Part 84: The Birth of Beatrice
BGM: Le 4 Octobre
"We haven't learned anything. 'Who killed Beatrice?' Unless we figure that out, we'll never be able to get out of here."
"...You're right. We need to finish this quickly. The funeral is already over, after all."
"...You've got it all wrong. This is... the funeral."
"You mean, what she's making us do...?"
"All of the Beatrices we've heard about so far weren't killed at all. We're trying to understand where the 'killed' factors in. That's the real funeral, as far as Bernkastel's concerned."
"...No one knows about the 'killed' factor. And that's the truth we're trying to expose?"
"Hmm, you are perceptive. It hardly feels like I'm talking to a piece from the lower plane. So, this is why I was given you as my Watson."
"Don't call your partner a piece. So, what next, Willard Holmes?"
"Questioning witnesses forms the basis of an investigation. There's still a Beatrice we need to ask about."
Maria seemed to be lecturing the others about something.
"Wow. Beatrice sounds pretty incredible."
"Yeah! And then, inside the upside-down cup, she made tons of candies appear out of nowhere!"
"Inside the overturned cup? Incredible. Sounds like magic to me."
"...Maria-chan really does love witches and magic."
"Can't avoid asking the authority on witches, can we?"
If looking for someone to ask about Beatrice, Maria rose to the top of the list. The Beatrice she spoke of wasn't the real Beatrice, whom Kinzo and the others had talked about. However, here and now, on the Rokkenjima of 1986, the name Beatrice probably refers to the person Maria's always talking about.
"...I don't see Battler anywhere."
A Battler in this world would probably be the piece version, but even so, it should be possible to get some vital information out of him. Will probably wanted to talk with Battler too, but he was nowhere to be seen in the cousins' group.
"Battler-kun did not attend this funeral. It's a shame, seeing as he's the cousin closest in age to me."
"Are you two on good terms?"
"Yes, of course."
"...And you pinch his butt every time he says something perverted."
"Oh, how did you know? Did your detective instincts tell you that?"
...Bernkastel said that everything was gathered here. Since Battler isn't here, that probably means it's possible to find out everything without asking for his side of the story. Or, maybe she's intentionally hiding the core elements and making us take the long way around, as part of some fickle witch's game.
"Since he isn't here, that probably means there's no need to hear his story for the time being. Let's talk to Maria and the others. I won't say anything perverted, so keep your hands off my ass."
"Then why not try choosing your words a bit more carefully?"
With a roguish smile, Lion pinched the air, index finger against middle.
"Ah, it's our Successor-sama. Are you done babysitting the old geezer?"
"...I see. Since the successor is Krauss's child, then Jessica is your little sister."
He was so used to Jessica being an only child that, though the scuffle between the two looked perfectly natural, something didn't feel quite right about it.
"Jessica. Can't you talk a bit more like a little sister's supposed to? And while we're at it, why not try talking more like a girl your age. How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me Successor-sama?"
"Sh, shut up! I'll live the way I want to! I'd suffocate if I had to act all refined like you, Successor-sama...!"
"Eeeh?! Ouch! Owowowowow!! Stop it, don't pinch me! This is abuse... pervert... stop it... owow!"
"Jessica! Why are you talking like that in front of a guest...! Do you want Mother to scold you again?!"
"...Looks like those two are close, in their own special way."
"Well, Lion has pretty much everything needed to be the next head, and hardly any faults. I guess I understand how Jessica-chan feels, Lion might be a bit too perfect sometimes."
"She gets compared to Lion no matter what she does. And that made her rebel?"
"If Jessica-chan had been born an only child, I'm sure she'd have become a composed, quiet young lady... Ahaha, that's an interesting thought."
"Don't worry. That wouldn't be enough to change her personality."
"George onii-chan, who is this person?"
"This is the first time I've met you, correct? But it sounds as though you know a lot about our family. I'm George, and this here is Maria. Pleased to meet you."
"Call me Will. I'm investigating Beatrice. I want you to tell me what you know."
BGM: In the Sun
Though Maria had looked hostile towards this unfamiliar man, as soon as she heard the name of the witch she loved pass his lips, her eyes began to sparkle.
"Hey, Maria-chan. You've got to greet our guest properly."
"Hello! My name is Ushiromiya Maria, uu-! I'm glad to meet someone who knows Beatrice. Handshake, uu-!"
Maria suddenly stuck out her small hand, and Will reached out for it reflexively. As soon as he did, he felt a bright light seeping out from the gap between their hands. The theatergoing power that Bernkastel had given him had affected Maria.
"Beatrice is the witch of Rokkenjima...! She plays with me every time I come to Rokkenjima! She's my best friend, and a fellow member of Mariage Sorciere! Uu-!!"
The light grew brighter and brighter... This time, he could feel himself being drawn into Maria's world...
BGM: L&D Circulation
I think I remember Mama showing me a picture long ago and saying 'this is your Papa'. It was a picture of a man with a dark suntan, on a beach wearing a swimsuit. Later on, when I learned what 'Papa' meant, I asked Mama to show me that picture again, but she said it didn't exist. But it did exist. When I drew a picture of it and showed it to Mama, she got really mad and said it didn't exist, or that, if it did, she had already thrown it away. Ever since then, she kept saying that I didn't have a Papa.
"...Did you know? People say you need a Papa and a Mama to have a baby, but that's a lie."
"Virgin birth, is it..."
"'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel'. If I was a boy, that might have been my name."
"Book of Matthew, chapter 1, verse 20."
"No, verse 23. Verse 20 is 'But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost'."
"...So you think your father is the Holy Ghost."
"Everyone said that everyone has a Papa. They said it was strange to not have a Papa, that I was a weird, pitiful child. But when I asked Mama, she said I didn't have a Papa, that he didn't exist. She got mad and hit me even though all I did was ask. So... I didn't really understand who gave birth to me. I was... not right as a human, an immature and irregular creature. I realized I was a strange, pitiful girl, different from everyone else."
"It doesn't matter who your parents are or what other people say. You are who you are."
"It must have been hard to teach that to a young, immature girl. My kindergarten teacher might have said that to me when I cried after being bullied. But even those words of encouragement couldn't fill the blank space... no, the questions. Those words couldn't answer the questions in my mind."
"And the Book is what gave you the answers?"
"A priest came to see me."
BGM: Song Without a Name (ver. 2007)
To most of the children, it was no different from an ordinary fairy tale they might have heard from one of their teachers. Or maybe it was just a bit too boring for us. Then, at the end, the priest said something important.
"That God knows everything?"
"Yep. So I asked him. I only have a Mama. I... don't have a Papa. Mama gave birth to me without a Papa. Was that a strange, sad thing? I asked."
The priest taught me. He said there was nothing strange about a child having no Papa. After all, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. And the one who gave birth to him... was the Virgin... Maria...? I was surprised! Maria, the name I was given, was the answer all along.
"I was so surprised, I asked the priest to say it again. He said that the Virgin Maria gave birth to a baby by herself! So, I asked him if that meant I'd give birth to a baby all by myself too."
"And how'd he answer that?"
"He said the Virgin Maria was with child because of the Holy Ghost. The second part of the Book of Matthew, chapter 1, verse 20. 'For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost'. That surprised me again! What do you think that means?!"
"...You interpreted this to mean that... Ushiromiya Maria had no human father. That your real father was the Holy Ghost."
Regardless of what the Bible actually meant, the young, sad girl, who had lost her sense of identity because of her lack of a father, had finally created a way to understand herself.
"Once I realized that, I knew why I was different from all the other kids! The ones who made fun of me were all children of Joseph. But I alone was different! I wasn't worse than everyone else...! I was a child of God, a child of the Holy Ghost!! When I got back, I told Mama. I had no Papa. Mama gave birth to me thanks to the power of God."
It was probably painful for Rosa when Maria asked about her father. Why did Maria have no Papa, when everyone else had a Papa and a Mama? Every time she was asked this, Rosa flew into a rage and changed the subject.
Then, for some reason, Maria had thought up her own answer. She had no Papa. She was the child of Mama and God. It isn't too difficult to imagine that Rosa, after hearing this young girl's explanation, might go along with it as though it were true...
"But I'm different. I was born from Mama alone. I was born of the Holy Ghost! Beato can't create a universe without me. But I... 'have God by my side'. I can make a universe all by myself, along with the Holy Ghost!"
"Beato called me the Witch of Origins. And she also said that eventually, I might become a Creator, who could create anything alone. All by myself, I can create something out of nothing! Beato can take that and make it expand infinitely! Ange was the witches' apostle, who would spread the word far and wide!"
"And that was Mariage Sorciere."
"There's a huge difference between one and infinity. That's why Beato is so great. However, compared to the difference between existence and non-existence, one and infinite are nearly the same thing. I am the child destined to become the best witch... no... The greatest Creator in the world...!"
"Mariage Sorciere was the nest to prepare me for that! I am Ushiromiya Maria!! Maria, who stands by God's side!!"
...If we liken Maria's sense of identity to a universe, then this endless stream of words coming from her might be like the Big Bang. She spent so long tormented over how to interpret her lack of a father. Then, by chance, she saw a line in the Bible that looked like it secretly referred to her, and she finally formed an understanding for herself. The sad girl, who had hated herself for being different from all of her classmates, finally found a meaning for her existence. At that moment, Maria's universe, which had once been nothingness, was born as a clump of ultra-hot, ultra-high pressured energy.
...Then, later on, she went to Rokkenjima, met the Endless Witch who called herself Beatrice, and the clump of energy exploded in a Big Bang, giving birth to their magical compendium. That was the universe known as Mariage Sorciere.
"Sure. Where do you want to start?"
"After you decided that you were the child of the Holy Ghost, it's easy to imagine that you gradually became more and more interested in the occult. And then what? Once you reached that state, where did you meet Beatrice, and how did the two of you interact?"
"It really did happen all of a sudden, one day. I had wanted to meet the witch called Beatrice, who lived on Rokkenjima. I wanted to meet her as a fellow witch."
"At that time, you already thought that you were a witch?"
"I did. I already knew more about the Bible and the occult than most adults. So, even though I couldn't use magic, I believed that I was a witch. Kihihi, it's a bit funny, isn't it? That's why I was only a witch apprentice."
"When did you meet Beatrice?"
"I don't really remember when. But I do remember what it was like. It was really, really sudden."