Part 135: Quiz Tournament (Finale)
"Hmmm. And why is that?"
"Well, I... I just sorta..."
"Think back to the 15 slice cake that you found the almond in. If there was only one almond, the odds of winning were one in 15, right?"
"Yeah. One in 15."
I'd thought that waiting for a lot of people to get wrong ones would make my chances for winning higher. But, in the end, no matter when I ate my slice, the odds were still one in 15.
"Still, Ange-chan. What if the servants were also eating the cake, and it started with 20 slices?"
"This is a party, right? It's not fair that the servants don't get any cake, don't you think? So, let's say it was originally a 20 slice cake. The servants took out five slices, then redecorated it as a 15 slice cake and let you choose a slice. If so, what would your chances of choosing the right slice be?"
If there were really 20 slices, then the chances would be one in 20.
"However, the servants know where the almond is, so they chose five slices for themselves that had no almonds. In other words, they removed five losing slices. That would mean your chances of winning were one in 15, not one in 20."
"...They took out losing slices, so it's obvious that the probability would go up."
"Just now, Jessica-san did the same thing. Jessica-chan removed one of the two boxes you didn't choose. In other words, the odds that the remaining box you didn't choose was the winner went up a bit, right...?"
"Ahahahahahahahah, I sort of get it, but not really..."
If you remove a losing box, it's only natural that your chances of getting the right one go up. And just now, Jessica onee-chan removed a losing box 'from the pair of boxes I didn't choose'. So, doesn't it make sense that my odds of winning with 'those boxes' went up...?
"...Now I'm getting confused..."
"Actually, you really are incredible, Ange-chan. Even though you're only six, you're trying to understand posterior probability, a concept in probability theory. Probability really is interesting. I'm sure you'll like it when you get into high school and college. Go and enjoy studying it all you can."
My little head was already filled to the brim. Bewildered, I had to beg Aunt Eva for an explanation. Aunt Eva wore a bitter smile too. I'll bet she doesn't really get it herself. As we felt a sense of connection through this failure, we happily grasped the medals we had wrangled out of them...
This is a bit mean-spirited of a riddle, considering that Marilyn Vos Savant's explanation of the Monty Hall problem wasn't published until 1990.
"...? What is it, George onii-chan?"
George onii-chan and Jessica onee-chan were calling to me from the window. Aunt Eva was talking with Mom and the others, and since it looked like they'd be a while, I went over to George onii-chan and Jessica onee-chan.
"Looks like the quiz tournament is almost over."
"Yeah. There's only Battler onii-chan and Beatrice left. I'm starting to get sleepy."
It's probably because of that adult drink I swiped from Dad. I've felt floaty ever since I drank that. That floaty feeling keeps getting stronger, and I've been feeling sleepy for a while now. I gave a huge yawn.
"...Yeah. If I had a sofa, I'd probably fall asleep."
...The party will end if I fall asleep? But I just wanted to take a nap while everyone else kept having fun.
"Was our puzzle just now a hard one?"
"...Yeah. I still don't really get it. And, I'm sleepy..."
"It's called posterior probability. That's what we call it when the probability of something changes because we learn or fail to learn some sort of information."
Did George onii-chan call me all the way over here to lecture me on math...? For some reason, I feel even sleepier now.
"So, if we have one almond in ten slices of cake, our chances of getting it are 10%. But what if 'we learn' that those ten pieces were chosen at random from a hundred pieces?"
"You'd think that the probability went from one in 10 to one in 100, right...?"
"Absolutely nothing has changed about your slice of cake. Depending on whether you know or don't know a certain fact, the probability of your slice being a winner changes. Doesn't that sound strange?"
"...That sounds hard, so I don't wanna think about it..."
"Ange. Please, just listen until the end."
Jessica onee-chan's voice grew a bit stern. As young as I was, I couldn't understand what all this was supposed to mean to me.
"There's only one thing I want to tell you. So please, don't forget this."
"The truth is always right there in your hands, Ange. Don't you think it's stupid to let it change around just because you hear someone else's words. Just because you hear what they think the truth should be?"
"The truth inside of you has been in your hands from the beginning. And the nature of that truth is actually something you decide for yourself. You change it yourself depending on what you hear... and what you refuse to listen to."
"You probably don't get what we're saying. But you have to understand. Even if you can't understand when you're six years old, I'm sure you will once 12 years have passed."
With very serious expressions on their faces, they grasped my shoulders as they spoke. I don't know what they're trying to tell me.
"The truth that lies in your hands is not unchangeable. You'll be interfered with in many ways that'll make it change. So, if the truth you hold in your hands is really important to you..."
"You need to protect it yourself. Don't forget it."
"I see. Even though there were so many of us, it looks like it's finally over."
"How was it? Did you enjoy tonight's party...?"
"Yeah. It was fun. But I think I'm a bit sleepy."
"...That's no surprise, considering how much we've been running around."
I rubbed my eyes. I must have gotten really excited. But whenever I get excited, I'm always tired afterwards. Right now, I'd rather have a sofa to lie on than medals.
"I've got a special puzzle just for you, but are you sure you want it? If you're sleepy, you can stop now."
"No. I've come this far, so I'll keep going... *yaaawn*..."
Onii-chan and Beato laughed at my yawn.
"Looks like it's time to call it a day..."
"Yes. Ange. Let us leave my puzzle for later. It's too difficult to be solved by one with eyes as sleepy as that."
"...No way. I've... come this far, and... I also want... Onii-chan's medal..."
I'm just so... so sleepy...
Ange drifted over to a chair in the corner of the room and plopped down onto it. Then, she closed her eyes, looking like a doll sitting there. It didn't take long before the cute sound of her breathing in her sleep could be heard... When she saw that Ange was finally asleep, Beato spoke softly.
When she spoke, the peaceful clatter that filled the room fell silent. Everyone looked down into Ange's sleeping face. Each of them wore an affectionate gaze, as if they'd just watched a baby finally drift to sleep.
"...Did Ange-chan have a good time?"
"But of course. It might not feel so strong now, but one day, she will surely remember tonight's party and understand how fun it was."
"...It was fun for us too, getting to play with Ange-chan."
By this point, everyone was standing in a wide circle around Ange as she slept. Now that the guest of honor was asleep, this Halloween party reached a conclusion...
"She will remember. Ange-san. You have a long life ahead of you. Even after 12 years, there is still much for you to experience. I pray that you find this life meaningful and worthwhile."
"...You are the final grandchild and daughter of the Ushiromiya family. All of us pray for your happiness."
"Ange-chan. Stay well. Happiness isn't something you find, it's something you make. And in fact, memories work the same way."
"True. There are some things that we only truly understand when we think back on them years later."
"Make sure you remember my pretty face every now and then. Just having you remember us is the greatest memorial service we could ever have."
"Oh, come on. It's not like we're dying. We're just going to the inside of the cat box... the other side of the curtain."
"That's right. It's not even a curtain. It's just like we are now. Ange-chan's there sleepin' away. The rest of us are right by her side, watchin' over her. We'll always be with her."
All of them still wore warm smiles, but the sound of sniffling came from several places throughout the room... This party wasn't only for the girl who wasn't able to be here this day. It was also for all those people who weren't able to meet her here... who never had the chance to say goodbye...
"...Aunt Eva. Take care of our daughter. She's not honest with herself, and she'll often be selfish and short-tempered. She might be a pain all the time, but..."
"I'll make sure... she's happy. As long as that's what she wants..."
"Ange-sama, it's okay if you forget my face. But please, at least remember the taste of my cooking...!"
"Hohhohohohohohohoho. And I won't ask you to remember old Kumasawa. But please, at least remember the taste of mackerel juice."
Someone said "when'd you feed her that?!" and everyone laughed.
"Her face looks so cute, sleeping there like that. She looks like an angel, just like her name."
"She's not an angel, she's a witch. Ange's the final witch, ANGE Beatrice."
"I wonder if that magic will bring her happiness."
"Will she become a white witch or a black witch? That's for Ange to choose. I've shown her both sides."
"I'm sure a painful life lies ahead for you. You'll probably believe that you're all alone in this world. But we will always be there right behind you, cheering you on. Don't forget that..."
"I'm certain your message reached her."
"...I hope so."
"I'm certain the tale of the two of us will help Ange-sama understand."
"Don't you have anything to tell her, George-sama?"
"...I've already said all I wanted with that box puzzle."
"Will that puzzle teach her something?"
"I don't know. But I do know that she's wise. I'm sure she'll learn something from it."
"...Ange-sama. I pray that you are guided along the right path as you move on to the future."
One by one, they stepped forward and said words of farewell to Ange. Then, finally, Battler and Beato walked forward...
Of course, Ange didn't answer in her sleep. But Battler continued.
"It's true that the Ushiromiyas are a strange family. We're super-rich, and that's given rise to all sorts of rumors and stories. However, all of those are just speculation made up by people outside the island."
"...No one will blame you for forgetting these kind memories, young as you were. But even so, you must remember. It is not a sin to forget. But to not remember again... is a sin."
"All of us... were really happy to have you at this party. Right, everyone?"
Everyone nodded at Battler's words. Everyone knew about the merciless and lonely life that awaited her. It was no longer possible for them to heal those wounds. If there was one thing they could do... It was to make her remember what a kind, fun family she had once had. To remind her that today and into the future, they would always care for her and watch over her.
"But you've remembered, right...? You've remembered the truth... about how kind everyone was, and how much of a blast we all had at the family conferences, right...?"
Ange breathed softly in her sleep. Who knows... if those words truly reached her...
"...Take care of her."
"You... really think... that I deserve to become her mother...?"
"I do. Even though your own sadness was so unbearable, you tried so hard to be a mother for Ange."
"But, in the end..."
"It's alright. Ange, listen carefully."
Battler grasped Ange's hand, then took Eva's hand and joined the two hands together...
"...We know that a tragic fate will lead to a future where the two of you hurt each other. It's a sad thing for Ange... and just as sad for Aunt Eva. It would've been cruel to ask you to open your heart to her. Likewise, it would've been cruel to ask Aunt Eva to keep on overcoming her sadness after being rejected."
"...Neither of you, is at fault."
"Even so, we have no right to tell you to forgive her. So, we won't. Just try and understand. It doesn't matter how long it takes, how far into the future it happens. Just try and understand Aunt Eva. And, every once in a while, remember us."
"I concur. And, every once in a while, remember this merry, cheerful, attractive paragon of a woman, and chant my name in praise three times every day."
The relatives smiled bitterly, apparently disagreeing with some of that last bit. Eva softly stroked Ange's cheek and spoke one last time.
Eva wiped her eyes and slowly stood up. Hideyoshi held her shoulder, and Rudolf and Kyrie gathered around her too.
"...Genji-san. Would you mind carrying Ange to somewhere she can lie down?"
"As you wish. Shall I take her to the guesthouse?"
"It'd be a little too sad to leave her all alone there."
"You're right. Could you carry her to the sofa in the parlor? That way, she'll be able to come back if she wakes up and feels like joining in again."
Genji gently lifted Ange up and carried her towards the parlor. Everyone continued to watch over her as she left...
"Shannon, Kanon. In the end, how many medals did Ange gather?"
"Hmm, I see. Then place this by her pillow."
"Yes, as you wish."
Genji carried Ange to the parlor and set her down on the sofa. Shannon quietly laid a warm blanket on top of her. Kanon placed a message card by her pillow, along with that thing Kinzo had given them.
The message card read as follows:
It's time to tally up your score! How many medals you got determines what prize you get:
Ange, mumbling in her sleep, held it tightly against her cheek.
"Let us go. We mustn't wake her."
Shannon thought she saw something glittering silver near Ange's eye... The servants left and closed the parlor door. As Ange slept, she was wrapped up in the soft sound of the rain.
Surely, she was reliving that fun evening once more in her dreams...