Chapter 1: The Head of Ushiromiya
Disclaimer: (blue text) There is a possibility that sigyn-chi owns Umineko no naku koro ni!
(red text) No. She doesn't.
Pairing: eventually Battler x Beato with Battler x everyone and Ange x Juza
Warning: Spoilers to Episode 1-5 of the sound novel, especially if you do not know the identity of the new Game master after episode 5.
Author's Note: After reading episodes 1 to 4 of the sound novel and reading about episode 5, this idea kept me all night. Hahahaha. Anyway. More on fantasy than mystery (since I suck at mystery) so hope you like it and I didn't make the characters too out of character… especially Battler.
Chapter 1: The Head of Ushiromiya
"… Although police has yet to announce what had happened during the typhoon on October 4 to October 5 in Rokkenjima… would be considered a tragic accident, an informant has commented that there is a heavy chance of foul play. Other than Ushiromiya Ange, only daughter of the second son of Ushiromiya Kinzo, Ushiromiya Rudolf, and his second wife, Ushiromiya Kyrie, it has been confirmed that one member of the Ushiromiya family lives. Ushiromiya Battler, only son of Ushiromiya Rudolf, was found in a hidden manor… Witnesses have stated that Ushiromiya Battler was still in critical condition, sustaining various cuts and wounds and has yet to regain consciousness…"
- excerpt taken from Tokyo Daily Paper, October 7, 1986: The Rokkenjima Tragedy
"… occurred during October 4 to October 5 is now officially an accident. There are not enough evidences to support foul play… Ushiromiya Battler is now in a stable condition but has yet to regain consciousness…"
- excerpt taken from Tokyo Daily Paper, October 8, 1986: Official Statement of the Rokkenjima Tragedy
"… From the will left by Ushiromiya Kinzo, Ushiromiya Battler is now the head of the Ushiromiya Family… As of the moment, as Ushiromiya Battler has yet to regain consciousness, Okonogi Tetsuro, trusted friend of the late Ushiromiya Rudolf and the late Ushiromiya Hideyoshi, has been trusted to lead the board as the acting leader of all Ushiromiya assets in accordance to the will left behind by Ushiromiya Kinzo… Doctors overseeing the condition of the new head stated that the possibility that Ushiromiya Battler will wake up is very slim…"
- excerpt taken from Tokyo Daily Paper, October 10, 1986: The New Head of the Ushiromiya Family
"Throughout the globe, various theories have been expressed in different forms of media about what happened in Rokkenjima 2 years ago in October 4 and 5… A famous theory is that the true mistress of Rokkenjima, the Golden Witch Beatrice, has taken the soul of Ushiromiya Battler…"
- excerpt taken the show: "Japan's Most Unforgettable Events" aired in December 17, 1988
June 19, 1990, Hospital…
"Good morning, Onii-chan." A young girl with vivid red hair approached the bed. On the bed was a young man with the same vivid red hair. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was sleeping. Sitting on the chair next to the bed, the young girl opened her school bag and took out a single piece of paper. Showing it to the sleeping man, the girl smiled as she said, "Look, Onii-chan! I got a perfect 100 in our quiz."
The young girl giggled, "Sensei praised me… but…"
She placed the paper back inside her bag and set it on the floor. Taking the man's hand with both of hers, she closed her eyes and rested her forehead on top of the man's hand, "I knew he was just trying to be nice to me. You know what they say behind my back, Onii-chan?"
"Poor Ange, she lost her parents and relatives. Her only Onii-chan may never wake up. But…" She opened her eyes and stared at the sleeping man, "I know Onii-chan will wake up. Onii-chan will not leave Ange, right?"
"Onii-chan…" Ange whispered as if the man would reply any second. After a few minutes of silence, Ange let go of her brother's hand gently and smiled bitterly. Trying to feign cheerfulness, Ange took a book from her bag, "Nee, Onii-chan. I started reading Maria onee-chan's diary… well… it's more like a book of spells actually. And… there's this passage about the golden witch, Beatrice-"
Ange stopped and stared at her brother. Did she… just see him flinch?
"Onii-chan?" Ange asked, placing the book on the bed as she grabbed her brother's hand once more. Ange gasped as his hand, which had always been unresponsive, suddenly squeezed her hand. Unable to stop herself, Ange began to call out, "Onii-chan! Onii-chan! Please wake up!"
Ange's shouting called the attention of the nurses and the guards outside. Among the guards, Ange's loyal guard and trusted friend, Amakuza Juza, gently placed a hand on Ange's shoulder, "Ange-san… that's not goi-"
"No!" Ange shouted, "Onii-chan! Please wake up! Please!"
"Ange… Ange… Ange is waiting!"
At that scream, her brother's eyes fluttered open and closed once more. Even Juza couldn't hide his surprise. Ange's brother's eyes slowly opened again and he stared at Ange. Ange's face brightened and Juza looked at one of the surprised nurses and ordered, "Get a doctor!"
"Y-Yes sir!" The nurse hurried away, shouting for a doctor.
Ange's brother's mouth whispered hoarsely. Juza and Ange were the only people to hear it but the first words that came to the newly awakened man's lips were…
September 28, 1990, Okonogi's Office…
"I am against this, Battler-kun." Okonogi said, staring intently at the young man sitting across him. Battler sipped his coffee nonchalantly.
"I have to see it, Okonogi-san. I have to…" Battler sighed, "… Pay my respect…"
"Do you know some of the weirdest theories they say about that incident, Battler-kun?" Okonogi asked.
"Unless they're saying that I spent what may have been a hundred years trying to deny a witch by saying what happened in that island can be done in human hands in a world she calls purgatory with a demon butler who makes delicious tea and cookies and big ass nee-chans, no. I don't." Battler replied, grinning at the older man.
Okonogi frowned, "I haven't heard that insane theory before…"
"I'd be more surprised if you did." Battler replied.
Okonogi cleared his throat and said, "There's this crazy theory going on that you sold your soul to the golden witch in exchange for the Ushiromiya wealth."
Battler rolled his eyes, "Let me guess, I sacrificed my entire family so that I can have the Ushiromiya wealth?"
Okonogi's silence already spoke a lot to Battler. Battler sighed and crossed his legs, "They think I killed them, don't they?"
"It's… one of the most pressing theories. But there are no evide-" Okonogi stopped immediately when Battler raised his hand in a stop motion.
"I sorta suspected it." Battler said, smiling bitterly, "Even at school, it's like I'm a plague or something."
Battler chuckled, "Doesn't really help that I'm four years older than everyone else."
Battler leaned back on the couch and looked at Okonogi seriously, "The old geezer's will was inside a bank right? Meaning that the will was created before the entire incident…"
Battler placed his hand by his lips, the golden ring glistering against the artificial light of the office, "Can I see that will, Okonogi-san?"
Okonogi grimaced, "It is well in your rights but-"
"I'm twenty-two years old. According to the law, I am already of legal age." Battler said, "And since I'm of legal age, that means that all that belongs to Ushiromiya belongs to me… just as the will says, correct?"
"…" Okonogi closed his eyes and replied, "… Yes…"
"That includes the old geezer's will." Battler concluded. After staring at the quiet Okonogi for a few minutes, Battler sighed in resignation and said, "Fine. If you don't want me to see it, answer my next question, Okonogi-san… You were present when the will was read. What exactly did it say concerning the next head?"
"The next head of Ushiromiya is the one who is wearing the ring." Okonogi repeated. Battler's eyes widened.
"We kept it from the public but when we found you…" Okonogi stared at Battler, "You were wearing the ring together with Ushiromiya Kinzo's cape. Even before the will was read, most of the people that are related to the Ushiromiya family especially the servants have already decided you were the next head. You… do not remember how the ring or the cape came into your possession?"
Battler remained silent, deep in thought. Okonogi managed to hear him mumble, "I… had the ring…?"
As if a sudden jolt passed through his brain, Battler cried out in pain and clutched in head. Okonogi rushed towards Battler, "Battler-kun?!"
Battler motioned Okonogi to stop, breathing heavily, "I'm… I'm alright…"
"… I will be frank with you, Battler-kun." Okonogi declared.
Battler smiled bitterly, "Finally… I have enough people sugarcoating everything. Tell me."
"There are many in our society that thinks you are a mass murderer." Okonogi stopped, as if waiting for Battler to vehemently deny the accusation. Battler continued to keep quiet but Okonogi saw the silent rage in his eyes. Deciding that it was alright to continue, Okonogi said, "In the entire world, a group of people calling themselves 'witch-hunters' have been fascinated with the mystery that surrounds Rokkenjima. Among them, there are those that believe that you have made a deal with the Golden Witch Beatrice. People are divided, thinking you as either a mass-murderer, an accomplice or, at worst, a madman who sold his soul to a witch. Only a few believe that you are innocent and a victim. That, of course, includes the majority of the people who are related to the Ushiromiya."
At those words, Okonogi hid his surprise as he saw Battler's expression turned to a more nostalgic look. Battler looked at Okonogi and asked, "What do you think, Okonogi-san? Do you believe that I'm a victim or a mass-murderer?"
"I believe that you know what tragedy happened in that two days that you were cut off from the outside world. I believe that the late head, Ushiromiya Kinzo, decided to make you the head and gave you the ring and cape as proof. The hidden manor, as I've heard, is only known to a few servants and the head itself. The highest possibility is that Kinzo-san ordered you to stay in the hidden manor or you were given the location of the hidden manor. Either way, you most probably received the location of the hidden manor from Kinzo. Your appearance when you were found, wounded, beaten, and on the verge of death, would suggest that you were attacked. This leads me to believe that…" Okonogi closed his eyes, "…someone or a group of people attacked you and the rest of your family."
Battler listened to Okonogi's theory and retorted, "Or I could have attacked my family and they might have fought back."
"As pressing as that allegation is, when you were found, your clothes were colored in blood. In your own blood…" Okonogi stressed the last phrase, "Taking into account the amount of blood the police saw in the main mansion and the guest house, it is quite impossible that you would leave the scene of the crime without even just a speck on your clothes. That's one of the main reasons why the police cannot arrest you during the time you woke up. There were many evidences that supports that you were not the criminal. It was as if the entire island was telling us that you were innocent. You having no blood other than your own on you led the police to conclude that you were attacked first, possibly along your way to the hidden manor."
"Was there any evidence of another person other than the Ushiromiya family and the servants on duty during those… days…?" Battler asked, closing his eyes.
"There was no evidence to deny or to proof that."
"A devil's proof… huh…" Battler commented softly, smiling ironically.
"A devil's proof?"
Battler shrugged, "Nothing. Just mumbling."
"So… there was no proof of there being a girl named 'Furudo Erika'?" Battler asked.
"Furudo… Erika?" Okonogi shook his head, "No. There is no proof that there was a girl by that name. Battler-kun…"
Okonogi stared at Battler intently, "Was there another person on that island on the day of your family conference?"
"I will defeat you, Ushiromiya Battler! No. Endless So-"
Battler gasped and clutched his head as he felt another jolt of immeasurable pain, swearing to split in brain apart. Okonogi rushed to his side, "Battler-kun!"
Battler began breathing heavily once more, "I… Something in my head… hurts…"
"That's what I wish to convey to you, Battler-kun." Okonogi continued to where he left off as he held a glass of water to Battler, "I believe, along with the doctors who oversaw your recovery and some specialists in the field, that you were so traumatized by what happened during your stay in the island that you are subconsciously refusing to remember it."
Battler stared at the glass of water Okonogi placed on his hands. Quietly, Battler asked, "… That's why I must go…"
Okonogi grimaced, "Battler-kun, please listen to me. If trying to remember causes you such pain, what do you think going to that island will do to you?"
Battler stared at Okonogi and said, "There are too many unanswered questions. Even Ange thinks we should go to Rokkenjima. To see… our family…"
"Hey." Battler cockily smiled, "I'm not planning to die. And I won't let Ange die. We're going to that island to see and talk to our family one last time."
"Truth be told, we were going with or without your blessing." Battler confessed, "But you've been taking care of all of the Ushiromiya assets ever since that day and Ange and I believe that you're our ally. That's why… we want your blessing."
"I'll make a deal to you." Battler leaned back on his chair, an air of confidence and authority present around him all of a sudden, "If you agree to our selfishness even just this once, I will definitely show you the power of the Ushiromiya blood."
"The power of the Ushiromiya blood…" Okonogi repeated then chuckled, "I am quite surprised, Battler-kun."
"This is coming from the boy who once threw away the Ushiromiya name." Okonogi reminded Battler and asked seriously, "A lot of people, even those close to you, plan your downfall, Battler-kun. Those who think you are not qualified to become the head of the Ushiromiya family… With that in mind, can you honestly tell me that you can show them, no, you can show the entire world, that you are worthy to become the head of the Ushiromiya family?"
Battler stared at Okonogi seriously and replied, "No."
Battler closed his eyes and cut whatever Okonogi was about to say and said, "But I'm willing to bet on it. The higher the risk, the greater the reward… If I fail then they're correct. If I succeed then…"
Battler opened his eyes and declared, "I am worthy of being called the head of the Ushiromiya family."
"… the current head of the Ushiromiya family, Ushiromiya Battler, together with his younger half-sister and only remaining relative, Ushiromiya Ange, will once more visit the Rokkenjima island on October 4… reports state that the head was persistent on making the trip… media coverage is forbidden in the island…"
- excerpt from Tokyo Daily News, October 1, 1990: A Visit to The Witch's Island
October 4, 1990, Harbor
Juza frowned as he saw the magnitude of reporters waiting by the harbor. It was still too early in the morning and the sun was still nowhere to be found but those reporters, like vultures waiting for their prey to die, were all there, all ready to devour them once they come in view. Juza turned back to face Battler and Ange, "I don't know, boss. This seems tough, even for us."
Battler smirked at Juza and taunted, "Oh? Is our great bodyguard finally at his limits?"
Ange giggled but reprehended her brother, "Onii-chan! Don't bully Juza."
"So, boss. Any reckless plan we should know about… again?" Juza asked instead. If there was one thing that Juza hates, it was boredom. And the two Ushiromiya, especially the head, were just a bundle of anti-boredom. That was one of the main reasons why Juza agreed to being employed as the two's main bodyguard. Although… he was more of Ange's bodyguard than the head…
"That's our boat to Beato's island. Just wait and see…" Battler replied, grinning at them. Juza looked at Ange, silently questioning her.
"Onii-chan calls the golden witch, Beato." Ange told him, although she doesn't really understand why.
Juza raised an eyebrow and asked Battler jokingly, "You and the witch are on friendly terms?"
"If you consider trying to kill each other and trying to rip each other's brains out using insane logic friendly, then Beato and I are way past friendly." Battler offhandedly commented, staring at an empty lot on the right of the vultu- reporters.
Sensing the confused looks of Ange and Juza, Battler grinned at them. Ange pouted and said, "Mou. Onii-chan's speaking in riddles again."
Juza was a bit dubious in thinking that Battler was speaking in riddles. Among those that converse with Battler, they think of his comments about the witch as either riddles that hides the truth, jokes to hide the pain, or simple madness but Juza, being with Battler for a while now, noticed that his words were usually laced with nostalgia and sadness every time he talks about the witch. But before he could press the question, they heard the screeching of the reporters.
"There he is!"
"Ushiromiya-san!!! A word, please!!!"
All of the reporters hurried in chasing a man with red hair who had appeared by the empty lot. Once the reporters were in a good distance away from them, Battler grabbed Ange's hand and ran. Ange grabbed Juza's hand and the three of them hastily rushed towards the boat. One of reporters noticed them and began running towards them, followed by the other reporters. Kawabata, the captain of the boat Battler had arranged, had been briefed on Battler's plan the night before. Once Juza had stepped on the boat, Kawabata wasted no time and the boat began to move away from the harbor.
"Ushiromiya-san!!!" The first reporter to see them shouted, "A word!!!"
The three passengers grinned and Battler shouted in English in a gleeful and amused manner, "Bye!"
The three laughed at Battler's reply and continued to stare at the flocking reporters, accompanied by flashes from their cameras. Ange giggled and Juza sighed, "Damn, boss. That was… expected… but still…"
"Doesn't matter if you expected it or not, there's always the difference of theory and practice…" Battler said, stretching.
"Onii-chan really has a knack for those sayings." Ange commented, giggling as she hugged her backpack, "Ne, Onii-chan-"
Ange's and Juza's eyes widened as Battler began to pale. Fearing for her brother's safety, Ange placed a hand on Battler's shoulder. Battler's knuckles were almost white as he gripped the railings tightly, "O… Onii-chan?"
"FALL!!!" Battler shouted, causing Ange to back away from her brother. The boat rocked against the wave and Ange lost her balance. Juza caught her in time as Battler continued to shout, "I'm going to FALL!!! AHH!!! FAIL!!!"
A heartily laugh caught Ange and Juza's attention. They left Battler and went to the captain, who was amused and laughing. Kawabata smiled at them, "Good to see Battler-sama is still the same as always."
"Well… I should have expected that reaction after the whole 'The AIRPLANE'S GONNA FALL!!!' stunt he pulled a day ago." Juza said, mimicking Battler's panicked voice. Ange giggled.
"Onii-chan's really bad at these things."
"He was fine in the car." Juza countered then noticed the bouquets of flowers next to him.
Seeing the bouquets as well, Ange took one and smiled, "He got the flowers I told him."
"Ah, yes. A man came, before the reporters gathered by the harbor, saying that he was ordered to leave those bouquets in here." Kawabata said, smiling sadly at them. Juza blinked.
"There are three of them…" Juza faced Ange, "Am I suppose to give one too?"
Ange shook her head, "If Juza wants to pay his respect then Juza can pay his respect together with Ange."
"Of course, milady." Juza said, bowing at Ange. After Ange giggled, Juza asked, "Then why are there three?"
Ange shrugged, not knowing the answer. The captain looked at the bouquets and said, "Maybe one's for the witch. You know… to appease her and keep you guys from harm."
"Ah. I wouldn't put it past the boss to give the witch flowers. My bets on that bouquet of red roses." Juza commented. Away from them, they can still hear Battler shouting 'FALL! FALL!!!' which made Juza and Ange sigh. Kawabata faced them.
"Should I lower the speed?"
"Nah." Juza shook his head, "For a big man like boss, he should get over this thing as fast as he can."
"Full speed ahead!" Ange commanded, pointing at the direction they were going. The captain laughed heartily.
"Ay, ay, sir!!!"
"AAAHHHH!!!" Battler shouted as he felt the boat increased its speed.
"FALL! FALL!!! I'm gonna FALLLLL!!!" Battler screamed as loud as he can. After screaming up to the heavens, Battler continued to stare ahead. The silhouette of the island was like a small black dot but the very fabric of Battler's body knows…
Rokkenjima was near…
Ange and Juza went towards Battler when they noticed that he had stopped screaming. Fearing that they may have broke Battler by accident; they cautiously approached Battler and were surprised when Battler quietly asked, "Can you hear them?"
Ange and Juza stopped and listened. Ange smiled and nodded, "The seagulls… they're crying again…"
Battler leaned on the railings, "All of you said it took me four years to wake up but for me…"
Battler closed his eyes and sighed, "It felt like a hundred years have passed since I last heard the seagulls."
"Onii-chan…" Ange whispered. Battler smiled at Ange and caressed her head. Ange hugged Battler tightly, "Onii-chan isn't going anywhere without Ange, okay?"
Battler's eyes softened, "Can't promise that, Ange. There's… There's a place I have to go to… alone."
"But I promise." Battler softly promised, "I promise I will always return to Ange's side. I will never let you be alone again… ever…"
Ange giggled softly, "Mou, Onii-chan. I never felt lonely."
Juza noticed Battler's eyes looked like they were saddened and pained by Ange's reply but Battler smiled and chuckled, patting Ange's head softly, "Oh yeah, I forgot. Juza's with you ever since, huh?"
"Ever since they read the late Ushiromiya Kinzo's will." Juza remembered, leaning on the railings. The shore was coming on view now and the boat began to slow down. Battler turned his attention back to the island.
Once the boat stopped, the captain told them, "A lot of things were destroyed during the typhoon. From here on, you guys will have to walk on the sand. We're lucky the tides on our side or your shoes would have been wet."
"Thanks, Kawabata-san." Battler thanked the kind captain, jumping off the boat. Battler turned around and grabbed Ange as she jumped, gently setting her to the sands. Juza offered the bouquets first and Battler took them, giving one to Ange. Juza jumped off the boat as well, stretching. Battler turned towards the captain once more, "We'll be as quick as possible."
The captain shook his head and said, "Four years ago, I failed to finish the job Kinzo-san gave me. This time, I want to finish the job you gave me, Battler-sama. Take your time. I will be here, waiting for all of you."
Battler chuckled, "You call our old geezer Kinzo-san but you call me Battler-sama? I feel sorta weird…"
The captain laughed merrily and replied, "Sorry. Have been used to it… a lot of people knows the Ushiromiya family in our town. After what happened… well… it's a thing of legend."
"I see. I forgot about that." Battler commented and shook his head, "We'll see you in a bit, Kawabata-san!"
The three began to walk towards the path. As they walked, Juza's curiosity got the best of him and asked, "What legend did the captain mean, boss?"
"Hm? Oh, that." Battler nodded to himself, "Remember the golden witch is suppose to be the real mistress of this island?"
"Yeah." Juza replied, nodding.
"It's more like town folklore anyway but people in the town think that what happened here is the curse of the witch." Battler said nonchalantly, as if he did not believe it himself, "Being the sole survivor, some people believe that I was chosen by the witch. Spared because of one reason or another…"
"Ah. Hence the '-sama'. Makes sense, I guess." Juza commented, "If witch-sama is really a powerful witch, then boss should also be powerful since witch-sama spared him."
Battler laughed but kept silent. Soon enough, they saw the main mansion. Battler frowned when he saw the rose garden. What had been a majestic sight was now reduced to ruins; dried plants, overgrown weeds, fallen petals… it was a painful sight to behold after seeing the rose garden of 1986 for more than a hundred years. Juza gently took Ange's hand as they walked as there were some branches lying here and there.
They stopped at the front doors. A part of Battler was even waiting for Genji or one of the servants to open the door and greet them. But he knew that it would never happen. Battler closed his eyes and wrinkled his nose. There was that stench…
Even after four years, there was still that stench…
Battler turned towards Ange and asked gently, "Can you wait here with Juza, Ange?"
"I think Kyrie-sa- no… I think mom and dad would want you to talk to them here." Battler said, crouching in front of Ange, "I'm sure George-aniki, Jessica and Maria would want the same too."
"Onii-chan's… going inside… right?" Ange asked, even if she already knew the answer to that question. Battler nodded.
"Yes. I… I have to go." Battler said with determined eyes.
"Ange… Ange and Juza will be waiting for Onii-chan here." Ange said, "So… Onii-chan has to come back, okay?"
Battler nodded and smiled at Ange, "Yeah. I promise."
Battler stood and patted Ange's head briefly. He took a glance at Juza and nodded. Juza bowed and said, "Take your time, boss."
Battler walked towards the front door and held the handles. Battler didn't even flinch when the door opened by itself, creaking loudly. Battler walked inside and the door closed gently behind him. Only the sound of his feet echoed across the entire mansion. Battler stopped in front of the giant portrait of the witch and said, "Hey, Beato. I'm…"
Battler closed his eyes, "I'm back."
Inside his head, Battler could hear the cackling of the witch as she ridicule Battler for coming back, teasing him for being a masochist. Battler laughed at his own imagination and said out loud, "I can't even deny it. God. Why did I come back?"
He already knew the answer to that question…
"Beato… I…" Battler closed his eyes, "I denied you, right?"
He walked towards the portrait, stopping within arm's length, staring at the face of the witch, Battler asked, "I won… right?"
"I won our game, right?" Battler asked, clenching his eyes tight, "Then why? Why? Why are they still gone!?"
Battler turned away and shouted, "Why was I the only one who GETS TO LIVE?!!"
"Hey, Beato!" Battler faced the portrait once more, "Why? Why?"
Battler fell on his knees, the two bouquets falling from his hands, "Why… do I feel so lost?"
"Beato…" Battler whispered the witch's name, "Tell me… did I… really win?"
"Did I… kill you?"
Battler turned around as he swore he saw a glimpse of light coming from the stairs. A lone golden butterfly fluttered away from him. Battler chased after the butterfly instinctively, calling out, "Beato!"
Battler followed the butterfly as it sets down by the handle of Kinzo's room. Battler laughed at his own stupidity. The butterfly he had thought to be a golden butterfly was just a yellow butterfly. But his laughter died down when the door to Kinzo's room opened slowly. The butterfly fluttered away, passing Battler. Battler stared at the door for a few minutes before walking inside, looking around. It was still the same room as it was four years ago. Battler walked inside and winced as he smelled that sickening sweet smell. Even after four years, it was like the entire island was still in the fourth of October. Battler saw the forgotten game of chess and smiled, commenting, "Just two more steps and you were about to be checkmated, old geezer."
Battler stopped when he noticed the same portrait of the witch, albeit smaller. Battler walked towards the portrait and mumbled, "Something feels wrong, Beato. Something… really feels wrong…"
"Uu… That's because Battler knows, uu, uu."
Battler turned around and his eyes widened as he saw his cousin, Maria, in a black outfit, holding a staff identical to EVA when she was a witch. Battler whispered, "M-Maria?"
"Uu, uu. Not Maria, Battler. MARIA." MARIA replied, smiling at Battler.
"Ho-H-How? I mean… What-… Oh." Battler laughed, "I see. I've lost it. I finally lost it."
"Don't deny me, Battler." MARIA said seriously before grinning childishly, "No. Battler can't deny MARIA. Battler cannot deny anything anymore."
"Because Battler finally believes. Battler finally believes. In MARIA. In Beato. In…" MARIA's smile was so angelic Battler could not move, "… magic…"
Once the word was spoken, Battler laughed, "Me? I believe in magic?"
Battler's laughter echoed across the room. MARIA frowned but kept quiet as Battler said, "How can I believe in magic? I denied it! I denied the very existence of magic! I denied Beato. I… I…"
Battler fell to his knees, tears falling from his eyes, "I… killed Beato…"
MARIA walked towards Battler and embraced him. To Battler, MARIA was warm, soft… like a normal living person. MARIA whispered, "Humans can't catch witches. Because witches cannot love, she cannot touch humans. But I'm holding you, right? And you held Beato as well."
She lands in his arms like an angel that fell from the sky. She laughed and praised him. Holding her in his arms, he spun around as if dancing with her.
"Beato… I held her…" Battler whispered as he remembered.
"You know why, right?" MARIA whispered once more.
"But I… killed her…" Battler whispered softly, "I knew… and yet… I killed her… even after knowing that I… I felt…"
MARIA let go of Battler and asked, "Uu, uu. Silly Battler. Do you really think so?"
"Remember, Battler." MARIA softly ordered, caressing Battler's cheeks, "Remember who you are… no… who you became to be…"
Two distinct voices laughing at him… women… a blond lady wearing a pink dress… an emotionless blue haired lady staring at him… pain all over his body…
"I was killed… No…" Battler whispered, "We were killed… Me… and Beato…"
"Our last game… AHHH!!!" Battler screamed as pain shook his entire being, starting from his brain. He remembered the flurry of red swords that rained them both in their final game. An ambush…
"Why… Why does it hurts so much to remember?!" Battler shouted. MARIA embraced him as if trying to comfort him.
"Battler… you're forgetting something else… something important…" MARIA whispered.
Battler's eyes widened as he remembered a young lady with hair tied to twin tails, wearing a pink and white dress.
"With this! I have denied your very existence, Ushiromiya Battler! No!"
"Endless… Sorcerer…" Battler whispered.
"ENDLESS SORCERER USHIROMIYA BATTLER!!!"
MARIA was taken back when the entire room was encased in a golden barrier. Battler whispered in gold, "I became a sorcerer."
MARIA nodded, "Yes. You became an Endless Sorcerer. And then…"
Battler winced once more, "I… Something's keeping me from remembering… Something…"
MARIA's face saddened as she realized, "They placed a spell on you. They… They don't want you to remember."
"Those two…" Battler said, knowing who MARIA was talking about, "That nee-chan with a tail and that pumpkin nee-chan. They did this to me, didn't they?"
MARIA nodded, "Yes."
Battler clenched his fists, "I didn't win. Beato and I… we never finished our fight because of them. Beato…"
Battler's eyes widened, "We both died… But then… why?"
MARIA gently caressed Battler's cheek, "The Sorcerer Battler died together with Beatrice. But the piece called Battler lives. No. Battler made sure that Battler lived and transported everything he had to that piece named Battler."
"It's like how a pawn was exchanged for a queen…" Battler commented, "That means…"
"Battler is Battler. Battler can become the Endless Sorcerer if he wants to." MARIA said.
"And I'm seeing you because of that. Because the Endless Sorcerer who believed in Beatrice, I'm subconsciously seeing you."
"Uu, uu." MARIA nodded, "Sorcerer Battler turned on all of Battler's switches. That's why Battler can see MARIA the witch."
"God, this is so messed up." Battler closed his eyes, "I remember bits and pieces but I don't remember why he did it."
"No… That's not true. Battler remembers. Battler does." MARIA said, staring intently at Battler.
Battler looked at Maria before closing his eyes, "I remember? I…"
"I'll be bored again. Oh well. See you in the next world."
"W-Wait, Bern! How about we play together for a while? Together with our new toy…"
"They… They took Beato…"