Part 29: Prologue
Welcome back! Things are going to look a little different now - this is a lot more like what the PS3 version looks like.
Time for Episode 2.
"Yeah, they're really cute. I almost want to eat them."
"I, I'd feel so sorry for them... Did you know? I hear that the only people in the world who come to an aquarium and say that the fish look delicious are the Japanese."
"Is that so? ...I'm sure even Americans and Italians would want to eat these."
"Those clothes look good on you. Really."
Even though George's face didn't show it, the truth was that he'd said something so completely unexpected that it surprised even him, and he was as embarrassed as Shannon on the inside.However, when he saw how embarrassed Shannon was, he started to feel as though he was teasing the girl he liked, and instead of embarrassment, a ticklish amusement welled up in him.
It pains me to admit it, but I used to think that such embarrassing expressions had fallen so far out of use they no longer showed up even in manga. On the contrary, if he had seen another couple acting like that, he'd feel like throwing rocks at them. However, even if rocks were thrown at us now, I'm sure they would be just like confetti celebrating us. Now, I can't even remember those lonely days... when I felt jealous of couples who were completely oblivious to their surroundings. To use an old-fashioned phrase, these would be rose-colored days...
I'm so entranced that I don't even notice the big tank of the world's largest aquarium. Instead, I see Shannon rejoicing and playing with the fish.
"I heard that this tank is the biggest selling point here. And that it's the biggest in the whole world."
"Is that so? That's amazing. It's really wonderful. It doesn't even look like a tank at all, but rather like they sliced off a part of the sea with a knife and brought it here."
"I agree. This is a splendid little sea."
Despite its size, I hadn't thought of the tank as anything more than a tank. That's why I thought her expression about cutting of a part of the sea with a knife was so interesting. No matter how far humans broaden their experiences, they stick to their own view of the world in the end. Maybe that's why it's so interesting to mingle with people who have a different worldview. I was honest when I said that.
Then, she responded.
"Certainly, this might not be the real sea... But, if those little guys swimming in there believe that it's the sea, then to them it certainly is the sea."
"Even though they're inside a finite tank?"
"The sea is finite too. But, even if the sea were infinite, how much could we cover in our whole lives? I'm sure that it would only be a miniscule fraction of the sea."
"...Certainly. It's ironic, isn't it? Even though the world is so vast, most of us live our lives without ever leaving our own country."
"If they believe that this place is a complete world, then it would be a wonderful world, a sea... even if it were in the bottom of a narrow well. A sea in the eyes of the frogs that live there."
Shannon, who spent her days as a servant on a small island 10 kilometers in circumference called Rokkenjima, said that with a smile.
BGM: Ride On
Good morning. The Golden Witch has been waiting impatiently for you. Please take your seat opposite her at the table.
Have you rested well, and deliberated over how you will play? The Witch has high expectations of you, and is determined to come at you right from the opening. I, too, am looking forward to observing your moves.
The difficulty level is first-rate. The Witch plans to make you surrender in an instant.
BGM: Doorway of Summer
This buffet would certainly cause any boy's heart to jump about. I myself was like that in the past. But with Shannon beside me, this buffet felt different. I couldn't shamefully pile on only the things I like. I was... how should I put it... worried about my appearance and choose a menu suited for a snob: toast, salad and coffee. If I were by myself, I'd have made a pile of oily stuff like yakisoba, mash potato, gratins, and the like.
"...Umm, I, I didn't mean to imply that..."
On Shannon's tray, there was only tea and salad. Maybe the reason I thought she should have at least one more dish was because I was thinking with man's stomach.
"George-sama, will that be enough for you? I think it's better for men to eat a little bit more. I imagine that you would normally eat more than that during lunch, right?"
"Oops, really? You must have figured out how much I eat when I had lunch on the island."
"Yes. So, is your stomach not feeling good today?"
Shannon suspected that I wasn't feeling well. It seems that I've made her worry with my stupid attempt to show off. Besides, it didn't seem that my stomach would let me show off any longer.
"...Gah, ahaha... I'll confess already. I was just trying to look cool... I just held back because I was with a girl..."
"I thought so. Considering how much you eat during lunch at the family conferences, I thought that this wasn't nearly enough. Please, don't be so reserved, and feel free to go and choose another dish."
"It's not fair for only me to be embarrassed. What about you, Shannon? How do you manage your work for the Ushiromiya family while eating so little?"
"...Umm, uh, ...au."
Shannon grew silent and blushed bright red.
"My, my, that isn't enough for you, is it? Yes, normally, you eat more than this for lunch."
"A, a woman's stomach made of magic, so this is enough... au."
"Then it must mean that we were both showing off to each other. Let's not hold back anymore, shall we?"
I smiled to show that I wouldn't make fun of her anymore and stood up from the seat.
"After finally coming to Okinawa, it would be a waste if we didn't eat some bitter melon. I think I'll even have some fried bitter melon. Shannon, come with me. C'mon, c'mon."
But it's only after trying to become a couple that you realize. This whole arguing back and forth means the world to us. That's why no matter how much everyone else stared at us with blank eyes, we wouldn't have noticed it. Indeed, at this age, I finally understand the feelings of couples who want to endlessly flirt without any regard to their surroundings.
After I returned with a plate piled up with fried food, Shannon arrived with a lovely cake. While laughing at our fake stoicism, we resumed our lunch.
"Even though it's a restaurant with a view of the sea, it's so cloudy."
Luckily, from our window seats we were shown seaside scenery so grandiose that it didn't fit entirely within our field of vision. However, because of the cloudy sky, it was a far cry from its normal beauty.
"That's right. If it were clear, we would undoubtedly see a deep blue sea."
"Yep. Even though I imagine you're used to the sea at Rokkenjima, normally, the sea here surely should have been an exceptional blue color. It's a real shame."
"Aah, but... no matter how blue it is, the sea I see during work might as well be gray. But, today, I'm not working so... I mean..."
"What a shame. If only you'd said 'When watching the sea with you, it would look deep blue no matter how gray it was', I'd have given you full marks and a prize."
"Uh, ah, I, I, I'm sorry... nnnnnn..."
"Wanna hear what my reward was?"
"Umm... uh, if you wouldn't mind..."
"No. I won't tell you. Ahahahahahaha."
"Th, that's no fair..."
When I was in elementary school, I was always the kid that got bullied. When everyone teased me, I grew nervous and speechless, to the delight of the bullies. Back then, I wondered why everyone teased me. But now, teasing Shannon like this, I understand why. This is so much fun. I can play with her emotions however I please, and I can have them all to myself. Right now, I can't think of any higher pleasure.
That's why I have to treat her lightly. I don't want her to get embarrassed and think bad of me. That's why I decided to end this topic here and now. I didn't want to be too obstinate.
"When you've finished your lunch, do you want to take a walk on the beach? Maybe the clouds will clear up and we'll be able to see a picturesque sea."
"That's right. I want to go see it."
"Yeah, let's do it. But, that looks like a really delicious cake. I wonder if I should get one like that too."
"You can't... If you eat cake after already eating so much, you will get fat. It looks like Hideyoshi-sama's blood is pretty thick on you, George-sama, so if you don't take care, you will get chubby."
"Shannon, you won't stop liking me if I get fat, will you...? After all, I wouldn't stop liking you if you did."
"I, I didn't mean it that way... If you don't take good care of your body, your health will... au."
"Mother warns me all the time too. Still, I also wonder if I should start doing some exercises or take up Tai-chi-chuan."
"You should start reconsidering your eating habits and go on a diet, instead of just exercising more. And furthermore, I heard that if you don't keep on exercising as well, you won't get any results."
"In other words, you're telling me to not eat cake, right? Then, I guess I'll just have to gaze at you while you stuff your cheeks with that cake, Shannon."
"Uh, umm... Maybe one whole cake is too much but... maybe just half of one would be alright. Here, it's really delicious."
I had no doubt that she wanted to share the delicious cake's flavor with me. Even so, I boldly and meanly pushed that plate away. She blinked her eyes in surprise. She could't seem to figure out if that was a refusal of the cake or not.
So I winked, opened my mouth, and said 'aah'.
"*giggle*. This is what you've wanted from the beginning, isn't it? Sheesh, you're such a pampered child, George-sama. Ok, say 'aah'."
While still wearing an embarrassed, annoyed face, Shannon offered the cake to me with a fork.
It had the flavor of cheap chocolate you could find anywhere. Still, it was exceptional. Because eating cake in such an embarrassing way, as if we were a couple of perfect fools, had been my dream for many years. It made this cake's flavor heavenly... If the Earth is destined to end someday, I wouldn't have any regrets if it happened right now. It was such a moment of bliss.
After that, we gathered shells, ran from waves and enjoyed each other's company while walking along the beach. In the end, the clouds never parted. However, we both believed that our eyes were still reflecting a deep, blue sea.
"You do say that from time to time. What is it that you're afraid of?"
"...I'm... a servant of the Ushiromiya family. For someone like me, to be hanging out with a member of the Ushiromiya family... Umm... It just seems like too much for me."
"I'm also surprised. I didn't just meet you yesterday or today, Shannon-chan. We've known each other for years now. But, we can only meet during the annual family conference.
"Eerh, I'm... umm..."
"...I only... imagined. No, umm, err! Rather than imagination, it was more like a delusion... When I started this relationship with you, George-sama, when you're always so considerate and gentlemanly... I mean, it just felt like a delusion..."
"Then, our relationship happened thanks to your believing heart. Magic dwells in the power of feeling. So, I'm sure that magic has brought us together."
"...You're right. ...I really think... that this is truly magic."
"But, you know, that's not quite right. Every time we met, the Shannon within my heart kept becoming more and more beautiful. If the same thing happened to you, then the fact that we are here today is simply an inevitable consequence, rather than something caused by magic or a miracle."
She stopped walking on the beach, gazing beyond the sea.
"No, magic. It happened."
I was bewildered by that slightly mysterious expression, which I sometimes heard her use.
"...Magic, you say?"
"Yes, magic... Even if I say it, you probably won't believe me, so I won't say it. But, that magic definitely had the power to grant the miracle which caused you and I to meet each other."
"You mean, like a good-luck charm?"
"Yes. Maybe it was something like that. Except that it wasn't a charm, it really was magic."
For a man like me, 70% of an encounter with a girl is an endeavour to try and please her, while 20% of it is raw courage. And the remaining 10% is luck. What she chooses to believe weighs little in my thoughts. Maybe that way of thinking is in itself calculating and typical of men. But, were I to express that in words, any kind of magic would be broken.
I thought that, before we entered into this relationship, we both had many fortuities, concessions and great efforts. After all that, if she wants to call these times together 'magic', that isn't strange in the slightest. That's why I answered her the way I did.
"You're right. If the same fate were repeated a hundred times, maybe you and I could get into a relationship like this only one of those times. In the other instances, even though we would be aware of each other, maybe we would have only maintained a reserved relationship after all this time. Compared to those otherworldly selves, we are undoubtedly in a miraculous relationship."
"It's not like that... it really is magic. No matter how often you tell men something like this, they'll never believe it. Kanon-kun didn't believe me at all, either."
"...I believe you. Because I wouldn't want to break the magic by not believing in it."
Those words seemed to be very pleasing to Shannon. Because if the two of us believed in the magic of love, that love would be eternal.
"Oh, that's right. I have one more whim, but I'm not sure if you'd be willing to listen."
"...Yes? What is it?"
"You know how you call me 'George-sama'? It's not that I dislike it, but would you not call me that anymore?"
"Of course, you have to keep up your appearance with the Ushiromiya family, so I wouldn't force you to do so during your everyday routine at Rokkenjima. But, when we are alone, I'd rather you didn't call me that. Yeah, let's create that rule."
"A, a rule? I, if I violate that rule, what would happen...?"
"Hmm... Maybe we should have some kind of punishment game if you transgress the rule. Yes, what should it be... Wanna hear?"
"N-no, I don't want to hear..."
"Ahahahahahaha. I'll have to think about what it should be."
"...Yeah. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? I'm so happy, Shannon."
"I got it. The rule must be fair. I'll also keep it, and from now on, I'll have to call you Sayo. Alright? Sayo...?"
I embraced her shoulder. Then I forcefully embraced her entire body while she dived into my chest like a doll. As I held her head in my arms, we looked at the horizon.
"...Me too. I'm very happy that I can look at this deep blue sea with you."
As we gazed at the gray sea and a light rain began to sprinkle down, we kept listening to each other's heartbeats.
It wouldn't let me forget the memories of the day when my old fate was broken and smashed.
In the past, tomorrows were literally like a mirror to me. The person I am now, was always projected there. It was a tomorrow absolutely no different from today. That was my old fate. But at that moment, for the first time, I saw a different fate beyond the mirror.
The witch whispers. She tempts me to take a bite out of the fruit of knowledge. She torments me, saying that as long as I stay in the paradise of god, I'll remain furniture. So I try to choose to know love, and become a person.
...Those days were like sweetly melting honey, but then, I hadn't realized that they were the beginning of the days filled with a new kind of suffering...
No, I couldn't possibly call it an islet. It'd really be more appropriate to call it a reef. On the reef, there was a torii and a small shrine for the local deity. It was probably built to worship the guardian deity of Rokkenjima. Even though I didn't know the exact meaning, I understood that it had a holy significance.
Even in a place like this, I took just one more look around to see if there was someone who'd find fault with me being here. The only things I could see were the stormy ocean, Niijima looming in the distance, and the waves breaking against Rokkenjima's steep cliffside. I readied myself, timidly approached the small shrine, and took the mirror that was offered to that place.
It was an old-looking mirror, dim and dirty. If it were an ordinary mirror, that'd probably give you a terribly bad impression of its value. However, since the mirror had been offered to this small shrine, it made you feel some kind of divinity. And I noticed. This was not merely a mirror. Even if it would have been nothing more than an old-looking mirror to a non-believer like myself, it was actually a mirror that had an important meaning.
...No, this is not really a mirror. This is my life that I could not escape until today, and my fate.
I'll break it. I'll break it, and seize a life from beyond the mirror. If I don't break it, my life will forever be a pair of facing mirrors. Nothing will ever change in the slightest...
She tempts me to take a bite of true wisdom. Maybe I'm already having a taste of that truth. Because I ended up knowing those maddening sentiments. Just as Adam and Eve felt compelled to pluck the fig leaf.
By now, I must break this mirror. Until today, I had fought for many days. Inside my heart, the virtuous part of me and the part that sided with the witch repeatedly fought each other. And now, here I am.
Did the part of me who is here win or lose? There's only one thing I know. To obtain something, you must be ready to lose something. The cowards who don't risk loss and never try to change anything will never receive the key that opens the path to a new future. The key is already in my hands. The key is to break this. To break it.
No. There's nothing but this. Come, have courage. I'll free myself from being mere furniture. And I'll receive new sufferings, and become human. These are surely the small and large trials I must impose on myself.
Come on, break it. Break the eternally unchangeable fate that imprisons me, into pieces...!
I raise the mirror high... and think back on the preceding days of conflict... and, finishing my reflections in the blink of an eye... I throw it.
I look down on the mirror tumbling at my feet, broken in two equal parts... and after I made sure I've accomplished my task, I scream while looking up at the enraged sky.
A thunder roars once more.
I'm already banished from paradise. That's why I have to struggle by myself in order to live. The witch said it. That's the sole element of the world. To lose it means to lose the world. Like how a canteen with a hole on the bottom can't be filled, no matter how much water you pump into it...
LET'S PLAY UMINEKO NO NAKU KORO NI, EPISODE 2: TURN OF THE GOLDEN WITCH