Part 86: The New Witch II
"I... I'm fine. Don't take your hand away... I'm begging you, don't take your hand away..."
Eva was breathing wildly. Beads of sweat were appearing on her forehead. It certainly was true that she had stayed up all night last night, and that things had been rough since early this morning. It wasn't odd that her body wasn't keeping up. Even though he understood that, Hideyoshi suspected that this sudden fever was the sign of some serious illness. Several times, Hideyoshi decided to call for Doctor Nanjo, but Eva resisted firmly, pleading with him and saying that it was even more important that he didn't take his hand away...
"I understand... But you've gotta have Doctor Nanjo look at you by lunchtime. If you can promise me that, I'll stay here the whole time, grippin' your hand. Tightly, like this."
"...Thank you... I'm fine... The magic of your hand will definitely take this fever away..."
Even as she said that, Eva's harsh breathing didn't improve in the slightest.
She saw an umbrella moving from beyond the rose bush. Rosa threw away her umbrella and wildly lifted her gun...
When she did, the shadow of a person beyond the bush... showed itself.
"...Uu-? Aunt Eva...?"
"...You scared me. It's you, Nee-san? Do you have some business with me? Do you want to continue our earlier discussion?"
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
"...Please, restrain yourself in front of Maria. I will keep my promise, okay? I won't get in the way of your conspiracy."
"...Conspiracy? What's that?"
"...Whatever you're thinking, that's up to you. I have no desire to get in the way. So please, not in front of Maria. As long as I get my share, that will be enough."
"Your share? Heheheheh, ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha."
Eva started laughing in a creepy voice... Rosa was startled, but Maria stared blankly... Then Maria said just one thing.
"Eva! Are you okay, Eva?! Eva! Eva!!"
"Hold on...!! Don't let go!! Don't let me be dragged away by someone who isn't me...!! Hold onto my hand... Don't let goooooooooooooo...!!!"
BGM: The Candles Dance
"All of that is mine! It's all mine alone, as the Head of the Ushiromiya family and the new Golden Witch, successor to the name of Beatrice!!"
"...Beatrice. It's Beatrice!! Mama, Beatrice!"
Maria jumped at her mother in ecstasy. Rosa treated Maria coldheartedly and raised her gun high.
"...Hey, you're Nee-san, right...? You are Nee-san, aren't you...?"
"Then who are you?!! Are you trying to say that you're Beatrice?! That's impossible! You died 19 years ago!!!
"Yes, you were definitely dead, after all, I clearly saw how your head was split open. I can remember the insides flowing out like it was yesterday! How can you be alive and here right noooooooooow?!?!"
"The concept of death does not exist to a Golden Witch. The Golden Witch and the name of Beatrice will be handed down for all eternity. Maybe the Beatrice you knew met with death, but that name is mine now...! And therefore, it's eternal! The concept of death does not exist for Beatrice!!"
"...All I can see is that the gold has driven you mad. How pitiful, Nee-san...!"
"Come on, you know I'm not your sister anymore. Well then, as the new Beatrice, I have been tasked with my own resurrection ceremony. Ronove! What should I do?!"
Video: Test Drive
"...You worthless former sister. You should consider it an honor to have been selected as the first sacrifice I offer as a witch. On the second twilight, I'll tear the two who are close apart with my own hands...!!"
BGM: Dance of the Moon Rabbits
...In particular, gravity. She wanted to become fully aware of her transformation into a witch by being released from those shackles. As the witch and Rosa stayed as they were... The ground retreated all by itself... into the distance below them. By now, their feet were no longer attached to the ground.
For a human shackled to the ground by gravity, there is nothing more unnerving that having their feet stop sticking to the ground. However, to Beatrice, who, in becoming the new witch, had learned the joy of being released from gravity, it was enough to make her whole body shake with delight.
"...Hey, Rosa. Do you remember, long ago, when we were small, when we used to talk about what it'd be like to become witches and fly around the sky?"
"...That dream has been granted, hasn't it? I became a real witch and granted it for you."
"...S-Stop it... if this is a dream, then wake me up..."
"You said it yourself. You said you flew through the sky in your dream. And you also said you didn't want to wake up. You even got mad at me when I woke you up, right?"
"...Don't worry. This time, you won't wake up, okay? Heheheheheheheheheheheheh!!"
Didn't we both wish we could fly like seagulls in the sky...and escape the cramped and boring island of Rokkenjima...? Now, I'll make that dream a reality for you. I only want to share this joy with you, and no one else...!
"Ahhahaha, ahhahahahaha!! It's so fun, Rosa, it's so fun!!"
"Take a look below you! Look at how small our mansion is. I wonder how much time we spent in a place that small. Now I'm especially shocked at how cramped and tiny it is."
"So feel. Enjoy. Rejoice...! That power we yearned for, the power to move through the sky at will! Come on, let's dance, Rosa! Through the rain, through the wind! Let's fly around like we're dancing! The lightning will shine on us and bless us!! Ahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
...However, it was only that way for the witch. Rosa was holding onto her head, voicelessly screaming over and over.
"Stop iiiiiiiiiiiiiitt!! Forgive meeeeee, let me doooooooown!!"
"...You're right, it's more fitting for Humans to crawl on the ground. Then why not go back there?"
A slightly displeased expression rose to the witch's face when she realized that her own joy was not being shared. Then, she decided to listen to her former sister's request.
The whirlwind that had been making Rosa dance around grew weaker, then stopped. In other words, Rosa was once again bound by the restrictions of gravity, as a Human. Following the laws that were originally correct, Rosa began to descend towards the ground upside-down. No, she began to fall.
The witch hadn't intended to send Rosa plummeting. But she still wasn't used to using magic. After plummeting about 100 meters into a rose bush, as a very, very natural result, Rosa died instantly.
But the witch hadn't intended to kill her. So she wished that Rosa hadn't died.
Rosa's body, which should have been spread out like a carpet of fresh blood, rapidly returned to normal. The broken and crushed bones returned to normal. The torn and smashed flesh returned to normal.
How easy it is to break things in this world, and how difficult it is to fix them... Anyone can take a life. But no Human can revive a lost life! By surpassing the irreversable, one proves that they have surpassed Humanity. This surely gave her a much, much greater realization of her position as a witch than flying through the sky had.
"...Awesome... I can even revive... an ended life...!"
"...To live and to die. To bring to life and to kill, all of it repeated endlessly. Beatrice-sama, the Endless Witch, is the queen who controls the cycle of life and death."
"Ahaha, aha. One time, I knocked over a fishbowl. The fragile and beautiful bowl broke, and I couldn't put it back together again. I'd never see that cute pop-eyed goldfish swim again after it landed on the floor."
"...No matter how much I cried, the servants shook their heads, saying that broken things and dead things could never be revived."
"...That's when I learned something. You must not break things, you must not kill people. After all, you can't fix them!!"
For a while, the witch became intoxicated with how terrible and wonderful the power she had inherited was. Her laugh was pure, innocent, and cruel.
Even though Rosa had been revived, she let out a cry of anguish at the pain from her fall. At that point, the witch landed and held out her hand.
"Hahahahahahaha, sorry about that, Rosa. I didn't think flying in the sky would be so much fun. Sorry, I'm real sorry."
"And I didn't know Humans could die so easily. But I've brought you back to life, so we're even. So get up, okay? Play with me some more, okay? *giggle*giggle*giggle* Hehehehaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
What were those dreams you told me about when you were a kid...? Go ahead and tell me all of them without holding back. As I am now, I can make anything come true, no matter how absurd...! Even drowning you in a sea of jelly! Even having you get sucked into a mountain of cake! I can even even make you sprout butterfly wings and flit around the garden, okay?!
I'll do them one after another. Let's start with the ocean of jelly, all right...?!
"S-Stop it... urgg!!"
Rosa was once again thrown high into the rainy sky. However, the sky wasn't filled with raindrops, but with drops of orange juice. When she looked down, Rosa had to doubt her eyes. The rose garden had disappeared, and the ground spread out beneath her was like a pastel-colored jigsaw puzzle.
The black part was coffee jelly. The red was strawberry, the yellow was pineapple, and the green was melon. What was the white part, apple...? Did Rosa even have the time to think stuff like that?
Rosa fell towards that multi-colored ocean... And she sunk deep into a purple grape-flavored sea.
As Rosa sank, she was shocked to see a school of transparent fish swimming through the grape jelly ocean. They were probably made of grape skin. Then she sunk on and on, deeper and deeper, as deep as the Marianas Trench, crushed by the water pressure of the jelly ocean... as her ribs snapped, as her spine snapped. In the end, she became a small, frail meatball.
The instant I snapped my fingers, the meatball that had been Rosa was launched up into the sky. And after being wrapped up in a golden sparkle, she returned to her original form. It was as simple and easy as returning dried seaweed to its original form, and anyone could do it. If they were a witch!
That absent-minded look on Rosa's face has to be the joy from having that dream she gave up on as a child come true. Definitely. Probably. Next is the mountain of cake. In an instant, the sky was covered... and became black and white in the shape of a chessboard. That almost transparent white part was her favorite rare cheesecake. The elegant black part was a slightly bitter Gateau au chocolat. That became the ceiling, became a mountain, and several billion cakes were thrown down towards Rosa.
If you piled those cakes up, they would surely be taller than Mount Everest. So they probably weighed... I'm not too sure, but I'll bet it was heavier than all the cakes across Japan put together.
In less than a second, her bones broke throughout her body and her insides were all smashed and forced out, *squish*pop*slop*. Even so, an even greater number of cakes piled up on top, and Rosa ended up as a layer of jam wedged between them. She became as thin as a single hair... and was probably spread out over the area of a tennis court.
That world swallowed up by cake was once again absorbed by a gold flash. Then, as though it had all been a dream, Rosa was revived once again. Of course, it definitely wasn't a dream. She had been revived after dying. By that point, death, which most Humans only have to experience once after they are born, had already been experienced repeatedly by Rosa. In other words, she gone through that which Humans cannot, the precious experience of dying more than once.
"P-Please, have mercy... aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!"
"No wa-y! Let's play more, let's play more...!! Kyahihihihahahahahahahahahaha!!"
Laughing innocently, she pointed her gold staff at Rosa as she begged for mercy. When she did, Rosa glittered gold and rapidly began to shrink.
However, while a human body could withstand that wind, it was a different matter for a butterfly's body. The gold butterfly Rosa... was invited to dance by each gale of wind, and she spun in circles around the rose garden.
"No, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Ah...!"
As her dance wore her out, she was caught by a gentle bed. It was a soft, knit hammock in the shadows beneath the roof of the arbor. The owner of that hammock lumbered into view, welcoming its rare guest who had wandered in on the night of a storm... That owner, which should have been small enough to crush in the palm of your hand, now looked as big as the top of a canopy bed to Rosa.
"Kyahhahahakyahhahahahahaha! What a klutz, you got caught in a spider's web! Ahhahaha, ahhahahahahaha!!"
"This time, it's a dance with a spider. That takes me back. Remember the times we'd find a spider's web and play around by throwing pebbles at it? I've heard that spiders don't chew their prey, but insert their venom, and when the insides melt into a sticky soup, they suck them out."
"...Hey, Rosa, remember? Remember how we'd throw butterflies into the spider's web on purpose, and play around by seeing how the spider would attack?"
"Kyahhahahahahahaha, I guess you don't remember, do you? This happened before you got into grade school...!! Make sure you watch closely this time, okay? Very closely. Kyahihihahahahahahakya-hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, have mercy, Nee-san, help me, Nee-san!!
"Amusing, amusing, how truly amusing! You feel like laughing too, right, Battleeeeeeer?!"
"Don't fuck with me!!! Stop it alreadyyyyyyyyyy!! What's so fun, you're insane, you're insane!!! What's so fun about doing something like this?!?!"
"Doesn't she look like she's having a blast? What do you expect, magic is fun!! I remember, when I first became able to use magic, I played around a lot! Aaah, I understand, I understand, I understand that kind of game from the bottom of my heart!"
"...Looks like I won't be able to share this joy and passion with you, Battler. Aah, what a shame, what a shame!! If you accept me, I'll teach you magic anytime you want, see?! It's hard to describe the joy you receive in the instant you're freed from the shackles of Humanity!"
"I want to teach you about it, that joy, that passion! I'd deeefinitely like to see the world of magic you'd give birth to, just once! Kihhihihihhihhi, hyahhyahhahahahahahahahahaha!!"
"Isn't this starting to get fun? You've started wanting to use magic, haven't you?! It's pretty fun to be a witch, isn't it?! Just for you, I'll teach everything! About the joy of flying together in the sky, about the joy of diving together through the sea!"
"I want to show you the passion that starts the instant you surpass the bounds of Humans and see how wide your world stretches! Wouldn't that be fun, wahhyahhyahahhahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
...It was hard to believe, but she was genuinely enjoying this cruel show. And she wanted to share that appreciation with Battler. Battler was shocked by that hopelessly different sense of values.
"You're insane!! Stop it already, damn iiiiiiiiit!! Virgilia, make them stop this insane farce!! What should I do?!!"
"...We exist outside the board. We cannot touch the board itself."
Virgilia shook her head apologetically. Her body had already been 'killed'. Did that mean she couldn't interfere in any way...?
As Beatrice continued to look amused in an insane sort of way, Battler lifted her up by the collar and yelled at her.
"Stop it stop it stop iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!! Quit messing around, witch!! Are you trying to tell me that's Aunt Eva?! That's impossible!! The Aunt Eva I know might be a bit mean at times, but it's completely impossible that she's the kind of person who'd do something this cruel!! This is all part of your deception!! Don't toy with Aunt Rosa!! Don't toy with Aunt Eva!! Stop this farce right nooooooooooooooooow!!"
"I told you, I'm not the one playing with Rosa anymore. Like I said, that's the new Beatrice."
"Is it really so terrible that you have to squeal like that? You're also pretty fond of stuff like this, aren't you?! You actually have just a bit of interest in magic and"
"...ouch! Wh-What are you doing...?"
...Beatrice didn't know why he had done something like that to her, and a surprised expression rose to her face. Battler especially couldn't forgive that expression, and he roared.
BGM: Black Lilliana
"Stop it right now, stop this disgusting farce!! I won't forgive you!! How could you do something so cruel?!! I've sometimes thought you could be a bit funny, but I'll never make that mistake again! You're just a monster who's cruel on all levels!!! Don't show yourself in front of me!! Never again!! I won't accept you, I won't talk with you, I don't even want to look at your face!! Did you hear me?!! Don't show yourself in front of me, DISAPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAARRR!!!"
"...Owowowow... What are you talking about, isn't it an interesting show...?"
She spoke defensively, but the target of those words, Battler, was no longer there. His figure had suddenly disappeared into the darkness... But Beatrice looked displeased and continued trying to explain herself.
"...I-It's not as though I'm completely blind to where you're coming from, but this is nothing more than an innocent prank, isn't it...? No matter how you kill them, they'll always be brought back to life in the end, right? I thought Humans were creatures who say all's well that ends well...?!"
"H-Hey, Teacher, there was no reason for him to get so angry, right...?!"
"...I have nothing in particular to say. If you think this is fun, you can keep watching as long as you want. Call me when it's over. I will vanish until then."
Following Battler's lead, Virgilia vanished into the darkness... Beato, who was now completely isolated and didn't have a clue what was going on, felt that they were making her out to be the bad guy.
"...What's wrooong? Isn't it an amusing show...?! I-It might be a little vulgar, but it's quite interesting, isn't it...?!! Hey, Ronove...?! It's nothing to get so mad about, right...?!"
"Does he really... hate me that much? Well, certainly, we are enemies and opponents in this competition, but is our relationship really so bad that we can't laugh together at this display...?! Since I applauded together with Battler, I thought I could at least laugh together with him... Does he really reject me so much that we can't even do that...?"
"...He doesn't have to accept that I'm a witch. We're challenging each other in this game, after all. And yet, he won't look at my face, he won't talk to me, and he'll probably do all he can to ignore me... Am I really hated that muuuuuch...?!"
"The moves you've made up to this point have been more than enough to earn his hatred. Even a demon such as myself can understand a bit of Battler-sama's feelings. Perhaps you cannot understand because you are especially thickheaded, Milady. Pukukukukuku."
"Sh-Shut up shut up shut up shut up!! Why don't you disappear too?!!"
"Yes, certainly. Then, if you would excuse me."
Even Ronove hid himself in the darkness, and Beatrice was left alone. The only one in the rainy rose garden.
And the fact that no one ever does is what makes them a lonely witch.
"...What's going on? Why won't anyone play with me...? Am I really that weird, that cruel...? Someone, answer meeeeeeeeee!!"
"Let's all have a friendly walk together, okay? Let's swim in a pot of boiling chocolate, let's have a picnic in a cake-rising oven! Ahahaha, *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*!!"
Behind the witch that was continuing her mad banquet, Beato showed herself. That expression was very rare for her. It was somehow restrained, unreliable, miserable.
"Oh, it's the Predecessor Beatrice-sama. Were you watching?"
"The power of magic is truly wonderful! Until now, I never thought it'd be so fun to be reborn as a witch. It's like playtime that never ends...! Come on, let's play together, Predecessor-sama...!!"
"But first, wait for a second, okay?! I cooked the two of them to death in an oven, so I have to revive them again!"
"They're like bread rising from yeast! Like cookies expanding in an oven! *giggle*giggle*giggle*!!"
"L-Listen to what I'm saying... Umm, well, isn't that enough for the sacrifice of the second twilight? Of course, there are no rules regarding how you kill them, but, umm... maybe you shouldn't toy with them any more than that..."
"What are you saying, Predecessor-sama? I heard from Ronove a short while ago. Wasn't your magic much, much more wonderful, cruel, and crazy?!"
"That Halloween party where candies poured out of six people's stomachs was truly wonderful! So maybe I'll act out Alice's tea party...! I'll invite everyone to a tea party in celebration of a completely pointless day, and entertain them one by one with my magic!"
"I wonder if I can do it as wonderfully as you?
"I wonder if I can be cruel in my own pop, cute style?!
"Now that I think about it, all fairy tales are cruel, aren't they? Now that I'm a witch inside one of those fairy tales, I finally understand. Kyahhahahahakukyahyafuhyahahahahaha!!"
"...??? I don't get what you're saying, Predecessor-sama."
"But there's one thing I do understand. No matter how hard I try now, I'm no match for how cruel you are. I've gotta try much, much harder. I've gotta become more cruel, and become an excellent Golden Witch...!"
"L-Like I said, you've already done enough here...! A-Anyway, this is an order from me as your predecessor. That's enough for the second twilight. I'll show you how it's done. Stand back and watch..."
"Yes, Predecessor-sama. I can't wait to see what brutal, cruel, and disgusting method of killing you use."
The new witch grasped the sides of her skirt and gave a graceful bow, stepping back as an expectant gaze rose to her face. She was expecting an even more cruel magic that surpassed even herself.
"...Well, speaking of that... You're only half a witch if you can only kill with methods like that. I shall show you an elegant way to kill, worthy of the Golden Witch..."
...Compared to how the new Beatrice had done it a short while ago, it was slightly gentler. It was probably gentler than how Beato had done it herself up until now.
Rosa's consciousness had already grown dim from the pain of so many repeated deaths. But even so, she pleaded that her daughter be spared...
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh, Mama, Mamaaaaaa!!"
"...Sorry. My disciple just... umm... acted without restraint for a bit. Umm... forgive me."
"B-Beatriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!! Waaaaaaaaaahh, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!"
When Maria realized it was the real Beatrice, she jumped onto her.
"...You promised, right, Beato?! You promised you'd take me to the Golden Land, right?! There, I'll be friendly with Mama, and everyone will laugh together...! You promised you'd take me there, right?!"
" "...So, sorry. I can no longer keep my promise with you..."
"Why...? Why...? You promised..."
"...I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry... So at least... in apology for not being able to keep my promise..."
...I'll give you a quiet... sleep that will never be disturbed again...
Beato embraced Maria with a loving expression on her face...
...Its redness grew bit by bit, and when it distinctly formed itself into the shape of a hand...
Maria's neck tilted suddenly. Peacefully, as though she had fallen asleep.
"...Sorry. I won't apologize that you were the sacrifices for the second twilight. That is simply your fate. However, I must apologize for the vulgar way in which you were offered as sacrifices... This is your final sleep. Never again will it be disturbed..."
Beato softly, gently lifted her finger, as though touching the empty air in front of her nose.
...When she did, a light breeze lifted up, making Rosa's body dance lightly like a feather. Then, Rosa's body floated softly... and right there was the garden fence, with its spear-shaped prongs.
...Benevolently, without toying with her, in a single blow. Rosa's life was snapped out. Compared to the earlier innocent yet cruel events, it seemed to be over much too fast. It just looked like a doll shaped like Rosa was leaning against the fence. But, she had passed away.
Beato acted proud, but the new witch wore a blank expression, almost as though this was an anticlimax. Then, she said it out loud.
"It's kinda plain... Not at all like the Predecessor-sama Ronove told me about."
"...Well, you must use magic with dignity, right...? If it's too... umm... undignified, that isn't very elegant..."
"...Even though you're lucky enough to have the magic to do wonderful things endlessly... How boring."
"Hey, don't complain...! The path of the Golden Witch cannot be completed in a day. You are still incomplete until you finish the tenth twilight... For now, stay quiet and follow my instructions. Got it...?!"
"Wh-What happened to your answer? Your answer...!"
"...Very well, that will do. Well, there is still much to do for the resurrection ceremony. You still have to kill five people... You should do it without toying with them too much, with beauty and dignity, and with at least a little restraint, okay...? What Ronove told you about how I did it... that was a bad example. You mustn't use that as a model. Engrave that into your heart."
"A good answer. Ronove, the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, arise...!"
"Lucifer of Pride, right here."
"...Up until this point, umm, I've been a little flashy, but...umm, well, the dignity of the Golden Witch is also important, and about that..."
As Ronove laughed at Beato's uncharacteristically flustered speech, he summed it up for her.
"Certainly. From now on, we will be careful to act in a graceful manner, suitable for the name of the Golden Witch. Even the Seven Sisters of Purgatory will reform their bad behavior up until now, and we shall espouse to perform our task in the quickest possible manner. Would that be acceptable, Milady?"
"I-Indeed. That's it, more or less. Everyone, take it to heart! Okay...?!"
"That is all I wish to say. You may leave now."
"Certainly. If you would excuse me."
Acting awkwardly until the very end, Beato left that message and immediately became a cloud of gold butterflies, hiding her form in the empty air. Maybe it'd be more accurate to say she vanished in a hurry because she couldn't keep up the conversation. After that, all that remained was Maria's corpse, lying down and pounded by the rain, Rosa's corpse, propped up by the fence and staring up at the sky... And the figure of the witch.
"...Show some restraint, you say...?"
Her expression looked just a little bored. There was a popping sound. That was probably her clicking her tongue.
Leaving that last sentence behind, she once again vanished into the empty air...