Fear – An Umineko no Naku Koro Ni Fanfiction
She lived in fear.
No matter how many years passed, and how many shards of worlds that she visited, the fear followed her like a shadow. It was always present somewhere in the back of her mind. It clung to her like a second skin, and, in time, soaked into her until it became impossible to tell them apart. It had changed her, she knew. But like all changes, it had been so slow and subtle that it hadn't seemed to happen at all.
She had won. That was how things had ended and begun. Years and years, she had fought, bled, surrendered, and then fought once again. She had lost those dearest to her again and again and again until the pain was barely noticeable and the wounds barely registered. But she had persevered. She had gathered her pieces and made her moves with care over thousands of the repetitions. Planting a hint there, cultivating a relationship there. All in the hope that such things would one day pay off. And in one swift stroke everything came together, and she defeated the witch who had caused so much harm.
And it should have ended. She should have quietly faded away and enjoyed the happiness she had earned with her blood and tears. But after winning, she awoke different. She had somehow been freed of the chains of herself and had become something greater. For a few moments she had exulted in her newfound freedom and power. It had seemed a fitting reward for her long years of suffering. Then she had felt rather than seen the familiar presence waiting in the shadows of the world shards. She had just barely been able to make out the figure's dark smile through the twilight. The witch.
And the fear returned. For as frightening as the witch had been before, her form in the space between the universes was far more terrifying and powerful. It seemed that she had caught the witch's attention. And like before, she was challenged to a game. The stakes were high, and to refuse to play was to lose. To lose was to be yet again caught in the cycle she had lost so many times to win. Terrified, she realized that there was only one choice.
So she played the witch's dangerous games across the multitude of worlds. And won. And won again and again. Some of the victories took centuries. Some took mere weeks. However, no matter the length, the lesson from their first game stuck in her mind: winning was the only option. Nothing else mattered. No piece was so valuable that it could not be sacrificed. No move was so impossible that it couldn't be made, given enough time and planning. Be ruthless, and everything will come out all right in the end. After all, it took a great deal of sinning to make the perfect world, didn't it?
But she knew the witch watched her every move, waiting for her to make the fatal mistake. She became paranoid, and then cruel in her methods. Victory had to be achieved, no matter the cost. She tried to rationalize her actions away the best she could, but after sometime it simply became habit. The witch was relentless. To be anything less would give her an unfair advantage. As soon as one game ended, she was challenged to another. There were always new rules to learn, new challenges to overcome, and new pieces to sacrifice.
She saw life through a multitude of eyes. Perhaps due to the witch's games, it was always seemed short and pointless. People lived and died, accomplishing very little and regretting the rest. She had never had a normal life, the witch had seen to that, but she empathized with their all too human drive to survive and find happiness. Indeed, it was often the most potent weapon she had. Unfortunately, the witch considered it to be just as valuable. The witch, despite her evil nature, never used a piece that completely reflected her twisted personality. Their battles often degenerated to their respective game pieces battling each other for the right to exist. It was hard not to become jaded when both pieces were equally right or wrong.
After a while, she found herself not caring. What was there to care about, really? As far as she was concerned, the only other real person in the universe was the witch. And as the wise said, familiarity breeds contempt As long as she won, there were no consequences and she had little to fear. The struggles of the pieces under her control became fascinating, rather than as a simple means of survival. The witch was, by this time, a familiar opponent, and on occasion she could take the time to play with her pieces rather than just to fight to survive.
Distantly, she knew that she was doing terrible things to the people she was manipulating. She was tearing apart their lives and causing them unnecessary pain. It didn't matter that everything was fixed by the next repetition or that she always made everything work out in the end. She was deliberately fiddling with their lives for her own amusement rather out of necessity. She was no god or devil. She was simply a girl caught in a terrible situation. That was something that the witch did.
This realization came to her as she stood one of their countless battlefields; corpses piled head high around her. She had been laughing with the witch right up until the realization had hit her. She had been one of these bodies once. Her friends had once been stacked like this and her corpse had topped the pile like a trophy. When she lost (and she would one day, she was wise enough to recognize that), she would simply return to being one of these bodies, discarded by an uncaring witch. For no matter what the witch said about keeping her forever, she knew that the witch would eventual tire of her. She would be dead once and for all. And that was what frightened her the most. She had died before, but never… permanently.
She resolved then to find some method of completely defeating the witch. To be honest, it should have been her goal from the start, but fear had gotten in the way. Fear of losing and fear of dying. But now she realized that she was fighting against time. She had to defeat the witch before she was defeated herself. Only then, perhaps, could she begin to seek redemption. She had fallen so low. A goddess had once taught her a lesson about the sanctity of life. Even fearing for her life, she shouldn't have forgotten it.
So she waited for the opportunity and made careful plans, like always. She waited, and an opportunity presented itself. The witch once again was trying to set a trap for her. It would have been clever if she hadn't seen the like hundreds of time before. An endless game where she would be at the witch's mercy for eternity. Ironically, the witch sought to trap her in a method that resembled her own power. How boring. But her plans were laid and she was ready.
She chose her piece with care, smiled mocking at the witch, and tried not to be afraid. Of the witch. Of dying. Of losing.
Bernkastel made her first move on the battlefield called Rokkenjima.
I don't quite have the heart to hate Bernkastel, and so I wrote this piece as a method of explaining away her evilness. It was inspired by another Umineko story on FF, Play Fair, where it came to me that if Bern was in fact good, she'd have to be terrified all the time (It's the spooky way she repeats the line in the story that spawned that thought). About what, I'm still not sure, as can be seen by the schizophrenic nature of this piece.
And for the record I don't like how this turned out. The format is just bad. This deserves something like a series of snapshots or a more full bodied story. But, gah, don't have the time for that right now. Maybe I'll come back to it.