Part 121: To the Island of the Witch
I gave up on sleeping and went up onto the deck. There, I was welcomed by the shining sun and a strong sea breeze...
...He must have a lot of time on his hands too. After all, it'll be several more hours before we reach Niijima. It would only have taken a couple dozen minutes by airplane, but there was the chance that the Niijima airport was under the Sumadera family's web. The harbor would probably be the same.
For that reason, I had obtained a boat that would let me land while avoiding the harbor, no questions asked. I'd bumped into a cheery boat captain, plied him generously, and he had decided to help me out, amused...
"I just asked the captain, and it sounds like it'll take a full two hours more. Well, beggars can't be choosers."
"...The weather sure is nice. Feels like I'll burn."
"Going to read on the deck? You'll damage your book."
Amakusa apparently thought this because I was clutching Maria onee-chan's diary under my arm. I'd been reading it half asleep, which was why I'd come back up still clutching it.
"How's it going? Think you'll be able to find the truth of Rokkenjima from Maria-san's diary?"
"Looks like you've got nothing to look forward to except questioning those involved on Niijima."
"I imagine the Witch Hunters have showered them with questions over and over, so I'm pretty sure I won't find any new facts."
"Hehhaha...! So even though your hopes are that low, you're willing to spend a half-day trip on a boat to go to Niijima anyway! Talk about fickle."
"...It's like a journey of self-satisfaction, so that I can say 'I investigated'. I'm not so naive as to seriously think that the truth of 12 years ago will be revealed."
"And when you're done with your self-satisfaction trip, what'll you do next?"
"Who knows. I haven't thought about it. I'll go to Niijima, ask some people who were involved. Then, after going to Rokkenjima in the end and leaving some flowers, my journey will be over."
Several days have already passed since this journey began. After being told by Bernkastel on the roof of that building to search for the truth of 12 years ago, I'd left on a journey like trying to grasp a cloud. At the time, I felt as though I'd experienced something mystical... and had the feeling that I might be able to grasp some kind of miracle at the end of this journey.
But after several days passed, my excitement died down. On that day, when I stood on the roof of that skyscraper, my heart was completely cornered and dead. So I'd wanted from the bottom of my heart to be released from the cage of my body and rise into the sky... and had crossed the fence in order to die. Maybe experiencing the desire to die and actually stepping forwards, throwing my body down... caused some kind of mystical experience inside my head, making me think I had received a message from a witch. The excitement from my jump lessened over time, and the more I came back to my senses, the more this journey lost its meaning.
But I didn't even consider suspending this journey just because of that. If I stop this journey, it'll mean acknowledging that the message from that witch was an illusion. And I felt as though that meant throwing away the promise the witch made... and any chance that someone from my family might come back. So, because it was hard to believe that those events were an illusion, I've continued on my journey.
I don't seriously believe that this journey will change anything. It's even up to me when to end this journey. It's up to me to choose where the final destination is. In the end, this journey is only for my self-satisfaction...
"...Oh? If that's the answer you've reached after hovering over the line between life and death in the mercenary business, that's probably pretty deep."
"Don't take it so lightly. What I'm trying to say... is that the only one who can acknowledge you in this world is you yourself."
Amakusa continued stretching as he spoke. In an irritatingly fresh way. Hearing it told to me as though from a teacher made me instinctively want to resist, but what he was saying was extremely sensible.
BGM: Worldend (solo)
"People work hard when they want to be acknowledged by someone. In most cases, that someone is their parents. Children learn how to work hard because they want to be praised by their parents. Although that's why I never learned."
"Sorry, that's not how I meant it. What I'm trying to say is that there's nothing wrong with self-satisfaction. No matter who praises you, it's meaningless unless you can accept it. Turning it around, even if no one praises you, that doesn't matter as long as you can accept it."
"...Self-satisfaction tends to contradict a desire to improve oneself, so we're usually taught that it's bad. Somehow, your argument seems like a pretty fresh take on it, Amakusa."
"The anguish of the human world comes when you want someone to acknowledge you, but you don't know what it is you should be striving for. I had a time like that too. I wanted to be acknowledged by someone, but I didn't know what I wanted them to acknowledge about me. And since I didn't know what to strive for or how far I should go to be acknowledged, I did a lot of crazy things."
"And the answer you reached... was self-satisfaction?"
"It sounds bad, but that's how it is. Rich is the one who is content with what they are, they say. If I'm satisfied with my life, it doesn't matter what other people say. It's the same for your life, and for this journey. No one has any right to criticize you other than you yourself, Ange-san."
"You're the only one who determines the meaning and results of your journey. If it's been a meaningful journey for you, then that's more than enough."
"...I always did take you for a flippant ladies man, but you really do say weird things every once in a while. I'll bet you think saying stuff like that will make you popular."
"Of course not, of course not. That's not how I meant it at all. Looks like you want to be alone. I'll head over to see the boat captain. Please, take it easy."
Amakusa apparently decided I was in a bad mood. Although I didn't feel that way myself. Or, he might have finished a set of stretches and wanted to cool off in the shade.
The sea winds were strong, but not enough to cool the rays of the sun. Amakusa disappeared. Only I remained.
"...Self-satisfaction is life itself, huh?"
I noticed that Mammon had suddenly appeared, her abundant hair fluttering over by the prow of the ship.
"It's true that a life of greed would be fun. But unlike you, Humans have a limited life-span."
"If greed is eternal, that means a person will have desires even in the last moment before they die. Having desires means there's something that you want. Something you don't have, some way you aren't complete."
"...I'm sure it's tough to die when you can't think of your life as being a full one. So I'm sure self-satisfaction is necessary."
"...I see. Because of the existence of a life span, you have to compromise like that? All of my masters had very long life spans, so I've never thought of it."
"I wonder if Humans live for the purpose of becoming satisfied. If so, it's probably easiest to live without desires. I see, so that's why greed is one of the seven deadly sins."
"*giggle* Your praise honors me."
Apparently that counted as a compliment in Mammon's eyes. She turned and gave a graceful bow.
"...Wouldn't it be pretty tough if you felt you were lacking something when you died?"
"If so, then Humans live only so that they can meet a satisfying death. They live so that they can have a better death. They live so that they can die."
...This kid's saying something pretty incredible. I see, as I'd expect from a demon stake. However, it might be the truth. Humans suffer because they aren't satisfied... and live only to find satisfaction. In other words, that might be the same as a desire to die satisfied.
"I can't counter that. People live in order to be satisfied. And they hope to die that way. So, it's really painful when you don't know how to find that satisfaction."
"Just how can you find something like that? In a Human's life."
"...By being acknowledged. By hearing someone say 'You are happy'."
"If it doesn't matter who acknowledges them, then I'll do it."
"Yeah, that's the problem. People don't know who needs to acknowledge them."
"So, searching for this person who can acknowledge them is the journey of their life? Hmmmm."
"It sounds strange. Whether you're acknowledged or not, it supposedly doesn't change your circumstances. And yet, if you are acknowledged, you will be satisfied, while if you aren't, then you won't. It's almost like the blue bird. Because you can't notice the blue bird even though it's already in the cage, you have to go out on a journey searching everywhere."
"What the heck. Kyahhahaha. Human lives sure are stupid."
"That's right. Amakusa really hit on something. Rich is the one who is content with what they are, was it? I don't know where that proverb came from, but it's deep. Basically, if you can't find enough satisfaction unless someone else acknowledges you, that's the same as not acknowledging yourself. The ultimate in self-fulfillment is acknowledging yourself."
"That's right. Because, if you can 'know' that you're fully satisfied, there's no need to be acknowledged by anyone. Just by taking notice of the small things, the Humans' foolish journey of life can be ended easily. You can spend the rest of your life playing and having a good time. A Human's life is so ridiculous, kyahhahahaha!"
If most of a Human's life is a journey with the hopes that someone will acknowledge them, so that they can achieve a satisfied death... Then when they realize that the person doing the acknowledging isn't someone else, but they themselves, that pointless journey can end. Humans who have ended that journey can probably spend the rest of their lives as they wish, with their heads held high.
How noble, how praiseworthy would that be...
"You know, it seems Amakusa's on pretty bad terms with his parents. That makes sense. Any decent parents would want him to get the hell out of the trade he's in."
"Does that really matter though? As long as it's fun for the person in question."
"...Exactly. That's what it comes down to in the end. Criticism formed by the observations of other people doesn't matter. If your existence is firmly acknowledged by you yourself, that's enough. If you can live with confidence in yourself, you'll surely be able to accept and be satisfied with any kind of lifestyle."
"I'm sure Amakusa will eventually eat a stray bullet on the battlefield and get seriously injured. He might even die... But I don't think he'd view that as something unfair. I'm sure he'd cackle about how that's also part of life."
"What a great way to live. I could fall for the guy."
"...Pitiful Humans who can't acknowledge themselves... wander about searching for that their whole lives, and without anything being accepted, they do nothing but grumble and die while still unsatisfied. How pitiful. Compared to people whose lives drag on without any purpose, Amakusa is more likely to eventually die by the roadside, but I think he's much more noble for living his life with his head held high."
"Aren't the winners in life those who achieve enlightenment? If they can do that even a little sooner, they'll be able to live that much more of their life effectively."
...With Mammon's words, I finally accepted a certain fact.
In the past, I've called that girl unusual, a little strange. However, that wasn't true.
"...Maybe that's what made Maria onee-chan... so amazing. When she was at the age where she might or might not enter the first year of elementary school, she had already reached that point."
For people like us, looking at her life from the outside, it wasn't something we'd call blessed. But even though days like that were engraved in her diary, they always finished up by saying that it was a happy day. Even though the part of her mother that didn't love her daughter came and went, she believed that her mother loved her. The mother's love that didn't exist, she created herself, filling her world with love. Others might observe her as an unsatisfied, pitiful girl, but she herself acknowledged that she was satisfied. And so, she was happy that way.
It's easy to observe that as something pitiable and sad. But to her, that was an outsider's opinion, so it didn't matter. 'Whether or not it was happy for her'... was the only important thing. It's just like how, when people who live in the city point to the lifestyles of those in rural areas, and mourn their inconvenience and feel sympathy for them, it's really none of their business. If those who live there are satisfied with what they have, that's more than enough.
"...I've finally noticed something. I noticed it just now. I did something horrible to Maria onee-chan. And to you all and Sakutarou as well, on that day."
"Whether magic exists... or not. That's not up to other people to decide. It's up to you yourself. Whether magic exists to Maria onee-chan is a problem for Maria onee-chan to decide, not me."
"...And yet, when I was young, on that day, I said it. By saying there was no way magic exists, I hurt her."
"Mariage Sorcière is the Witches' Alliance Maria onee-chan created. I was invited into it... and told to become a witch with them."
"Thinking it a new, interesting game, I went along with that for a while. But, because of the cruelty of youth, I got tired of it half-way through. And, I tore her pure heart apart with sharp words."
"...At that time, we must've gotten into a huge fight. I forgot about it right away, but she couldn't forget about it. After all, to her, magic was a natural power that really existed, and she believed that she'd be able to share it with me."
"The young me tore that feeling apart. So, she closed herself up in a shell, assuming that she wouldn't be able to share her magic with anyone."
"...If that's true, then Lady MARIA's journey through life wasn't over after all. If she'd been able to accept herself, then there'd be no need to collapse just because you denied her, Ange-sama."
"Onee-chan was young. She still hadn't reached a philosophical viewpoint like Amakusa. Yeah, now I understand... That's why the witches' alliance called Mariage Sorcière was necessary."
An alliance where each acknowledges that the other is a witch.
"...That's right, I'm pretty sure that was the first article in the agreement of Mariage Sorcière. Witches of the alliance would acknowledge each other and respect each other. That's the deepest and only meaning of the witches' alliance..."
Maria onee-chan wanted to share with me the secret laws to make the world happy, called magic. But I was young. And she was too. I hurt her with innocent cruelty.
"How rude. We acknowledge that we exist ourselves. We're not like Humans, with their souls half-asleep. 'I think, therefore I am'. Whether you acknowledge or deny magic, the existence of the magic called the Seven Stakes of Purgatory... is a fact. As long as we acknowledge it ourselves, to borrow your words."
"It truly would be violence for another person like me to deny it. I'm sure that'd be like having your true mother yell 'I wish you had never been born'... no, 'Disappear'."
...Even after being slammed by all those words, Maria onee-chan's magic... made her believe in her mother's love. Sakutarou, her magic friend, always encouraged her. He kept saying that her mother loved her, that she was coming home late because of her work, and that she would definitely bring back a present... Even after Maria learned that her mother's work wasn't really the cause, magic allowed her to continue believing. And by believing that her mother loved her, by acknowledging herself, she filled her world with love and peace and serenity, establishing it completely.
"...Then what kind of journey is this?"
"It was a journey... to apologize to Maria onee-chan for what happened that day."
"I don't know why, but that's what I think. If I hadn't hurt her, the incident 12 years ago might not have occurred. That's what I think."
I have no basis for it. I don't have a clue how hurting Onee-chan could be connected with that mysterious incident several years later. But, for some reason, I can't imagine that there's no connection.
A witch caused that incident. And the culprit is the Golden Witch, Beatrice. And Beatrice was part of the Mariage Sorcière Alliance of Witches. I horribly hurt the other witch of that alliance. I hurt her with the thought that magic doesn't exist.