Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chapter 5 (l)

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..."

Maaya: "Huh?"

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?"

Erika: "Never..."

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..."

Maaya: "Yes?"

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?"

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chapter 5 (k)

The impact is violent. The shock wave that ensues erases any traces of magic on its path. The giant sparks are no more, the constant barrage of beams of light has ceased, the unnatural wind no longer blows.
After such an indescribable chaos, this calm and this silence are somehow unsettling.
Pazuzu and Dlanor have become still. Slowly drifting in a space devoid of gravity, they observe and wait.

Maaya: "I see... I've really underestimated you. I apologize... your skills deserved to be properly acknowledged..."

The witch of power speaks slowly. A twitch in her left eyebrow belies her apparent calm.

Erika: "Tch..."

Maaya: "To think that a mere human could not only survive my strongest magic, but also elude my guard and sneak behind me... That was completely unexpected. Unthinkable..."

Erika: "I hate to repeat myself, but you really don't understand who you're up against."

Maaya: "Perhaps it is as you say..."

In front of my eyes, I see my enemy's face morphing from a fake gentle expression into a hideous, beastly grin.

Maaya: "However that goes for you too, isn't iiit?! Did you really think that I'd be killed by thaaat?! Haaa?! Are you serious?! Do you even realize what kind of place this is?! I will acknowledge that on a neutral ground I'd be dead by now, but here, in this world? In my domain?!"

Certainly I cannot deny that my attack completely failed to harm her in any way. Something blocked my scythe before I could cut her body in half, something that transcends even the most powerful magic barriers, a truly impenetrable shield.
It came out of nowhere, I couldn't even see it nor sense it before. It is different from anything that I have seen so far, and it looks completely out of place. If I were to guess what kind of material it is made of, I would say that it is some kind of hard, transparent plastic. It has a sort of triangular shape with no straight lines, and there is an embedded circle in its center that reminds me of a magnifying lens.

Maaya: "Observe!"

The witch of power snaps her fingers and a new magic takes form. A thick mist and nebulous matter begin to coalesce at the bottom of the giant sphere. This mass grows and spreads like a viscous fluid until it occupies about one quarter of the whole space. There is now a sort of unnatural lake below me. Ripples form on its surface and increase in number and intensity. Strange, fragmented reflections create kaleidoscopic effects among the restless waves, until the turmoil finally subsides, and a vision appears.

Erika: "This is..."

Maaya: "A window open to another world."

My mind goes back to a past where I witnessed a similar situation. My mind travels back to the witches' tearoom, the place where Beatrice used to challenge her many guests. There, all sort of witches, and sometimes even humans, would sit in a circle and engage in intellectual discussions, drinking tea and eating freshly baked cookies and pastries. But before, we used to watch Beatrice's shows. The walls disappeared and just like TV screens, they allowed us to see, as if we were there, various scenes from fictional interpretations of the Rokkenjima murder mystery. Those were the stories that Beatrice created; she called them gameboards.
Something similar is happening now, but it isn't fiction what I am looking at, it's the human world, it's the present time.
That one there is... me...
I am looking at myself from above, as if the shed had no roof. I see the magic circle and several girls sitting all around it. But not everything is exactly how I left it. There is a Ouija board at the very center now, and four persons are sitting close to it at the four cardinal points. One of them is Teramoto, directly aligned with the statue of Pazuzu. Two first year students are at her left and right sides, they were supposedly selected randomly. The last spot is taken by me.
This is how daring my opponent is. She wants me to be directly involved, she wants me to touch her magic with my own hands. She is so confident that I won't understand her trick, that she doesn't even prevent me from getting that close.

Maaya: "Did you notice? Do you understand now?"

Erika: "Yes, I must admit it's pretty clever. That shield of yours is a manifestation of your peculiar planchette. Size apart they're practically identical."

Maaya: "Correct!"

It basically works like this: the fact that Teramoto can interact with demons and spirits with her Ouija board is one of the reasons people believe she actually possesses supernatural powers. As long as this isn't denied, the witch of power cannot be destroyed. I must find the trick that makes that planchette move, only then this bothersome shield will be destroyed.

Maaya: "Surprised, human? Stupid close-minded people like yourself almost invariably think that there are magnets involved. So I made sure to prevent anyone from even suggesting that. As you can see, this planchette is completely transparent. Surely, you aren't going to tell me that there are invisible magnets inside, right? Ha ha ha ha!"

Erika: "Well done, but then, how does that matter? There's definitely some kind of trick involved, all that you demonstrated is that 'magnets' isn't the answer."

Maaya: "And you call that a rational argument? How is it logical to assume that there must be a trick?"

Erika: "What are you talking about? Of course there's a trick, it can't be any other way! Because magic and supernatural do not exist! Everyone knows that!"

Maaya: "Shut up!"

Erika: "Oh? Did I upset you?"

Maaya: "There's no point in talking with you! You're just a pathetic fool! By now you should have already realized that you can't win against me, you simply cannot hurt me! But I bet you're just too blind to accept the evidence in front of your very eyes! I can only feel contempt for you. You're strong, you're fast, I acknowledge that. I have no idea how a human like you can pull those stunts, but it doesn't matter. In the end you're just a bug, a very persistent one, but still a bug!"

Erika: "Ah, don't tell me! Are you going to resume your magical heavy bombardment, hoping that I'll eventually get hit by something? Boring!"

Maaya: "No, that tactic proved to be uneffective. But now I know how to deal with you."

Erika: "Oh, Really?"

Maaya utters some incomprehensible words, while drawing strange circles in the air with her left hand. I sense the unmistakable small alterations in the fabric of the metaworld that often foreshadow powerful magics. The ritual is concluded by an esoteric gesture that ominously points at me.
The effect is almost instant, and in a blink of an eye I find myself trapped inside a spherical cage made of several rings of energy.

Erika: "Seriously? Is this your new strategy? I guess you didn't learn a single thing."

All I need to do is to teleport away. Maaya must believe that I am simply moving at an incredibly high speed. If that was the case, I wouldn't have any means to escape, but my powers are true.
I proceed to instantly change my position, my body dematerializes and reappears just a few meters to the right.
See? I am free already... or that is what I would like to say. Apparently... I am still caged.
Strange. I am quite sure that I did teleport, there are no doubts about that. But my prison is not longer where it was supposed to be. It is as if... it followed me. How?
I really don't like the way Maaya is smiling at me now. I don't like that all!

Maaya: "Well? How do you like your cage? It seems to me that you've already grown pretty attached to it!"

Erika: "Very funny! What's the deal with this thing?"

Maaya: "That's not a 'thing', that's a curse. You've been cursed, great detective, and no matter where you go, the curse will stay with you."

Well, well... this wasn't part of my plans, but it changes nothing. I should have imagined that an occult freak like her would know how to curse her enemies. That was a small miscalculation, it's annoying, no, actually it is very irritating, but I will have my vengeance.

Erika: "All right, now I am trapped inside a cage that follows me wherever I go. So? What's the point of a prison if it doesn't restrict mobility?"

Maaya: "That's a very pertinent question. The fact is... that this curse isn't exactly meant to restrain you. In other words, it isn't a prison at all."

Erika: "Then, what else it's supposed to be?"

Maaya: "It's a bull's-eye."

A bull's-eye. In other words this thing is marking my position. This is a curse that targets me with absolute precision. The viewfinder is glued on me, and not matter what I do, I cannot shake it off!
This is no laughing matter. The more my many little gray cells process the implications of this simple information, the more I feel my body freezing on the spot.
An attack is incoming, right now. I am not actually perceiving it, but I know it is aiming for my head. I feel it. All my instincts are telling me that I must escape. I have no time to reason about its futility, I simply teleport as far as I can.
My fears become true in front of my eyes. A stream of energy coming from one of the pillars just pierced my afterimage. It is fast, as fast as light, and it is magnetically attracted by the cage that surrounds me.
I simply cannot escape this, I simply cannot teleport with a high enough frequency, and it would be pointless anyway.
I have no choice, I must muster my strengths and endure it.
The sound reminds me that of a shrimp thrown into boiling oil. I would think this was funny, if this wasn't my own body. My muscles are all tensed up by the flow of high voltage current.
I can barely move, I can barely think.
This pain would be excruciating for a normal human being, another person in my place would be screaming his guts out. But I am a witch of truth, there is nothing that can hurt me. Nothing. Nothing can hurt me. Nothing can hurt me! Nothing can hurt me!

Dlanor: "Miss Erika!"

Pazuzu: "StAy WhErE YoU AaArE, PaThEtIc ToOl Of ThE LoSt GoLdEn AaAgE! I WiLl NoT LeT YoU InTeRfEeErE!"

Dlanor: "We will not be defeated! I will not allow it!"

Pazuzu: "Uh Hu Hu Ha Ha Ha!!! YOuR DoOm Is At HaAaNd! YOuR HuMaN FrIeNd WaS AlReAdY EnSnArEd By My MAsTeR'S CuUuRsE. NOtHiNg CaN SaAaVe HeR. VIcToRy Is AlReAdY OuUuRs!"

Dlanor is fighting valiantly. Her swords pierce through the demon's flesh with merciless precision, but her opponent is too powerful. He keeps regenerating as if that didn't bother him at all, and he is getting bolder and fiercer. Dlanor will not last for much longer, and I am in no better position.