Part 30: The Great Court of Illusions VI
The final riddle... the 'why dunnit'. Why did they commit the crime? The motive. In third-rate mysteries, there's no need to uncover this. After all, even if you don't expose the motive, the culprit will just confess it when all's said and done. However, Furudo Erika was first-rate, so she would expose even this.
Natsuhi was being confined in the parlor, under everyone's watchful gazes. Then, Erika made use of everyone to diligently and persistently search all places, even Natsuhi's room, for clues about her motive.
Everyone remained silent, urging her to continue... Erika tossed some of Natsuhi's possessions that had been 'confiscated' onto the table...
"First, these are past diaries that were discovered in Natsuhi-san's room. They have barely been used at all in recent years, but they describe in detail the period shortly after she became a part of the Ushiromiya family."
"Most of them were locked, but in order to find the full truth behind this crime, I used my authority, which everyone has acknowledged, to destroy the locks on all of them."
"...H, how barbaric... Reading... another person's diary..."
"If we're barbaric, what does that make you, murderer?!! A criminal like you has no right to privacy!!"
"And this is what I found from these diaries. Natsuhi-san ended up married to Krauss-san due to special circumstances. I imagine that all of you here know much more about this than I do. Natsuhi-san and Krauss-san were not married because of love or as a normal arranged marriage. If anything, it was more like taking a hostage."
"Th, that is not true!!"
"Natsuhi-san. Right here, you've already acknowledged that you were a hostage. Kumasawa-san, you have served Natsuhi-san since the time she first came here, right? Could you tell me about what it was like at the time?"
"...Y, yes, that's correct. I did catch wind of something similar to what you describe... I think that by now, only Doctor Nanjo and I know of the details regarding Madam's marriage..."
"Very true... That was during Kinzo-san's golden era, when he did whatever he pleased... He defeated all of his enemies and expanded his financial power. Natsuhi-san's family was one of those enemies."
As though the time to talk had suddenly come at hand, Kumasawa and Nanjo openly delved into territory that should never have been touched upon again... This was concerning the period during which Kinzo was most feared for his ferocity. It has been said that, though Kinzo had many assets and connections, he held a grudge after being looked down upon by members in the elite as being an upstart. Because of this, apparently, Kinzo wanted to find Krauss a wife from a noble family and use this to raise the Ushiromiya family's status...
Then, he overcame Natsuhi's family in a financial struggle, and proposed that a marriage be performed as a method of reconciliation. And the person he picked... was Natsuhi. Natsuhi had been raised to be clean and pure in a family of Shinto priests--making her a true noble lady. By choosing her, not only did Kinzo cause them the worst possible humiliation, he also won what he considered to be a nice trophy. So that marriage proposal was humiliating to Natsuhi from the very beginning...
"Therefore, since the time Natsuhi-san first took the name Ushiromiya Natsuhi, she has held a strong resentment against the Ushiromiya family. What do you have to say, Natsuhi-san? Do you, acknowledge this?"
All of the cold gazes turned to face Natsuhi...
"Y, yes, it's true that I thought that at first... I thought I was being forced into a marriage without love, a hostage under the guise of a bride..."
"However, my husband... never viewed me as a mere hostage... He understood what I had gone through and gave me compassion and affection... My husband... was the only person who could understand me...!"
"...I see. That makes sense. And there are many scenes in your diaries showing that Krauss-san knew of your difficulties and showed consideration."
"However, on page 47 of this diary, you describe these moments as being unpleasant, correct?"
"Let me read aloud. 'When Krauss tries to show consideration, it only makes me feel more wretched. Sometimes, I think he might even be trying to humiliate me further'. Therefore, we can tell that Natsuhi-san , repaid her husband's consideration with contempt."
"W, wait...! Yes, I may have thought that at the beginning...! Back when I was still overwhelmed with unease, I couldn't accept his consideration and wrote of my distrust from time to time...! But I eventually realized he was sincere and grew to accept his feelings...!"
"Well, nothing like that appears in any of these diaries."
"I, I never even wrote it down, those feelings were so secret...!"
"Judging by many diverse bits of evidence and testimony, it's clear that you despised your husband. And there exists no evidence that you eventually accepted his feelings, as you claim."
"...I, I loved my husband...!!"
"You can't find any testimony or evidence that can be used to elevate that statement to the level of red truth, right?"
"D, does anyone need evidence to say they're in love...?!"
"You can't trust anything besides the red truth...! Statements that aren't red don't count as evidence at all, and they can't be trusted at all! All non-red letters are falsehoods that exist to deceive me! 'I love him'? Who would believe that when spoken with the white text? No non-red words can ever be trusted!! All I can trust in this world are the red truth and the pieces of evidence I offer to my master to gain it!!"
"...What a pitiful person... I see that you've never truly loved someone..."
"Romance is unnecessary for a detective. I don't think I've ever used the word romance except to explain the motive for murder."
"No matter what you say, we loved each other...!! I should be apologizing to my husband for always writing down my complaints and nothing else...! But I have devoted my heart to him...!! Even if I can't prove it, that is the truth!!"
"That's right!! I can't even count the number of times I've heard you complain...!!"
"Oh, and you've never talked behind Hideyoshi-san's back...?!"
"Dammit, you killed my husband!! How dare you say that?!! Die! Die and apologize to my husband!!"
"Please cease your violence, Eva-san. This is now the precious moment where I question and convict the culprit. It's not yours, okay?"
"Well then. Over the next several years, she appeared to have gotten used to her new way of life, but in actuality, an intense hatred still lurked in her heart. Taking that into consideration, there would be nothing odd at all about her deciding to take revenge."
"D, don't act like you know what I'm thinking...!!"
Each time Erika read Natsuhi's diaries, one after another, she exposed more of Natsuhi's emotions during those painful days. Natsuhi hadn't written them to leave those words behind. She had written to forget those memories and seal them away. That's why she had written down her feelings during those painful days, locked them up, and sealed them away for all eternity.
However, Erika claimed that these were Natsuhi's true, hidden feelings that had been locked away and concealed. Since it had already been 'concluded' that Natsuhi was a murderer, everyone accepted Erika's claim. By this point, the red truth wasn't even necessary to establish Natsuhi's motive. As long as the reason seemed plausible, everyone would believe it. No matter how much Natsuhi might object, no one would believe her. No one could accept the truth Natsuhi spoke of, about the days she had spent loving her husband. That had been painted over by a false truth, in which she hated her husband and swore revenge against him...
The pen of the gods that composes the truth had been given to Erika.
"And so what?! Who gives a damn about your past?!! Murderer, murdereeeeeer!!"
"S, stop that...! I can understand how Natsuhi-san felt...!"
"I always thought this day would come, eventually... Poor thing, poor thing..."
"I think she's just one of the pitiable victims of Father's wild life."
"I knew of the pain in Madam's heart... I always tried to support her... but I failed, and look what has happened..."
"...I don't... even understand... the emotions of love and hate."
"...You will, someday. It can become a reason to live... and also a reason to kill."
"...I, is Aunt Natsuhi... really the culprit...?"
"Wh, what? Hey, are you serious...?! Why didn't you say something that important sooner?!!"
"Natsuhi-san. The truth is, there is one person besides you for whom the crime was possible. If you truly claim that you aren't the culprit, it means that person must be the culprit."
"Who is it...?! Who...?!"
BGM: Bread of Life
"Early this morning, Kinzo-san went outside through the window of the third floor study, and his location is unknown. Isn't that right, Battler-san?"
"Just like Natsuhi-san, Kinzo-san has no alibi whatsoever. The truth is, for this crime, it was possible for Kinzo-san to be the culprit as well."
"I just assumed that he never existed in the first place, so I totally forgot about him until just now. Allow me to apologize."
She didn't look shy or apologetic in the slightest. Erika bowed in as unpleasant a manner as ever... She had held a grudge ever since her defeat in the study battle...
"Natsuhi-san, you gained Kinzo-san's trust and are the person who served closest to him, right? So, shouldn't you know better than anyone else? This incident is actually the crime of the family head, carried out by Ushiromiya Kinzo-san."
"Y, you dare... call Father... a criminal...?"
"Don't worry. I have prepared more than enough evidence and testimony to explain the 'why dunnit' if Kinzo-san was actually the culprit. If you say, for example, that you have put yourself on the line to cover for Kinzo's crime, I am more than capable of supporting you."
"Ever since the late period of the author Ellery Queen, even the theory created by the detective can sometimes change the plot itself. You really can't afford to be careless in this day and age."
"...I won't let you... treat Father like the culprit!!"
"Natsuhi-san. Calm down, place your hand on your chest, and think carefully. If you accuse Kinzo-san of being the culprit, this entire case will be resolved. You will no longer be held accountable for another person's actions, and your honor will be restored."
In other words, by pushing the crime onto Kinzo, Natsuhi would be saved... However...
Of course, Natsuhi knew that she wasn't the culprit. And she also knew that Kinzo wasn't. So being framed herself and pushing the blame onto Kinzo were both unacceptable, unbearable outcomes.
"Are you sure? As I have already established quite thoroughly, alibis have been proven for everyone except you. If you will not accuse Kinzo-san, then this time, it really will be clear that you are the culprit, and that will become the truth, right...?"
"If you intend to label me as the culprit and call that your own personal truth, then do whatever you like...! I am sure that God knows of my innocence...! Eventually, he will prove it!!"
If it came to a choice between her and Kinzo being framed... Natsuhi would sacrifice herself. Perhaps... that was her way... of protecting the Ushiromiya family honor.
"And I even gave you a chance..."
This future where your name will eventually be cleared... doesn't exist for any of you... not for any of the pieces on this board. Natsuhi... had made her decision. If they were going to call her the culprit, she would let them. She boldly rejected the thought of selling Kinzo's honor to gain a momentary truth where she wasn't the culprit...
And, therefore... The tale was woven with her as the culprit. In the future, if the accusations against her are proven false. This tale will probably be rewritten... However, that future will never come.
Even if I am a good person until my death... If some heartless person after my death overwrites the records and says that I wasn't a good person, and if that is shared with everyone else... Then even all the goodness in which I lived my life will be overwritten easily.
And so, I think... I must live as a good person for all eternity...
"...If you claim that Kinzo-san was not the culprit, he will need an alibi which proves that the crime was impossible for him. Otherwise, we cannot truly be certain that you are the culprit, Natsuhi-san."
Erika has probably known for a long time. Kinzo is nothing more than an illusion to make the inheritance problem more uncertain. However, it would be very hard to prove that he was an illusion. The only way to do this would be to confirm Kinzo's death, but as has been made known by the red truth in previous games, Kinzo died a long time ago. And in this 5th game, his corpse hasn't even appeared. In a situation like this, it wouldn't be easy to absolutely prove his death...
If Kinzo's death was confirmed, it would practically erase that defeat in the study. It was the only way Erika had of removing the humiliation of that loss. And there was something that could confirm Kinzo's death almost as certainly as real proof. And that was...'the confession of the culprit'. It would mean having Natsuhi herself acknowledge that Kinzo no longer existed in this world. That way, it would be acknowledged that Erika's reasoning in the study was correct, that loss would be painted over, and it would be rewritten as Erika's victory...
Beato had disappeared by having her existence denied, and her minions had gone too. In this cathedral that they had disappeared from, only Natsuhi and the witches convicting her remained.
"So, you still claim that Kinzo is alive and remains somewhere on this island...?"
"That's correct...! Father is in good health...! No matter what anyone says, I will not change my statement...!"
"The red truth from the previous games says that Kinzo is already dead. But that's not enough to satisfy you, right, Bern?"
"...Yeah, that's right. I'm after a perfect victory. So there's nothing interesting about getting a checkmate just because Kinzo's death has been confirmed by the red. I want to win by forcing Natsuhi to say that she's resigned. *giggle*giggle*giggle*!"
"Then why don't you try it? Show us what you've got."
"My master, let us now achieve a perfect victory...!!"
"Of course. Natsuhi. You say that Kinzo is certainly alive, but you don't know where he is, correct?"
"Yes, that's right...! Father left through the window and his location is unknown...! He is so troublesome sometimes...!"
"...? Well, that's true... he was a corpse after all. "
"...No, I'm sorry. That's right, totally right. I won't butt in. It sounds interesting, so keep going."
"Y, yes, my master...!! I searched for Kinzo all over the premises outside the mansion...! However, I was unable to find him...!"
Because of the detective's authority, Erika could 'find all clues'. Therefore, if Erika was unable to find 'a hint that Kinzo existed outside the mansion', it was the same as proving that Kinzo didn't exist outside the mansion. Therefore, Bernkastel repeated that truth of Erika's...
"H, how could I know...?! After all, think of the weather. There would be nothing strange about him leaving the courtyard to hide somewhere in the mansion and dry the rain off...!"
"Pfft, *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*. From this point forwards, I will repeat the same thing several times. I'll give you many chances for an honorable surrender. If you're too stubborn, you'll lose even your true honor."
"...N, no matter how you threaten me, I will not give in...!!"
"*giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*. I just love teasing pieces like you. Then, let us continue."
"However, there was nowhere he could have been hiding. We didn't catch any trace of Dad on the third floor."
"So then, where is he, Natsuhi-san?"
"I, I don't know...! If he isn't on the third floor, what if he's hiding in the basement...?"
"Ah, yes, the basement. We searched all of that suspicious basement, including the boiler room and the underground storeroom."
"Yes, I searched too...! I didn't see Father anywhere...!"
"I'll say it again. Where is Kinzo-san, Natsuhi-san?"
"I, in that case, he was probably on the first floor or the second floor...!!"
"I see, process of elimination does tell us that, doesn't it? We then thoroughly searched the first floor. And the result?"
"...Nope. We were unable to find Father."
"I'll say it again. Where was Kinzo-san, Natsuhi-san?"
"Th, then he was probably hiding on the second floor...!! How should I know where Father was hiding?!"
"Are you sure about that...? Do you really not know where Kinzo-san was hiding...?"
"M, Madam knows... where Kinzo was hiding...?!"
"That... can't be true..."
Both Shannon and Kanon knew that Kinzo was already dead. So they didn't have a clue how Erika would use a phantom of a person who didn't exist to corner Natsuhi...
"I accept that red truth."
"...Natsuhi. Kinzo should be somewhere on the second floor. Will you still not tell us where he's hiding...?"
"N, no matter how many times you ask, it won't change the fact that I don't know!"
"Erika. Start from the beginning and go in order, investigating the entire second floor. Use the detective's authority to avoid missing a single clue and to see through all types of hidden doors and hidden rooms...!"
"Yes, my master...!! That Natsuhi-san's pretty dumb, isn't she...? She still can't see where we're going with this."
"*giggle*. No need to talk more than is necessary. Come on, Erika. Take everyone with you and begin the investigation...!"
BGM: Smile-less Soiree
Even for rooms that were thought to have nothing at all to do with the crime, Erika did not relax her search in the slightest. Her search was thorough in every single room as they moved through them all...
"So, you still won't tell us where Kinzo-san is hiding?"
"Stop saying that! How many times do I have to say that I don't know...?!"
"Natsuhi-san. Even if we keep searching, at this rate, we won't ever be able to find Kinzo-san, correct?"
Of course. Kinzo doesn't exist. No matter how long this search continues, it's just a waste of time. This was known by Erika, the witch's piece, and Natsuhi, the one who knew the truth...
"In that case, this search will end at the room on the far end of that corridor. In other words, it will have been proven that Kinzo wasn't in any of the rooms except that one. What do you think about that?"
He isn't on the third floor or the first floor or the basement, and he isn't in any of the rooms on the second floor except the one at the end. So if he really did exist inside the mansion, it had been proven that he could only exist in that room at the end.
In other words, this was Hempel's Raven. Because it had been established that a 'living Kinzo' couldn't exist anywhere except the final room at the end of the corridor, that automatically meant that a 'living Kinzo' existed in that final room... And that room at the end of the corridor was...
"Which room was at the end of the corridor, again?"
Lambdadelta was munching on some popcorn.
"That's Natsuhi's room, Lady Lambdadelta...!!"
"...In other words, Kinzo had no place to hide except inside Natsuhi's room. *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*! Do I need to say it in red?"
"I, isn't this my room?!! And where exactly in my room do you claim Father is hiding...?!"
In a rage, Natsuhi unlocked the door to her room and pointed inside. Of course, Kinzo was nowhere to be seen.
"Do you see Father anywhere in here?! Look!!"
"...I see, looks like he isn't there. Did he realize we were coming and escape out the window?"
If Kinzo wasn't in this last room, it meant that he didn't exist anywhere. 'There was no living Kinzo outside the mansion'. 'There was no living Kinzo inside the mansion'. Therefore... 'No living Kinzo existed'. However, Erika didn't make that argument. She had made that move herself, but she didn't make it checkmate...
It was because Bernkastel didn't want to win by cornering Natsuhi with the red truth... she wanted to force Natsuhi to admit to a humiliating resignation...
"I have not only been searching for Kinzo-san himself all this time. I have been looking for signs that Kinzo-san hid somewhere between 24:00 and the morning. And no such signs have existed."
"It means the checkmate of red truth has finally cornered the piece known as, Kinzo's phantom inside Natsuhi's room."
"Hey, Natsuhi-san. This means you were with Kinzo in this room until morning. Do you still claim that you didn't know where he was?"
"I'll acknowledge it with the red truth...!! During the night, between 24:00 and morning, a living Kinzo could not have existed anywhere outside Natsuhi's room!! I permit you to use this truth to advance your argument about how he could only have existed in Natsuhi's room!"
"A plea bargain. Hey, Natsuhi. Even someone as stupid as you must have realized the fix you're in now. This is your last chance. Make Kinzo the culprit. Call the Ushiromiya family head a criminal and crush the head's honor to protect yourself. If you show that you have the guts to do that, I'll change the plot into one of a tragic heroine taking the blame to protect the family head."
"Father is innocent! I cannot call Father a criminal!!"
"...She's refused the deal! Ehehehehehehehe, okay, Bern. Do it...!"
"After conducting a thorough search of this room, and a detailed scientific examination, I discovered that Kinzo did not exist anywhere in this room between 24:00 and morning. However, your bed is the only exception."
A shocked silence dominated the room... Natsuhi completely forgot to close her open mouth...
"Last night, around the time the gold was discovered, so probably at about 23:00, Kinzo-san escaped from the window on the third floor and snuck into the bed in your room. And, as an even more unfortunate result from my investigation, it has been proven that you were also sleeping in that bed."
"Wow, look how close they were. So, you two were so close to each other, you slept sharing the same pillow?"
"H, how rude!!! T, t, to think that I would... d, do such a thing... with the Father I respected so much... I won't allow you to say such things!!"
"Natsuhi. Use the red truth to counter this blue truth. Of course, since you aren't a witch, there's no red that you can use. So I'll speak with the red truth in your place. At least, I will if you can show me convincing proof...!!"
Natsuhi tried to attack Erika, but Eva pinned her arms behind her back, so she couldn't do anything.
"How unsightly. In order to take revenge against the Ushiromiya family, you first schemed to take control of everything the family owned. For that reason, you used your body as a weapon and ensnared Kinzo-san."
"I never did anything of the sort!! I have never given my body to anyone except my husband!!"
"I understand why you want to deny it, but the testimony from several witnesses makes it clear that you have had repeated secret meetings with Kinzo-san."
"After all, last night, you went to 'say goodnight' to Kinzo-san, with just the two of you alone in his study, right? Not only that, I have collected multiple bits of testimony claiming that there were clear traces of sexual relations."
"Are you insane?!?! Who was it?! Who said something so ridiculous?! G, Gohda?! Shannon?! Was it Eva-san?! Yes, you must be behind something this ludicrous!! "Who was it?! Whooooo?! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!"
"Hey, Natsuhi. Looks like you don't even have a scrap of honor left now. I'll give you one, final chance before I build you the worst of all possible Fragments. Could you try saying that Kinzo wasn't there?"
"That's right, you sure are stubborn, Natsuhi. The Ushiromiya family has already been torn to ribbons, right? Are you really that desperate to confuse the inheritance problem by pretending Kinzo exists?"
"This is my final challenge... in protecting the honor of the Ushiromiya family, which Father entrusted me with...!! My husband's business will definitely... definitely succeed!! Until we can use that to repay our debts, I cannot hand over the inheritance of the Ushiromiya family!!"
"I will protect Father and my husband's honor!! That is... my mission!!!"
"...Wanting to protect the honor of the dead is an admirable trait."
As Natsuhi screamed, she fell down to her hands and knees... She no longer had any way to reject the fake truth that Bernkastel and Erika had weaved...
...Of course there were none. All of those who might have objected had been erased...
"No objections! Bern, this is your victory, and a wonderful victory it is! Now you must weave up the Fragment of the truth!!"
"Sure. I'll go weave up the truth. This is the truth of this sad, pathetic tale. Though I did want Natsuhi to acknowledge her crime while half-laughing, half-crying. After all, that's standard in the genre, right? *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*!!"