Part 57: About the Crime Scene II
"Yes, I'm satisfied. So, about our war of red and blue. Shall we start right away? Or do it all at the end?"
"I don't like putting things off. I think the same goes for you."
"Then let's get started with the closed rooms of the first twilight. First, I'd like to check. Do you intend to respond if I ask you to repeat something in red?"
"Depending on what you say, yes. I have no obligation to respond to all, and I won't reveal my reasons when I refuse."
"<Good>. Then let's start simple and confirm the definition of a closed room. Dlanor! Please read it aloud."
"UNDERSTOOD. We demand that the following be REPEATED."
Dlanor spread out one of those scrolls that some official would always spread out when announcing the king in western fairy tales, and read it aloud.
"First. 'The rooms with the six people in them are all closed ROOMS'."
At a nod from Dlanor, Cornelia, who stood behind her, started taking notes.
"Second. 'The definition of closed room implies that it is impossible to construct from the OUTSIDE'."
"...In other words, no trickery done from the outside can construct a closed room. It is not permitted for a chain lock to be reset from the outside by a skillfully used wire, for example."
"I didn't need you to tell me that. Dlanor, please continue."
"Third. 'The definition of a closed room implies that all forms of interference that pass between the inside and outside of the room are PREVENTED'."
"Acknowledged. However, I won't deny the kinds of interference that you'd expect from a normal room, such as knocks, voices, and the extension telephone line."
"Fourth. 'At the time of the deconstruction of the closed rooms, none existed within the rooms except the VICTIMS (Natsuhi, Eva, Kyrie, Rosa, Maria, Battler)'."
In this way, they could check whether or not the culprit had been hiding inside a closed room. If the culprit had slipped out of the room after the discoverers had noticed the murders and then walked away, it would have been possible to construct an illusion of a closed room. Because Battler had acknowledged their statement with the red truth, the possibility that the culprit and the victim had both been inside the closed room at the time of the crime, that the culprit had hid under the bed and snuck out after the discovery of the crime... had been denied.
"Fifth. 'No murder was committed after the deconstruction of the closed ROOMS'."
BGM: Fishy Aroma
"...Why? Because the victims really were alive after the closed rooms were destroyed? So, Krauss and the others who crowded in were the culprits and committed the murders then. In other words, it was a murder after the closed rooms. Is it because this is the truth...?!"
"No, that's not true. The murders will continue to occur, so we cannot say in red that no murders will happen after this."
"...Sheesh, what twisted logic. You probably see what we're getting at. Krauss's group cut the chain and destroyed the closed rooms, then killed the people inside. I just want you to argue against this."
"Lady Erika, it is insufficient to refer to 'Krauss's group', an unspecified number of PEOPLE. You should first check to see which humans entered the room after the closed room was DECONSTRUCTED."
"Allow me to speak. Excepting the victims, those who entered the closed rooms were Krauss, Rudolf, Hideyoshi, and Gohda."
"Allow me to speak. This is based on hearsay. There is no proof that others did not enter."
"I know that already. Let's have you repeat that. 'After the deconstruction of the closed rooms, then excluding me, only Krauss, Rudolf, Hideyoshi, and Gohda entered the rooms'."
"Sure. Acknowledged. However, this only applies to the current point in time. It's possible that some later development in the game will cause more people to enter."
Battler put his finger on his chin, deep in thought. This word 'culprit' was fairly broad. And it might serve to greatly restrict the darkness of the witch.
"...Why not answer? If we refuse, they'll leave behind a blue truth saying that Krauss and the others were the culprits."
"...Sure. I'll acknowledge it, but I'll make the language more strict. Krauss, Rudolf, Hideyoshi, and Gohda... were not involved in the murders of Natsuhi, Eva, Kyrie, Rosa, Maria, and Battler."
"And that means, 'it was also impossible for any of the other humans, who didn't even enter the closed room, to have been involved in those murders', doesn't it?"
"Who knows. Think about it yourself. If you think you can build up some blue truth for how a closed room murder can be committed without entering the room, then I'll respond with the red truth. However, I only need to destroy one of the blue truths you'll be presenting from here on out. In other words, even if you do manage to use the blue truth and explain this away with some long-distance closed room murder trick X, I don't necessarily have to counter that with the red truth."
The witch side lays out riddle after riddle that it claims are impossible to carry out except by magic. The human side must use the blue truth to argue that they are explainable with tricks. And if they cannot make a counterargument with the blue truth for even one of the riddles, that riddle will be considered to have been 'done by magic', and it will be impossible to deny the existence of a witch...
In other words, the witch side only needs to protect any one of its riddles. On the contrary, the human side has to fully explain all riddles with the blue truth. And even if the human side manages to explain all of the riddles with the blue truth, if any one of those is successfully countered by the red truth, the witch will win. That was why, like the strategy the old Beato had adopted at the end, it was sufficient for the witch side to put off their red text counterarguments until the very last moment, then make a single strike at their opponent's most fragile spot...
"In any event, you've refused to repeat that last one, right?"
"Don't kid yourself. I don't give out red for free."
From the witch side's perspective, repeating statements made by the human side is just a supplement to make sure that they haven't misunderstood the question. Therefore, they had no obligation to respond to extremely broad demands...
"Your experience is no match for mine."
"Let us CONTINUE. Next, 'the victims did not die by any method other than HOMICIDE'."
"Of course, there were no suicides or accidental deaths."
"Seventh, 'the victims-"
"...Are you SURE? There are still items..."
"Yes, that will do fine. I've confirmed the status of the crime scene. From here on, it's time for me to argue back with the blue truth."
"Sure, fine. Let me hear your masterful theories."
Though Battler and Erika were enemies, it looked to Beato as though they were having a little fun doing it. She was probably slightly jealous of Erika. Beato thought back on the books she had read in Featherine's archives, in which the old her and Battler had fought. That must have been fun as well.
During a short break in the family conference, a horrible, brutal mass murder had occurred... The six people killed, excluding Battler, had all been women... The remaining men went mad with rage at this cowardice, then broke down sobbing at the sadness of losing their wives... over and over again...
"What's wrong with us?! Here we are, under the same roof, and we're just smoking away, not noticing that members of our own family are being killed... dammit!!"
"...But... who... how...? They were not unguarded... The chain was set for all of them..."
"Who gives a damn about that?! I don't care how they killed them, I just want to know who!!"
"Hey, Genji-san, Gohda-san. Were the doors and windows to the mansion all locked during the family conference...?"
"Y, yes. There can be no doubt...!"
"...In accordance with Madam's instructions, everything is always locked at the time of the night patrol. Tonight was a special case, but everything was locked up shortly after seeing the children off to the guesthouse..."
"How is that possible...?! I mean, Battler and Maria-chan were inside the mansion, right?! They shouldn't have been able to get in, right?!"
"If everythin' really was locked up properly, that couldn't have happened...! Doesn't that fact prove that the building wasn't completely locked up...? Well? Well?!"
He was arguing that Gohda's failure to lock up properly might have allowed a stranger to sneak in. At the very least, none of them had known that Battler and Maria had visited the mansion. If those two had come and found everything locked tight, they wouldn't have been able to get inside. If they had rung the doorbell, Gohda would probably have heard them from the servant room, but Gohda said that nothing of the sort had happened. How they had entered the locked mansion was a complete mystery...
"That couldn't have happened! You were in the servant room then, right, Gohda-san?! Isn't there a chime in the servant room that goes off when the front door opens? There's no way you'd have missed anyone!"
"...At that time, Gohda was serving drinks as you requested, so he was not in the servant room."
"Why was there only one servant in the mansion on such an important day?! Why was someone as important as Genji-san on duty in the guesthouse?! Does that make any sense?! Why was the servant room left empty...?!!"
"...My wife formed those shifts. She probably hoped that Gohda would be kind enough to serve some fashionable drinks during the family conference as well..."
"But Krauss nii-san...! This is the family conference, right?! The most important day of the year, right?! Why was Gohda-san left as the only person on shift in the mansion...?! If there had been just one more person, everythin' would be different, wouldn't it?! Right? Right?!"
With a half-crying, half-enraged jumbled up expression, Hideyoshi yelled at Gohda. Of course, the culprit who killed everyone was the most to blame and the most despicable. However, even if he understood that, he needed to let off some of his emotions by hating someone he could see.
"...Either Gohda-san wasn't thorough when locking up, or someone let Battler-san and Maria-san in after they came back from the guesthouse, and then forgot to lock up afterwards. However, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how the culprit snuck in."
"...After all, the mansion is massive. They might have come in much earlier and hid until late at night for all we know. I can understand that you might want to suspect certain people, but please calm down."
"...Our guest is right. The culprit is the one we should hate, not the servant who just happened to be on duty... At any rate, let's calm down. I feel as terrible as the rest of you. However, we must take the initiative now and regain our composure."
"Everyone feels just as sad and devastated. And none of us will ever forgive the one who did this. For that reason, we must regain our composure..."
"...H, he's right. I still have George. Krauss nii-san still has Jessica-chan. And Rudolf-kun... you still have Ange-chan waitin' for you to return, right? It's still... too soon... to start pointin' fingers..."
"...The culprit is still on this island. And we can't be sure that this tragic crime is over. We need to stay calm and prevent any further tragedies."
Erika's words softly consoled them... and gently admonished them. If a servant had said the same thing, Rudolf would probably have jumped on him. However, since it had come from the lips of the guest, a neutral party, it seemed to reach their ears.
BGM: Dead Angle
"...She's right. We can't let the culprit do as they please any longer on our island."
"Let's find the culprit! We're in the middle of a typhoon. They can't escape from the island, and there's a limited number of places they can take shelter from the rain in...!"
"This island is larger than you'd think. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to search the island with this many people. After all, if you found the culprit now, you'd kill them. If the frightened culprit has run into that deep forest, you won't find them easily."
"...Right. We should just wait for the typhoon to pass, have the boat call the police for us, and let them thoroughly search the island... The police are incredible. They'll bring hundreds of people and pick through it with a fine-toothed comb. That forest may be deep, but they'll definitely smoke the culprit out..."
"The most important thing now... is to make sure no more of our beloved family members are taken from us. Rudolf. If something happens to you, what will happen to Ange-chan back home?"
"...Kyrie... Battler... Dammit... dammiiiiiiit... I never... had a chance... to tell you the truth..."
"...Krauss-san. I'm sure that everyone in the cousins' room is extremely agitated right now. If you show them that you've regained your composure, I'm sure that will help them relax a lot. Would you mind heading up there?"
"...Good point. We have to talk with everyone about what we're going to do next."
"Please go up with him, Genji-san and Gohda-san. I'm sure that Shannon-san, Kanon-san, and Kumasawa-san are all very agitated."
"Y, yes...! Yes, I'm sure everyone is quite agitated...!"
"...Are you certain? Is there anything else we can help with?"
"That's why I want you to go with Krauss-san. I want you there to help him if something happens. I'd like for the rest of us to check and see that everything's locked up here. We'll head up soon, so please go on ahead."
"Understood... If you need anything, please call us."
Genji bowed, and Krauss nodded. Krauss also nodded to Erika, then headed up to the second floor with Genji and Gohda.
In times of confusion, when only men are around, it is easy for a composed member of the opposite sex to control the initiative. Even without the detective's authority, she was able to control them quite naturally. Erika had wanted to get rid of the servants for the time being...
"The problem is the big window in the lounge. It looks like it doesn't even have shutters. If they smash this, we won't be able to stop them from comin' in."
"Don't worry, the sound of the glass smashing will be more than enough warning. We'll turn them to Swiss cheese!"
"...Quiet, please. I didn't have you stay down here to check the doors and windows. Please listen calmly to what I'm about to say."
When Erika lowered her voice, Rudolf and Hideyoshi realized that she was talking about something secret, so they brought their ears closer as soon as they regained their composure...
"...In that tiny span of time, six people were killed without anyone noticing, I can't imagine that was the result of any haphazard crime. This crime was committed by someone who knew the layout of this mansion well, inside and out."
"...W, well, if they didn't know the inside well... B, but..."
A short while ago, they had attacked Gohda, suspecting the servants of making a blunder. However, they had only thought that he had forgotten to lock up, and were attacking him for letting the mysterious culprit sneak in. They hadn't considered that one of the servants they knew so well might have taken those lives with their own hands. No, they hadn't wanted to think that. People can't easily suspect someone they know well of being a culprit...
"At the time of the crime, the mansion was locked from the inside, and only those involved with the family conference existed there."
"So, Aniki killed Kyrie and the others?! Or am I supposed to suspect Hideyoshi nii-san?! It's impossible... unthinkable!!"
"I've never even considered suspectin' Krauss nii-san or Rudolf-kun...!! All of the siblings had excellent relationships with their spouses! True, the Ushiromiya family may be strict with discipline and money. But that doesn't mean we treasure our own families less than any other family...!"
"Yes, of course I believe that. I wouldn't dream that any of you would kill your own wives."
Erika had already received red truth proof from Battler that they were not the murderers. So, there was no need to argue that point... Krauss, Rudolf, Hideyoshi... and Gohda. None of those four was the killer. And yet, Erika said this:
"Isn't it a little early to suspect Gohda-san?! Gohda-san came to bring us drinks in the dining hall during the break. He was with us for quite some time. I can't imagine he had the time to kill six people...!"
"...However, he might have been able to let the actual killer into the mansion."
"Precisely. Gohda-san probably didn't kill them himself. However, it's very possible that he secretly welcomed the actual murderer into the mansion."
Rudolf and Hideyoshi, stunned, looked at each other. They were family. Even a wife of the siblings would be considered family. Though the siblings hated each other, it wasn't possible that they'd hate each other's wives enough to kill them. Eva and Rosa were two of the siblings, but none of the others could have had any reason to kill Natsuhi, Kyrie, Battler, or the young Maria... But... to a servant like Gohda... perhaps everyone was little more than a complete stranger...
"...I thought that too. Figured Kyrie was used to fights enough that she wouldn't get killed that easily, without resisting. That woman wouldn't hesitate to bite your finger off... It does make more sense if the culprit was someone she knew, who suddenly attacked when her guard was down..."
"C, come to think of it, same goes for my Eva... She knows a dozen kinds of martial arts. She spends every day practically wishin' for some ruffian to attack her. She wouldn't have been killed off so easily...!"
"...Then what about Rosa-san, in the parlor? Do you think she would be easily killed by a stranger, without resisting, while she had her only daughter with her? And this tells us something else that's important."
"...The culprit isn't just one person, right...?"
"Y, you're right... Both Rosa-san and Maria-chan were in the parlor. If they hadn't both been killed at the same time, there would have been an uproar. Since the culprit was able to do that, there can't be just one of them..."
"When it comes to Maria-chan, Rosa was like a quick-to-anger mother bear. She wouldn't cower in fear, even if someone pointed a gun at her. I see, so it had to have been people who wouldn't rouse Rosa's suspicion until the last second..."
"...Now we see that the idea of an unknown outsider sneaking onto the island is actually the less realistic. The culprit is someone familiar with this island. And there's more than one."
The culprit is someone familiar... and there's more than one. Erika's reasoning... pointed clearly at the ones they should suspect and guard themselves against.
"Yes. Under the current circumstances, they are the most suspicious. The second reason to suspect them is the closed rooms with the chain locks."
"Why do the chain locks make them suspicious?"
"...What if there was no chain lock on the closed rooms?"
"Then it wouldn't be a closed room. With a single master key, anyone could make them."
"...Yes, I see... The servants had to seal them with the chains so that they wouldn't be suspected..."
"Exactly. By setting the chain, they don't have to worry about being suspected. To turn it around, if the chains weren't set, they wouldn't be able to avoid suspicion since they hold the master keys."
"So, the only ones with somethin' to gain from settin' the chains... are the servants..."
"I'm not trying to protect them or anything, but if so, how did they actually set the chains?! Is it possible to set them from the outside?!"
"Considering how they are built, I don't think that would be impossible. Have you heard this story? Apparently, some mailmen who deliver to apartment mailboxes are known to carry loops of wire with them."
"Yeah, I've heard of that. Apartment mailboxes often have similar adjoinin' boxes around them for the nearby room numbers. I hear they would sometimes accidentally deliver letters to the next room over if they weren't careful."
"These mailboxes are almost always locked. If you put the mail into the wrong one, you'd have no way of getting it out..."
...In that situation, they are supposed to tell the owner of that mailbox about their mistake, have that person unlock the mailbox for them, and retrieve the improperly delivered mail. However, the resident of that apartment would often be out. And going through that process would be a real pain. Because of that, some mailmen would make a little tool out of wire with a loop at the end, and use that to fish the mistakenly placed postcard out through the crack of the mailbox...
"...I've heard something similar from a friend of mine at a building management company. It seems they'd sometimes get drunks who locked themselves in the bathroom and fell asleep, so to get them out of there, they would stick a thin, metal tool through the crack in the door and undo the latch..."
"Exactly. All industries have little tools that can easily open things that normally can't be opened. It wouldn't be particularly surprising if the servants of a mansion had something of the sort."
"...G... good point..."
"...Once you figured out the knack of it, you probably could set the chain from the outside by using a wire. Yes... we can't be sure that it's impossible..."
...True, physically speaking, one couldn't say for sure that there existed absolutely no way to set and unset chain locks from the outside. Chain locks allow for the door to be opened a crack. If you stuck something through that crack, you should be able to manage it easily... It was very natural for them to think that.
BGM: Smile-less Soiree
Though it might be possible in reality, the red truth had already declared that these closed rooms could not have been constructed from the outside. In other words, it was impossible to manipulate the chain lock from the outside. And yet. Erika was guiding their thoughts with the illusion that only the servants could have constructed the closed rooms... With an air of solemnly revealing some vital point, she steadily steered the situation in the direction she wanted. Everything about her serious face for the last few minutes... was an act. No, to put it in her words, it was a detective technique for tricking suspects...
Rudolf and Hideyoshi looked at each other again. What she was saying made sense, and it sounded as though she was calmly smoking out the most suspicious people at this point in time. With her accomplished conversation techniques, Erika was skillfully grasping the initiative. Even without the detective's authority, it is possible to control human nature to this degree.
What do you think, everyone...?