Part 22: Reasoning and Inspection II
Cornelia slowly got up, and, as she had been ordered, stood on one leg. Her hands were clasped behind her back. Because she had been ordered to do so.
Then, with a *thump*, Erika pushed her from behind with both hands. Cornelia landed on the floor face first with a *thud*.
BGM: Black Lilliana
Cornelia rose shakily. Then, once again, she stood on one leg as she had been ordered. She had been ordered not to hold her ground. So she had fallen on her face over and over again. She had barely managed to protect her nose, but after smashing against the floor so many times, her face was bright red.
She wasn't shedding any tears. No, she couldn't shed them. Because she was forbidden to do even that...
Erika repeated this falling torture over and over again. At times like this, Erika hated counting things. So she decided that, once she ran out of fingers to count the number of times, she would just repeat it until she lost interest. However, Erika's main redeeming feature was that she never lost interest in anything, so the torture continued on without end...
...Erika didn't know why Cornelia had been unable to fully protect the window. So the whole time since then, she had placed all the blame of their loss on her.
"Oh, is that true? Then please take her place from now on."
"G, Gertrude has done nothing wrong..."
"Gertrude. Please stand. On one leg. Clasp your hands behind you."
Gertrude followed the order... and clasped her hands behind her back, standing on one leg.
"You mustn't resist or hold your ground. You are not permitted to bend your knees. You are not permitted to shed any tears. Got it?"
"...As you wish..."
Erika made a show of walking behind Gertrude. She was even enjoying making her wonder when she'd push...
At that time, Gertrude and Cornelia burst in a bright light and disappeared. Because Dlanor, who must have returned at some point, had sent them back to the heavens for the time being. Erika, who'd had her fun spoiled, directed a bluntly malicious expression at Dlanor...
"...<No, thank you>. Punishment only works because it causes pain. There's nothing interesting about an unfeeling doll girl that I can't leave a single injury on."
Erika slowly grabbed hold of the back of Dlanor's hair, tugging unrelentingly. Dlanor's neck tilted upwards, creaking.
"...You may not cause a physical injury, but you do INJURE."
"Hmph. As if you had a heart which could be injured. You lowly witch-hunting murder doll. Are you trying to talk back to me? Me, the envoy and double of the great Lady Bernkastel...?!"
"I got scolded by Lady Bernkastel because you guys are useless...!! Please, never fail so lamely again...! Un-der-sta-nd...?!"
The hair she had grabbed was stretched back as far as it would go, along with more creaking... This didn't cause Dlanor any physical pain, but she could clearly feel Erika's ill will.
"...My APOLOGIES. Forgive ME."
With a sound like a bowstring being cut, several of Dlanor's hairs were pulled out. Then, Erika waved her hand about as though trying to brush off something dirty that had gotten stuck to it.
BGM: Totem Blume
"UNDERSTOOD. Gertrude, Cornelia."
""As you wish.""
The two of them reappeared behind Dlanor and reconstructed the crime scene for Erika, the one who had just been tormenting them...
"...Kinzo disappearing was nothing more than an added bonus for the first twilight. Okay, let's start investigating the first twilight. But before that. Did you realize that we were actually given a riddle before the murder case even occurred?"
"That's right. For that instant, the tale creates the illusion that it was impossible for any human, making it seem like an unknown witch exists."
"...Let's start by crushing this Illusion of the Witch. We'll first check the situation in the dining hall last night when the letter was delivered."
"UNDERSTOOD. Gertrude, Cornelia. Reconstruct last night's family conference in the dining hall."
"As you wish."
And partway through, the servants had arrived to serve tea.
"Please, allow me to speak. Before the family conference, Erika, George, Jessica, Maria, Nanjo, Gohda, and Kumasawa left the mansion and moved to the guesthouse."
"Please, allow me to speak. Of those who remain, only Krauss, Natsuhi, and Genji were in the second floor corridor, while all others were in the dining hall."
"Aha. That would mean no one inside the mansion could have knocked and placed the letter there, right? Eheheheh."
"YES. The witch side will probably say that this person is the one who wrote the letter... the witch, Beatrice."
"Ridiculous. A stupid trick. There's no guarantee that the letter was placed there at exactly 24:00. It's only sensible to consider that it might have been placed there earlier."
"Just a few minutes before the letter was discovered, Shannon and Kanon came in to serve TEA. When they entered, multiple witnesses confirmed that there was nothing suspicious like a letter in the hallway."
"Maybe one of those not in the parlor: Krauss, Natsuhi or Genji, simply saw their chance right after that and placed the letter there. No wait, it should be possible for the people who supposedly went to the guesthouse too."
"We've heard that the mansion was locked and that no one outside could get in, but if someone pretended to have gone to the guesthouse and instead hid inside the mansion, it's perfectly possible that they could've placed the letter there."
"Allow me to speak. Blue truth, effective."
"In that case, the problem is the 'KNOCK'. Unlike the letter, someone would have to exist there at the instant of the KNOCK."
"I see, so this is the so-called proof that a person who shouldn't be there, a witch, existed? This is completely ridiculous. Do they think I, Furudo Erika, would surrender to something like that? *giggle*giggle*, ahhahaha!"
"First off, we can doubt whether the knock was even something hitting the door to the dining hall at all. For example, there may be a certain pillar on the second floor which, because of how the mansion is constructed, makes a noise when struck which is transmitted down the pillar and which sounds just like a knock on the door to people in the dining hall."
"Or they could have misheard some random sound to be a knock and all misconstrued it in the same way. Or the recorded sound of a knock could have been stealthily replayed from a tape, which might have been carefully set up to go off at exactly that time."
"Either way, I can think of many ways to make them hear a knock even if no one was on the other side of the door...! How is that? My master! How is my reasoning...?!!"
"Well, it looks like your cute piece gave it her all to think up these blue truths, so I guess I'll be nice and give out a few red truths♪ I guess I'll start with the letter. There was a knock when the bell of the large clock rang out 24:00. And when the door was opened, there lay a letter in an envelope bearing the One-winged Eagle. It's so obvious to assume that the people who weren't in the parlor secretly placed the letter there, right?"
"...Oho? Then.. when Shannon and Kanon came in to serve tea, who was the last human to enter the dining hall...? Let's say it was Kanon. Wouldn't it be easy if Kanon, the last person in, secretly dropped the letter there when he closed the door?"
"Not a single person in the dining hall... no, there's a simpler way to say it. Among all those inside the mansion at 24:00, not a single person placed that letter in the corridor."
"So, you can't say that no one touched it?"
"Of course. They 'touched it when they picked it up'. I couldn't say that none of them touched it."
"I see. Then let's interpret it this way... Someone who existed outside of the mansion at 24:00 placed a letter somewhere other than the hallway beforehand. Then, it was moved by some means and ended up 'placed in the hallway'."
"It was simply glued there in a way that would make it come unstuck after a certain amount of time. When it eventually fell off, it became 'the letter left behind by a witch' who shouldn't have existed. In other words, this is a classic trick where the true sender gives themselves an alibi by making the letter appear at a different time."
"Allow me to speak. Blue truth, effective."
"In other words, the fact that it landed just outside the dining hall door was just the culprit's good luck. At worst, it might have happened in the kitchen, the corridor, or even inside the dining hall."
"...Oh, <good>! If it had happened inside the dining hall, that would have been even more wonderful. Within everyone's sight, a letter would suddenly appear on the floor. And that wouldn't even violate a red truth saying 'no one in the closed room of the dining hall touched the letter unexpectedly'!"
"Well DONE. If the letter was stuck to the bottom of the serving cart, then anyone could be the CULPRIT."
"That might work okay regarding the letter. However, will that same type of argument apply to the knock as well? Let's try this again, shall we?"
"...Please, go ahead."
"This isn't the limited meaning of them knocking on the door, okay? It means they didn't use a pillar to transmit the sound or push the play button on a cassette tape they'd recorded or create that knock sound by any means! Of course, this applies to direct, indirect, intentional, coincidental, and unintentional means!"
"This wedge has already been knocked in, but I'll repeat it. Maybe someone other than Krauss, Natsuhi, or Genji made that knock, or else a sound that could be misidentified as a knock."
"Please, allow me to speak. Let it be known that at 24:00, except for Krauss, Natsuhi, and Genji in the second floor corridor and all of the people in the dining hall, no humans existed inside the mansion."
"Please, allow me to speak. Let it be known that in addition to Krauss, Natsuhi, and Genji, none of those in the dining hall knocked on that door. In this sense, 'knock' includes all direct, indirect, intentional, unintentional, and coincidental events that could create a knocking sound."
A direct knock refers to someone literally hitting a door to make a knocking sound. An intentional knock refers to someone creating a fake knocking sound to try and make it appear that someone knocked. An unintentional knock refers to someone unintentionally creating a fake knocking sound. A coincidental knock refers to some kind of coincidence creating a fake knocking sound.
'Anyone who was in the mansion' would also include any unknown person X who had snuck into the mansion. Therefore, it literally meant 'it was impossible for anyone inside the mansion to knock', with no word play allowed.
"...I see. No matter how much I toy with it, it's impossible for anyone except those in the guesthouse group to create the knocking sound, right? Like me, for example. What if I, Furudo Erika, recorded a knocking sound on a cassette tape and used some kind of secret contraption to start it playing at exactly 24:00? Of course, I wasn't in the mansion at 24:00. There aren't any problems with this, are there?"
"No PROBLEMS. However, though the knock did serve as a way of informing them about the letter on the other side of the door, I do not think it would have worked if the letter had fallen ELSEWHERE."
If the trick in Erika's theory about the letter being stuck to the serving cart was accurate, then the location that the letter fell was a matter of luck. Because it had fortunately fallen near the door, the people in the dining hall noticed it due to the knock. However, if the location it fell was a matter of chance, it might have landed in the far off kitchen or remained stuck even after they entered. If that had happened, the knock would have been ignored as though they'd just imagined it. In other words, the knock by itself wouldn't transmit any message at all. It only made it appear as though someone had been there because it was paired with the letter.
In that case, the random location the letter fell to off the bottom of the serving cart couldn't be connected with the knock. For the letter to be found thanks to the knock, it would have to be reliably positioned 'on the other side of the door'. However, it was announced in red that no one in the mansion placed the letter in the hallway.
"...For example, let's assume there was a device on the serving cart that 'drops the letter when it stops moving'. In this case, you'd think they could predict that the cart would probably stop just once when those two knock on the door to the dining hall, and by doing so, they'd be cleverly making it so the letter drops right in front of the door."
"But even this doesn't work, okay? The action of 'stopping the serving cart' would indirectly lead to 'placing the letter in the hallway'. That would mean Shannon and Kanon, who were pushing the cart, had 'indirectly and unintentionally' placed the letter there! So even this is no good! Furthermore, setting it up so that the letter peeled off with the passage of time would mean that the people pushing the serving cart had 'coincidentally and unintentionally' placed the letter there. Of course, this is also no good!!"
"Repeat it. 'At 24:00, only Erika, George, Jessica, Maria, Nanjo, Gohda, and Kumasawa existed outside the mansion'."
Like if someone in the dining hall had slipped out the window just at 24:00... and 'didn't exist in the mansion' at that time... With this wordplay, it might be possible to get around the red truth.
"...Repeat iiiiiit...? Even though I'm nice enough to give you all this red for free? Aren't you being a bit greedy? I'm not an idiot like Beato, so I won't go around saying everything my opponent tells me to repeat..."
"...I'll give you a full body massage in a bath with marshmallows and konpeito sometime soon. Enough to rub your skin off."
In other words, no matter how much they struggled, those 8 people, including Erika, could not have existed inside the mansion, much less in front of the door. And at the same time, no matter how much they struggled, those inside the mansion could not have existed outside the mansion.
"In that case, the letter might have been stuck to the ceiling of the hallway instead of the serving cart. The ceiling of the hallway is surprisingly high, so even if you just stuck it there out in the open, maybe no one would notice it. This way, it would certainly fall in the corridor. And you can slip by the red if someone outside the mansion did this! <Good> job, me...!"
"Please, allow me to speak. The letter never existed on the ceiling of the hallway."
"Please, allow me to speak. Know that the letter never touched the serving cart."
"...Wh, who cares about that?! Anyway, someone outside the mansion used some kind of trick to place the letter there!! If you try to use that letter and the knock to argue that Beatrice exists, it definitely won't work on Furudo Erika."
"Please, allow me to speak. It was impossible for anyone outside the mansion to influence anything inside the mansion around the time of the family conference."
"Then someone outside the mansion set up some kind of device before the family conference. Something other than the ceiling or the serving cart!"
"Allow me to speak. Blue truth, ineffective."
"Why...?!! That's the only way, right?! Someone outside the mansion used some kind of device other than the ceiling or the serving cart...!!"
"A, allow me to speak. Unless you can specify or theorize what that something might be, the blue truth will not be acknowledged."
"Allow me to speak. All of Lady Erika's blue truths regarding the letter have been lost."
"They've all been lost, you say...?! Watch your tongues a bit more, useless furniture! If I can just think of that device, it's an instant checkmate...! What do you mean A L L of them?! What do you mean my blue truth is ineffective?!"
Erika's face twisted. These words that seemed to deny Erika... no, Erika's reasoning... were the worst form of torture and humiliation for her.
"...<Miss> Erika. Why don't we postpone the riddle of the letter for NOW? Your blue stake about 'someone outside the mansion playing it with a cassette tape' is still EFFECTIVE. If it was possible for sound, then perhaps it wasn't impossible for a letter as WELL."
As Erika made to grab and pull Gertrude's hair, Dlanor stopped her with those words.
"That's right, my blue truth regarding the knock is still effective...! It's not true that everything's been denied...!! My master! I will solve the riddle of the letter without fail. Please allow me to postpone that...!!"
"However, I will definitely figure out the riddle of the knock here! I've hit you with the blue stake that 'someone outside the mansion set things up with a cassette tape or something to make a knock sound play'...!"
"Eheheheheheheheheheheh...! You really are a cute kid, piece of Bern's. Very lively. Anyway, she's yelling that you forgive her because she's solved one of the two riddles, even though she resigned on the other. So, will you forgive her...?"
"...Sure. Normally, I'd never forgive my own piece for the shame of surrendering, but if you've managed to solve one of the riddles, I guess I'll let it slide for now..."
"M, my master..."
When Bernkastel said she'd let it slide, Erika couldn't hide her relief.
"...Huh? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Misidentifying a knocking sound means this: they would not mistake a sound very similar to a knocking sound for a real knocking sound. Hitting a pillar to make something similar to a knocking sound is no good. When you record a knocking sound on a cassette tape and play it back, it becomes 'the sound of the tape with a knocking sound on it', and not a knocking sound. So that's no good either!"
"In other words, all of them would correctly distinguish a knocking sound of something truly hitting the door, and they definitely wouldn't mishear it. It's totally impossible that any sounds except hitting that door directly would be misinterpreted as a knock!!"
"Wh, what the... But that means... at the time the bell sounding 24:00 went off, no one existed who could have hit the door... Gggh, ggghgghhhhh..."
"Yep, they don't exist. After all, the Golden Witch Beatrice hit it. *cackle* *cackle* *cackle* cackle* *cackle*...!!"
"...So in other words, there's no way to fake it, and you have to hit the door. So what about this?"
"'To knock' means someone hitting a door with their hand, right? I won't accept hitting it with some device, eheheheheheheheheheheh!! They heard a knock at the same time as the 24:00 bell. At that time, everyone inside the dining hall definitely heard it."
"And none of them misinterpreted a knocking sound. Krauss, Natsuhi, and Genji were not involved with the knock. No one else existed inside the mansion. And that knock refers to the action of standing directly in front of a door and hitting it with a hand."
"...Hey, Bern. What do you think of my red? Don't you think this is pretty simple and enjoyable despite being before the first twilight? The Golden Witch descended quietly with a knocking sound. *giggle*giggle*, eheheheheheheheheheheheheheheh...!"
The two witches doubled over laughing as though this was the most fun thing in the world...
"Gah, M, my master... Don't worry. If you just give my little gray cells some time, I will definitely reach an answer to this pitiful red...!"
"...You're nothing but a piece. Your absence wouldn't hinder my progress in this game in the slightest. If you can't think of any theories in particular, please just go back to the piece tray and gather dust or something. It's painful to even remember useless pieces."
"...After all, Bern is pretty forgetful. If you don't try a little harder, Bern's gonna forget you, okay...? You'll collect dust in that forgotten piece tray, awaiting your turn that will never come. I imagine that'd be pretty harsh, don't you think...?"
"D, don't worry, Lady Lambdadelta, and my master...! I promise that I'll keep you entertained and never let you down again...!"
"...Oh, how reassuring. I guess you're my double after all. Then make sure you really are giving it your all, in various ways. If you don't make an impact, I might forget all about you..."
There was no room for Erika to step in. If she contented herself with that, she would literally have no place to go, and would be buried in an eternal oblivion. Erika endured with a hideous expression, looking with shame at the back of the master who was ignoring her. And with both fists clenched, she thought frantically for some kind of breakthrough.
I am the detective, I am Furudo Erika. I am the piece and double and servant of the great Lady Bernkastel...!! I'll definitely make her satisfied... satisfied... definitely, definitely, gah, ggghggghhhhhh, Ushiromiya Battler... how dare you... humiliate me so...
As she stood there, ignored by the witches and shrouded in darkness, it looked like someone had told her to go stand all alone in the hallway...
Even Gohda-san's wonderful meal, which had supposedly been in the works since yesterday, provided no comfort. The several empty seats quietly burdened us with a pain-filled sadness...
Then, in the middle of this meal that felt like a vigil, Erika suddenly stood up. Everyone focused on her to see what was the matter. Her expression was somewhere on the line between relieved and insane, as though she'd made some groundbreaking and strange discovery.
"...Hey, what's up? Are you okay...?"
BGM: Smile-less Soiree
With an ugly expression covered with cold sweat, Erika glared and lashed out at Battler.
"...What do you get...?"
"There's no way you jumped down from the third floor study...! Not one of us saw you fall down and land in the courtyard...!!"
"You didn't jump down! You used a rain gutter or something and clumsily wriggled down the outer wall!! What do you think of my blue truth?!! Come on, what's your counterargument?!"
"You don't have a counterargument? Then my truth is effective, right?!"
"Hey, did you see that?! Trying to look cool and making it look like you jumped down was all an illusion! You just jumped out and latched onto a rain gutter...!!"
"...My argument then was about whether it was possible for Grandfather to escape from the study, right...? And it was possible for Grandfather to escape through the window. All I did was prove that. Whether I jumped down or crawled down, that doesn't change anything, does it?"
"Don't try to change the subject!! A mere human can't jump down from the third floor...!!"
"Did you see that, did you see that...?!! What do you think of my reasoning, my master...?!!"
"...Are you tired or something? Just calm down and eat some food."
When he escaped to the courtyard through the window... Battler really did use the rain gutter to crawl down the wall, just like Erika said. His hand had slipped halfway, and he had fallen from a considerable height, but he had managed to land on his feet. No one had witnessed this, but most likely, everyone in the dining hall now except Erika had realized that something like this had happened. Since the very beginning, no one had believed that he'd jumped down from the third floor window. Even if they hadn't witnessed that directly.
So they had no clue what Erika was complaining about all of a sudden and started to whisper, staring at her with cold eyes and dubious faces...
"My master, please acknowledge this!! I am not incompetent or a disappointment...! I will match up to your expectations without fail, so please don't abandon me!! My master...!!"
Facing someone that might have been somewhere beyond the ceiling, Erika spread her arms and yelled.
It was an incredible sound. They could even feel the earth shake. At the same time as that sound, Erika went limp and fell into her seat like a puppet who'd just had all its strings cut. Then, as the sound of wind and rain slowly filled the room once again, Erika slowly opened her eyes as though recovering from a bout of dizziness. Then, she continued eating in silence as though nothing had happened. As if she had been acting normally the whole time.
...Didn't Erika just stand up suddenly and yell something strange at someone...?
When they saw this ordinary appearance ...everyone convinced themselves that they were totally worn out and that they must have just seen some illusion of Erika suddenly yelling. So Erika's sudden transfiguration of a few seconds ago was treated as a daydream and faded out of everyone's memories...
Erika quietly poked at her salad and muttered in a voice no one could hear.