Part 15: Morning of Tragedy
October 5th, 1986, 7:00 AM
An electronic tone repeatedly rang out through the room...
Battler, who had gone to bed late and not managed to get enough sleep, covered his head in his blanket and waited for someone to turn off the alarm. But no matter how much time passed, the electronic tone didn't stop. I see. The point of an alarm clock isn't just to be loud enough to wake you, but to be annoying enough to keep you from wanting to fall back asleep. Heeey, the alarm's going off. Make it stop please...
Why do waking-up voices always get this annoyed? Well, it does makes sense. After all, people are still sleepy and in a bad mood. However, there was absolutely no sign that my annoyed voice had caused anyone to turn over in their sleep or crawl out of bed to stop the alarm.
Letting out a deep sigh, I stumbled to my feet. With the shutters down on the windows, there was almost no light getting in, and the room was as dim as it had been earlier. Though even if the shutters weren't down, there's no way that this dull weather would let in enough sun to make this a pleasant morning. The cousins were still wrapped up in their beds, sound asleep and taking no notice whatsoever of that beeping. Normally, once any one person gets up, the others tend to automatically follow...
Annoyed that this 'law of serial summer camp awakenings' that I'd just made up had been broken, I searched for the source of the sound. I could hear it coming from a wristwatch set on a table. Judging by the style of the watch, it was probably George-aniki's. Anyway, when I randomly pushed a small button on the side of it, the sound stopped. Apparently, it had been set for 7:00 in the morning. Is it already 7:00? Sorry, but I really don't feel like I slept at all...
Playing cards were left on the table as though they had stopped mid-game. The game had probably been sevens.
Dammit, I've got this piercing headache. What the hell happened last night? That mountain of gold and the subsequent argument between the relatives... it all feels like a bad dream...
Breakfast normally came at 8:00. Now wasn't a bad time to start getting up and getting dressed. Even those adults probably won't argue in front of the cousins. In that case, I'll stay with my cousins all day long. I'm sure they'll be able to separate me from all this annoying talk about the gold and being the successor and all... In fact, I should have done this from the beginning...
I felt disgusting, having slept with my clothes on last night, which caused me to get all sweaty. I guess I'll take a shower. I'm sure the others want to too. At this age, it's embarrassing to wake them by shaking their shoulders. If I turn the TV on, everyone will probably wake up. Well, let's at least turn the lights on for now. In this dim light, with the quiet sound of the continuing wind and rain, it really doesn't feel like morning has come yet.
I flipped the light switch. And then, that dimly lit morning ended.
BGM: String Trio #600 Million in F Sharp Minor
"This is just too much... How... could anyone get away with something like this...?!!"
As they clung to Aniki's corpse, which would never wake up again, Aunt Eva and Uncle Hideyoshi cried.
"...That's enough. Do you think George-kun would like the two of you to see him this way...? Of course not...!"
"...Aneki. I know how you feel, but let's have Doctor Nanjo handle this..."
"You don't understand!! George was killed! George!! Geoooooooooorge, ugghaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!"
"Doctor Nanjo is right. We mustn't keep looking at George in such a state... This is for George's sake! We have to restrain ourselves for now...!"
When Aunt Eva tried even harder to cling to that corpse, Dad and Uncle Hideyoshi dragged her away and had a heated debate with her beside the wall...
"No, nooooooooooooo!! Geooooooooorge!! Doctor Nanjo! Help him!! If he's lost too much blood, do a blood transfusion!! George and I are the same blood type!! I beg you! Doctor Nanjo!!"
"...Eva-san. It pains me to say this, but your blood can't do George-kun any good now..."
Doctor Nanjo shook his head slightly, then nodded across to where I stood, giving me a signal. I softly pulled the blanket up... covering George-aniki's corpse.
Of course not... The large amount of blood which had poured out stained the bed a horrible red and black, and even covering him with the blanket couldn't hide the traces left by the blood which had leaked out. After all, there were even large, red-black stains on the blanket, and covering him with it made his corpse look even more gruesome... So I stripped the blanket off of my bed and placed it on top of the first one. But there were only two extra blankets. So if we covered one more of the corpses, we wouldn't be able to cover any more.
I feel bad about the ones we can't cover, but for some reason, times like these make me feel like muttering 'don't complain about it being unfair' inside my head...
"...Kyrie. Put blankets over all of them. Wouldn't want them to catch cold."
Kyrie-san and I covered the other corpses up to their heads with their blankets, just like George-aniki's... So that they wouldn't have to undergo any more shame... with their terrible wounds exposed like this...
Jessica was exactly the same as George-aniki. Though she appeared to be resting quietly in the bed... her neck had been sliced deep and the wound lay open in a brutal way... And Maria was the same.
...Not only Maria. There was one more victim. Lying on the same bed as though they had been sleeping alongside each other... was Aunt Rosa. George-aniki, Jessica, Maria, and Aunt Rosa.
They had probably been like that since last night. I'd returned without noticing anything, gotten in bed, and fallen asleep... All of them had a horizontal cut across their throats. I had been... forced to see all the way... into the depths of those gashes in everyone's throats... At worst, the wound might have been deep enough to stretch halfway through their necks. If you tried to open it up, you'd probably be able to see that the gash reached all the way to the bone.
The only wounds were the single gashes on each neck. So if you just covered their necks with your hand, you might be able to persuade yourself that they were merely sleeping. But even so, this frighteningly deep wound... was incredibly... gruesome... There's no such thing as 'clean' or 'dirty' ways of killing. All methods of killing are equally brutal. But even so, this was horribly... brutal...
And... there was one more thing which adorned these brutal murders to make them even more unsettling.
It was drawn in a bright red paint which looked like blood and made it look as though some creepy ceremony had taken place in this room, with the four of them offered as human sacrifices...
However, that wasn't what we were concerned about. No one has a heart so cold that they could witness the deaths of those close to them... and still worry about some scribbles on the wall...
BGM: Deep Blue Jeer
The girl who bragged that she drew more pleasure from the process of exposing the truth rather than the truth itself... and who went so far as to call herself an intellectual rapist, appeared in the hall. When she saw the extraordinarily creepy magic circle in this gruesome room, I heard what was unmistakably a sigh of admiration escape her lips...
"You... don't come in here..."
"...I just heard about it in the corridor. It's four people who've passed away, correct? Allow me to express my sincere regrets."
On Erika's face... no, that's not it. It was in her eyes. In Erika's eyes, I could see... an indiscreet smile, that was hard to describe. She... found this interesting. She found the outbreak of a crime... interesting... It was like the smile of a kid off to the side of the stage just before her turn to appear in a school play...
"...Sorry, Erika-chan. We're busy at the moment. Could you wait in your room?"
"...Well, we can't have that. It's the detective's right to investigate the scene."
"We're saying that we have no business with you...! Now's the time for outsiders like you to stand back!!"
"...'Mysteries in which a suspect who tries to interfere with the investigation turns out to be the culprit are third rate', is how I see things."
"Who gives a damn about what you want?!! Get out!! No one needs you here!!"
"Erika-chan...! I'm truly sorry, but could you return to your room?! We're busy at the moment!"
"Geooooooooooorge, Geooooooooooorge, waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!"
"...Stand back. I can't investigate the scene like this."
"If anyone needs to do something like that, we'll do it! The police will do it! Like hell you have the right to shame everyone's remains more than they already have been!!"
BGM: Smile-less Soiree
Those words, which seemed to be utterly ridiculous at first, were words of power which had come from a world on a much higher plane than the one they were in. Battler was thrown back by an unseen power and landed on his butt. Struck silent by this quiet intensity, nobody was able to prevent Erika from entering the room, suffocated by this bizarre atmosphere...
"...Don't worry. My goal is not to profane the dignity of the deceased. It's not like I want to peek into something as disgusting as a slit through someone's neck. I want to know something completely different."
"In other words, who committed these murders. Doctor Nanjo. And everyone else. Particularly the first one to discover them, Battler-san. There are many things I want to question you about, so I ask for your cooperation."
"L, like I said, by what authority are you doing this...?!"
Battler couldn't argue against this incomprehensible nonsense. No, he wasn't permitted to argue. It was a restriction... placed on pieces.
Erika summoned Doctor Nanjo and heard the details of his preliminary examination of the corpses. Normally, he wouldn't have spoken of that to an outsider so casually. However, for some reason, the atmosphere about the place had begun to make it feel as though nothing should be hidden from Erika...
"...Okay, let's enjoy this first twilight of Lambda's. Four corpses? That's two corpses short. Well, she doesn't necessarily have to see to it that six people are killed, but that's how we've been playing. That girl isn't completely clueless, so she must have killed two more people somewhere."
On the wall was a magic circle representing the first twilight, similar to the ones in Beato's games. *giggle*, that girl talks tough, but I wonder just how closely she'll be able to imitate Beato. *giggle*giggle*, ahhahahahahaha...!
That Hebrew sure is crappy. It isn't written exactly right.
"I'll bet they wanted to copy Beatrice-sama. Aha, what a crappy magic circle...!"
"Are you kidding?! Some human went out of their way to draw it so they could make it look like Beatrice-sama did this...! Anyway, let's report to Beatrice-sama about this!"
"Even though we're already up to our eyeballs just protecting Goldsmith's secret... what a pain."
"But these murders have no beauty to them at all. It isn't really a closed room, and there's nothing impossible about it. Such pitiful murders aren't worthy of Beatrice-sama at all."
"...Furudo Erika... An unexpected crime and an unexpected woman. And the unexpected man from 19 years ago. And if you add on the fact that Battler's already solved the epitaph, this game is completely different than normal. What the heck's going on...?! Let's go!!"
The main dish would be herb omelets. Even simple foods could become an invigorating feast under Gohda's skillful hands. He would precook everything beforehand and prepare the food in the dining hall right before everyone's eyes.
"Hmm hmm hmm hmm♪ Pan pan pan pa~n♪"
Gohda hummed as he continued his preparations in high spirits. When Shannon, who was helping out, saw Gohda like this, her mood also brightened. She arranged the salad in a neat little pattern and showed it to Gohda.
"Hmm~~, very ni~ce! You really know what you're doing, Shannon-san! Hmm hmm hmm hm~m♪"
""Hmm hmm hmm hm~m♪""
The two happy people gave each other a high five. Shannon didn't like Gohda when he was sneaky, but she had no problems at all with him when he was cooking happily. She sometimes even thought it'd be nice if his contract hadn't included any jobs besides cooking. If that had been the case, he wouldn't have had to get in a bad mood doing unnecessary jobs.
"The dining hall is ready. You can carry it in whenever you want."
"We're almost good to go, so please get the serving cart ready. Hmm hmm hmmmmm!"
Without thinking, even Kumasawa caught Gohda's high spirits. The kitchen had a very nice smell and atmosphere about it, truly refreshing for so early in the morning.
Kanon and Genji were in charge of getting many things ready for the morning, such as opening the curtains. However, Kanon was alone today, so it had taken much longer than usual.
"I'm done. Where's Genji-sama?"
"He still isn't here. That's odd. I can't imagine he'd sleep in."
"Hohoho. I guess even Genji-san sleeps in sometimes."
"That's rather careless of him, considering that this is the middle of the family conference. Kanon-san. Could you wake him up for us?"
"I wonder what Genji-san's face looks like when he's half asleep. Hohohoho. Let me go with you."
Even though Gohda had asked her to get the serving cart ready, Kumasawa plodded off after Kanon, skillfully skipping work. As Kanon muttered about how Gohda was the one who slept in all the time, he headed for the servant waiting room.
"...Last night, I fell asleep while still in the servant room, so I didn't return to the waiting room."
Last night, Kanon had dozed off while in the middle of his late night shift, falling asleep in the servant room. Shannon had been kind enough to put a blanket on him, but that had just made it so warm that he fell into an even deeper sleep... So he hadn't returned to his bed in the servant waiting room the previous night. Because of that, he hadn't met Genji even once this morning.
There was a knock on the door.
"...Oh my. I wonder if he's still sleeping."
When he tried to open the door, Kanon noticed something strange on the upper part of the door.
A small strip of duct tape was stuck along the frame of the door, almost as though it was sealing the door shut. Furthermore, there were notches made with scissors along the center of the duct tape, so that if you opened the door only a slight amount, it would be torn apart. Also, written sloppily across the duct tape with a thin pen was what appeared to be someone's signature. It was written in a very intricate and decorative manner, so even if it was a signature, there was no way of telling whose it was.
"It's probably some sort of prank..."
"I don't get it, but it's no use worrying about it now. Genji-sama, pardon me."
The duct tape tore apart, and he opened the door. It wasn't as though anything happened when it split, so the two quickly forgot about that strange duct tape.
Apparently, Genji was still sleeping...
"Good morning, Genji-sama."
"This isn't like you. Ho ho ho. It's mo~rni~ng."
"...ah, G, Genji-sama...!"
"Eek, wh, what is this, what is this...?!"
There was a large, red-black stain on the blanket. Though this was one of the servants' blankets, those were always kept clean. There's no way a stain like this could be there.
BGM: Black Lilliana
"...It's thin. You wouldn't be able to leave a cut this deep without a fairly long blade."
"Wh, what's going on? Battler solved the riddle of the epitaph, right? Why are murders occurring?!"
"I don't know. In any event, this isn't good. We should report about this to Beatrice-sama and Natsuhi-sama."
"Belpha, hurry and report to Luci-nee...!!"
...Then, this new pair let out screams identical to the first two.
"Is now really the time to be saying that?!! There's no chance they'll be having a quiet and peaceful breakfast on the second day."
"...I have a bad feeling about this. Genji might not be the only one. Let's check the entire mansion. Something else might have happened...!"
Even Natsuhi was surprised that she had to wake up. She had thought she'd spent the whole night unable to sleep out of fear that the mysterious man might come in at any moment, but before she knew it, she had fallen asleep...
Of course, Natsuhi still didn't feel rested at all. Though she groaned from the dull pain in her head, which hadn't gone away once since last night, she managed to get out of bed...
"...Good morning. It's a horrible morning..."
"Don't worry. No one tried to enter this room."
"...I see. Thanks for keeping watch all night..."
Even so, that didn't mean she had been able to sleep peacefully. The continued ringing of the phone made her headache throb even more strongly...
"I think you should probably answer the phone. Afterwards, I have some bad news to report from my sisters."
"...Let's leave the bad news for later. I'll answer the phone first."
Natsuhi shook her head to wake herself and picked up the receiver. Then, she regretted not listening to Lucifer's bad news first. Because she wanted the first thing she heard about on this horrible morning to be something better than this...
That voice... told her that this horrible morning... this nightmare... would not stop...
"I, I kept my promise. I've been holed up in this room the whole time. Of course, I haven't been on the phone either...!"
"But you did pick up the phone just now, didn't you...?"
"W, well, ah-"
BGM: Fishy Aroma
"...How far do you intend to mock me...?"
Natsuhi gripped the receiver so hard it creaked...
"I wanted you to leave your seat so that I could set up for the party. Thanks to that, everything's ready now. Of course, you're the main guest, Mother."
"...Wh, what are you planning to do...?"
"That's for you to look forward to. Don't worry, I won't keep you waiting. It's already begun. Oh, that's right, wait a sec. There's someone I want you to hear."
There was the sound of the receiver being jolted around. The phone was apparently being passed to someone else, but there was a clunking, clattering noise, as though it was taking a lot of effort to hand the receiver over... Who in the world could he be giving the phone to?
...No matter who... this man gives the phone to... that can't be good news for me...
"Huh?! D, dear?! Is that you?!"
"Gghgghghghghgh, mwoooohh...!! Untie it, untie iiiit!!"
It was, without a doubt, the voice of her husband. However, he didn't respond to Natsuhi's voice. Perhaps he was bound somewhere in the darkness. Krauss, not realizing that Natsuhi was on the other end of the phone, repeatedly demanded that he be untied...
"...Your husband is here. His eyes and ears are covered, so he can't talk, but I think you can tell that he's in perfect health."
"Wh, what are you after...?!! Let my husband go!"
"I'll let him go tomorrow. If you'll keep two promises, that is."
"What are they...?!"
"One is that you keep it a secret that I'm taking care of your husband. There will probably be a fuss when they're unable to find Krauss anywhere in the mansion. But you know nothing, so you will say nothing. Understand?"
"I, I understand...! What's your other condition?!"
"...It's just a little game. At 1:00 today, you will go into the foremost guest room on the first floor of the mansion and hide in the closet."
"A guest room...? Why should I go into a closet...?!"
"It's just a little hide-and-seek. If you can hide there for an hour without anyone finding you, you win. If someone does find you, you lose."
"And if I lose, what happens...?!"
"Nothing in particular. Isn't that what playing is all about? If you play along with this hide-and-seek, I'll release your husband tomorrow."
"W, will you really... keep that promise, I wonder...?"
"Of course. Make sure you do too, Mother. If you break our promise, I'll know right away."
"...Madam, are you there? Good morning...!"
"It's Gohda and Kanon! Madam, please wake up...!"
The voices coming from across the door were Kanon's and Gohda's. The knock had been wild, and the voices a little shrill. It seemed that something strange had happened... and that they were agitated.
"...What is it? Did something happen?"
"I, It's nothing. It looks like the servants have arrived. I'm hanging up."
"Sure. I've said everything I wanted to. So, don't break our promise."
"...I understand. A, and you don't break our promise either...!"
"You've got it wrong."
BGM: Organ Short #600 Million in C Minor
"I'll be watching you all day today, Mother. *giggle*giggle*, ahahahaha, ohohohohoho!"
*clank*! Lambdadelta slammed the receiver down on the antique phone. Then the phone exploded into bits and changed into a golden splash, became a group of gold butterflies, and disappeared.