Part 116: Returning the Gold
BGM: In the Sun
"Ahhahahahahahahahahaha!! Simply splendid. I am glad to see you in such high spirits...!"
"I could say the same for you. What idiot said you're reaching your last years?"
"I just borrow a bit of cheer from you. Once I return to my study, I will be little more than a withering, senile old man."
"Enough with your lies! Give it up and swear that you'll be living it large until you're a hundred."
"Same here. I haven't seen you for six years, but I was surprised to see how little you'd changed."
"Wahahahaha, you little brat. So, it seems you've learned flattery these past six years! Sorry to disappoint you, but you're hardly a fair judge in the matter. I have grown quite old indeed."
"I'll bet a thousand yen that Kinzo's still doing great when he turns a hundred."
"Yeah, me too. Grandfather won't be any different when he's a hundred."
"Wahhahahaha! Don't think you'll get any more presents for complimenting me!"
Kinzo laughed cheerily. Beato, who sat next to Battler, was also laughing merrily. Ange stood all alone by the window, staring at the others and trying to figure out what sort of relationship the witch of the portrait and her grandfather had. There was a knock on the door.
"Is that you, Genji? Come in!"
"Father... oh, and Battler-kun's here too."
"It has been some time, Beatrice-san. Has there been any news?"
"I'm just the way I used to be. Come on, have a seat. And Ange, why are you standing by the window like that? Come over here and sit down."
"Ange. Come over here."
"...I'll just watch from here."
Ange grasped the candy she had gotten from Beato tightly, and with a still wary gaze, she continued to stare. Genji offered her a chair, but Ange just shook her head.
"Let her do as she pleases. Come, Krauss, Natsuhi, and sit."
"...Is it something important? I guess Ange and I should leave."
"Hey, if you leave, who's going to back me up here...?! Kinzo, you don't mind if Battler stays, do you?"
"I have nothing to hide. I do not mind."
However, he had called Krauss and Natsuhi to the VIP room to meet Beatrice, the Golden Witch. It was hard to imagine that Kinzo wanted to have a casual conversation...
After Kinzo said he didn't mind, Beato also asked Battler to stay, so he decided to do so. In order to avoid getting in the way of their conversation, Battler stood up from the sofa and walked over to Ange's window. When the big brother finally came back to Ange, she clung to his waist, as though determined not to let him go away again.
"Oh, I see. That must be why Ange doesn't like me."
"Huh? What do you mean? I really don't think she dislikes you."
"*cackle*cackle*. You never could understand women, Battler."
Beato smiled at Ange, but the latter turned to look the other way...
"*cackle*cackle*! Even a young woman is a woman nonetheless."
When Beato stopped laughing, the conversation switched gears. Why on Earth did Kinzo summon Krauss and Natsuhi to the VIP room, and what was he going to talk about? Everyone fell automatically silent.
BGM: L&D Circulation
"*cackle*cackle*! Yeah, you'd better thank me."
"Well, it's actually your grandmother he's thanking."
"Shut up, you."
"No, it comes to the same thing. All of that gold has been lent to the Ushiromiya family for three generations. And for no compensation."
"...We truly... cannot be grateful enough."
"Gold is no more than a pile of bricks to me. It was a relief to have Kinzo hold onto it, since I had nowhere to put them."
"Whoa. I'd like to say that just once before I die."
"...Is the Golden Witch... a rich person...?"
"Hmm? Well, yeah. After all, she just went and lent Grandfather ten tons of gold."
"Precisely. I've been borrowing it for several decades, always promising to return it someday. It is a debt I will never be able to fully repay."
"The head family has never forgotten its gratitude. Isn't that right, dear?"
"Of course. If the Beatrices hadn't kindly lent it to us for three generations, the Ushiromiya family would have fallen long ago. Even someone as shrewd as Father couldn't do anything without funds to start with."
"By now, my money is making money, and the gold that made up my original funds can sleep in peace. Krauss. Do you know what I am about to say?"
All things borrowed must be returned someday. That day had finally come.
"...Yes, I understand. Father."
"Beatrice. I do not have many years ahead of me. In fact, this may be the last family conference that we will attend together."
"How fainthearted you sound. You must be joking."
Beato alone laughed. She looked at Battler, so he laughed along with her, but Kinzo and the others remained silent. Apparently, there existed some major concerns about Kinzo's health...
"Of course, I do not intend to die as soon as next year. However, I don't believe I can make any certain promises about meeting you again next year. Not once have I ever made a promise that I cannot keep."
"If you say it so proudly like that, I'm in no position to disagree. Are you serious about this?"
"Beatrice. I want to make amends. And I must do it while I am still in high spirits. For that reason, I made a decision today."
"...What's Grandfather talking about...?"
"Quiet. Grandfather is... about to talk about something very important."
By now, even Battler understood what Kinzo was about to propose. Beato probably realized it too...
The eagle had one of its wings torn off, and it crawled in the mud, on the point of death. Then, they were saved by the Golden Witch's golden miracle. Under the Golden Witch's protection, the eagle had nursed its wounds for many years. And now, finally, it was time for the eagle to leave the nest the witch had provided...
"I will return all of the goldthat your grandmother lent me. Krauss, you have no objections, correct? That gold did not belong to the Ushiromiya family in the first place."
"Of course. I have no objections whatsoever."
"Are you sure, Krauss? You're an investor, aren't you? You could always do with more money, right? Didn't you want Kinzo to hand the gold over to you?"
"Hahahaha... Yes, now that you mention it, it's hard to deny what you say. However, the contract was always between you and Father, and the gold was yours to begin with."
"After all, my husband is the successor. Just as Father rebuilt the family in one generation, I am sure my husband will make the family thrive in his. And this is something the two of us will do together."
"Hmm, well said. That's the spirit."
"...So, you have no regrets to leaving behind ten tons of gold. I must say, that is quite impressive. What can a witch do against an opponent who cannot be swayed by the golden magic?"
"I will return the gold to you. However, that will not change the fact that the Ushiromiya family will always be supremely indebted to Beatrice, the Golden Witch."
However, the expression worn by the Golden Witch herself was slightly lonely. Ange couldn't understand why this was.
"...After all, if you're giving it back, that simply means that you have no use for it. Ah, well."
Beato rose from the sofa. Then, she walked up to the window and looked down at the rose garden waving in the wind.
"Krauss. I have also decided to present you and the others with my inheritance while I still live."
"When I die, you will not only be busy with the funeral, but I imagine that you will have Eva and the others at your throats over the inheritance issue. If all is divided now, the funeral will be less trying for you. Krauss, write this down. And Genji, please be our secretary. I will now lay out the distribution of my assets."
Kinzo immediately began explaining how the inheritance would be split up. Battler, realizing that he shouldn't be listening in on this conversation, walked over to where Beato was loitering by the window...
"Hey, rich person. If you've got too much gold on your hands, I'd be happy to lighten the load."
"Gold... would be no less useful if you turned it to firewood and used it to cook a stew."
"What's the matter? You're looking a bit bored."
"My magic revived the Ushiromiya family and created Rokkenjima. And now, it seems the Ushiromiya family no longer has any need for the power of my gold. It has taken flight, leaving the nest of my magic behind."
"True. That's pretty much it."
"I have called Rokkenjima the witch's island... my island."
"And now, Rokkenjima is returning the gold to me. The day has come... for Rokkenjima to awaken from my magic."
"You're the type of person who looks totally carefree, but who's actually full of lingering attachments and regrets."
"The cruel and obstinate ones are usually the quickest to grow attached... and then to feel lonely."
"That's right. That's the kind of person you are."
"...It was... a game for you and me."
"It was fun. It's a game you polished to perfection during those six years..."
"I once likened it to an eternal torture for the both of us."
"...Eternity... is happiest when you can still believe that it's eternity. But all things must end. And we have to be aware of that."
"So, we must not avert our eyes."
"Just as the sun always rises, there's no sun that doesn't set."
Of course, Ange didn't have the slightest idea what her brother and the witch were talking about. However, even as young as she was, she could feel that the pair had spent an incredibly long time together... and that they understood each other so well that they might as well be a married couple...
Then, Beato noticed her reaction.
They were talking in riddles again. Grasping the key that hung by her chest, Ange looked at her brother's face...
"We need to show you the contents of the cat box that is this day. That key I gave you is for opening it."
"...What do you mean... cat box...?"
"He means this day."
"With the miracle of magic, I've brought you to the day you wanted to reach so much. You must continue telling the story of this day, as the final witch."
"Does that mean... that I mustn't remain here...?"
Ange's tone was slightly tense. She understood what her brother meant, and it made her frown.
"That's right. I did say that."
"I'm not leaving. And please, stop trying to spoil me with this strange, made-up game...! I want to know the truth of this day!!"
"She is a moody kid, be it 12 years in the future or 12 years in the past."
"Shut up. I didn't ask you...! And what the hell do you think you're doing...?! Didn't the Golden Witch come here to perform her resurrection ceremony?! Didn't you appear on the island with a crash of thunder and try to offer up 13 people as sacrifices?! Why are you acting so happy and casual?! It doesn't make sense!"
"You're the one that doesn't make sense. What are you thinking? Do you want me to be a murderer?"
"You wrote a tale about it, sealed it in a message bottle, and threw it into the sea! Two of those were discovered later on...! Both of them were stories of cruel serial murders!"
"What a shame that only two of them made it to shore...! How sad that 'Land', my best masterpiece, was never seen by human eyes."
Reference note - 'Banquet,' what you saw in the previous thread, is the second version of Episode 3 that Ryukishi07 wrote. The original story, 'Land of the Golden Witch', was mostly written before being discarded after people found Episode 2 more difficult than he expected. The contents of Land are not known in detail, but it was supposedly a special game board where it was possible for Battler to be the culprit, and introduced a character Virgilius, who was later split up into Virgilia and Erika.
"I've been wanting to ask this for a while, but what's up with those message bottles?"
"As I was working out the details for my game against you, I began creating those tales along the way. Once I realized that I could create endless different tales out of the same game board, it really started to get fun...!"
"So, you wrote them down, hoping that I would read them someday."
"Precisely! They were so good, I just couldn't bear to wait for your return...! Inspired by Agatha Christie, I tried sealing them in bottles and throwing them into the ocean. Mysterious, don't you think?!"
"Don't mock me...!!! Those were your plans for the crime! You used the location of the hidden gold to fan up discontent between the family members... as you planned your brutal serial murders...!!"
"Sheesh, is that how I've become in the year 1998? Well, I guess I can't blame them, *cackle*cackle*."
"Huh?! What's with the sudden change of character...?!! Is this some scheme to make me let my guard down?! I'm not gonna be fooled, Beatrice! Onii-chan!! You want to make me surrender and say that witches exist, don't you?! You think I'll fall for that...?! I'll find the truth without your help!"
"Even though that truth is all around you right now? You once called yourself Gretel, but it seems the name Mytyl would be more fitting."
Ange tried to slap Beato's cheek. However, the difference between their heights was so great that Beato dodged before the hand could reach her.
After Ange yelled those words, her eyes grew cloudy. They cleared up almost immediately. By that time, she had already gone back to her six-year-old self...
"...You're right, Ange. This is the sin I left behind, and the reason for this final tale's existence."
As Ange stared blankly, uncomprehending, Beato gently patted her head.
"Indeed. This tale is a farce. It could not be true. However, there is something that he feels he must tell you. Something he's so determined to convey that he went to such lengths."
"Beato. I'm already showing it to her. I don't want to force it on her."
"...I don't understand what you're saying. I'm sleepy."
"True. We should probably go take a nap."
"Kinzo. Must I remain here longer?"
"My apologies, but I must ask you to stay a little longer. Moving on, Krauss, the continued support of the Fukuin House should be viewed as your responsibility as the Ushiromiya family head..."
"...What a pain. Forgive me, Battler. It seems I cannot go with you. Genji. Would you mind taking these two to the guesthouse?"
"As you wish. Battler-sama, Ange-sama, please follow me."
"Thanks. See you later, Beato."
"Of course! I have a mountain of things I wish to discuss with you. And I'd like to have some time alone tonight. We must act the part of a couple every now and then...!"
"Wh, what do you mean, act the part of a couple? Ihihi...!"
It would probably be best for her to take a quick nap. Battler walked through the windy rose garden, pulling her by the hand. When he questioned their guide, Genji, he learned that the old servant had known beforehand of Kinzo's desire to return the gold to Beato... and settle the inheritance problem early.
"...The Master decided to start preparations early for his final task in this world, the ending of his life."
"Most people don't think much about what happens after they die... Haah. Guess Grandfather's just on a whole different scale."
"Today marks the day of a new flight, when the Ushiromiya family will depart from the Golden Witch's patronage."
"...That's true. Heheh, that's a pretty cool way to say it."
Apparently, a grand Halloween party was to be held tonight, and Gohda and the others had been ordered to start getting ready for it. However, it wouldn't just be a party. It would be a ceremony to mark the return of Beatrice's gold. At the start of dinner, Grandfather would make the announcement, and an applause would give gratitude to the three generations of Beatrices for their gift to the family. Apparently, this was what they had planned.
"Is this still being kept secret from Dad and the others?"
"Technically, it is a secret. However, the Master did not suddenly begin thinking in this way today. He has often considered this day for many years, and has even discussed certain matters with his children. I doubt that any will be surprised to hear this night's announcement."
"Apparently, my old bastard's been running all over the place trying to get money for his company. I guess he'll be dancing around when he hears that Grandfather's giving him his part of the inheritance early. A nice present for him."
"I rather think the responsibility is what will spur him on. Since Rudolf-sama left the island, he has succeeded splendidly. However, his success so far has been supported by the Master's wealth."
"...And now that he's suddenly getting his inheritance money, he'll have to keep going by his own strength alone in the future. Heheh, that's some nice pressure for him."
"The siblings must have suffered for decades because of their father's excess of success and ability. Simply having a parent who is too successful can be a great burden to a child."
"And tonight, they'll be leaving the nest, truly becoming adults for the first time."
"It seems the Master plans to call this night a ceremony to return the gold. However, he first intended to call it a living funeral."
"Sounds pretty depressing, having a funeral while you're still alive. I'll admit that calling it a day of a new journey and leaving the nest fits the Ushiromiya family much better."
"...Onii-chan... I'm sleepy..."
"Look, we're almost to the guesthouse. Do you want to go to Mom's room? Or to the cousins' room?"
"I don't care... I'll... sleep until dinner..."
Ange, still holding her brother's hand, crouched down and looked as though she was about to fall asleep. Battler lifted her up and carried her. As she felt the warmth and safety of her brother's back, Ange drifted off into sleep...
BGM: Terminal Entrance
Just what on Earth happened on October 4th and 5th, 1986? Because of the massive size of the Rokkenjima Explosion Accident, the time the explosion occurred was known almost exactly, down to the minute.
The time was... October 5, 24:00. The sheer improbability of that time proved that the explosion was produced by artificial means. Later on, the following statements were collected from individuals who knew Ushiromiya Kinzo when he was alive. During his lifetime, Ushiromiya Kinzo built a clock rigged to blow up the island at exactly 24:00. This clock was apparently inside his secret study. When he felt mentally cornered and wanted to think up a brilliant plan, he would activate that device and use the tension of the approaching midnight to bring some flash of inspiration to him. While Ushiromiya Kinzo still lived, this was only thought of as a tall tale about this eccentric man, but the fact that the Rokkenjima Explosion Accident occurred at exactly 24:00 supported the story...
Professor Ootsuki spoke passionately.
Witch Hunters. Enthusiasts who treat the mad fantasy surrounding Rokkenjima as their plaything. Ange had no reason to love these people, who embellished the deaths of her family just for the fun of it. And yet, how ironic for Ange, who wanted to know what happened that day, that these people were the ones who knew most about that island.
"If someone used that device, the island would be blown away without a trace. There would be nothing left. No matter what had happened there, they could erase it."
"Theories that Ushiromiya Eva was the ringleader of some conspiracy sprang up very early on. However, no one was able to explain how she set off such a massive explosion."
"And the rigged clock proves that such a thing was possible..."
"Correct. We can theorize that Ushiromiya Eva, fully aware of the timing and radius of the explosion, took refuge in Kuwadorian."
"...To get all of the family wealth to herself, she killed everyone, and used the explosion to remove all evidence..."
"That idea gives the most logical explanation for the Rokkenjima mystery. It also conforms with the fact that Eva never spoke to anyone about the events of that day."
Where was that rigged clock, and how did Eva find it? Several forgeries have speculated on this matter. There's no need for me to waste time thinking about it. Eva activated the clock device, hid in Kuwadorian to escape the blast, and was therefore the only one to survive. That was everything, the answer, which eloquently told the whole story.
...When Eva first adopted me, our relationship wasn't that bad at all. I asked her several times. What happened that day? Every single time she answered, it was to say that she didn't remember. But... well, she must have been flustered at the time. The very first time I asked, she answered like this:
It was a slip of the tongue. She knew what had happened that day. And she left this world without telling even a bit of the truth. She sealed the truth in a cat box... and left this world, taking the key with her.
There can be only one answer. She was behind everything. She got all of the family wealth to herself and became super-rich. And afterward, she lamented the fact that her beloved son would never inherit any of what she had created, and she cursed me. Just remembering that old bitch makes me want to vomit. What happened that day? That's what I want to know. It's my only goal... the one reason I'm still alive.
After all, even if I don't know what happened that day... As for 'who' did the crime... The 'who dunnit' is already clear. Ushiromiya Eva. She's the culprit. That has never changed since the beginning. Yes. I'm not trying to find out what happened that day. I'm trying to find out what Ushiromiya Eva did that day. If I can reveal that, then I can expose Eva's evil, even though she has already died. That is... my true goal.
The police also suspected that the accident might be a crime, and they did investigate. However, no matter how much they inspected the crater that had once been Rokkenjima, they didn't find anything at all. The public and the Witch Hunters cornered Eva with several bits of circumstantial evidence, but since not a single bit of physical evidence was found... Though Eva was only the merest fraction of a shade away from guilty, they were unable to expose her crime... My goal isn't anything as vague as learning what happened that day... It's to expose the crime Ushiromiya Eva committed that day... and to have my revenge. I can't expose Ushiromiya Eva's crime, so people are treating the events on the island as though some bizarre Golden Witch did it all. Defeating the Golden Witch would mean exposing Ushiromiya Eva's sin for what it was.
I won't forgive Ushiromiya Eva. I'll certainly... certainly... Hate her and take revenge for my family. That is Ushiromiya Ange's one and only reason for living...
BGM: Monochrome Clock
"...Shut up. I'll expose that old bitch's crime. I won't accept that it was a perfect crime, with everything blown away. I'll never do that."
"In other words, this journey of yours is a journey to take revenge for your family."
"Got a problem with that?"
"You must be joking. It's great to know that you have a purpose in life."
"...Could you turn that off?"
"Oh? You don't like M. Zakki?"
The dull sound of the engine became the BGM that filled the car.
"Is there something strange about it? A fight for revenge."
"Not really. I've met people who live for that reason many times on the front."
"...You've been on battlefields many times as a mercenary, right?"
"Well, I've seen a few."
"So, are people who fight to take revenge for their families... strong?"
"No doubt about it. Some people'll even strap bombs to themselves and commit suicide to take revenge for their families. Humans are more than capable of dying for vengeance."
"...That's right. I could do it too."
"You mean kids who fight like soldiers?"
"That's it. Kids who've lost their parents and have nowhere to go sometimes get picked up by groups of armed insurgents and become soldiers. They get a gun thrust in their hands, and they're taught how to take revenge. But in the end, children are expendable. Anyone can be a soldier in a battlefield if they can pull a trigger."
"Are you trying to say that I'm like that?"
"Revenge can be a reason for living. It can also give you the strength to become a soldier. Like a miracle, it can turn a girl who could do nothing but sob over her parents' corpses into a soldier, almost overnight. Nothing gives you more power than revenge does."
"I guess so. And that's what I'm like."
"Do you know about the child soldier problem?"
"Child soldiers who are given guns and taught how to take revenge make that their reason for living. Well, that's not exactly right. It becomes their reason for shooting their guns. But revenge is something that never ends. At some point, they no longer have any reason for shooting their guns."
"...What do you mean?"
"They used to shoot for revenge. But, eventually, they keep on shooting for no reason at all."
"Because they've forgotten about their revenge?"
"When revenge is impossible, they eventually tire of it and forget their original purpose. When that happens, they have nothing except their gun. Eventually, they'll keep shooting just so they can eat."
"...You're saying that child soldiers who started using guns for revenge... end up as bandits or something?"
"After all, they've never even gone to school, and they haven't been taught any useful skills as far as employment is concerned."
They only learned how to shoot guns. And they were only ever praised when they killed the enemy.
"Eventually, your reason for living stops being revenge... and becomes the means you used to try and take it. It's sad, really."
"Are you saying that I'll eventually get tired of revenge, and... uh, what would it be in my case?"
"You'll get tired of exposing the truth... and you'll eventually become a person who can do nothing but hate Ushiromiya Eva."
"Well, that's true already. Got a problem with it?"
"Hyahha...! Come to think of it, that's right."
I'm not sure what Amakusa is trying to say. Probably something annoying. So I'm not interested.
"You still have a long life ahead of you, Lady. With your youth, you could do anything. I get the feeling that this journey might be a waste of that precious youth."
"It's none of your business. I already jumped, remember? Off this huge skyscraper."
"And you were lucky enough to come out of that alive."
"Back then... I died. So, I'm already a ghost. And my only purpose is to expose the truth of that day to take revenge on my family's enemy."
"...I see. That's an iron will you've got there, Lady."
"There's no way a flippant man like you could understand how I feel."
After that, Amakusa was forced to shut his mouth. He shrugged, but Ange didn't see. Even so, Amakusa spoke once more.
"On the first day we started this journey, you said something. You said you wanted to know what happened on that island that day."
"It's the same now. What's changed?"
"Now, you're saying that you want to know what happened on that island, that day to expose Ushiromiya Eva's crime."
"And isn't that exactly the same?"
"...Well, that's true."
"I'm tired, so I'll sleep now. Would you mind staying quiet for a bit? Tell me when we get there."
I wasn't particularly tired, really. I just said that because I didn't like talking about this.
Ange, who had decided to feign sleep, ignored him. But Amakusa kept talking. He wanted to make sure she heard at least this much.
"You started on a journey to learn the truth. It's becoming more and more a journey of revenge. A journey to have revenge by exposing the truth. But, as you know, there's nothing left on Rokkenjima. There aren't even any traces left. Exposing the truth might not be a picnic."
...I know what Amakusa's trying to say. The police searched the scene so thoroughly just after the crime, and even they weren't able to find any physical evidence proving that Ushiromiya Eva was the culprit. And a full 12 years have passed since then. If the truth could be discovered by a girl like me, waving wads of cash around to pick up a bit of info from those who were somehow related to the incident, then someone would have exposed the truth long ago.
I might not be able to reach the truth. If so, then my first desire - to expose the truth - will probably fade away. After that, only my hatred for Eva will remain. Just like the child soldiers, who forget their original purpose and live just to shoot. I will forget my original purpose... and live just to hate. I'll do nothing but despise Ushiromiya Eva, but my goal, exposing the truth for revenge, will be gone, so hating Ushiromiya Eva will become my whole life.
...Is there any difference between shooting for revenge and shooting to live? When you pull the trigger, someone dies either way. And what about my case? Is there any difference between hating Eva as I expose the truth... and hating Eva after I've given up? There's no difference. In the end, whether I find the truth or not, I'll just keep on cursing Eva, over and over, until I die. What a crappy life. But now... that's all I have left. Ushiromiya Eva stole my family. So, I'll take revenge. By exposing her crimes and showing the world.
...My consciousness was slowly drifting away into sleep...
Is this supposed to be the truth? Enough with this farce. Why is even Onii-chan trying to hide the truth from me? I'm trying to find it so that I can avenge him and the others. Or would Onii-chan say the same thing as Amakusa? That revenge is meaningless, so I should stop. Is that why... he's speaking in riddles, trying to make everything more confusing...?
...That's none of his business. I'm not just trying to take revenge for their sakes. I'm doing it for my sake too. After all, that's the only reason I'm still alive. Taking revenge... is my reason to live.