Episode 3 ????

A monotonous electronic sound kept on repeating.

A so-called hygienic...emotionless white was the theme of that room.
...It was a hospital room of a certain university hospital.
Neither her doctors nor the person herself had any doubts that this room, which an ordinary person wouldn't be able to afford just to spend the night, would be the last room she stayed in...
Was the person on the bed, ............Eva?

Even if someone told you that was so, she was unbelievably aged and worn out.
The well-built man in a suit waiting in the corner near the door was having a conversation with the outside on the intercom in a small voice.

...He was a guard protecting Eva's person.
After telling the person on the other end of the intercom to wait, he approached Eva's bed.
...Eva had been awake for a short while.

......However, she stared at a single point in empty space, as though her mind was not in the same place.
"......Ange (縁寿)-san has arrived in the lobby below.  Should we let her pass?"
"........................"
For a long time, Eva didn't answer.

However, bit by bit, her eyes began to regain their focus, and she gave a small nod, indicating that she didn't mind if they called Ange.
...Eva had been the one to call her.
And she was right on time.

For Eva now, anyone who wanted a meeting without an appointment would be refused.
The room was dark, even though it was still light outside, because the curtains were closed.

...There was always one guard waiting in the room, and three more waiting in the corridor and the lobby.
They were all there to protect Eva's person...
Eventually, there was the sound of a knock.

Also, there was a message from the intercom that the guest's body check had been completed with no problems.

The door was unlocked, then opened, .........and a high school-aged girl was standing there.
"Chairman.  Ange-san has arrived."
Eva reacted and turned her face towards the guest.

However, instead of reacting to the guard's call, maybe it would be better to say that she reacted to the smell of Ange's makeup.

......After being shut up in this room for so long, Eva was sensitive to small changes in smell.
"........................So you came.  ......Ange."
"......I came.  You did call me."
On Eva's face, you could not find the expression of one warmly welcoming their niece.
...And on Ange's face, you couldn't see the expression of one pleased to meet with their aunt.
Eva waved her arm, which had grown as thin as a withered branch, and motioned for the guard to leave.

The guard bowed silently and went out into the hall.
"......It's not only stuffy, but dark too.  Can I open the curtains...?"
"............Did you plan for that hit man you hired to shoot through the window......?"
".........I wish I could get hired to assassinate you.  All I'd have to do is relax at home for a month and the job would take care of itself."
"...Fuffuffuffu, hahhahhahhahha......"
Their discussion was quite morbid for an aunt and niece.

...However, they didn't look like they were joking.
......At the very least, Eva believed that someone was after her life.
All of the Ushiromiya family's massive fortune had come into the possession of Ushiromiya Eva.

...It was said that this fortune also included the 10 tons of hidden gold that Ushiromiya Kinzo was rumored to have hidden.
It couldn't be helped that this vast wealth would fall into the cunning, sly, and extremely jealous Eva's hands, ......but it was rumored that if it passed on to Ange, who was no more than a young girl, certain people were plotting to snatch it away at once.
By now, Eva and Ange were Kinzo's only descendants.
......If Eva died, all of the wealth would go to Ange.

...And if Ange were to be killed as well, ......that wealth would go to the family of Ange's mother, Kyrie.
In this sense, not only Eva, but Ange as well, ...was in a position where it wouldn't be odd at all for her life to be targeted by some unknown person.
......And Eva had hated Ange for a long time.

It was because she knew that, after losing her only precious son George, ......the inheritor of her own wealth would be none other than the girl who had been absent at that family conference 12 years ago, and who had survived.
Eva shunned Ange, disliked her, and even hated her.

She isolated Ange in a special school and separated her from the youth and happiness normal people have, trying to keep her as a pet until death.
......However, Eva had succumbed to an incurable illness, and ironically, ...her remaining life was estimated to be the same as Kinzo's had been at that family conference 12 years ago.
Both Eva and Ange, ...hated each other.

Even though they were each other's last blood relatives, ...they hated each other so much that they hoped the other would die quickly...
".........And?  Why did you go to all the trouble of calling for me...?"
"......I don't have much time left.  ......These quack doctors still can't detect any of the poison that's filling me up.  .........I know.  I'm sure it's a secret assassination drug used by those Soviet KGBs.  ...Ooh, I'll be killed, I'll be killed...!!  Isn't that great!  Very soon, I will die, and then you will be so relieved...!"
"...........................What a pitiable person."
This always happened.
......They immediately deviated from the main topic, distorting it into a more unsettling discussion.

Eva, who was full of jealousy, believed that someone was always after her life.
In actuality, after inheriting the vast wealth of the Ushiromiya family, she had used wild methods just like Kinzo had done in the past, and had repeatedly made money by any means necessary, creating many enemies along the way.

With a massive supply of capital, she had plotted to aggressively buy businesses which were starting to have rapid growth, making them buy it back at a high price under the guise of reconciliation.
......Ironically, it was the same type of action that her husband's company had been hit with 12 years ago...

She had repeated this constantly for 12 years.
......She had also earned a lot of hatred.
If her husband had heard of this from beyond the grave, he might have defended her, saying that this was because of the loneliness from losing her family.

......However, of all the people who knew her now, none would defend her.
For some time, Eva eloquently spoke of how her life was being targeted, listing off names of people who held hatred for her, and sneering at the fact that she still hadn't been killed.

Even though Ange heard her own name included in that list, her expression did not change significantly, and she waited indifferently for Eva to tire herself out...
".........You know what?  ............I really hate you."
"I'm honored.  Same here."
".........I built this future for George's sake.  ......To think that it would be snatched away by you.  ...To think that it would be stolen by Rudolf's daughter............I can't bear it.  ......To think that, without leaving a child, ...even my fortune will be stolen, .........that, ......I cannot forgive............!"
"......In that case, why don't you give all of your fortune to charity?  What about those religious people you've requested so many times?"
"............*cackle*cackle*!  They all say the same thing.  ...My excessive wealth has become a burden to me.  They always say something about how I need to give it up and cleanse myself.  ......Ahhahahahahahahahaha!  Then I thought of something.  I stopped donating!"
For a time, Eva had searched for the founders of several strange and new religious cults, perhaps looking for peace in her heart.

...But in the end, they did not give her heart any relief, and only further increased her jealousy...
".........If you have too much money, why don't you start buying up thoroughbreds and make some corned beef?"
"I've thought of something even more interesting.  ......*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!  I've worried over it a lot.  What could I do to make things horrible for you?
......I thought about killing you.  I also thought about erasing all of my wealth, leaving you penniless, and selling you off to a slave trader or something.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  You would have your arms and legs chopped off and be made to entertain the guests until you died.  Aaah, that would be so wonderful, *cackle*cackle*cackle*!!"
"............Are you having fun?"
"Yes, I am.  It's fun to scare you.........But very soon, I will die.  ...So I thought about how I can continue to cause you pain even after I die.  .........And then, ......*cackle*cackle*!!  It was surprisingly simple.  ......I called you because I wanted to talk about it."
"..................I have midterms coming up.  Keep it brief."
"...I have decided.  I will have you inherit all of my fortune."
"...........................Huh."
"Not only that, ......I decided that until the very day that I die, ...I'll increase that fortune as much as I can, inflate it to massive proportions and have you inherit all of it.  ...*cackle*cackle*, can you even imagine what that would be like...?"
"......I don't get it.  Because it's stupid."
"Uffuffuffu, *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!  That's right, you don't get it, do you...?!  Look forward to it, it really is fun, being rich...!  Every day, monsters from across Japan come to play.
From now on, your entire life will be followed by talk shows and weekly magazines.  The media will criticize me no matter what I do or don't do!  If I donate, they'll attack me as a bourgeois, and if I hesitate, I'll be abused as a miser.  Oh, every day really is wonderful, you see?  I realized that I would love to invite you to that kind of life, when you are so young and have so much ahead of you.  Isn't it truly wonderful?"
".........Looks like the public is right in its criticism of all that you've done."
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!  Too true, yes, that is too true.  ...Go ahead, abuse me as much as you want.  And then you will be burdened with that criticism.  ......Japanese culture says that good people live in honorable poverty, while the wealthy should die.  No matter what you do or do not do, you will eventually be raised as a symbol of envy and hate from across Japan.  ...*cackle*cackle*cackle*!
I wonder how twisted your life will become after living this way...?  You have no allies!  No one will listen to your worries.  Abusing you will become a public sport.  And no one can stop that!
Oh, Ange!  Uffufufufufufufufu, oh, I'm really looking forward to it.  ...I wonder how you will live your life, and how you'll end it...!  Fully enjoy a life of being unable to trust anyone in the world, being unable to love anyone, being unable to talk with anyone...!!  I'll be patiently waiting for you to take that story of hardship with you as you fall into hell.  Uffufufufu, ahahhahahahahahahaha, wa-hhahhahhahhahhahhahhahha, gkk, *cough*cough*, ghah!!"
Her insane laughter turned into a painful cough.

Without changing her expression in the slightest, looking completely unconcerned, ......Ange stared at the only survivor of Rokkenjima.
Perhaps because he found the violent coughing odd, as he gave a short knock on the door, the guard flew in.
Ange glanced at him, wordlessly showing that she wouldn't move a step from where she was.

......Ange was prepared for some kind of trap to frame her in Eva's death.
However, that was fortunately a needless anxiety.
As the guard rubbed Eva's back, he poured hot water from a thermos into a mug.
As he did, Eva kept coughing, looking like she was in pain.

Ange thought that this would be the final form of Rokkenjima's witch that she would be able to see.
Eventually, the coughing subsided and Eva regained her normal breathing.
...However, the glittering madness inside her eyes hadn't subsided in the slightest.
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!  Now, I will give to you the cursed mass of gold and the inheritance of the Ushiromiya head, ......as well as, ............the name of the Golden Witch, Beatrice.  ............Enjoy your insane, twisted life fitting for the name of the witch...!"
"I don't need that.  More importantly, tell me.  ......On that day, what happened on Rokkenjima?  .........I don't believe that there was an accident.  Tell me the truth about what happened that day, and why Father and Mother and Nii-san died......!!"
"*cackle*cackle*...!  Oh, that must be the best way to harass you, right?  ......What happened on that day?  What happened on this day in 1986...?  ......You want to know what they said before they died, riiight...?
I won't tell yoooooouu, aaahhhyahhyahhyahhyah!!  I'll leave behind the cursed gold!  But you know what?  I'll take the truth you desire with me to hell...!  That's the best way I can harass you!!
Is that too harsh?  If you want to hear, try going to hell and asking your family there!  In that case, you better die right now, right?!  Ahhahahahahaha, why don't you just give up and die right now?!  Waaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
That laugh continued until she started coughing again.

And that cough did not subside until she started moaning and going into convulsions......
October 4, 1986.

On Rokkenjima, the Ushiromiya family's customary and final family conference was held.
And on the next day, October 5...

'An extremely unfortunate accident' occurred, and the Ushiromiya family was wiped out.
'Fortunately', Ushiromiya Eva escaped from that, and succeeded almost all of the Ushiromiya family's fortune.
However, due to the many turbulent rumors surrounding the Ushiromiya family, the way Eva acted afterwards, and her unnatural actions at 'the time of the unfortunate accident', the public was in an uproar over whether this might have been a conspiracy to get all of the inheritance for herself.
Under pressure from the public, prosecutors repeatedly tried investigating, and the media began tracing the outline of a conspiracy they called the Rokkenjima Suspicion, but in the end, they weren't even able to find enough proof that this 'unfortunate accident' was a crime.
However, because the media continued to give the impression that the Rokkenjima Suspicion was Eva's conspiracy, public opinion began to believe that she was the true culprit.

...Of course, that was also influenced by the bad impression caused by all that easily-condemnable overbearing financial activity, which she had carried out using that vast wealth.
Every time she did something and the rumors started spreading, the media would bring back the Rokkenjima Suspicion, blaming the justice system by saying that she was the true culprit, and that the only reason that she hadn't been arrested was because even the police had been bribed.

So the impression that she was a great villain grew stronger and stronger...

Her heart eventually degenerated, ...and ironically, it began to transfigure her into the kind of human that the public expected...
By now, Eva had no one she trusted, and no family.

......After her beloved husband had passed away, the talk shows occasionally mentioned his company, saying that it was run recklessly, while criticizing and disgracing its former accomplishments.
Even her beloved son, George, was dramatized as the stereotypical 'rich, lazy son' that the public expected, ...and no one even wanted to know what a simple and honest character he had possessed.

...As to how much all of this hurt Eva and ran her to ruin, ...no one was interested.
The public was only interested out of curiosity, about how a super-rich evil woman who killed her whole family lived her pitiful later years.
So that happened more and more, ...and eventually...
...Eva's personality was transfigured until she was called a lunatic......

It was said that she sometimes remembered that this was exactly the same way her father, who she had once admired, had been in his later years, and laughed at herself with scorn...
And, on the day of that final family conference...

Because Ushiromiya Rudolf's daughter, Ange, had been sick and had stayed with her mother's family, she had not participated.
At the age of 6, she had lost her family and had gained Eva as her guardian.
Since Ange had become Eva's only blood relative, Eva 'took very good care of her'.

She had imposing guards always surrounding Ange's person, to prevent her from coming to harm.

...Ange had even her right to play with friends, to come home from school together, and to enjoy the seasons together...stolen.
'So that she can live a full and pleasant school life', Eva had sent Ange to an elegant boarding school which took care of her every need, completely isolating her from the world.

She didn't even know the popular songs that girls her age might hum.
She was never given a chance to enjoy window shopping with her friends or stuffing her mouth with crepes, ...much less an encounter with a member of the opposite sex to make her heart throb.
Ange did not have a single friend.
If anyone carelessly acted friendly with Ange, they would be scolded by the guards, or else the teachers.

......All of them were strictly ordered not to let shabby humans approach the daughter of the esteemed Ushiromiya family.
During that time, the talk shows were always talking about Ushiromiya Eva, and always spreading rumors about her many financial evil deeds.

......Those who knew about her 'daughter' naturally began to keep their distance.
...Even now, she was called a witch at school, and any time something bad happened, even though there was no proof, it was whispered as truth that the school had done something out of concern for her feelings.
The environment makes the person.
By now, she had a heart as wild as those around her feared.

...No one trusted her, so she didn't even try to believe them.
No one loved her, so she didn't even try to love.
And on top of all of this, when Eva had caught an incurable illness, it was whispered that this too was a conspiracy, and this time, Ange was set up as the mastermind...
Everyone whispered that the witch girl was a witch.
Even the talk shows and the weekly magazines whispered that.

...So Ange also, definitely, no, as though it might as well be true, accepted it.
Therefore, since she already believed that she was a witch, when she heard that the name of the Golden Witch was being turned over to her, she only felt like saying 'you just figured that out now?'
However, she was at least sure of one thing.

This title of witch that she had inherited would definitely never be inherited by anyone else.

She would be the last head of the Ushiromiya family, and the last isolated, Golden Witch......
Ange could be seen on the roof of a skyscraper.
Compared to the winds of the world which had beaten down upon her until now, this strong, cold wind was warm and pleasant.

Below her lay a beautiful nighttime scene, and a dazzling river of red and white lights.
It was supposed to be clear out that night.
...So there really should have been countless stars stretching out over the sky.
...However, the light from the ground was too bright, so you couldn't see them at all.

...Ange couldn't really imagine that the thing she really sought could be in that unseen starlight.
The world of reality below her looked so far away from here.

...She could imagine that this place was the closest to the world she really should be in.
............There was only one thing that Ange cursed.

Why had she not been able to go to that family conference, on that day 12 years ago?

Even though, if she had gone, she would probably have been able to be with her family forever.
...She repeated this thought over and over, ...and dreamed about her family.

Myself as I was 12 years ago calls out frantically, urging them not to go to the family conference.

But both Dad and Mom are too far away, and my hand won't reach them.

Battler nii-san has always really loved me, and his hand always pats my head, .........but even though it looks like that hand will reach me, even it does not reach.

For some reason, I started having that dream over and over again.
......Every time I saw the same dream, I tried to stretch out my hand even more forcefully, but my useless effort continued to repeat inside my dreams.
Even if it had been only Battler nii-san, who lived...

.........Then perhaps, at least we would be able to live by supporting each other in my cold and lonely reality.

But his hand never reached me.
So even if I climb to the roof of this tall building, ......I am distantly separated from all of them.
......A mysterious girl appeared in my dreams and urged me.

That girl in my dreams urged me to arrive at the truth of what had happened 12 years ago.
"..............................Everything that happened to Father and the rest of them on that day, ...if only I could learn what that was, ............would they come back?  At least one of them...!"
There was no way, ...that someone who could answer those words existed.
I understand.
.........In this world, I have no family or friends.

Therefore, .........let's go.  ...Let's go home.
......To where my family is.
From the beginning, ...Ange's figure had been on the far side of the fence.

The scenery below her eyes was distant, beautiful, and so fantastical that it actually did not give rise to fear.
Because if she faced down, she would surely be taken to the world below.
......I faced upwards.

Because I wanted to be taken to the world above, the world where my family is.
.........Who cares about vast wealth.
Who cares about cursed gold.
Who cares about the Golden Witch Beatrice.

What I really want...cannot be obtained even with a mountain of gold...

What I need for that...is to take a single step forward...just that much courage.
............At that time, ...I definitely heard a voice.
I knew that voice.

The voice that had always, ......called to me in my dreams...
Before my eyes, ......in other words, in mid-air above that jet black nighttime scenery...
......There was the figure of that girl I had seen in my dreams...

She spoke again, with the same voice I had heard inside my dreams.
".........Your assistance is needed."
"...My, ............assistance......?  Who needs it......?"
".........Your family needs it.  ...Your family is being imprisoned for all eternity from this day 12 years ago until the next day."
"I, ...if I save them, ......does that mean my family will come back?!"

When I asked the question I had most wanted to, the girl cruelly stopped talking and hung her head.
"......I cannot promise that.  The enemy is the Golden Witch Beatrice.  ...A mighty opponent.  I cannot oppose her.  ......But, another Golden Witch might be able to manage something."
".........I, I don't know...what you're talking about."
"......The only one who can oppose the Beatrice of 1986...is the final Beatrice of 1998.  .........In other words, you.  Ange.  ............ANGE Beatrice."
The Names of Witches

In certain parts of the story, the names of some characters are written in Katakana instead of the normal Kanji.
In this translation, those names have been written in all-caps.

The reason for this is still shrouded in darkness, but you may spot a pattern as you read...
"That witch from 12 years ago, ......took away my family.........?"
"That's right.  She is your foe.  ............The source that always leads to your future of isolation."

"..............................My, ......family's, .........foe."
"......In exchange, I will search for the kakera of the ideal world that you wish for, the world where your family comes home.  .........I won't promise you that your desire will be granted.  ...Beatrice's game board in 1986 is quite perfect.
......I had planned on bringing you that ideal kakera as a present today, but I still can't find it.  ............It's a very firm fate.  I haven't seen the likes of it since I fought with Lambdadelta."
"..........................................  I, ......I don't know, ...what you're talking about."
".........I'm giving you a chance for revenge.  In exchange, if it is possible for you to receive it, I promise to search for the happiest resolution for you."
"........................Revenge......"
"......It may be a fruitless effort.  Even if you succeed in your revenge, there's no definite proof that your family will return.  Even with a miraculous probability, you may be able to bring only one person back."

...Ange understood the meaning of that dream.

......That dream where it seemed that, with just a little bit more, her hand might at least be able to reach Battler nii-san.
"A miraculous probability, ......is still higher than zero, right...?  Is it 1%...?"
"......Trying to read any probabilities before the result is useless.  So I cannot tell you that number."
"But unlike if I don't do anything, there definitely is a small possibility."
"Yes.  As long as you do not throw your desire away.  But prepare yourself.  It is extremely close to zero."

"..................Alright.  I'll take you up on that offer."

"......Are you sure?  You probably won't be able to come back here again."
"This is not a world that I'm supposed to be in.  ......And, I'll find the world that I am supposed to be in myself.  Tell me your name."

"The Witch of Miracles, Bernkastel.  And by that name, I acknowledge you as the Golden Witch, ANGE Beatrice.  ......As of now, you are a true witch."

The instant she proclaimed that I was a witch...
...I felt dizzy, as though something inside me had changed drastically.
At that time, I heard a *clunk*.
...It was the sound of the door that went from the staircase to the roof.

There were Eva oba-san's guards.
...'Guards' was only a name.
Aren't they the cage that's closest to me, shutting me in?

They saw that I was already on the other side of the fence and dashed forward, horrified.
"20, target found.  Requesting assistance on the roof."
"Ange-san...!  We were looking for you!  It's dangerous there, so quickly, come this way!"

".........Wha-t's that?"
"......That's my fan club.  ...I'm pretty popular."
"No point in getting caught.  .........Let's go."
Looking annoyed, Bernkastel turned on her heels.  ...In the jet black sky.

Watching that perfectly casual gesture, I followed her as though it was completely normal.
"Ange-san!!!  Wait!  Don't be hasty, look ooooooooooouuuut!!"
"Aaah, it's useless, it's all useless.  Well, <see you again> next time.  Please send a limo to get me.  'Cause everyone else will be there too.  See you."
"Ange-saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaann!!"