Maaya: "Just as I thought! A cockroach won't die so easily! But in the end that just means you'll have a slow, painful death! Truly pitiful!"
Erika: "Pain? Pain?! What are you talking about? I feel nothing, this is barely tickling me!"
Maaya: "Haaa?! Not only you deny the existence of magic, now you even deny your own pain? Truly, what a foolish creature you are! I'm getting sickened by your stubborn, irrational denials! But it doesn't matter. You no longer have the luxury of stalling this battle indefinitely. Escaping won't do you any good. You've only little time left before you get obliterated! So, well... I suppose you won't simply give up now, right?"
Erika: "Give up?! Give up?! Ha ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha! Why should I give up?!"
Maaya: "Well then, indulge me! Let me see how you pathetically struggle until your inevitable demise. Come on, great detective!"
Erika: "Gh... gh..."
She has a point, I don't have much time and I must fight back.
I quickly teleport behind her. This temporarily disconnects me from the stream of energy, consequently giving me a small reprieve from its devastating effects. I must use this extremely short window of opportunity to launch an assault.
Erika: "Did you really think that I would accept your magic just because you have a fancy transparent planchette?! Don't make me laugh! If there really was some kind of supernatural force involved, it would move by itself! So why do people need to touch it? The conclusion is obvious! You're moving it with your own hand!"
Reacting to my declaration, several dozens of anti-magic blue darts appear, and with a lightning speed they spring toward my enemy. An explosion ensues as they hit Maaya's shield, and their energy disperses all around like a meteor shower.
The attack was unsuccessful. It didn't cause not even the smallest injury or damage. The merciless stream of energy reconnects to my cursed cage, and its power overwhelms me again.
Maaya slowly turns around to face me, showing her most cruel and victorious smile.
Maaya: "Simpleton! Any idiot could come up with such a simple and stupid trick! Who would even be fooled by something like that? But before, let me enlighten you on why it's necessary for several humans to touch the planchette. It's a matter of channeling spiritual energies. You don't expect an electrical device to work if the various parts aren't connected by circuits, right? Energy must be able to flow. The same principle works with Ouija boards. The spirits need to steal a bit of the energies of living humans in order to interact with the material world."
Erika: "Spare me the bogus explanation!"
Maaya: "Right... what was I even thinking? Someone like you can't possibly understand. It's just a waste of time. Very well, then observe."
She points to the world below. There her human self is starting the séance, or rather the farce where she pretends to summon a spirit through a Ouija board.
Teramoto: "Spirits of the restless souls that dwell in this school, answer my call. My name is Maaya Teramoto and I wish to communicate with you. Please come through and talk with me for a while."
Her voice echoes in the room. All eyes are focused on the planchette, and a feeling of apprehension envelops the eleven young girls as they prepare for the shock of seeing the tool moving on its own.
Teramoto: "A connection has been established!"
The declaration steals a few muffled shrieks from the most impressionable witnesses.
Teramoto: "Spirit! Give us a sign of your presence! If you're here, say yes!"
This time not a sound can be heard, everyone awaits with bated breaths.
The planchette moves, slowly, painfully slowly.
It stops where the Japanese word 'hai' is written in elegant hiragana characters.
Maaya: "Did you see, human?!"
Erika: "Yes... I saw..."
Of course what Maaya wanted me to notice is not the fact that the planchette moved, she knows that something like that cannot impress me. What really is relevant is how the four selected participants are touching the plastic tool. The fingers are not resting upon its surface as it is usually done.
Teramoto devised a system to reduce at minimum the inevitable disbelief. With the classic method there is just no way to convince the most skeptical individuals, and even those who are prone to believe in the supernatural will be left with some doubts. What if someone moved the planchette? This doubt cannot be dispelled as long as the system used makes it possible.
But Teramoto cannot tolerate that. People must believe, they shouldn't be given any means to deny her magic. And that is why she made the participants touch only the sides of the planchette, using just the tips of their index fingers.
Maaya: "Surely you realize. Each person at best can only push the planchette forward, but no more than that. The combined efforts of all the four participants would be required to effectively move it in every directions."
A second stream of energy sprouts from another pillar and immediately connects to my cursed cage. The already unbearable electrical tension has doubled.
Maaya: "Are you all right? You seem to be in quite some distress."
Erika: "This? This is... nothing..."
Maaya: "So you say, but your flesh is literally burning, your blood is boiling! You aren't a pretty sight, trust me."
Erika: "You know, Maaya... I don't quite agree... with what you said earlier..."
Erika: "All the four... participants? You just need... two..."
Maaya: "What's that? Has your brain melted already?"
Erika: "With some skill... two persons at the opposite sides... They can exercise enough pressure... to gain full control... over the planchette..."
Maaya: "Ha! Clever! But the one in front of me is you! Certainly you aren't cooperating with me, right?"
Erika: "What about... the other two?"
Maaya: "Tch! What a stubborn woman! Those are first year students, they haven't been in this school for long. Are you really insinuating that I would entrust my reputation to them?"
She has a point. Not even I can believe that.
Maaya: "There's actually another practical reason that made me devise this system. You see, I've dealt with the skepticism and the ignorance of people like you for years. That's why I already know how you think and what to expect from you. If I let you place your finger over the planchette, you'd probably try to mess with the ritual. You could even try to push it on the board so to prevent it from moving."
Erika: "Ha ha ha... That's right! I would... actually do that!"
Maaya: "I have no doubts that you would, but I'm at least two steps ahead of you. So? Are you prepared to accept your demise?"
I must endure. I will be the one laughing in the end. So, this is nothing, this is just a transient phase of the path to victory.
I use my powers to teleport away from the hateful scourge that is afflicting me, again and again, several times in rapid succession. I must try to gain enough time to elaborate in my mind the next attack.
In the world below the séance continues. Teramoto asks the name of the spirit that she allegedly summoned. The planchette smoothly slides on the board and with precision stops above specific characters, one after another. The name is irrelevant, but the pointless interrogation continues, more trivial questions and more trivial answers.
Erika: "There are probably a few thin threads attached to the planchette! Your accomplices are pulling the strings from afar!"
This isn't exactly a very good argument, and it isn't surprising that my attack is deflected again, but for now I just need to buy some time.
Maaya: "What exactly do you think this is? Some kind of manga? Completely Invisible threads do not exist, and someone like you would definitely notice them. But if you really don't trust me, you can check that with your material vessel or whatever will be left of it once I'll be done with you. I'll let you examine the planchette as long as you want as soon as the session will end."
I hear the sound of my spine being smashed and shattered by a sudden, tremendous whiplash. My muscles are tensing so hard against my will that my very bones are starting to crack and crumble. The number of energy streams has increased further. Three pillars are now actively targeting me.
Maaya: "I doubt you'll last for much longer. You're already in that pitiful state, I think I won't even need half of my full power to kill you. I'll give you a last chance, just out of pure compassion. Stop resisting, accept your defeat, and I'll make it swift."
Erika: "T-this... is..."
Erika: "Nothing! This is... nothing!!! I'm not done yet! You hear me! I'm not done yet! I... will... crush... you!!!"
Maaya: "W-what... what... the... Aargh! What a truly stupid, pathetic, incredibly idiotic maggot you are! I was merely trying to be merciful, you know?! Ah, that's it! That's it! Just die after experiencing the most excruciating tortures from hell, stupid woman!"
Erika: "You know... nothing of hell! I've already been there! That's why... this is nothing!!!"
Maaya: "How do you even find the strength to talk back... But it doesn't matter!"
Teramoto: "Furudo-san, you're my special guest tonight and the spirits wish to communicate with you. Is there something that you want to ask?"
Maaya: "Ah, it looks like we have already reached this part."
Erika: "You must be... really... confident..."
Maaya: "Of course I am! Silly! Since the very beginning it was already obvious who would win. This is to crush you even further, this is to show to you and to everyone else that Maaya Teramoto fears no one!"
Teramoto: "Well, Furudo-san? You've been awfully silent for all of this time. Is there really nothing that you want to ask to the spirit that I've summoned? You can speak freely, there's nothing to be afraid."
I will crush you. I will crush you for sure!
Erika: "Can you predict the future?"
Maaya: "Haaa?! Ah ha ha ha! Of all the stupid questions that you could have asked!"
The planchette slides over the spot where the Japanese word 'iie" is written.
Teramoto: "I'm sorry, Furudo-san, I don't know what kind of stories you've heard, but spirits do not possess the gift of clairvoyance, unless they already did when still alive."
Someone is laughing. A fourth pillar activates and its energy stream violently strikes me.
My body is convulsing, my skin is melting, my flesh is burning, my blood is boiling, my bones are shattering, my eyes are exploding, my brain is pulsing, my fingers are twitching, my ears are bleeding, my heart is splitting, my lungs are imploding, my muscles are tearing apart!
Dlanor: "Miss Erika!"
No, Dlanor, don't let your guard down! My body is convulsing.
See? That demon will take advantage of your slightest mistake. My skin is melting.
He is strong, you should worry about yourself. My flesh is burning.
See? You just let him hit you! My blood is boiling.
I won't forgive you if you let him kill you! My bones are shattering.
I won't... I won't... My eyes are exploding! My brain is pulsing! My damn heart is splitting in two! My damn muscles are tearing apart!
Teramoto: "Please, feel free to ask another question."
Erika: "There's a person that I once knew who passed away a long time ago. Can I ask the spirit if he has met him in the afterlife?"
Maaya: "Oh please! Your tactics are so painfully obvious! Now you're going to name someone that is still alive or that never existed!"
Teramoto: "You can ask, what was this person's name?"
Erika: "Battler Ushiromiya."
Maaya: "Yeah, like hell I'll fall for this trap! Just what kind of name is 'Battler' anyway?! By the way, are you still alive? Come on, this is getting ridiculous! Die already!"
Teramoto: "I'm sorry it looks like the spirit has no knowledge of this person."
Erika: "I see... this is truly... a pity..."
Another pillar, five already. Charred meat, on fire, nerves ripped and torn, gray cells flowing down, tissue damaged, teeth splintered, black substance oozing, boiling, a crevasse in my chest, enlarging, hot blood sprinkling, evaporating, rupture of left lung, crumbled hands, shattered fragments of bones, pulsating pulp, ablaze, curled up, what remains, sizzling to the last bit, breaking apart, consuming myself, to dust...
Maaya: "I just can't believe this, you still persist... But your essence is already dispersing, you're losing pieces of your self as I speak. This is what it means to die in the metaworld, you just turn into nothingness. Why do you need to make it this painful?"
Teramoto: "One last question?"
Maaya: "This is your last chance, the ritual will conclude after this, you'd better ask something sensible this time. Either way, this is too late for you. The great detective will be erased from existence."
Erika: "Yes there's just one last question that I want to ask."
Teramoto: "Go on, the spirit is listening."
Erika: "Who killed... Hitomi Gotsuji?"