Part 52: Romantic Regrets
October 5th, 1986, 12:07 AM
Everyone had decided to cool their heads for a moment, and a short break had been agreed upon... The four siblings could say whatever they wanted, but Natsuhi and Kyrie, for example, were outsiders and found it difficult to speak freely in this sort of atmosphere. A conference where you aren't allowed to say what you want can be tiring even as you just sit there quietly. Even Kyrie couldn't help letting out a deep sigh...
This was the second floor hallway of the mansion. Rudolf had wanted to be alone during the break, so she had felt like doing the same... and had drifted up the stairs to reach this place. Her expression was less tightly controlled than it was when her husband was around. Kyrie wore a tired look that she didn't often show. She pressed her cheek against the cool window glass.
I need to regain my spirit and support my husband. Even if I'm not allowed to speak. That's the duty I've won.
"...Who is it?"
"Oh, it's you, Jessica-chan. Didn't you go to the guesthouse?"
"...Well, I just decided to head back to my own room for a bit to get a book."
"I see. Were you about to return to the guesthouse?"
"Y, yes. That's right..."
"Can't stand this rain. Is the wind really strong...?"
"It's weak right now, relatively speaking..."
As Kyrie looked out the window, Jessica watched her back, looking agitated...
"Ah, Zepar! Jessica's roulette of fate has chosen Kyrie!"
"What will you do, Jessica?! The roulette has chosen Kyrie, but you may reject that choice and spin the roulette again if you wish!"
""It doesn't matter whose life is sacrificed for this trial...!!""
Jessica wasn't like George. George had willingly chosen Eva to be his sacrifice, to signify his separation from his old life so that he could step into a new life married to Shannon. However, Jessica hadn't thought of any particular target. So, she had left it up to the roulette of fate. That is no exaggeration. She had walked around at random, imposing a rule on herself saying that the first person she met would be chosen as the sacrifice. And so, the roulette of fate had brought her to Kyrie...
Of course, there was nothing forcing her to keep that rule. However, Jessica didn't want to break a rule she had once made. Now that she was participating in this demons' game, this was the one bit of justice that she could cling to... Right now, she could attack that unprotected back...
But Jessica still wasn't able to fully resolve herself.
"...What is it? Do you have something to say to me...?"
Noticing Jessica's strange silence, Kyrie turned around. That unprotected back was already gone. Jessica realized that her hesitation had cost her her own first chance...
...She had taken on this demons' game to prove her love for Kanon. However, would it really be alright to sell her soul to demons... for the sake of love...? Not wanting to let George, who had already taken a far-sighted view of the situation, get any more of a lead on her, she had energetically consented to this demon's game, but... Her heart still wasn't ready...
"Umm, Maybe I shouldn't be asking you this, Aunt Kyrie..."
"...What is it? It's rare for you to ask me questions, Jessica-chan. I hope I'm capable of answering it for you."
BGM: Steady Pace
"Oh, really? That's wonderful, *giggle*. Then is it love you wanted to talk about...?"
"E, eheheh... Yeah, pretty much."
"...Very well. I'll help out if I can."
"Th, thank you very much... Actually, umm..."
"Is it still one-sided?"
"No, I guess you could say that it's just become mutual... But, well, there's this trial... for us to be joined together..."
"A trial? What are you talking about?"
"...There's the two of us and another pair of lovers... and we have to fight each other."
"A triangle relationship? Or is it a square...? Sounds complicated. And?"
"Only the pair who wins can be together... It's something complicated like that. In other words-"
"...Sounds nasty. Love that can only succeed by using the others as a footstool."
"Yes... If we are joined, then they will fall apart. And the same the other way around."
Yes, Kyrie is very smart. She had already guessed the question that Jessica had wanted to ask most...
"If you don't fight, it automatically becomes their victory, and you will lose. However, if you fight and win, it means they'll fall apart. It's nasty either way. However, the answer is obvious."
Kyrie giggled. If she wasn't willing to stick to her love, then that would show the measure of their relationship. If that were the case, she should just let the other pair of lovers win. However, if this was a love she couldn't abandon... She couldn't abandon her chances at victory either. So, she had no options other than to fight.
In the end, Jessica's hesitation was caused by guilt over forcing the others to split apart as the result of her inevitable decision...
"...I guess... I'm just... being soft after all..."
"Yep. That you are."
"...Still, that doesn't make it any easier to step over someone else, for the sake of your own love..."
"In that case, will you give up on your lover?"
"I can tell you one thing for certain. Doing that would be even more painful. You'll be forced to crawl through hell. For the rest of your life."
A hardness had entered Kyrie's gaze...
BGM: Look Back
"Was it a diary...?"
"It was more a collection of her thoughts. It was much less organized than a diary would've been. I found it and read it right after she passed away, but I needed to wait until I'd grown for several years before I could understand it."
"...I see. So, did it speak of Kyrie's worries about her marriage?"
"It was... practically a book of curses. It cleared up several questions I had vaguely felt back when I was six."
When I was six, it seemed as though my parents were very close and had no problems. And though I thought it odd that Onii-chan lived separately even though he was in our family, I accepted it as the way things were.
"Did you not know about Asumu?"
"...I think Onii-chan talked to me about her when no one was around, but there was no way an elementary schooler like I was could understand. After all, I never even saw a picture of her. Mom had sent all of the pictures with Asumu-san in them to Onii-chan, leaving none behind in the house."
To Ange, and to Battler, who only rarely came home, Kyrie's smile never faltered. If she hadn't written her thoughts in that notebook, Ange would probably never have known them. Since his school days, Rudolf had been particularly popular with girls, a typical playboy. He had probably built up a formula of being audacious, over the top, and yet not lacking a bit of gentleness towards women. In their attempts to win Rudolf's favor, several women tried various seductive tricks. Rudolf himself probably enjoyed that more than anyone. Since the beginning, love had been a game to Rudolf. He never thought of it as a trial and error process to find a single life partner. He would intentionally spark jealousy between women, lap up their compliments, and revel in the harem.
He may be my father, but he was an awful man.
"...Though even that might have been due to the skillful way Kyrie tried to catch Rudolf's gaze."
"...Yeah, maybe. Mom was smart in many ways."
Like the other Ushiromiya siblings, Rudolf had strong ambitions and lofty goals. Under the mottos of 'if you do it you've done it' and 'as long as you can get away with it', he would alternate between setting up businesses that were borderline swindles or illegal, then running away. I've heard that in his college years, he was already making use of that talent, thinking up shameless projects and cleverly making money through the panic selling of party tickets, so much so that he could brag about carrying a wallet full of a hundred 10,000 yen notes all the time...
Many women fell for his charisma in being the man responsible for these radical projects, as well as his thick wallet and generosity. It would be a lie to say that Kyrie was not one of them. However, what made Kyrie very different from the other women... was that she could support Rudolf as a business partner. Rudolf would make a large-scale party successful, unable to hide his laughter at this massive easy profit. The women would surround him. Among them, only Kyrie was calm and composed. She could point out several ways that income and expenditure could be improved upon, and could even lay out a proposal for the next project.
"So then, Rudolf slowly began to accept her as a partner."
"...Just like some people say men don't belong in the kitchen, there's also a sense that women should stay out of financial affairs. It's normal for women to be treated by men. The details of how those 10,000 yen notes were scrounged up are vulgar, so they don't ask, don't know, don't care."
"So, you're saying that Kyrie viewed money from a man's perspective..."
In that regard, Rudolf noticed something unique about Kyrie. He knew all about how much hard work it took to make just one of those 10,000 yen notes. So, somewhere inside him, he had looked down upon those extravagant women who never even considered the efforts he had undertaken. Among all of them, only Kyrie possessed the same sharp financial intuition as Rudolf...
Every time Rudolf thought of a new plan, he would talk to Kyrie about it, work out the kinks, and make it succeed. In this way, Kyrie steadily worked her way up until she was the number one of Rudolf's large group of followers.
"But Mom was still a woman. I doubt she enjoyed seeing Dad pampered by all the other girls."
"...So, she would rather have been his only one, instead of his number one..."
"Yeah. Though she served as Dad's right hand person, she slyly got rid of the other women in the shadows. It was only a matter of time before Mom would succeed in her love."
"When did Asumu come into the picture?"
"Did you ever talk with her...?"
"Of course. I knew her well. Ever since the very beginning, before Rudolf-san even knew her name. I'm sure she was quite intelligent herself. And cunning. I tried to use my intelligence to stick out, but she did it in the exactly opposite way."
"...By her... stupidity...?"
"*giggle*...I mean she was good at triggering his protective instinct. Out of all the girls who came to flatter and flirt with him, only she stood out with every action she made, unlike the flashy girls Rudolf-san had tired of."
...Kyrie still acknowledges the mistake she made in letting Asumu and Rudolf get too close. Kyrie had thought that she had Rudolf all to herself by taking the role of his business partner. That might have been due to her pride. And, it might have been her arrogance in trying to eliminate the relationships the other girls had with Rudolf. Perhaps she sometimes tried too hard as a business partner, putting too much pressure on him, regardless of the fact that it was justified. Bit by bit, Rudolf had started to need a woman who could stay quiet and soothe him, without making him think about anything complicated. That woman was Asumu.
"I am ruthless and intellectual. Rational and economical. In a plank of Carneades situation, I would push the other person off without hesitation. I thought that was the kind of partner suitable for him."
At some point, though Rudolf still acknowledged Kyrie's skill, he began to yearn for a quiet, warm acceptance. Asumu had satisfied all of those conditions. She would never talk about anything complicated. Even if he did, she would just shake her head to say she didn't know. However, she would care more for him physically than anyone else, quietly putting a blanket on him and staying by his side until morning...
"...Yes, I did get the position of his business partner. But before I knew it, Rudolf-san had grown a need for a mental partner, someone who could heal his heart. Though I foolishly claimed to be the intellectual one, I never noticed."
"...And then... Uncle Rudolf... married Aunt Asumu...?"
"...Yes, that's right. She stole him away from me."
"He had slept with a lot of women. By that point, he wasn't the kind of guy to let his emotions be captured by a woman just because he slept with her. After all, sleeping with women was just a game to him. That's why I used something other than my body to attract his attention."
"Before long, they were both pregnant. Asumu-san told Dad about it right away, but Mom did the opposite."
"...So, she was afraid that pregnancy would threaten her position as his business partner..."
"Apparently, Mom didn't eat much at the time, so her period was often irregular. Because of that, it took a really long time before she realized she was pregnant."
"When did she notice...?"
"...It was after Asumu-san suddenly moved into Dad's family register. Mom learned about her pregnancy after that and plotted several times to split Asumu-san and Dad apart, but..."
"'Do you have a problem with that? Please stay out of our way'...she'd say. And this coming from that little girl who would curl up into a ball every time she got on a bus."
"...At that point, I realized. She had been the truly cunning one. Yes, even her fear of vehicles was another lie to catch Rudolf-san's sympathy. "
"At the very least, I wanted him to acknowledge the child I would give birth to. It seems as though Rudolf-san was prepared to do that. He made sure there was a hospital waiting for me, and even though Asumu-san was close to giving birth herself, he gallantly came to see me. Even though she was already his wife. What an awful man, really..."
After that... is the tale I can't bear even to tell. Both Asumu and I... had the same delivery date. And yet, her pregnancy had meant her marriage, where mine was completely meaningless. I swore to bring up my child well and have Rudolf-san acknowledge it. Asumu-san had won her fight against me. However, I hadn't lost yet. If I would make my child excel far more than Asumu-san's... if I could make it fully acknowledged by Rudolf-san... I would be rewarded. That's what I believed.
"Yeah. Asumu-san gave birth to Onii-chan. But Mom didn't give birth to anyone. Even Mom's final hope of being left a spot as Dad's second wife... was destroyed..."
Kyrie had fallen from his partner to his second wife, and then, unable to give birth to the bond of a child, she tumbled down... to being merely his mistress. I can't imagine... how much she must have hated Asumu and that kid... Battler.
"...And despite that, Mom was able to act in a very friendly way towards Onii-chan. It was definitely a shock for me. To think that my gentle mother... had held such negative emotions for Onii-chan... and had managed to hide them."
"...She must have despised Battler."
"Probably. If Asumu-san had had a stillbirth and Mom had given birth to Onii-chan, history might have changed in some way. It seems she thought that, if that had happened, Dad might have divorced Asumu-san and married her instead."
"...Was that... also written in that book where she kept her thoughts?"
"Yeah. After all, that was just a random thought, a delusion. Mom's resentment, as she chewed on the corner of her tear-stained bed sheets."
BGM: Dead Angle
"...You mean... the pregnancy?"
"No, no. It's my arrogance I regret. Rudolf-san is already mine, so I'm completely safe. I'll never lose to that Asumu girl. When she was screaming about on buses and planes, I was capable of properly managing the arrangements and expenditures for them. And so, I was overly confident... that I was the one Rudolf-san trusted the most."
"They say love needs to be nurtured, right?"
"That's not wrong. You both need to water it, care for it, and nurture it. And at the end, it will finally bear the fruit called love. Did you know? It isn't over when it bears fruit. If you don't harvest that love, your love will never be realized."
"You need to think about that yourself, Jessica-chan. If you make it bear fruit without harvesting it, it can sometimes grow rotten. And bugs will often gather around it. In fact, sometimes thieves will come by and pluck it off the branch."
"Young kids like you, Jessica-chan, think that love ends with nurturing. That is naive. If you don't harvest it, you will never be rewarded for your love."
"At a glance, it may seem to be a matter just for the pair of lovers, but that isn't true. Putting off the harvest because you assume you can do it at any time... just gives the thieves a chance. What if that fruit you've worked so hard to nurture gets pulled off the branch the next morning? You'll regret that you didn't choose to harvest it the previous day instead of complaining. That regret really hurts. It'll make you crawl through hell."
"I was lucky. My hell ended after 18 years. So, I'll never misjudge myself again. That person is mine. I won't let him get away. I won't let him out of my sight."
"And I'm grateful to my master... for giving me that chance. My 'certain willpower' in not giving up on that man no matter what was answered with a 'miracle'."
By now, Jessica was speechless... and didn't even nod her head in understanding. This true form of love that Kyrie was telling her about... was far, far more harsh than anything she had imagined...
"Right now, I would do anything to keep Rudolf-san by my side. And I will show no mercy against his enemies. If he wished it, I might not even hesitate at murder."
"...Because I finally gained that determination on the 18th year, that certain willpower... brought about a miracle for me. You know, miracles only appear for those who can make them come true themselves."
Asumu's death had not been a murder of any sort. However, Kyrie had often cursed her and hoped for her death, and finally, on the 18th year, she had built up the determination to kill her with her own hands. And then, she actually... got herself a knife to do the deed with... That was when the miracle had occurred...
"...Aunt Asumu passing away... was a miracle..."
"Not really. That wasn't even close to a miracle."
...Until now, Kyrie had never shown Jessica... no, she had never even shown Rudolf... that glint in the deepest depths of her eyes. It told plainly and clearly that romance and love are not the sweet and fluffy candies that young girls imagine them to be.
Jessica was overwhelmed by that pressure... and stunned silent. And she had to acknowledge it. This was... the power of will that could make love be realized. With the force of this willpower, Kyrie had supported Rudolf as a wife. And it was the same as George's. He had already developed and proven that he had the willpower to oppose all obstacles to love between different classes. Right now, Jessica could clearly understand. This was the magnitude of George's determination, which had allowed him to coldly carry out his part of the trial...
Then, what about her...? Did she really have the resolve to make her love with Kanon bear fruit... and to then harvest that fruit...?
"*giggle*, I'm sorry. You probably wanted a little advice, and I've scared you... *giggle*giggle* Blame the weather. I just wanted to pressure you a bit, but I've gone overboard."
Kyrie let a relaxed smile rise to her face. The tense atmosphere finally slackened. However, her words had been gouged into Jessica's heart.
"I don't know what your love has been like, Jessica-chan, but if you have a rival and neither is willing to back down, you can't let yourself become complacent."
"...If you do, you'll end up like me. For the sake of love, a woman should be willing to kill at least once in her life. I can tell you that all women in the world who call themselves mothers have been through that. After all..."
"...My hell lasted 18 years. I was lucky to be pardoned after just 18 years. That hell is still filled with women... who will never get out until they die. Unless they execute themselves in their regret."
"...How should I put it... I have nothing... to say."
"*giggle* ...I was trying to spur you on, but here I've gone and threatened you too much. I'm truly sorry."
"...Love can be much more easygoing than that, okay? Love really is like playing with fire. Anyone can play easily and lightheartedly. But when you mess up and get burned, that scar stays with you your whole life. *giggle*giggle*giggle*."
Regrets in love will never fade. That was all that Kyrie had been trying to communicate. It wasn't like Kyrie to tell her life story, which she usually avoided, instead of just saying it directly.
However, Kyrie might have felt as though Jessica deserved to hear. Jessica had timidly brought up the subject of love. Perhaps Kyrie had opened up and told everything because she had seen the fires of Jessica's determination in her eyes.
With a mysterious smile on her face, Kyrie turned around.
...I wonder if I scared her too much. Still, it's a hundred times better to learn of that hell from a warning. Once you've fallen into it, it's already too late. Good luck, Jessica-chan. It sounds complicated, but don't lose. Eheheh, it's not every day I get to act as a mentor...
"...Hmm? What is it, Jessica-chan...?"
It had been a hair's breadth away. If Kyrie hadn't twisted her body slightly, that fist would probably be buried in her face by now. A bitter smile rose to Jessica's face when she saw that her first strike had failed to land a kill...