Part 42: The Annoying Guest II
Just when it seemed to be crying out sadly, it would suddenly turn into a roar and rattle the window, striking up even more fear and unease within me...
Light from the hallway poured in through the thin crack of the slightly open door... and it seemed to carry with it laughter that was warm and happy, but very distant... I'm sure everyone's in the dining hall or somewhere, having a good time... I want to go there as soon as I can... I'm sure my family will be there... I hate being all alone in a place like this... Dad... Mom...
I stubbornly tried again and again to open the door, but the merciless chain just wouldn't let the door open any further than that crack. On the contrary, feeling this close to a way out just made me more impatient. Gulping and trying to ignore the fear lurking behind me, I quietly closed the door. That light coming out of the crack... is just a trap. This is an iron shackle, trying to keep me locked in here for eternity by making me think I'm just an inch away from getting out a door that will never actually open...
BGM: Eternal Chains
When I closed the door, all that filled the room was that eerie sound of wind and rain. The way the wind picked up every now and then and shook the window frame felt like a monster in a cage shaking the bars... I was so scared of that monster... I couldn't help but avert my gaze from the window. Gotta search. If I can't get out the door, I need to find another way out...
Just to the side of the door was a closet. There was only enough space inside to hang overcoats. Of course, it didn't connect to anywhere outside the room. If this were hide-and-seek, it'd probably be fun to hide in there. However, inside this creepy room, it would be no better than stepping into my own coffin... If I go in there, maybe I won't be able to get out of the closet next. This fear I didn't understand sent a massive shiver up my spine, and I closed the closet door in a hurry...
There's... one door left. When I opened it, there was the bath and toilet. Of course, there was no exit. There weren't even any windows. If I turned the faucet, water would probably come out... then disappear down the drain and flow outside, but I couldn't get out that way.
I had the feeling that this was the only way out, so the black stopper in the bathtub drain looked extremely terrifying... I tried a lot of things, both mentally and physically, but there really was no way of getting out through the bathroom...
Beyond the window is a pitch-black darkness. The fierce winds and rain are slamming against the glass... The darkness on the other side of the window may have been unsettling, but I didn't really care where I went, as long as it was outside this room. However, the window... was clamped shut. Right down the middle of the window, which was made to swing open like a set of double doors, were several ugly metal clamps. It was even more unnerving than the chain on the door, like a rough operation scar on some bizarre monster. The wind and rain slammed against and shook the window frame, making it creak loudly. However, unlike the door, this wouldn't open even a crack.
...I've... had enough. Give it a rest already... What the hell's going on with this room...?
BGM: Closed my Heart
It's impossible to go outside except by the door and windows. And compared to that thick door, the window looks like it might be possible to break. I'll smash it. If I swing a chair at it, the glass will probably break. I might even be able to smash the wooden grid that runs through these latticed windows. All I need to do is make a gap large enough to slip out of. I grabbed a fancy-looking antique chair and headed back to the window.
A, aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh...! Smash it. Over and over. The glass smashed with a violent sound, and the frame groaned and creaked. Smash it, smash it. Over and over. If I can just break through the wooden grid...!
...Dammit... what... the hell... Even though the glass had been smashed apart, even though the cold rain that blew in tormented me, I just couldn't get that grid to break...! They weren't iron bars. It was just a slender wooden mesh... Even though it's fragile enough to make that creaking sound, why doesn't it break...?!
No wait, maybe it's almost broken. What if I try attacking it from a different angle instead of just smashing it head on? I stuck my left hand outside through the hole in the broken latticed window, grabbed the frame from the front with my right hand, and tried to break it by shaking it around from both sides. My left hand started to grow ice-cold from the frigid winds and rain...
But... if I can just get out of here, this much pain is no big deal. But, I can't get out. I'm stuck. It won't open... I can't break it...! The more violently I shook the frame, the more the glass fragments tore into my left wrist, causing me intense pain. Wait, what's... huh? Ow, owowowowow?!
Before I realized it, the glass fragments on the frame had extended outwards. It was as though an ugly beast was trying to chew my hand off with glass teeth. It didn't just feel as though they were growing outwards. They actually were getting longer before my very eyes, aaaah, and they're chewing my hand to bits...!! I tried desperately to pull my hand out, but it had already dug deep into my wrist, and I couldn't move it. I put all my strength into it, but it just hurt more and more, and the glass didn't even budge...! What... the... hell...?!! D, dammit, let go... let go, let go..!!
I hit the glass with my right fist over and over, but that just hurt my right fist and did nothing to release my other hand...
Wh, what?! It couldn't have been a leaf blown about by the winds, or anything like that...! I mean... it felt just like the touch of someone's rain-soaked hand... Then, it closed tightly around my left hand. When I felt the five fingers, I knew that some person out in the darkness was touching my left hand. And... yes... I know who it is...
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
The two hands soaked in the freezing rain... gently caressed my left hand.
However, though I could tell this was happening from the touch, I couldn't see anything out there in the darkness... Then, it felt about my fingers, and twisted my ring finger upwards.
O, owowowooow... I, it's gonna break... gyaaah...! At that moment, I saw something in the darkness for the first time. It was white. The darkness... grinned... and bared its white teeth. Then, that mouth filled with eerily white teeth, which had lined up next to my twisted up finger... opened wide...
E... eeek... It must have been laughing at me from the darkness. After all, that creepy mouth was twisting upward in a huge grin. I had a horrible idea of what it might be trying to do to my finger. A shiver ran up my spine. I resisted as much as I could, but the fangs of glass just wouldn't release my left hand.
And then, it gently bit my finger.
"I think I heard it too. It sounded like a clunk..."
"It's probably just the wind hitting a window. Heheh, this is a beat-up old mansion, after all."
"Yeah, it is pretty creepy. When I was a brat six years ago, I remember spending a lot of nights all scared that the witch really was walking around the mansion."
"Uu-, exists! Beatrice exists!"
"...What's at the other end of this hallway?"
"There are guest rooms there, but they aren't being used now."
"Yeah. After all, we have the guesthouse now. Until then, we would always stay in these guest rooms."
BGM: Minute Darkness
"Well, that's because it was just built. I wish I could move my own room over there. Shannon, Erika-san's room is in the guesthouse too, right?"
"Yes. We have prepared a room for her in the guesthouse."
"...And, since the guesthouse is a good distance away from the mansion, no matter what kind of trouble happens, you can't hear what's going on in one from the other."
"Heh. Are you still in detective mode? Ihihi, sounds as though you'll be disappointed when we wake up tomorrow and everyone can say 'good morning' to each other."
"*giggle*, true. It would be troublesome,if our numbers haven't thinned by tomorrow morning. Right?"
"A, allow me to guide you all to the guesthouse..."
The adults were apparently about to begin a conversation that they didn't want the kids to hear. The real family conference was about to start. As the kids and Erika followed Shannon on their way to the guesthouse, they passed through the entrance hall...
"...Should we watch TV in the parlor until it dies down a bit?"
"Mama said to go back to the guesthouse. Have to go or she'll get mad. Uu-."
"I think it'll be a lot more relaxed over there... I'm more than happy to stay away from our parents' unpleasant voices and faces."
"...*giggle*giggle*. It looks like everything's falling into place."
Erika giggled, an openly indiscreet look on her face.
"I'll go prepare some umbrellas for everyone. Please wait here."
"Oh, wait a second. It's been bugging me for a while. Who's the woman in that portrait?"
Still, we only just walked past it in the last game, which is no fun. Erika whispered to herself, but of course no one heard her.
"I've heard that she gave Grandfather a vast quantity of gold, meaning that she's to thank for the Ushiromiya family's revival."
"...She's just a witch of Grandfather's delusions. They say that her ghost walks the corridors of the mansion every night."
"Hey, quit it... That story always freaked me out when I was little, so much that I couldn't stand being in the mansion at night."
"Oh, right, that's true. What about now, six years later?"
"I'd totally forgotten, but looking at this portrait head on, I can feel that old fear coming back a bit."
"Uu-. Beatrice isn't scary. At least, as long as you respect her. If you don't..."
"...kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi! Right, Shannon?!"
"Uh, yes. That rumor does exist among the servants as well. Rumors about servants patrolling at night bumping into mysterious silhouettes... or gold butterflies..."
"Yeah, was it last year or the year before? Didn't one servant fall down some stairs and get so badly injured that they quit? Wasn't there a rumor that it was Beatrice's curse? Ihhihihihi~!"
Jessica told it like a ghost story, trying to scare Erika, but Erika just laughed disdainfully.
"...It happened just after Grandfather had this portrait hung here, so it was probably the year before last. In fact, if I remember, this here is the staircase that servant fell down, right?"
"Yep. After all, this insanely huge portrait really stands out. Shortly after it was put up, everyone was talking about what it might be. And then, when the accident happened shortly afterwards, people started calling it Beatrice's curse."
"So, these ghost stories about Beatrice started after the portrait was displayed...?"
"...N, no. Rumors about Beatrice-sama's ghost walking about had been around even before that. However, I think those stories grew in number after the portrait was put there..."
"...Before then, even though they had heard about the witch Beatrice, they didn't have an actual distinct picture in their heads of what she'd be like. I imagine that this portrait made that picture distinct for them, strengthening the rumors even more."
"So, who started talking about the witch Beatrice in the first place?"
"Grandfather. He would get in a rage and start yelling about 'my beloved witch Beatri~ce'. Though until we saw that portrait, we had no idea what she looked like."
"It's no surprise that you'd get one or two ghost stories with a creepy portrait like this hanging around. You'd always get ghost stories cropping up around things like a portrait of Beethoven in the music room or the statue of the school founder."
"...True. It wouldn't be strange for a few ghost stories to arise in an old, gloomy mansion with the sound of wind and rain present in the background for so long. Well, it's nothing more than a ghost story, a delusion, a fairy tale. Worth less than the useless drivel of a half-sleeping nitwit."
Erika looked up at the portrait and smiled at it hostilely... As though she felt that this smile was disrespectful to Beato, Maria's face soured.
"Oh, how frightening. Please, curse me if you can, Beatrice. *giggle*giggle*."
"Ihihi. So, if we find you mysteriously dead next morning, it'll be the start of a witch's murder case. You're the detective, right? Wouldn't having the detective get killed off in the beginning be a little too radical?"
"Ah, that would be troubling. That would get in the way of the crime scene inspection. I see, even the Knox rules don't prohibit the detective being killed."
"I have something good! ...It's a charm that'll protect you from Beatrice's curse...!"
"A charm? You have a charm for something like that?"
"What are these?"
"Uu-! They're magic-repelling charms! Their effect is very weak, but if you use them, you'll definitely be able to avoid Beatrice's curse all night long."
"I've heard that spiderwebs are also useful for repelling magic."
"Uu-. That's probably because Beato is the incarnation of a butterfly."
"Huh? Wasn't it the evil spirits of Akujikishima that were weak against that? Kumasawa-san knows a lot about that sort of thing."
"...Witches... and evil spirits? Heheh, this is getting a bit interesting. Would you mind telling me about it in a bit more detail when we get to the guesthouse?"
"Here are umbrellas for everyone. It is still raining very hard outside, so please take care."
Shannon handed out the umbrellas she had brought. Everyone headed towards the exit...
Then, expanding out into a golden splash, it became a human form. In the hall, empty now that the children had left, Beato stood alone and silent, looking up at her own portrait...
Without a doubt, the figure depicted there was as like her as an image in a mirror. However, it felt as though its eyes and expression... were just a little different from hers. From her perspective, while the person in this portrait was almost infinitely close to herself, it was just as surely a different person entirely.
Beato had already finished reading the Fragments from Featherine's archive, which showed the tales of all the games so far. However, the witch called Beatrice who had been depicted in them... had been so vastly different from her. At the very end, it had looked as though that witch and Battler had connected just a little bit as rivals, but for the most part, Beatrice had just bullied and bullied Battler in nearly all of the tales. Even though this was about her, she had no idea why Beatrice had tormented Battler so much when she had supposedly been born for Battler's sake.
...All she had learned from Featherine's archive... was that the former Beato was a completely different person who defied understanding...
"...Your wings should have existed for Father's sake. Just when did you have one of those torn off... and end up so drastically different...?"
She had listened to the conversation Battler and the others had just been having. Beatrice can't handle scorpion charms...? Beatrice can't deal with spiderwebs...? It wasn't as though she would like to touch either of those if she had the choice, but nothing bad would happen if she did. Was being perfectly fine when around those... proof that she wasn't Beatrice...? Even though it was about herself, she didn't understand at all. So, she quietly gazed into her own eyes on the portrait. It felt as though the truth hid behind those eyes...
Beato slowly... approached the portrait... And then, she lightly touched it...
...Yes. This is... a doorway. A doorway to the long path that would lead her to the Golden Witch, Beatrice...
Beato felt a bit dizzy. She lost her balance, feeling as though the world was twisting around her. Then, she couldn't tell which way was up or down... and was swallowed downwards. With a soft, watery sound, Beato was sucked into the portrait...
However, there was nothing unsettling about it. It was a comfortable darkness, like when you put your head under the covers in bed at night. Beato... realized. This was a world inside herself. So, despite the darkness, she felt a warm embrace. As long as she asked for nothing, this world would ask nothing of her. But she couldn't remain like this. She didn't want to spend eternity inside the darkness of this world.
Yes, I need to hatch out of my egg. This darkness is the shell surrounding the gold butterfly called Beatrice.
She took her goal... her reason for being born... and put it in words. As if in response to those words, the seal on the shell began to melt away... Cracks appeared in the darkness... and a brilliant light enveloped the world...
And so, Beatrice... was born.
There I stood... along with another me. For a second, I thought that the me in front of me was the real Beatrice, the one I wanted to be more like. However, she was looking back at me with the same bewildered eyes, so I realized that wasn't quite it. That's right. I wasn't the only one born from the egg. She was also born.
...My twin? No, it feels a bit different. How can I put it? Both of us are lacking something and immature. Yes. Both of us are chicks, but we are also... fragments of the true Beatrice. It felt as though we could become the real Beatrice together. No one explained this to us. However, we naturally understood...
I decided to talk to this other me. Unless I get to know her and become one with her, I won't be able to become the Beatrice Father desires... In other words, the thing that Father wants from me... and was so heartbroken to find missing... must be something that she has...
The Beatrice with her hair down looked at me dubiously several times, then finally spoke.
"...Why... do you have the same face as me...?"
The true Beatrice also spoke in that manner. It looks like she really does have something that I lack.
"W, well... I don't know why either."
"I am the Golden Witch, Beatrice. And you are?"
"I, I am also... Beatrice. I was born for the purpose of serving Ushiromiya Battler."
"...I am the Golden Witch and the ruler of Rokkenjima's night. I know Ushiromiya Battler, but I have trouble imagining why I would have to serve a brat like him."
I realized that the thought I'd had a second ago, that together, we could become the true Beatrice... must really have been true. Though the person in front of me does have the part that makes her a witch, which I lack, she does not possess the mission to live for Ushiromiya Battler's sake. She has what I do not, and I'm sure I have something she does not.
"...No, that is not so. You are my little sister. I have been here since long before you were born."
"Huh? I, is that so...?"
I was born later... So, does that mean the mission to live for Ushiromiya Battler's sake was born later on...? However, I don't think my existence is something quite as faint and intangible as a mission. I have enough of a personality to think and act as I am doing now.
So, the witch Beato and I are separate people, both of us possessing something the other lacks. In that sense, maybe it's fitting for us to call ourselves sisters, as she says.
"I also wish to know. I understand that you are also 'me'. Why is it that you speak that way, and why must you serve Battler? As long as we cannot understand that, it seems both of us will remain immature."
"...I... want to become a complete Beatrice."
"Until you were born, I was complete. However, now that you have appeared, I believe that accepting you is my obligation. I also wish to know about you."
The witch Beato's tone was very slightly arrogant, matching with her self-proclaimed status as the older sister. However, since we both realized that we were the same person, there was no need to be unkind. This was probably because she understood that, after meeting me, her current form was no longer her real self.
"Where... are we? Is this... the hall of the mansion...? Oh-"
...In other words, did that mean that this was at least two years in the past...?
"Precisely. This is the hall of the Ushiromiya mansion. The night is my time. And the nighttime mansion is mine as well."
"That fool Kinzo is still so desperate to catch me or revive me. How truly ironic. Here I am, openly controlling the mansion every night. *cackle*cackle*!"
"So, what do you do here...?"
"...I have lost my body, and due to the effects of that hateful shrine, I have no magical power. However, I am reviving that magical power bit by bit every day. I can't wait to undergo a spectacular resurrection at the end so that I can taunt that Kinzo."
"I can't wait to tell him that I've succeeded in escaping from his cage...! I have become a ghost wandering about and killing time every night just so that I can look forward to that smile."
"C, can I come with you...?"
"Of course! After all, you are a part of me. How could a left hand refuse the company of the right hand? Why should I refuse? I shall be pleased to have you, my little sister, the new Beatrice."
"Th, thank you very much, b... big sister."
"A somewhat embarrassing name. But it is not bad. Come, let us go. Let us take a walk through the nighttime mansion. *cackle*cackle*, let me introduce you to my boring everyday life."