Part 69: The Duel of the Lovers
Shannon and Kanon had already finished walking 19 steps, their backs still facing each other. When the demons giving the trial gave the signal, they would both turn... and settle this. Each had one of the dueling pistols given by the demons in their hands. The bullets... promised certain death no matter where on the body they hit.
This duel would not end... until one of them died...
BGM: My Dear
George and Jessica... just quietly watched the ones they loved... They had already entrusted all of their thoughts to them... and their fates. Just watching over their partners... was now the only way they could show their trust.
Shannon and Kanon... stood quietly, with their backs turned. They had already resolved the thoughts they had gathered over those many days. The next time they laid eyes on the other... Nothing would be asked of them except pulling that trigger.
Beato was the only one who still had no determination or resolution with regard to this duel. The closer that moment came, the less she understood. The love between George and Shannon wasn't standing in the way of the love between Jessica and Kanon or vice versa. Why, when both sides could find happiness, were they forced to kill each other...?
"...Little sister... We are not permitted to do anything but watch..."
"Zepar-san, Furfur-san...! Why... why this duel?! This is no trial of love! You really are demons! You just want to enjoy watching one of the pairs fall apart, don't you...?!!"
"You'll get in the way of the lovers."
"You're the ones getting in their way!! One will fall! The one who loves that person will grieve!! If only you two weren't around, no one would be sad!!"
""That is not true.""
"If we hadn't set up this duel-"
"Then both pairs would have fallen apart. This duel is necessary."
"I... haven't been able to accept that since the beginning...!! You say their love can't be successful without a miracle of magic?! What does love need other than a pair who love each other?! This duel is meaningless!! So stop it, you two!! Shannon and Kanon both!! Why must you fight each other to the death, when you were once as close as true siblings?! I just can't... understand!!!"
Everyone should have been able to hear Beato's yell. However, no one's expression changed.
"...That's right. I'm impressed that you noticed."
"This is love's truth."
"Normally, love needs nothing more than two people who love each other."
"Therefore, when there are not 'two people', we must use a duel to make that number become 'two'."
"I could understand if it were a duel between two people fighting over one woman! If it were a duel to cut three people in love down to two...!! But here we have two pairs of people!! The world formed by each pair is complete, isn't it?!! There's nothing compelling them to fight!!"
"A world can only be born, love can only be fulfilled... when two people gather."
"That is why this duel is necessary."
"So that they can reach that number of people."
"A, are you saying that furniture is subhuman, so they don't count as a single human...?!"
""Exactly. Furniture is subhuman. That's why furniture and a human cannot add up to two people.""
"That's insane! Status has nothing to do with it if both of them love each other!!"
""No, it does!!""
"Do you really think that the status of a pair of lovers doesn't matter?!"
"Is a man who has a wife allowed to love someone else? Is a woman who has a husband allowed to love someone else?"
"Are you allowed to fall in love with your parents? Are you allowed to fall in love with your children? There are many situations where status makes love unallowable!!"
"Th, then just what is furniture?!! Why mustn't furniture fall in love?!!!"
""Because they don't possess a full soul!""
"Shannon, Kanon, and the piece version of you as well!!"
"All of you are furniture! Subhuman beings who do not possess a complete soul!!"
"There is only one thing necessary to love a human! That is the possession of a complete soul!! That's why a pair in love can create a world!!"
"For example, do you think a man with a wife has the right to love another woman?"
"...Of course not. If he loved two women, neither would get a full person's worth of love. A man such as that would be unworthy of love."
"See? There are plenty of statuses and humans who have no right to love a person!! As long as both people feel love, nothing else matters? That's just the hypocrisy of naive love!!"
"We cannot forgive humans who falsely pretend that they have the right to love!! We cannot forgive the love of subhuman beings, of those who do not make up the minimum number of people to create a world!!"
"Our hearts... are ready."
The pair bidding farewell quietly asked for the signal to be given. Zepar nodded silently, then walked to a place that could be seen by both of them. Furfur spoke in a voice quiet enough to avoid distracting the two duelists.
"Watch the duel to see which of the lovers will fall apart...?"
"No, this isn't a duel to see who falls apart. This is a duel to make true love succeed."
"...I... don't understand... what you two are saying...!"
"No, you must understand. This marks... the birth of a human who can truly love another."
"I don't... understand...!!!"
"No matter which wins, please support them. Right now, their days as furniture will end."
"The signal is simple. I will count to three. When I reach three, the duel will commence."
"If both miss, the duel will be temporarily suspended. You will be given bullets again and will start over from the beginning, with your backs to each other."
"...I guess it'll repeat until it's all settled..."
"Zepar. How many times have you seen this sort of duel in the past?"
"Of course, I have seen it many times."
"...Usually, how many times do they need to face off before it's over?"
"In almost all cases, it is decided in the first round."
"Everyone must be really good shots..."
"That's not it. If one side misses, the other can corner them at their leisure and shoot. If the first bullet misses, then you've lost your chance at victory."
"However, if you take too long, you'll lose before you can even pull the trigger."
"...If you're going to lose anyway, you'd at least want to have pulled the trigger first."
Video: Let Us Be Blessed
BGM: Engage of Marionette
In the golden rose garden, when the number three was yelled, the sound of gunfire rang out once...
Even the people watching couldn't tell whether that was a single gun firing... or the sound of both going off at the same time...
"...No. Shannon fell before the gun fired..."
Jessica's distressed expression... was enough to explain what had happened...
There was no bullet wound anywhere on her body. At the time of the signal, Shannon had thrown herself to the ground... dodging the bullet.
It had been a bet. If Kanon had turned around and taken the time to aim carefully before shooting, then he would have shot her as she lay there. However, if Kanon shot as soon as he turned around, she would be able to dodge it. Kanon had also made a bet. He did not underestimate Shannon's skill with a firearm. He was fully aware that hoping Shannon would be timid enough to let him shoot first... would result in him losing before even pulling the trigger. So, he had decided to shoot right away. And, he had predicted that when he shot, Shannon would reflexively pull the trigger too. Since he was already planning to shoot right away, he was sure that his readiness would allow him to shoot with accuracy.
If Kanon had cautiously turned around, and Shannon had shot instantly with the strength of her will, then Kanon wouldn't even have been able to pull the trigger. So, Kanon hadn't been impatient. The two had simply given it their all, left their fates to the heavens, and reached this result.
"...I didn't imagine... that my quick-tempered sister... wouldn't shoot at all..."
"I'm surprised too. I didn't think that old, prudent Kanon-kun... would shoot as soon as he turned."
As Shannon quietly pointed the barrel at him, she slowly walked forward. She planned on cautiously closing the gap until she reached a distance from which she could hit with even more certain accuracy. And Kanon... had already lost any means of fighting back. He could only try to dodge Shannon's bullet... and place his bet on the second round.
If they both thought this, then they were wrong.
"This isn't... over yet!!!"
This duel could only be settled by a bullet, but he wasn't the only one who had a bullet. If he could steal Shannon's gun away from her, he could turn this fight around...! And, if Shannon calmly shot through Kanon, it would end!
The odds that Shannon would miss. The odds that he could get close enough to her before she fired. Kanon bet all the chips he had on these. Shannon could draw Kanon in until the last second, then shoot him from a closer distance. She could also pull the trigger just before he reached her, and they would start over from the beginning even if she missed.
Shannon kept her gun pointing at Kanon's forehead as she compared these options until the final moment. She led her shot, calculating the distance he had already moved and the time it would take to pull the trigger. The goddess of fortune smiles impartially.
"D, Damn it!!!"
Getting past the final moment Shannon could have shot, Kanon barreled into her chest. He then swung his hand up and knocked the gun Shannon held into the air. That strike sent Shannon's gun flying into the sky. At the same time, Kanon's gun also flew from his hand and danced through the air. The two guns danced a rondo through the sky, reached their peak, and began to fall. By that time, neither knew whose gun was which. The two guns were exactly the same. Everything about them was identical. There was no way to tell them apart. However, there was one difference. Only one of them had a bullet inside.
The pair raised their hands to the sky, trying to grasp their fate... their miracle. It was as though... they were trying to grasp the wings of a descending angel of miracles. The pair looked up at the brilliant sky... and entrusted everything to the goddess of fortune.
Then, they each grabbed one of the guns out of the air, and after dancing a momentary rondo, their arms crossed each other. Even that had been like a dance. Then, they each pressed the barrel of their gun up against the other's forehead, both as steady as a rock.
Even they could not know... which gun held the bullet. When they both pressed the triggers, one would die, and one would remain alive. The match would end. George and Jessica wouldn't know how it had turned out until that moment came.
...However, was it really impossible for the two holding the guns to know...? The barrel of Kanon's gun, which had already been fired, must have been warm. And the barrel of the other gun, which Shannon hadn't fired, should have been ice-cold. So, perhaps the pair of them... did realize which gun was which. And yet, both expressions were solemn, filled with absolutely no doubts in their own fate until the moment the trigger would be pulled.
"Don't be sad. We'll meet again soon... in the Golden Land."
"We should have done this much sooner."
"That way, we would never have to be reunited."
"It's alright. Considering what day this is, even this duel is just a farce."
"You're right... If we're just going to revive in the Golden Land anyway, it really is just a farce. Then, I'll see you later."
"Yeah. You too."
"Hey, what's going on?! Hang in there!!"
Suddenly, Kanon fell to the floor as if he'd had an attack of anemia. It had happened without any warning beforehand, so everyone rushed up to him in alarm. What they saw surprised them. There was a single strand of blood across his forehead, making it look as though it had cracked open...
"H, huh? H, how..."
"What happened? Wh, what's going on...?"
Trying to get a look at the wound, Gohda wiped Kanon's forehead with a handkerchief. However, his forehead was perfectly smooth, without any trace of a wound. And yet, almost as though it was seeping through his skin, blood was pouring out...
"Wh, what are you doing?! Stop the bleeding already!!"
"B, but...!! E, even though there's no wound, the blood... the blood won't stop coming...!"
"Hang in there, Kanon-kun!! Kanon-kun!! Y, Yoshiya-kuuuuuuuuuun!!!"
Kanon's forehead was pale, and though his eyes were open, they had lost the light of the living. Just as though... he was a puppet whose strings had been cut... he passed away...
"...So long, Kanon-kun. And... thank you."
Jessica dashed up to Kanon's corpse, held it, pressed her forehead against his, and, as the still hot remaining blood was smeared over her forehead as well, she sobbed...
"...George-san. We've... won. Now... I am finally able... to love you. Finally..."
Shannon... leaned against George's chest... as though the strings holding her up had been cut. George held her in silence...
There was nothing in the golden rose garden except the wind that carried golden flower petals... and the sound of Jessica's grieving sobs...
"...Is your trial for us finished now?"
"It is. Congratulations. You two were the ones who remained."
"We will give you our blessing. But please, don't forget. You are now responsible for nurturing your love."
"...Please, take good care of the seed of love that this miracle has created."
"...Of course. I swear it to her and you two."
"And now, let Shannon have the miracle of magic."
"Now, your soul will become human. You will become a full person."
When Zepar and Furfur faced the heavens and yelled, the miracle of love... gathered the souls around Shannon. They came from the losers of the trial. From Kanon, who had been defeated. And from Beato, who had dropped out. Slowly, the bodies of the two began to break down into flecks of gold dust...
"Wh, what's going on here...?! No one ever said that the losers would disappear!!"
As she yelled, Beato the Elder supported the body of her fading little sister. However, the two demons were smiling quietly.
"Kanon has disappeared because he died. Beato was born to love Battler and is disappearing because she has lost the qualifications to do that."
"...It is very fair. If you had survived, the other two would have vanished."
"Hang in there, little sister, hang in there!! Weren't you going to solve Battler's closed room and save him?! What are you doing, getting finished off in a place like this?!! You call yourself a part of our complete form?!!"
"Wh, whaat?! Why now...?!!"
"...After all, when I was born, I was told to love Battler-san and be loved by him... That was my purpose. So, I don't really know... why I like him..."
"P, people don't need a reason to like each other!! Don't disappear!! If you disappear, who will save Battler?! Little sister, Beato! Beatriiiiiiiiiiiiice!!"
...Why... is it... that I like Battler-san...?
"...Well, I'd probably like a Jessica-ish girl. If I'm crude, why shouldn't she be too? It'd probably be just perfect to have a rough, relaxed relationship, where we could mess around without worrying about gender and talk dirty with no worries...! So if I ever get a girlfriend, I'd like someone who I could joke around with all the time...!"
Take the golden hair he likes. Take the blue eyes he likes. Take this personality that matches his. And then, you must love him in my place. And then, if possible, you must be loved by him. I... can no longer love him. Please, take my feelings that went unfulfilled, my feelings that I couldn't hold back, and make my wish come true.
From this day forward, you will become the master of this island and wait for the day that he comes to fulfill his promise. From this day forward, you will do this in my place. So, from this day forward, you will no longer be me.
Please forgive me for pushing all of my worries onto you, while I alone try to find happiness. From this day forward, you have the right to hate everything. From this day forward, you are the Golden Witch, Beatrice. And, one day... You will destroy everything, revive everything. You will bring blessings to all lovers.
From this day forward, you will no longer be me. From this day forward, I will no longer be you. The two of us will split apart a single soul and share it. And though, of course, neither of us will possess a complete soul... I'm sure our dreams will be more numerous than those of humans.
No one will be able to see your form. However, I alone can see you. And if you are loved by many people... I'm sure that everyone will be able to see you someday.
"...A, are we... dre... dreaming...?"
"I, insane... What kind of joke is this...?? Well?!"
"G, g, get Doctor Nanjo!! Call Doctor Nanjo here...!!"
"...Gohda. That is enough."
Genji, who had been calm and silent through the whole thing, finally spoke. And, those were the most reasonable words spoken. If they called Nanjo here, then what...? Not only was there no arm to take the pulse of... there wasn't even a forehead to feel the heat of. Like the leftover snow on a summer day, Kanon's form was...
...By now, not even a trace remained. His form... had sparkled with a spray of gold... and vanished completely...
"...Where...? Where did he go?! Where's Yoshiya-kun?! Yoshiya-kun, Yoshiya-kuuuuuuun!!!!"
"By now, no one's eyes can see us. That means that we are no longer in their world. However, we are right here."
"...You're right. We... are here."
"For us, a body is nothing more than a cage made of flesh. There's no need to be sad."
"...But, I do feel sad for her. Jessica-san..."
"This is all... my sin. This is why furniture isn't supposed to love."
"...What will you do now?"
"Though I have lost my form, though I can no longer talk to her, and even though if Jessica ever talks to me... I can do nothing except nod behind her back, I will be by her side."
"...I think that's wonderful."
"What will you do...?"
"...I want to save Battler-san... from a closed room..."
After looking a bit taken aback, Kanon laughed gently. Beato, who hadn't expected to be laughed at, looked a little sour.
"Wh, why are you laughing...? This is very important to me..."
"But it's a closed room. That's only a problem for humans who have bodies."
"We have already been released from our cage of flesh. How could a closed room hinder us?"
"...A, are you sure about that...? I mean, there's a chain lock, and duct tape seals, and red truth...!"
"I see. So, you weren't from the world of pieces, but a being from a higher-level world. That's probably why your limitations are different from ours. Ah, well."
Kanon stretched. It looked as though he was about to head out somewhere.
"Seeing as you're a fellow loser, okay. I'll go for you. I'll go to the guest room in the mansion, let Battler-sama out, set the chain behind me, and hide in the closet in his place. Is that enough?"
"I, I'm glad for the sentiment... However, even if you wanted to leave the cousins' room, because of Erika-san's seals..."
Unlike the next room over, the cousins' room where Kanon was had been guaranteed to be a complete closed room, even counting the windows. Not only did he have no way to save Battler, but he couldn't even escape himself...
"...In that case, use your magic to give me power."
"Yeah. Use your magic on me."
"W, wait... I don't even know how..."
"Aren't you Beatrice, the Golden Witch...?"
"I am a witch, but... ummm... I don't even know about closed room tricks, much less magic..."
BGM: The Sin
"What a witch is...?"
"A witch is... Not the one who solves puzzles."
"...Not the one... who solves puzzles...?"
"Yeah, that's right. If you're a witch, why are you clutching at your head because of someone else's puzzles? That's not a witch's job, right?"
"Th, then, what is... a witch's job...?"
"The Golden Witch I know... would have used insane magic to create a puzzle that no one could understand, muddling matters and sneering. Create a horrible riddle that no one can get, spin everyone around, and bad-mouth them. You aren't supposed to clutch at your head worrying about your opponents' puzzles, That's your opponents' job."
"Worrying... is my opponents' job..."
"Don't worry about how Ushiromiya Battler got out of the closed room. A chain lock closed room? How trivial. You need to create a much more spectacular, ultimate closed room... and make it so that they're the ones worrying. I'll even lend a hand."
"I'm... not the one who worries..."
"That's for them to do. It's about time they learned the true terror of the Golden Witch Beatrice, the one who can create endless closed room tricks of the most horrific kind, tricks that can make even the demons of hell prostrate themselves in shock...!"
"...A closed room... even more horrific than Battler-san's..."
"We've already gotten our hands on one, haven't we?"
"A... horrific... closed... room..."
In the back of Beato's mind, images she remembered began to flit by, one after another... the mansion, the guesthouse, the rose garden...
Trick. Mistake. Lure. Taunt. Trap. Laugh together.
...Do you know about this trick...? I think I've seen something like it in a book before...
Beato's eyes opened wider and wider... Countless lights circled around her, swallowing her up.
"And one more thing."
"That's no way for the witch of closed rooms to talk."
Pronoun localization comment - 'watashi' is the first-person pronoun used by Chick Beato. 'warawa' is the one used by the original Beatrice.
In other words...