Part 7: Furudo Erika
October 4th, 1986, 11:00 AM
BGM: Doorway of Summer
"Are you kidding? For me, it just makes it a longer walk to the harbor, which is a real pain."
"Hahaha. That's a pretty luxurious worry."
"Uu-! Getting to say hi to the roses every morning, so awesome! You must get late after saying hi to so many roses...!"
"Shame about Ange though. I hear her stomach gets upset easily?"
"Apparently. It's probably her intestines that are weak. She's got diarrhea all over the place."
"Uu-. You shouldn't say something like that about a lady..."
"Ihihihihi, sorry about that. Yeah, I forgot, marshmallows are what comes out of a girl's butt, ri~ght? So, Ange got sick, and the marshmallows turned into syrup."
"Yeah, that's really-"
"-way too gross."
George and Jessica slammed a knee and a fist right into either side of Battler's gut.
*whack*, *smack*thud*. The *smack*thud* was probably the sound made when his knees hit the ground and he fell over. Normally, Battler possessed the good sense you'd expect of an 18 year-old man. However, it seemed that this reunion had brought him back to the mental age he had been six years ago. And bit by bit, Jessica and George realized that they were also returning to the way they'd been six years ago...
Natsuhi gazed at this (charming?) chat through an open window in the hall.
"I'll go in just a bit. It isn't even lunchtime yet, and I'm already tired."
Just a few moments ago, the sparks had already started flying between them and Eva's group. The others had pounded on Krauss and Natsuhi over and over to get Kinzo out of his study... Apparently, they hadn't been fully tricked at last year's family conference after all...
"...There are... no problems with Father, right...?"
"Correct. Leave it to me. Shannon and Kanon are also fully aware of today's arrangements."
"...Kumasawa is a good liar, so I'm not worried about her, but I am a little concerned about Doctor Nanjo. I get the feeling he's bad at hiding things."
"...Leave that to me. I intend to support Doctor Nanjo from nearby as much as possible."
"It's very reassuring to have you there. It really helps a lot. Without your strength, we wouldn't be able to succeed."
"...I am honored by your words."
"...Yes, I understand. Still, you heard that conversation in the parlor just now, didn't you?"
"...Yes. It seems that some considerable suspicions were aroused last year. The terrible toxin has accumulated and is being spread all around."
"...It seems this year's conference really will be crucial."
"We might be able to overcome this year somehow, but there is such a thing as pushing our luck. It's probably best to assume that next year won't be manageable."
"...With this much of the magic-resisting toxin filling up the place, it will probably be difficult to preserve Lord Goldsmith's magic for yet another family conference."
"W, who are you?"
"Oh, no need to be surprised. This man serves as my head furniture."
"Greetings, Madam Natsuhi. My name is Ronove. It is a pleasure to meet you..."
"This man's reliable. He's also helping to guard the closed room barrier."
"...Is that so? I am Ushiromiya Natsuhi. I thank you for your cooperation."
"Of course, Madam. I will be aiding you from the magic world. Please rely on me."
"Ah, Gaap!! I'm glad to see that you're here as well!"
"...Well, I only came to have some fun. If you need an extra hand, let me know."
"Nice to meet you, Madam. This is the first time I've said hello, but I'm always right by anyone's side."
"Pu ku ku. Gaap here is quite the prankster... Remember that headache medicine you dropped on the floor of your room and lost as you were getting dressed? Gaap was the one behind that."
"Whenever you set something small down somewhere but can't find it later, it's always a good idea to suspect that it's one of her pranks. Long ago, she used to tease me all the time!"
"I, is that so? In any event, this is the Ushiromiya mansion. As long as you are here, you will obey us. You understand, correct?"
"Of course. We understand. Think of me as a Genji of the magic world, and please give me orders whenever you wish."
"...I'm pretty sure I know how to be a good guest. I won't let the landlord lose face."
"You can count on Ronove and Gaap. However, the magic world and the human world are two different sides of the same coin."
"I understand. Of course, I will do all I can in the human world. Let's work together and protect Father's secret."
BGM: Organ Short #200 Million in C Minor
"Hmm? Well, su~re. October 4th is like a preparation turn for me. If you don't feel like doing anything, why don't you just sit around until October 5th? I'll call you after the first six die. *giggle*giggle*...!"
...Of course, that was a very irritating way to say it. The fight won't start until the crime occurs. However, waiting for the crimes to start would mean turning a blind eye towards the murders of the first twilight. In other words, it would be the same as being content with the fact that six people would die...
"...Did you know? They say that in chess, the player who moves first is twice as likely to win."
"Although that can change as the tactics of the match progress. Don't they say that the second player has a much better chance at a draw?"
"...Even I know what 'the first to strike wins' means. Then what are you trying to say?"
"Pff, *giggle*giggle*! This is why you're so incompetent."
"You don't mean... No, but..."
"Heheheheheheh! ...Well, watch and see, Battler the incompetent!"
I have a general idea what these witches are talking about. I've tried solving it several times myself in the past, but I still haven't found anything resembling an answer. On the contrary, I still can't even understand why that puzzle exists. That's right. The reason it exists. Why did Beato... prepare a puzzle like this in the first place...?
We all discussed it together from time to time inside the past games. However, I've started to avoid thinking about it under the assumption that there's no point in trying to solve a riddle that can't be solved. This time, I should change my viewpoint. I shouldn't just focus on the obvious parts... like the truth of the riddle and how to solve it. What's more important is why that riddle was set up in the first place and displayed for us to see. That's what I should be thinking about.
Even if I can't solve it, I should be able to try and figure out what Beato was thinking when she showed it to us. Alright... this time, I'm turning the chessboard over...
The witches keep calling me incompetent. Let them laugh. They aren't my enemies. I'm continuing our match. Beato...
BGM: Witch in Gold (cembalo)
"Sheesh... I wish I could keep the downpour limited to the inside of my heart."
The people in the parlor noticed that raindrops had started to drip down the window.
"So now, we have nowhere to run until the family conference ends."
"...The same thing goes for Nii-san. I won't let them escape, you can be certain of that... The cards we're holding aren't bad. Nii-san is just bluffing. I'll make certain that he surrenders..."
"Well, a deal isn't just about making your opponent lose. You've gotta get a pitfall ready, praise them a bit, and convince them to stand on it of their own accord."
"...Hideyoshi-san is right. We pressed them a little too hard last time, Eva nee-san."
"Th, that was perfectly reasonable considering it's Nii-san we're dealing with."
"Heh, looks like Rosa's fallen asleep."
"She was complainin' about how early she woke up this morning. Well, guess there's nothin' wrong with taking a nap."
"There's a chance we might be forced to spend all night on this. Getting a nap in now is probably a smart idea."
Out of consideration for Rosa, who had fallen asleep on a sofa, the others quietly left the parlor. Unaware of this, Rosa slept. After telling Maria to just stay where she was after that tantrum over not being able to find her rose, Rosa slept, unaware that the rain had started to fall...
Of course, Maria noticed that the rain had started falling and was soaking her to the bone. However, that just made her even more stubborn. Unable to find the poor, slightly unhealthy rose that she herself had marked, she just couldn't stand having that search be interrupted by something like the rain. So the more the rain fell on Maria, the more stubborn she grew, and she wandered around the rose beds...
As she did, from behind Maria's back, came a *patter*, *patter*. The sound of approaching footsteps. Then, the footsteps landed in a puddle, making a small splashing sound, and Maria finally heard. However, even the slight distraction that sound caused made her feel irritated, and Maria ignored it despite having heard it.
BGM: Golden Sneer
Maria turned around, bewildered. After all, that voice... was one she didn't recognize at all. On this sealed-off Rokkenjima, that voice belonged to no person she knew...
Krauss and Natsuhi had been privately discussing what should be done next in a deserted corridor on the third floor. Genji had searched everywhere for them.
"What is it? It must be something more urgent than a few sheets getting wet by the rain."
"What is it? Has there been some sort of blunder?"
"...A short while ago, someone came to the mansion... claiming to have drifted here after an accident at sea."
Krauss and Natsuhi couldn't help but go wide-eyed and look at each other. This was the first time they had ever heard of someone coming to this island uninvited.
"Someone drifted here...? Is that true? Poor thing. Treat this person politely, like a guest. What is happening now?"
"Doctor Nanjo is performing an examination. He hasn't finished yet, but from what I could tell by looking, the drifter seemed tired but uninjured."
"That's good. Natsuhi and I are having an important conversation right now. When it is over, we will go to check on this person. Please tell this drifter that we want them to feel at home."
When Genji bowed deeply and started to leave, Natsuhi called him to a stop. Genji stopped walking and Natsuhi jogged up to him...
"No. She is a young woman, about the same age as Milady."
"...A woman...? I see. Very well. Back to your work."
The parlor of the mansion was bustling. The adults gathered, worrying about the health of this sudden guest...
"...It always helps to be prepared. It's probably all thanks to the life jacket. Without that, she might have drowned."
"What kind of girl was she? Older or younger than George? Jessica?"
"She was younger than Jessica. She was wearing a life jacket and swimsuit. Looked like she was all tired out...!"
"Assuming she washed up somewhere near the harbor, that must've been a bit of luck amid disaster. It would've been terrible if she'd landed on the opposite side of the island..."
"...Still, you have to feel sorry for her. With this weather, the boats won't be coming. I imagine she'll also be stuck on this island all day tomorrow."
At that moment, the door clunked open and everyone looked in that direction.
It was Gohda and Kanon, with the latter pushing a serving cart laden with a tea set. Gohda understood well that doing a little extra at times like this would earn him points. The relatives, hungry for information, crowded around Gohda...
Gohda ordered Kanon to serve the tea and became the sole object of the relatives' attention.
"Gohda-san, how's that kid doing? Does she seem well...?"
"W, well, I don't know about that. But there is no need to worry...! Doctor Nanjo is giving his full attention to taking care of her, and Kumasawa and Shannon are with him. Please, do not worry. Why not relax with some black tea for now...? Come, Kanon-san. Quickly, quickly, serve it, serve it."
"...Geez.. why do I..?"
Kanon knew that this tea was just Gohda's way of earning points, so he lined the cups up with a slightly sullen air.
"Uu-. I'll help too."
"...I, it's alright. You can just wait there, Maria-sama."
"Uu-! I wanna serve tea too-!"
"Didn't you talk with Doctor Nanjo? Did he say anything?"
"Yes. When I met him a short while ago, he said that there weren't any serious external wounds... And from what I could tell at a glance..."
Of course, Nanjo instantly became the center of attention. Kanon turned his back on Gohda, who seemed downhearted.
"Doctor Nanjo...! How is her condition...?! Does it look like she'll be alright?"
"Not to worry, everyone... She is fine. She had no injuries at all. It seems that she is quite worn out, but there shouldn't be anything to worry about tonight, as long as she doesn't develop a fever."
"That's good to hear. We're lucky enough to have a doctor, but this is no hospital."
Everyone was relieved to hear that the girl was in good health... When Nanjo gave the more detailed results of his examination, concluding by saying that she was young and should therefore be fine, everyone who no longer fell under this description nodded in assent.
"...Uu-. Boats really are scary. Fa-ll, fa-ll. Battler was right..."
"Maria-chan, let's not tell Battler-kun about this."
"Oh, Madam! Krauss-sama!"
Gohda, who had lost his nerve and was handing out cups, called out in an excessively loud voice. Apparently, he was that desperate to get everyone's attention.
"Yes sir! Her condition is not serious."
"I see, that's great. Where is she now...?"
"I believe Kumasawa-san and Shannon-san were guiding her to the bath. And they said they would get her some clothes afterwards."
"In that case, they will probably arrive here soon. Everyone. This may be the day of the family conference, but we have a guest brought here by an unfortunate accident. She wasn't invited, but I want you all to welcome her."
"Who could disagree with that? I'm all for it."
"Same here. Didn't Mom always tell us to be nice to girls?"
"You take that line way too far."
"...It's probably best if we call George and the rest over here too. Let's all greet her together."
"Well... wouldn't that just make her feel more timid...?"
Eva stood up and made a phone call to the guesthouse. At that moment, they heard the sound of a knock, followed by Genji's voice.
At those words, everyone fell into silence, and the people who had been sitting stood up straight. Genji came in first, opening the door slowly... then moved off to the side, bowing deeply and urging the guest forwards.
BGM: The Great Detective Knows
Just this single point... showed that this girl possessed a dignity appropriate for a guest invited in by the Ushiromiya family...
"...Furudo-sama, allow me to introduce you. This is the representative of the Ushiromiya family head, Ushiromiya Krauss."
"Welcome to Rokkenjima. Though you arrived due to an accident, you are a guest of the family. We welcome you. Please, make yourself at home and relax however you please."
"...Thank you very much. Allow me to introduce myself."
"...I am truly grateful for the warm welcome I have received despite my status as an uninvited guest."
...There was a general sigh of acceptance. The clothes she had been lent were probably Jessica's formal wear from long ago, but the composure of her introduction gave the impression of a dignity by no means inferior to the clothes she wore...
The girl's name was Furudo Erika. She looked slightly younger than Battler and Jessica, but her composure and mannerisms were beyond what anyone would have expected from a high-schooler, almost as though she was a well-to-do family's daughter...
"...With someone incompetent like you as the main character piece, the game wouldn't get anywhere. That's why I've placed myself there as a piece..."
"Well, it's just a bit of a bonus. Even in a closed circle, it'd get boring to see the same thing every single time, right?"
"Quit messing around. This piece doesn't exist on Beato's game board. Beato and I won't acknowledge it...!"
"This is Beato's game board, right? If Beato refuses, then I'll think about it. And Beato's opinio~n?"
Beato was unable to answer. Lambdadelta grinned as though in triumph.
"...Wanna try complaining about the rules and stepping down from the game? Isn't that the favorite move of you mystery people♪ If there's even a tiny element that goes against your expectations, you have a tantrum and totally stop thinking."
"...Don't worry. I'll make a detective proclamation about this piece."
"...Because of Knox's 7th. 'It is forbidden for the detective to be the culprit'. There was an exception clause in the original, but for this game 'the detective isn't the culprit' has been proclaimed in red, so you don't need to consider the exception."
"I hate word games, so I'll say it in red too. Furudo Erika is not the culprit."
"Repeat it. 'Furudo Erika had no influence on any of Beato's games before now'."
"In that case, what happens to the number of people on this island right now?"
"Of course, it's plus 1 over the previous number. But don't worry. Furudo Erika only increases it by one person. Besides her, the number of people on this island is exactly the same as it was in the previous games."
It was Battler, George, and Jessica, who had come from the guesthouse after being called here by Eva. They immediately spotted a guest they didn't recognize, and their eyes went wide.
"Uu-. Guest. She came by fa-ll fa-lling."
"Huh? Fall, fall...??"
"...Genji-san. Who is this person...?"
"This is a guest, Furudo Erika-sama. Furudo-sama, this is the daughter of the family, Jessica-sama, along with her cousins George-sama and Battler-sama."
"Umm, oh, n, nice to meet you. I'm Ushiromiya Jessica..."
"...Hello. My name is Furudo Erika. I am very pleased to meet you..."
Though Battler, George, and Jessica didn't have a clue what was going on and were utterly bewildered, they each introduced themselves...
"Looks like it. In other words, the number of people in this parlor now is equal to the total number of people on this island."
"There were supposedly 18 people on the island, but since Grandfather was actually dead, that became 17. And now one piece of Bernkastel's has been added..."
The number of humans on this island has returned to 18... 'I' glanced around at the humans in the parlor.
This is everyone. The true number of people on the island at the moment...
"Well, all of us are Ushiromiyas. Please don't feel obligated to call us by our family name. I'm George."
"I'm Battler. Nice to meet you!"
"...Thank you very much, George-san, Battler-san. I'd be pleased if you would call me Erika."
"Nice to meet you, Erika-san...!"
It was decided that Erika would be welcomed like a guest and allowed to borrow the bedroom next to the cousins' room on the second floor of the guesthouse. In front of all the relatives, she had seemed dignified and a bit stiff. However, as she talked with George and Jessica, her expression began to soften gradually...
And so, the 'detective' Furudo Erika was placed on the game board...
BGM: Minute Darkness
"...Kumasawa made the decision on her own to use Milady's old clothes. Please forgive her."
The clothes Erika was wearing were Jessica's old formal attire. Though the guest possessed a dignity that would put many adults to shame, her body was still physically similar to a middle-schooler's. Jessica's old clothes fit her perfectly.
"Not to worry. They match this guest perfectly. If she likes them, we might even let her keep them as a present, as a sign of friendship."
"...Certainly. Thank you very much."
"Have you contacted the police and her family?"
"Yes. They seemed to have been quite distressed."
"...She said that she fell from a boat as it was returning to port."
"Is there anything to back up that claim?"
"I checked with the Coast Guard. It seems that she fell from the rear of a pleasure boat, unnoticed by the others on board. We don't know the exact location she fell from, but it was probably somewhere near this island..."
"...Playing on a boat with such a bad weather forecast was foolish. However, is it really conceivable that she nearly drowned in the nearby waters and drifted to this island?"
"It is not impossible. Tales of drifters washing ashore exist in several of the islands around this area."
"...I believe it likely that there was an accident. This is the middle of a typhoon. There is no place on this island where it would be possible to land a boat."
Genji had already figured it out. Natsuhi probably suspected that this mysterious guest, who had arrived during the already high-stress family conference, might be the agent of someone's conspiracy. Therefore, Genji had already checked to make sure that the accident was real, that Furudo Erika was her real name, and that there was nothing suspicious going on...
"...I understand. My husband has ordered that she be politely entertained. Make sure that there are no blunders. However... you understand, don't you?"
"Yes. I won't let her anywhere near the family conference. After dinner, I will see that she retires to the guesthouse."
"Make sure that they don't start trying to force us to let her meet Father, or anything like that."
"Of course. I will keep that in mind."
BGM: Melody (instrumental)
"She's probably Lady Bernkastel's piece. Though she will follow the rules of humans, the player is a witch. We can't underestimate her."
"Hmph, there is no problem. Even if she was Lady Bernkastel herself, since she is a human, she's no match for us. After all, we have Gaap with us. Humans certainly cannot win against Gaap!"
"...Thanks. Still, it's not a good idea to overestimate yourself. The definition of a witch doesn't only imply the ability to use magic."
"True. A joker and the eye of a typhoon. That is what a witch is..."