The Rules

(Minor spoilers for the first four episodes of Umineko: When They Cry, the sound novel I’ve been raving about inspired by over the last few months. You can skip to the commentary if you’d rather keep that pristine.)

“So, the rules.”

The girl leaned forward in her plain wooden chair, her arms folded across her belly. The witch gestured languidly, a smirk on her face.

“The rules,” the girl repeated. “The story is presented by the witch. The human will then attempt to formulate a non-magical explanation for the events of the story.”

The witch nodded, raising her chin a little to make it clear who was superior.

“One character is the detective,” the girl continued, a bit of disgust slipping into her voice. “Events perceived by the detective are taken as factual, though the interpretation may be incorrect. The detective is not a witch, nor is she a human culprit or in league with a human culprit.” She paused. “No magic may be performed in the presence of the detective.”

The witch snorted, but remained silent.

“Blue truth,” announced the girl. “A theory presented in blue represents a move by the human. The witch may then deny that theory using information established to be true by the detective, or by using red truth. Red truth represents an absolute truth—if the witch states something in red truth, it must be accounted for in any theories, even if it contradicts the observations of the detective. Of course, it must not contradict the established events or any previous red truth.” The girl looked directly at the witch. “If the witch is unable to demonstrate a problem with the theory, the blue truth is taken as true, and the human wins.”

“Ha!” At this the witch stood up and began pacing, her smirk becoming a gleeful smile. “Magic is stronger than some weak human tricks. Blue truth that has less explanatory power than a witch is no truth at all.” She raised an eyebrow as the girl faltered under this unexpected logical rejoinder. “If, for example, a rose is levitated into the air, and you claim that some ‘anti-gravity device’ is responsible, well, you haven’t really said anything at all.” The grin grew. “Perhaps it works by magic.”

“W-well, I suppose that’s true…” admitted the girl, her gaze downward.

“Additionally,” called the witch, stopping and turning abruptly, “it’s not sufficient to state that one event can be explained by non-magical means. The human must explain all of them. Otherwise, you haven’t denied the witch—you haven’t denied me. You’re only squeezing your eyes shut.”

“All right,” said the girl, after a pause. She continued. “It is not legal to declare ‘witches exist’ or ‘magic is real’ with red truth.”

“That wouldn’t affect anything.” The girl looked at the witch and saw she had closed her eyes; her expression had dropped from a smirk to something more pensive. “Witches being real doesn’t actually contradict a blue truth.” The girl wondered if the witch had tried this before.


“Very good, girl.” The witch addressed her directly, startling her from her thoughts. “But you’ve left out one important point.”

“Oh? What’s that?” The words slipped out, prideful rather than curious. But I guess that’s the role of the human standing against the witch…

But her smart remark was nothing against the witch’s own lofty pride; that other cackled before clarifying. “‘If the witch is unable to demonstrate a problem with the theory, the blue truth is taken as true, and the human wins.’ But what is the victory condition for the witch?”

The girl stared. Somehow, on this critical point, the rules—written in fire in her mind—were blank. And yet, surely that didn’t mean…

“Ah, well,” said the witch, continuing to laugh. “Let us begin.”

(blank space to avoid spoilers for those who skipped down)

Don’t worry, I haven’t stopped working on “Determination”! This has just been bouncing around in my head of late…

…as I look ahead to NaNoWriMo, less than two months away. I haven’t done NaNoWriMo in four years (has it really been that long?), and this year I’m really tempted to write a mystery/fantasy story in the style of Umineko. This would then become a prologue of sorts.

(I kind of meant to do this one as another Japanese-first piece, but I wrote it earlier this week when rather tired and it came out in English instead. UPDATE: I translated it.)

The trouble? I’m not at all genre-savvy in mystery. So this is going to be very hard to write at all well, and without getting stuck. I really ought to be studying up ahead of time by reading mysteries, and possibly planning out scenarios as well.

The “rules” shown here are close to the rules of Umineko, but they’re not intended to be identical—especially since I haven’t actually finished that story yet (not even close). Even so, I can’t take any credit for them; any cleverness should be attributed to Ryukishi07, not me. (And the rules of “Determination” are entirely unrelated.) Beyond that, these two characters both need fleshing out—it’s okay if you picture the equivalent Umineko characters, but they’re not really the same.

Incidentally, this short is 580 words, about a third of what I need to write every day to keep up in NaNoWriMo. (50,000 words / 30 days is 1,667 words per day, but I usually do a little less during the week and then make it up on the weekends.) It’s doable—I managed it in 2012—but it isn’t necessarily easy. That said, you should definitely join me! My username is chigaijin—let’s do it!