Part 66: The Demon Wedding Ceremony II
BGM: Patchwork Chimera
"Ooh... I see. You're saying you'll make it so that Erika inherits all of this game board's territory."
"That's right. Look at Battler's finger. He's wearing the ring of the One-winged Eagle, symbol of the territory lord. If that becomes yours, you'll become the official lord of this territory. I don't mean you'll be under my charge. In name and reality, this territory will be yours."
"So I need to take that ring off Battler's finger...?"
"...*giggle* Don't be stupid. There's only one ceremony where a woman gets a ring from a man's finger, right?"
"T... take Battler... as my...?!"
"Yeah, that's right. If the territory lord is never to wake again, he'll need a partner to serve by his side and in his place. In other words, you will control this territory."
"So, we'll hold a wedding and exchange the rings. Battler's territory lord ring will become yours..."
"In exchange, you will put a ring of subordination on Battler's finger. You will control and humiliate him forever... and create as many tales however you like using this territory and game board."
"Territory lord, Furudo Erika. Any tale you wish will come true. The territory lord is a god. Congratulations, you've become the god of this small but wonderful world."
"...Ha... hahahahaha... hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha... Is that... true... my... master...?!! Will I... become this world's... god...?"
"That is the final reward I will give to you. Take Battler's ring and create your own world. When that happens, you won't be my piece anymore. You'll be your own witch, and a splendid one at that. Congratulations, Lady Erika. And, one day, you must welcome me when I come to visit, just like Beato once did."
"Y, yes, my master...!! There could be no greater honor...! And I'm starting to like this marriage to Battler thing! *giggle*, if you think about it, there could be no greater disgrace to this game! After all, that Beatrice has apparently grown a desire to serve Battler and be liked by him. In the world that witch created, I will marry, defile, and humiliate Battler!! *giggle*giggle*, *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!! Oh yes, I understand. I sooo understand how painful it feels to have the one you love stolen away from you!! And now, I'm finally the one dealing out the pain...!! Truly, there could be no greater honor!!"
"I'm glad you like it. I knew it was the one present you'd like most in the world."
"Thank you so much, thank you so much!! My... masteeeeeeeeeeeeer...!!!"
Erika leapt down from the balcony and walked briskly towards Battler. Then, she peered down at the reward she had been given...
"...Now isn't that a wonderful finale. You'll have a wedding, right?"
"Of course. A magnificent one. The perfect way to end Beato's game."
"Of course, you'll send Beato an invitation too, right?"
"Let's hope she actually comes."
"...Alright, things are going to get busy. We have to prepare for the ceremony, make programs, send invitations..."
"Don't forget the wedding dress and a cake!! And you need to get things ready for the reception!"
The two witches disappeared, cackling. Only the two who were to be wed remained in the cathedral.
Battler's consciousness wasn't completely gone. It was very distant... but he was slightly tethered to reality. And that... was what made it cruel. It was as cruel as though the spider called Erika had wrapped Battler up... and was eating him while he was still conscious. No, she might have been like certain kinds of wasp. It was the cruelty of paralyzing her prey alive so that she could save him for later and eat him. In other words, her cruelty was similar to that of a predator...
"You can't get out of this closed room. After all, you used all that red truth to show that it was a closed room. So don't worry, and just let yourself be trapped in there forever. Because as you do, I'll be giving your body some good, long humiliation. Let's have a mirror in our bedroom. That way, you can see just how you're being humiliated with your own eyes. *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*!!"
"And then, let's have a bird cage hanging from the ceiling. We can stick your beloved witch Beatrice in there. What do you think...? Wonderful, isn't it...? Eheheheheheheheheeheheheheheheheh!! Yeah, I understand. This is how sweet it is to be standing on the other side... Aha, ahahahahahahahaha hahahahaha..."
As he listened to this mad laugh, Battler couldn't even bring a distressed expression to his face. His heart was still trapped in the closed room he had created... His body and soul... would soon be trapped within a new closed room of Erika's.
A closed room... called marriage.
BGM: Waltz Op. 34
"I sure did, Zepar...! Lord BATTLER and Lady Erika are having a wedding!"
They had said it with so much of their usual antics that Beato had to ask them to repeat it again.
"Wh... what... is happening...?"
"As you know, the territory lord of this place has had his heart sealed away and cannot speak."
"It seems the beautiful Lady Erika is going to become his wife and support him in his work!"
The two demons explained the situation in a very simple yet dramatic way.
I know what's going on. They're planning to take advantage of the fact that Battler's heart is sealed away... and use marriage to lock up his body as well, so that they can steal everything from him... At this rate, Battler's position as Game Master and his territory lord's ring will be stolen away...
"It's no use to just steal his body back! After all, the great Lady Bernkastel has already signed the marriage certificate as a witness!"
"With a great witch of the senate serving as a witness, no one can dispel the union except for those who are a part of it...!"
"...So, as I thought... unless I can rescue Battler-san's heart from that closed room, there's no way we can save him..."
"Then find a way to rescue him from that closed room!"
"You're going to steal away the bridegroom?! Ah!! How wonderful!!"
"...If you can do that, it would make for a tale beautiful enough for the opera. However, this closed room sealing Battler is quite difficult..."
"The only way out is the door. And if the chain is unset, his escape will not be accepted..."
"And on top of that, the chain can't be set from the outside!"
"And now there's no one left to switch places with him!"
"...No matter how you think about it, we're stuck!"
"If we give up... we won't be able to save him. The only thing we can do to save him now is to keep at it and keep thinking."
Though Beato looked as though she was about to burst into tears, she clenched her fists tightly. She was so frustrated with her inability to think up any brilliant plan... that her heart felt as though it would burst...
"...Zepar and Furfur, you two are known as being among the most powerful of demons. They say your magic can make the impossible possible. Couldn't you use your power and knowledge to work out a plan for crushing this impossible closed room...?!"
"Yes, love can accomplish any impossible thing!"
"If you can't accomplish something, it means you lack enough love!"
"...Hearing that... hurts..."
"But we are moved by the strength of will that prevents you from giving up!"
"Because you have that, we're sure you can bring about a miracle!"
"...Can't you at least give us a hint about that miracle?! We have known each other for no short span of time. Can't you at least give my little sister a hint as a parting gift?"
""We are always giving out hints.""
"...And I'm telling you to show us because we can't see them. These two are always like this. It staves off boredom, but they can become very irritating at times like this."
Zepar and Furfur certainly were demons who possessed a great power. The power of love that they bestowed had created several miracles in the past... miracles so great that they left a mark on human history. However, those miracles were never given easily. They would give trials, tell riddles, and sometimes help the truth be realized... so that those who desired power could create that power themselves. No matter how pitiful the eyes that looked up at them, the two demons would never lend their power out of pity. As it is with God, it is with demons. They help those who help themselves.
"I understand. I'll think about it myself... I will... certainly..."
"See, demons?! Here's a pure-hearted girl...! As the demons of love, don't your hearts hurt even a little?! Let's have a hint...! Or could you at least give us a hint to a hint?"
Zepar and Furfur looked at each other. Of course, there was no pity on their faces. However, it could be seen that, though they did find the problem amusing, they were considering what they should do next.
"What'll we do, Furfur?!"
"Can we just give a hint to a hint?!"
"Yeah, there's nothing wrong with that, so let's have it!"
""Oookay! Here's a present from Zepar and Furfur! A hint to a hint of love!!""
"You can't see the answer..."
"Because you don't have enough love!"
"I... I told you, not a hint like that!"
"And if you don't have enough love...!!"
"Why don't you watch all the lovers?!"
"Yes, and fortunately, we have two groups of lovers right here with us!"
"Why don't we take a look at their fight for love?!"
""You should watch over and observe our trial!!""
"I tooooold you!! Not a hint like that!"
Beato the elder yelled at them, asking for a more tangible hint. However, Zepar and Furfur just giggled and ran about like rats. However, Beato took their hint to a hint seriously.
'Tear apart the two who are close.' In other words, defeat one of the members on the opposing team. They were allowed to use any method they wanted. It could be a duel, or it could be rock, paper, scissors.
...The four of them had alternated between speaking together, then splitting up and discussing things amongst their teams, and had, apparently, finally reached a decision.
"...Zepar, Furfur. Do you have a second?"
"Oh, they've finally called out to us!!"
"So, George! Have you decided the format for the duel?!"
No matter how much the two demons jeered at the four of them, their serious expressions did not waver...
"...Yes. We've decided to have it... as a single duel."
"That's surprising. For a one on one duel, we would have thought-"
"That George and Jessica would've fought."
"...These guys really wanted it to be them, and they wouldn't listen."
"As a man, I can't stand being unable to do anything but watch. However, Shannon's resolve will not waver. So we have no choice but to respect their decision and believe in them..."
"Thank you so much... for believing in me. I've always thought that... if we would one day have to fight each other directly, this was the way it should be done."
"And we've realized that... that day is today. Of course, we might have been able to avoid this day."
"However, now this day has come. So, we will not... run away."
"...That's right. I'll stay right here."
"Me too. I believe in Shannon. So, I won't say anything more. And, even if Shannon is the one fighting in the duel, our power is one. So, we'll be fighting together."
"...Yes, that's right. I'm just speaking for the pair of us."
"If the lovers have decided-"
"Even we demons will not butt in."
"So, how would you like to settle this duel?"
"You don't mean... that you want to have a real 'duel', do you?"
At once, both Shannon and Kanon nodded.
"...And the method?"
"That doesn't matter, as long as it is a fight to the death."
"If possible, we would like it to be peaceful and painless. And we would like to avoid wounding each other unnecessarily before one of us dies."
"...Zepar. We should be the ones to oversee this noble duel."
"True. We understand, you two. We will propose a noble duel, one that will honor your noble spirits!"
When Zepar clapped loudly, a case with an old design appeared in the air and landed between Shannon and Kanon. Furfur nodded at them, urging them to open it. Kanon crouched down and opened the case. There were some antiques inside. They would have looked splendid hanging on the wall at some classy coffee shop. However, they were not mere decorations now.
"...Th, these are..."
"I see. Just perfect for a duel..."
Yes, this was a case of dueling pistols... which only those who wished for a fight to the death were allowed to open.
"They have one bullet each. As you requested, we have imbued them with magic."
"They have magical bullets, which will bring certain and painless death no matter where on your body they hit you."
"...Thank you very much. You are... most merciful."
"And what if we both miss?"
"Normally, that would be a draw. However, such a thing is not allowed in our trial."
"If you both miss, you will come back, and we will give you new bullets. This will repeat until one of you is dead."
"...I have no objections."
"Me neither. I'm glad. This means we can finally-"
"Ushiromiya George, I recognize you as Shannon's... no, Sayo's witness."
"Ushiromiya Jessica, I recognize you as Kanon's... no, Yoshiya's witness."
""We are responsible for this duel! It is our responsibility to see that this duel reaches a decision no matter what!!""
When Zepar and Furfur cried these words out, the whole area was blanketed in a gold-colored light, and when it cleared, it had become the rose garden where golden roses bloomed...
"...Because it's being overseen by demons...?"
"No. A duel over love is usually a fight between two people both in love with the same single person. However, here we have a pair of lovers fighting another pair of lovers. This is quite odd."
"I'm sure... that's because they want the miracle of magic. It seems we cannot be successful in love without that miracle..."
"...Do you know the minimum number of people needed to create a universe?"
"...Huh? N, no, I don't..."
Shannon and Kanon each took a pistol out of the case, returned to their respective witnesses, and checked the weapons over. Then, when they both decided that there were no problems with those, they checked once more to make sure that the other was prepared to duel, and nodded.
"If there are no problems, let the duelists stand back to back, then walk the decided number of steps away from each other."
"Then, the duel will begin on our signal. Zepar, how many steps should they walk?"
"...Good question. Well, maybe we should choose a number that is closely bound to this duel."
"A number closely bound...? What number is that?"
"It's a number we know of well. It is that number which has been repeated over and over again since the time this tale began...!!"
""That number is '19'!""
"...That's an interesting number..."
"...I like it. It's a good number to settle everything with."
Whenever the illusion of a 19th person was seen on this island, on which only 18 people were supposed to be, this number was used to refer to the witch.
This was the number of years needed to create this tale.
This was the number of years it took to reach this unavoidable day.
"They'll stand across from each other, then walk 19 steps... and shoot."
"...That's pretty far. At that distance, the first one to shoot won't necessarily be the winner."
"...If one of us shoots first and misses, that will probably be the end for them."
"And if it hits, this easy game can be won without even getting a scratch..."
Shannon and Kanon slowly walked towards each other, facing each other. Once they turned away, the next time they would see the other's face would be the time that they killed them. So, this was the last time they would face each other.
"Thanks for everything. Having a little brother like you made things fun."
"...Thank you for letting me be me. Thank you for showing me the color in the world of gray."
"Why... were we born, I wonder..."
"It would have been better if we had died right after being born."
"...That is our Father's sin, isn't it..."
"Yeah. So he can just die. Let them all die."
"Yeah. Everyone will die. It'll happen very soon. And right after, everyone will revive, and we'll be able to see them again. We won't be birds in a cage anymore."
"...We will finally leave our cage... and fly off to our separate worlds."
"I should have had this duel with you... long ago."
"...Surely, today is the day."
"Yeah. It's today."
"October 5th, 1986. The fated day."
"The day that one of us will die."
"...Or maybe we'll both shoot at the same time, and both die."
"Oh, that might happen too. In fact, that's not so unlikely at all."
"Right. Even if that happens, our loves will surely be made complete."
"...Do we really... need to duel?"
"We do. You said it yourself. We should have done this much sooner."
"Right. Because... to me, you are-"
"To me, you are-"
For the first time, the intent to kill flashed through the eyes of both. Why...? For what reason...? Why must this day come for this pair, connected by a bond different from love as though they were real siblings...? It's a great mystery. And, also a great mystery is the question of how this can be the key... towards unlocking Battler-san's closed room.
...If I watch over this duel instead of running away, will I find the key towards solving that closed room...? I will, right? Zepar-san, Furfur-san...!