Erika: "Aaah, this
is paradise! There's nothing better than soaking in hot water after a
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.
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."
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."
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
thought you prefer red wine."
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."
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."
I have manju instead?"
Erika: "Sure, I'll
drink sake, and you'll be eating all the manju you want. *giggle*"
sounds very nice, Miss Erika."
Erika: "You really
are a kid, being so fond of sweets."
would be very nice, if we could go on a trip far away."
Erika: "Where would
you like to go?"
are a lot of beautiful places in this world. I cannot decide..."
Erika: "What about
America? New York, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Honolulu, Cabot Cove!"
believe the last one does not exist."
Erika: "Then, what
about Europe? Paris, Venice, London... Oh, that's where you come
think any place would be fine."
sometimes you're so simpleminded!"
Mister Rokudou come with us?"
Erika: "I don't
think so, he's a very busy man."
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!"
sounds really nice."
Erika: "Haven't we
always had a lot of fun together?"
Erika: "For quite a
while, haven't we?"
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.
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
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.
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.
dared to summon me here must have guts, or very little care for his
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."
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
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 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
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."
Erika, allow me to go..."
With a simple movement of
my hand I summon a powerful gale, and the door bursts open.
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
yourself, I know you're here."
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...
yourself immediately or I'll tear this place apart!"
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
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.
Sakutaro! I promise that I won't eat you! *giggle* *giggle*"
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.
well... isn't it nice to see you again? It's been quite a long
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."
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
asked me to give you a message... uryuuu..."
Erika: "A message
Dlanor frowns and her
body tenses up again.
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!"
golden land is rising from the abyss. I am just the vanguard... more
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!"
Erika, the mere fact that you are here and that you are talking to
one of them, is giving them strength."
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!"
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
Erika: "Pfft... ha
ha ha ha ha..."
Erika: "Aha ha ha ha
ha ha ha!!!"
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
Erika: "Don't mess
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!
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
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
When I open my eyes, I am
once again in the bathtub, as if nothing happened.