Part 122: To the Island of the Witch II
"And what's your basis for it?"
"I have none. I just think it's true."
"Hmmmm... The Japanese sure are interesting. Even when they're the victim, they feel as though they did something wrong and apologize for no reason. I could understand if you said 'I hate Beatrice for stealing my family!' or something, but you really are weird, feeling guilty for no reason and apologizing."
"Of course I hate Beatrice. I couldn't continue this journey without that feeling. But it's okay to choose yet another purpose for this journey. There's nothing wrong with adding on a goal of apologizing for past sins, in addition to getting revenge on a witch for what happened 12 years ago. I can at least go to Rokkenjima, apologize for my reckless remarks, and offer flowers... No, there's something better than flowers. And I think that would be more fitting for Onee-chan."
I stood up, not minding that the sea breeze scattered my hair, and concentrated my mind... I lifted my palm up to the height of my head...and imagined a vast space...
"...Come, arise. I am the witch apprentice, ANGE Beatrice. I was excommunicated, but I was once a member of the same alliance, and you are the dearly-missed furniture who played with me. Answer to my call..."
It was hard to tell in the middle of the day, but a faint blue light gathered around the palm of my hand.
...Then, Sakutarou's form was revived.
His cute ears, his bright-red muffler. It came off easily, so Onee-chan faithfully re-wrapped it all the time, didn't she...?
"...Sakutaro, do you recognize us? Do you know who we are...?"
BGM: Soul of Soul
With a sleepy face, as though waking up from a long slumber, Sakutarou looked all around him as he spoke.
"It's been a long time, Sakutarou. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've summoned you with my own power. And now, I'm the only one who can summon you."
Those words might have been a bit cruel. Sakutarou's face clouded over...
"In the past, I denied you. Now that I've summoned you... it means I've accepted your existence."
'...Are you sure...? Is it really all right... for me to be summoned into Ange's world...?'
His eyes were a bit frightened. It was only natural. I, who had played with him like a friend before, had suddenly denied him and tried to burn him with the magic-resisting toxin. It was only natural that he was scared...
"I apologize... for that day. To you too, Mammon. And to the rest of you."
No, they're always there. Always by my side. As long as I acknowledge that it's okay for them to be there, they'll always appear.
"You certainly do exist. Lucifer. And Leviathan. And Satan. And Belphegor. And Mammon. And Beelzebub. And Asmodeus. And Sakutarou too."
"...Are you sure? You're one challenging Beatrice-sama, Ange-sama. Is it okay for one in a position of denying witches to acknowledge us?"
"As to whether magic exists or not in my world, sorry, but let me put that on hold. It's not like I myself acknowledged the existence of magic."
"...But then, doesn't that contradict the fact... that you're acknowledging us?"
"It's because magic exists for people who believe. Even if I don't. If someone believes, then magic will exist in the human world."
"That fact won't change in the slightest whether I believe in magic or not. No, it mustn't change. That person just had to hold their head up high and believe in their own magic. I acknowledge that. So, it wouldn't be strange at all for all of you to exist."
"...Quite a play on words, but it's an interesting interpretation."
"What you're saying, Ange-sama, is probably a Devil's Proof."
"A Devil's Proof...?"
"Right?! To prove the existence of demons, you just need to find one."
"But it's impossible to deny the existence of demons."
"Kyahha! And we're here. That means that whether Ange-sama believes in magic or not, our existence is unshakable."
"Y-You're right... Even though you're in a position of denying magic, why...?"
"That's probably... because I learned what it means to respect and acknowledge. Right now, I might be able... to understand the depths of Maria onee-chan's... and Beatrice's magic."
In the past, I didn't believe in things like magic. Thinking something like that couldn't exist, I acted like I was closing my eyes tightly and couldn't see anything. But now, I'm different. I get the feeling I can look right at the thing called magic... and close in on its true nature...
"...How frustrating. It's truly rare to find a Human so free of the magic-resisting toxin in this day and age. And she has such an uncommon genius for being a witch..."
"That's right. If Ange-sama tried to become a witch right now, she could grow to be a Great Witch, maybe even at Beatrice-sama's level."
"Even so, she has acknowledged our existence and is our master. Most likely, Ange-sama will be our final master. Let us think of this as our final service, and apply ourselves to the fullest."
"...Ble-ah. But I just can't staaand that Ange-sama still doesn't believe in magic herself."
"...Ange-sama, please believe in magic toooo. It feels like a waste to finally have a master and have it not be a wiiitch."
"Even though you have outstanding talent that could make you one of the greatest of witches, your goal is to attack witches. It's so frustrating. Well, even so, that's your life, the way you live, and in the world where you've decided that, there's nothing we can do to complain."
"Thanks for understanding me. Yeah, whether magic exists to me or not, that's up to me to decide. Regardless of whether magic actually does exist somewhere in the world or not."
Billions of people live on the earth. But I probably won't meet even 1% of those people. Even so, I will speak of a world. 'My world', which doesn't know even 1% of the world.
"I'm not qualified to deny the laws of a world I don't know. So just because magic doesn't exist in my world, I can't deny that magic exists in a world I don't know. That makes it a true Devil's Proof. No, maybe it's more like 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'."
I can be confident in the world I know. So even if that's denied by a complete stranger who doesn't know a thing about my world, that's nothing to worry about. And in the same way, I've got no right to deny a world I don't know... just because I don't know about it.
"Therefore, regardless of whether there's magic in my world or not, I can't deny the magic Maria onee-chan taught me."
'Uryu! After all, even if you've never seen it, magic exists!'
"Yes. That's why, as I've already said, you friends of the witches' alliance, Mariage Sorcière, can't be denied by me or anyone else."
I proclaimed that most important part again. Even though the sea breeze and the crashing of the waves were noisy, it was a time of silence. Both Sakutarou and the Seven Sisters of Purgatory... reflected upon my words. And, probably, I did too.
Does magic exist? Do witches exist? While ignoring what the answer would be for my own world, I acknowledged their existence. That contradiction was what I'd proclaimed so boldly.
v'Thank you, Ange.'
"If you'll acknowledge that much, can't you acknowledge witches too...? No, that was a foolish question. You already have a clear answer to it."
"Sorry. Though, I do acknowledge that witches might exist somewhere in this world. But that doesn't shake my world."
"...You won't acknowledge witches or magic. You'll definitely expose the truth of Rokkenjima. Right?"
"Yes. That's my world. Even if a real witch exists, I won't acknowledge it in my world. No matter how much that witch tries to convince me."
"Your position is to attack witches, Ange-sama. And I understand well that you haven't the slightest wavering in that feeling. We are your furniture, the Seven Sisters of Purgatory...! We will always be by your side. We'll always be waiting for the day that we can be useful...!"
"Although, since you don't believe in magic, we can never be anything more than people to talk to."
"That's enough for now. We've been left room to exist. For that alone, we should thank and acknowledge Ange-sama."
"In short! All of us!"
'Are all together again... Uryu-!!'
"Kya-h!! Sakutaro-! Let me squeeze youuuuuuuuu-!!"
They were also celebrating a long-missed reunion. If their existence is permitted, they're definitely capable of existing here. No, even if I don't permit it, they can exist. Because I acknowledged them, they showed their reunion's joy to me as well..
As I watched over that scene, I reflected over what this journey of mine meant.
"...I wonder if everyone will forgive me this way."
"You've done enough. We are furniture. Just being summoned, just being allowed to be by your side makes us happy."
'Uryu...! Ange, thank you very much...!'
"...Come to think of it, why was I able to summon Sakutarou? No, it's the other way around. Why wasn't Onee-chan able to summon Sakutarou?"
Which meant she hadn't been able to summon him like this anymore. In the past, Onee-chan said it was more advantageous in a summoning to have a vessel. However, a vessel is like training wheels, and it shouldn't be absolutely necessary. In other words, even if the stuffed animal lion that was Sakutarou's vessel didn't exist, it should've be possible to summon him.
...No, when you put it like that, it's even a little doubtful whether summoned things can be limited by life and death. Moreover, Sakutarou should have been an especially important friend to Maria onee-chan. She should've been able to strive hard to summon him one more time. It certainly was sad that the original stuffed animal vessel had been torn apart, but why did he 'die' and become impossible to summon again...?
"It's the same as the existence of magic. If Sakutarou has died in Lady MARIA's world, then he can't exist in her world."
The shock of having her beloved stuffed animal torn apart...had left a wound in her heart serious enough to prevent her from summoning her irreplaceable close friend. In Maria onee-chan's eyes, Sakutarou died. So even if Sakutarou can exist like this to me, he cannot exist before her.
'I... was always with Maria... When Maria cried, I was always right beside her, telling her not to cry... But my form, my voice, nothing of me will reach Maria now...'
Sakutarou hung his head, looking sad.
"...After that incident, the nature of Mariage Sorcière rapidly began to change. Before then, the alliance was a peaceful thing. But after that incident, it grew full of shadier things, focusing on how to curse people you hate. Onee-chan's diary began to show a clear change."
A diary is a mirror that reflects one's heart as it is. It probably showed the personality called Maria die... and be reborn as the evil witch personality, MARIA. When she buried that diary in hatred and sadness, her heart surely wasn't satisfied. Because it wasn't satisfied, she had to bury it with hatred and sadness. And while still unsatisfied, she met with death.
...I wonder if her unsatisfied soul has a hole opened in its chest from sadness even now... and continually wanders, dripping tears down and calling Sakutarou's name...
"What can I do to revive you in Maria onee-chan's world? If I can learn that method, I'll be able to save Onee-chan. That's the method of atonement I've been given. What can be done to revive Sakutarou?"
'...To Maria, my vessel had a very important meaning...'
"The vessel. In other words, if we could revive the lion stuffed animal..."
'But... Mama Rosa made my stuffed animal herself, so only she could make it...'
Even inside the diary, Maria onee-chan had asked this of Beatrice... and was refused for that reason. The magical significance of a stuffed animal being unique and handmade is very large. Then, if we could make the same thing once more...
But Aunt Rosa is already gone from this world. We can't make the same thing again.
"...Was there ever another identical stuffed animal made, or anything like that?"
"He's a stuffed animal made to be Lady MARIA's birthday present... and is the only one of his kind in the world. A handmade and unique vessel. That's why it conceals a great magical power. And, if lost, it cannot be obtained again. It won't revive..."
...Because she knew that, Maria onee-chan watched that stuffed animal, which was unique in that world, get torn apart, and despaired. Because it was the only one of its kind in the world, and she couldn't permit a compromise such as buying another one, she had despaired from the bottom of her heart...
"...But Sakutarou is right here. Even without a vessel, he's here. Because I acknowledge that, he certainly exists in my world. Even if Maria onee-chan doesn't acknowledge him, that cannot be denied. Right...?"
"Logically, that's true, but I think using the same logic to make Lady MARIA accept him could be difficult."
'...Maria, I'm not dead... I'm right here... Uryu...'
"I'm sure that on Rokkenjima, I'll be able to be reunited with Maria onee-chan. And, no matter what, I'll revive the you that's inside Onee-chan...and let you be reunited."
'Can you do it...?'
"It'll probably be hard. Just like how, after being invited into the witches' alliance, I rejected it without understanding what it meant, she might also reject your existence."
"...But, I've got to do it. That's the only way I can atone for my sins."
"That island, which was the beginning of everything, is the final destination of this journey. You all are the furniture of a witch, so as your master, I have to take you home... to the witch's island, to Rokkenjima."
Even though the rays of the sun had been so strong, at some point clouds had started to hang down. The spray that hit my cheek might not all have come from crashing waves.
Amakusa called out to me with an expression that said 'Oh, you're still here?' When I looked up, I saw that the island's silhouette had gotten much larger. We might reach land very soon. I remembered that the weather report had mentioned scattered rains. The sky wasn't dark enough for rain clouds. It'll probably be just for a short time.
Even though the rain was light enough not to be a pain... Having rain start to fall as we approached the island felt like some kind of fate. It was raining on October 4, 1986 as well. I'm approaching the Rokkenjima of that day... and not just in distance...
I went back down with Amakusa. He was carrying what looked like a really large and heavy golf bag. It was something Amakusa had brought back with him on a day when we'd split up. I didn't inquire as to its contents, but it was hard to imagine that they were anything peaceful.
"Why are these things so darn heavy all the time? A French instructor taught me something interesting about that once. He said they should always be heavy. After all, a human life is heavier than the world. So these should be even heavier."
"...It'd be nice if you didn't need to use them."
"That would be nice."
Amakusa set the golf bag-like luggage down beside him.
Cutting through the drizzle as she traversed the runway, Sumadera Kasumi entered the lobby with two black-suits as guards. The four black-suits who had been waiting inside the lobby stood up and respectfully lowered their heads in salute.
"We have a car prepared! Please, this way."
They got into two luxury cars that had been rented...
"...Ange should be heading for Rokkenjima. A deserted island... How convenient. You've arranged for some tools, I take it?"
The black-suit in the passenger seat put a heavy bag that had been set by his feet onto his lap, opened the catch with a *click*, and showed Kasumi what was inside. Inside were several silver lumps of carefully wrapped aluminum foil. He peeled one open to show her.