Part 93: Real Magic
October 5th, 1986, 5:44 PM
The strings of tension binding Krauss, Natsuhi, and Eva had already loosened, and they were completely worn out, with their minds beginning to waver. Every once in a while, they would stand up and walk around pointlessly, as though fighting their drowsiness.
"I told you, I'm fine... The three of us are now the only adults... There's no time to rest... No matter what the cost, we must guard this place until the end... Haah, haah..."
She spoke bravely, but she couldn't hide her rough breathing. It seemed that the fever, which had been calmed with medicine for a short time, had returned. It was very obvious that Eva's health was not good.
"Take it easy. At least close your eyes. If something happens that you need to be awake for, we will definitiely wake you."
"I'm telling you I'm fine...! Leave me alone...!!"
It seemed she was already unwilling to budge. Krauss and Natsuhi realized that even if they talked to her any more when she was like this, it wouldn't reach her ears. So without saying anything more, they decided to let her be. To Eva right now, even having an argument like that would be burdensome. It would probably be better for her body if she just sat there with her mouth closed.
In truth, Eva was just a step away from being beaten down by drowsiness. Perhaps she shot back at them with a temper because she was trying to rouse herself and throw off her sleepiness.
She'd had several snacks to distract herself from her drowsiness, so she didn't feel hungry, but now her lack of sleep made it feel like it was 6:00 in the morning, not the afternoon. Even supposing that the boat came at precisely 9:00 in the morning tomorrow, they still had more than 12 full hours to go.
...It was an overwhelmingly long stretch of time. Long. Painful... Hot... Even the sound of the clock torments my body now. In times like this, when that person puts his hand on my forehead, the fever fades at once. But that person no longer exists... As Eva's mind grew foggy, she was once again gripped by a deep sadness...
She had already cried herself dry. Even so, the sadness of losing her beloved husband had not been exhausted...
BGM: Melody (Instrumental)
"...What do you mean?"
The new witch and Eva were fundamentally the same being. If Eva talked to her, she would always respond...
"...I thought that if I could gain the position of the Ushiromiya Family Head, that alone would be enough. But then, as soon as I saw that mountain of gold, my greed grew. I was struck by a desire to have that mountain all to myself..."
"That's nothing to be ashamed of.
After all, it's your natural right as the Ushiromiya Family Head. How could you give up even a bit of it to anyone else?"
"...I was gripped by that temptation, which is why you were born. While you are a young girl version of me, at the same time, you are also my self-centered evil heart. Because of my foolish greed sprouted by that mountain of gold, the shell of the egg that is my heart cracked, and you were born into this world... I am responsible for your birth...!"
"In that case, when I killed Rosa and Maria, and then Rudolf, Kyrie and Hideyoshi, you were responsible for that too."
"Why did you kill my husband too...?! Why...?!! Aaaaaaaagggghhhhh!!"
"...I didn't want to kill Hideyoshi. He was just so annoying and persistent. And that's our... no, your fault. It's your fault for choosing a husband like that."
"A child like you cannot understand what made that man so wonderful!! Oooooooooooooooohhhh, dear, aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!"
"...What the heck? Our dreams were made real with magic, right? We solved the riddle of the epitaph. Then we found the gold and got the Head's Ring. All of our dreams came fully true, right? What more could you want...?"
"Those weren't all of my dreams...!! What about living a wonderful life with that person and giving George an excellent life...?! I still have many dreams that haven't come true...as a wife, as a mother...!! And yet, and yet...!"
"...Those are just extra dreams you added after becoming an adult. They aren't my dreams."
"That's because you're a child...!! Do you only care about what's best for yourself?! That's right, everything is my fault...!! Back then, why did I resist doing what Rosa told me to? Why couldn't I announce to all of the siblings that I'd found the gold...? It's all because I'm so hideous!! My evil heart, which sprouted from my desire to have all that gold for myself, caused you to hatch!!"
"...Looks like you really hate me. Even though we're both Ushiromiya Eva."
"No, that isn't true anymore. And it was you who said it. I am Ushiromiya Eva. And you are the Golden Witch, Beatrice...!! So just disappear! Witches are imaginary, illusions that only exist in fairy tales...!! Things like you should just disappear! Never appear in front of me again!!"
"...Yeah, you're right. I understand. I'll disappear from in front of you. And I am no longer Ushiromiya Eva. From now on, I'm the Golden Witch, Beatrice. So now I can play however I want."
"I don't even care about you. If only you'd just give up and die forever!"
...Only Eva was left behind in the darkness. And she questioned herself...
She could no longer answer that question herself...
"...! *cough*cough*cough*!! *cough*cough*cough*!!"
It seemed that, half-asleep, she had gotten some saliva caught in her windpipe just as she was dozing off. Eva suddenly started coughing.
"I-I'm fine, okay...? *cough*cough*cough*! *co-ugh*cough*!! I just... choked a bit...! *cough*cough*cough*!"
Eva pushed away Natsuhi's hand as she tried to rub her back... and unsteadily rose to her feet.
"...I'm going to go wash my face. Sorry, I fell asleep. When I get back, I'll make some more coffee. Extra strong, so that I won't get drowsy until tomorrow morning."
"Yes, please do. Your coffee's more to my tastes than what Gohda makes."
"I'm glad to hear it, even if it's flattery... *cough*cough*! I'll be back soon."
Eva exited the lobby, heading for the bathroom. Krauss and Natsuhi watched over her frail back...
"...Isn't this how an older brother is supposed to be...?"
"...Yes. I believe you're right."
"It isn't just Eva. There's Rudolf and Rosa too. Instead of acting like an older brother to them, all I ever did was speak arrogantly and bully them. In my own way, I was frantic in my desire to be like Father. But I could never match up, and I always vented my feelings on them... But that is no excuse. I probably gave Eva scars so deep that they still have not healed. I regret it, but even if I apologized after all this time, it would do nothing to heal those wounds..."
"...If you can hold onto that feeling, instead of only letting it last for this moment, I'm sure your siblings will come to see it sooner or later."
"...Though, by now, Eva is the only sibling I have left."
"...If only... you and your siblings hadn't been born into the Ushiromiya family, you might have had a more normal, a more fun sibling relationship..."
"...You mustn't say that... Eva will probably continue to hate me for her whole life. And she has a right to. I... intend to resign myself to that fact and accept it."
"...Eva, I'm sorry. Of course, you don't have to forgive me..."
BGM: Dance of the Moon Rabbits
Together, the sisters released the magical bowstring they had readied. A beautiful tail trailed behind the gold arrow, and it drew a lovely curve as it flew. It was just like a gold snake.
It skillfully avoided a grove of trees and flew towards the front door of the guesthouse. Then it flew into the keyhole of the door and snuck into the guesthouse without any problem at all.
Right before it was the door to the lobby. When it flew into the key hole, Krauss and Natsuhi were already...
For an instant, Krauss thought he saw a gold-colored sparkle in the keyhole on the door. However, at the same time as he strained his eyes to see what it was, that sparkle bent like a whip and attacked, wrapping itself around Krauss's neck.
Just looking at it, the gold snake seemed very supple. However, it was as though a wire had tightened around Krauss's neck. And while that snake choked Krauss, it extended even more, and also tightened around Natsuhi's neck. Without even a chance to scream, their eyes bulged as they went into convulsions and then collapsed.
"410, Data Received. Initiating Corpse Towing. We got both of 'em nyeh, nihi!"
The gold snake began to drag Krauss and Natsuhi's bodies back. They slipped through the door to the corridor, dragging the bodies, gradually increasing in speed, and rapidly pulled them outside the guesthouse. So, the lobby was silent, as though nothing had happened. As though Krauss and Natsuhi had not been there since the beginning.
Only the sound of the wind and the rain remained, as if they were playing dumb and pretending to be the only ones there...
Eva returned from the bathroom. But no one was in the lobby. Even though they had supposedly been in that sofa until the moment she had choked and gone to the bathroom, they were gone, as if they'd been an illusion from the very beginning.
"...How careless of them... Where did those two go off to together?"
Eva put her hand on the sofa as though acting out a scene from a detective novel. She felt a warmth that meant that they'd been sitting there until a short while ago. Maybe they went to do the rounds or something.
For the time being, Eva sat down and waited for their return...
BGM: Dead Angle
However, Beato was the same. Now that she had handed her name over, most of her previous power had been lost. Of course, she still had more than enough power to be called a witch, but compared to the past, it was a very faint thing.
"...Good. Don't talk to her, don't touch her with your hand. Call to her with the voice of your heart, and seek her with the hand of your heart. Only your strong feelings can make my magic reach Shannon's lost soul."
George kept praying earnestly and silently. He kept frantically yelling inside his heart, trying to call back the soul of the person he loved. He strongly envisioned his soul leaving his body... and searching for her as she wandered through the Land of the Dead.
Beato turned that strong force into magical power that supplemented her own magic. This was magic that, in the past, she could have performed easily, without anyone's help. But now, if she didn't rely on someone's assistance, she wouldn't be able to finish the chant, much less succeed.
Beato was wearing an even more strained expression than George. It had slipped her mind, but originally, the magic to revive a life was the ultimate hidden art. The abnormal thing was her previous magical power, which could be used over and over with a snap of her fingers. So, the heavy burden on her body and mind was, fundamentally speaking, extremely natural...
"...However, this man's power... Even though he doesn't know magic, it's nothing to be laughed at. I see, so he truly is Kinzo's grandchild..."
The strong energy pouring from George was large enough to act as magical power. At first, Beato thought it must be the blood of Kinzo, the sorceror. However, that probably wasn't it. She had a feeling that Battler had already told her what it was. It had been born from the power of George's sadness at the death of the person he loved, and from the way he had tried his hardest throughout his life, from the warm time spent together with Shannon, to the size of the dream they swore to protect in the future.
Is it really possible for humans to take life so seriously, even though they only have a single one? It was only natural. To her, a life didn't mean anything more than the difference between the top and bottom of an Othello piece. If the black represented death, then she thought all you had to do was flip it over again and make it white. However, it was just like that broken vase. To humans in a world without magic, where they cannot return things to their original form, it is very, very natural for them to bet their life and soul.
"...So, is an Endless Witch, who can do as she pleases even with life and death... inferior to a limited Human who can't even surpass the mountain of death...?"
This time, the witch acknowledged it. He was able to hold a magical power that could never reside in witches who didn't understand the value of a life.
...Even though I called myself the Endless Witch, did I forget what the Endless Magic means for a thousand years...?
She looked at George's expression again. His surging earnestness was like a lightning bolt. Right now, even if George's body had been burned or smashed by a waterfall, he would probably continue to pray for his beloved without minding it, without noticing it. For the first time, she showed respect for that power. So in that instant, all magical resistance was lost, and the enormous power of George's feelings turned into magical energy in its complete form...
BGM: Daydream's End
Even as young as I was, it still forced me to take a deep breath when I witnessed its beauty. But that just made me want to touch it. But the vase easily fell and smashed into pieces. Like a bubble that had popped, it felt as though the time it possessed a form had been just an illusion. Lives are just that fragile, just that easily... lost.
I realized that my foolish curiosity had led to something that couldn't be undone. No matter how much I regretted it, no matter how much I apologized. The smashed vase wouldn't return back to its original form...
A lost life will not return to normal no matter what happens. I was frightened that, even though my actions had been thoughtless and careless, they had stolen away a life that could never be revived again. Then, I pitied that lost life and cried. I was frightened of myself, the one responsible for its loss, and cried even more. I'm sure Grandfather will also cry at the loss of his precious vase. I'm sure that all the people who love Grandfather and see him like that will cry.
With the loss of a single life, the whole world can be filled with so much sadness. I cried even more at how terrible that was.
Beatrice appeared... and spoke.
"Come, Milady. Close your eyes and chant with me..."
BGM: Soul of Soul
Those words of power knocked forcefully on the door to the Land of the Dead. The magic of her old self had performed that same forceful knock. However, doing it that way was horribly violent... and earned the displeasure of the peacefully sleeping dead... But this time was different. It was very forceful... and yet gentle and loving.
...The sadness of that voice calling from the outside touched the hearts of the dead, and, trying to respond as quickly as possible, they searched for Shannon's lost soul...
And then... they found it. They found the casket in which Shannon was peacefully sleeping. It truly was Shannon's soul, sleeping in the land of the dead.
...Inside the casket that was covered with rose flowers frozen with frost, she was sleeping in peace...
...While at a glance, it looked like a funeral march, it had the complete opposite meaning. It was solemn, but filled with joy. The long-forgotten dead were made to remember that they were loved after their deaths, and they were all given a warm sense of peace...
Then, as though guided by a warm light from the heavens, Shannon's body floated up out of the casket... The dead watched her go. They squinted at that warm light, offering their respect to this unknown member of the living... who had not lost his love for a person even after their death...
Shannon's body was enveloped in the light from the heavens and began to disappear... In the jet-black darkness of the land of the dead, the faint flickering of gold butterflies could be seen. It reminded them of the gentle stars in the night sky, which they had long forgotten...
George remembered being told that he must not say anything, and he hurriedly covered his mouth. However, it felt like his heart was trying to jump into his throat. Because he had seen Shannon's eyelids shake slightly.
Then, those eyelids slowly opened. Shannon's eyes were there, but they were still wrapped in the fog of the land of the dead. However, the human world's warmth... No, her lover's warmth, which had called back her soul, slowly dissolved that fog, and her eyes gradually regained their sparkle. Then, her eyes moved... and recognized George.
As her lips shook weakly, Shannon definitely said that. The words were very faint. So much so that they normally wouldn't have reached his ears. However, George clearly heard them. He heard the person he cared for, his fiancé, the one he loved most and who should have been dead, call his name once again...
"Shannon, Shannon... do you... know who I am...?"
"...George-sa...n, is this... a dream...?"
"No. This isn't a dream. C'mon, see here... Even if I pinch you, you won't wake up."
As George said that, he softly pinched Shannon's cheek. It was how George had always responded in the past, when Shannon had been surprised by something and had asked if she was dreaming. When Shannon felt the warm touch of George's finger on her cheek... And when George realized that the warmth of the living had already returned to his beloved person's cheek... They both cried.
In short, they had no need of the words of this world... George simply hugged Shannon, who was sitting up, without talking. Shannon's strength was still feeble... and putting her arms around George's back took all she had, so George hugged her tightly to make up for that. To stop each other from going once more to a place the other's hand couldn't reach, they hugged each other so tightly, and yet so gently...
As Shannon's fingers curled around George's back, on her ring finger, the engagement ring George had given her definitely shone. That strong glint certainly wasn't just the sparkle of diamond. There definitely was a magical power that only the two lovers could possibly feel. It was because that strong light existed... that they had been able to find her casket in the land of the dead.
Beato understood. That ring... no. The feelings of the pair, embodied in that ring, were a miracle made real. In that moment, George definitely used magic. Beato had done nothing more than help him along. That magic had a power that could only reside in those who knew of the importance of life, who knew what it meant to try with all one's might. It was the power of a miracle, one that the Endless Witch couldn't possibly know of... A miracle that only the power of the finite could give rise to.
By now, she had no choice but to accept it. She had to accept that true magic, true magical power... Exists in the place furthest away from she who called herself a Great Witch.
"...She brought you back to life... Thank you, Beatrice...!"
"No. I did nothing. What revived Shannon...was your magical power. It was your magic. The Ushiromiya blood, which makes miracles come true, surely saw you through."
"...George-san... revived me...?"
"...Indeed. It was an incredible display of magical power, one that I could not hope to compete with... So, I am still nothing more than an apprentice. Now I finally know my place."
Beato staggered backwards. Her physical strength was clearly exhausted. She had humbly said that George's power alone had revived Shannon, but Beato had also used all of her magical and physical strength. And she reflected upon how difficult it was to revive a single life, something she'd been able to play around with however she wanted to in the past.
The couple kept on embracing each other tightly. By doing that, those feelings that couldn't be communicated with a billion words... were shared...
"...Thank you very much, Beatrice-sama. I'll never forget the debt I owe you for bringing me to George again."
"...Stop that, stop that. Being thanked by a pair of lovers is far too embarrassing for one who has been feared as a monster of a person. Don't worry... about me. Celebrate your reunion together... to the fullest..."
Beato, who was leaning with her back against the wall, slid down the wall and sat. How many centuries had it been since she last grew this tired from using magic?
I probably haven't been this tired since the time I first succeeded in magic. Didn't Teacher praise me that time? Oh, but didn't I kill that same Teacher who praised me?
...Don't be so naive, Beatrice. Isn't that what killing means...?
"...My head... feels parched and suffocated, and I can't even remember..."
"...More importantly, didn't I kill you? You shouldn't be appearing..."
"You are still allowing me to live even now. That is why I can appear like this. However, I did not come just to pat your head."
"...Did you come to sneer at how pathetic I am? Anyway, if I have my head patted by a retired witch after all that's happened, the other witches will laugh at me..."
"That's right. According to your bragging, you were not only a full adult, but a retired one, and yet only now have you learned how to use magic. That certainly does sound too embarrassing to tell anyone."
"...Yeah, tell me about it. Keep it a secret, okay, Teacheer...?"
Beato gazed at the couple hugging each other with a sense of pleasant despondency.