Part 118: My World II
BGM: Thanks for Being Born
And then... I spoke those humiliating words, but right away, jeers flew at me saying that they couldn't hear and to speak up.
I had no idea... that being forced to read a paragraph humiliating me would be so painful. My throat shook. My fingertips shook. The paragraph of humiliation written in my own handwriting made my eyes burn with a hot liquid. So my world blurred and twisted. I saw the girls surrounding me twist and bend. I saw them twist and bend into the impression I had of them. In other words, that was my true field of vision.
Beyond that twisted crowd of people, I could see my friends. Compassion could be seen in all of their eyes.
Maria onee-chan and Sakutaro were looking at me with sad eyes. Probably because they realized that even cheap words of compassion would hurt me. They kept alternating between trying to say something... and hanging their heads.
"What the hell's wrong with these people...?!!"
"They're just the worst! Really pisses me off! What's so fun about gathering around Ange-sama and torturing her?!"
"It's a resentment they can't voice despite their jealousy. They don't care who it hurts, as long as they can let it out. What horrible people."
"Ange-sama! In this kind of situation, it's okay to go mad with rage for your own honor's sake!! Anger is an appropriate emotion and an appropriate reaction! If you don't get mad now, when will you get mad?!!"
"Stop it, don't stir Ange-sama up with cheap anger!! If Ange-sama could do that, she would've done it already!!"
"...You should only get angry if doing so will improve the situation. However, from a objective standpoint, doing that now would probably only aggravate the situation further. It may be humiliating, but the wisest thing to do now is to withstand it."
"Ahha! You really are a sloth, Belpha! Quit fooling around, I can't stand this!! I can't forgive them!!"
'...E-Everyone, calm down... It'll become a burden for Ange...'
"A burden?! What are you talking about? Is this the time or place to be calm?! We furniture are not so cruel as to cooly watch when our master is humiliated!!"
"Ange-sama!! You have no obligation to read such a humiliating letter! If you can't let out a cry of rage, then at least throw it onto the floor!!"
"You don't need to trash talk them, you don't need to yell so loud that they bend over backwards! Just throw the notebook on the floor with all your might...!! By doing just that, you'll be able to show your strong will!!"
"Don't start running on by yourself, Mammon!! I told you, right?! If Ange-sama could do it, she would've done so long ago!!"
"Nothing will be resolved by the eruption of momentary emotions. Can't you see that doing that will only make their treatment of Ange-sama even more severe?!"
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaahh!! Why is this happening to Ange-sama when she didn't do anything wrong?!"
"Not letting her eat dinner...and making her stay so long after school! I hate iiiiiiiiiiiiit!!"
"And it's not just tonight, but tomorrow and the day after too!! That's enough, you can't simply sit there bearing this humiliation!!"
Someone tugged at my hair. I was torn back into my tragic reality. I was no longer even permitted to listen to the Seven Sisters speaking on my behalf in my heart. My hair was lifted upwards, one of my hair ornaments came off, and I could hear the sound of it rolling on the ground. No one picked it up. To the contrary, they casually avoided it as though something filthy was rolling towards them.
I tried to follow it with my eyes, but my hair was tugged upwards again.
"Why do you neeever listen to us, even though we're talking about something so serious?!"
"In one ear and out the other, is it? Does anything get into that thick skull of yours?! Get a grip, okay?!"
"Are you really conscious of the trouble you're causing us? You aren't going to start saying that you just wrote it grudgingly because we told you to, right?!"
"Until you really show regret of your own will, this seriously isn't gonna end, okay?! It's not just for today. It'll seriously keep on going tomorrow and the day after, you see? Don't you play us for fools, okay?!?!"
"I mean, why are you still even alive? Is it normal to go on living like this? If it were me, I'd just die!"
"You can't live like this, can you?! 'Cause you being alive just means getting in other people's way all the time, right? If it were me, I definitely couldn't live on!"
"Yeah, yeah, I'd die too. If doing that's better for the world, then I'd die right away! Riiiiiiiiight?!!"
"You Seven Sisters of Purgatory are incredible furniture that can massacre mere Humans in a flash, right?! You're always boasting about it to me!! Then do it! Massacre them right now!! Right here, right now!!"
For some reason, Lucifer hesitated. Why? What's wrong?! You're certain-kill furniture that can fly around faster than the eye can see and instantly pierce the hearts of a witch's enemies, right? And I'm giving you an order as your master!! Carry it out right away! Kill!! Kill them aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!!
"...A-Ange-sama... Please, calm down..."
If they had immediately followed my brutal order, making heaps of corpses with me at the center... I was ready to reflect on my own reckless actions of stealing human lives so readily, ready to regret and repent, just as they had wanted me to. I was prepared to do that. And yet, Lucifer just let an unsure expression rise to her face... and didn't move to carry out my order.
...I knew it.
I glared into the worthless Lucifer's eyes. And pain seemed to accompany that gaze. As though she was being assaulted with a violent headache, Lucifer grasped her head with both arms. But it looked like she couldn't tear her eyes off my gaze. So she was assaulted with a pain that grew more and more violent.
"Guhguhguh, ah... gahgaaa, agaa...!! Gyack!!!"
Hopelessness and disappointment. Resignation and a dream's end. A cracking sound, like you'd hear from a frozen lake's surface during a fierce winter, rang out just once. At the same time, Lucifer's form, which was being tormented by a violent pain, stiffened in place and grew cloudy. It was almost as though a beautifully polished glass window had been heartlessly smashed and turned white from the countless fissures. And that was an accurate analogy. At some point, Lucifer's form had turned into a glass ornament of the same shape.
BGM: Golden Slaughterer
"...Who's the second sister...? Leviathan? Carry out my order. Massacre them right now!!"
"N-No, um! Err, Ange-sama... Please calm your heart and listen... We, umm,"
"...aaah, gwaagahhgguguggah, kyaaggghh!!"
I'm not looking for excuses or back talk or an answer. I want nothing more than a swift confirmation of my order to eradicate the girls who are humiliating me. If you're going to say anything else, there's no need for me to listen until the end.
If she'd been smashed to bits and lost her original form, it probably wouldn't have seemed so brutal. So seeing the two of them halfway left over made the remaining younger sisters shake even harder...
"...Why won't you listen to my orders...? Why? WHY?!!"
"M-My apologies...!! H-Here, under the current conditions, the anti-magic power is... e-extremely strong and..."
"What's that? You can't do it because Humans are here? That's your logic? Isn't killing Humans what you do?! If you can't do that, then what use are you as furniture?!! Die!!!"
"P-Please spare me, Ange-samaaaaa... ah, aaaah, khhagah, gihh, ack!!"
As she clutched her head with both arms, Satan also turned white and fell down face first.
"You can't do it because there are too many Humans? Then later on, I'll call them into the shadows one by one, and you can make a bloodbath of all of them, right?"
"...With your current magical power, it may be easy for you to converse with us. However, you still lack the training to materialize us in front of all of the Humans here...! I deeply understand your anger, but even if you could use us to attack...and murdered everyone here, that would only make your situation worse...! I know it's humiliating, but please control your anger for the time being..."
"...Will I get the same answer from the next three...? Are you gonna tell me you can't do it because the anti-magic power is too great? Are you gonna tell me you can't do it because my magical power is too weak?"
"...Then I won't ask you to kill all of them. Just one person's fine, so try and kill them. Right here, right now...!!"
As Asmodeus and Beelzebub held each other, they crouched down, cringing in fear under my glare. If they'd been able to obey my order, they probably would've carried it out immediately. And yet here they were, crouching down. Empty. Sad. And pathetic...
That's right, I've known. These girls can't even touch reality with one of their fingers...
"N-No, no...!! Belz, I'm scared, Beeelz!!"
"Ange-sama, spare us, spare us...!! I don't wanna diiiiiiiieee!!"
"Die, useless furniture! Why are you guys even alive? Why are you alive when your lives are worthless? It doesn't matter if you die, right? Die. I'm telling you to die!! Do you think any idiot would leave furniture that has no use lying around?!"
"P-Please stop, Ange-sama!!"
"...What is it, Mammon? Are you gonna be only one to fulfill my order?"
"That's right. You're my best friend. You alone will do it for me. Get them!"
"...A-As you are now, Ange-sama, even if you use us, you aren't capable of committing murder!! It's furniture's duty to help with things their master can do...! Things that even the master can't do, we can't do...!! Do you hate them, Ange-sama? You do hate them, right? I totally understand why you want to kill them!! Okay, in that case, go ahead and kill them, Ange-sama! If you stain your own hands with blood, then we, the Seven Sisters of Purgatory, will go along with you however far! However far you go!!"
"...I'm... asking you all... because I can't do it myself, aren't I...? Isn't being able to do things I can't the thing that makes you furniture?!!"
"Yes, we are furniture. Furniture to be used...!! Please, go ahead and use us to kill! You'll be the one killing, Ange-sama!! If you're saying that you want to kill, then go ahead, be my guest! No need to hesitate, go and carry it out right now!! And once you've prepared yourself mentally, once you're prepared to dirty your own hands, then we'll help you! But you haven't done that, Ange-sama!!"
"I get it already, you don't all have to tell me. You people can't do anything. You're nothing more than my delusions, illusions, daydreams...! I haven't had a single friend from the very beginning. You're just a phantom, a pretend friend I created in my heart, in my isolation, right? I've known from the very beginning!!!"
"We're just imaginary friends created to soothe lonely, lonely Ange-sama's heart because she doesn't have a single friend, but so what? If you want to look at reality, just look at it. You can stop looking at us and return to being surrounded and bathed with jeering over there!!"
"C'mon, c'mon, go back, welcome home to reality!! Just call on us only when it's convenient for you and pretend you have friends, then spur us on even though you don't have the guts to dirty your own hands, then deny and erase us once you realize that it's hopeless! Yes, please enjoy it, I'll leave with a shriek of anguish just like you want, Ange-sama!!"
"Just copy the jeering that you're being showered with right now, and do the same to us to get it off your chest. That's also furniture's duty!! Getting slammed against the floor when someone's pissed off is also a chair's important duty!! If that alone can absorb their master's bad mood even for an instant, there can be no greater honor for furniture. Kill me, deny me, your first and final friend...!!!"
At the end, Mammon had a mocking expression on her face, but for some reason, it looked splashed with tears.
"...Come over here, Sakutaro. Ange is a little agitated right now. So you mustn't get close."
'What about everyone else? Are all the Seven Sisters alive? Did they die...?'
"...It's okay. It looks gruesome, but those are the remains of their vessels after being deported from the human world. Shells that have been shed. So it's all right. They're probably deeply hurt, but they're okay. Everyone is alive. I'm sure we'll be able to meet them again someday."
'Uryu... Thank goodness, thank goodness...'
"...Ange has violated the contract of Mariage Sorcière. To do such a horrible thing, even though witches of the alliance must respect and accept one another... Even though they were all important friends to you, Ange..."
BGM: Thanks for Being Born
'Uryu, that's so cruel, so cruel...'
"...Just give it a rest with this playing witches thing. I'm begging you. Maria onee-chan and Sakutaro, I want you to disappear by yourselves. Even in my imagination, I don't want to kill and erase you."
'...W-We aren't your imagination... We're your friends, Ange, uryu...!'
Sakutaro said that as he hid behind Maria onee-chan, sobbing. Sakutaro doesn't exist. Sakutaro is also... an imaginary creature Onee-chan created to distract herself from her loneliness...
'...U-Uryu, it hurts, it hurts, Maria... Why? Why...? Uryu... uryu...'
"Stop it. Denying my friend is the one thing I will not permit."
The same power that had smashed the Seven Sisters was probably eating into Sakutaro as well. But Maria onee-chan was apparently protecting him with some other power. So Sakutaro's form didn't break and scatter.
Onee-chan glared at me sharply. It was a serious expression that I'd never seen before.
"Sakutaro is my furniture. You cannot erase him, Ange. However, trying to deny someone is the greatest form of scorn for a witch."
"Uu-!!! That's not true!! Sakutaro is my friend!! He was a stuffed animal once, but now he isn't!!"
"No, he's a stuffed animal. A stuffed animal made of cloth and cotton! He can't move or talk by himself! You're just talking for him like a ventriloquist, right?!"
"You call that magic? You call that a witch?! You call that...a friend?! I can't accept that!!"
'...Uryu... Am I... not me...? Am I... just a stuffed animal that... can't really talk... and not Maria's... friend...? U... ryu...'
As he clung to Onee-chan's body, he did all he could to continue standing, but his body began to gradually slip down... As he did, Onee-chan held him, yelling at me as tears streamed down her face...
"Uuu--!! Stop iit!! Don't burn Sakutaro with the magic-resisting toxin!! Don't bully him!! Don't insult him! Don't deny him!!"
"Sakutaro!! Sakutaro-!!! You aren't a stuffed animal, you aren't a stuffed animal, you're a friend!! Uuu--!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!"
"I hate you, Ange!! Uu-!! Why say something like that, hatehatehatehate!! I hate you!!"
What had been peaceful days to me became a daydream and ended. By now, it's impossible to prove. No one can verify whether that really was magic or whether those really were my friends, or else nothing more than a daydream. I, the sole observer, concluded that they were a daydream. So that became the truth.
Perhaps, in the farther future, I'll observe it again, and when that happens, maybe I'll acknowledge that it wasn't a dream, that the Seven Sisters really were my friends, and that along with Maria onee-chan and Sakutaro, they did everything they could for me in my isolation. Something so vague is neither the truth nor an illusion. Maybe the reality here and now is the only world with the real me.
Where is the real me? The person standing amidst the girls' exposed wreckage that resembles broken glass sculptures, that girl who's breathing harshly, her shoulders heaving, isn't me. I'm... over there. The me that's surrounded by a crowd and being showered by jeers... and who's hanging her head, her eyes red...
I won't dream anymore. Because there's nowhere left to run. I'm... going back. I'll return myself to the cage made of flesh...
"...I hear you."
"Ah, you finally answered. You aren't thinking that this'll end if you stay silent, or that we'll forgive you if you cry, right?! We're asking if you're aware! We're asking if you're aware of the trouble you're causing those around you...!!"
...I... slowly nodded. I acknowledged it.
To separate myself from and disgrace those Sisters who spoke to me with reliable and kind words, despite being totally unable to help when I really wanted them to, I acknowledged that.
"...I, Ushiromiya Ange, do not have a cooperative attitude and caused trouble for my classmates. There is nothing to blame for that except my excessive inferiority complex towards all of my classmates because of my inability to study. And,"
"...It's a shame that I'm alive."
Starting there, I was no longer reading the paragraph they'd made me write. It was me... improvising. And... it was what was in my heart. They noticed that it wasn't what they'd anticipated, but while they did frown, no one spoke. So I continued.
"...That's right. It's a shame that I lived. I should've had them take me with them on that day in 1986. And yet, I was the only one who wasn't taken. Why am I here? This isn't the world I'm supposed to be in. No one will save me. For a time, I felt as though only the fictional friends I created inside myself could save me. But those friends were nothing more than a delusion, and they didn't save me at all. After all, this isn't a world of imagination, but a world of reality. So, in short, up until today, I've been having the same daydream. I hated my real classmates and only lived by interacting with the friends in my mind. Just now, I split up with those friends. So I am here."
"...I have no family. I've thrown my friends away too. There's no longer anything left for me. Why haven't I died? Someone asked that a short while ago. I think they're right. Why... am I alive? I should've died... in the year 1986. No, I must really have died. And yet, my dead soul is still locked up inside this cage of flesh. So I'll ask someone. If no one answers, I'll do it myself."
I spoke that sentence... and looked around. Dumbfounded girls. Shocked girls. Girls whose faces seemed to be saying 'What the heck is this kid talking about?' And, a bit late, more and more girls with faces that said 'Is this girl all right?' *whisper*. *chatter*. And then, *giggle*.
When I ordered the friends in my daydream to kill, they couldn't do it. And so. I asked real Humans to kill me, but of course, these girls can't do it either. In other words, both daydreams and reality are the same.
Doesn't this mean that, including this world...
Then, there's no problem, right? After all, on that day when I lost my family, I was already dead. Everything that happened afterwards is going on in my head, my life flashing before my eyes after I failed to die. Once I understood that, it felt like the scenery surrounding me began to twist and bend slightly. Yeah. I'll finally... wake up. I'll be released from this daydream world.
I feel my consciousness sliding away. That's all right. Fade farther and farther away... and take me to my family... Then, no matter what happens in this twisted, stale world, I won't mind it at all.
I saw the crowd get pushed aside as a teacher stepped in. Perhaps a teacher doing the rounds happened to notice a strange disturbance. The teacher was vigorously shouting something, moving to protect me. Watching that, I knew that an ally had appeared for me, even if there was only one, and I felt my awareness return very slightly.
Never again. Never again will I seek rescue from daydreams. This is the world of Humans. Nothing can save a Human... except other Humans...
'...Can Ange... find happiness this way...?'
"...If Ange believes that's the only way to find happiness, then it is the only way. If she can't accept the blue bird in the cage for what it is, then she must go and search forever."
'Uryu... Maria, are you... breaking off relations with Ange...?'
"...No, nothing like that. I only did that because that's what Ange wanted. We witches are sometimes persecuted. However, we always remain by everyone's sides. And our aid can always be asked for."
'...Will the day come... when Ange will play with us once again...?'
"Maybe. Or, she might forget, and it'll never come. In the human world, we call that growing up and saying goodbye to your childhood self. Still."