Part 2: Magic of Miracles
As she knocked loudly and repeatedly, Natsuhi yelled. Shortly after, there was a heavy clunking sound, and the sound of the door to Kinzo's study unlocking could be heard. As the door opened, a heavily sweet, venomous odor flowed out. Natsuhi was always ashamed of how she automatically grimaced at that, even though she thought it rude to the family head...
Krauss was waiting for her inside the study. Natsuhi flew into his arms.
"Calm yourself. Doctor Nanjo is examining him now..."
With an uncertain gait, Natsuhi went towards the center of the study, supported by Krauss. There, a dignified bed fitting for the Ushiromiya family head could be seen, along with Nanjo, Genji, and Kumasawa...
"Doctor Nanjo... I, is Father..."
After sighing deeply, Nanjo left the side of the bed. On the bed, Kinzo could be seen lying down, sleeping...
"Ah, waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh... Father... Fatheeeeeeeeer...!!"
...Natsuhi fell against the chest of Kinzo, the man who had fallen into a sleep from which he would never awaken, and sobbed.
"M, Madam, please, stay strong..."
"Father, Father...!! This is, just too sudden... Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!"
Natsuhi couldn't stop her tears over the death of Kinzo, whom she had loved like a second father. Kumasawa rubbed Natsuhi's back, consoling her...
Krauss slumped into his late father's favorite chair. By sitting there, he might have been immersed in memories of his departed father. Or perhaps he thought that by sitting there, he might be able to understand just a bit of the madness of Kinzo's later years, which he had never been able to understand before... And Nanjo too, just like the times when Kinzo used to sit in that chair, contemplating a chess move... turned his back and looked down over the outside world through a crack in the curtains...
"...If he was to die anyway, it would have been better if he was sick in bed for a year or so before dying. I do wish he could have died after a grace period during which the proper arrangements could have been made."
"It's the other way around. We should be glad that he was in high spirits until the very end."
"At least that's true as far as public appearances are concerned..."
Nanjo understood that as well. Ushiromiya Kinzo, who had risen like a comet in the business world after the war and glittered like a supernova, had died. His funeral would probably be of a fantastic scale. And it would also be the ceremony marking Krauss's inheritance of the headship. He would have to arrange everything as the host of the event, carry out funeral diplomacy perfectly, and make it clear that the Ushiromiya family still had an enormous influence in the political and financial spheres.
As Nanjo watched Krauss, he was vividly reminded of the time when Kinzo had been suddenly selected as the Ushiromiya family head, the time in which Kinzo had been lost and confused. In this way, he was able to understand Krauss's distress and sympathize with it...
Natsuhi's sobs eventually subsided. Watching this and leaving Kumasawa to care for Natsuhi as a fellow woman, Genji returned. And, as though asking what should be done, Genji lowered his head slightly.
Krauss, with his hands still over his eyes, didn't respond... Perhaps even though he had known this day would come, Krauss really couldn't hide his shock at how suddenly it had reached them.
"...Leave this to Doctor Nanjo and me. Krauss-sama, I suggest that you first speak with Madam."
Maybe she heard that, or maybe it was a coincidence. As though responding to Genji's words, Natsuhi came over. Her eyes were red from crying so much, but she apparently understood the heavy responsibility that had been imposed on them even better than Krauss did.
Trying to encourage her husband, who was overcome with shock, Natsuhi lent him some reassuring words. When Krauss finally lowered the hands that had been covering his face, he looked up at the ceiling with a blank expression and let out a deep, deep sigh...
"...Please, stay strong. There are a great many people who will plan to devour everything Father has left behind. We must fight to protect Kinzo's honor and wealth. That is the first responsibility of the Ushiromiya head."
"...I understand. I do understand."
"Doctor Nanjo, Genji, please take care of the legal and funeral arrangements. Especially you, Genji. I ask that you take particular care and see to it that the funeral will be a fitting one for Father."
"And Doctor Nanjo. Father didn't pass away in a hospital, so..."
"Hmm. An autopsy might be required depending on the circumstances..."
"Can't you do something about that...? Even though he has passed away, Father's body is precious. Any damage to it would not be acceptable..."
"I understand how you feel. However, it is also important that an autopsy be carried out with precision. And, umm, I don't really know how to say this. Several of the relatives might be difficult, correct...?"
...Who knows where those vultures after the inheritance would try to place blame. They might start an uproar over some suspicious point regarding the cause of death and use that as a point of contention to start some trouble. Right now, not only was it important to pay Kinzo's remains the respect they were due, but they also had to focus on solidifying the position of the new family head, Krauss...
"...Understood. Please keep it to an absolute minimum. Make sure that Father's dignity is not damaged, even by mistake."
"That will be fine. Do not worry. In any event, leave Kinzo-san to us and stay by Krauss-san's side. Things will start to get quite difficult from here on out."
"I understand. And you too, dear... please stay strong."
Krauss was still staring lazily at the ceiling with a befuddled expression on his face...
"...I will contact the relatives. Please rest for the time being."
Krauss didn't respond. Natsuhi had thought him to be just a bit unreliable at the moment, and so had decided that she must support him. Seeing her husband like this actually stirred Natsuhi up, and a resolute expression rose to her face.
"Things will get busy from now on. Let's start whatever we can right now. I'm sure my husband wants to have some time alone with Father. We should step out for a moment."
"...Good point... After all, this will probably be the last time he gets that chance."
Being in charge of a funeral is tiring work. There's no time to shed tears. If Krauss were ever to be given time to cry for his dead father, that time would have to be now. Everyone agreed with Kumasawa's words. Even so, Krauss continued to lazily gaze up at the ceiling and didn't respond in any way. Natsuhi urged the servants to go.
"I'll go talk to Jessica too. That child is now the successor to the head. I'll make sure to tell her to be fully prepared."
As they each started to make their way out of the study, Krauss finally spoke. They stopped walking.
Hadn't she already stopped walking, just like her husband had asked? But despite that, he had once again told her to wait. From those slightly weak words, Natsuhi understood that he had probably stopped her because he wanted her to be by his side.
"The rest of you, downstairs. I will stay with my husband. Please call us on the phone if anything happens."
BGM: At Death's Door
When Krauss suddenly raised his voice, everyone jumped and turned around... Unable to comprehend what she had done to spark her husband's wrath, Natsuhi ran up to him.
"What's wrong, dear... Have I said something rude...? If so, please forgive me."
"No, no, that's not it, that's not it... Wait a second, give me some time."
"Yes, I understand. It's important to sort things out inside your heart. We were just going to leave this place in silence to give you some time, okay...?"
"And I'm telling you to wait before doing that... Listen up. No one move. Not even an inch... If you're tired, then feel free to sit in whatever chair or sofa you want. So just stay quiet and don't talk, don't do anything!"
...Those unreasonable words felt like a glimpse of how Kinzo used to be. Natsuhi couldn't hide a slight surprise at those words, which made it seem as though Kinzo had possessed her husband or something. Natsuhi told the servants to wait for the time being. She ordered them to sit in a sofa a short distance off, approached her husband, and spoke to him in a small voice...
"...If you order it, I will wait however long you ask. I won't move. So please, try and calm yourself..."
"...No, that's not it, that's not it..."
Was it really blood, or was he actually being possessed? Krauss's disorderly style of speech strongly resembled Kinzo's...
As she watched this, Natsuhi became certain that Krauss was Kinzo's son after all, and that he was the true successor to the head, more suitable than any other person.
"...Natsuhi. Over here."
Krauss stood up and headed towards the window, trying to lengthen the distance between himself and the servants waiting on the sofa by even a small amount. Natsuhi realized that he must have something secret that he wanted to talk about.
"...Yes, dear. What is it...?"
"...Father dying... is bad."
"But he has already passed away. You can't let that keep you down."
"That's not it. It's bad... that it happened now..."
"...What do you mean?"
BGM: Happy Maria! (Instrumental)
"Wh, what...? C, collateral, you say? How much...?"
"...You remember how I helped out Kondo-kun back in Melody Land?"
"Didn't I tell you to break ties with that person? I thought you said you'd refused him...! Why?!"
"There is such a thing as a man's honor! I couldn't refuse!"
Krauss claimed to hold honor as a virtue. However, Natsuhi knew that he most often used this as an excuse for when he reluctantly went along with some deal that he just couldn't refuse.
"Th, that wouldn't be a problem if we had plenty of money on hand...! But didn't you borrow quite a lot of money for the plan to turn this island into a resort?!"
"Yeah, I did! And there were people here and there who lent me a hand along the way! If I'm going to repay them, I can't just sit around on my hands! You need money to repay people! You need money to make money! You can't even get started without money! And even the plan for this island would be proceeding smoothly if only there hadn't been problems with the planning company!"
"I made contact with a government official in the city. I even got the governor's word that this would become the newest travel destination in the Tokyo Metropolis! The groundwork I laid was completely perfect!! Random chance and bad timing were against me! It was just a bit of bad luck. Like a traffic accident!!"
"That was no accident! It was fraud! You were tricked!! They were never drawing up plans for making this island a resort in the first place!!"
"That's not true!! Hijikata-kun's vision was simply overflowing with foresight! The way his eyes always focused on the whole world and the future taught me that things I always believed to be mere dreams were only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible!! Expand your dreams! To the whole world, to the future! You heard him say that too, right?!"
"Yes, I heard...! And I think I remember telling you what I thought after we returned home!! I said that he was suspicious! That he only spoke of dreams and didn't have his feet planted on the ground, and that you must not have any further relations with him!!"
"Hijikata-kun is a wonderful, pleasant young man!! One could learn a lot from the way he lives! I can respect him despite his youth! I won't have you insulting him!!"
"Eventually, you yourself admitted that it was utter nonsense, right?!! I was sure something was wrong ever since that strange man showed up claiming to be a high-ranking NASA official!"
"That foreigner was nothing more than an international swindler! Both Mr. Sonezaki and I were victims in that case. Right now, his vision isn't mistaken! In the future, there will surely come a time when the richest people in the world develop a liking for space travel. And, the very first enterprise in that area will probably be monopolized by a single, private company. That viewpoint is not mistaken! There was simply a group of international swindlers who were trying to take advantage of that fact and deceive investors across the world-"
"And I'm trying to tell you that this Sonezaki man was one of them too!! Just how gullible are you? Why do you always just accept these suspicious offers without any doubts?!!"
"Take that back! Mr. Sonezaki is a man with a brilliant future ahead of him! There's nothing suspicious about him!! Because the dreams he speaks of anticipate the future, they sound crazy to people who can't see into the future! A woman like you can't see into the future!!"
"Shut your mouth!! You don't understand anything about money or business or economics!! Don't try to butt in on your husband's job!! A wife should be satisfied with doing housework! Don't speak!!!"
Without another word, Natsuhi fell silent, just as Krauss had hoped she would. She was already far beyond anger and sadness. And the emotion that lay on the other side of those, was an almost indifferent pity.
Since the days of his youth, Krauss, who had always been frightened of Kinzo, had started to subconsciously admire the way his father lived. Without realizing it, he had come to believe that he could only be recognized as a man in his own right if he surpassed his father. However, Kinzo had been a mad genius, the likes of which had never before been seen in the Ushiromiya family's long history. That talent was a gift from heaven, and it definitely wasn't genetic, much less something that could be learned.
To give the two of them a chance to talk alone, Natsuhi told the servants not to tell anyone about Kinzo's death, and they left the room for the time being. Then, she invited Krauss to her bedroom, and made him tell her everything about their current financial situation. These were things that Natsuhi hadn't been told about under the assumption that a woman had no business knowing. Natsuhi had herself made a point of avoiding this area in the past, thinking that it wasn't a wife's place to intrude on such matters. However, this might also have meant that she had abandoned her duty as a wife to protect her family.
The depths of this sin had been made quite clear to Natsuhi... Krauss was probably tired of trying to defend himself. Perhaps because he had gotten a headache, he hid his face and sank into silence... Natsuhi noticed that the water in the electric kettle was boiling and stood up to refill her cup with black tea. And when she touched the cup of black tea, she noticed for the first time.
BGM: Melody (Instrumental)
Krauss had built up a large debt to obtain funds for his various projects... and to cover the losses when they failed. Of course, he had put the mansion and property up as collateral. However, doing such a thing above board would result in the mortgage being registered. In other words, there would be a record that Krauss had put Kinzo's wealth up as collateral to obtain a loan without anyone's permission.
Kinzo, Eva, and the others must not learn of such a thing. Therefore, Krauss had been putting those assets up as collateral using the worst possible method.
"And... what does that mean...?"
What Krauss was saying probably meant that he had, in essence, signed away the rights to his assets. If these assets had been used as collateral for a loan, then Krauss would still have some leeway under the law. He would have to deal with a bank, which would have absolutely no compassion, but they would be able to work something out within the rules set by society.
...However, signing away the deed and power of attorney was a whole different story. In other words, even the mansion they were living in. If the person holding the deed were to decide to ignore his agreement with Krauss and sell the mansion to a third party right this moment, they would have no recourse whatsoever. Far from using collateral for a loan, this was basically the same as selling their house to borrow money...
"That is technically true. However, everyone I have had dealings with is very reputable. This isn't consumer financing. It's a transaction based on trust between economically literate men."
"I trust them. And they, in turn, trust that by lending me money, I will achieve great success in business and give them massive returns on their investment. I signed over the power of attorney as a sign of good faith and so that they wouldn't have to doubt in the certain success of my business."
"What happens if I hesitate now? Wouldn't that mean even I have no confidence in my own business?!"
If your businesses had been successful, we wouldn't be in debt now, would we... Natsuhi only barely stopped herself from saying that.
"...Father is dead. What happens next? Will your debt be exposed to the light of day, and will your siblings hold you responsible?"
"...That won't be all. It will probably lead to criminal charges..."
"C, criminal charges... Wh, why is that...?"
"...It's better if you don't know. Anyway, this must not be learned of by anyone..."
Krauss looked at the floor shamefully, shaking his head over and over...
If it would come to criminal charges, then he must have broken some laws. He had probably been so intent on raising a large sum of money that he hadn't paid any heed to appearances.
So he had figured that even if he broke a few laws, he would be able to pay everything back before too long and pretend that the whole thing had never happened. This might have lessened his resistance towards breaking a couple laws. And now Kinzo's death, the worst possible thing, had occurred, and they wouldn't be able to keep it all hidden for long...
"...What will happen to us?"
"Th, there is no need to worry... You may not believe, but conditions are most certainly on the rise now. The value of the city real estate I invested in will rise rapidly. Right now, I am working on a project to integrate those and construct a massive business tower. This will be the most reliable of all my investments so far, and will prove to be the most successful."
"...However, it will take a little more time for that to bear fruit. It's absolutely certain, but that doesn't mean it will happen now..."
"...Will the success of that venture be enough to pay back our debts?"
"Of course it will. I'll be able to write off all of the debt I've accumulated so far...!! So believe me. I only need a little more time!"
"But Father is already dead! We don't have that kind of time anymore, do we?!"
As Krauss roared and clutched at his head, he writhed about as if in pain. As she watched, several emotions swirled about in Natsuhi's chest. Her emotions conflicted as she felt pity for her husband, but she also felt he was a fool. And, she felt a mixture of resentment and regret towards her own irresponsibility in letting her husband run wild for so long.
Even if this day hadn't come, it should have been clear that they were in a very critical situation. And yet he had carelessly waited for this moment to come and was now writhing about. Her husband was so foolish... and pitiful. It would be easy to let herself get fed up with this. However, she was his wife. For a wife to ridicule her husband as a fool would run in conflict with her responsibilities. If he was a fool, then she would have to support him to compensate...
However, she didn't have a clue what she should do... Since there had been such a massive amount of money within arm's reach, it was only natural that Krauss had tried to dip his hands into it... It would also be easy to tell him to be a man and give up on all of it.
But that would also run in conflict with her responsibilities. She was Ushiromiya Natsuhi. The woman who had become Krauss's wife and sworn to support him, the new head of the Ushiromiya family, for her whole life. She had to somehow help her husband in his efforts to raise money. She understood it logically. But she couldn't suppress the indescribable dejected feeling that seemed to rise up from the dark depths of her heart...
"Natsuhi, that's it! The witch's epitaph! Let's solve that, let's solve it together! If we can just find the gold, everything will work itself out!! That's right, it must be hidden somewhere on this island!! If we had that, if we had that!!"
"Th, that hurts... dear, p, please stop it..."
Krauss, acting as excited as if he'd thought up a perfect, brilliant plan, grasped Natsuhi's upper arms tightly. Natsuhi couldn't help but be dumbfounded. She wasn't just taken aback because she'd heard something as fake-sounding as the hidden gold brought up. Krauss usually disparaged the story of the hidden gold, saying that it didn't exist and that it was all an illusion his father had created to borrow a lot of money. Because of this, Natsuhi was doubly taken aback...
"Yes, let's have Jessica help us too. Maybe some things can only be solved with a child's sensitivity! This is a family crisis. All of us have to stick together!! Yes, it's a fanciful riddle that Father created...!! We should be able to solve it... there's no way we can't solve it...! It's the only way!!"
"Oh, Natsuhi, this is wonderful, we still have an option left, and right here next to us!! The gold is on this island!! If we had it, everything would be resolved! Waha, wahahahahahahahahahahaha!! Natsuhi, call Jessica here right away! Let's overcome this family crisis as a family!! Yes, right now!! The gold is on this island, it's right beside us!! ...Wah!!"
Unable to withstand the pain in the arm he was twisting in his excitement, Natsuhi knocked Krauss aside. Krauss tripped over the edge of the bed and flopped over onto the floor...
"Please, cool your head off and think of a realistic plan to gather money...!! I'm going to go cool my head off as well...!"
Maybe he had come to his senses the instant he fell over. Krauss tried to tell Natsuhi to stop, but she just kept walking. After closing the door forcefully, Natsuhi dashed away... Natsuhi ran through the corridor. Even though she didn't want anyone to see her like this, she ran headlong into Genji...
"I, I'm alright. Leave me alone...!!"
"Oh, Genji. How are things going in Father's study?"
"...It is just as you left it. Although Doctor Nanjo is in the parlor."
"Is that so...? Do you have the key to the study?"
"Yes. Right here."
"Give it to me. Let me have some time alone with Father. If my husband asks where I am, tell him you don't know."
After grabbing the key to the study that Genji was holding out to her, Natsuhi rushed up the stairs. She then flew into the study, and finally, let out a wail, and cried.
BGM: Worldend (solo)
"And, if you can forgive us... please guide the way for us fools..."
Clinging to Kinzo as he slept in the bed, Natsuhi cried even harder. She kept imagining Kinzo sitting up suddenly and patting her head.
No, Father isn't the type of person to pamper... More likely, he'd yell at me to stop being so noisy. However, neither of these imaginations came true. Because it was an undeniable fact that Kinzo had entered an eternal sleep. But even so, Natsuhi begged the sleeping Kinzo to forgive and help them...
Only a few hours had passed since his passing. Perhaps his soul was still here, listening to her. Believing this, Natsuhi begged for Kinzo's forgiveness and help even more earnestly...
That voice made Natsuhi jump up in surprise. When she faced in the direction that the voice had come from, she saw Kinzo sitting at the study desk, folding up his reading glasses...