Part 90: Battle to the Death in the Hall III
"...Worthless furniture. To think they'd be beaten by Human opponents. Worthless. Stupid. Boring...!"
"Beatrice-sama, we should retreat for now. There is no furniture or barrier to guard against bullets here."
The witch began to let out a muffled laugh. It surprised not only Rudolf and Kyrie, but Ronove as well. Because a situation like this, with two guns pointed at her, was not one that even a witch could just laugh off. But the witch laughed with pleasure.
As she said that, she looked down at Belphegor's remains, which had already finished turning into a pile of gold dust, with disgust.
"I don't know what you're talking about. Be a good girl and put your hands up."
Then, the witch obediently raised her hands. But instead of raising her hands because a gun was being pointed a her, it looked more like she was a conductor facing an orchestra, waving her conductor's baton.
Video: Next-Generation Furniture
BGM: Dance of the Moon Rabbits
"Stop this bizarre act...! I'll pull the trigger..."
In response to the witch's call, the hall was once again buried with the color of gold. As the brilliantly radiant gold butterflies danced, it felt as though they were being sucked into an ocean of gold leaf. Ronove was shocked at that upsurge in magical power... After all, it far surpassed that of his former master.
As their eyes were dazzled amidst this golden flash, a gunshot could be heard. Either Rudolf or Kyrie had fired a round. Then, when the golden flash subsided, at the very least the witch was standing there, looking cool and composed. The bullet? Kyrie must have fired it into her. But the witch had not been hit anywhere on her body.
"...A-A bullet-proof barrier...!"
In an instant, a barrier that would require a significant amount of preparation even for the Predecessor had been... Ronove's face was twisted in shock. And, the surprises did not end there...
The cloud of gold butterflies had created two humanoid forms.
The butterflies peeled off and flew away, and beneath them, furniture in the shape of girls showed themselves.
"...The Chiester Sisters Corps... Even the Predecessor... wasn't able to summon Pendragon's Memorial Troops on a moment's notice, and to do it so easily...!"
"...You two are suitable furniture for me, I take it?"
"From reading a picture book out aloud, to going on a date, to shooting down meteorites, we'll take care of anything. Nihihi."
"I-If we don't take care of it, Pendragon-sama will get mad at us...! Please, your orders, Great Lady Beatrice!"
"...Rudolf-san, let's run for it. We're no match for these ones...!"
Kyrie definitely heard warning sirens going off in her head, thanks to the same feeling that had alerted her to the ambush by the Seven Sisters of Purgatory. Without hesitation, they escaped. As the witch elegantly watched them leave, she commanded her new furniture.
"...This is an order. Kill the two who ran away. Then bring the corpses back here. I'll bring 'em back to life and play with them over and over. *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!"
The witch's expression twisted into an evil smile. Even though she feared that expression, Lucifer appeared and spoke.
When the witch stared at her with those terrifying eyes, Lucifer was struck dumb. She was frustrated. It was so boring, not being able to let her own power and cruelty run wild. This annoying furniture of the Predecessor kept telling her to show restraint, bringing her irritation to a peak.
"Oh, it's Lucifer the Proud. Long time no see nyeh, how ya doin'? Let's play together again sometime. Nihhihihihihihi!"
"Y-You mustn't chat, 410, you'll get in trouble...! Let us carry out the Great Lady Beatrice's order at once...!"
"Nihi. Well, yeah, we are on the job right now nyeh."
"Lucifer-chan, better get out from behind us, or you'll get roasted by the backblast. Nihi!"
Thanks to their paired measurements, the Chiester Sisters were able to instantly calculate the terrain throughout the mansion and the coordinates of their targets, as well as a firing curve to reach them. That's right, their shots could be guided to follow a curved line. None could escape. The precision guidance used by the Seven Sisters of Purgatory was nothing more than a cheap knockoff of the ability these two held.
As the two of them faced each other, it was as though they were both pulling back a bowstring together... A dazzling gold arrow was readied there.
After giving that announcement, they released a single arrow together. As the path taken by the gold-sparkling snake of light drew a curve, it followed the direction that Rudolf and Kyrie had escaped to in rapid pursuit. It turned through the corridors, crawled over the floor, chasing them as it drew a beautiful curve.
No one could block the guided shots of the Chiester Sisters. No one could escape from them. And their strength could pierce all physical and magical defenses... It was quite a merciless guided weapon of certain death. However, among mythical-class soldiers, it was a weapon used by pretty much everyone. It was very commonplace for them... and very extraordinary for those of the everyday world.
When he noticed something rapidly chasing them and turned around...
After the gold snake pierced Rudolf, it swooped down to the floor, drawing a beautiful spiral, coiled itself around Kyrie's legs, and crawled up to her chest. And just like Rudolf, it pierced the exact location of her heart.
So they died, dropped to their knees, and fell over at almost the exact same time.
"Come on, bring their corpses here. I'll keep reviving them until I'm bored, and I'll try killing them in as brutal a way as I can think of. Aaah, to think being a witch could be so much fun, that taking a life could be so much fun, ahhahahahahahahahahahaha!"
...From the time humans are born, the most shunned action they can take is the murder of another human. It's only natural that humans can't understand how pleasurable it can be to break this taboo. But she was no longer a Human. She was a witch. And there were some pleasures that only witches could understand. By now, she had tasted those pleasures... and was totally immersed in them. After learning that the contents of the forbidden pot were honey, she could no longer live without them... No, maybe the contents were honey because they were forbidden.
Anyway, by killing Humans gruesomely, and doing it over and over, she could feel the drug-like pleasure even now. As the witch rolled over laughing, the gold snake that had just been shot returned as though being reeled in. At the tips, two people were pinned and dragged along. The witch's order had been fulfilled. Rudolf and Kyrie had been killed instantly, and their corpses had been carried back.
"Chiesters 45 and 410, Order Execution Complete. We await your next order, Great Lady Beatrice. Please, your orders...!"
"From babysitting, to playing online games with you, to shooting down a space shuttle, we'll take care of everything. Nihihi!"
"...It looks like these two are the sacrifices for the fourth and fifth twilights. So in the end, I'll need those worthless Seven Sisters... or are they the Five Sisters now? I need those guys to pierce and gouge the forehead and the chest."
"...But I can do that at the very end, and I'm free to play in any way I want until then, right? Heheheheheheheheheh!"
BGM: Organ Short #200 Million in C Minor
"Oh, it's you, Predecessor-sama. Do you have any complaints?"
"Of course I do...! You're doing whatever you please, aren't you?! Why haven't you followed my directions?!"
"What's wrong with doing as I please, Predecessor-sama? Anyway, I don't plan on deviating from the rules of the ceremony in the slightest."
"I'll definitely clean these two corpses up later and drive stakes into their forehead and chest."
"I'm telling you, that is not the problem...! If you act so undignified and cruel... umm, some people might take it badly..."
"...D-Damn that blabbermouth. Well, to be perfectly honest, that's how it is. If you go a little too far... umm, that person will object, you see?"
"Why can't this person just complain to me directly, instead of making you take a message? That coward."
"...Well, this is a resident of a different world from yours. There's no choice but to use me as an intermediary. Well, that's beside the point but-"
"...Which means that this person couldn't interact with me even if they wanted to. And I can't interact with them even if I want to either. Simply put, this is a completely unrelated person from a world that distant, right?"
"I-Indeed. For example, perhaps you could say these worlds are like very close parallel lines. The distance between them is quite small, but because the lines are parallel, they will never cross. For now, that should be a convenient way for you to view that world."
"They never cross. Which means... that world has nothing to do with me. If you're speaking for that person when you tell me to show restraint, please pass this message on to them."
"To them? What should I say...?"
BGM: Golden Sneer
"...Oh, I'm sorry. Since it was a friend of yours, I just assumed she'd be a woman."
"By 'old hag', I'm definitely not talking about you, Predecessor-sama, so please don't get mad at me. *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!"
When she spoke, the witch was looking straight into Beato's eyes. Anyone present would be able to tell what she meant by it.
"Well, as to that, it's because making all humans accept the existence of witches is a prerequisite of perfect control. There was a single holdout who simply wouldn't accept me as a witch."
"...Why would you need the approval of a Human? Witches are witches and can use magic, so why should we need to be acknowledged by Humans?"
"...Nnn... Well, like I said earlier, magic is..."
"I am a witch. I can use magic without anyone's approval in particular, so what's your point...?"
"In this world, right? However, since that person won't accept it, umm... nnnnn, how should I explain it..."
"...I don't need you to. After all, isn't all this about a different world that never crosses this one? In other words, that world might as well not exist."
"...You fighting a game in another world is absolutely no different from you telling me about stuff from your imagination. I'll say it again. It has nothing to do with me. And, I am already a witch."
"Predecessor-sama, somehow or another, it seems that you can't become a witch as long as this person doesn't acknowledge you, but I'm different. Even though no one has acknowledged me, I'm an excellent witch already. Since you are my predecessor, I will formally pay you respect, but that's out of kindness, not out of duty. I won't ask for your advice anymore... because I clearly know what I should do and how I should play from now on. So I will carry out the murder of 13 people as a final act of respect for you. However, there is absolutely no reason for you to interfere with the methods I use... or what I do afterwards. Therefore, I'll be counting on you in that regard."
...She was no longer under Beato's care in any way. That's why she was clearly saying nothing more than 'Don't get in the way of my fun'. Beato understood that... and was dejected, realizing that no matter how she explained it, she wouldn't be able to make the witch understand.
"...I... I see... Then it is no longer my problem... Go and learn with your own body how magic ceases to exist when you lose your respect for it."
"...I wish you'd tell me where the respect was in that carefree rampage of yours up until now."
After hearing that, Beato could not respond. Because she remembered hearing exactly the same thing from her teacher.
"Okay now. Chiester Sisters? See off my predecessor on her way back."
"Nihihihihi. Predecessor-sama, please leave this place."
"I-If you don't, we'll be scolded...!"
Most likely, they were initiating firing calculations. It was an action much like taking out a gun and cocking it. Even Beato could not escape from the Chiester Sisters' attacks without any preparation. In the past, she had placed her greatest trust in them, so she knew how terrifying they were down to her very soul.
"...Predecessor-sama, if you would retire. I would not recommend damaging Beatrice-sama's mood any further."
"...I-I understand. I shall leave for now. I'll watch over the end you eventually reach at my leisure!"
It was almost infinitely close to a parting shot. So, after Beato vanished, the witch and her furniture doubled over laughing...
"...It must have been quite fun, judging by your antics in the past."
"Are you saying... it's just like when you tried to admonish me in the past, over and over, and I did not listen...?"
"...Why have you started trying to scold that child for her actions?"
"Nnn, umm, well..."
"...There's a single large difference between you and that child. That child may already be a witch. Of course, you are also a witch. At least, in the world on top of the game board. However, to be acknowledged as a witch in the world outside the game board, you need to have Battler-kun, your opponent in this game, acknowledge you. You must have understood that when you started the game."
"...I thought that if I could show off a whirlwind of proof that I am a witch, blow away his desire to deny me, and make him surrender, he would acknowledge me as a witch. It all went my way last time, so I thought I was just a breath away..."
"...In your foolishness, you probably felt that Battler-kun's acceptance of his role as your opponent was a first step towards making him acknowledge you as a witch. However, it was actually the opposite. Battler-kun challenged you in this game because he was absolutely determined not to acknowledge you. No matter how hard the thoughtless north wind blows, the traveler only wears his cloak even tighter. You were committing a huge error from the very beginning."
"...This game is not torture to make Battler-kun surrender. It is a test, in which you must try to make Battler-kun accept you."
"...Uu... I've vaguely... noticed that..."
"The last game was a tough one for Battler. But, as it seems you've already noticed, this game is a tough one for you."
"Wh-What should I do from now on?"
"Think about it for yourself. Fortunately, you have already given up your pieces on the game board to the new witch. You should have plenty of time to reflect upon your owns self."
"...But Battler's already a mass of hostility to me. He won't accept witches, so he won't accept me. In that case, what can I do to make him accept me...? Are you saying that if the north wind doesn't work, then I should shine on him as the sun from now on...? Me, after all this time...?"
"It's October now. The Halloween season. It's the month of rebirth, when the sun dies and is revived again. When the sun is weak right after reviving, it may not reach far through the cold winter winds. However, it slowly grows... and is eventually able to hail the coming of spring. At that time, the traveler may even fold up his cloak."
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
The number of deaths given to Rudolf and Kyrie had long surpassed anything you could count on both your fingers and your toes. The witch was breathing so hard her shoulders shook, but it wasn't because she was tired. She just couldn't hide her ragged breaths caused by her still uncontainable excitement.
"No matter how sloppily I mash them, I can revive them, returning them to normal with just a snap of my fingers. Because in the end, I just have to restore the corpses and follow the epitaph as an afterthought. Ahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
"...Hey, you guys, have you ever sliced a stuffed animal's stomach open?"
"Never, nihi. What about you, 45?"
"N-No...! I have never done it, my apologies...!"
"That's understandable. Normally, you wouldn't. Especially not if it was a stuffed animal you liked. But I've always thought about it."
"I always thought about peeking in... and seeing what was packed inside this fluffy stuffed animal I loved."
If you cut it and looked inside, your curiosity might be quelled, but the stuffed animal would be broken. So, even though you want to see, you can't. You understand that feeling, right?
"...The power of the Endless Witch can truly grant that wish. As I am now, I can slice the stuffed animal all I want."
"...And yet, with a bit of magic, I can return it to normal and revive it. In other words, it means I've broken all limitations in this world. As I am now, I don't have to hesitate or give up an idea or anything."
"That joy... aah, there's probably no one who can understand it. No one other than me, the Golden Witch!!"
As the witch let out a mad war cry, she revived Rudolf and Kyrie again, and faster than they could realize it, she killed them right away. And she made it known that something other than cotton was stuffed inside those two.
"Huh? Ah, it's you. How long have you been there?"
In that gruesome hall, Hideyoshi appeared with his gun readied. The witch had sealed the mansion with a barrier, so Hideyoshi had nowhere to run. He'd probably picked up Rudolf's or Kyrie's gun and come back. The gun, which should have been something to be feared, was apparently no longer an object she took seriously now that she was overflowing with magical power. Her bold expression didn't flinch in the slightest.
"...Why did you have to kill Rosa-san and Maria-chan, and Rudolf-kun and Kyrie-san...?!"
"Huh? I am the Head of the Ushiromiya family, the witch of Rokkenjima. Everything that occurs on this island is all up to me. Whether they happen to be alive or dead at any particular moment in time is meaningless to me."
"...But if there was that much gold, why didn't you think of graciously splittin' it up...?!!"
"You misunderstand. All of that belongs to the Golden Witch. No one is qualified to touch it except me. *giggle*giggle*giggle* Ahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...!!"
"...What are you? Don't tell me you're that thing Eva told me about long ago, the witch Eva from when she was young?"
"That's right. I am the 'me' from my years as a girl, who's been living in the heart of your wife, Ushiromiya Eva, this whole time. And I'm a witch."
"...Eva became an adult by forgetting me. So she can't use magic."
"...All kids get their heads filled with innocent but cruel ideas sometimes. When I was young, I'd sometimes go around steppin' on ants and pullin' the wings off dragonflies. However, I learned the importance of life, and graduated from that cruel childhood age."
"...Right now, you really are a child! A personality that I know Eva graduated from! That personality isn't Eva. It's a completely different human!!"
"That's right. I am not Ushiromiya Eva. I'm the Golden Witch, Beatrice."
"It's so fun, not being bounded by any limitations, and the pleasure of being able to do as I will with life and death is truly wonderful...! I don't have to apologize for breaking a goldfish bowl, and I can tear stuffed animals up as much as I want! I-"
There was a crisp sound.
BGM: Worldend (solo)
Looking at the hall stained deep red with fresh blood, he should have been able to imagine how terrible the witch was. But without fear, without even hesitating, Hideyoshi had walked determinedly up to her and hit her on the cheek.
"You fool!! Don't act like you're cruel, not when you're really a coward and a weakling! I'll correct that evil nature of yours again if I have to!! You fool! Fool!!"
"Ow... ouch, hey...!"
"You're a woman who understands how important, how fragile a life is, aren't you?! I'll make you remember...!! What are you calling a 'witch', you stupid fool?!! You're my wife, Ushiromiya Eva! If anything, you're witch of the kitchen, who can always make the perfect snacks out of refrigerator leftovers in a flash!! Won't you open your eyes, you fool...?!!"
"Didn't I just tell you... that I'm not Ushiromiya Eva...?!"
"You stupid fool!! You! You!!"
He wasn't even pointing the gun at her anymore. Therefore. That sound of gunfire couldn't have come from the gun Hideyoshi was holding.
And the bullet? A red stain was slowly spreading across the chest section of Hideyoshi's vest. Even though his back was facing the barrel of the gun, the bullet had driven through Hideyoshi's chest.
"...E... va... uu..."
"...Like I said, I'm not Eva. What a stupid, annoying man."
"You're a pain, so I'll switch the sacrifice of the sixth twilight to you. If only you'd just hidden under some bed shaking or something, I planned on letting you go. But no, you went to all the trouble of coming back. You really are a stupid man."
Even though death would have allowed him to escape from that pain, he resisted until the last second, and staring straight into the witch's eyes, he passed away.
Because he had died without closing his eyes, the witch didn't realize that he was dead for a short while... and remained pinned by that gaze.
"Should we make this one a new toy and play? Nihi."
At those words, the witch finally realized that Hideyoshi was dead.
"...Nng... yeah. Right, what'll we do..."
The Chiester Sisters waited for instructions. On the inside, they imagined the sorts of even more brutal orders their master might give. But the expression that rose to the witch's face looked as though she'd gotten over her excitement. She looked down at Hideyoshi's face, which still had tears dripping down it...
"Yes, right here."
"Take care of the cleanup. I'll bet the Predecessor-sama makes a fuss over this one. Please make it clean enough for that old hag to accept. I guess I'll follow the rules of the ceremony, out of a sense of obligation to my Predecessor-sama. Treat these three corpses as the fourth through sixth twilights. Lucifer, it's your turn."
"Lucifer of Pride, right here."
"Dig into these three corpses and gouge them."
"That's right. Got a problem with that?"
The Seven Sisters of Purgatory had their own sort of pride. It was the pride of a hunter, the pride of gouging prey that they had brought down themselves. However, being told to gouge a corpse that someone else had brought down ran contrary to that sentiment. Of course, the witch didn't mean it that way, but for the Seven Sisters, it was horribly humiliating. However, they had already screwed this up, with two of the Sisters defeated, so they had no right to question her. Only Ronove appreciated this, and he rested his hand on her shoulder in understanding.
"...This is an order from Beatrice-sama. Lucifer, carry these three and dispose of them in accordance with the etiquette of the ceremony. Then, when you are done, lend me a hand with the cleanup."
The witch looked down upon Hideyoshi's corpse, as though implying that the now delicate atmosphere was all Hideyoshi's fault.
The crash of a thunderbolt woke Eva from her nightmare. If Hideyoshi had been gripping her hand at that time, her fearful heart would probably have been instantly healed. However, Hideyoshi, who had supposedly sworn that he wouldn't leave even for a moment, was nowhere to be seen in the room.