Part 99: Sprout of Love, Root of Love II
If the number of beds was going to increase, we would be told about that when setting up. The fact that nothing has changed in particular... means that he probably won't be here this year either. Clinging to a final bit of hope, I stood by the docks, watching the boat draw closer.
"Hey, Shannon-chan. You're looking as pretty as ever."
"Careful, Ange. Watch your step."
"Hey, Shannon. You know, I love it here...! Can't wait for Uncle Krauss to turn it into a resort."
"Why bother? It'd be such a waste."
"Eheheh, maybe it would. How have you been, Shannon-chan? I think you've gotten a bit taller since last time."
"...Thank you very much."
"And the weather's good again this year...! I just love getting every single member of the family together like this."
"Please allow me to guide you to the mansion..."
So, after all, Battler-san has been so thoroughly forgotten that he might not have existed in the first place. The sadness must have shown on my face. Not wanting anyone to see it, I turned my back to the family and led the way up to the mansion. Then, suddenly, someone mentioned Battler-san's name, and I jumped.
"How's he doing...?!"
"Yeah, he's doing very well. I took Ange and had some tea with him the other day."
I was surprised. So, Kyrie-sama was in touch with Battler-san. According to her, both Battler-san and Rudolf-sama had already calmed down after their fight, but both were so stubborn that they hadn't found a good chance to make up. And, since Battler-san had gotten used to living with his grandparents and going to school there, and considering that those grandparents might make things even more difficult, going to convince Battler-san to come home wouldn't be easy.
"...It's just too bad. I think Asumu-san's parents were even more angry than Battler-kun was. This isn't just an issue between Battler-kun and Rudolf-san anymore."
"Then will Battler be coming back sometime soon?"
"He will make up with Rudolf-san, but it looks like he doesn't intend to return to the Ushiromiya family. Such a shame. Though I do understand how he feels."
It was a bit of a relief to hear that some of the bad feeling had died down in these three years. If we take Asumu-sama's parents into account, it's no surprise that things haven't gone as well as they could. But if Battler-san doesn't hate Rudolf-sama anymore, then someday...
...Surely he'll come back. He'll have grown so much. My resolve will not waver anymore. For some nights these past three years, I've felt sad and resentful. But now, it feels as though those three years were something I needed. After all, the seeds of love, the faint feelings I once had for you... have budded powerfully, waiting for the day that we'll be reunited. This is how honest my feelings for you are now.
I want to see you again as soon as I can. Until that time, I'll keep that bud of love warm and growing for you... I won't doubt the coming of that day anymore. Just as I think of you, under the same sky... I believe that you are thinking of me. I'm sure this news about him is a sign that God is cheering me on. So, I asked God one more time, inside my heart. Since my feelings for Battler-san have not wavered for a day these past three years... Let me know that he feels the same way.
I know that asking for that is a sin. However, now that we've reached a three-year turning point, I want some gift from God, any gift, to show that I have not waited in vain. That is what I prayed.
...Huh...? Did God... really hear my prayers? I felt as though my heart was going to leap out of my chest.
"A letter from Battler? Awesome! What'd he write?!"
"Did he say anything about how he's been doing lately? I can't wait to read it."
Kyrie-sama pulled a brown envelope out of her bag and handed it to George-sama. Just one?
When George-sama opened it, several folded letters came out.
"Looks like this one's addressed to me. They all have different names on them. Here, this one's yours, Jessica-chan."
"And this one's for Maria-chan. Can she read yet...?"
"I'll read it to her later. Thank you."
"There's even one for Ange-chan. Now of course she can't read."
"*giggle*. I'll give it to her when she does learn."
"He says he's doing great and having a blast...! That's awesome."
BGM: Dead Angle
"Yep. Looks like that's all of them. Thanks a lot."
George-sama handed me the empty envelope. Apparently, he thanked me because he thought I was offering to throw it away for him. And, clearly, there was nothing inside it. There was no letter for me...
"Whoa. The more I read, the more fun it looks like Battler-kun's been having. Living every day to the fullest."
"That's what it looks like in mine, too. If he's happy, then I guess that's what counts."
"*giggle*. That's so mean of Battler-kun. It sounds like he forgot about us until you told him to write those letters."
"Well, you know what he's like. Battler-kun enjoys life. And I hear he's popular with the ladies at school, too."
"There should be plenty of girls who like those hilarious, melodramatic lines of his. Makes sense to me."
"I wonder if he really does plan to stay away."
"It looks like he does. In my letter, it says that he doesn't plan to return to Rokkenjima."
That the fact that there was no letter for me, the fact that he was enjoying life and had forgotten about Rokkenjima, were just more trials. He is... God is... testing me. The fact that there was no letter for me alone is proof of that...
...That's... what I want to think... But... now it's just... Too much...
"...No way. Then, that promise about him coming for you was..."
"I was a dreamer, It was just an illusion I created..."
"To Battler, they were probably just meaningless words to make him sound cool."
...To an outside observer, it would seem genuinely funny. That promise with Battler might have been an illusion the whole time. In the first place, we don't know if they both felt the same way about each other at all. Love is an illusion. However, if both sides are seeing the same illusion, the love becomes true. However, when the feelings of each side are different, then it's nothing more than a joke.
"This is Battler's sin."
"...Making Shannon think... that it was a promise."
"If he simply broke his promise, I could have scolded him. I could have regretted, or I could have recovered. However, since he didn't even remember, I am unable to question him about it."
"I am unable to hate Battler-san. After all, Battler-san didn't even break his promise. There just wasn't... any promise from the beginning. It was nothing more than a sad... joke."
How much easier it would be to hate something... But I can't hate anything. I just couldn't get over my miserable arrogance, which had led me to believe for three whole years that he felt the same as I did.
"No... This isn't anyone's fault. It's all because I assumed that he felt the same way I did..."
"Battler did not make a promise. However, that does not mean his feelings were anything to be laughed at! Though there might have been a difference in degree when compared to yours, it is true that he liked you! Of that, there can be no doubt."
"...Please, just stop it... I've believed that he liked me the way I liked him, without ever doubting that. Please don't try to cheer me up. I'd rather... that you mocked me..."
Before I knew it, a dull, inescapable pain had pierced my chest. When I pressed my hand against my chest, I realized what that pain was. It was the bud of love, which I had sown the seeds of and raised in my heart. Its roots had spread throughout my chest, tormenting me like a metal wire wrapped around my heart. Rather than roots, it looked as though there were fissures running through my heart. I can only hold back the pain by tearing out the root of love.
But no matter how much I scratch at it, I'm only scratching at my chest. The root of love doesn't move at all. If I started hating Battler-san, without any lingering interest or regrets, I'd be able to pull out this root easily. Once I did, it would probably leave a hole behind, but at least it wouldn't hurt me anymore. But I can't pull it out. Even though it hurts so much, those roots of love are still stuck in my heart.
As I sobbed, the tightness in my chest grew even stronger. As long as I like Battler-san, that pain will always continue. Because I like him, I want to hold onto that pain forever. But, it was written right there in the letters for George-sama and the others. Battler doesn't plan on returning to the Ushiromiya family. He's forgotten about me and Rokkenjima, and has started a new life with a different name. I must wait for him for all eternity, despite how painful, aching, excruciating this is...
"Is this another trial...? Is God telling me... to wait for him forever...? I can't do that... I... want to be with Battler-san. But if this is the trial... that I must go through for that... it's just... too painful..."
Beatrice hung her head in shame. If she hadn't encouraged Shannon so much, it probably wouldn't have been this painful. Shannon may have been the one to sow the seed of love in her heart. However, Beatrice had irresponsibly watered it and told Shannon not to give up. Beatrice scratched at her chest, trying to share Shannon's pain...
BGM: S/he End
Beatrice mumbled to herself.
"...What's your fault?"
"For three years, I tortured you with the illusion of a promise that never happened. If I had not nourished the bud of love within you, you would not have suffered so."
"Shannon. This may sound harsh, but listen."
"...What is it...?"
"...No. I'm the one who nourished it. No matter how painful it is, I can't forget it."
"But you cannot bear that pain any longer, can you...?"
Wordlessly, Shannon held her chest and hung her head. I... love Battler. That feeling burns inside me, so that I still cannot let it go no matter how much it hurts. And, I've spent three years pretending that I didn't feel that pain. Now, I know that I feel it. And since I know, I can't bear it...
"So, you cannot throw away your bud of love for Battler?"
"However, at this rate, the bud... the root... will kill you."
"People need a universe to survive. And one person cannot create that universe alone. Two are needed."
"Together with Battler, you created the universe of that bud of love. Now that one half of that pair is gone, your universe has crumbled. People cannot... complete a universe on their own."
"However, Battler-san, the other person who creates my universe, won't come back..."
"Then you must create a new universe with someone else."
"...You mean, create one with someone other than Battler-san?"
"I will give you that person."
"A creature to bury the pain in your heart and heal you. He will not betray you. Yes, let it be a sibling. I will give you a little brother."
"A little brother..."
"A boy you have always been close to at the Fukuin House, whom you love as if he were your real brother. That, I shall give to you. Together with him, you will create a new universe."
"...Will that little brother... make me forget about the pain of my love for Battler-san...?"
"Indeed. You need a universe."
"Then, what will happen... to the bud of love in my heart? My feelings for Battler-san won't change. I can't make them wither."
"You can forget the pain of love and create a new universe. I will accept the bud of love in your place. It means that I will accept the pain as well, but I will learn of the single element I do not possess, love."
Beatrice... wanted to know love. She wanted to feel what Shannon had felt in the world of humans.
"...And, if Battler ever does return, if the bud still has not withered and you still desire it, I shall return it to you. What do you think of that?"
Still hanging her head, Shannon gave a small nod, but said nothing. It would mean release from this unbearable pain. And, it would mean giving the bud of love to the witch, to hold in her place... Shannon spread the hands that she had held to her chest. As she did, a faint light popped out of her chest and floated in the air, gradually swallowing everything with its brightness. As the brilliant light began to fade away, Shannon and Beatrice, still facing each other, were now inside a vast, starry sphere, like a planetarium. They were the only ones in this pitch-black starry sea. Shannon felt as though she'd seen this place once before, but she couldn't remember.
Then, I made another announcement.
This way, Shannon won't be tormented by the bud of love anymore. And, furthermore, she will be given a little brother, with whom she can create a new universe. The design for the little brother will be a younger boy at the Fukuin House, with whom Shannon was close. For a name, let there be the 音 character, as Fukuin House rules state.
...Yeah, I've decided. That's a perfect name to go with Shannon's.
There, he'll open his heart to Shannon. As a duty-minded boy who loves Shannon like a big sister, he'll always be there for Shannon... Let's have him be a special servant like Genji, who is permitted to serve Kinzo directly. Yeah. That sounds kinda cool.
Then, Beatrice. From now on, you will carry the bud of love. In other words, the role of being infatuated with Battler and waiting for his return will go to you. While you are still the witch who reigns over Rokkenjima's night... You have also been waiting for Ushiromiya Battler, ever since that day three years ago. Along with this change in setting, I'll give you a new form as well... He did tell us what his ideal woman would look like once, remember? A stylish woman with long, golden hair, like a foreign model. Golden hair. Long hair. Style.
Come now, hold that bud of love in your heart as you wait for Battler. This way, you will learn of love, in exchange for earning pain. Yes, this will be the setting for my new world. For Shannon, a new servant like a little brother will come. He will be a silent, reticent boy. A duty-minded kid who loves Shannon as a sister. And the bud of love that has tortured Shannon... will go to the witch, Beatrice. She will just be holding onto the bud of love for the time being. However, while she holds onto it, she will be a maiden in love with Battler. For that time, you will be able to learn what love is...
Come, let the world be modified. Oh, I am one yet many. Awaken, us. And stretch your wings in this new world...
BGM: Le 4 Octobre
How long has it been since I last saw such a pleasant morning. The face in my mirror is tear-stained and pathetic. However, my heart is as clear as the morning sun. I could still clearly remember that strange dream. However, I can feel myself forgetting it rapidly...
The place I was in my dreams... had been such a strange place. A peaceful, calm place. There, I had left behind the pain I had carried in my chest until yesterday. So this morning, my heart was at peace...
My tear-stained face really is pathetic. However, my expression is bright and cheery.
Even now... I... like Battler-san. But, for some reason, I've calmed down. It feels like I've put something precious safely away in the place it belongs. Battler-san. When will you come back, I wonder... When you do, I'd like to talk about mystery novels again.
...Oh, I almost forgot. A new boy servant will be coming today, right? One of the rare servants who will serve the Master directly. What kind of kid will he be? I hope we get along well...