Part 116: Invitation to Fantasy II
Unable to stand watching Aunt Rosa and Maria onee-chan's relationship, I ran away from Beato's and Onii-chan's game, didn't I...? I've got to go back. I've got to go back, support Onii-chan, and quickly bring him back from this strange world of the witch's game. After all, as long as I'm here, I'm not allowed to call myself Ange.
...At that time, I felt someone's presence. When I turned around, I could see Mammon there.
BGM: 599 Million Ruins
"...Thank you. I'll go back now."
"Isn't it great?"
"That you were able to meet Battler onii-chan."
"...Is that sarcasm?"
"Well, if that's how it sounds, feel free to call it that."
"...I'm sorry. I should've taken it literally. Yeah, you're right. Even in this screwed up world, being able to meet Onii-chan makes me happy from the bottom of my heart."
"And you'll win against Beatrice, for your Onii-chan's sake...?"
"Yes. Can't have him playing around in a world like this forever. It's about time for him to return home. That's why I came to call him."
"...Please do the best you can. Although I can't support you, since my current master is Beatrice-sama."
"I know. Until October 5, 1986, you are Beatrice's furniture. And eventually, you'll become my friend."
"But eventually, you'll throw that friend away. After all, ng, gah..."
"Are you okay? It's pretty... painful."
"...Excuse me, G-Gretel-sama."
"No. Thank you."
"I'm glad. Glad I was able to meet Onii-chan. That's my answer to your first question. Well, let's go back. If I grumble too much, you'll get in trouble with your current master."
"Yes. I'm glad you understand. Well then, thi
I'm sure Mammon was about to say "Well then, this way..." But then, she stopped, as though the film had been torn off at that point. It looked like she'd suddenly frozen. Then, I noticed. She wasn't the only thing that had frozen. Even the air and floating bits of dust had frozen in place in empty space.
A world where it seemed even time had frozen. Yes. This looks like a portent that Bernkastel will appear. But the atmosphere was different somehow.
Then, I understood. It wasn't Bernkastel. It was the other witch.
BGM: Golden Sneer
"...Lambdadelta. The rules don't apply to you, do they?"
"Of course not. Rules exist to bind others. What kind of idiot would bind themselves with them?"
Bernkastel is a witch who supports me, but this girl is different. This witch supports Beatrice. In other words, she's a being on the opposing side. But there's some kind of difference between her and Beatrice. Even compared to Bernkastel, there's something strange about Lambdadelta's existence. It's... how should I put it... Maybe like she's a being from a higher dimension...
In any event, I was still unsure about how to deal with her. The only thing that was certain was that she was my enemy. No, just knowing that might be enough, but...
"So, do you have some business with me?"
"Not really. When I listened in on your conversation, it started to get a bit interesting. I thought I'd let you hear something good."
"You're supposed to be my enemy. I can't think of a reason for you to tell me something that'd help me. So the moment I start listening to you, I lose. Bye, <see you next time>."
"Don't misunderstand. My opponent is Bern, not you. In other words, it's possible for there to be a topic that benefits both you and me."
"...Sorry, but I don't feel like listening."
...Although I said that, I probably won't be released from this frozen time until Lambdadelta is satisfied. This itself might be proof that she's in a higher dimension than me. I haven't been given the option of not listening to her. All I can do is try not to be shaken by anything she says... and strengthen my mental guard. She'll probably try to make me believe something disadvantageous to me, threatening me...
"Didn't Bern make it sound like your big brother would come back if you defeated Beato?"
"...Who knows. I don't feel like talking with you."
My brother coming home... I hadn't been promised anything that dream-like. Getting just one person only if I was lucky...had been a promise without very high hopes. But that's enough for me. After being promised an eternity of isolation, having a faint but still non-zero chance was like a shining beacon.
"In a way, that promise of Bern's wasn't a lie. If Bern promised, then I'm sure that if you defeat Beato, Battler and your parents will be released and will come back to you."
"Then there's no problem."
"...Seriously? That kid is surprisingly cruel. To think she'd deceive you, even though she knows."
"...How are you saying I was deceived?"
...But I won't be released until I lend an ear to her. So it's something I'll have to hear anyway...
Even though I realized I was falling into a trap, I urged her forwards.
"What year is it now?"
"...You're talking about the world of the game board? In that case, it's October 4, 1986."
"That's right. So if you win against Beato, then on October 6, when the typhoon has passed, the people who were trapped on the island will return. On October 6, 1986, that is, right?"
"How was your October 6, 1986? ...You were at your relatives' house, right?"
...I'd been at the house of the only Sumadera my mother trusted, Grandpa. We got a call. When I was playing with building blocks in the tatami room, we got that call...
After watching to make sure that I'd remembered, Lambdadelta laughed unpleasantly... and spoke.
Even though I didn't understand what she was saying, I noticed an unpleasant sweat seeping out all over my face... Aaah, I don't get it. I DON'T GET IT. What is... this witch saying...?
"Okay, so it's like... If you defeat Beato, Battler will certainly be released. And he'll probably return home. To his home in 1986. After all, that's how it is, right? Battler was locked up from the 4th to the 5th of October in 1986. It's only natural that he'd return the next day if he were to be released, right?"
"...And you? You're a person from the year 1998. You're Ushiromiya Ange of the year 1998 where Battler did not return. Know what that means?"
"...What... are you talking about? If my family came back home on October 6, wouldn't that be wonderful? I'd come home from Grandpa's house right away. And then we'd meet. Everyone would be happy..."
"Yes. Ushiromiya Ange probably would be reunited with her family. The six-year-old Ushiromiya Ange from 1986 would, right...?"
"...Who am I?"
"Ushiromiya Ange. An eighteen-year-old one."
"No, that's not it. You aren't Ushiromiya Ange. You're a witch's piece with that name. Strictly speaking, the name ANGE Beatrice belongs to a completely different person. Know what that means?"
...Huh? Huh? Who... am I? Huh?
"...And thaaat's why I think Bern's cruel. No, I think she's a meanie. Especially since it's not like she hasn't gone through the same thing herself."
"...Am I... being tricked... somehow...?"
"Yeah, but please don't blame Bern, okay? After all, depending on how you look at it, that kid isn't lying. If Beato is defeated, your family will be returned. Returned to Ushiromiya Ange. But she probably didn't say that this Ushiromiya Ange would be you, right...?"
Was it like that...was it like that...? What did Bernkastel say to me, again...?
Bernkastel started by saying that. Then I spoke. If I save them, does that mean my family will come home? And how did Bernkastel answer that, again...? Umm, umm...
'...I cannot promise that.'
U-Umm...! She did make me a promise. In exchange for accepting this fight...! Yes, this is what she said!
...Yeah, that's right. She didn't say any more than that she'd look for it. She didn't say she'd find it. But... I was prepared for that from the beginning. But even so, that child promised that as long as I didn't give up, there was a faint chance of it happening...
And, in the end, she said this. 'I'm giving you a chance for revenge. In exchange, I promise to search for and bring you the happiest resolution among the possibilities you're capable of accepting.'
"Even just a small chance of shaking that absolute zero... would be worth it. I was warned beforehand that even if I succeeded in my revenge, it might be a wasted effort. So, umm..."
"Yeah, there's no lie in that part. Beato's game board is perfect. Even having you around makes the chances of Beato losing so slim that it's doubtful you could even dream of it happening once in your life."
"In other words, your chance of winning is almost zero, so absolutely that it could be regarded as infinitely close to zero. So, Bern can be forgiven for saying that part in such an evasive way."
"...But I can say for sure that she was tricking you when she let you get your hopes up. After all, even if you could overcome astronomical odds and win, the person your family will come back to isn't you. It's the six-year-old Ange that exists in this 1986, the true Ushiromiya Ange. Not YOU."
"...Bern will still probably go around the billions of Fragments, searching for the best world for you. But didn't she tell you? That she planned on bringing it to you as a present, but wasn't able to find it?"
"Hehheheheheh, *giggle*giggle*giggle*...!! You're finally starting to notice, aren't you...? No reward has been prepared for you in this battle."
"...The sort of goal you'd be capable of accepting is completely... ..no. I'll proclaim it upon my name. Upon the name of the Witch of Certainty, Lambdadelta! I proclaim that it 'certainly' doesn't exist...!"
"...That can't be..."
"That's what Bern lied about. Or should I call it speaking in riddllles? She made you misunderstand and think you could be saved. I came to clear that up."
"...In other words, no matter how hard I fight, no matter how hard I pursue victory, my family won't come back to me...?"
"Right, they won't come back! With 'certainty'! Ohohohohohoh!! The Witch of Certainty says it with certainty!"
"Isn't this incredible? Several ancient kings have dedicated historical buildings to me because they wanted me to give them certainty! And here I am, graciously giving it to you as a present. Isn't this reeally incredible, cute and marvelous? Ohohohohohh!! Buut! I have a single good proposition for you."
I knew I shouldn't have listened, and now I'm starting to be overwhelmed by this witch, Lambdadelta...!
"My opponent is Bern, not you. Didn't I just say it's possible for the two of us to talk about something that benefits us both? I've said that from the beginning. So listen to me. You have no choice...!"
"...Okay, okay, I'll listen... I've just gotta listen, right?!!"
I finally lost control over my emotions and exploded from the inside. I don't have a clue anymore. I believed that I was Ange. But at some point, I stopped being Ange. That's right, I'm ANGE. Not Ange...!
Who am I? I'm not my parents' child, nor my brother's little sister. I'm just a piece... in a witch's game...!
"There's no need to be so pessimistic. I mean, think about it, okay? Right now, you're together with Battler onii-chan."
"While it's true that you can't tell him your name, at least you're positioned as his ally in a game where he battles a witch, and you're able to be with him for all eternity. Know what it meeeans...??"
...I can't stand it, but I understand...
Continuing to tie means continuing the game for eternity, and it means that I can remain with Onii-chan as a piece. But if Onii-chan wins... or loses, and the curtain closes on the game...
"You, as a piece, will disappear."
"How do you define happiness for a game piece? Getting used by someone playing the game, nothing more. You won't find it when the game's shut in a closet, gathering dust, right?"
...In the past, the Seven Sisters of Purgatory said it as well. Furniture's happiness comes from being used, not being stored away. That's right. I am now... the witch's... furniture.
"Let's change things around a bit. To be honest, I want this game to continue in a tie for all eternity. An unending game is an eternal cage. An absolute closed room that never opens for all time and that'll finally make Bern surrender."
"After all, if the game ends, the closed room'll fall apart. So I'll go easy on Battler a bit, to stop him from surrendering. Don't worry, okay? When Battler's about to surrender, I'll become his ally."
"...But you know? I get the feeling that Beato is faintly starting to realize. I think she's starting to realize that her victory won't come for all eternity in this game."
"But she is, of course, the Endless Witch. Beato's stupid, so she optimistically thinks that even so, she'll surely win eventually, like she just has to repeat this game on and on endlessly. Of course, pretty much all blondes are morons, *giggle*giggle*!"
"...In this game of witches, there will never be... a victory or a loss..."
"...Bern noticed that. So, she looked for the most powerful piece for breaking that deadlock, found you, and threw you in. To make this game end, you see?"
"...To make this game... end..."
"What's a piece's role when the game ends? I'll state it clearly. Your existence is a contradiction. Your reason for existing is to bury yourself in the darkness and despair...!"
My goal is to defeat Beato and release my captive family. And yet, even if I succeed, I won't be rewarded.
...Continuing the tie... for all eternity...
"Yes. As long as the tie continues forever, this world will not crumble."
"What is this world? It's the world of the game with the witch. A world where Beato and Battler fight for all eternity."
"And at the same time, it's a world where you get to be with Battler for all eternity...!!"
"...Nng, aaaah... ah..."
My head was spinning. That confusion became a hot liquid, and I felt it pouring from my eyes... It was so hot... that it felt like it'd burn my face...
"...That kid tricked you, you see? She made it look like you might be saved if you became her piece. But I won't deceive you there!"
"...So I'll say it, ANGE. Become my chess piece. Unlike Bern, I won't offer you rewards based on lies that certainly will never be granted. As long as you become my piece and help me so that this world 'certainly' never ends... Then with 'certainty', I'll swear upon my name that this world will 'certainly' continue!"
"That's not all. I'll add on a bonus. This rule that binds you. I'll clear it away for you. Well, of course, I'll only do it after you've sworn to become my piece, okay?"
In my own throat, there was a thick, loud gulping sound... Aah, I shouldn't have listened... If I hadn't listened, I could've remained an innocent little sister, praying for my brother's victory.
But I might be different now. I might've been degraded into a witch's furniture, one that cares about nothing but being by Onii-chan's side...
"...I'm not telling you to betray your brother, okay? If it looks like Battler's gonna lose, you can save him with all you've got. On the other hand, when Battler closes in on Beato too much, I want you to hold back a little. That's all I'm asking, all right?"
"Don't worry, there's no need to actually betray Battler. Battler can't win against Beato alone. That's why Bern threw you in, you see? As long as you don't lend a hand, Battler will be unable to win against Beato for all eternity."