Part 20: Ten Wedges to Pierce Witches IV
Video: Flight of the One-Winged Eagle
"You'll become... Kinzo-san? Are you saying you'll become Kinzo-san and reenact his disappearance from this room?"
"...You couldn't possibly think you can deny my checkmate, right? Fool!!!"
"...What is this man SAYING?"
"Hey, new girls. This is your first game, correct?"
"Sorry, but calling checkmate after something like that is totally useless. Yeah, it's all useless...!!"
"Yeah. I'll reenact it. I'll become Grandfather and disappear from this room."
"Y, you can't use the windows or the door, right?! How would you do it...?!"
"Did you find a hidden door?!"
"I don't have a clue either... yes, not a clue...!!"
That sound wasn't just the noise of the onlookers fidgeting. It was a provocative chill that ran up Erika's spine.
"...Interesting. I see, you are the Ushiromiya family head, the one who bears the Head's Ring. That should more than qualify you to stand in for Kinzo-san."
"Why don't you let us have a look at your theory?!!"
Erika's expression was no longer a provocative smile. It was malicious. Extremely displeased. She couldn't conceal her anger at having this very pleasurable time of hers ruined.
"Heh, heheheheh... I've got it. I see, so that move is still available."
"So you finally figured it out, you damn geezer. Hidden doors and hiding under the bed... all that stuff is so pitiful it brings tears to the eyes.
This is THE Ushiromiya Kinzo we're talking about here. There's got to be a more thrilling and exciting answer."
"Exactly. How pitiful that even I couldn't think of it, even though it was about me. And how pitiful that the only one of my relatives to understand me is Battler, the kid who's returned after being gone six years. Battler, take my place. Do not shame me!"
"Sure, Gramps!! I'll teach these guests what the dignity of the Ushiromiya family head is all about!!"
"What are you planning to do, Father...?!"
"Wahhahahahaha!! Natsuhi, Beatrice, watch! We'll show you what being the Ushiromiya family head is all about!"
"...That Battler, what is he trying to prove...?"
"There's no way he can do anything. This is a perfect closed room!"
Battler called Natsuhi over to the window and whispered something to her with his back towards the others...
"...<Miss> Dlanor. You're ready for everything, right? It's not possible for Kinzo and the witch to slip out of this room, right?"
"Of COURSE. Gertrude, Cornelia. And the palace guards. Double check that the seal of this closed room is PERFECT."
"Please, allow me to speak. Our barrier is perfect."
"Allow me to speak. There are no hidden doors, and escape will not be granted through either door or window! Palace guards, when Battler hits the barrier, fire your arrows without hesitation!"
"C, Chiester Corps, roger. Battler-sama, prepare yourself...!"
"Escaping from this room... is impossible...!"
"...But he'll do it nyeh."
"He's certain he can succeed even without any basis. That's what it means to be the Ushiromiya head nyeh...!"
"...True. Let's watch."
"Yeah. Let's see the majesty of Riiche's opponent...!"
BGM: Endless Nine
Everyone nodded and watched Battler's every move...
"Grandfather was lying in bed like this grunting his understanding of Aunt Natsuhi's daily report or whatever."
Battler laid down on the bed himself. As if it still mattered now, Erika grumbled about disturbing the crime scene, but no one listened to her.
"Then, I stop answering and sleep. Well, realistically speaking, I probably get tired of all that talking and only pretend to be asleep."
"Ahahahaha! You really do get it...!"
Natsuhi lowered her head to Battler, who was still lying down in the bed, and turned around... Then, she started wandering around, as though doing an inspection of the room.
"...After seeing that Grandfather was asleep, Aunt Natsuhi probably did an inspection of the room before leaving."
"Of course, she had Shannon-chan and the others clean it every day, but she still checked it thoroughly herself. Making sure there was no dust piling up. Making sure that he hadn't run out of any consumables."
"Y, yes. This is the room of the precious family head, so I check everything carefully myself instead of relying entirely on the servants. I always do that."
"...Th, that's true. Madam usually checks things very carefully."
"Her inspection is very detailed, and she even checks all of the consumables in the washroom one by one."
"In other words, it's not just dust on the windowsill like you see all the time on TV. She checks to see that there's enough soap and toilet paper in the washroom. Though she probably doesn't have to do it each day, she's very devoted."
"Th, that is my routine. I mustn't slack off in my inspection of the head's room for even a single day."
"...So what's your point? Please keep any showing off to a minimum."
"*giggle*. So only the detective is allowed to show off?"
"Nn, gah, I, I'm... the... detective..."
"Since we're inside the study, you can probably tell, but even though we call it a study, it wouldn't be wrong to call it a second house inside the mansion."
"It has a sleeping room, a study, a washroom, and even a toilet and bath. In other words, it isn't a single room. You could call it a full house."
"He isn't hiding. However, there has to be several blind spots. For example, if Aunt Natsuhi went into the bathroom to check the amount of toilet paper, most of the study would be out of her sight range."
"...In other words, for almost every location in the study, the observer would have disappeared."
"Let it be said that the witch's darkness is filling the study."
"Good. It's being filled with the power of darkness. Heheheheheheheh!"
"And so what if the observer... if Natsuhi left...? What next?!"
"When Grandfather noticed that fussy Aunt Natsuhi leaving, he got up."
"...Because Aunt Natsuhi was in the blind spot of the bathroom, it becomes possible for Grandfather to walk about the study at will."
It was possible for him to move without Natsuhi's knowledge. It was possible for him to move without contradicting what Natsuhi knew!
"Warning, Battler is approaching the study door."
"Allow me to speak. A noise rings out when the lock on the study door is released. Know that you cannot leave through the door without Natsuhi thinking something was odd."
Because Battler had acted as though he was heading for the door, Gertrude, who was sealing the door, immediately sent out a warning. Maybe it was possible for him to leave the study while in Natsuhi's blind spot. However.
"That's right, it's the sound!! We know that there's a loud sound when the auto-lock is released! Even if Natsuhi was in a blind spot inside the study, she wouldn't miss hearing the loud sound when the auto-lock is released. Of course she would find that odd...!!"
"Allow me to speak. Let it be said that Natsuhi did not hear the sound of the door opening while in the room."
The washroom and toilet are very close to the door. Even if they hadn't been, that auto-lock always lets off such a massive sound. She'd be able to hear that sound no matter what. Now that Natsuhi had spoken with Erika and the others about the details of the previous night, she had made it quite clear that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. The argument that Natsuhi would have failed to hear the lock would not work...!
"Please, allow me to speak once more. Kinzo entering or exiting through the door will not be permitted."
"Let it be said that this is a useless struggle! It is foolish...!!"
BGM: Dread of the Grave - More Fear (Remake)
Turning his back to Gertrude, who claimed that leaving through the door was impossible, Battler locked his gaze on Cornelia, who stood in front of the window.
"Make sure you hold that barrier of yours up tight. 'Cause you're gonna be... blasted away, got it?"
By now, Battler's target was clear. It was Cornelia. And... it was the window. He was going... to smash this closed room from the window.
Not expecting to be chosen as the target herself, Cornelia was overawed for just a second, but she quickly regained her composure. It was rare that a struggling, fleeing witch would directly challenge the barriers she set up. Furthermore, such witches were always fighting desperately on the brink of death!
"Please, allow me to speak. You are Battler's target, Cornelia. I ask that you be on your guard."
"Fool! God, have pity on this foolish lamb...!!"
...Starting from a low posture, both silent and supple, Battler ran forward like a white leopard.
"...Th, this guy... couldn't possibly mean to...!!"
"...ah!! Th, this is... agh. A, allow me to speak...! There is no way to defeat my red! Know that your wish will not be granted...!!"
Cornelia thrust out both her arms and made a sign. When she did, a red barrier closed in front of Battler.
"Know that this is useless, Ushiromiya Battler...! Know that my window is sealed from the inside and Natsuhi did not let Kinzo escape...!!"
"Aunt Natsuhi didn't let Grandfather escape. What if Grandfather snuck out, keeping it a secret from Aunt Natsuhi?!"
"Wh, why would Kinzo go out the window on his own?!!!"
"But this is the third floor, right?! It's impossible!!!"
"Even you've jumped down a flight of stairs at least once in your life, right? Three stories is nothing for Kinzo...!"
"I wouldn't put it past him."
"Wouldn't put it past him."
"Th, that's... r, ridiculous...!!!"
Blue cracks appeared in Cornelia's red barrier, and it shattered with a crisp sound. It was all far too quick. It looked almost as though she'd gotten out of the way herself in fear of Battler.
"Cornelia-sama, you can't block it, retreat...!"
At the same time the barrier shattered, the window behind Cornelia's back was flung open. The curtains fluttered for just an instant. Though it was all filled with rain, the heavens and the courtyard were spread out in front of them... A fitting exit for an eagle leaping from this closed room!
"Cornelia, repair the BARRIER!!"
"As you wish, Commander Dlanor! Kn, know that you will not be allowed to break this...!!"
Cornelia quickly came back to her senses and set up another red barrier. However, this was the last one.
"Please, allow me to speak...!! Then let us accept for the time being that Kinzo escaped through the window...! In that case, how did he lock a window which cannot be locked from the outside?! The window was locked from the inside!!"
Kinzo and Battler grinned! She thought this feeble red could block the charge of Battler and Kinzo, the two family heads?
"After Grandfather jumped out the window, Aunt Natsuhi probably noticed a slight draft. She then approached the window, realized that it was wide open, and quickly closed and locked it...!!"
"Natsuhi probably couldn't even imagine that I had slipped out the window!"
"Yeah!! So it's only natural that Aunt Natsuhi thought Kinzo was sleeping in bed!!"
Now that Battler had found the answer, the red barrier was more fragile than thin glass. The red magical wall of certainty had been smashed again, so easily that it disgraced the name of certainty itself! Unbelievable, right? That barrier was more firm than any Ronove had ever used against Jessica. And yet it had been... destroyed so easily...!
Though Battler was rushing fiercely and had almost reached Cornelia, she didn't step aside. Her steel spirit, worthy of the name Eiserne Jungfrau, didn't allow her to step aside. She took a charm from her pocket, placed it against the thin air, and made a sign. Then, not red, but blue burned there. Though it was far more frail than the red barrier, it was her last method of resistance.
"Just quit your whining and watch!!!"
BGM: Hello Your Dream
He burst through Cornelia and her blue barrier, knocked them away, and his body flew out the window through the darkness of the rainy sky. The fragments of the blue barrier scattered, coloring the air beautifully. The closed room... had been smashed open...!!
Battler... flew out of the mansion. He was in the sky above the rainy courtyard. All of the raindrops became small round gems and were scattered through the air. Battler flew through the treasure box world of the beautiful stormy sky, through the countless gems of rain that filled it.
If Battler, who had smashed and flown out the window, was like a knight leaping off a white horse, then Dlanor, who floated in the air waiting for him, was also a knight. In the air above the courtyard surrounded by the Ushiromiya mansion and frozen in time, the true new head of the Ushiromiya family and the disciple of heaven who would test him crossed paths...
"...Well DONE. When you fall into the courtyard, whether you live or die, it won't change the fact that Kinzo could have defeated this closed ROOM...!! You who have thrown away your life and jumped are a MARTYR...!! Well done, you have smashed our closed room BARRIER. Splendid, Ushiromiya Battler!!"
"However, I am the Head Inquisitor of Heresy, Dlanor A. Knox!! I cannot allow you to escape out from under my NOSE...! Now, at the end, allow me the honor of crossing swords with YOU!!"
"Sure, bring it on. This game is surprisingly unrelenting."
In this world where the gems of rain... fell slowly like large snowflakes on a snowy field. Dlanor and Battler slowly... crossed paths. It seemed slow. And yet, it happened in a flash. Their gazes crossed and clashed like lightning. Knight confronted knight head on, and it would all be decided in a single strike...!
"Was it shown beforehand that a blind spot existed within the study for Natsuhi? If it wasn't shown, this theory will not be permitted. Knox's 8th. It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not PRESENTED...!!"
Dlanor's double strike with both the blue and red blades reached out to slice Battler... and missed. Those longswords, which had never lost in a hundred battles, cut through the empty air...
"When we entered the study, its structure was clearly referred to. Too bad for you."
For the first time, Dlanor showed an expression. It was a sudden smile. She had known since long ago that the study's structure had been referred to. But she couldn't let him escape without making a single strike. As an Inquisitor of Heresy, she could not do that. So though she had known that she wouldn't make it, she had still crossed swords with Battler.
"Yes, I KNEW. That answer of yours doesn't violate Knox's 8th."
"...Here it comes. Don't regret it."
In Battler's hand... was a blade that shone red. That blade etched out the red truth...
That has already been shown. And it suggests that there might have been a blind spot somewhere within the room... Without any mercy, no, without any reluctance that would have been dishonorable, the sword of red truth cut into Dlanor. It cut a beautiful hemisphere through the countless gems of rain that filled the sky...
Time... exploded into life. Both of them... fell through the courtyard. One drifted down. The other tumbled through the air. Then, there was a soft sound and a dull thud. The first was the sound of Battler landing gently in the courtyard. The second was the sound of Dlanor crashing down.
After crouching down for a while, Battler slowly stood up. Though he had jumped down from the third floor, he had landed as lightly as though he had merely jumped over a fence...
Beato leaned out of the study window, looking to see if the supposedly wingless Battler had landed safely.
"Beato!! Come on, jump!!"
"That window is our way out! So jump!! You aren't the kind of witch who can be locked up inside a closed room, right?!!"
The study was no longer a closed room. She could jump from here, escape from here...! By now, the closed room which had threatened to capture the witch and suffocate her had been destroyed.
"Y, yes...!! Y, you too, Kinzo...!"
"Go. From the moment Battler showed his answer, my spirit had already escaped from this room."
Kinzo's form became a group of gold butterflies and disappeared. The closed room barrier had dissolved, and the power which denies magic had scattered. Beato ran towards the window. That was the only exit from the closed room of this witch hunt. After glancing at the subordinates of the Inquisitor of Heresy and the Chiester Sisters, she readied her wound-covered body and ran towards the window, just like Battler had done. She looked like Cinderella running as she heard the bell toll.
Erika flew at Beato, trying to latch on as Beato dashed, but it was like trying to catch smoke, and she landed face first on the floor. There's no way a human can catch a witch. For one such as her, without love, even touching Beato was impossible...!
"Chiester Corps, shoot the witch! Shoot her dead!!"
"Alignment conflict. Unable to fire."
"Allow me to speak. I have no barrier prepared which can block Battler's blue truth."
Both Chiester 00 and Gertrude spoke with unbelievably calm voices.
Erika crouched, screaming and clutching at her head.
"The great Golden Witch isn't gonna be defeated by something like that geezer's grubby study!! It's still just the first twilight! I'll teach these newcomers that your game isn't that easy!!"
Just like Battler, Beato also... jumped.
...Battler caught her with both arms as though catching an angel's wings. It was like a knight catching a princess who had been locked up in a tower, like a beautiful picture of a scene in some fairy tale...
"...Crap, I think I'm in love. Are all the Ushiromiya family heads guys like this?"
"If you were to write down the unprecedented feats of Ushiromiya Kinzo, you would probably have an uproarious tale longer than all the grimoires in the study put together. It seems the tale of the next head will be worth writing down as well."
"In fact, it already is being written. It's already a very, very long tale. Pu ku ku ku."
The demons giggled on top of the roof, holding umbrellas. Then, they quietly looked down over the two in the courtyard.
"Hah, hahhahhahahahahahaha... You're... not bad at all..."
"I guess all your games've toughened me up."
In shock, Beato... actually praised Battler as he held her in his arms. Battler laughed in his usual carefree way...
Erika looked down from the window and clenched her teeth, still clutching at her head. Still holding Beato in his arms, Battler grinned back.
"...Wh, what is it...?"
"Y, yes...! My riddle is... yo... yo..."
When Battler laughed evilly, Beato's face turned uncharacteristically red, but even so, she spoke while laughing loudly.
"My riddle is... yo... yours... yours alone...!! Ushiromiya Battler! I won't let anyone else solve it...!!"
"Heheh, listen to her, saying something like that...!!"
Battler snorted, amused that Beato had said something so unlike her. And, still holding Beato in his arms, he spun around in a kind of waltz. The falling gems of rain celebrated their overcoming of this trial...
If Battler had at least been seriously injured and writhing in the mud, Erika might still have had some ground to stand on. She might have been able to claim that Kinzo couldn't have jumped down with his old body and gotten away unscathed. However, Battler stood calmly in the courtyard, looking up at Erika with the dignity of the victor.
Erika tried to get everyone's agreement and somehow turn things around, but their responses were no different from how they had been a short while ago.
"I wouldn't put it past Father."
"This is Father we're talking about..."
"There're plenty of crazy stories about that man. Somethin' like this wouldn't surprise me at all."
"Wh, what...?!! I, is there something wrong in your heads, in your minds, people?!?!"
"At any rate, it looks like your closed room argument wasn't perfect."
Not only the servants, but the family members also agreed. They all agreed that there was nothing strange about Kinzo jumping down from a third floor window. J, just who in the world... is this Ushiromiya Kinzo person...?!!
"Well, I'll give you 60 points... Kinzo would have done it with a bit more flash in his younger days. It needs some more tweaking."
"Oh, and how much should it be tweaked?"
"W, well... Umm, h, he might have jumped down with me in h, his arms!"
"Got it. Next time, I'll jump down with you in my arms."
"I, if you think you can, just try and do it..."
Beato's voice grew very faint, and she gulped. Then, her body suddenly became a group of gold butterflies and crumbled away. It was because many people had rushed up to the window, and she was being bathed with gazes filled with the anti-magic toxin. Beato's body became invisible to them and melted into the air... So to their eyes, it appeared that Battler was standing all alone out in the courtyard...
"Battleeeeeeeeer!! You okaaaaaaaaay?!!"
"I, it looks like he's alright...! Thank goodness!"
There was no pain in Dlanor's expression. Pleasure and pain never showed up on her face in the first place. However, she used her longsword as a crutch as she painfully rose to her feet, so it was easy to tell that she had taken heavy damage. And despite her lack of an expression, you could tell that this was a loss she could accept.
Battler and Dlanor turned to face each other.
"Here I go."
As though readying herself, Dlanor quietly closed her eyes, but she still stood tall and maintained her air of dignity.
"This is my blue truth."
The blue power gathered. Battler slowly approached Dlanor. Then, he faced the rainy sky and yelled out the blue truth.
The blue wedge flashed through the courtyard along with a blue bolt of lightning, and roared down towards Dlanor's forehead as she stared up at the sky.
"...Beato's game isn't easy. It's even doubtful whether the fallbacks of the mystery genre even work here. Your swordsmanship isn't bad, but you should be a bit more flexible in your thinking."
...A massive blue wedge which looked like a pillar... was above Dlanor's forehead... and had stopped with its tip just slightly touching her. It didn't run her through. It made no mark larger than being poked with a pencil. When Battler snapped his fingers, the blue wedge shattered and became a shower of translucent gems, no, drops of rain that poured down over the courtyard.
Dlanor sat down in an absent sort of way... Amidst the thunder and rain, the successor to the Ushiromiya family faced the people staring down from the study and... spread his arms wide...
"<Good>, truly <good>...!! Ahhahhahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahaha...!! I'll chew it to bits, this riddle of the witch...!! All the way deep into its guts while it's still alive!! Ahhahhahhahha hhahahahahehyahhahahahha!!"
Battler and Beato both looked calmly up at Erika, who couldn't contain that evil laugh...
BGM: About Face
"G... gah... L, Lady Bernkastel... M, my apolo... gies..."
"That face of yours. It's so incredibly laughable that I'd like to smash it and put a frame around it."
"*giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*, my double is so... pathetic, pathetic, lame, lame, heheheheheheheehehehehihhhihihihihihhihahahyhahahahahahaha!!"
Bathed in the sneers of Bernkastel, the being who was like a mother to her, Erika was so ashamed that it looked as though she'd chew her lower lip to pieces...