Part 76: Prologue
Good morning. Today is the day of the funeral for the Golden Witch and her game.
The days of the game have ended, and fond memories are all that remain. Here, the cold, hard truth will be revealed, and the game will meet its death...
There is a bit of difficulty.
A dream is something drawn in the sand between the coming and receding waves. Something so fragile that it is wiped blank each time the waves draw back. For this reason, the heartless might sneer at the drawing and call it useless. However, no wave will ever come again to wipe away the dream she drew. Her final, beautiful dream will not disappear for all eternity.
Come, try and picture it. Picture it as the gentle afternoon sunshine on a warm spring day, as though that light would never dim again. After all, it is such a wonderful thing...
BGM: Liberated Liberater
Their uniforms closely resembled those of Eiserne Jungfrau, but they were slightly different. Also different were the badges signifying their department. Then came the sound of someone clapping their hands once. It was the lead female Inquisitor. It was her signal that all reasoning had been completed.
At the other end of her pointing finger was a quivering maid with frightened eyes. Her name was... no, that's not important. What matters now is that she could have entered the closed room study where the victim was found whenever she pleased, and furthermore, it had been proven that her claimed alibi for the time of the crime was contradictory. Shaking, the maid tried to continue in her illogical pleading, but everything she said had already been seen through.
"With this, we have found sufficient proof for the 'who dunnit' and the 'how dunnit'. Know that your position as the culprit is now an unshakable fact."
"Y, you must be joking...! Wh, wh, why would I kill the Master I loved and respected so...?! I have no motive, no reason...!"
"...Who did it and how. Know that these are all that need to be established. Please, allow me to speak. Know that motives are unnecessary in mysteries."
The Inquisitor spoke coldly.
In her place, Battler moved to the front of the coffin, wearing his territory lord's cape... Though the cape was supposed to represent dignity and majesty, it somehow made Battler look smaller.
Battler held a book with a majestic binding in his hand. It was... a game record that had just been written. Or, perhaps it was a tale. A game. Or else a Fragment. Written in it... was the 'dream' that would be more enjoyable for her than any other...
Battler pressed it against his forehead and contemplated for some time.
Then, he kissed it, and laid it gently in the coffin. It was placed upon her chest. It made her look like a little girl clutching her favorite stuffed animal as she drifted off to sleep...
This tale will be shut up with you in your coffin, for all eternity. So, no one will be able to read it except for you, there in your coffin.
"Shut away in that cat box, the only unchanging, inviolable... eternal tale."
"This way, no one will be able to defile your tale. No one can deny it, and no one can argue against it. Between just me and her, just the two of us, this is the one and only... certain truth."
BGM: Liberated Liberater
A man dashed through a town wrapped in twilight. The daytime hustle and bustle of this beautiful village, which combined the traditional with the orderly in the classic style of the last century, now seemed like a mere dream. The orange setting sun was already hidden behind the clock tower, and the narrow alleyway was rapidly descending into darkness. As the gas lights began to turn on, they only made the darkness of the twilight stand out all the more.
The man sprinted. There was no time. He had to hurry. He'd had several experiments to do and things he had to check, and it had all taken longer than he'd expected.
In the mystery genre, the motive, or the 'why dunnit', is given the least precedence. A murder is constructed because there's a culprit who commits a crime. A motive has no place there. So, it's usually the most ignored element. In fact, these days, there are even some who call it unnecessary.
"If you find the culprit with nothing but the 'why dunnit', that's no mystery. That's propaganda. However..."
However, just because of that fact... It doesn't mean that you can ignore the motive... the heart.
"Come. It is time for us to leave. If we're too noisy, we'll wake her from her dream."
"...You're right. What else should you do with a sleeping kid, except put a blanket on them, turn off the lights, and walk away quietly..."
After looking at the coffin one last time, Virgilia turned around quietly. Battler did the same, but he then stopped and turned to face the rose-covered altar...
Battler said his final words with his heart. As long as those words didn't leave his mouth, no one could understand what they were. However, those words of the heart caused Battler's expression to change several times. At first, he frowned sadly... then, his face clouded with remorse, and then changed to a bitter, dumbfounded smile. It flashed through several varied expressions. Then, the final expression that crossed his face was, surprisingly, a gentle smile.
Something rose to Battler's lips. However, he bit it back down. There could certainly be no words to describe the many feelings he kept in his chest. So, saying anything aloud would probably be crude. Battler understood this, and stopped himself from speaking once more with a bitter smile.
"Oh, I have done nothing deserving of your gratitude..."
"...I'll leave the rest to you."
After seeing Virgilia nod back at him, Battler turned away from the altar one more time... and left the chapel. Virgilia also disappeared, and all disturbances that might have interrupted her blissful sleep had vanished...
BGM: Liberated Liberater
They listened to the frantic babbling of the maid accused of murdering her master. However, nothing she said could bury the fault in her own alibi. They were all mere emotional arguments. I loved and respected my master so much. I had no motive for killing him. No matter how much she spoke, it only made her look more and more like the floundering true culprit struggling pathetically.
The 'who dunnit' and 'how dunnit' had been satisfied. As for the 'why dunnit', the motive, the heart... No matter how much she spoke of her gratitude for her master, who had graciously given her a job when she had been left by the wayside after various misfortunes, that didn't help her case in the slightest in the mystery genre. Therefore, her motive didn't matter. All of that could just be squeezed out of the culprit afterwards.
An Inquisitor of Heresy took out a roll of parchment and held it forth, cutting off the maid's sobs and protests.
"Here is the warrant for your arrest. The motive is unnecessary. Know that such a thing is completely extraneous in the matter of pinpointing the culprit."
"Please, allow me to speak. Know that we of the SSVD possess methods of forcing unrepentant criminals to reveal the truth."
"With these interrogation tools blessed by the powers of justice, we Inquisitors of Heresy will strap up your limbs, burn them, crush them, hang you by them, and so doing wring the red truth out of you. It isn't even necessary for you to confess! Aides, arrest that maid!"
"It wasn't me! I didn't kill the master...!! N, no, noooooooooo!!"
A man kicked the door open, and the Inquisitors were all shocked at the sight of him.
"Wh, why are you here? Know that this case is no longer your responsibility...!"
"Quiet. You find one person without an alibi and just assume that she's the culprit? Do you really think there's no need for a motive, for a heart, in crime? Crimes are committed by people. There are no crimes without a heart. I'll never accept any theory that ignores the heart."
"Kn, know that your focus on the 'why dunnit' is simply embarrassing...! The 'why dunnit' is unnecessary! Such a thing can be easily extracted through interrogation! Even the Great Court has already acknowledged that this woman is the culprit...!!"
"Oh, the Great Court does assume that everyone besides the maid has an alibi. But that's just because they heard you say so, and they've mistaken your overconfidence and conceit for wisdom. If any one of the other suspects loses their alibi, your evidence so far proves nothing. Just look at how pathetic some of these other alibis are. Did the clock in the reception hall chime midnight at exactly the right time? Did the dog by the back door bark at everyone?"
"So, you managed to prove the maid's alibi false. Congratulations. But does it end there? It may've been possible for her to do it, but does she have any motive at all? Are the alibis for the others absolutely perfect? This maid wasn't the only one with a false alibi. You have to keep on searching if you want to find the others. Was there some sort of grudge against the victim? Or some money-related problem? Don't abandon motive, don't abandon the heart. Dry mysteries where the motive can just be figured out later aren't worth anyone's time."
"I, if the maid isn't the culprit, then why did she fake an alibi?! Even asking such a question is a waste of time! Know that we just have to interrogate her, wring out the red truth, and have her sign in red blood to everything that happened at the time of the crime!"
"Yeah, you probably can do that. You can just use that torture of yours to squeeze out everything frankly and objectively, as seen from the eyes of God. But you know what? I'll never accept mysteries and theories that lack heart."
"I, I have already taken over responsibility for this case!! I even have a decree right here! Come now, Aides, know that there is no reason to hesitate! I order you to arrest this maid!!"
When she gave this order, her subordinates hesitated, looking back and forth between their superior and that man...
"I won't let you. The real culprit's a different person. It's possible to use motive to find them, and the alibi trick's an old one. You can't forget the heart."
"Th, there's no need for that...!! We just have to find the suspicious ones who could have committed the crime, interrogate them, and squeeze out the red truth!! On the off-chance that they are not the culprit, then we just have to interrogate the next suspect...!!"
"You call that reasoning?"
"Stand back!! We will arrest that woman!! Know that this maid is the culprit!!"
"Wh, what... did you say...?!?!"
The words of power blasted away the Aides who were trying to arrest the maid.
"...Van Dine's Twenty Rules, Rule #11. If you want to torture this maid, make sure you double check the alibis for the second wife and her lover first."
"Th, those two already have a clear alibi for the time of the crime...!!"
"That, an alibi? Dammit, a fool like you couldn't understand no matter how easy I make it for you. If you want to call yourself the Head Inquisitor, try and figure out at least that much for yourself. Until then, I'll be taking that maid's arrest warrant."
"Then what about you?! Can you prove that this maid didn't commit the crime?! Know that she was clearly away from the kitchen at the time of the crime! What was she doing then, and where?! She can't prove it, I can't prove it, and you can't prove it! No one can! That's why we have no choice but to use these torture devices to interrogate her until the red truth is squeezed out!!"
"You can squeeze as much blood and truth from the true culprit as you damn well please. However, I won't let you interrogate or torture anyone who isn't that culprit."
"Th, this is why everyone says you're too soft...! All the suspicious must be interrogated! That is how we Inquisitors of Heresy conduct our witch trials!!"
"That's right, we are Inquisitors of Heresy. Felling evil witches is our job. However, we must not risk hurting the innocent. We must not suspect them...! All humans have their own personal truths. Those should only be exposed when they commit crimes. We've been given the right to expose them. But there's one thing we can't do."
The maid finally realized that he was trying to protect her.
"...I, I don't know who you are, but... Th, thank you very much...! I'm... really not... the culprit!"
"Yeah, I know. Your boyfriend said he'd be willing to give up everything to prove your alibi. You should thank him. That kid said that honor and reputation are worth nothing compared to you."
"B, but, if he does that, he'll..."
"It won't come to that. Exposing the secrets between lovers is a job for third-rate magazines. That's not mystery. I'll never allow for heartless reasoning."
Then, for the first time, the man's sullen expression relaxed, and he patted the maid's head unreservedly.
"...I'm sure you two will be happy together. Still, meeting together in secret while on the job is hardly praiseworthy. Try to keep that to a minimum."
"Th, thank you so much... Thank you so much..."
These words were heard only by the two of them. The man had learned of her innocence, which could only be proven by exposing the secrets of a pair of young lovers, and he had rushed about in search of a solution, resentful of the arrogance of those trying to expose this by forcible means.
"The point of theory-making is not to create a culprit or to trample the truths, that lie in the hearts of those who have not sinned. If you want to play the detective, don't forget the heart. If we do that, we're just intellectual rapists. Don't forget it!!"
"Uu... ggh... ggggghhhhh...!!"
When the man spoke, the Inquisitors no longer had any way to argue back.
This man's name is Will. And yet, that's not what everyone used to call him. Head Inquisitor of Heresy in SSVD, the 8th District Repentance Enforcement Agency of the Great Court of Heaven. Wizard-hunting Wright.
LET'S PLAY UMINEKO NO NAKU KORO NI, EPISODE 7: REQUIEM OF THE GOLDEN WITCH