Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chapter 4 (p)

Erika: "Aaah, this is paradise! There's nothing better than soaking in hot water after a busy day."

The bathtub of my hotel room is a bit too spartan for my tastes, but it is big and comfortable enough. I enjoy very high temperatures, so the vapor surrounding me is pretty thick. It is really as if, engulfed in this mist, I am separated from the rest of the world. I always indulge myself in my thoughts and reasonings, but it is particularly gratifying when there are no distractions. This is the part of the day where my already excellent mind works the best.

Dlanor: "Is it really that pleasurable, Miss Erika?"

Erika: "Not as much as crushing people's delusions and lies, not as much as solving puzzles and mysteries, not as much as reading a really good book, but this is really enjoyable indeed."

Dlanor: "It is just hot water."

Erika: "You don't understand, Dlanor. How can you not enjoy this cozy feeling that completely regenerates your body? There's hardly anything more relaxing, and then when you get out, you feel completely refreshed! Certainly, though, a hot spring would be so much better."

Dlanor: "Would you like to go to a hot spring?"

Erika: "You can say that, it'd be a whole different experience. Imagine being like this, with no walls around, with only the starry sky above, and sake to drink."

Dlanor: "I thought you prefer red wine."

Erika: "Naturally, red wine suits my refined tastes a lot better, but wine is best served at low temperatures. The warmth of a hot spring would spoil it, so that's a no no."

Dlanor: "Is alcohol really that good? I always wondered how it tastes."

Erika: "Forget it, you don't have the legal age for that. No sake for you."

Dlanor: "Can I have manju instead?"

Erika: "Sure, I'll drink sake, and you'll be eating all the manju you want. *giggle*"

Dlanor: "That sounds very nice, Miss Erika."

Erika: "You really are a kid, being so fond of sweets."

Dlanor: "It would be very nice, if we could go on a trip far away."

Erika: "Where would you like to go?"

Dlanor: "There are a lot of beautiful places in this world. I cannot decide..."

Erika: "What about America? New York, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Honolulu, Cabot Cove!"

Dlanor: "I believe the last one does not exist."

Erika: "Then, what about Europe? Paris, Venice, London... Oh, that's where you come from..."

Dlanor: "I think any place would be fine."

Erika: "Aaah, sometimes you're so simpleminded!"

Dlanor: "Would Mister Rokudou come with us?"

Erika: "I don't think so, he's a very busy man."

Dlanor: "Then, would it be really all right with just the two of us?"

Erika: "Ha ha ha! What's with that? You and me are more than enough, we don't need anyone else! Just imagine: the great detective Erika Furudo and her faithful companion, Dlanor A. Knox, traveling the world and solving cases wherever they go!"

Dlanor: "That sounds really nice."

Erika: "Haven't we always had a lot of fun together?"

Dlanor: "Yes, Miss Erika."

Erika: "For quite a while, haven't we?"

Dlanor: "..."

Dlanor hangs her head, pensively. In this silence only interrupted by a muffled sound of dripping water, I completely relax my muscles and close my eyes.
Just how many years have passed again? It feels as if the most recent ones were cut short of a few months. They say that the more you are bored the more time seems to flow slower, but it is only true from a present perspective. When you look back at a period of time where nothing of relevance happened, it seems as if it didn't even exist, as if it passed by at an unnaturally fast pace. The past murder case that I solved was fun, I remember those days pretty well. But between that time and now... and before it...
I suddenly open my eyes.
Something isn't right.
I realize that Dlanor sensed it too, I don't need to ask for a confirmation. It is really happening, after that much time, it is happening again. The light is different, time isn't flowing normally, the dripping sound can't be heard anymore. We are no longer connected to the real world.

Dlanor: "Miss Erika..."

Erika: "I know."

Calmly I stand up. Water flows away from my body, but it is definitely odd. The ripples in particular are all wrong. If I pay close attention I can see that shadows aren't even consistent. The light bulbs are painting the room in a slightly purplish hue. I get out from the bathtub, and I can feel the floor with my bare feet, it is lukewarm.
It would be unsightly if I were to show myself in the nude, I need to remedy that. It has been a long time, but I shouldn't have lost my touch, and at my current level I should be able to do practically anything that I wish. I concentrate briefly and then I snap my fingers. In a single instant I am dressed in my usual clothes again, and my hair are perfectly dried and combed.
With a very stern expression, Dlanor moves in front of me as to protect me from an imminent assault. Her eyes are firmly focused on the door.

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, someone is waiting on the other side."

If this was still the bathroom of my hotel room, beyond that door there would be just my bedroom. However, this is a different place, this is the metaworld. What I see around me is just a flawed reproduction, and there is no telling of what lies ahead.

Erika: "Whoever dared to summon me here must have guts, or very little care for his own existence."

Dlanor: "We do not need to stay."

She is right, I could go back just by willing it. The current me can't possibly be imprisoned in the metaworld.

Erika: "No... I want to see the denizen of the illusion world who is so eager to meet me, after I've slain so many of his ilk. I thought they all gave up. What drives this one to call me? Why is the mouse inviting the cat to its hole? I want to know."

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, this place might not be real, but it is still dangerous."

I know. My real body isn't here. My real body is still soaking in the bathtub. My appearance in the metaworld is simply dictated by how I perceive my own self. But this is more than a simple avatar, this is my very mind in a pseudo-physical form. Whatever can threaten the mind here takes the appearance of a weapon. These weapons can hurt my pseudo-body alongside my mind. The potential danger is not to be underestimated. Something even more precious than my biological life could be taken away from me here. My very self, my essence, could be destroyed. However I am far from being afraid, because my soul is practically invulnerable.

Erika: "I'm well aware of the potential dangers, but how likely it is that someone will manage to harm me, when you are by my side?"

Dlanor smirks; this is a rare sight. She doesn't do that often in the real world, I had almost forgotten that she can feel excitement too.

Dlanor: "Extremely unlikely."

Erika: "Exactly."

Dlanor might be completely defenseless in the world of humans, but here in this place she is a powerful warrior. There is reason if she became known as 'Death Sentence Dlanor', she is a relentless and merciless slayer of illusions.
As far as I remember, there is just one enemy that she wasn't able to defeat: Battler Ushiromiya. Not the real Battler who died long time ago, of course, but the one from those ridiculous stories that became so popular.
Even so, whoever is going to show up, he would do better to worry more about me than her. I am by far more powerful and dangerous, Dlanor is just my support.

Erika: "Let's go."

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, allow me to go..."

With a simple movement of my hand I summon a powerful gale, and the door bursts open.

Dlanor: "... first..."

The ambient beyond the doorway is shrouded in darkness, but with my keen vision I still recognize the features of a western style room. Somehow I get a familiar vibe from it.
Dlanor cautiously moves inside. If I didn't know better, I would mistake her for a kid playing war. I follow her with nonchalance. It is not like I am underestimating the dangers of this world, I simply don't want to give the impression that I am concerned, it wouldn't be elegant. Dlanor is here to protect me from potential sudden attacks, anyway.
I reach the center of the room, and my eyes at this point have already fully adapted to the low light. This place is so warped that even a regular person would understand that it can't be real. I still have the strong feeling that I have been here before, or maybe this is a reproduction of a real room that I visited in the past.
Suddenly I remember.
It is very difficult to tell, considering how so many things are displaced or outright missing, but I am pretty sure now that this is the parlor of the Rokkenjima mansion. As if reacting to my thoughts, the image of this room becomes slightly more stable and coherent.
This is really surprising, but it can't be a coincidence. If I am in such place, then whoever is calling me must be related to it. To think that those guys have still that much power left... It shouldn't be possible. They should have all been vanquished by now. The last remnant of their existence should have faded away a few years ago. And yet the ghost of Rokkenjima is still lingering in the metaworld.
I see, there is some truth in what Teramoto said: names hold tremendous power. This morning those girls repeatedly mentioned the Rokkenjima incident, that must be why. Simply because of that, those guys must have regained enough strength to emerge from the abyss of oblivion, but I see that they are still very weak.
Realizing this, I relax. There is absolutely no reason to worry, in the current state they wouldn't be able to hurt an ant. And yet, who among them is calling me? Why?

Erika: "Show yourself, I know you're here."

No answer.
What exactly is he waiting for? This is getting irritating.

Erika: "I said, show yourself. You just want to talk, right? You're lucky, I'm in a good mood today, I'll listen to whatever you want to tell me."

Of course what I will do after listening depends on what I will hear.
And yet, I am still not getting any answer...

Erika: "Show yourself immediately or I'll tear this place apart!"

Voice: U-uryuuu..."

This voice! That sound! There is no doubt, it is him! No wonder he is still hiding, he has always been a coward.
If I remember correctly his name is Sakutaro, he is one of Maria's furniture. In the real world he was just a poorly designed lion cub plush. Maria Ushiromiya used to bring him with her wherever she went. Inside of her childish fantasies, Sakutaro became a cute little boy with leonine features. He was her imaginary friend, so to say. But Maria's fantasies were strong enough to take form in the metaworld, and they still survive after her death. Maria herself, or rather her idealized self as the witch of origin, also used to be here.
She didn't do this all by herself, though, she was helped by Beatrice. Together those two created the foundations of what later they named 'golden land'.
Mariage Sorciere, that is how they called their little alliance. Alongside Sakutaro, they populated their golden land with several other creatures, denizens of the illusion world. Now, according to the rules that they have established, that lion cub is a diplomat. In other words he has absolutely no weapons of any kind, but in exchange he holds diplomatic immunity.
I see, it is only natural that they sent him first. After all this time they have no way to know how I would react, and they know how dangerous I am.
It seems that Dlanor also understood the situation, she no longer shows any concern and her fighting aura disappeared.

Erika: "Come, Sakutaro! I promise that I won't eat you! *giggle* *giggle*"

Sakutaro: "Uryuuu..."

There he is, fidgeting and with uncertain steps, he comes out from the shadows. He hasn't changed a bit since the last time I met him. Not like I should be surprised, normally the denizens of the world of illusions do not age, no matter how many years pass.

Erika: "Well, well... isn't it nice to see you again? It's been quite a long time..."

Sakutaro: "It's been a long time... Erika..."

Erika: "It doesn't look like you're in the mood for chitchats, so let's just spare us the bother of pretending we're in friendly terms. No need to reminisce the good old days and other trivialities. Don't be afraid, though, you just answer my questions and I promise I'll keep it civil. Before everything else, I want you to tell me who sent you. Was it Maria? Beatrice? Don't tell it was Battler."

Sakutaro: "Uryuuu... Beatrice..."

Erika: "So she's the one who had this nice idea of pulling me back to the metaworld after all this time. Absolutely wonderful! Then, what did she sent you for?"

Sakutaro: "Beatrice asked me to give you a message... uryuuu..."

Erika: "A message from Beatrice?"

Dlanor frowns and her body tenses up again.

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, Mister Sakutaro is harmless, but the message he brings can pose a threat."

Erika: "Just what does she want from me? I don't think she has enough power left to even manifest herself!"

Sakutaro: "The golden land is rising from the abyss. I am just the vanguard... more will come..."

Erika: "Don't mess with me! You're dead, you're all dead! You might have come back for now, but for how much longer do you think you'll last? You'll sink back into oblivion again in just a few days!"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika, the mere fact that you are here and that you are talking to one of them, is giving them strength."

Erika: "Tch..."

I didn't think about that, the metaworld has so many rules! I know what Dlanor is trying to tell me, I shouldn't be here, I should just go back to the human world. And even more importantly, I definitely shouldn't listen to Beatrice's words. Doing so would give them power, and the more power they acquire the longer it will take before they will fall into oblivion again. I should just ignore them.
It would be only wise to do as my companion advises, but I won't. Right now I am extremely curious to know what Beatrice is planning. Even if I am aware of the danger, I still want Sakutaro to give me her message.

Erika: "I do not fear Beatrice's lame tactics, nor I'll be scared to listen to her words. Let's hear what she has to tell me. Speak, Sakutaro!"

Sakutaro: "Uryuuu..."

Dlanor: "Miss Erika..."

After a few seconds of indecision, Sakutaro gathers his strengths and assumes the closest thing to a dignified posture that his diminutive body allows.

"It's not too late to change your ways."

So he says.
This is Beatrice's message.

Erika: "Pfft... ha ha ha ha ha..."

Sakutaro: "Uryuu?"

Erika: "Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

Dlanor: "..."

Erika: "Please, tell me you're joking! No, seriously, you must be kidding me! Is this the reason I've been summoned here? Give me a break! Ha ha ha ha!"

Sakutaro: "I was just told to bring you this message... I've done what I was asked to..."

Erika: "Don't mess with me!"

The substance the metaworld is made of is like clay in my hands. Simply by willing it, I can conjure a storm even in this confined place, and so I do. At my command everything around me is ravaged by a powerful whirlwind with me at its center. The chandeliers explode in a million of little fragments, the furniture is blown away and smashes against the walls. I snap my fingers and the whole perimeter is set ablaze, everything is engulfed by the blue flames of truth. The walls themselves start melting like in a painting of Salvador Dali. I laugh in excitement while witnessing the extent of my own power. I really haven't lost my touch! This feels great!

Sakutaro: "Uryuuu!"

Dlanor: "Miss Erika! He has diplomatic immunity!"

Erika: "So what?! What if the rules say that he cannot be touched? I just need to rewrite them! I might even do that! Such is the power that I wield! Do not be mistaken, Sakutaro! I'm not the same Erika that you've met in the past, make sure that your master understand that! I am much, much stronger! Diplomatic immunity, you say? Don't make me laugh! I hope you didn't seriously believe that I, Erika Furudo, the witch of truth, could be bound by such a half-assed rule! I have denied your existence in the past, I can easily do that again!
But fear not, because there's something that I want you to do for me. Witness my strength, Sakutaro! Witness my fury, and be sure to tell Beatrice how puny her magic is compared to mine! The power of endless she's so proud of is a gigantic joke! Her fabled magic is nothing but the messed up imagination of a pathetic kid who has not other way to cope with reality! It serves no purpose! It's absolutely meaningless! It only makes you even more miserable!
How can Beatrice even suggest that I should change my ways?! She's nothing but the aberrant spawn of lies and deceit! I am truth! I am justice!"

I have had enough of this.
As soon as Sakutaro escapes, I unleash my full power. My flames expand and devour everything on their path. In a matter of seconds this fake world is completely erased.
When I open my eyes, I am once again in the bathtub, as if nothing happened.

1 comment:

  1. This chapter was really just..beautiful. Breathtaking. Wonderful. Really, it might be my favorite yet. Such a perfect atmosphere depicting the Meta-World and Erika's thoughts were particularly insightful. I really hope to read more soon!