Part 65: The Demon Wedding Ceremony
BGM: Kina no Kaori
""Yeah, it's a lie! Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha.""
"We were just so bored of showing up the same way every time...!"
"We thought we'd change our style a bit!"
"We're entertainers! And the stage is alive!"
"You've got to ad lib every now and then...!"
"Y, yeah, we could've done without that, dammit..."
"...Thanks for helping remove the tension, you two. Sorry, but we're still talking about what to do in the second trial. We'd like a little more time. And if possible, some quiet."
"Sorry, George-kun. Actually, we have a truly important announcement regarding the second trial."
"It is good news for some! Is it bad news for others?"
"Those for which it is bad news, have probably already figured it out!"
""If you don't know what we're talking about, then it's good news for you!!""
Five people were there. Only Battler was missing. And Beato's expression was dark, her head hanging low. Everyone realized that something must have happened to Battler...
Everyone murmured. Just what had happened...?
"The witch's game will wait forever for him, but a pair of lovers cannot wait forever."
"Love is like ice cream! It's sweet and creamy, but if you don't eat it quickly, you'll lose it. Our game isn't so gracious that it'll wait for him to return."
"...So that's what you meant by good news."
"Heh. Well, I'm glad that our rivals have gone down in number, but if you thought I'd applaud another person's misfortune, you're totally wrong..."
"Battler-kun... the one we thought of as our greatest enemy... I won't ask why. If the demons in charge say so, then that's how it is."
"...Then... what will happen to Beatrice-sama...?"
"...It seems I will lose the right to take this trial."
"After all, this is a trial to test the bonds between lovers!"
"Battler-kun isn't currently capable of doing that. So, his pair is disqualified! How truly saddening...!"
"However, she is one of the participants in this three-way trial of love. So, I think we should let her watch the trial as an observer!"
"A splendid idea! She does have the right to bless the pair that does overcome the trial!"
"...Are you okay with that?"
"Yes... I want to watch until the end. And, I still believe he will come back quickly, regain the right to join in, and continue this trial with me once again."
"...I think she has the right, to be an observer."
"...There's no need for us to be cruel."
"But even so, we've lost a powerful rival. Sorry to you two, but I'd like to settle this trial right away."
"Ah, that's George-kun for you! I'm rooting for you the most on the inside!"
"The coldness with which he furnishes that love, makes its heat stand out all the more...!"
"At any rate, we've now gone from three down to two, and the three-way deadlock has been resolved. We weren't able to fight proactively because we were afraid of a one against two situation."
"...Now that it's one against one, it's just a good, clean duel."
The four people stood up as though responding to some invisible summons... and faced each other, glaring... Only Beato was off to the side, watching the course of the young lovers' fight in suspense. Each of the lovers have an unbreakably strong bond.
Then, isn't that enough? Their love is already the real thing. There's no need to test it. But if so, then why must they fight...? The lovers who won would be bound together by the magical miracle, and the defeated lovers would fall apart. Why have the demons promised us that we will fall apart without a magical miracle...? Why is a demon's game like this necessary? I don't understand.
No, they aren't important right now... I have to think of a trick for escaping as soon as possible, so that I can save Battler-san from that closed room...
BGM: Dead Angle
"I would like to save you, both as my dear sister and as a part of my full self. I will tackle Battler's closed room in my own way, but it is difficult. It feels almost as though an ordinary chain has been made to look like a wire puzzle..."
"I heard from Lambdadelta-san. She said that the old Beatrice could definitely solve this with a trick. Don't you have any idea?"
"That old Beatrice is our completed form after we become one. Even I am naught but a part of her. I cannot solve it..."
In other words, no matter how much we think in our incomplete forms, we won't be able to understand. Both the older and the younger sister... have no way of solving this riddle... Beato shook her head, chasing that thought from her mind.
"I won't give up... I'll set right to work on that closed room...! Unless I can save Battler-san as soon as possible, his heart will be crushed."
"...Of course, I have no reservations about lending my own wisdom. However, even I cannot make anything out of this closed room..."
"If we put our heads together, I'm sure we'll find the same answer that we would if we were joined. Please, don't give up and lend me your wisdom...!!"
"...I still cannot understand why you are willing to go so far for Battler, but I shall do as you ask. After all, it is a request made by myself. I will add my wisdom to yours..."
"Look, Furfur. The two Beatos are thinking together."
"...I wonder if those two can really save Battler."
"Oh, they can! If they have the miracle of love, that is...!!"
"That's right, Zepar! They can certainly do it if they have the miracle of love on their side!"
The two Beatos brought their foreheads together, and, straining their minds with all they had, they searched for a plan to save Battler with. It was as though they couldn't even see the four people glaring at each other and solemnly discussing the manner of the duel...
"...They'll realize. If they have love, they certainly will."
They were the demons of love. Love is the single element. The source of all miracles. Could the miracle of love... provide an answer for a closed room trick...?
BGM: A Single Moment
"But closed room tricks are part of a genuine, ruthless mathematical puzzle without a fragment of affection within it. Just what kind of hint could these demons be talking about...?"
"...I already have a certain answer. What these demons have said supports that even further..."
"Yeah, okay, you're incredible. You always know the right answer. And you'll never let me hear any of it. Going by the rule of observers, until you tell me about it, it's possible that you're just pretending that you know and lying."
"Pft, hhahahahahahahahahahaha. Yes, I believe I do prefer a bad-mouthed miko. Very well, child of man. To me, a miko's sarcasm and abuse is like a ceremonial dance in my honor..."
"Yeah, you're a real irritating master. Stupid Onii-chan, why did you make a closed room like that... yourself..."
"Think, child of man. Thinking is not only a job for the characters within the tale. As a Reader, you too have the right to enjoy thinking. And I enjoy watching you as you do."
"...I'm willing to make a bet. Your last miko ran out of patience and ran away from you, didn't she?"
"You are free to enjoy yourself by scolding me. You are also free to consider the problem like the two Beatos. Unless you think, the tale will not continue."
"Why? I'm a Reader, right? Can't I just stay quiet and read?"
BGM: Look Back
"...! I see, you're a pretty unpleasant author, aren't you?"
Of course, Ange hadn't reached the end of the manuscript she was reading. However, it would end with just a few pages more. What about the manuscript for the rest of the tale? It should continue much further than this. There should be many more pages remaining...
Those were inside a different brown envelope, which was in Hachijo's hand. With a grin on her face, Hachijo waved the thick brown envelope about. 'If you want to read more, do what I tell you'.
"Cool...! Looks like she got you, Lady! Hahahahahahahahaha, ahhahhahhahhahhahha...!"
Letting you read only so far for free... and then stopping when it finally gets to the good part. Amakusa couldn't stop laughing at this evil business practice.
"Your own views and reasoning. That's what I want. If you tell me those now, I'll hand over the rest of the manuscript."
"Quit mocking me. You think I'll just do whatever you say after something like this...?"
"Come on now, Lady, calm down. I want to read on too, so please just chill a bit."
"...About the rest of the manuscript, Hachijo. You write about the answer to the closed room trick and the truth behind various riddles, right?"
"Of course. However, I haven't written it so that those who fail to think or consider will understand..."
"...Eventually, your passionate readers are gonna say that you've betrayed them."
"I understand that, which is why I don't go out in the open. Child of man."
"Anyway, this is what Hachijo's trying to say: First, tell me your answer. After that, I'll let you check it."
"...Correct, young man. I am not trying to be mean. I am asking because I want you to truly understand the tale's conclusion."
"You're really enjoying this, aren't you, Amakusa. Yeah, come to think of it, you always take those TV quiz shows totally seriously. It looks like you enjoy life much more than I do."
"Come, please think. What miraculous trick could get Battler out of the closed room? I want to give the rest of the story especially to those... no, only to those who have thought..."
Erika, who wanted to savor the memory of her perfect victory, stood there with the whole vast cathedral to herself as the flush slowly left her cheeks. Then, on the balcony that she had thought empty... a shadow came into view. It was... Lambdadelta...
"...Oh, it's you, Lady Lambdadelta. It's not often one finds you alone in a place like this."
"...Oh, you. Congratulations on your big victory. Heheh, that's strange. I think I remember saying the same thing to you right here at the end of last game."
She was probably trying to be sarcastic. However, Erika was in such a good mood that even those words had sounded like a compliment.
"I... happened to hear what you said a short while back."
"I heard that you have also... had the experience of being toyed with as a piece on some great witch's game board, then sealed away in some awful hell..."
Erika had an unpleasant, triumphant look on her face, as though she had managed to pry into some embarrassing memory of the other's past. However, Lambdadelta didn't look in the least bit flustered, and instead looked down from the balcony in silence.
BGM: As Time Goes By
"Are you saying... that my master also fell into the hell of a logic error at some point...?"
"She did. Though she wasn't the one responsible for that logic error."
"...Because she wasn't the Game Master...?"
"That's right. At that time, she was still a small piece that wasn't even self-aware yet. It was her master, the Game Master, who committed the logic error."
"...My master was also... a witch's piece?"
"Yes. That kid's master... was another bad one. Though she created the game herself, partway through, she lost sight of what her goal was. She ended up creating something like a broken game of backgammon, where the start and goal were connected like a donut."
"What do you mean, she lost her goal...?"
"I'm talking about a logic error. In her backgammon game, she was unable to draw up a line of logic describing how to reach the goal she desired. So, the game remained broken, with no goal at all."
"...In that case, she should have quieted down and thought of an answer herself. Instead, she despicably left even the thinking entirely to her piece, Bern. Have you heard of the infinite monkey theorem? It's a theory... no, an absurdity... arguing that, if a monkey hits random letters on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time, he will probably end up with the exact same set of letters as Hamlet by coincidence, sooner or later. Wouldn't that be a horrible hell? Bern was forced to type randomly on a typewriter for an eternal period of time, without even knowing the meaning of what she was doing. The Game Master was trying to get Bern to create a goal, that the same Game Master hadn't even thought of."
A job you have to do a hundred times... and a job that you have to keep repeating until it succeeds with a 1/100 probability... may look very similar probabilistically, but the difference in cruelty between them is great. When you have to do a job a hundred times, you steadily approach the end, get more efficient as you become more used to it, and it eventually does end. However, a job that succeeds with a 1/100 probability... doesn't reflect the hard work of the individual in the slightest. Everything is left to luck. In the worst case scenario, even the task of flipping a coin until you get heads... can last more than a hundred years...
"How many keys are there on a typewriter? About a hundred, maybe. What do you think the odds are of hitting those at random and getting Hamlet...?"
"...I can't... even imagine. They must be... unbelievably small."
"That's right. It's not really any different from an endless span of time. For that dizzying sort of time, that child kept pounding on that typewriter until she typed out a 'miracle'."
"And that's why... she's the Witch of Miracles...?"
"If she wasn't a witch... no, if she hadn't been able to become a witch, she would probably still be a black cat strapped to that typewriter for eternity. That child was blessed by a miracle, succeeded in typing out a 'miracle', became a witch, and returned from that hell alive."
"That hell was so long and harsh... that her mind was completely broken. That's why she became such a mean and heartless witch. Even you would dislike your master if given the choice, right?"
"Th, that's not true...! I am honored to be my master's piece. My master is strong and a persecutor. Trampling over the weak is her natural right."
"...Because she's a human on the bully's side of life...? Heheh. Do you know how to create a great bully?"
BGM: About Face
"And surprisingly, though the person only has to be bullied for about three days, you'll get them to believe, for a hundred million times longer than that, that they are still being bullied, and you'll have yourself a great bully."
"...What does that have to do with my master?"
"...You don't understand anything about Bern. No matter what kind of ruthless, cruel, horrible scum Bern may be, I want to be the one person who knows what she's truly like. And it's the same for me. I think that kid, as a fellow survivor from hell, is the only one who can understand what I'm truly like."
"...It sounds like you're jealous of the relationship we have, but give it up. The hell you think you've trudged through is nothing more than a blink compared to the one we crawled out of."
This time, Erika was probably the one being made fun of. The discouraged expression on her face clearly showed that she couldn't accept Lambdadelta's words.
"Oho...? You think so, Witch of Truth, Erika?"
"I don't know what kind of hell you were in, Lady Lambdadelta. And I'm sure the time I spent in hell was nothing more than a flash compared to yours. However, I don't think the depths of my hell were any shallower than yours."
"...I'll listen to all you have to say, including your victory celebration, without arguing back."
"From my point of view, both the hell my master fell into, which could only be escaped by a miracle, and the hell you fell into, which I don't know about but could be escaped from with certain willpower... were 'hells made to be escapable'."
"Aha... So you say."
"I am the Witch of Truth. My hell was nothing more or less than the truth. When faced with the harsh reality of truth, no sort of willpower or miracle matters. I reached this place by overcoming that truth. I don't believe my power of withstanding the truth is in any way inferior, to yours or my master's."
"And what is this 'power to withstand the truth'?"
"...Those who don't know cannot understand. Perhaps you two couldn't become Witches of Truth, because you couldn't bear to look at it directly..."
"...Heh... heheheheheheheheheh. I'll forgive you for those impudent words. Letting them pass with a slight nod is my present to you for your recent victory."
"*giggle* ...Thank you very much, great Lady Lambdadelta?"
"Oh, that's unusual. It's rare to spot you two getting along."
At some point, Bernkastel had appeared on the opposite balcony of the cathedral. Erika, noticing her, cried 'my master' happily and dashed over.
"Lady Lambdadelta was telling me old stories about you. A tale of miracles fitting for my master, the Witch of Miracles...!"
"...I'll forgive you just this once."
A grimace rose to her face and blasted Erika's good mood away. Then, she understood. Bernkastel was also a witch running from boredom. If it caught up with her, she would remember. Those never-ending days of hell... This is proof... that even my master still hasn't gotten over the pain and fear of hell. It means... that she lacks the power to withstand the truth.
For the first time, Erika felt just a little disdain for her master.
"...I was looking for you, I wanted to give you a reward."
"A reward! Really?! Th, thank you very much, my master!!"
"Ooh? Wow, I'm jealous! What are you gonna give her?"
"First, I acknowledge your ascension as a true witch, not just a temporary one. I'll be your guardian. Witch of Truth, Furudo Erika."
"Th, thank you very much!!"
"All you did was remove the temporary bit. That sort of reward can't be very pleasing. She really deserves something better, don't you thi~nk?"
"N, no, that's not true, I'm very pleased."
Of course, on the inside, Erika wanted another present. Mimicking Lambdadelta, she also looked around to see if there were any other rewards.
"I do have one other."
Bernkastel snapped her fingers. As she did, a cloud of gold butterflies gathered, and summoned Battler sitting in a throne at the center of the cathedral. Of course, his eyes were blank. He was still an invalid, his heart trapped in the closed room that he would never be allowed to escape from...