Erika, after that evenly matched duel we acted out last time."
"Even... ly... matched...?"
Bernkastel noticeably grimaced. Erika averted her eyes and hung her head, timidly...
"I know what you're thinking. That wasn't a draw, we should have won easily so it counts as a loss."
"Hey, it's not polite to eavesdrop."
"...Look at a mirror. It's written all over your faces."
"No way...! Where?! Hey, what's going on?! If you tell me it's written in ink only morons can't see, then death, death, super death for you!!"
Lambdadelta pulled a mirror out of thin air, then looked at it and jumped around angrily. She was apparently pretending to be stupid in her own, special way.
"Wh, what is it?"
"What happened to Dlanor this time? Are you by yourself?"
"...NO. I have been waiting HERE."
Dlanor had been just standing around in reserve, hiding her presence in the dark shadows...
"Well, when she can't use her red longsword, Dlanor is just useless scum. There's no point having her around, so she's hanging back."
"...All I can do now is record Lady Erika's REASONING."
"Why won't you fight with her? Why can't you use that red longsword? Erika's reasoning... and your longsword. Those were strong because they worked together."
Dlanor didn't answer. She just glanced slightly at Bernkastel's expression. However, that glance was the same as a clear answer for Battler now. Battler fully realized the situation...
BGM: Soul of Soul
"...Oho, I don't know what you're talking about."
"This fight is between me and Erika. We're going to fight with all we've got. That way, we'll be able to accept it whether we win or lose. There's no need for a mastermind behind the scenes like you."
"...Come now, I'm no mastermind. I'm just a theatergoer trying to relieve her boredom."
"A theatergoer is someone who sits quietly in the stands and watches. That's not what we call someone who jeers at the stage and threatens or manipulates the performers."
"Sorry for being an ill-mannered audience. You might not know it, but I've already paid a huge admission fee to watch this play. Sorry, but I intend to enjoy it until I get my money's worth."
"If you get in the way of the game's progression, I can use my authority as the Game Master to boot you out of this game."
"If you want to, go ahead. If you chase me out, then I'll head back with my piece, Erika. This game will be cancelled, and you won't be able to prove that you've reached the truth. A theatergoer is an observer. A truth with no observers is the same as an illusion. You need a theatergoer as a witness until Beato's game ends."
"...Our truth only needs to pass between the two of us! If you get in the way any further, I will boot you out by force. Then you can writhe around in boredom for a few centuries until you find another way to kill time."
"Then why don't I?! Erika, this game is over! Good work. You were completely useless. You weren't able to overturn the dishonor of your loss, so as promised, I'll throw you into the worst Fragment, I'll toss you into the depths of oblivion with the empty popcorn buckets!!"
"M, my master...! I will... I will win... I'll win no matter what...!! So please, let me fight Battler until the end...!! I don't... want to lose... and get thrown in the d... depths of oblivion... *hic*...*hic*..."
"...You know I want to watch until the end, right? But Battler says he'll toss me out. Hey, what'll you do, Lambda?!"
"Well, I realize you've been irritated since the last game, Bern, but calm down a bit. And Battler, don't provoke Bern so much. This kid can't control her emotions sometimes."
Bernkastel, who, at one point in time, never showed any expressions at all, was now twisting her face into all kinds of displeased and ugly shapes. When Lambdadelta made fun of that, Bernkastel clicked her tongue and looked away. As they say, nothing can stop poison but poison. Apparently, Lambdadelta was the only one who could rein Bernkastel in.
"...Erika, you want to fight Battler, clear your name, and get Bern back into a good mood, right?"
"Battler, you want to quickly and neatly end this 'final game' so that you can prove that you've found the truth, right?"
"...Yeah. This is a face-off between me and Erika. I won't let anyone get in my way, but I won't let anyone get in Erika's way either."
"If both of them wish to fight, then that should be respected. Leave Bern to me. I'm the only one in the world who can calm that kid when she gets into a bad mood."
"...You're the same sort as her, but at least you can be reasonable."
"...You shouldn't underestimate me. I just like seeing Bern grimace. That's why I've taken a liking to this game of yours. If you think I'm easy to handle, you're apt to get burned, okay...?"
"Dlanor can't use her red longsword because the detective proclamation hasn't been made. If Erika makes that, she'll regain her power right away. Right?"
"...YES. When that happens, forgive ME."
BGM: About Face
"Do you really think you can beat me as I am now without the detective's authority?"
"...I... I can win..."
"...Lord BATTLER. Lady Erika is herself a PIECE. She cannot disobey her master's orders. All she can do is gather the power she has... and fight for SURVIVAL."
"And Dlanor, your power can't be used at all without the detective proclamation?"
"...I need permission before unsheathing the 'red KEY'. One form of that permission is the detective PROCLAMATION."
"Are there ways of getting that permission besides the detective proclamation?"
"Wh, what are you saying...?! I, if you're doing this out of pity for me, that's none of your business!"
"Quiet. You're so flimsy by yourself that it's boring. Be quiet, detective who isn't a detective."
"The 'red key' is extremely close to the red TRUTH. If and only if I am given a 'truth', I am permitted to draw my sword for items that pertain to IT."
"What do you mean by a 'truth'...?"
"...For example, there are Lady Erika's duct tape SEALS."
"Lady Bernkastel has already acknowledged that those seals are equivalent in value to the red TRUTH. Therefore, I am permitted to draw the red key only for truths pertaining to those SEALS."
"Those caused me a lot of trouble last time, so I had all the sticky duct tape removed from the game board this time around."
"...A splendid MOVE."
"...Erika was proud to be able to call herself the detective, wasn't she?"
"YES... Though her only goal was to irresponsibly solve riddles, it was a matter of pride for HER."
"Then, she must really be suffering now that she can't make that proclamation."
"...Only she could tell you THAT."
Battler took a deep breath, then hung his head in thought for a time. Erika was his enemy, but she was the player on the human side, and without her, there would be no game. It had been the same way with the old Beato. Battler had one-sidedly viewed Beato as the enemy. However, though Beato had thought of him as the opposing player, she hadn't personally considered him an enemy. In accordance with the rules, I must fight my rival ruthlessly. However, that doesn't mean I need to hate Erika herself.
...I won't misunderstand Beato's game.
"Erika. It's up to you whether you make the detective proclamation. In that case, go and fight just with your power as a human."
"I've been prepared to do that from the beginning...!"
"However, you have talented allies. Dlanor, Gertrude, and Cornelia. You aren't alone. You have allies."
"Yeah, but they're unreliable, powerless, and useless scum."
"Dlanor. Just like I was supported by Virgilia and Ronove in the past, Erika needs support as well. I know from repeated experience that playing for the human side is tough."
"...YES. I will assist her with all the power I POSSESS."
"Know that it is our job."
"Hmph. And you can't even use the red truth!"
"Erika. I will give power, not to you, but to your allies."
"Huh?! Wh, what do you think you're doing...?! I'd rather die than receive your pity!!"
To fully seal one room, multiple seals are needed to cover all the doors and windows. If he had just said three seals, it would only be able to fully seal up one room at best. So, Battler was generous and measured them by room instead of by seal...
"As the Game Master, I also acknowledge that these seals have the same effect as the red truth. This way, you'll also be able to wield that red longsword in a fight surrounding those. Right...?"
"...YES... But... are you CERTAIN?"
"Winning against Erika when she's less than a detective is hardly a victory. If Erika's upping the stakes, then I should have the right to do the same."
"Whew, what a man! Aren't you lucky, Erika?! Now you can use a bit of red without making the detective proclamation and irritating your master."
"...Y, you'll regret this... I'll use these three seals... and kill you... no matter what...!"
"Sounds great. Come and kill me."
Though it was only for three rooms, it was a red truth that Erika would have killed for. Now, she finally had enough leeway to fight as she pleased. She ground her teeth at being pitied by Battler, but her tears were not those of shame.
Erika had borrowed duct tape from Kumasawa to make seals with. However, Battler had made it so that those were not sticky... If he made it so that there never was any problem with the stickiness of that duct tape, the transition could be made smoothly.
"Sure, that's fine. I'll rewrite the tale. The duct tape that Erika received from Kumasawa-san late at night on the first day was sticky, but there was only enough left to use on three rooms. I'll apply that from here on out."
"UNDERSTOOD. Lady Erika will also retroactively adjust her movements, starting before the discovery of the first twilight and taking into account that the application of this privilege is now POSSIBLE. As soon as these changes affect the progression of the game, they will be reported to the Game MASTER."
"...Letting you do it retroactively, even though you know which rooms the crime will occur in... That gives you a pretty big advantage. You won't have to waste tape on other rooms."
"It seems you've grown quite arrogant since becoming Game Master. Isn't it fun? to give out charity to your pathetic opponents?"
"Quiet. And don't misunderstand. I'm not being arrogant or easy on her. Erika, use this weapon and come at me with all you've got. Then I will crush you with all I've got. So, hold your head up high and use those three. That is all."
Battler made to leave the room with a flick of his cape. As he did, he thought he heard Erika let out a strained voice calling him to a stop.
"...What is it?"
"If you have no business with me, I'm going. Make sure you talk with Dlanor. Don't listen to those obnoxious witches, whatever they tell you. As long as I'm on this game board, I won't let them do whatever they please."
"...Thank you... I'll... fight with all I've got... I'll come at you with all my strength... so... I'll defeat you no matter what... So, if you do win against me... please crush me with all your strength. *hic*... Please... don't leave... a scrap behind... *hic*...!"
"...Understood. And don't you go easy on me. This is the final game. I'm playing to prove to Beato that I've reached the truth. By now, who wins and who loses doesn't affect that goal. So, I just want to accept you as a rival and settle this. In the game, let us suspect each other over everything as enemies. But as fellow players, let's trust each other. That's how this game is supposed to be played."
"...Yes... Thank you... Thank you... uuuuuu..."