Part 114: Mariage Sorcière II
"...Only at the very end. I was right. The one who wrote the message bottles was Beatrice herself."
"<Cool>. So, you've concluded that the witch actually exists?"
"Who knows. Mind if I sleep? I'll bet that talkative professor gets lost in his own little world in lectures and makes a lot of kids fall asleep."
"Please, go ahead, take a rest."
"...Still, that went really well. That guy believed I was a Sumadera until the very end."
The Sumadera family had set up a web beforehand around any people Ange might try to contact. They had offered a reward to anyone who could take Ushiromiya Ange into custody if she appeared. Ange had foreseen that and had snatched it away. She had called herself Sumadera, and after cleverly tricking the man by saying her own subordinates would set up an ambush, so he didn't need to worry about it, she had taken him outside. So, when the Sumadera family pursuers reached the professor's house, there was no longer anyone there...
"...What a bad child, Ange-chan. I wonder if that craftiness is from Nee-san's blood. To think she'd casually take on the name Sumadera after saying she'd hate to go by it so often..."
"...Hohohohohoh. The professor should be returning soon. When he does, we must serve him some tea..."
"...I wonder if she thinks she's leading me around by the nose. What a naughty child. *giggle*giggle*, hohhohhohohohohohoho!!"
With a demonic look on her face, Kasumi violently stamped her heel.
No, I taught you before, right? And you used it before. Did you forget...? You were also a witch apprentice, Ange, with your name entered into Mariage Sorcière, weren't you...?
I closed Maria's diary and flopped down on a very high-class-looking bed. I'd slept deeply for a long time in the car, so it took longer than usual for drowsiness to set in, and I read the diary as I waited.
This was a super expensive hotel in the city. Since it was often used by the rich and the famous, they were very big on confidentiality. That made it very convenient for Ange to escape her pursuers. The idea that renegades should spend their nights hiding in cheap hotels is a commoner's way of thinking. To Ange, who possessed all the wealth of the Ushiromiya family, renegade life was comfortable indeed.
Of course, even though he was a guard, Amakusa was a man and therefore in a separate room. Ange used the bedroom of the suite, and Amakusa lay on the sofa in the living room. According to Amakusa, the sofas here were more pleasant than his own beds had been recently. Poor guy. When I looked at the clock, I saw that it was almost 2:00 in the middle of the night. I'm still not getting sleepy. I sighed deeply.
At that time, even though there was no wind, I had the feeling that Maria onee-chan's diary fluttered. Then, Onee-chan appeared. Her form was no longer the normal one I'd known. She was wearing the dress that Beatrice had given her after acknowledging her as a witch.
"If I were a witch too, I'd be able to use magic, wouldn't I?"
"...Yeah. You can use it. I taught you, didn't I? Taught you how to use it. And you were able to use it in the past, weren't you?"
"...I remember. I've started wanting to use it."
"Are you starting to feel lonely...?"
"...Not really. It's not like having a different pillow every night is that tough."
"...The first step to magic can be loneliness or boredom, even small reasons like that."
"Even if it's just trying to kill time until you can fall asleep?"
"Yeah. I'm glad you remembered about magic one more time."
At one point, with Maria onee-chan's introduction, I touched a corner of it... and opened the door a tiny bit. So, I should still remember that sensation.
"...Right now, your magical power has declined significantly, Ange. If you don't devote yourself to the basics, it'll be hard, okay?"
"Sure. Checking all directions. Securing a quiet space."
"What about Amakusa-san?"
After opening the door to the living room a crack, I could see the blanket caterpillar on the sofa roll over in its sleep.
"...With your magical strength as weak as it is now, the anti-magic power is affecting you too much. Not just the sight of people, but voices, sounds, and even the presence of people will get in the way of your magic. Sever those completely. Like how ancient magicians shut themselves up in ateliers to preserve their isolation."
"I remember. The very existence of Humans blocks magic. Therefore, the very act of showing magic to people is the sign of a high-level witch..."
Obtain a quiet space for yourself alone. That should be enough to prepare a space to use magic.
"...Next is the vessel. Right now, it's important for your bike to at least have training wheels... no, a chain."
"...These would... obviously... not be possible, right...
Ange rubbed her own head.
They felt a little childish for Ange, but she never took them off, not even for a single day.
"...Yeah. It really will be impossible for you now, Ange. If you'd practiced every single day since then, you might've gained the ability to summon with that by now."
"...If I were to start training now, how long would it take?"
"...It's said that a year of magical training for a child is worth ten years for an old person. You need a lot of determination."
"You mean like Ushiromiya Kinzo? So, just like the piano and the violin, getting a special education from a young age is huge when it comes to magic."
"As you are now, your power has weakened since the time you were first able to use magic, Ange. Don't overdo it, and devote yourself to the basics."
After stubbornly rubbing those things on my head one more time, I gave up. Then I started fishing through the knapsack. Looking for anything that might make a good vessel.
"...Shouldn't this be a perfect vessel?"
"It's been a long time... Yes. With this, I think even you should be able to perform a summons as you are now. And they have no master now. It should be possible for you to become their new master, Ange."
Among the things that looked like good vessels, I took the one I thought might possess the strongest magical power...and set it on the side table near the bed with a clatter.
It was one of the 'Seven Stakes of Purgatory', which the witch used to offer sacrifices. When the police had been searching the family's possessions, they had collected a large amount of junk. After the investigation had finished, these had been politely returned to the Ushiromiya family. Finding something that I'd seen in the pictures of Maria's diary, I took it home with me.
"...Originally, there were Seven Stakes of Purgatory. How pitiful. Now, she's the only one left."
Onee-chan smiled, looking lonely...
I pulled another book out of the knapsack. This was also old-fashioned, and you could tell that it was an occult book just by looking. But its contents were plain. It was one of Maria onee-chan's elaborate notebooks. This wasn't a diary... This was a grimoire, which she had written as a witch.
The Seven Stakes of Purgatory are Beatrice's furniture. Created by her and employed only for her sake. But since Beatrice is also a witch of Mariage Sorcière, they could be employed by MARIA, a witch of the same alliance. For that reason, the method of summoning the Seven Stakes of Purgatory and how to handle them was written about in great detail in Maria onee-chan's grimoire...
And... As another person with their name registered in that alliance, I was also permitted to employ them.
"Their characteristics are written about well in my grimoire. The Sisters of the Seven Stakes really hate it when you get their names wrong. Remember their names well before summoning them."
A packed page told of the Seven Stakes of Purgatory. It described the Seven Sisters in great detail. Yes. I think I memorized almost this entire page once in the past. The more I read it, the more I start to remember...
By the pictures and characteristics written on the grimoire, I could tell that the stake in my hand was 'Mammon's stake'. In the past, I hadn't had any stakes, so I'd summoned them without any vessel. So, this was the first time I'd clearly seen any of the Seven Stakes, let alone Mammon.
"Mammon. The fifth sister. Controls the deadly sin of greed. An incredible kid."
"Greed also controls aspirations, the desire to improve oneself, and the strength to live. It definitely doesn't mean only bad things. She's rude, but she's a girl who tries really hard."
"...I see. You could say that without desire, there's no reason to live."
...The more the summoner knows about the target that's being summoned, the better... Knowledge is connected to magical power. I began to fill my head with knowledge about Mammon, raising a necessary amount of magical power for a summoning.
"...Grimoires can be a bit interesting. This might be a much better read than some lame novel. It really takes me back."
"For a grimoire, it is demanded not only that you understand the letters, but that you fill up the world of the space between the lines, giving birth to a world from the pictures and creating things in various ways. The power to give birth to something. For someone who has that, such as you, a grimoire should be more interesting than any book. I've always known that you'd be able to understand that."
"...That should be... enough knowledge of Mammon for now. Yes. I've remembered it, more or less. I'll give it a try."
"Take care. In case the worst happens, here is my talisman. The treaty of the alliance won't protect you right now. That Mammon is a bit of a quick trigger. And... she may still bear a grudge. Be careful."
"Yes. I'll wear it."
But that was only when compared to other demons. To Humans, furniture is something to be feared.
I fished through the knapsack again, took out a bracelet charm with a scorpion medal that I'd gotten from Maria onee-chan long ago, and put it on my arm. In the past, I hadn't needed something like this. But I need insurance...
"...It's okay. That has already been fitted with the required amount of magical defense. As long as you wear that, you'll definitely be fine."
Maria onee-chan's magic power, which had been specially put into this charm, had been enough to earn even Beatrice's admiration. While it may have looked like something cheap to a human who couldn't understand magic, its magical worth was incalculable.
...I focused my mind. I made the magic-repelling toxin that filled my body zero. Imagine an untainted, vast space. Doubts and common sense all resist magic. Make the resistance zero... and erase the burden on the magical power...
...Inside my head was the image of a vast space. It was a nighttime world where I floated in the air and the neon stars over the ground sparkled. A world where the stars that should have covered the sky were wiped away by the light from below that covered the ground. In the world of a vast night sky with no obstructions, I imagined the wind blowing through at will.
At that time, in a room where there shouldn't have been any wind, the free nighttime wind kicked up a cyclone. The long forgotten sensation raced through my entire body. It was the unique feeling of exultation that comes from using magic.
Mammon's stake, which I held out in my hand, gradually began to make me feel a pale light. A twisting cyclone with the stake at the center. The hefty stake floated a bit into the air.
"...Come, arise. Forgive the sin. One of the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, Mammon of Greed. Show yourself to me..."
After I raised my hands bit by bit, lifting them higher than my head, as though it was being attracted upwards, Mammon's stake once again floated up high into the air... and gradually began to shake. That shaking began to grow faster, and it burst.
With a speed faster than the eye could follow, it flew around, violently rebounding off the walls of the room. The terrible sound of it dancing around threatened to make me flinch. However, I must not lose my mental concentration.
Then, the stake, which had been flying around at an incredible speed, finally stopped and faced me... It was in the air, just a few centimeters away from my forehead, and held back by the defensive barrier created by the scorpion charm. It had tried to break the defensive barrier, eating into it with an incredible power, but Maria onee-chan's barrier wouldn't be broken so easily.
The stake muttered hatefully. It was probably safe to say that the scorpion charm saved me. Without that, my attempt at killing time until I got sleepy would've killed my time for all eternity.
When Mammon's stake realized that it was unable to gouge me, it gave up and grew docile, changing its form from that of a stake into a human. In that same old outfit that I'd never be able to walk around outside in. Although you could say it suited her, in a demonic sort of way.
BGM: 599 Million Ruins
"It's been a long time, Mammon. Have you been well?"
"...And here I was convinced that furniture that's already fulfilled its function just gets left to rust away in a closet. So, what kind of side show is this? You aren't gonna say that you're my owner, are you...?"
"...Yes. Ange is your master."
"Lady MARIA, how unsightly of me. Was that barrier just now yours?"
"Yes. I thought that as she is now, Ange might just have gotten finished off by you. I lent her a talisman."
"...If Lady MARIA says Ange-sama is my master, I cannot refuse. Ange-sama, please, your orders. If it's me you need, are you going to perform a new ceremony? With new sacrifices...? Of course, that's only if you're willing to handle me yourself and get your own hands dirty."
"...That role isn't something I'm asking for anymore. All you have to do is talk with me like you used to."
Mammon had a slightly complicated smile on her face. She accepted her new master because Maria had told her to, but it looked like she hadn't gotten over her discontent at working for Ange, with her frail magical power. Perhaps she had some other reason for hating Ange, but for now, it seemed that she couldn't disobey, even if she wasn't happy about it.
"...So? What should I do?"
"I don't know. Just do something lively. Like old times."
"Well now. This liveliness you're talking about is probably from when we sisters were all together. It may be difficult by myself. Did you forget?"
"...That's right. The Seven Sisters were really lively when they got together. But with Ange's magical power now, I think summoning just Mammon is the best we can hope for. The stakes for the other six have been lost."
"My apologies, Lady MARIA, but maybe it would be possible to summon the Seven Sisters via my own stake. If I am to be used, I'd hope Ange-sama has at least that much power, right...?"
Mammon grinned. Apparently, she wanted me to summon the other sisters without a vessel. I see. Since she's unable to satisfy herself with being summoned alone, she's asking for the other sisters to be summoned as well. I get it, greed. Yes, she was like this back then, wasn't she...?
...To furniture, the times during which they are used are bliss. No matter how badly they are exploited, being used is furniture's joy. On the contrary, regardless of how nice you are to them, not being given a job is more painful than anything in their eyes.
Mammon spoke in a challenging way, but she wanted me to summon the other sisters somehow and rescue them from the world of nothingness. If that's the case, all she's gotta do is say so. These demon people can never just say what they mean.
"Oh, I'm rehabilitated after just one? Well, I'm just killing time anyway. Okay, Mammon. I've gone this far. I'll call as many as I can."
"Really...?! Not bad, Ange-sama! Okay, quickly, quickly!"
Apparently, even though she'd asked, Mammon hadn't really expected Ange to do this. She hopped around, badgering Ange to summon the other sisters.
...Summoning Mammon alone consumed a considerable amount of physical and magical power. It'll probably be pretty tough to do six more. I'm awed by the magical power of those who can summon sisters like this at will with a snap of their fingers... and who therefore reach the level where they can be called witches.
"Mammon, don't make Ange overdo it. She still isn't at her best..."
"Whaaat?! Ange-sama said she'd summon everyone!"
Actually, I only said I'd call as many as I could. I guess that's greed for you.
"Don't overdo it, Ange. You should rest for today. You're tired enough."
"It's okay. I'm just killing time anyway. Let me get tired enough that I can just fall over asleep."
...This time, there's no vessel. I'll have to strengthen the image from my knowledge of the grimoire...and materialize them with just that. I held my hands out into the air, replaying in my head the sensation from when I'd summoned Mammon... I'm acquainted with all of the Seven Sisters, right? I've gotta remember that time, long ago, when I talked with them...
BGM: F Style
"Ange-sama...! Hold on, hold on, good luck...! Hey, Lady MARIA. Ange-sama's definitely gonna summon everyone, right? The Seven Sisters will get to be reunited again, right? Right?!"
"Yeah, definitely. But there's no guarantee that it'll happen tonight."
"Ange-sama can do it...! Please, Ange-sama...! Start with the youngest sister, Asmo...!"
"...Asmodeus. The seventh sister. Got it. I'll call them in order starting from the youngest."
A strand of hot sweat dripped down from my forehead. This really is gonna be one hell of a burden to carry. The pale light in this space... began to slowly form into the outline of a girl...
"...Come, arise. One of the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, Asmodeus the Lustful..."
There was no vessel. However, as I held a strong conviction that she definitely did exist there as a core, her form began to crystallize... Her outline became distinct, and the form of the youngest of the Seven Sisters, Asmodeus, was finally created.
"Asmo...!! I'm so glad!!"
"Mammon nee-san! ...Where in the world is this? Who summoned me?"
"Ange-sama did...! Ange-sama said she'd revive all of us...!"
No, I didn't.
"Ange-sama, thank you! Do Belz next...!! Please...!"
"...Beelzebub. The sixth sister. Beelzebub of Gluttony. Come, arise..."
At this rate, I wonder how many I'll be able to summon. If I can't focus, this is probably it.
The pale light made an outline... and formed into Beelzebub.
"Be-lz!!" "Ange-sama, you're amazing, incredible!!"
Mammon and Asmodeus jumped onto Beelzebub, celebrating their reunion. I'd summoned three people at once. My head was throbbing. Gotta summon the next one, without stopping for a break.
"...Come, arise. One of the Seven Stakes, Belphegor of Sloth..."
"Belpha-neeeeee! I'm huuungry! I mean, I'm so glad to see you again!!"
"To think that the Seven Sisters would be able to meet again... Ange-sama, thank you so much!"
"Keep it up and do Satan-nee next! And Levia-nee and Luci-nee...!!"
"...Yeah, I get it. So please, try not to be so loud. Doing four people at the same time... is pretty... tough..."
"Ange, don't overdo it any more than this. You did a good job summoning even four of them after such a long time."
"...Stop it, Mammon. Right now, Ange-sama is being pressured with the burden of summoning us. Ange-sama, I beg that you do not strain yourself too much..."
"No way! Ange-sama promised! She said we'd all play together again!"
"Right?! Ange-sama?! You said everyone would meet again! You promised that we could meet again right away!"
"...That's right, I promised. I didn't promise anything about when, but I certainly did... promise."
"So keep that promise! If you don't, I'll never forgive you for forgetting it until today, Ange-sama...!"
"...Come, arise. One of the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, Satan of Wrath..."
My mind's getting hazy... But... I'll call. Even though I'd forgotten about those days. Even though I've never thought of that time as anything but sad and lonely. Because the short time I spent with them... was fun, without a doubt.
Satan, who had apparently figured out the situation immediately after being summoned, cried out in a loud voice, telling her sisters off. That loud voice made my consciousness hazy again.
"We are furniture who have been granted rest by Beatrice and whose duty has been finished! Not only are you not honored at being given another chance to be of some use, but you're putting a burden on our new master, you disgrace to all furniture!! Erase yourselves right away!!"
"Yes, it's like Satan-nee says. I'll erase myself. You all erase yourselves too. In this moment, that's the best way for us to be of use to Ange-sama."
"No way. Not until everyone's summoned!"
"Same heeere! I'm huuungry! I mean, I'd hate to leave again so soon after being reunited with you all!"
"Don't be so selfish!! Come on, erase yourself quickly!! Come on, Asmo! Disappear right now!!"
"Waaaah, Satan-nee's bullying me...! It's not fair if you always bully the youngest one!"
"...Yes, they really are lively. It doesn't... bore me..."
"That's enough. You've surpassed your limits for now, Ange."
...This is... it... As my consciousness went hazy, I fell over onto the bed. Have beds always felt this soft...?
It seemed that the sisters were still squabbling together as much as they liked. For a way to kill time until drowsiness comes to get me, this is enough... Feeling something warm and nostalgic in the sisters' liveliness, I sank into a world of deep sleep...
At the entrance to my dream world, I felt Maria onee-chan... and Sakutarou waiting to receive me.
...Welcome back, huh? Then, I should respond like this...