Part 141: Cause of the Tragedy III
Since the time she had returned, her expression hadn't changed in the slightest... However, when she saw the fallen empty wine bottles and scattered cheese plates, her brow furrowed, and she looked a bit displeased. And when she whispered 'disappear', in that instant, the room was cleaned up in a flash, as though nothing had happened. The reception chairs were neatly arranged, and there was no wine or cheese. There were no stains or scattered trash either.
...To the contrary, even the air had frozen over, and, enough to make one doubt whether a large number of noisy people really had been in this room until a short while ago, the study had returned to silence.
...In that silent, frigid study where even the air had frozen, Beatrice stood still... Then, she called, muttering.
"Do I seem strange? My apologies."
"...Even though you were drinking so happily with that damn geezer, you suddenly burned him up, and your demoness friend is a glass sculpture. When you told the demon butler and your teacher to leave, they disappeared right away at your words. Just how fickle and selfish are you?"
"Battler, I'm done."
"Done with what?"
"Huh? That's... well... you were the one who started this game."
"Heh, if you've had enough, that's great for me. So basically, you're giving up?"
"I am not giving up. I am simply ending it. No, I won't even end it. I am just abandoning this game for all eternity."
"Doesn't that mean you're giving up? Nah, the words 'got bored of it and threw it away' fit you perfectly."
"That is correct. I grew bored of it... and am throwing it away."
"I don't care what happens next. It can remain abandoned and gather dust as much as you like."
"...What's going on with you? You've been kinda hard to deal with since a short while ago. Are these still the aftereffects of that incomprehensible test from earlier? If you've got a grudge, all you have to do is say so clearly. You said in red that it has nothing to do with you, but that's gotta be a play on words, right? It's written all over your face. You have a grudge against me."
"How many times will I have to say I have no grudge against you before you'll understand? At the time you committed your sin, I did not exist."
As Beato spoke with an offended expression, her face twisted to look even more displeased. Fickle. Inconsistent. Moody. Temperamental. Selfish and simple-minded and cruel. But even so, she hadn't shown an expression as strange as this even once until now...
"...Well, you were the one who provoked me into this game. I'm a bit let down that it wasn't resolved, but feel free to invite me again if you feel like it."
"But when that happens, allow me to politely refuse, okay? Heheheh."
He intentionally spoke in a mocking tone, but Beato showed no reaction. Battler hung his head and clicked his tongue...
"We've circled around October 4 and 5 over and over again, but I've finally had just about enough of this role. This way, the boat will come tomorrow."
"...That's right, and then the seagulls will return to the harbor. I'll finally be able to hear Rokkenjima's signature nya-nya- cries. After all, maybe because of the weather, they weren't there at all when I came to the island. When the seagulls cry, everything will end, I guess. All done, the end. What a relief."
"Hmm? What'd you say?"
"...I said that nothing would end. With this, everything will be abandoned. The game will be forgotten, and the pieces on the board will be abandoned as they lay. There will be no advancing or returning, no taking and being taken. No victory, no defeat, not even a tie. Just abandoned."
"...Doesn't that mean it's over?"
"Wrong. On my turn, the game will stop for all eternity. Your turn will not come. So there will be no victory nor defeat nor a tie."
"...In the past, I couldn't let you do that. After all, one of my goals was winning against you. However, I've lost interest. So there is no longer any point in making moves any longer."
"...What do you mean... by my turn not coming...?"
I'd thought that Beato getting tired of the game meant I'd be released...and that I'd be able to escape Rokkenjima. But for some reason, Beato's repeated words... about the difference between abandoning the game and settling it... caught my attention... Just what is it she's been saying, and why the bad mood...?
At that time, I suddenly heard a voice from behind me. When I turned around, there was someone I thought I might, or might not, remember from somewhere... A mysterious girl, with no light in her eyes, was standing there.
BGM: Melody (instrumental)
Suddenly, in a different place... was a girl wearing a bright pink dress. I had a feeling I'd met her somewhere too, but I couldn't remember. More important was the meaning of her words. If the game is abandoned, then... huh?
"...That's right. A match won't be resolved unless enemies and allies meet. It would mean that you'd never be able to win and escape from this world for all eternity."
"What it comes down to, I guess, is something like taking the key to the cage that you're locked in, fastening it to the collar of a pigeon or something, and letting it fly."
"...This isn't funny, Beato. We didn't come this far to watch such a boring game. Calling it a day like this is no joke."
"...I agree with Lambda. I came here to make Battler win and to make you writhe in defeat. I still haven't achieved that goal. I won't stand for you abandoning the game at a time like this and running away."
"I acknowledge that it would mean the curtain call for a game that disappoints you Ladies. However, I, the host of this tea party, am fickle. Once it's lost its fun, I know no way of entertaining. I believe that's been my witch-like way of doing things from the very beginning. There are no problems, yes...?"
"...Certainly. I won't go against your creed."
"I won't accept it... Quit fooling around, how much do you think I've supported you...? You think I'd be okay with that after all this preparation? Don't mess with me...!!"
"I am saying that I have tired of it. Nothing more, nothing less."
"That's not gonna fly... We'll have you continue this game. You wanna win against Battler, right?"
"You wanna win and make him surrender, right?! You're almost there, aren't you?! Am I right?!"
"...D-Don't ask me that. But... I have an opinion too. Let me say it."
"This is a fight you picked. I'm prepared to settle this once and for all. I've come close to surrendering many times, but I've never had any intention of escaping partway through, leaving the match undecided. Since I'm here, showing the will to fight, you'd better not run away, Beatrice."
Suddenly, even Gretel was there. And everyone was calling Beato irresponsible.
"Hoh. It seems I'm mostly being called irresponsible because Battler will, as my opponent, be stuck."
"...In that case, Battler, will you step down from being an opponent, as I shall? That way, I will have done nothing worthy of criticism."
"If I step down, will I be able to leave Rokkenjima...?"
"There's no chance you'll be able to leave. Just be covered in dust and let it pile up on your shoulders."
"...Quit fooling around. What an irresponsible person. You've killed such a large number of people. On top of that, using a witch's power, you've done it over and over. Killing in gruesome ways! I definitely won't let you escape without taking responsibility...!"
"ResponsibilityHoh, what is it I should do to take this so-called responsibility?"
"Fight until a resolution is reached. Battler will sit in the chair across from you, never giving up and fighting until he beats you. So you too, fight until you're defeated. If you don't like that, try and defeat Battler...!!"
"I won't forgive you... if you leave everything unresolved and abandon Battler in this chair, locking him up and never letting him return... I won't forgive you...!!"
To be perfectly honest, I didn't really understand from what standpoint Gretel was trying to save me. But in her words, I could feel a strong determination to save me from this insane game world no matter what. So, I responded in kind.
"I am here. Across from you, in the seat of your rival. Get it? As long as I continue to sit here, I won't allow you to escape. So don't escape. Fight."
"Isn't this a fight you started? You did all that crap over and over, making a complete mess of things! How could I let you end it because you're tired, after all this time?!! I am your opponent!! As long as I'm here, I won't let you escape!!"
"Are you listening, you irresponsible witch?! Try saying somethiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!!!"
After I yelled at her, Beato went silent for a while. Whether my words had reached her, or whether she was thinking about something completely different, I couldn't tell. But for a while, she was silent, gazing at me with an expression I could read no emotion from, and when she realized that I'd noticed, she averted her gaze.
Then, she turned her back to me... and said this...
"So, since Battler will not quit as my opponent, the Ladies are saying that my abandonment of this game will not be acknowledged."
"...Probably has something to do with that test or whatever just now."
"...What are you planning to do...?"
"...D-Don't tell me you're..."
"I will now determine whether or not you are qualified to be my opponent."
"...Ready, Battler? If those qualifications are acknowledged, I will stay in my seat and continue the game. And I shall promise to fight for all eternity until the outcome is decided."
"Heh! I was ready for that from the beginning."
"...However, if you are not qualified, you must disappear. If the opponent disappears, there is no game. I can leave this place openly. Are the Ladies satisfied? Interruptions will not be necessary."
"...Go ahead, do as you like."
"...B-Battler... You... make sure you answer well..."
"The very reason I'm here is because I'm qualified, right? Heh, there's nothing to be scared of...!"
"...Y-You couldn't be..."
Gretel grew suddenly pale. I'd thought her to be the calm, collected type, so that expression surprised me.
"Y-You're telling me to repeat something?"
"Heheh, damn you, stealing my signature move. But can I use the red truth too? How...?"
"...I-If you wish for it to be that way, you can do it. It's easy."
"Stop it!! I know what you're after...!! But stop that! He's...!!"
When Gretel yelled, Beato glared at her. Then, her form was wiped away in an instant.
"Shut up. Leave your seat for a while. You too, Ladies. If you interfere, I will not hold back."
"...We won't get in the way. Go ahead, do as you like."
"B-Bern, this is bad!! She's trying to erase Battler!!"
"...What's that...? What's... she planning...?"
"Well then, I shall question your qualifications... Interesting. Attack and defense are reversed from a normal game. This is a very precious experience, coming at the very, very end."
"...Ready? Listen carefully. I will speak with the red first."
"...I know that. So what?"
"Repetition requested. 'Ushiromiya Battler's mother is Ushiromiya Asumu'."
"What?! Why's Mom's name popping up all of a sudden...?"
"I do not require chatter. Just repeat it in red."
Beato urged me with the same indifferent tone... But I don't have a clue what she's trying to do. I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty for that would trouble me if thrown in my face, and there's nothing that I'm hiding. There's nothing that could trouble me by demanding that I repeat it.
...So, why do something like this...?
" "...The red sure is convenient. No need to bother myself with bringing a copy of the family register."
"Idle chatter is unnecessary. Let's continue. 'Your name is Ushiromiya Battler'."
"...Sure. My name is Ushiromiya Battler."
"It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that Ushiromiya Battler was born."
"It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that Ushiromiya Battler was born."
"It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that you were born."
At that time, my throat suddenly closed... I was rapidly assaulted with a choking suffocation.
...Wh-What's going on...? O-One more time...
"It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that I was born... Damn, it was from Ushiromiya Asumu that I was born..."
"...Wh-What the hell? Even though I was doing it so easily a second ago, I suddenly stopped being able to get the red to work...?!"
"...Do you refuse to repeat it?"
"I'm not refusing anything...!! It's not working for some reason...!!"
"It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that I was born...!! Why?! Dammit, why can't I use the red?! What the hell?!?!"
My Mom is Ushiromiya Asumu, right?! Why can't I say that fact in red?! What's going on...?! Th-This is...gghh-!!
"If you try to forcefully speak red that cannot be spoken, you choke. There is no need to strain yourself. Allow me to use the aforementioned fact to press you in blue."
"...Do you remember? The blue is used to proclaim a theory for the opponent to deny. They are then burdened with the responsibility of denying that in red, and if they do not, it becomes your victory. Then let us begin."
"...D-Deny something about that in red... Quickly!!"
"S-Sure... I- I am Ushiromiya Battler...! Because I can say that in red, I should be your opponent!!"
"It may be a fact that you have the name Ushiromiya Battler."
"However, people's names are not exclusive. There is a possibility that multiple humans have the name Ushiromiya Battler."
"In short, this is what it means. You are a different person with the same first and last names as Ushiromiya Asumu's son, Ushiromiya Battler."
"...Wh-What'd you say...?!! Don't be so stupiiiiiiiiid!! I'm Mom's child!! Ushiromiya Asumu's child!!"
"Damn!! Why?! Why can't I say that I was born from my Mom?! How could something so stupid be true?"
"You're... kidding... me..."
"Who are you? What person calling themselves Ushiromiya Battler?"
"W-Wait a second... I am... Ushiromiya Battler... It was from Ushiromiya Asumu that I was born, and I'm Dad and Mom's son...!"
"No. There is no way that you're my opponent, Ushiromiya Battler. With this as proof."
"Proof, you say?!"
"No, the true Ushiromiya Battler would not have committed a sin. But a sin did occur in the end, that span of six years became a blank space, and a man who knew nothing of that time took on the name Ushiromiya Battler and appeared on Rokkenjima. That truth... goes like this."
Six years ago, my opponent, the true Ushiromiya Battler, was already dead. You were part of a plot by Rudolf having something to do with distribution of the inheritance, a body double set up in Ushiromiya Battler's place.
"...H-How could something that stupid be true...? That's... so... ridiculous..."
"...B-Battler...! Get ahold of yourself...!!"
"...Well, if he can't counter back, there's nothing more to do. Battler did not possess that qualification. That's how it is."
"A-Are you okay with that, Bern?! If you accept that, you'll lose too, right?!"
"Won't you win? ...Why are you taking Battler's side...?"
"What a shame, Battler. What a real shame that you didn't have the qualifications to be Beatrice's opponent. I was careless myself, betting on an unqualified piece. It's my utter defeat, Beatrice."
"...There is no victory or defeat. The opponent will simply disappear. Or perhaps I should say that he was never there to begin with."
"But then, who... am I...? Am I... not Dad and Mom's kid...?! Who am I...? What am I...? If I'm not Mom's kid, then what, are you saying I'm a kid they picked up somewhere, like a stray cat?!"
"If that is the case, it would mean that you do not share Kinzo's blood. Either way, you are not qualified to compete in this game."
"...You're kidding me, you're kidding me..."
"Enough. From the very beginning, I was faintly aware of the possibility that you weren't Ushiromiya Battler. So, I had to question you. I had to ask about something the real Battler would have known."
"...What a shame. I even bet on the one-in-a-quadrillion chance of a miracle... that you might really be Ushiromiya Battler. But it seems you really are a different person with the same first and last names."
No, maybe it was the other way around. The whole world was clouded in darkness, leaving only Battler...
Battler was down on all fours, hanging his head and repeatedly questioning himself. However, he was not given an answer... In the world stained with darkness, Beato spoke something and Lambdadelta ran up to him, yelling something very quickly, but it already seemed very far away, and it didn't reach Battler's ears...
"Now my opponent has disappeared. Well then, if you'll excuse me. And Ladies, you should get ready for your journey. No more festivities have been prepared for in my territory. It was good seeing you. Goodbye."
Without saying anything more, she clouded her own form in darkness as well... and disappeared...
"...A-Are you... okay with this?! Battler... d-disappeared, right?! I know how much you hate losing. Are you really okay with this?!"
"...Weren't you betting on my defeat? Good for you then. Congratulations, Lambda. Let's meet again in some other world, okay?"
"Well, this is a world of endless Fragments. The chances of us having some connection again somewhere are probably less than one in a quadrillion. Anyway, it was fun. Bye-bye."
"Ah, wait up, Bern...!!!"
Chasing after Bernkastel, who had disappeared first, Lambdadelta disappeared as well...
It returned to silence, almost as though no one had been there from the outset. No one was here in the first place. The silent study spoke that wordlessly, and the sound of the wind and rain began to fill the room bit by bit...
In a world where everything had sunk into darkness, Beato questioned herself.
BGM: Melting Away
"...Seems so. I also... thought that with Ange."
"The witches' alliance is you and I. It started with those two. Including other people was our first mistake..."
"...It's just so fun. We wanted to add someone close to us into that circle. And we wished that the witches' alliance would get really large, that everyone would be able to use fun magic together, and that we'd all be happy."
"However, only you and I were able to understand magic after all."
"We are... the only two witches in this world, who were brought together by a miracle. And now, as long as I have Beato, I don't need anyone else."
"...Me too. As long as you are here, I don't need anyone else anymore."
"In the very first moment that Mariage Sorcière was formed, it was already complete."
"...That is... so. That is truly so..."
What did I want to do when I started this game? I can't really remember even that. No, I may remember, but that's a feeling I now wish to throw away to the far side of oblivion.
"...It's okay. Why not forget everything? Let's have a Mariage Sorcière for just the two of us. ...We'll acknowledge each other. And no one will hurt us. So we won't be hurt. We won't cry."