Part 146: Ushiromiya Ange II
Beato put a hand against her own seat... and laughed sadly.
"Win or lose. That's all you've been given. A tie during the process of reaching that point will probably be permitted."
"...However, you won't be allowed to suspend the game and throw it away! Will you win and survive, or lose and disappear? Until one of those two things happens, you will not be permitted to rise from that chair!! That should be your only duty as the host of a witch's game, as the Golden Witch, Beatrice...!!"
Laughing weakly, Beato... sat in that seat. Then, she rested her elbows and covered her face with both hands, showing off a smile with nothing but her mouth.
"Quit being so fainthearted! Win. Use the best moves you have...!! You started this game! You have a duty to make the best moves possible!! Give all that indecisive fooling around a rest!"
At that time, there was a violent sound. Beato felt a cold, pathetic sensation on her leg.
"Oh, Great Lady Lambdadelta, is it...? To think that you were still here."
Beato's foot was caught in an ice-cold steel shackle, tying her to the chair she sat in. She would no longer be able to escape from this seat.
"Hoohhohhohoho! You won't be able to escape anymore, got it? I can be more persistent than I look. Surprised?"
"...It's more surprising that you don't realize how persistent you look."
"You are not permitted to leave early or suspend this game. You'll fight for all eternity in order to win, okay?"
"...You don't want to lose, do you? You want a little peek at the kind of wonderful world you'll be thrown into if you lose?"
"DON'T WORRY. You can win, because I, the Great Lady Lambdadelta, will be looking after you constantly until you win, for all eternity...!!"
"...Hmph, hahahahaha. But even if I wish to fight, there is no opponent seated across from me, correct...?"
"...Don't worry, I found Battler."
Battler's eyes were slightly opened, but there was no sparkle in them, almost like a doll's. Without one of the pillars that established his soul, he had fallen into the depths of the depths of darkness... and had been drifting about all this time.
He should have then scattered and disappeared like mist. Bernkastel had managed to scrape him together. It's incredible that she managed to bring him back into a human form. However, even though his flesh had returned, his soul had not. It had been blown away by Beatrice after having its existence denied. It wouldn't come back easily.
"...Battler won't run from this fight either. Not until he defeats you. Just because your chances of winning are shrinking doesn't mean you'll be permitted the inelegance of abandoning everything and running."
"Even he doesn't want that. Isn't that right, Ushiromiya Battler...?"
Battler didn't answer. His heart was still... dead. His eyes wavered slightly at the question, but he couldn't answer.
"Battler...! Get ahold of yourself! You are here. And the enemy is before your eyes...! Fight! Fight to win!!"
Battler lazily repeated that, speaking incoherently. He'd come back. The wound he bore on his soul was no small thing. That was only natural. Beatrice had woven her red, and he had been denied. He had learned that the mother he'd respected was not his birth mother, and he didn't know who he was.
"Don't talk stupid! You are Ushiromiya Battler, no one else! No matter who acknowledges that or denies that, make sure you believe it yourself...!! After all, you're the only one who can create your own world. Don't lose the world where you're Ushiromiya Battler!"
"...Then, who... am I...? I'm not my mom's child, right...? Where was I born from...?"
Battler asked that question as his eyes, which still hadn't regained their sparkle, stared lazily up at the ceiling. Of course, she answered right away.
"Yes, that's right. Beato proclaimed it with the red truth. So I'll proclaim it too. Ushiromiya Battler is not Ushiromiya Asumu's son."
"...Hmph, in that case, he is not qualified to be the opponent in my game, correct...?"
As Beato wrinkled her forehead, a painful-looking smile rose to her face.
"So you refuse to repeat it. Beato proclaimed two red truths, 'Battler is not Asumu's son' and 'No one except Kinzo's grandchild Battler is qualified to be her opponent'."
"The following theory will allow Battler to be accepted without creating any contradictions. Here's my blue truth, listen to it...!"
"Hmph, it was just a silly word game, wasn't it?"
"...Your blue truth is valid. Beato, your counterargument with the red truth? If you cannot counter it with the red, Battler's qualifications as an opponent will stand unchallenged."
...Battler was still out of it. He still couldn't really understand what she was saying for him. But even so, his spirit was starting to come back, bit by bit...
"Get ahold of yourself! You are Ushiromiya Battler! Yeah, maybe Mother Asumu didn't give birth to you. But so what?! That doesn't change in the slightest the fact that she was a mother to you, right?!"
"...For example, what is Ushiromiya Ange to you? You might not share the same blood, but she's still your little sister, right?! It's not about blood, it's about bonds, right?!"
"...That's... right... Even though we don't share the same blood, Ange is... my little sister."
"Say it in red! Say that Ange is your little sister!!"
She hugged Battler, who was still out of it and slumped in his chair, strongly from behind. So much that it hurt.
"I don't know why Mother Asumu wasn't your birth mother. But still, up until today and even now, you believe that she's your mother, right?! In this world, there are plenty of people without even a mother, without even a family!!"
"Did Mother Asumu ever let you feel lonely? Never, right?! Don't throw your peaceful family away so easily!! Your family bonds have gotten too thin after leaving your family for six years!!"
"You have to feel those family bonds much, much more strongly! Remember!! For Mother Asumu's sake as well, don't lose your love over a foolish witch's rant like this!"
"...You're right... Mom was... always on my side..."
"...Where is this place...? It's dark, and I wanna go home... Where's... all my... family...?"
The light still hadn't returned to Battler's eyes. But... tears appeared.
"Your little sister is waiting at home for you to come back. If even you don't come back, she'll be all alone forever...! For your little sister's sake, please, win this witch's game...!!"
"In that case, settle this game quickly and go back home!! Ushiromiya Battler, how long are you going to play around in a place like this?! Your little sister is waiting for you to come home!!!"
...That's right. Battler had been caught up in this strange game before he even knew it. And, still unable to understand why he was fighting, he had been constantly sucked into the witch's pace, played with and made to fight. That should've been his most simple and first question. Because he didn't understand that, he had lost his purpose in fighting...!! That's why my voice won't reach Battler's ears...!
Instead of a vague purpose, like winning against the witch, or because he couldn't forgive her... He has to be aware of a purpose for which he must win.
"...That's right... I want to go home... I want to go home to Dad and Mom... and Ange... I've had enough... enough of this place... I've had enough of witches, I've had enough of games and murders... enough, enough..."
"Battler's soul... is starting to come back."
"...But it can't quite reach."
"You've had enough, right?! Then fight so that you can return to your family!! Destroy Beatrice and go home!!"
"No, I've had enough of witches...! Enough of Beato, enough of everything, and even you're probably just another one of the witch's allies... I could be betrayed again at any time...!!"
Battler's soul howled.
She hugged his head from behind, strong enough that it hurt.
"...Huh...? Who... are you...?"
"It's me, it's Ange...!! Dad and Mom and Onii-chan...no one came home!! I'm so lonely!! I beg you, come home quickly!"
"...A-Ange... You were... Ange...?"
"That's right, I'm Ange!! The Ushiromiya Ange of a world where no one comes home...!! My entire family... never came home from Rokkenjima that day...!! The witch before your eyes stole away my whole family, even you, Onii-chan...! Only you can finish her, Onii-chan!! Finish her...!! Then, take your family back!! And then, come home to me...!!!"
"...Beato did that... to my family...?"
"...Hmph, as she says. I will not run away or hide from it. I stole Ushiromiya Ange's family away from her."
From Ange's arms that held him, the painful, sad days... that had been experienced by his lonely little sister... flowed into Battler... Because he'd been playing around in a place like this, his little sister had been left all by herself, had been forced to endure... all that pain...!!
"...Ange, Ange...!! Damn, I... what am I doing...?!! Thanks, Ange... Your Onii-chan... has been forgetting something important this whole time...!"
Battler tried to turn around, but Ange was hanging onto his head with an incredible force, so he couldn't turn back. Was it sweat? Hot drops were splashing on the nape of Battler's neck.
...What they were...he knew from holding Ange's arm that clung to him. Because it stained Battler's hand, his fingers, red.
It dripped and splashed. He didn't know what was going on. Battler didn't know, because he couldn't turn around, but the hot drops that stained his entire back were surely... blood.
...It was so hard... Even though Onii-chan was right before my eyes, I couldn't even say that... As long as I followed this rule, I should've been able to stay by Onii-chan's side for all eternity. I should've been able... to play in the game against the witch... for eternity with Onii-chan...
"But... that's no good. Onii...nnn...chan, you have to come back... Your sister's waiting for you... at home... That person isn't me, but this way, your sister... will be saved..."
"Ange?! Ange!! There's so much blood...!! So much, so much!!"
He wanted to turn around, but Ange was gripping his head too tightly. However, judging by the blood that was pouring out and Ange's pained breathing, he realized that something seriously wrong was happening to her right now.
"Sacri... what?! Who cares about chess?!! Let's get you some first-aid quickly!! Let go for a second, Ange...!!"
"...A <sacrifice>... is an abandoned piece. For a tactical gain, you intentionally accept a loss and let a piece go..."
In chess, the ultimate goal is victory. So, if it can bring you to victory in the end, there's nothing wrong with sacrificing a few individual pieces. Ange had cooly made a decision. She had been taught over and over again that she was a piece, not a player. In order to act like a piece and save Battler, right now, she would have to become a sacrificial piece herself.
...Battler had to know. His purpose in this witch's game couldn't be something as abstract as finishing off the witch. He had to win the game, release himself, and bring his family back home. Why? Because he had family, a little sister, who was waiting for him to come home.
A being was created so that Ushiromiya Ange's voice could reach you.
I'll sacrifice the piece I am to give to you the will to fight, to give you purpose! My purpose isn't to play with you in a witch's game for all eternity! I came to bring you Ushiromiya Ange's mourning and sadness! That is my unshakable purpose!
"...Ange!! Ange!! Aaaaaaaaaarrrghhh!!!"
The white, thin arm that held Battler... became pale and transparent, almost like wax. And even so, the fresh blood... stained it so cruelly...
"...I will... disappear now, but... Onii-chan, fight with all you've got, and I'm sure, you'll... come back to me... I'll be waiting... always... I'd planned on helping you out a lot more than this... but I couldn't do anything... Sorry..."
"D-Don't worry about that...!! You... taught me, didn't you...?! You taught me why I have to win...! And that... I've got to win for certain... and come back to you...!!"
"What... am I doing, lazing about in a place like this...?!! Yeah, I won't play around anymore...!! 'Cause I'll come back, I'll come home!! I'll definitely come home, bringing a souvenir, I promise...!!!"
"...I don't need one, so promise me one thing..."
"What? I'll promise anything...!!"
"...In a second, I'm going to let go of this hand... It hurt, didn't it...? Sorry... I held it so tightly..."
Ange's hand... slid... and disappeared behind me. There were bloody fingerprints left behind, blurred by her fingernails... But I turned around right away. To take care of Ange's wounds...!
"Ah, crap, and you even promised that you wouldn't turn around..."
"...A-Ange... Nnn... wh-where..."
And around that mountain of blood and minced meat, the clothes and shoes Ange had been wearing... lay crumpled as though they'd been taken off and thrown away... As though... just a human's insides had been pulverized and tossed there like scrap. As though Ange, who had been standing there until a second ago, had been crushed...
"...Wh-Where's Ange...? Where did Ange disappear to...?"
"H-Hey! Where did Ange go?!"
The two young-looking witches said nothing... and just silently looked at the mountain of blood and meat and clothes. But... I didn't want to accept it. I definitely didn't want to accept it!!!
BGM: Golden Slaughterer
"...D-Do you know...? Where... did Ange go...?"
"...While she still lived, pinch by pinch, massive, red-hot pincers... tore chunks of flesh the size of a thumb off her... and threw them away. I was watching. I saw as countless cruel tools, burned red-hot in the witch's furnace, approached Ange from behind, and one bit at a time, pecked at her, twisted her, ripped chunks off her, and tore her to pieces."
"...Ange should be proud. In order to share some last words with her brother, she stopped herself from gasping at that pain until the very end..."
...As if something like that could have happened... But... on top of that mountain of flesh and clothes, what had fallen there... was without a doubt, what she had been wearing on her head, those pink-jeweled... hair ornaments. To be honest, I'd thought they were a bit too childish for her and didn't suit her... So I remembered them well.
...Why did Ange wear such cheap hair ornaments all the time...? No, no, the thought that this is Ange... couldn't possibly be... uu, uuuuuuuuuu...!
"...You're pretty blunt, Beato."
"Battler didn't see it, so you could've just said she turned into butterflies and flew away, or something."
"Y-You saw... Ange... get torn into little bits...? You were watching, and yet, you stayed... so calm the whole time...?!"
Without answering, Bernkastel, Lambdadelta, and Beatrice stared at me, some in pity, others in derision, watching me...
Since she'd called herself Gretel, and after what had happened with Virgilia in the last game, I'd thought she might be Beato's underling, and I'd been wary of her, not trusting her even though she was an ally... And now, after learning that it truly was Ange, without even being allowed to see her face, I turn around... and find... something... like this...
"...What... did you say...?"
"After all, you'll never return from this place for all eternity anyway."
"Whatever happens to your little sister in a world where you don't come home has nothing to do with you. As long as you play here, the Anges of countless worlds will live in isolation, and the same pain of her final moments just now will be forced upon her, spread over a period of more than a decade."
"...However, that is of no importance, correct? It cannot be 'seen' by you from here. You cannot observe it. An unobservable fact cannot be proven except by the red truth."
"Therefore, your anxiety over Ange's misfortune after this may be needless. She might, surprisingly, be able to live a casual life without ever having to work thanks to Rudolf's inheritance, right? *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*...!"
...That's... a lie. From Ange's arm, every part of that sad future world had poured into me in an instant. All because... I keep on... lazing about forever... and playing in a place like this...!! I... never thought about anyone but myself...
I must defeat her! I'll take back my family, back to where Ange's waiting, and come home as soon as I can...! Because even as I hang around with the witch like this, Ange's heart continues to be torn to bits by sadness...!!
"...Ange, is this... what you wanted to see...?"
...I turned towards the cruel witch who had indifferently spoken of Ange's brutal last moments, and slowly, yet with all my might... pointed...
BGM: Endless Nine
"Bring it on. I can no longer escape or hide."
"...Let us decide this between you and me for good."
"...One shall win. One shall lose and be destroyed. No other resolution can exist."
"...I'll win. No matter how long it takes, I'll definitely smash you...!!"
"There aren't gonna be any more compromises, interruptions or losses by default in this contest!! I won't run away! I won't let you get away!!"
"Try and defeat me with everything you've got...!! There's absolutely no need for stupid tricks and deceit, for intermingling and acting friendly!! You and I are enemies...!!! I have to settle this as soon as possible...and bring my family back to Ange!!!"
...Unwavering resolve. Certain willpower. The certain willpower of a Human becomes certain magical power. That leads to a miracle... and promises that it shall be so. Yes, this is a promised, certain miracle.
Before I knew it, a cold, stiff chain had bound my other leg without a sound, tying me to the chair... All that's left is to either be killed and lose to Battler... or resist and continue in an endless tie for all eternity. Or perhaps I should say it's to continue tying until I've prepared my heart for death.
Either way, I... Must fight to lose, and nothing more. I have already been bound by the chains of eternity. And Battler won't let me escape either. Should I pathetically beg his forgiveness...? Should I beg for compassion by appealing to his pitying heart...? Should I forget appearances and prostrate myself? Because of the chains, even that choice will not be granted me.
...Checkmate. This is a perfect stranglehold.
The demon lord of gold who reigns in the Golden Land. Even in a fight to lose, there is an attitude fitting for me. And I have the right to adorn my death in a manner suited to me.
"...I am no different. I'll make you accept the existence of my magic, and the door to the Golden Land will open on this island. You shall become the guest of honor at that first tea party."
"Everyone besides you has gathered already, you see? Because the honored guest's arrival has been delayed, the tea party cannot begin. Your father, mother, cousins and everyone else are getting tired of waiting for your arrival."
"Sure, that's perfect, that's just perfect!! What the hell is magic, what the hell are witches...?!! I'm done playing with you!! Here we go, Beatrice...!!!"
"Come as hard as you can, for there will be no compromise, interruptions or losing by default. One shall win, and one shall be destroyed."
" If you have no desire to lose, then you must defeat me, kill me. However, I won't be killed so easily. Until you can prepare a fitting end for me, I can resist over and over again."
"Can you do that? No, you probably can. You surely can. Come on, come and kill me."
"...Is it that hard? Then let's go with the usual..."
"Hoh, that's a good look on your face! *cackle*cackle*cackle* Uhhyahhahahahahaha, *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*!!"