Part 110: Tea Party V
He had hidden his gun in the nearby shadows and was now smoking a cigarette...
"...Should be easy to trick that dimwit. And if it doesn't work, that's just too bad."
He glanced over at the place he had stowed his gun. The cigarette smoke began to pleasantly cloud his mind. Battler isn't a kid anymore. He's an adult, who can choose his path through life as he pleases. When animals grow up, it's normal for them to form a group and go on a journey. Humans are the only ones that keep treating them like kids even after they get big...
"...If I'd known it'd come to this, I should never have begged for you to come back. I regret... dragging you back into the family..."
He puffed out those words... along with the smoke. When Battler came, he didn't intend to voice those regrets of his. Rudolf had already determined to play the part of the evil murderer who kills for money...
"...He's still not here. What's taking him so long?"
At that moment, he heard the sound of someone stepping on gravel. He looked up, thinking that Battler had finally arrived, but the sound had come from the direction opposite of the mansion.
BGM: Solitary Deep-Sea Fish
"Aneki... So, you're alive..."
"Yeah, sorry, but I lived... Too bad! But my husband wasn't so lucky... How could you... How could you...?!!"
With a face obscured by anger and tears, Eva slowly walked closer, her gun raised. Her husband had been killed right in front of her. She probably wouldn't even hesitate. Realizing that a gun, quivering with anger, was pointed right at his chest, Rudolf backed away. As he pretended to back away, he approached the gun he had hidden in the shadows.
"C, calm down, Aneki... Put the gun down... I never wanted that to happen. Everything happened so fast. There was nothing I could do...!"
"How can you say such half-baked lies?!!"
As Eva had said, it really had been a half-baked, pointless thing to say. Rudolf would have said anything if he thought it would calm Eva's emotions before she pulled the trigger, which she looked capable of doing at any moment now... Then, Rudolf's foot came in contact with his gun.
"L, let's just talk this over. George-kun should be here soon. Oh. Hey, George-kun, we're over here."
Rudolf waved, as though George was coming from behind Eva. Let Eva's attention turn in that direction... That idiot. My simple, big sister has always been a sucker. Die!!!
...Then, a bit later, the sound of something heavier than rain drip-dropping onto the cobblestone floor.
The bullet Eva fired went straight into Rudolf's chest. The bullet Rudolf fired at Eva missed, landing near her feet.
"Guess I was... right... This gun... does shoot low..."
He dropped the gun into a puddle with a splash, staggered backwards, and leaned against the wall of the chapel.
Eva dashed up to him, kicked away the gun that had fallen into a puddle, and grabbed Rudolf by the collar.
"What about George?! Where is he?! I won't let you kill him...!!"
"...Sorry, Aneki. Already... got him."
"...Did it in the bushes over there. Go take a look. You'll see soon..."
"...R, Rudolf... you..."
Eva, who said she had always been able to see through her little brother's tricks, also knew that Rudolf's final words, as his consciousness began to fade thanks to the bullet wound, were not a lie.
"How could you... George ...Geoooooooooooooooooorrge!!!"
An empty shell casing bounced off the cobblestone. The furious gun barrel was pressed against Rudolf's forehead.
A bolt of lightning turned everything white. However, the wall of the chapel was stained blood red. A red splash, like a crushed tomato, came out from the back of Rudolf's head and covered the wall... Then, leaving a red trail behind him, Rudolf sagged downwards, sat on the ground, and fell over.
Eva dashed off towards the bushes. She found George's corpse almost immediately, screamed, and broke down sobbing. Rudolf's bloody corpse was exposed to the rain that ran down off the eaves. His eyes were still wide open. A fist-sized, flesh-covered hole was open in the back of his head, and his insides were exposed to the open air. Inside was a mixed jelly of flesh, brains, and spinal fluid. That goop, which looked like someone had mixed it up with a spoon, dripped from his eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and the hole in his head...
Ange clutched at her head, sobbing and moaning. Her father had dirtied his hands with murder over money, and on top of that, he had faced such a cruel end, and Ange had been forced to see his corpse. It was hard to imagine a more painful experience for a daughter to go through.
I'm totally fed up with this. It's completely meaningless.
"Bernkastel-san...! I know you're here somewhere! Please, make this game stop...!! There's no point to it!"
As if in answer to that yell, a black shadow appeared a few seats in front of them. Or perhaps she had been sitting there the whole time. Maybe we just couldn't see her until we realized she was there. It was, without a doubt, the back of Bernkastel's head.
The witch turned around with bored eyes. As though the two who were yelling were the strange ones.
"Please stop this...! We realize that this world is the sealed cat box world of October 4th and 5th...!"
The games are like messages. Or maybe more like a roundabout love letter. A single message can be conveyed over several games. But now, we understand. We know that endless tales can seep out of the sealed, two-day cat box. And beyond that, I even know the culprit and the motive. That has already been revealed, and it has nothing to do with this game.
"We both know the answer, that this is a cat box tale...! So, there shouldn't be any need for any further games...!! If this is supposed to be a game between you and us, then we already know the answer...!! The game should be over!!"
Another shadow appeared in the next seat over, turned around, and scolded the pair.
"...There is a point. If you just watch, you'll see it. *giggle*giggle*."
"Are you the Game Master...?!"
"...Not at all."
"Then who is it?! Could it be... Clair...?"
"If you watch, you'll see. Not much longer now. *giggle*giggle*."
"The tragedy has already reached its climax. Who'll survive, I wonder? Eheheheheheheheheh..."
Bernkastel isn't the Game Master...? Then who is? Could Clair have created this cruel tale...? Or are there even more witches playing around with this cat box...?
There were no sounds. No trace of anyone's presence. No breathing from anyone alive. There wasn't anything to be heard anymore... If there was a sound... Then that would be only the sound of the murderer's feet stepping across the floor...
Kyrie slowly passed through the lounge. In her right hand... was a gun. In her left hand... was a knife. The knife was stained with blood, and some was still dripping from the tip, leaving behind red tracks like a demon's footprints... Her hands were filled with tools of murder. So, she wasn't capable of doing anything but murder. In that sense, she was clearly 100% 'murderer' at that moment.
...The murderer reached the front door, and then, finally, she looked down at her blood-stained hands. Those hands carried tools of death, which had performed a cruel massacre. Then, at last, the murderer realized that she couldn't even open the door like this, and threw away the knife in her left hand... Then, she placed her hand on the door, turned around calmly, and spoke.
"...And I'm sure the news shows, newspapers, and all the rumor-spreading people will be sure that you spent your time in happy ignorance until the instant of the accident. In other words, that'll mean you all had a good time until midnight on October 5th."
So said the one who had stained the guesthouse red.
"At this hour, the cousins are all staying up late and playing around. The servants who have the morning shift are all snoring. The ones on the late shift are probably filling in the log or taking a break about now."
"...That's how it is. From where I am now, I can hear the laughter coming from the cousins' room... *giggle*."
Humans outside the cat box would probably never understand what Kyrie was saying. Only she, shut inside the cat box of the explosion accident, could understand the true meaning of her words...
Kyrie almost picked up an umbrella, but then stopped suddenly, as if she'd just thought of something. Then, she started walking out into the rain, not caring at all whether she got wet or not... Did the murderer not want an umbrella to get in the way of pointing her gun? Or was she hoping that the rain could act as a shower to get the blood off her?
Kyrie stopped walking. As though something unexpected had caught her attention. However, this time, it was no whim of hers...
BGM: Dead Angle
"Oh, Eva nee-san. That's surprising. How could I have missed you from that distance?"
"I'm just as surprised. I didn't think I'd survive."
"...You came here from the underground stairway behind the chapel, right? In that case-"
"That's right. I bumped into Rudolf in front of the chapel!"
"And how was he doing?"
"Oh, just wonderful. It's been a while since we siblings had a nice chat."
"...I see. He's such a show-off, but so unreliable in a tight spot. Looks like he can't do anything without me after all."
Kyrie had already realized that Rudolf had been killed. However, no trace of urgency or panic rose to her face. She just closed her eyes with her usual unconcerned expression, and when she opened them again, she had regained her composed smile.
"What's that blood on your clothes...? You just came out of the guesthouse, didn't you... Don't tell me..."
"Yes, that's right. I'm in the middle of a murder right now."
"You killed?! You killed everyone?!! Even Maria-chan...?!"
"There was no need to let them live until morning. When morning came, there would be an uproar, and that could prove to be a pain. They might have used a wireless to contact someone off the island and gotten help. So, this was clearly the best move to take. If you turn the chessboard around and look at it that way, right...?"
"Monster!! I can't believe you're so blinded by greed that you committed murder...!!"
"Don't forget what you did yourself."
"That was an accident!! I didn't mean to kill them! Unlike you!!"
"You're not wrong there. If that gun hadn't gone off, you would have kept on arguing and jumping at each other. If you had, then the rest of you would eventually reach the answer a few steps slower than I did."
"I'm not a murderer!!"
"Not true. You're just a murderer who didn't get a chance. You've just been saved by that accidental discharge. If it weren't for that bit of good luck, and if I hadn't moved before you did. Then you would have played the same role I'm playing now. That fact won't go away, no matter how much you try to deny it. It's a truth that exists across all futures."
"D, don't try and confuse me!"
However, on the inside, Eva understood. Back then, she had probably been saved by that accidental discharge, by a coincidence. If the argument had continued much longer, she would surely have grown a desire to kill Krauss and the others, and might even have carried it out. She simply could not deny the existence of that demon deep within her heart.
Only the theatergoers knew. They knew that she could become a killer in another world. And Kyrie, who did not have the theatergoing ability, knew this fact also. Apparently, she really was an extraordinary person. So, for some time, Eva could only grind her teeth in silence, still pointing her gun...
"...I don't understand. You're also a mother, you've felt the pain of giving birth to your own child. How can you not know how precious a life is...?! How are you capable of doing all this...?!"
"What does that have to do with anything...?!!"
"Children are bonds... is what I mean."
"Children are bonds that can tie you to your husband. A bond to make Rudolf-san acknowledge me, so I could take him back from that woman. But you've killed Rudolf-san now. So, you understand what that means, right?"
"What do you mean... I understand?!"
"Right now, I'm no man's wife, so there's no need for me to be a mother. I am me. Kyrie. Now that Rudolf-san's dead, I'm not even an Ushiromiya anymore. I live to benefit me."
"Right, Rudolf is dead, so maybe you aren't a wife anymore. But you still have Ange-chan, right...?! You're still a mother, aren't you...?!"
"...Y, you... how can any mother say that about her own daughter?!"
"Eva nee-san. Let's put a stop to this. Stop pretending to be so noble."
"Did either of us marry because we wanted children? We didn't, right? We married because we wanted to live with the man we loved. And, once you've married, you never want to let that man go, for the rest of your life, correct? Children are weapons to be used for that goal."
"Who would have children for a reason like that...?!!"
"Some people would."
Kyrie kept on speaking emotionlessly, ignoring the falling rain... Her relaxed smile did not falter for an instant.
"...You... Could you say that to Ange-chan's face?!"
"Of course, that'd be pointlessly cruel, so I won't say this to her directly. I plan to write her a letter asking her to forgive her bad mother, then vanish from her life. You've seen what Rosa-san and Maria-chan are like, right? Now that Rudolf-san's gone, Ange's just a chain tying me down."
"...I'll go back to being just Kyrie, and enjoy the rest of my life at my leisure. A new challenge, and a new life. And maybe even a new love. *giggle*..."
"...And you call yourself human... You call yourself Ange-chan's mother?!"
"*giggle*giggle*. Who gives a damn about Ange? I've never adored, that little brat."
"...H, how can you..."
"You've been released from your family drama too, haven't you? Let's sing the praises of a woman's freedom. You should thank me for having George-kun killed for you."
"Y, you... monsteeeeeeeeeer!!"
The two yells... and the sound of gunfire... thundered across the dark rose garden. Slowly, Eva fell backwards. Then, she landed in a puddle, scattering countless drops of water. Across from her, Kyrie spun around as though dancing. Beautiful, black rose petals scattered around her. They were dark red rose petals. As these rose petals sprayed from her throat, she spun around in a circle, and slowly crumpled. Then, she fell to the ground, sending muddy water flying. The two women had shot... and fallen...
However, when the thunder roared, only Eva sat back up...
Eva hadn't been shot. Kyrie's intensity had made her fall backwards, but the bullet had once again slipped right past her...
Eva cursed her good luck. Why couldn't this luck have saved her husband or her son?
"...Die there... for Ange-chan's sake. You'll be killed in the explosion accident. Until the moment of your death, you worried about the daughter you left behind. Yes. I'll write that into the lid of the cat box..."
When Kyrie heard this, blood dripped from her grinning mouth, and she seemed to say something in response. However, her voice came out only as globs of blood from the hole in her throat, not words...
BGM: Infant Queen Bee
"Ange, please, calm down...! This is just a game...! That couldn't possibly be what your mother truly feels...! It's just something that the Game Master made Aunt Kyrie's piece say...!!"
But saying that did nothing to calm Ange's sobs. I don't blame her. Even if she knows it's just a game, she's been forced to see, not only her mother's death, but also her mother announcing that she was the culprit of a mass murder, who didn't even love her daughter. Anyone would sob after hearing that...
"Bernkastel-san!! Enough of this!! I don't care who the Game Master is!! Stop this pointless game right now!!"
When Lion yelled this, the theater suddenly went pitch-black, swallowed in darkness. However, that wasn't enough to shock Lion. Lion continued to yell Bernkastel's name into the darkness, telling the witch to stop this game.
Then, a single beam of light shone down upon the stage.
"Clair...!! So, you were the Game Master after all?! I don't get it. Why?!"
Clair didn't answer. In fact, it looked as though she hadn't even heard. Her eyes were blank, and you couldn't tell what she was looking at. In fact, she was even forgetting to blink... She looked... just like a doll...
Then, another beam of light lit up the side of the stage. Under that light... stood Bernkastel. At the same time, though there appeared to be no one in the audience, a large applause rang out...
Bernkastel raised her right hand in response to the applause. She kept doing so until the applause died down...
"Bernkastel-san!! So, you were the Master of this game after all...!!"
"...Lion. How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not the Game Master?"
"Then are you saying it's Clair?! That's impossible...!!"
"Yep. Of course it's impossible. After all, Clair is dead. We were just conducting her funeral. Did you forget that...?"
"Then just who is standing there...?"
"A corpse. She's not a mannequin. So, of course, she still has her insides. She's hiding it under a beautiful exterior, but she's actually packed full of guts."
It was a cold, merciless, and cruel object, like something a classic grim reaper might hold.
"Wh, what are you planning to do...?"
"...When they're alive, you can enjoy watching them struggle. When they're dead, you can enjoy tearing out their guts. Tales are things you get to enjoy twice. That's what it means to be a witch of theatergoing."
Bernkastel pressed the blade of her reaper scythe against Clair's stomach, then slowly slid it across. Then, along the line she traced, Clair's dress was sliced open. It was now clear that the scythe she held was not a fake one for theatrical use. And, it was clear just what she planned to do next that made her cruel smile so fitting.
"Ange. Can you hear me?"
"...I hear you... You tear me to bits, make me read! What's next?! Are you showing me this worst possible tale to hurt me even more?! Is this fun for you?!"
"Yeah, I'll bet it is. I'm just happy with all this too...! You think... that I'd give up after that?! You think... I'll sit around crying any longer because of that disgusting game of yours?!!"
"Then that woman in the dress is the Game Master?!"
"No, she isn't...! That can't be! Then who's the Game Master?! Who created this disgusting tale?!!"
"You still don't understand?"
"What don't we understand?!!"
"Ange. You gambled everything on a faint chance of a miracle, throwing yourself forward. I invited you to October 4th and 5th of 1986 out of respect for your courage."
"...What was your goal? To take your family back. That would be a very difficult thing, and without the blessing of a miracle, a thoroughly impossible one. You were prepared for that, weren't you?"
"Yes, I'm prepared...!! And I still haven't given up on Onii-chan, Mom, and Dad!"
"Whether you give up or not is your choice. That's your own game, after all. I won't support you, and I won't even watch. I've already enjoyed my fill of games that use you as a piece, so I have no need for you any longer."
"Well, that's a relief. Then why am I here? Didn't you invite me?!"
"Yes, that's right. I invited you here. To thank you for entertaining me for a while, as my piece."
"To thank me?! Ha, so this is how witches show gratitude!! Sure, this has been loads of fun, you devil! How could you make this kind... this kind of game... and do that to Dad and Mom?!!"
"Ange. You made a wish, hoping that you could take your family back. However, you made one more wish. Remember?"
"No, I don't!!"
What happened on Rokkenjima on October 4th and 5th, 1986? Didn't Ange leave on her journey with Amakusa because she longed to answer that question?
"That's right... So what's your point?!"
"...You don't... mean..."
Lion realized what Bernkastel was getting at. And because of that, Lion was too shocked to speak... The Game Master isn't Bernkastel or Clair. Then who is it...? That's the wrong question.
There is... no Game Master.
That could mean only one thing...
"Ange. You still don't understand?"
"What... are you saying...?"
"Only Eva returned alive. Even though the police claimed it was an accident, the public didn't believe it. Then, she took over her husband's company, and the harder she worked to make it more and more successful, the more enemies she made. A public image of her as a great queen of conspiracy grew stronger and stronger."
"...I'm sure she wanted to tell people about the truth. That truth that no one would ever believe without proof. Bit by bit, Eva's heart began to snap. You rejected Eva, so she rejected you in turn. The relationship between the last two members of your family was completely strained. Each time she compared you with her beloved son, she grew more and more twisted and broken."
Then, a strange message bottle was picked up and became a topic of conversation. It contained a bizarre story, one which told of a mysterious serial murder related to the gold on Rokkenjima. Everyone rejected the explosion accident theory and started to think up conspiracy theories. Some of those theories named Eva as the culprit, which tormented her even more. But Eva used even that to create the cat box. And until the moment of her death, she protected it. She protected the lock that held the cat box shut. So, no human would ever reach the truth inside the cat box. Not unless the witches who crossed the sea of Fragments opened the lock...
"This is the truth."
"...You're lying... You're lying... lying...!! If this really is the truth, you should be able to say that in red!! There's no way you can, of course there isn't!! Nngyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!"
"Ange...!! Ange, calm down...!! Uu, ah...?!"
Ange writhed with such strength that the chains on her arms and legs looked like they might snap. All over her body, a red, gooey liquid started to seep out. It was as though cracks had opened up all over her and blood was leaking out of all of them.
"What's that? You want me to announce it clearly with the red truth? Then I'll do that, just for you."
Ange's yell covered up Bern's red truth.
"*giggle*giggle*giggle*, ahhahahahahahahahahaha...!! Stupid kid. If only you hadn't made me say that, I could've shut it up inside the cat box."
"But you did tell me to, right? I knew you would, of course. And I so wanted to see you scream like that. What a lovely expression, one that'll keep me laughing for about a hundred years. *giggle* *giggle*, *giggle* *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*!!! Go back to being scrap meat. Ahhahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!"
"Mom, Dad, it's a lie, right?! Lies, lies... gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh..."
"A, Ange...! Ange...?!"
As Ange held her head and screamed, the blood dripping from her finally grew so thick that it started scattering all over the place. Then, bit by bit, her body began to melt... no, to fall apart. Then, bits of her began to pile up on the chair, until she was nothing but a pile of guts and scraps...