Part 74: Tea Party
BGM: Engage of Marionette
...Beato took Battler's hand... and put a ring with the seal of the One-winged Eagle on his finger.
"...Are you sure...?"
"You are already the territory lord. So, this ring belongs to you, Battler-san."
"...You really are sure? At this rate, the world you created... the tale..."
"Yes. I created this tale because I wished to be with you. That means the purpose of this world has been fulfilled. So, from now on, I want you to write it. The rest of the tale... about you and me."
"I just need to play around and wait for you to write a new tale. And, for each new tale you write, I'll play any part you want. Be it an evil witch, or a rival. A lover, or a wife."
"My tales are pretty intense. You'll be busy from dawn until dusk."
"Hmm... Sounds perfect..."
Beato's hand relinquished the ring of the territory lord...
Then, they exchanged their rings, and their wedding was complete. The pair turned around, faced the packed crowd of guests, and raised their rings high. A thunderous applause rang out for them...
BGM: Happiness of Marionette - Omake
"Let those called come forward."
At Battler's nod, Beato read the name of the first guest to be recognized.
"...Kanon. Come forward."
A girl goat pushed her way through the crowd, took off her mask, and yelled. A cloud of gold butterflies gathered before Battler and Beato... and took the form of Kanon, kneeling in front of these two nobles.
Kanon had already died and vanished. However, all of the dead revive in the Golden Land.
"When my husband was locked up and in danger, you rescued him and displayed your self-sacrifice by choosing to remain in the eternal prison in his place. That devotion is deserving of an award. Therefore, we will allow for your resurrection, as well as your continued service."
"...Ah. I am so honored... and happy!"
"Kanon-kun, Y, Yoshiya-kun!! Yoshiya-kunnnn!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!"
Jessica raced forward and landed sobbing in Kanon's chest. Kanon patted her head gently and held her...
"You won't be serving as furniture. You'll be serving as a human. Do you understand what that means?"
After looking at Jessica sobbing, he looked at Battler again and nodded forcefully.
"Now for the next pair. Ushiromiya George and Shannon! Come forward!!"
George and Shannon were the next to be called. Perhaps they had already readied themselves. They walked forward boldly and kneeled.
"Ushiromiya George, right here."
"Shannon, right here..."
"You two withstood Zepar and Furfur's trials until the very end. Your great achievements and affection, determination and nobility were exemplary and deserving of an award. Therefore, your marriage certificate has been issued with the territory lord's signature!"
""We are honored and happy.""
"No one will be allowed to object to this certificate! Let the families of those recognized bless their union with all their hearts!!"
"And so, now that there's nothing stopping these two, let's all throw rice at them and celebrate. Hey, congrats, you two!"
When the territory lord clapped his hands in celebration, it spread throughout the entire cathedral. Then, a group of goats in the front line of the crowd took their masks off one by one...
"George! When a man gets married, he's got to treasure his wife even more than his parents! No matter what your mother says, you make sure you protect Shannon-chan!"
"Yes, of course!!"
"A, anyway, George needs to be asleep by 7:00! I'll never forgive you if you let him stay up late!! And don't forget that washing his back and cleaning his ears are also a wife's responsibilities!!"
"I, is that true...? Wh, what have I done..."
"...Th, that varies depending on the family..."
"Rudolf-san, have you been treasuring your wife?"
"O, of course... Why would you doubt that...?!"
"Find happiness, you two. Marriage isn't the goal. It's just the starting line, okay?"
"Uu-uu-uu-! Congratulations, congratulations!!"
"We mustn't lose either."
"Heh, heheheheheheh...!! Y, yeah, no way we're losing, dammiiiiiiiiiiit!!"
With this, the curtain closes on the tale woven by the Golden Witch.
Perhaps we should finish this tale with the epitaph.
BGM: Look Back
"That interpretation is probably appropriate..."
"And? Now that the game is over, Onii-chan will be released, right? What will happen to him?"
"...Well, I wonder. The book of this Fragment tells no more of the story."
"...So, in the end, we don't even find out what happens to Onii-chan. "
In the end, Onii-chan and the others never came back. They reached the Golden Land and enjoyed themselves there. Even if the tale tells us this, the truth is... that everyone died in that huge accident...
"Still, we've learned a lot of very interesting things. It seems that island... really was a crazy island of illusions."
"Indeed. And your reading was truly wonderful..."
"...I feel worn out, like watching a six hour movie all at once. I'm tired."
"Ushiromiya Ange. You really have worked hard. Your reading has healed my boredom. I, Featherine, am more grateful to you than I have been for so many years that I cannot remember..."
"If you're grateful, why can't I have some kind of award too?"
"Hmm, what would be good... Give me some time. I will think."
Featherine sat down in her rocking chair and rocked it, apparently trying to think of something...
"Sheesh. Feels like this was one hell of a side-trip."
"Do not pout. I am thinking of a reward now... Yes, that's something I haven't done much, no, at all, for quite some time. I imagine the ink from the bottle has dried up by now..."
BGM: Thanks for All People
It had been very serious... and fiery. Ange had acknowledged that this tale was no crazy literary work, but a new message bottle, which had drifted here once more from the Rokkenjima of 12 years previous... to tell her of one single truth... And, it seemed as though she had found her own interpretation of the truth she thought the tale was trying to tell.
...Of course, that was only one truth, and it did not mean an end to her journey. However, maybe it can be viewed this way. This wasn't sufficient to fill the 12 year gap in her heart. However, right now, just enjoying the feeling along with the bitter coffee Hachijo had made... was enough.
"...Thank you for reading until the end. And, thank you for your thoughts and opinions. I'm sure the very first Endless Witch is happy..."
"...Wow, so you can say stuff like that. If you'd just talk like that from the beginning, you'd have tons more fans."
"...I am merely praising the wonderful reader that you most certainly are. I just wanted to say that spending the time I have left in my life writing for you alone was much more productive than writing for those pigs who do not talk and cannot think would have been... *giggle*."
"That's the kind of thing you don't have to say. Well, I'll take it as a compliment. Okay."
I get the feeling... that I've spent a really, really long time here. It feels... as though I've spent a major fraction of my life here. Though it should feel uncomfortable, sitting here on a sofa in someone else's house, for some strange reason, it feels as familiar as my own home. However, the clock shows that it's been only about two or three hours since I met her. My sense of time feels very strange...
"It must be a long phone call. It's creepy for a guy to talk that long on the phone."
He said he was going to make a scheduled report to Okonogi-san, didn't he? Even though he was told that he could use the phone here, he declined, and went to look for a public phone somewhere.
...Something about how he didn't want to risk being bugged. He's a moron, so I'll let him do what he wants.
"Is the public phone far?"
"If you go out onto the street, there's a store on the corner a short ways down."
"Then I'll be on my way. You can use this to pay for food or whatever."
"...If I let you keep that money, will you come again, read my next manuscript, and tell me your opinions...?"
"...You're willing to pay rolls of money to get an un-cute girl like me to read your manuscript?"
"No. You really are a good reader, and a good thinker. We have created these tales and been thrown out into the world in search of a person like you."
"...You praise me too much. I just take books a little too seriously."
"As thanks for the considerable time you have given to me, I will someday write your tale."
"Am I going to appear in another of your Forgeries? I hope you kill me in a slightly better way this time."
"Are you talking about opportunism? I used to hate it, but recently I've become a big fan. Still, I'm picky about what I'll accept, and falling from a skyscraper and ending up unharmed isn't what I'd call a miracle."
"...Then, one day, perhaps, I will write a tale that you will consider a miracle..."
"I'm... really sorry for barging in all of a sudden and saying all kinds of mean things."
"...No, it was a worthwhile conversation. I wonder if my head editor will set up another meeting between the two of us..."
"If there's another chance for one. <See you again, have a nice day>."
"Yes, it may happen again sometime. I pray that you find your truth."
"If you ever do reach your truth, please try making your truth a tale as well someday..."
"...You want me to become one of you witches? I wonder. I'm bad at writing. A good reader isn't necessarily a good writer, you know?"
"Ah, quite true. I myself can never read anything written by anyone else."
"...Sheesh. Then, I'm off."
"After this, I will probably never see you again, but I pray I will be fortunate enough to meet another you someday... somewhere."
"...Can I ask one last question?"
"It may be presumptuous to say it, but that was my intention."
"...This might be a strange question, but... umm... Are you Featherine? Or is Featherine you?"
"...Well now. What might you be talking about...?"
This mysterious woman has been mysterious to the last. In this way, the day of which I have no memories ended, and the next day, I would take a boat to Niijima.
I'll probably never meet her again. However, that just means that 'I' won't meet her, so the other 'me's might meet her somewhere down the road. Just as 'I' have reached several truths, they must also... want to reach the truth.
...If you ever write a better story, please call me again. If I'm free, I might drop by...
"...I'll take a pass on that. You know how old I am. I'm done running around all over the place..."
The person on the other end of the line was Okonogi. Okonogi was also one who tended to move from place to place, so it hadn't been easy to catch him even on the phone.
"Our trip's been pretty cool, and right now, there's no need to run around."
"Sumadera Kasumi is searching for you like mad. According to our informants, she's already gotten a ride to Rokkenjima. You'll bump into her there."
"So, just as planned."
"...It'll likely be just five or six people at most. And they'll probably be armed with nothing more than handguns. They're no match for you. Feel free to run wild. But make sure you kill them. Have you received that favorite toy of yours?"
"Of course. I'm surprised you managed to get this into the country."
Behind Amakusa was the rental car that they had borrowed under a false name, inside of which was now a black golf bag.
"Heheheh, I'll take care this time. It's an easy job."
"Also, you do understand about 'that', right?"
"That...? Well, I'm not sure what you mean."
"...Playing dumb, are we? Well, that's okay. Despite how you talk, you've never betrayed my expectations in the past. If you're clever about it, you won't even have to get your hands dirty. There should be plenty of ways to handle it."
"...Heheh, I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"...I realize that Ange-chan is a child to be pitied. Still, all she had to do was play the part of a secluded young lady. When we joined forces after Eva-san's death, we reached an agreement. This little portable shrine of ours is important, but she's also a liability. We're talking about world peace here, right?"
"...So, watch and see how it goes. I hope those Sumadera black-suits know how to shoot a gun right."
"Hmm? What is it, sir?"
"...Don't tell me that, after a few days on the run, you and Ange-chan have already hooked up...?"
"Ha. Me and that bratty little girl? Please."
"Well, it's not like I care, okay...? Looks like you've finally managed to break free enough that you can take passes at girls. Half of the world is made up of women. You'll never last if just one or two of them make you hesitate."
"...Oh, speak of the devil. She's here. Guess that's all for today. I'll contact you after I reach our lodgings on Niijima. Later."
Ange was walking down the street. Why'd she have to do that when I told her to wait for me to come back? If only she wasn't like this, she might have lived a long life.
BGM: Thanks for All People
"Heheh. Sorry about that. How was it for you, Lady? Did you learn anything interesting...?"
"It was interesting. That's all I need to harvest."
"Hyahha...! Sounds cool."
After Amakusa opened the passenger's side door, Ange got in the car. Amakusa quickly went around to the driver's seat.
"...Then let's head to the harbor. According to the old man, the Sumadera family has set up a net."
"...If we do get caught, then that's the measure of my luck. If we don't, then Rokkenjima is waiting for me. Let's leave it all to luck."
"...Luck, is it?"
"When you can't decide what to do, or when it doesn't matter either way, it's not so bad to entrust your fate to a coin toss."
"Heheh. Then I'll leave it to luck too. I'm no stranger to that sort of thing myself."
"...My bodyguard has just said he'll leave everything to luck. This sucks."
"Since I had to leave for that phone call, I totally missed the clincher. What happened after I left? Let's hear it."
"No. I'm not telling."
"That's a shame."
However, Ange didn't get sentimental about it. For now, she just wanted to silently consider the new message bottle that the current Endless Witch, Hachijo Toya, had given her...
In the rear-view mirror, the town where a witch lived faded off into the distance.