Part 127: The Sweet World of Witches II
In that instant, invisible, massive arms stuck their fingernails out and tightly grasped Rosa's entire body. As the bones all over her body made a sound like twigs being stepped on, they cracked readily and broke apart.
...Rosa had understood vaguely. The massive arms were probably... her own arms, from the time she'd torn Sakutarou apart. From a stuffed animal's perspective, her arms certainly would have been this massive. So she could imagine what would happen next. The sharp nails stuck deep into the base of her neck, and she heard the skin tearing with her own ears. Then, as the two witches watched over her, Rosa's flesh was split in two, top and bottom.
When Sakutarou had been torn apart, bits of cotton had flown about like snowflakes. But in Rosa's case, something like black, thick tar came out, filthily flying all over the place. There wasn't even a trace of the red of blood. It was something black, filthy and thick. It was probably what a bloodless, tearless human kept inside their body.
"I can't forgive her!! Still can't forgive her, she's guilty...!!!"
When Beatrice brandished her pipe cane, gold butterflies seeped up and restored Rosa's broken flesh in an instant...
"...Ack, gwah! *cough*cough*...!"
"Feel the depths of your sin, which cannot be repaid by a single human life. And remember your own great sin...!"
"Come, try and remember...!! Remember the scale of your sin...!!"
"I'm sorry. I'm busy with work today, so I'm staying over."
...Staying over for work again...? Looks like work is tough for you again today, Mama...
"Yeah, sorry. I really am busy. I'll be holed up in the company the whole time. I can't even get a breath of outside air. Mama just can't finish her job quickly this time. Unless I give them a better design, I won't be given another job, that's how tough this work is. So it'll just have to take some time."
...Yeah. I understand. I'll be a good girl and watch over the house, so do your best at work, finish it quickly, and come back, okay...?
"Thank you for understanding about Mama's work... I promise I'll buy a delicious cake tomorrow and take it home."
I don't need cake. Instead of taking time to go to the cake store, I'd be happier if you came home that much sooner.
"Don't worry. I'll come back quickly, I promise. So let's have some delicious cake together. Let's drink delicious tea together. Let's read a new picture book together. Let's play with that Wolves and Sheep Puzzle I bought the other day. Both of us together. I promise."
...Yeah, promise. I'll be waiting. Do your best at work, Mama...
"...I-I... kept that promise, didn't I? The next evening, didn't I do as I promised, buying a cake and returning earlier than usual?"
"That's not it. I knew... That evening, a pay-on-delivery package came for Mama, but there wasn't enough money in the wallet, so I called Mama's company to ask what to do. I was told only to call at special times, but I thought it'd be bad if the package was something important for Mama's work... So I called."
"...Then, I was told that Mama had the day off. I was told that it had been decided long ago that Mama would have that day off, and that she'd gone far away to play. I knew. The whole, whole time, I knew Mama was lying...!"
But you know what? Sakutarou scolded me, saying that it wasn't true. Every day, Mama was very busy with work. There was no way she'd abandon Maria and play. He said that the person who told us Mama had the day off must've made some kind of mistake...! That's what Sakutaro said. So I believed it. I believed it! I love Mama, love her...! Of course, Mama says that she loves me, loves me!!
Rosa let out a deep sigh. Maybe she felt the weight of her words.
Then, she set the receiver on the bedside phone down. The dark room made the starry sky on the ground below the window stand out even more beautifully. On the table in front of the terrace was a very cold wine cooler, and the one she shared a glass with was gazing at the scene below...
"I told her once, but she was so noisy that I decided not to tell her anymore. It's less work that way."
"...If you were worried about your daughter, you didn't have to force yourself to put this in your schedule, right?"
"But that way, we'd never get our schedules to match... Didn't I say not to worry about that?"
The slender, middle-aged man clad in a white robe gave a small sigh. Rosa reacted instantly to that slight action...
"Come on! Let's not talk about my daughter. It'd be a waste of this precious wine."
"...I find you fascinating as both a woman and a human being. But for that very reason, I feel bad about taking so much of your time that it strains your relationship with your daughter."
"Don't I always tell you not to worry about my relationship with my daughter...?! I try not to talk about her when I'm alone with you, okay? I wouldn't even have phoned from here if it weren't for the noisy drunk laughing stupidly in the lobby downstairs...!"
"Rosa-san, can't you reconsider taking sudden vacations like this in the future, for your daughter's sake...? Isn't it enough if we only meet when our schedules match?"
"Our schedules will never match up that way, right...?! And I...always want to be with you...!"
"That's a child's way of loving. Loving between adults should be a little more stoic. Not being able to be with you for long periods of time makes me lonely too. However, I think we can enjoy more than enough adult loving during that limited time."
"So you're telling me to go be with my daughter more. Be a mother, not a woman?"
"...That's what you want too, right? You must also want to spend lots of time with your daughter. I won't run away. I'm trying to say that I think it's sad for you to sacrifice your daughter so you can prioritize your time with me."
"...Did you get back on good terms with your wife? Looks like you've had about enough of being separated from her."
"I don't want to talk about my wife. Just like you don't want to talk about your daughter."
"...I'm sure you think single women with children are a pain."
"I've never said anything of the sort before."
"...Whenever someone finds out I have a child, they desert me. Even if I tell them not to worry about paying that child's living expenses, they all desert me... I... thought you understood about my daughter, but I guess you don't like single women with children after all..."
"That's not what I'm saying. I haven't started to dislike you, Rosa-san. I'm just trying to tell you to take better care of our daughter, something I know you wish for yourself, and I don't want you to hurt yourself by lying to her. That's all I'm saying."
"That's not what I'm saying...!"
"No, I know, I understand. After being abandoned so many times because of that child, I know, I can tell by your mood, yes, you're already like those other men!! You don't want a woman with a child, you don't want a divorcee, because that's a pain!!"
"You don't want to become the parent of a child made with another man, right? Yes, that's right, I totally get it!! I once went out with a man with children, so I really get how you feel...!! That's why... I believed I'd be able to be together with you, a person who understood about my daughter!!"
"...If only you didn't exist, I would've been able to grasp my happiness as a woman long ago... Because you exist, you were always in the way of my happiness..."
"...Even I didn't want you to be born... No, that's not it. I thought I might be able to build a happy family together with you... But that man disappeared right before your birth. He said he'd build a warm family with me, tricked me, and disappeared from my sight for all eternity...!! Only you were left. No love or memories or anything remained!! Where did that man go? He probably just turned my days with him into a warm memory... and met with a new love. And this time, he might have been able to create a happy family...!! And as for me?! I have you!! I can't even look for a new love!!"
"No, I wasn't even allowed that, I wasn't even allowed a night to drink myself drunk all alone!! Who are you?! Who?! You wasted my life... and won't even let me have a new life... Just who are you to my life?! Die, disappear, I've hated you since the time you were born!! I've hated you since the time you were in my womb!!! I've been doing my best to act like a good mother so that I'd be accepted by the outside world. Yes, I've done my best!! As I watched other women of my generation praise being single, sometimes playing with passion or even being joined with someone in love, I was stuck being both a mother and a woman...!! Who ever showed appreciation for my efforts?! No one admired me, no one praised me!!"
"I was so desperate, I probably looked like a easy woman to you... yes, I was desperate!! You probably couldn't imagine how desperate a woman like me, who's still at the age where she wants to know love, was...when I realized that my time was being filled with work and caring for my child so that I'd probably grow old and end my life still like this!! Of course I hate your real father too! But we both share the blame for bringing about that catastrophe. I myself might have been persistent enough to make him run away! But the catastrophes after that were all your fault! When did I ever scold you for that?! Never, riiiiiiiight?! The day after one man left me, when I wanted to drink myself dead drunk, was Parent's Day at your school!! When I tried to hide my tear-stained eyes with heavy makeup, the way I felt when you said something off the mark and the whole class laughed at you... is something that not only you, but probably everyone in the world couldn't understand!!"
Maria's face was still stiff... If the words really had been blades, Maria's whole body would probably be stained red with fresh blood by now. Even after gaining the power of a witch and resolving herself to take revenge for Sakutaro, she couldn't stand these curses coming out of her mother's mouth...
"Ugly. Aaaaaaaahh, how ugly is a woman drowning in lust...!!"
"Now you see this woman's true nature!! Even I, as a witch who has explored the depths of evil, find this most difficult to watch!!"
"Aaah, MARIA, now is the time to part from her!! Smash the ugly lump of meat that calls herself your mother...!! It would be pointless for your pure soul to be bound by the chains between mother and daughter any longer! With your own hand! Release your own soul now!! You have now gained the tooth and claw to protect yourself!!"
"Ahhahahahahahahahaha!! Aren't you the one who's been hurting me?! I'm the one who wants revenge...!! I should have done that before you were born!! If only you hadn't been born!! Disappeeeeeeeeeeeaaaar, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!! Gagyah!"
As Rosa howled, in a way that can only be described by the word 'splat', her upper body was crushed, and in an instant, became something similar to a wrung, bloodstained towel.
"Be crushed. I can't forgive you, can't forgive you...!!"
"Kuhhahhahha...!! What filth. That form suits you...!"
...Even though Rosa's waist and below was standing normally, just the upper half of her body had been pinched, and that extreme contrast was bizarre. Then, she fell over, but the instant she fell, her body was restored.
"*cough*cough*! *cough*!! ...YOU die. Kuhhihihhihhihhi...!"
"Hit her, spit it out!! Push out all of the wedges driven into your chest... and fling them back at her!!!"
Maria's howl was adorned with the ugly sound of flesh and bone being crushed at the same time... As Rosa, who had foully insulted Maria, lay spread-eagled, a neat, perfect circle was cut out of her chest and crushed, as though her chest had been trampled by an invisible elephant. Her heart and her lungs and her ribs were trampled so mercilessly that they were completely indistinguishable. It might have symbolized the pain in Maria's heart up until today.
"I can't forgive her!! Not yet, not yet!! Mama is guilty, guilty guilty guilty, can't forgive her!!!"
"Indeed, how could this level of punishment compare to the bitter days you suffered through?!! Know it, Rosa! Come, try to remember, what form did you have?! Revive in order to be killed!! Be killed over and over, so that your sins can be purified!!!"
When Beato waved her cane, the body was restored again, and Rosa sat up, coughing violently in apparent pain... And once again, she spat out curses rejecting Maria.
"...You aren't Mama. You're a witch, a witch tormenting me and Mama!! I won't forgive you just because you look like Mama! I won't forgive you!!"
"...You're the witch, aren't you...? Always reading creepy books and pretending to play with witches...!! You're the one who should disappeeeeeeeeeeeear!! Because of you, even I'm treated like a freak! Because of you, because of yooooooooooooouuuuuuu!!! If only you hadn't been born!! Don't be born...!! I've hated you since before you were boooooooooooorn!!!"
...Maria screamed. Was she unable to bear her anger and sadness? Or else, had she been taken over by an indescribable emotion...? It was surely... a cry of hopelessness.
And yet, it was a reality that had to be accepted. Maria knew. She knew that she was thought of as a burden. But even though she herself had known that, she didn't believe it. She'd believed that her mother loved her... and had done her best to positively interpret several events that could have made her doubt this, trusting and clinging to her mother's love. But, she had no one except Mama. Even so, she really did like Mama... and wanted to return to the days when she'd believed that Mama loved her...
So she howled...
I'll deny the mother who says these things, the black witch who makes her say them, and... the part of myself that can't forgive my mother...!!! But I can't deny it! This is reality, fact, the truth, the answer. Without any mistake, this is absolute... reality!!
Maria turned Rosa into a lump of meat over and over. Over and over, in the dark world that reflected her heart, rang the ugly sound of flesh and bone being torn apart, which would make anyone want to cover their ears... Each time, Beatrice revived Rosa. She dragged her back into the world of endless torture, which could not be escaped from even by death. This was the true, deepest hell that the Endless Witch Beatrice could create.
However, this world was not made endless by Beatrice's will. Because every time Rosa turned into a lump of meat, she asked the same question to Maria.
"How could I forgive her, how could I forgive her?!! I won't forgive, won't forgive her!! I'll teach you all of my pain...!! Teach you much, much more...!! It's still not enough, not close to enough...!! Since I was born, since before I was born...!! I can't get rid of the anger and sadness of being neglected so long...!!"
"...Fuhi, hahaha... I hate you, haaate you... Fuhihiha, haha..."
Revive over and over again. Return to a meat lump over and over again. In various ways, she crushed, smashed, beat, and tore to bits. Flying blood spatter and flesh turned the once pitch-black world into a world with mixed red and black. Maria's anger still hadn't calmed down. It was as though she was spitting out all of the suppressed rage from the time of her birth until today. If that all became poison to her heart...
Then would the repeated murder of her mother purify her soul...? Would even this wasteful murder save her soul, at least a little bit...? This endless torture... might have become a slight diversion from her sad, unrewarded life. After all, it seemed that she'd finally been able to regain her smile.
"What's wrong? Why'd you stop laughing?! Try and laaaaaaauuugh!!"
"...Fuhi, fuhihihi... Gyack...!!!"
Half of her skull collapsed. Eyeballs flew out and black cranial fluid gushed. Fragments of teeth scattered.
"Come on, revive...!! Try and laugh...!! Come on, come oooooon!!!"
"...Ihi, ihi. ...Gyaggh!!"
Her whole chest along with her ribs turned inside out, exposing her filthy innards. All of them writhed, like some kind of impure creature.
"Come on, come on, come on!! Revive!! Can you still laugh? Can you still laugh?! Kihhihihihihi?!"
Rosa couldn't laugh anymore. But her face was laughing. It was filled with a twisted laugh... and covered with a malice that rejected her unwanted daughter. I erased that laughing voice. Next, I'll erase that laughing face. I'll erase it, I'll crush it, I'll tear it to bits...!!
"That's right, you are now playing with your mother, having fun with her...!! Tell me how you feel right now! I don't believe it's anger or sadness or pain...!"
"Yeah, that's right, I get it, Beatrice...!! I'm having a lot of fun now... I'm playing with Mama, so it's tons of fun!!"
"And even though I'm killing Mama over and over again, she can be revived with just a single bit of magic!! I took care of my toys because I couldn't fix them if they broke...!! But if the toy could be fixed, I'd want to break it over and over again!! Kihhihihihihihihihihihihi!! Hihihihihihi, hihi..."
"...But... Sakutaro won't be fixed. He can't be fixed... Because Mama, who made him, Mama, who gave birth to him, won't acknowledge him."
"I wasn't acknowledged by Mama either, was I...? So the broken Maria won't be fixed either..."
"...Kihihihi. Kihhihihihihihihihihihihi!! Kyahhahahahahyahhyahhyahhyah!! Aaaaaaaaaaahhh, it's fun, it's fun, Mama...!! Since it's gotten so fun, I'm somehow starting to feel that I could forgive you...! Hey, Beato, this is a veeery strange feeling...! Why? Why am I starting to feel like I can forgive Mama?!"
"That enlightened state is only reached by witches who have gained the power to control life and death at will. You can kill at any time. You can revive her if needed. If that's a pain, then it's all right to kill her again...! Once you've learned that you can do this at any time by simply snapping your fingers, all nonsense spoken in the world of humans becomes a chirping of insects that isn't worth listening to...!"
"You didn't begin to think about forgiving your mother because your eyes were opened to your mother's love. It was because now, you stand at the entrance to the world of true witches...!! Welcome, Maria, to the profound and sweet world of witches!!"
"I've done it...!! Maria is no longer Maria...!! I may still be an apprentice, but I've surpassed the Human world...!
"Mama, I'll forgive you. I'm sure I can forgive you! I think I'll be able to forgive you after doing just a bit more!!"
"After all, I'm a witch!! Ki, hihhihihhihhihhihhihhihhi!"
Maria would probably forgive her mother eventually. After brutally murdering her countless times. Graciously.
"Looks like it. No matter how old you get, thunder still makes you jump."
Battler was looking at the dark night through a crack in the curtains. Every once in a while, a pale, white lightning bolt would shine, and he seemed to be enjoying it.
"...Oh? Look, you were so noisy, you woke Maria up. Sorry, Maria. Sorry Battler's so freaking loud...!"
"What the hell, so it's my fault? Sorry, Maria. It's okay to go back to sleep. Good night."
Maria was a bit hazy, with drowsy eyes. She was probably half-asleep and couldn't think straight.
"...Uu-. That's okay. I won't sleep."
"Nah, go ahead and sleep. You're still half-asleep, aren't you? Ihihi."
"...I'm not half-asleep! Uu-!!"
"Come on, you're totally half-asleep, aren't you? Sleep, sleeeep."
"I'm not half-asleep! Not half-asleep!! Uu-uu-!! Uu-uu-uu-uu-!!"
"Quit it, stupid Battler...! Aah, sheesh, what are you thinking, getting a kid who's just woken up into a bad mood...?!"
"I'm not half-asleep! Not half-asleep! Uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-!!!"
"I understand, Maria-chan... You aren't half-asleep. So calm down..."
"Not half-asleep, not half-asleep!! Uu-!! Uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-!!"
Battler had only been trying to tease her a bit, so he was confused by this extreme overreaction. George held her head, trying to calm her down, but Maria's tantrum wasn't going to be quelled easily. Battler and Jessica were trying to push the blame on each other, saying 'It's your fault' 'It's your fault too'.
"Hey, be quiet, you two...! Jessica-chan, there was still some hot water in the pot, right? Could you make some tea for her? Did you calm down, Maria-chan?"
It looked like her tantrum was dying down bit by bit, but she still glared at Battler, who had made fun of her, with sharp eyes.
"Battler-kun was just kidding around. He doesn't really think you're half-asleep. So calm down. Okay? ...?"
George noticed. Maria was staring at Battler with incredible eyes. And, despite having just displayed all that emotion, she laughed in a small voice.
Instead of a laugh, it seemed more like she was muttering while thinking about, or else counting, each 'hi'. As though each time she said 'hi', something brutal would happen over and over. George felt something creepy for just an instant, but he couldn't spot the madness that peeked out of the depths of the girl's eyes for just a moment.
After a short period of stunned silence on George's part, Maria stopped her bizarre, quiet laugh and pushed George's arm aside, as though telling him to let go.
"...Uu-. I'll forgive him."
"R-Really? You're such a good girl, Maria. Battler-kun, Maria-chan forgave you. Make up."
"Yeah, sorry for teasing you. Forgive me..."
"Hey, Maria... Let's make some cafe au lait as a sign that you've made up. I'll put in lots of sugar, so it'll be sweet."
"I don't need it. But I'll forgive you."
"Because I'm a witch. Kihihihi."
One more time, Maria laughed in a creepy, quiet voice. But it was only for a very short time, so Battler and Jessica didn't think much of it. They decided to think that... it had probably only looked that way when the lightning lit her cheek with a pale, white light for an instant.
At that time, they could hear the sound of loud footsteps coming from the hall. It was already about 10:30, late at night. Late at night is usually a time when you aren't supposed to be disturbed. Hearing footsteps like that at this time was far from calming...
That clearly told them that this was an abnormal situation.
"Children...!! Are you there? Are you there?! It's Gohda!"
"It's Kumasawa, is everyone okay?! Aaaaaaah, what has happened, what has happened...?!"
When George opened the door, the two of them tumbled in, sopping wet. It looked like they had dashed here from the mansion without an umbrella.
"Wh-What's wrong, you two...? Did something happen...?!"