Part 108: Tea Party III
BGM: Solitary Deep-Sea Fish
Since ancient times, even a small bit of it could control men with its magic. In that case, how much magic power would dwell in it... if it was piled up in a mountain so high you'd have to look up to see the top?
"Didn't we say that half of this pile would belong to me, and the other half would be split between the four of us?!"
The yells of the humans dancing around the gold reverberated throughout the underground room... In front of the pile of gold, they were arguing about how it should be split.
"Did you solve the riddle all by yourself, Nii-san? You didn't, right?! The four of us siblings solved it together! Of course we'll split it in four equal parts!!"
"Coward! Weren't you the ones who first made that proposal about the gold's distribution?!! How can you disregard that so easily...?!!"
"You really think you're in a position to bargain? When you're the ones hiding Dad's death...?!!"
"Y, yeah, yeah...!! You've been swindling us this whole time, treating Father's wealth as if it were your own...!"
"All you need to do is split the gold evenly, and we'll drop all the rest. It sounds very fair to me."
"Well, if you're going to say that, let's just try splitting it four ways. Feel free to split this pile in four and carry your own shares home. I hope you have pockets that can hold 2.5 tons of ingots...! It seems you've all been driven mad by the gold and lost all ability to make rational judgements."
"What do you mean by that, Krauss onii-san?"
"Have you finally figured it out? This pile of gold may be worth 20 billion yen. However, that's only if you can exchange it for cash. Are any of you capable of exchanging this many unmarked, unknown ingots for cash at the proper rates?!"
If it was a necklace or a ring, exchanging it for cash would have been a manageable problem. However, to do that with several tons of unmarked gold that couldn't be made public... would be impossible for any normal person. However, Krauss could do it. Among the several business friends that remained from Kinzo's generation, there were some who had black market ties and a lot of financial power. The billion yen, which was tied to the cash card that the Golden Witch had handed out, had already been turned to cash by one of Kinzo's connections...
However, none of the other siblings had any connections like that. They would have to rely on Krauss to exchange the gold for cash.
"Now you're finally seeing it. I apologize for hiding all of those things about Father. However, you're in no position to take advantage of that weakness."
"...Y, you really think you have such an advantage just because of something like that?!?!"
"What do you intend to do with that gun? Please, you're scaring us."
Eva was gripping the gun so hard it looked like it might snap. The four guns that the witch had placed in this room were now in the hands of the relatives. Just as the gold had led their hearts astray, it seemed these guns had the magical power to turn their hearts to violence...
Finally, a scuffle arose between Eva and Krauss. Off to the side, Natsuhi started arguing with Rudolf and his wife, and the grand underground VIP room was filled with thundering jeers...
After being forced to watch this scene for so long, Ange's face was starting to contort with pain. It was only natural, after being forced to watch this abusive argument between her parents and her other relatives.
"...What on Earth..."
It was painful for Lion too. Lion would have tried to intervene and calm them, if that had been possible. The gold isn't going anywhere. If you just take your time and think, you'll be able to resolve this. From what we've heard from Eva and the others, they need a lot of money before the end of the year. However, the billion yen cash card should be more than enough to pay for that. Since it could handle their emergency expenses, they could convert the gold to cash at their leisure, then just split it amongst themselves. Sure, maybe Krauss was the only one capable of converting the gold. That might have given him an advantage over the other siblings.
However, this gold couldn't be dealt with by open means. In addition to attracting public attention, it would also lead to various legal problems. It was better for this secret money to remain secret. If they wanted to get the largest portions possible, then they should all agree not to tell anyone about this gold. In other words, to maximize their profits, they needed a gentleman's agreement that all of them would keep the secret. Krauss did have a slight advantage. However, it was possible for the other relatives to refuse to cooperate and tell the world about the gold.
And then, there was also the concealment of Kinzo's death to consider. Krauss was an investor. He needed not only financial clout, but also a certain degree of public confidence. His advantage isn't big enough for him to act so overbearing.
"What's so fun about showing this to us...? Or is this the game of some new witch...? Are they watching us suffer from somewhere and laughing?!"
By now, even I didn't have a clue who was showing us this, or for what reason. At the very least, it doesn't look as though this new tale is overflowing with affection. At first, I thought it was a tale of a beautiful world, where no crime occurred, since Clair had gotten past all of her regrets. But something's different. This tale is clearly filled with ill will towards us. I'm sure of that much now, but I don't have a clue who would want to show us this.
It didn't feel like the sound of gunfire. After all, most people living a normal life never hear that sound.
There was no rain in this underground room. It was the sound of blood dripping down... from Natsuhi's right eye. The bullet had gone in through her right eye... towards the back of her head...
The gun... which fell from Eva's grasp... landed on the floor with a hard metallic clang. As though in response to that sound, Natsuhi's head slowly turned to face the ceiling...
"...N, Natsuhi... Natsuhiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!"
Natsuhi flopped backwards. When the back of her head hit the floor, a red splash spread out beneath it, forming a single flower to adorn her dead face...
"Wh, why did you shoot her?! Why? Eva?! Evaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?!?!"
Krauss howled, raised his gun, and ran at Eva. At the same time, Hideyoshi leapt between them. A scuffle broke out between the two men.
"How could you?!!!! Natsuhiiiiiiiiiiiii, nngaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!"
"K, Krauss nii-san, you've got it wrong... You've got it all wrong... It was... just an accident...!!"
"Evaaaaaaaaaa, how could you?!! I'll kill you! I'll kill yooooooouuu!!"
"I, I didn't shoot her... I didn't... Even though I told her to stop, she just jumped at me...!!"
Krauss, who had just seen his wife killed before his eyes, had lost all traces of rationality in his expression. He was so furious that, if he had knocked Hideyoshi aside and jumped at Eva, he might have torn her throat out.
"Why did you kill her?! Why?! Evaaaaaaaaaaaa!!"
"It was an accident... an accident...!! Calm down, Krauss nii-san...!! ...Owowowowowow... nngggggggggghhhh..."
The two of them had been fighting over the gun Krauss held, trying to push it away from themselves. When the barrel had turned to point at Krauss's chin, the sneering, formless reaper, master of the room of gold, had swung its scythe once more. A line of blood... trickled from Krauss's mouth.
The two fell down, with Krauss's body on top of Hideyoshi. Letting out a cowardly cry, Hideyoshi backed away before Krauss's body could cover him...
"I didn't do anything!! Krauss nii-san's finger just got caught on the trigger...! It's an accident... an accident I tell you...!!"
"Th, that's right, an accident... This was all an accident...!!"
As the pair of them broke down sobbing and repeatedly claiming that it was all an accident, Rosa and the others were unable to say a thing... The witch also watched this scene, but said nothing, and appeared to be completely disinterested.
"I, it wasn't our fault...! It's just an accident...! You saw, right?! Right? Right?!"
"You saw that, didn't you, Rosa?! Krauss nii-san and Natsuhi nee-san both let their emotions get ahold of them and charged at us...!"
"...Well, I can't say I'm sure."
"Stupid Rosa!! You saw, didn't you?! You saw it from right there, so you must know!!"
"I'm sorry. I can't tell if it happened by accident... or if you killed them and tried to make it look like an accident."
"R, Rosa, you...!!!"
"Rudolf-kun...! You saw! You know what happened, right?! Right?!"
"...Sorry, but I agree with Rosa. We can't tell if it was an accident or intentional."
Rosa's and Rudolf's gazes looked very cold and indifferent to Eva and her husband.
"Th, the forest! We'll say they went to the forest and went missing! Then we can buy some time...!"
"That won't get us off the hook, right?! The police will just search the whole forest!! And anyway, why would those two go off into an uncultivated forest like that?! It'll look suspicious from the start! There's no way we'll get away with it!!"
"It'll be okay...! If we hide the corpses here, no one will be able to find them! If we all play dumb, it'll work!"
"It won't... There's no way you can fool the police. If the two of them disappear during a family conference where we were arguing over the inheritance problem, the police won't just put it down as a case of missing persons."
"...I, I just thought of something..."
Though Eva had been scratching at her head, overcome with emotion, her arms suddenly fell as though their strings had been cut.
"...An accident. We just need to make it look like an accident."
"Idiot...! What kind of accident...?! There are clear gunshot wounds on both corpses, right?! Even if we burn them to make it look like they were caught in a fire, it'll still be obvious that they were killed by guns!!"
"...A fire? That's not good enough. We need more. A much more massive accident."
"A, a massive accident...?"
Eva slowly walked forward, tapped on it, and spoke.
BGM: Patchwork Chimera
As she played with the switch that would cause an automatic explosion at 24:00, Eva spun around to face them, a crazed expression on her face...
It was truly... a mad inspiration. If they flipped the switch to the right and waited for 24:00, the 900 tons of explosives would wipe out the mansion without a trace. There wouldn't even be remnants of the corpses. There would be no way to tell that they had died by gunshot wounds before the explosion.
"Yes, it'll be an accident! An explosion accident!! What do you say?!! There's no way the police will find out the truth!! This way, we can pull it off!! We can hide the manner of their deaths!!"
"Ha... hahaha... how... ridiculous..."
Shaking, Hideyoshi frantically searched for a counterargument, hoping to repudiate Eva's mad idea. But he couldn't find one. If they blew everything up, the facts would all be muddled... They could make it look as though Krauss and Natsuhi had died in an explosion accident...!
"It's perfect, just perfect...!!! After all, it was an accident that they died anyway! We're just changing the type of accident!! Isn't that right? We can think up any story we want!! By chance, the rest of us will happen to be in the hidden mansion tomorrow night! Then, when the explosion accident occurs, we'll be lucky enough to survive!! That story should work!!"
"...J, just what sort of story are you planning on? What kind of story could explain how the two of them alone remained here, while the rest of us conveniently went to the hidden mansion and managed to escape...?!"
"That's what we've got to think up now, stupid Rosa!!! It doesn't matter what it is, as long as we all agree to it!! I'll think of something... I am thinking... You all think too!! Someone think of somethiiiiiiiiiiiing!!!"
"C, calm down, Eva... I'll think about it, and so will everyone else! We'll definitely think of something, and it'll all work out! We'll share the burden. You won't have to carry it all yourself...!! It'll be okay... It will!! I know we'll think of a good excuse!"
"...What kind of excuse? We took the kids and all the servants to go exploring an underground passageway, leaving just the two of them behind, and the rest of us all decided to spend the night in the hidden mansion? How could any excuse work? It's insane!"
"And thinking up that insane thing is our job!! Why are you acting like this has nothing to do with you?! You think of something too!!!"
"...Nee-san. Let me ask you a question. If you blow up the island, what will happen to this gold?"
"Nnn, w, well..."
"We've finally gotten our hands on 20 billion yen of gold. And you want to blow it all away...?"
"We can just carry it away... yeah, that's right!! The explosion will happen tomorrow at midnight! We have a full day!! If we all carry it together, we might-"
"You realize there's 10 tons of it, right? Just how much do you think our small group can carry back and forth across this long, underground passage that goes all the way across the island? You're being absurd."
"H, here!! We have this card! The card worth a billion yen which that woman gave us!! We can just carry whatever gold we can! We have the card with a billion yen on top of that! If we split that three ways, we'll have more than 300 million each! That should be enough for all of our purposes!!"
"We have a mountain worth 20 billion yen right here. Why should we be satisfied with just 300 million each?"
Eva's face twisted in anguish, and was met by Rosa's look of cold unconcern.
"...Even if we gave Krauss his share, we'd each have a share of 5 billion. Subtract the 300 million from the card, and the rest of my share is 4.7 billion. If you agree to pay that much to me, then you can do whatever you want with this mountain of gold."
"What do you think you're saying?! So, you don't intend to cooperate?!"
"Nee-san. Please calm down and listen. This is the way that both of us can leave with the most money."
"I want you to go to the police and turn yourself in, admitting that you got into a scuffle and the gun went off."
"A, are you crazy?! I don't want to go to the police!!!"
"Of course, we don't want to say that the crime happened here. The police would find the gold. Yes, what about the rose garden? It's pouring rain now, so the police probably won't find any contradictions in the crime scene."
"I'll let you think of an excuse for why you and Nii-san started fighting while you were holding guns in the rainy rose garden. Don't try to get us and our shares involved just because you want to hide your crime."
"It's not so bad, right? After all, it's not like they'll keep you in jail for several decades. It was an accident, right? You'll be able to get out after just a few years. When you've paid for your sins and come back, then you can do whatever you want with your 5 billion."
"No, I'd never do that!! What would happen if we were arrested?! What would happen to my husband's company?!"
"Who cares about the company? With 5 billion yen, working any longer would just be a waste of time, right?"
As far as the size of each person's portion went, no one had anything to gain from an explosion accident. By doing that, they could conceal Krauss and Natsuhi's deaths. There was no other reason to do it. From Rosa's perspective, the ideal outcome would be for them to confess to their crimes, without any unnecessary tricks. All she wanted to do was to change the crime scene from here to a different place.
However, Eva didn't want to be arrested. She didn't like having her share shrink from 5 billion to 300 million, but even that was more than enough to cover the amount she had been trying to wring out of Krauss in the first place. She wanted to hide what had happened here, even if it meant blowing away 4.7 billion yen. What would happen if they were arrested? The life, the company and the trust that Eva had worked so long to build... Those were things that couldn't be bought back with money. So, she wanted to hide Krauss and Natsuhi's deaths, even if it meant blowing up all 4.7 billion yen worth of her gold...!
But from Rosa's perspective, that was just irrational nonsense.
"What do you think you're doing with that gun, Nee-san? Are you going to have me die in the explosion too? That'll make finding an excuse even harder. In fact, it'll also make it harder to explain away the other two deaths as accidents too..."
"If three people are killed together, that would become a fairly huge crime. It would probably lead to the death penalty. If you're lucky, it'll be life in prison. Even in the best case, you'll be put away for more than a decade, right?"
"Give yourself up. If you do, this'll be no more than a pair of unfortunate accidents. Of course, your jail term won't be too terrible either. Don't worry about George-kun. We'll take good care of him. And we'll make sure that all 5 billion of your share will be waiting for you when you get back."
Eva ground her teeth and glared. The Rosa she knew should have been shaking and obeying her commands. And yet, Rosa wasn't scared. Her blank expression... no, that slight smile... was one that Eva had never seen before.
"Put the gun down, Nee-san. If you calm down, you'll see that my plan is the best one. Jail isn't so bad, right? Think of it as a financial strategy."
"Even if they put you in for ten years, there will be 5 billion waiting for you when you get out. That's like working for a 500 million yen salary, right? If you think of it that way, won't you enjoy your job more?"
"Liar!!! You just want to steal my share away while I'm in there!! Like your man did to you!!!"
"H, he has nothing to do with this, okay?!?! I won't run away... I'd never run away with money... Ooohhh, I'd never do iiiiiiiiiiiit!!!"
Rosa's once-frigid face was filled with rage. The two howling people pointed their guns at each other, shouting insults at each other... You could smell the gold room's reaper slinking closer. The smell of gunpowder, the explosive smell of death, filled the room...
A bubble of blood dripped from Rosa's mouth. Then, she fell over lifelessly, like a mannequin.
"I, i, it wasn't me! I swear I didn't even pull the trigger?!"
As Kyrie said this, she maneuvered the lever action with a practiced hand, and a smoke-smelling shell casing was ejected... It hit the floor with a small, metallic sound. That tiny sound had a disturbing ring to it...
"...Dad just used it as show money to gain confidence, and that was enough to create the rumor called the Ushiromiya Legend of the Gold. It's impossible to exchange this for cash. A pile of gold you can't use is no better than a pile of crap."
"'10 tons of gold were exchanged for cash on the black market, and the successor and his wife died mysterious deaths'. Expecting that to go unnoticed is what's really impossible. We don't want to get the police involved. We'll blow up this island and destroy all the evidence. If it's tough parting with the gold, feel free to grab a few ingots. The billion yen on the cash card is more than enough. In other words, Eva nee-san was right."
"I, I'm glad... It looks like we're on the same page... I, if the police get involved, who knows what might happen? It's the same with cashing in the gold. I'm sure they'd have used that to trip us up. There's nothing we could have done to make it work...!!"
"The 1 billion that woman over there exchanged for cash is the only money we can get our hands on! And even splitting that billion, it'll be more than enough for what we need...! On top of that, now that Rosa is dead, our shares have increased even more...! We can each leave this island with 500 million...!"
"Exactly. As long as we don't let our greedy desire to cash in the gold control us, we can pretend that everything that occurred on this island never happened. We have a way to do that right here."
There was no longer any reason to worry about accidental discharges or people being shot to death on this island. Everything would be erased equally by the explosion accident. No matter what happened between now and midnight the next day, everything would be rewritten by the explosion accident.
"...And you told me... to turn myself in?! Stupid Rosa...! You weren't satisfied with just 300 million? This is what you get for being too greedy... Y, you got nothing more than you deserved..."
"But Kyrie-san, there was no need to shoot her, right...? Even Rosa-san would've figured it out if you'd just told her..."
"...What does that matter...?"
"The guns lying at your feet are Krauss nii-san's and Eva nee-san's. Both of those have been fired. However, Rosa-san's gun can shoot if you just pull the trigger. It's hard to reload one of these if you aren't used to a lever action. An amateur couldn't do it."
"Kyrie-san, what are you talking about...?"
They finally realized what Kyrie meant. 'Rosa had the only gun that could still fire, so I shot her first'. Oh, how foolish we were... Why didn't we realize sooner?
We should have realized that there's a mechanism for erasing everything that happens on this island...
At the same time, fire spat from Kyrie's gun once more. Hideyoshi let out a short scream, clutched at his chest, and fell over face-down.
"Dear?! Dear...!! Wah, why is this-"
Eva fiddled with the lever action, trying to imitate something she vaguely remembered from a western movie, but something seemed to be caught, and the still-open lever didn't budge.
Kyrie finished reloading with a fluid motion. The way she held it was as innocent and sure as a kid playing with a squirt gun. With another heartless cry of gunfire, the puppet called Eva slumped down to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut...
"...Rudolf-san. The billion yen card."
The cash card with a billion yen, which Eva had just grabbed from the witch. That alone was worth more than enough. Because of the 20 billion yen pile of gold, everyone's sense of value has been skewed. Just a few million yen is enough for people to kill over. And this was a billion yen.
"Heheh... No doubt. Ah, lucky me. I don't have to fish through her corpse."
As Rudolf walked up to Eva's body, he found the card lying beside it... and picked it up.
"So, this thin, little card is worth a billion yen... It'd be pointless to keep the company going. Shall we close up shop and spend the rest of our lives in some southern country?"
"That would just get boring. Also, I like seeing you get all worried about some problem, then play around like a little kid when you finally overcome it."
"Heheheh...! Sure you do..."
"Thank you, Ms. Golden Witch. Rudolf-san and I will make good use of this billion."
"Krauss nii-san promised to treat you in a gentlemanly fashion. But I haven't made any such promise."
BGM: Solitary Deep-Sea Fish
When the ringing of the gunfire died down, blood trickled from the witch's mouth, and she fell over onto the bed. Once again, Kyrie ejected the used shell casing. The four metal sounds of used shells hitting the floor seemed to symbolize the fact that Rudolf and his wife now possessed all shares of the gold...
"...All of them were really slow-witted... From the moment they heard about the bomb, they should've known that they wouldn't be leaving this island as a big, happy family."
"Sorry 'bout this, Aniki, Aneki, Rosa. Well, that's just how the cookie crumbles. Give me a break, okay? Aniki and Aneki get into a fight, Rosa gets dragged in, and I'm the one who picks up the pieces. Just the same way it's always been, right?"
At the start, Rudolf and Kyrie hadn't planned to kill everyone and take everything for themselves. Kyrie had quickly realized by the size of the gun in her hands that it would probably hold five rounds at a time... Yes. Both Kyrie and Rudolf knew a lot about these guns. Rudolf, who had gotten his interest in guns from western movies from his Father, owned a shotgun of a similar design. Since Kyrie had the same skill at handling firearms, they both knew enough about these guns... to enjoy shooting together...
Including the witch, there had been eight people there. Six people besides the two of them. Each gun held five rounds. That was one short. They didn't have enough to kill everyone.
"...I was honestly surprised when they got into a fight and one of the guns went off."
That coincidental accident... had provided the missing bullet. It wasn't the second shot. The very first shot, which had accidentally killed Natsuhi, had guaranteed the result of this massacre... In this smoke and corpse-filled room of gold, the two of them wore easygoing smiles, hardly any different from the ones they usually wore...
Rudolf picked up Rosa's gun. Then, he fired a test shot at the wall and ejected the old shell with a smooth motion like Kyrie's. Kyrie went to the box of bullets on the table, casually picked up a few, and loaded them one after another into her gun.
"Set the bomb switch to 'on'. Then, we just need to wait 24 hours."
"The others'll get worried when they realize everyone's missing in the morning."
"Then we just need to make sure no one gets worried."
"Guess so. What about Battler?"
"He's your son. Not mine."
"Don't say that. Look how attached he is to you. He really respects you."
"Then think of a clever way to trick him. I'll worry about Ange. You worry about Battler-kun. Fair enough?"
"I'm kind to my own children, but it's a real pain to be nice to Asumu-san's kid. You understand, I hope?"
Kyrie's voice had grown cold. Kyrie had acted warmly towards Battler because that had been the adult thing to do. He was Rudolf's son, so she just tried to avoid being unkind. But underneath, he was the son of Asumu, the woman she hated even after the other's death. Now that she had given birth to Ange and finally built up a new family, was Battler's return really such a happy thing for her...?
"...No need to threaten me. I'll take care of it. I'll find a good story to tell him."
"Make sure you do a good job of it. If Ange hears that Battler-kun has died in an accident, I'm sure she'll be very sad."
"Sure... How do we start?"
"We have nothing to gain by waiting for morning. Now is the best time."
"...Oh, wonderful. Not even time for a break."