The Witches' Tanabata Isn't Sweet
Very soon, it will be Tanabata.
A familiar event, marked by the hanging of pieces of paper, with wishes written on them, on bamboo branches.
It is not often that such wishes are granted, but sometimes, spirits and souls of the dead, or even demons and witches, will find the wishes by chance and grant them......
Ushiromiya Maria was supposed to write one of these at school.
There was plenty of paper, so students were allowed to use several pieces, if they could think of enough wishes.
At first, everyone was excited about writing a lot of them, but after writing 2 or 3, despite their youth, they realized to their surprise that they could only write trivial things, such as 'I want to be rich' or 'I want to become *blank*'.
However, unlike the other children, Maria thought that writing one wish was enough.
'I wish that Mama will come home every day'
Rosa was busy with work, and had to spend the night there often.
In the manner of a young child, Maria understood that was just part of her mother's job, but that didn't mean she wasn't lonely.
So she wrote down her simple wish about her mother coming home every day.
By the way, have you ever thought about who grants the wishes written on these pieces of paper...?
There are a lot of theories, such as the Tanabata legend, or the countless ancient gods of Japan......, but in fact, all are wrong.
What grants the wish is that which is closest to the person who wrote it.
It can be the so-called guardian spirits or ancestors of the person. For those without a spiritual guardian such as that, it can be their parents or a close friend.
And to Maria, the witch was even closer to her than her own mother.
So, in Maria's dreams on the night of Tanabata, Beato accepted the wish that the girl had entrusted to that piece of paper, and read it.
"......Maria, Maria. .........Can you hear my voice?"
".............Huh......? ...Oh, it's Beatrice...! Beatrice came to Maria in a dream...!"
"Yes. Today, you hung a Tanabata wish on some bamboo, did you not? That wish has reached me. Therefore, I have come to you to grant that wish."
"Really?! Thanks, Beatrice!! Uu-uu-uu-!!"
"Well then, about your wish. You wished that 'your mother would come home every day'......but is that really alright?"
"Yes. That alone makes me happy."
Beato crossed her arms and started mumbling. It looked as though she was mulling over how best to refuse and not grant the wish.
When Maria saw Beato, who she believed could do anything, make a face like that, Maria grew anxious...
"......Uu-. ......Is having Mama come back...a difficult wish to grant?"
"No. To make it plain, it's as easy as pie. It's not anything difficult at all. But Maria, think carefully. ......Is just having Mama come home enough?"
"If I grant that wish with magic, then starting tomorrow, your mother will return home every day. ......However, even if she does come home, she won't necessarily be in a good mood, you see?"
Rosa was the president of a small company. Things hadn't gone as planned yet, and every day was a precarious financial situation.
She was desperately trying to expand her business by clinging on to any order she could get, and using that to bring in more requests little by little.
If Rosa were to come home at a set time every day in this state, it would not end well.
In order for Rosa's company to achieve financial security overnight, she would have to make a wish herself, and make it clear exactly how and where the magic should be used.
But even if the magic from Maria's wish might reach Rosa, it would not extend to Rosa's company.
In short, the wish would be granted by Rosa suddenly losing her job, or else with the company being suddenly crushed, so that Rosa could be at home every day.
That probably wasn't the wish Maria was hoping for. ......Because of this, Beato had come into Maria's dreams to ask what her true wish was.
"So Maria, let me hear your true wish. Your wish is not just that your mother comes home, right?"
"............No, just having Mama come home every day, ......isn't good enough."
"That's right. What comes after that...is what you truly wish for."
The desire for her Mama to come home was only the beginning of Maria's true wish.
The wish she truly desired was something that must not remain abstract.
Normally, if the ones granting the wish were mischievous, they would grant it no matter how abstract it was.
But Beato was Maria's close friend, so she didn't play that kind of trick.
...Because she knew that Maria's true wish was something more.
"Mama will come home, and then...?"
"Mama will always come home early, ......and make dinner with Maria."
"We'll have fun talking together, peeling potatoes, setting up dishes..."
"Then, we'll watch TV together, laugh together at some funny show, and enjoy our meal. That will surely be fun. It will surely be happiness......"
She didn't just want her mother to come home every day.
The happiness painted in Maria's mind continued much longer after that...
It was something wonderful even just to imagine.
A meal that the two made together, and could enjoy together while chatting.
Maria had never once asked to eat out. ......Just eating at the table with her mother was more than enough.
Even though it only happened rarely, ......Maria wished for it to happen every day.
The glimpse of that dream world made Beato laugh warmly.
Maria wished for her to somehow grant that wish, but Beato simply giggled and spoke again.
"Is that enough...?"
"I do believe that this dream of yours includes more than just a happy dinner. ......That wish still needs more to it before I can listen to it. What you truly wish for surely continues much further, after having that fun meal.
Of course. ......A fun meal between mother and daughter was only the beginning of a fun family lifestyle.
I'll make tea for Mama.
As we drink our delicious tea together, we'll watch TV.
Then I'll heat up the bath, and we'll take a bath together.
I'll even put in one of those bubble-filled bath bombs that Mama loves. Then we'll splash around having fun in the tub, and make even more bubbles.
Then she'll kiss me goodnight, get things ready for tomorrow, and go to sleep.
......Then, the sun will rise, I'll wake up early, and wake Mama up when she oversleeps.
Good morning, Sakutaro. Yeah, I know. I'll bring Mama something to drink.
I'll bring her some chilled original blend vegetable juice in a chilled cup. If she drinks it right after waking up, she'll feel refreshed and smile.
I'll put bread in the toaster and cover it with rose-flavored jam.
Then I'll wait for the morning paper and set it on Mama's chair.
Alright, I'll be back soon, Sakutaro.
After a morning like this, I'll be happy all day long at school.
School is fun too, and everyone in the rabbit band is always happy as well. They really make a ruckus in my pocket.
So I'm sure that Mama will make lots of progress in work.
So I'm sure that Mama will come home in a good mood.
So I'm sure that we will always, always be happy...every day.
I could hear a monotonous electronic sound buzzing, buzzing.
It was the sound of my alarm clock.
......That's right. ......I was dreaming the whole time.
'I wish that Mama will come home every day'
A small piece of bamboo with that piece of paper hanging from it was beside my pillow.
I wonder if that's why I had such a strange dream.
......Beatrice came from Rokkenjima, ......and clearly drew for me a world that I couldn't see at all before, at the time I wrote that wish down. ...A world where my desire for nothing more than that Mama would come home every day was expanded more and more, into infinity.
No, that's not all. Until a second ago, I really was inside that world.
I'm sure that, for just the smallest of moments, Beatrice granted my wish for me using her strange magic......
She had endlessly expanded my conservative and unambitious wish.
After all, Beatrice is the Endless Witch.
......And, if the world she showed me was made by magic, ......then as a witch apprentice, I should be able to do it too.
That happy dream, which was so faint that the alarm had drawn me away from it, I should be able to make into something real.
As a witch apprentice, Maria knew how to make that magic a reality.
"............Uu-. ......By believing."
Yes. By believing in magic, it gains power.
So Maria strongly believed that it had not been a dream, but something that could be made into reality.
......What was the first thing I did on that happy morning?
That's right. First, I'll wake Mama up.
I'll bring her some vegetable juice in a chilled cup.
Maria jumped out of bed and headed for the kitchen.
She wanted to let her mother know that this was the start of a happy morning, which would lead to a happy day and a happy tomorrow.
"Thank you, Beatrice. ......Thanks for making my Tanabata wish come true."
"......What the heck? So in the end, Beato didn't grant any wish."
Bernkastel shrugged mockingly.
Lambdadelta, who had been chuckling at how sweet the story had been, looked annoyed at this wet blanket response.
Beatrice commented that Bern didn't understand.
"It's not like that. I weaved a fragment of the world Maria desired, and gave her the key which led to there. All that remained was for Maria to use that key and open the door."
"Even if that were to make her happy, ......Maria herself was the one who made that wish come true, not you."
"You're as twisted as ever, I see, Bern. There's no way for a wish to be granted unless there is a strong desire for it to come true."
".........Humans with a will that strong will eventually grant that wish themselves, regardless of whether a witch grants it or not. There is no room for witches."
"I wouldn't even want to grant a weak-willed wish."
"Yeah, seriously. A certain future dwells within certain willpower. Our infatuation with the strength of that will leads us to just unconsciously lend our power, right?"
"Yes, precisely. It wouldn't be interesting if the wish weren't bold enough to make us unconsciously want to lend our power."
"Bern, you take people's efforts and the strength of their wishes a little too lightly."
Beato and Lambda kept lamenting how much Bern didn't understand.
".........Oh? Then Lambda, how would you grant a wish? Have you also granted someone's wish on a Tanabata......?"
"Hoh. What of you, Lady Lambdadelta? I imagine that one who is so often adored by humans such as yourself would be an expert at granting wishes."
"Me? I keep it simple. I just fairly and equally encourage everyone to give it their all."
Lambdadelta is the Witch of Certainty. She praises the willpower to certainly succeed until the very end.
Despite possessing both innocence and cruelty, she also has a more tender side with regards to people's passion.
"The most common wishes I get are all stuff like 'I want to be super-rich', or 'I want to move on to higher things', or 'I want to solidify my current position'."
"Just now, you said that you fairly and equally encourage everyone, but do you really grant such impudent wishes for everyone...?"
"Of course not. I avoid granting those wishes to everyone in equal measure. But in exchange, I watch over the children--those who don't slack off in their efforts until that wish is realized--also in equal measure."
Lambda will never smile upon humans who wish to 'become super-rich', but do nothing to work towards that goal.
Also, she will never grant success to those who try only once to become super-rich.
What Lambdadelta bestows is not the fulfillment of the wish, ......but the power needed to achieve it.
"The wish 'I want to be super-rich' can actually be granted for anyone, you see? Of course, after a fitting amount of effort. I guarantee the fruitfulness of those efforts."
".........However, you make no guarantees about the necessary amount of effort for that to be granted, right?"
"*cackle*cackle*. I see. The fruits of labor will eventually be granted, but you make no promises about when that will be. You are quite a mean person."
"You think so? Just how much do you think the guarantee that it will eventually be granted without fail is worth? ......You know, I like people who work hard. I like people who throw away everything for that goal, and who are capable of abandoning themselves to that unending self-torment."
Those who make their wishes to Lambdadelta must strongly believe that those wishes will be granted eventually.
Without that strength of heart, those wishes will not reach Lambdadelta, and never again would power dwell in the Magic of Certainty.
And, to those people who certainly never give up, and do not forget the meaning of hard work, it's merely blasphemy to their hard work to have their wishes granted by another.
That's why Lambdadelta would never dirty their precious hard work.
All she promises is to point out the fact that certain resolution will bring forth a future of certainty.
And just that is enough for them.
And she will definitely grant that wish. No matter what kind of wish. Definitely, some day.
...Even if the wish were to made by a young girl, who wanted to become a god......
"Hmmm. So, that is the Magic of Certainty. A magnificent power that is in no way inferior to my own Endless Magic."
"Yeah right, it's way better...! You're rock. I'm paper!! Not only that, I'm super paper that's been twisted twice!"
".........Twisted twice means that you're all wound up. ......Fits you perfectly."
"Doesn't it?! Oh-hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh!"
With Lambda the only one who didn't get it, all three witches cackled together...
"Lady Bernkastel, are you not the witch who controls miracles? There must be as many humans who want you to grant a wish as there are stars in the sky."
"Well, they *are* miracles. ......Things that shouldn't be granted are granted. ...I imagine lowborns with double the normal ambition but a dislike of work would love that. But that's no good! Those filthy wishes are unfitting for someone as wonderful as you, Bern. Before you look at wishes of people like that, grant my wish first, Be~rn!!"
".........You're suffocating me, let go. Miracles are called miracles because they don't happen. ......For me to doing something as easy-going as granting a wish would itself be a miracle."
"Human passions don't amount to much to witches...but it seems they don't amount to anything at all to you."
"......I don't want to hear that from someone who's name is known for her cruelty, like you."
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*, wahhahahahahahahaha! Not much I can say against that. I may have been too uncharacteristically soft."
"Well, you are really easy-going when it comes to Maria, Beato. You should spread that around to more people besides Maria. It's like sugar that's precipitated."
".........Completely. And not just Beato. You too, Lambda. You've been a bit too easy-going today. ......Dried plum goes better in tea than sugar does."
"Bern, it's not like Tanabata comes every day, right? Go and grant at least one wish."
With a fed up look on her face, Bern disappeared.
In the process of living a thousand years, she had lost her human heart. ......She didn't like sweet or heart-warming stories.
Beato laughed coldly, as though this was the way a witch was supposed to be.
In her expression, no longer was there any of the warmth that had woven Maria's happiness......
......You're telling me to grant at least one wish because it's Tanabata?
I am a witch. The witch who governs miracles.
......No matter what kind of effort, fortune, entusiasm, or unity......I know that the end of it all, there is no miracle waiting.
Specifically because I know that there will be no miracle, I am the Witch of Miracles.
In that case, just whose wish are you saying I should grant......?
So what if it's the Tanabata? They're just being a little too festive.
Expanding a happy dream into infinity?
Effort that brings success no matter what...?
It's so sickningly sweet that my tongue will fall off. ......Aah, how revolting.
It's the same to you, right?
I will show you a true, witch-like, granting of a wish.
Because you're obviously looking forward to that.
A small Ange recieved a small piece of paper at school......wrote "I wish for my family to come home" on it, hung it on a bamboo branch, and fastened that to her bed post.
Then, she clapped, and made her wish again so that it would come true...
Having wished with all her might, Bern appeared to her in the land next to illusions, the world of slumber.
"............Hello, Ange. Is that your wish?"
"Ye,...yeah. .........Who.........are you......?"
"I will not tell you my name. This is the world of slumber, a world like the receding tide. .........Even if you hear my name, it will not remain in your memory."
"Well then, your wish. .........I wouldn't mind causing a miracle and granting your wish."
"Yes. Really. ......However, magic is something that will not be granted unless you wish for it strongly and work hard for it. ......I hear that's how it works. According to Lambda. It's such a pain."
Ange was not able to hide her surprise at this witch, who showed up in the world of her dreams, claiming that she would grant her wish.
However, she felt that the witch wanted something in exchange for the miracle.
......But, if her family would come home, Ange thought that she would accept any undertaking.
"I'll work as hard as you want me to, Witch-sama. Please hear my wish...!"
"......I understand. If you follow my instructions every single day, if your desire for that wish to be truly granted reaches the heavens......at that time, I will definitely pay you another visit, and grant your wish."
Although, that could be 1 year from now, 5 years from now, or perhaps 10 or more years from now.
In that regard, I guess I'm about the same as Lambda. ......In the end, I'll grant it, so it's not exactly unkind. *giggle*giggle*......
"Then, Witch-sama. ......What should I strive for......?"
"Today, you were told by your foster mother, Ushiromiya Eva, to think of her as a replacement for your mother, and that you could count on her for anything, right...?"
Eva......had said that to Ange today.
We are connected because we are aunt and niece. But, we are also connected in that I have lost a child, and you have lost your parents.
And we cannot trick ourselves into thinking of each other as replacements for our lost family.
Even so, I think of you as my own child.
So if you......could allow that, then I'd like you to think of me as your mother, and I want you to rely on me for whatever you need.
Eva had hugged Ange as she said that.
To the young Ange, Mom was Mom, and Eva definitely wasn't. ......However, she understood the the meaning of those words, and the affection verging on sorrow.
But as would be expected from a child her age, she needed some time to accept this......
"Yes. ......Eva oba-san definitely said that."
"If you wish, from the bottom of your heart, for your real mother to return......then you musn't give the position of mother away to somebody else so easily. If your real mother loses her position as your mother, then she will never come back home."
To the young Ange, that seemed very logical.
If she accepted someone who wasn't her mother as her mother, then when her real mother came back, there would be no place for her to return......
"......Okay? For your real mother's sake, this is important, right...?"
"Ye, ......yes, Witch-sama. ......Eva oba-san is Eva oba-san. I will certainly never call her Mom. I won't think of her as Mom."
"Good. .....And Eva oba-san said something else, right?"
Right now, we cannot forget the scars on our hearts, and together we have forgotten how to smile.
However, I believe that this would surely sadden my child and your parents.
......Wouldn't it be alright if we could remember how to smile, if only a little bit at a time?
Of course, we can't do this right away.
We have to remember our forgotten smiles bit by bit.
That's why.....I've decided that from today on, I'll try my best to practice smiling.
..............................That's weird...isn't it?
Ange-chan, if you ever remember how to smile........please show me too.
I feel that if we do that, we'll be able to remember how to smile even more.
"Yes. ......Eva oba-san definitely said that."
"To one who wishes for their family to return, such as you, pain and sorrow strong enough to lift that wish to the heavens are necessary. ......Until that day, you mustn't show your smile."
"I mustn't, ......show, .........my smile."
"Yes, that's right. ......I'll be watching over you. If it seems like a smile is going to come upon your face, even once......I will accept that as a sign that you don't care if your family comes back or not anymore. I promise you that the miracle of them coming home will never happen."
"......I, ......don't want that. I certainly won't smile...! Until Dad and Mom and Onii-chan come home, I will certainly never smile...!"
"You mustn't feel happiness. You musn't feel joy. .........You must never forget the sorrow of losing your family. ......And stay away from the demon who will try to make you forget that, who will try and decieve you. .........Ushiromiya Eva will try and crush that resolve many times with her sweet words. But you must never listen to them, alright...? Eva is a demon who will try and steal away your family for all eternity. *giggle*. No, she actually DID STEAL THEM AWAY."
"M, my resolve won't be broken...! Until my wish is granted, I certainly will not listen to Eva oba-san's words...!! So please, grant my wish, Witch-sama...!!"
"Yes. As long as you continue to keep your promise, ......then in the end, I will definitely appear before you and grant your wish. ......It's alright. I will definitely not ignore your pure-hearted resolve. ............*giggle*."
The next morning.
Ushiromiya Ange clearly announced it to Eva.
They were, ......the magic words that would bring forth the miracle of her family coming home.
And, the words were a curse that the cruel witch had made her say.
From that day on, ......those words stole the smiling faces from Ange and Eva...for all eternity......
"......Isn't this kind of Tanabata more wonderful in a witch's eyes? ............*giggle*. Ahhahahahahahaha.... Aaah, I won't be bored. At least, not for awhile."
These kinds of kakera exist, ......but what do you think?
All of you who love this kind of ill-natured story...like this level of pain more, don't you?
Is this good enough? Beato?
All I really did was make it a tale more suited to my role.
The Witches' Tanabata isn't easy-going