Part 100: The Witch Illusion
...So I tried calling out to her. You can exchange words with someone whether they're a human or a witch. So even in a world where witches have been denied, I should be allowed to talk to her...
BGM: Soul of Soul
"Yeah... I didn't hear it, but I watched you until the very end... I definitely saw you... boldly stand up to that evil witch..."
"...With this, I am no longer a witch. But I will definitely... become a witch again... And then, I will make it so that I can be called the Golden Witch again, and once again... return... so that I can be accepted as your opponent..."
"No. You... were a witch."
"...I... saw it. When you took that evil witch, and blew her away with that awesome magic, exposing her true form, I saw it with my own eyes..."
"Th-That wasn't magic, but the red-"
...When Battler said those words... In the world that had been dark, there was suddenly a single grain. A small grain of gold, like a wheat seed, shone brightly.
And... even though it was small, it had a strong, gold-colored sparkle.
So, they each became aware of their own form. They did not exist only as consciousness. They became aware that they had bodies and definitely existed. No, perhaps we should say that they each had been given an existence called a body.
When Battler looked at his own form, he wasn't that surprised. But when Beato looked at her own form, she was a little startled. From Battler's perspective, she looked just like normal, but for a short while, she was surprised by that form...
"The sparkle from that grain of light... is slowly getting stronger..."
That grain of wheat was no longer simply gold-colored, but was like the light of the sun. Then, it softly... began to approach Beato's chest. When that grain of the sun... was sucked inside her chest-
BGM: Happiness of Marionette
An island rose up, trees sprouted and created a forest, walls surrounded us and a ceiling swallowed us. And was adorned with more and more things, made to be like the hall in the Ushiromiya mansion. In the middle of the fantastical hall where many gold butterflies beat their wings, many tables were set up with white tablecloths, like it was a party, and beautiful cooking and fruits were set out. And over there... were a great many shapes. It was everyone talking together and smiling.
There was Dad and Kyrie-san, Uncle Krauss, Aunt Natsuhi and Aunt Rosa, and of course, even Aunt Eva and Uncle Hideyoshi. George-aniki, Jessica, Maria, wait, wait, even Shannon-chan, Kanon-kun, Gohda-san and Kumasawa-san are here. Everyone, everyone was at the party, clapping their hands and celebrating our return...
"Wh-Why...? Even though everyone was dead...! Why are they alive...?!"
"...In the Golden Land, the souls of all the dead can be revived... Welcome back, Beatrice. And welcome, Battler-kun. Welcome to the Golden Land."
"...I... made it? I made it... to the door of the Golden Land?"
"Yes. Milady, you have finally managed to invite everyone here. Welcome, Battler-sama, to the Golden Land."
"G-Grandfather, where in the world... am I...?"
"My blood, which is incompatible with magic, runs most deeply in your veins. Therefore, you were the only one who could not reach the Golden Land, and Beatrice has been searching for you this whole time. She tried everything to bring you here."
"...What did you say...?"
"It seems that we are all here at last."
"Battler-sama, if you would take your seat. Tonight's dinner is my very best work. If you would, please relish it."
"...The Seven Stakes babes..."
"In the Golden Land, all of those with minds are equal. Here, there is no distinction between us furniture, Humans, and witches."
"...Battler-sama, we were waiting for you. Welcome to the Golden Land..."
"...I still feel like this might be a dream... We should have died. But... I'm alive. And everyone... everyone is here... and happy. I can't believe it."
"That's right, this place must be a dream wooorld! So it must be a dream that George is acting so friendly with a maid girl! Whaaaaaah!"
"Could you give it a rest, Eva? For now, you gotta stay quiet and bless the two young'uns. The Golden Land is a city of bliss. We should never quarrel here...!"
"Here, any people are free to love each other. No one needs to hesitate over it."
"Jessica-chan, Kanon-kun, you look so wonderfuul! I'm jealo-us!"
"...H-Hey, Battler... I'm a little, umm, wahahahaha..."
"Battler-sama, welcome. And welcome home..."
Jessica was probably embarrassed because she was holding hands with Kanon-kun. Kanon-kun wanted to act humbly like a servant and bow, but since neither of them could let go of the other's hand, he couldn't do it so well, and the whole scene looked fairly comical.
"With a servant child...?!! You can't, our Jessica cannot do such a thing...!!"
"It's hardly a big deal, correct? Let her at least choose the person she likes."
"She can't, she can't, aaaaaaaaaahhh, Jessicaaaaaaaaa!"
"You can't eitheeeeeer, Geooooooooorge!"
...As Aunt Natsuhi and Aunt Eva hugged each other, they cried tears of regret for their adorable children. Even though they had always been at odds. It was a very bizarre scene.
"That's right. It's proof that a parent's too attached to their child."
"Battleer, no matter what kind of woman you bring home, I'll give her a warm welcome, okay?"
"Don't you dare introduce her to this man, okay? He'll get his hands on her immediately. They'll run off together right away."
"...Battler. You finally came here. Kihhihihihihihihihi."
"Maria, from the very beginning, you knew we'd be coming here...?"
"Uu-! That's why I wasn't scared at all. Everyone was being a coward and trembling. It was funny!"
"...What the hell. Even though I thought you were the most screwed up, you actually knew the truth from the beginning."
"Formulating Firing Curve, Attack Preparations Ready. Lady MARIA, we can attack at any time. Nihi!"
"...Be quiet. You are in the presence of Beatrice-sama."
"Come now, no need to be so stiff. Let's be considerate of their desire to joke around and have fun. More importantly, why don't we begin preparing for the toast?"
"Yes, preparations for my excellent mackerel cooking are complete. I can serve it at any time."
"Hey!! Ladies! Work a little more like furniture!!"
"Nooooo!! I'm gonna stuff myself some mo-re! Uu-aaah!"
"Come on, let's work. Don't keep the guests waiting. Let's work studiously and attend to them."
"Don't let the guests do anything. Make them lazy, make them slothful, fatten them like pigs. Ahhahaha!"
"...Beatrice. Battler-kun. This way."
Beato and I turned our heads to see what was going on, then climbed the stairs together. From the hall, it looked like a very high stage. A small table had been set up there, as well as a piece of parchment and an old-fashioned quill pen.
I saw that strange magical characters and Japanese were written side by side. And below it, many names were written. There were 17 of them. Grandfather was the first, and everyone's names had been signed all over it. The people who arrived at the Golden Land probably signed this one after another.
"The Golden Land is not a world supported by the power of magic alone. The cooperation and approval of all humans who receive happiness here is required. For that sake, we must gather the signatures of everyone here."
"Last time, the door to the Golden Land was finally opened, but you refused to sign. Although you probably don't remember it. Because you refused to sign, this world was once again sealed in darkness."
"...Just hearing it like that, it kinda sounds like I'm the only stubborn one, and that I've been a bother to everyone in various ways..."
"That's because your stubbornness is the real deal. It seems you received more than just blood from Kinzo."
Beato laughed amiably. I should've felt like she was making fun of me, but without thinking, I went along with her, laughing and smiling.
"Magic is a miracle. Miracles cannot be made complete unless everyone believes. And, when you believed in the end, this miracle, the Golden Land, was completed."
"...It looks like I've been a real pain. So, what should I do...?"
"First, sign here. Then, Beatrice, you sign here."
"...Quill pens are pretty hard to use, huh? Whoa, it shot."
"You klutz. Shooting ink is a bad omen. Can't you at least write your name quickly? Your pen's wriggling all over the place like a worm. *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*...!"
Grimoire - A B
"Sh-Shut up, in school, didn't they tell you not to use cursive on tests?"
"Hey, this is a solemn ceremony. Be silent."
"Very well. We have gathered the two signatures, as well as the form for the covenant. Both of you, your oath please. We'll start with Beatrice. Put your hand on the covenant and take the oath."
"...I-Indeed... I-It's a little embarrassing."
"...As a good witch, Beatrice swears to continue her studies from this point forth to bring happiness to the people. Will that do?"
"Acceptable. Battler is next."
"In the same way, Battler-kun, put your hand on the covenant and take the oath. 'As a member of the Golden Land, Ushiromiya Battler swears to serve for the sake of his own happiness and that of his neighbor'."
"Ah, as a member of the Golden Land, Ushiromiya Battler swears to serve for the sake of his own happiness and that of his neighbor."
"...I'm embarrassed too..."
When Kinzo proclaimed that, everyone applauded at once, praising us. Since I had been the only stubborn one and had just been a pain, I felt a little bad about being the most celebrated one.
"And with that, in accordance with the ancient rites, we ask Battler-kun, the last to make the oath, to sign the invitation to the Golden Land. This is something that invites the Golden Witch, Beatrice, to the Golden Land. The Golden Land welcomes the Golden Witch through a consensus of those who have acknowledged it... and becomes complete."
"Battler, I will read it out loud. Listen carefully. 'The 18 of us accept Beatrice as the Golden Witch and welcome her to the Golden Land'."
"What's going on with you? You won't be invited unless I send an invitation?"
"That does seem to be the ceremony. It feels stiff even to me."
"Why don't we end it quickly? I've been so hungry for a while now."
"...Come to think of it, I've only been pecking at canned food and haven't eaten anything good. Let's quickly finish this signing."
With slightly weird and uncomfortable smiles, the two of them started demanding that I sign...
At that time, an incredible sound like that of a glass window breaking reverberated through the hall, and the bustling tumult faded back into complete silence. I dropped the quill pen and turned around, trying to see what had happened.
...A human who clearly hadn't been there a short while ago was in the very center of the hall, looking up at us. Who's that...? A girl? She's probably about the same age as Jessica and me. But I didn't know that face. None of the other people here knew that face either.
"...Wh-Who are you?! Who is this?! Where did you come from?!"
"Those without invitations are not needed at my party. Servants, kick her out!!"
"As you command!! Surround her!!"
And from out of nowhere, shuffling goat-head servants appeared in great numbers, surrounding that girl. On top of that, the Chiester Sisters stood in front of Beato like a wall, readying a golden bow and pulling back the bowstring...
But the girl didn't move at all. On the contrary, she was still staring at us on the landing, as though she didn't mind at all. Who is she looking at...? Beato? Grandfather? Could it be... me...?
Yes. The girl was staring straight into my eyes, glaring. Then, after our eyes met perfectly, she yelled.
"...Huh? By the witch... huh?!"
At that time, something incredibly strong lifted me by the nape of my neck. Wh-What's going on...?!
A goat monster that looked about 2 meters tall was grabbing me with an arm as thick as a log...!
"Hohhohohohohohohohohohoho... There is no need to listen to an uninvited guest. Come, offer your signature as well. On this written oath. 'Ushiromiya Battler acknowledges the existence of witches'. Come now, sign the written oath...!!"
"Ow, owowowowowowowowowowowow!! D-Damn it, let go!!!"
As the goat monsters held me down with the power of a vise, they forced me to grab the quill pen. I couldn't even touch the floor with my feet, much less resist...!
"Battleer, why are you resisting? Weren't you just about to sign willingly...? Don't change your mind now, after all that, okaaay?"
"Didn't you think for an instant... that it might be okay to acknowledge witches? You thought that, riiiiiight? Kukkikikikkakkakakakakakakakakaka!!"
"I don't know who you are, girl, but I'll beat you to death, mash you and crush you until threads start trailing, okaaaaaaaaaaaayy?! I'll make you regret being born a womaaaaaaaaaaaan, hyahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!"
As Beato waved her gold pipe, the massive chandelier hanging in the hall was electrocuted, and from that, a terrible purple thunderbolt fell...! It should have been a direct hit on the girl right below it, turning her to ash. However, not a single hair was singed.
"Hoh...!! So, your sudden appearance here wasn't just a fluke...!! Tell me! State your name!!"
"I don't have any name to give you. More importantly..."
Those words were aimed at me. This is all... the witch's trap, she says...? That can't be... Beato reformed and swore to become a good witch...
"...Beato... All this about traps... It's a lie, right...? Please, tell me it's a lie..."
"...Sorry, Battleer. It was pretty fun. Sure, I just did what Teacher told me, but look how great it turned out!"
"Apparently, if you start out all hostile and needlessly brutal, then turn incompetent and soft at just the right moment, you can spark a huge bump on your affection meter, riiight?"
"I've heard villains who start all lovey-dovey and then freak the shit out are all the rage these days, riiiiiight? Even I've studied a bunch of those manga, anime, and dating sims that've been so popular lately, you seeee?"
"And for you, just as expected, it was 'tears please', and you're down!!"
"D-Damn you, you bastard... How could you trick me...?!!"
"...Yes, that expression suits you the most. That caring expression of yours really doesn't suit me after all. It made my back itch, and I was frantically trying not to let it get to me. *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!"
"Too bad, witches never refooorm☆"
"Come, you can no longer refuse to sign. Come on, look. Sign it and offer your body, your mind, and your soul...!!"
When Virgilia lifted her chin as a signal, the goat monsters, with an even more vise-like power, forced my arm to approach the parchment...! Owowowow, these guys are trying to make me sign, even if it breaks my arm...
At that moment, a bright red light burst open with me at the center, knocking the witches and the goat monsters away. Did that girl save me...?! B-But who in the world is that? I don't have a clue!
"How long do you plan to keep playing in a place like this...? Give it a rest. I'm jealous of you."
"...I-I'm glad you saved me, but that's a pretty cruel way to say it. Sorry, but who are you...?"
"Kuhhahahahahahahahah!! Who would do that, you fool?!! Battler is my toy. My most favorite toy in the world...!!"
I won't get tired of him, I won't throw him away, and I won't hand him over to anyone!! Even Battler is enjoying this to the fullest. Together with me, he is having so much fun playing. No matter who you are, I won't let you get in the way...!!"
"Yeah, it looks like you're having a lot of fun. It makes me so jealous, it ticks me off!! Here you are, in a place like this, guffawing and having a loud, noisy time with everyone!"
"With all these beautiful witches around to pamper you, you must be having so much fun that you don't even want to go back!!"
"...A-Are you talking to me...? Wait, wait, you've got the wrong idea...! This is a pain for me too! What do you mean, fun? You don't know what I've been through...!"
"What you've been through?!!! You had fun living with Mom and Dad, you played around with all of the cousins, and you get to play with these wacky witches for all eternity! Don't you recognize the happiness you have?! Can't you see how jealous I am of you all?! So much that I wish I could join in too!!"
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*!! I'm sorry, but I'll have to turn you down there. I am satisfied with the toy I have. A rude toy like you is not fitting for my toy box!"
"...Who... are you...? You couldn't be..."
"I see, is that it...? Yes, I understand, I know who you are!"
"...I see, so you are the piece Lady Bernkastel threw in. How amusing!!"
BGM: Dread of the Grave - Rhythm Version