Part 77: The Murder of Beatrice
The rain of sadness dripped down the outer walls of the chapel, quietly washing away the dust of the world of the living.
The chapel doors were open. For a wedding, only those with invitations would be allowed in. However, for a funeral, the doors would be open for all those who remembered the deceased. So, this must be a funeral.
A shadow holding an umbrella approached the chapel. It was... Will.
A reception desk had been set up in the entrance to the chapel. As the shadow approached, Kanon, who had been sitting at this desk, stood up and welcomed him with a bow.
"Sorry, but I'm not a mourner. I'm here to meet with someone."
You came to a funeral to meet someone...? A dubious expression rose to Kanon's face. Will pulled an envelope from his pocket and showed him the sender's name.
"...My apologies. Please, enter."
"Thanks. Could I at least have one of those?"
"...Thank you very much. I am sure she will be pleased."
Kanon handed over a single golden rose, which were being handed out to all the mourners. Will took it, silently bowed his head, and entered the chapel. Inside the chapel, several people who appeared to be the family of the deceased were gathered together, and they all seemed to be recalling memories of the departed.
"Father, please, take care... Why don't you rest in the waiting room for a bit..."
"I killed her... I did it...!"
"Absurd...! How could that be, Rosa-sama...?"
"Father was really bawling."
"I'm sure he didn't cry this much when Mother passed away."
"Hey. Now's not the time to say things like that."
Some sobbed, unable to conceal their tears, and some spoke softly of old memories. They were all remembering the dead in their own ways... it seemed. When Will approached the altar, several people turned around. Of course, none of them knew who Will was. Paying this no mind, Will walked in front of the casket on the altar, which seemed to be buried with golden roses.
...Inside the casket, there was no corpse. Instead, as though it lay there in place of a body, there was a single, thick book with an extravagant binding. The space all around it was filled with countless golden roses. There were words printed on the book's cover.
He took the rose he had received from the reception area and placed it in the casket. He had absolutely no connection with the woman called Beatrice. However, since he had come to visit a funeral, he had to follow this minimum display of respect for the dead. As part of this, Will prayed for the passage of the dead to the next world...
"Pardon me, but who might you be? I am Ushiromiya Krauss. I am acting as the chief mourner. This is my child, Lion."
BGM: Le 4 Octobre
"...Lion? Just who are you?"
"It's written as '理御', but pronounced 'Lee-on'. Sounds a bit strange for a Japanese name, doesn't it?"
Will stared at Lion's face, wearing a confused expression. He hadn't seemed to be particularly interested in Krauss, but apparently Lion had drawn some sort of reaction from him. Rather than interest, it was more as though he felt like something was out of place.
"...Krauss-sama. Madam says that it is about time..."
"Ah, I see. Ladies and gentlemen. If we're too noisy in here, it may disturb the dead. I've been told that the waiting room has been readied. Shall we move over there?"
When Krauss called out to everyone, they began to move towards the chapel waiting room.
"My apologies. Lion, could you entertain our guest for now? I will guide the others to the waiting room."
It looked like a natural conversation, with no awkwardness for either father or child.
"Yes, but why do you ask...?"
"Ushiromiya Krauss's child is supposed to be Jessica."
"Jessica's my little sister. Do you need me to call for her...?"
"...No, that won't be necessary."
Apparently, some sort of game was already being played right off the bat. Scratching at his head with an irritated look on his face, Will glanced around.
"...Pardon me, but what sort of relation did you have with the deceased?"
"None at all. It's a real pain."
"...Then why did you come to this funeral?"
Since Lion was a fairly mild person, Will's behavior was met with nothing more than a blank expression. A normal person would probably have put on a dubious look long before this. Will scratched his head again, and yelled angrily at someone other than Lion.
The members of the Ushiromiya family had already followed Krauss's instructions and moved to the waiting room. By now, no one could be seen in this cold, vast chapel decorated with gold roses except for Will and Lion.
Video: Bernkastel's Game
BGM: L&D Circulation
The girl's voice came suddenly from behind the pair.
She landed softly on the sacred funeral altar as though this was perfectly normal, crushing the golden roses under her shoes...
Of course, Lion did not know this girl. Just why on Earth were all of these people unrelated to the funeral popping up one after another?
"I'm already retired. If you have a job you need doing, go ask the new Wright."
"No. You're the one I want to ask. I'm giving this case to you. Did you read the 'tale' I sent you...?"
"I, I don't know who you are, but please get down from there. That's a sacred altar."
Snapping out of a daze, Lion told the girl to get down off the altar, but the girl ignored this completely. On top of that, Will kept on talking to the girl as though Lion wasn't even there.
"Lion, was it? Who is this person?"
"You've already heard who."
Ushiromiya... Lion. There's no case of a person with that name appearing in any of the previous games.
"Is this your piece?"
"No. It's a true and proper piece of this game board. One of the appearing characters."
"You're the Game Master. That means it's your piece."
"*giggle*... I've just moved from Beato's cat box into a larger cat box. Lion is one of the pieces who has a possibility of appearing inside it."
"...Ah, I see. In other words, it's your piece."
"It's a piece I've placed... would be the correct way to say it."
"So you're saying this piece isn't your subordinate, like Erika."
"...Erika... san? ????"
"Don't try to understand. You'll just get a headache."
Lion didn't have a clue what they were talking about. However, it seemed clear that, though neither of them were familiar, they both knew a lot about the Ushiromiya family.
"I, I don't know what you two are talking about... Anyway, you, girl. Please, get down off the altar. I ask this as the successor to the Ushiromiya family headship."
Even Lion was finally forced to speak in a raised voice at this girl, who continued to chat while casually standing on the altar. However, the girl ignored this completely. On the other hand, Will did show a reaction.
"...The successor to the headship is supposed to be Krauss."
"First I've heard of this. Can you prove it?"
It seemed that even Lion was starting to get ticked off by now. That calm expression seemed to twitch slightly.
"This is the successor's silver ring of the One-winged Eagle. Is that proof enough for you?"
"...A silver ring? The gold ring of the head has appeared several times, but I've never heard anything about a silver ring for the successor. I don't remember Krauss or Jessica ever wearing one of those."
"*giggle*... I'm glad. It seems you've read it pretty well for skimming."
"When a witch hands you a story, you never know when something absurd will pop up. Especially when it's a great witch from the Senate."
"Wh, who in the world... are you two?! Sorry, but I don't have a clue what you're talking about. If you've finished offering flowers for the departed, please make your exit. It seems you two are not worthy of our family's hospitality."
Lion finally ran out of patience. These were the strictest words that this gentle kid could unleash. However, Will and the girl seemed not to care at all...
"I didn't come here because I wanted to."
"We're wasting time, so let's move onwards. Wright. Try and beat this game. As the Game Master, Bernkastel, I invite you to join this game."
"I'm retired now. Reasoning and mysteries aren't my business anymore."
"How do you intend to spend the rest of your life? Is Wizard-hunting Wright going to give up witch hunting?"
"...Oh, there's fox hunting and clam hunting. I didn't come here to discuss the rest of my life with you."
"So, you came here to refuse?"
"Know that your powers of deduction are truly a sight to behold..."
"Then do as you will. Go wherever you please. That is, assuming that you can leave the place."
"...Sheesh. So? What are the terms and payment?"
In truth, Will had already given up from the beginning. He knew that he was incapable of refusing an invitation from the great Lady Bernkastel.
"I've heard that witches who hate boredom love to hear rude words."
"That's only for hags who've tired of life after a thousand years. I'm still plenty young, so I love thinking up horrible fates in which to trap rude men like yourself..."
"...Sheesh. So? Who's the enemy?"
"There is none. There's no one to stand in your way. I just want to sit back and watch you make your beautiful checkmate in this game... I've even found you an ally. That's what this Lion is for."
After hearing that name spoken out of the blue, Lion frowned once more. Apparently, they were moving things along without Lion's knowledge or understanding, which was truly irritating.
"Lion is a member of the Ushiromiya family. Since no one in that family knows you, Lion should prove to be a useful ally."
"...I fail to understand what you are talking about, but I can't help you with anything unless I know the details."
"There, see? With help like this, it'll be a piece of cake."
"Entertain me... and my master. Auau may be a polite theatergoer, but I might throw popcorn at you if I get bored, okay...?"
Will scratched at his head with a displeased look on his face. He wasn't at all interested in getting involved, but by now, he realized that he couldn't disobey Bernkastel's orders. Then, he approached the casket and pointed at its rose-filled insides.
"That's a Devil's Proof. Maybe it just isn't inside the casket? Unless you can prove that no corpse exists, this is mystery."
"Rule #1. It is forbidden to have a crime without all clues presented."
"Don't worry. Everything is gathered here."
There was no change to Will's unsatisfied expression, but he seemed to have understood the general pattern of this place. From the moment a mere Inquisitor of Heresy was summoned by an uninhibited, fickle, cruel great witch of the Senate, he would be treated as no more than a mere underling. All along, he had possessed no way to refuse her...
"...So, who killed the owner of this empty coffin... I'll find them. However, you'll let me do things my way."
"As you like."
"First off, I need to make you understand what's going on."
Lion's expression seemed nonplussed, angry, and confused, all at the same time.
"Over here. It'll be faster to see it for yourself."
"...Wonderful. Please, lead the way."
Will signaled with his chin for Lion to follow him and spun around. After snorting once in an unsatisfied manner, Lion followed him, as though resigned to see Will's little show. As she watched the pair leave the chapel, Bernkastel sneered silently at them, with a cold smile on her face.
"...The tale's title is 'Requiem of the Golden Witch'. Spin a tale fitting for Beato's funeral. *giggle*giggle*. Well now, let's see just how you drag out the guts."
She watched until the pair had left the chapel. Bernkastel's form evaporated into the empty air, just as she had arrived. All that remained was her unpleasant cackling...
Outside, it was still raining. When Kanon saw the guest and the head's successor approaching the reception desk, he bowed deeply.
"...It's Kanon. Yes, as you wish."
Kanon bowed deeply, then disappeared.
"Don't you remember the names of all your servants?"
"...Our family has many young servants coming in and out, and they are usually replaced quite frequently."
"Well now. What are you trying to explain to me? Who are you, and what business do you have with this family? Of course, there's no need to convince me. Feel free to head on home, if you want."
"There is no going home. Not for me... Not for anyone."
"Could you please give that a rest? Stop speaking in confusing riddles like that all the time. Even I have limits to my patience. If you don't want me to see you off, should I call Genji or Gohda?"
"Stop talking. Look at this."
"Yes, I can see that. It's one of the memorial roses. Are you going to show me some kind of magic trick?"
Will took one of the flower offerings, then showed it to Lion, as though pointing out that there were no mechanisms or tricks. Then, he slowly lifted it upwards.
"Yes, I'm watching. Is a dove going to fly out of it? Or is it going to be flags and fireworks?"
BGM: Reflection Call
Anyone would have expected it to fly in an arc and land in some puddle. It didn't, which was why Lion had been struck dumb. The rose Will had thrown certainly had flown in an arc. It should have sped on rapidly through the air. However, as soon as it passed out from the shade of the eaves and was about to reach the rain... it stopped right in midair, as though the air surrounding it had turned into syrup.
That wasn't all. As it hung in midair, the rose's beautiful golden petals began to darken one after another, and it became a black husk, like burnt charcoal. And, even after this happened, it remained suspended there in the air...
"...What sort of trick is this? Ah-"
Lion had moved closer to try and touch the remains of the rose, which still hung in the air. Will had roughly blocked the way with his arm. It was as though he was telling Lion that leaving this place meant certain death.
"What... do you mean by that...?!"
"...Explaining's a pain, so I'll give you the short version. Basically, unless we play along with that witch's game, no one can leave this place."
"Wh, what are you talking about...?! The funeral is already over! I'm sure some people will want to return to the mansion or the guesthouse. We can't be locked up in here!"
"If you've got a problem, that witch is the one to hate. Being stuck in a place like this isn't any more pleasant for me."
"That girl's your friend, right?! Make her stop all this weirdness."
"She's probably sitting in a spectator's seat with a bucket of popcorn about now. She won't come if we just call her."
"Wh, what on Earth is going on?!!"
That short sentence described all of Lion's feelings at that moment. However, Lion had seen the rose Will threw wither in an instant in the rainy darkness. Lion tried doing the same thing with another rose, but the effect was exactly the same. No one would want to use their own body to test this fearsome something that could make roses crumble instantly...
"...You mean the one about who killed Beatrice?"
"That's what she's telling us to investigate. If you could tell me about it, it'd make things go more quickly. That fickle witch will be totally satisfied. You'll be able to get rid of the two of us, and I have a date with Diana when I get back. If I keep her waiting too long, she'll start tearing up the sofa again."
"Who killed Beatrice, you say... That's hardly something to go barging into a funeral and start asking the family about."
"Questioning the family is one of the basics of the mystery genre. Just give up and accept it. I do know that Beatrice is the mistress of Kinzo, the family head."
"...You really are a strange person. How do you know so much about this family? Are you sure you have no connections with us...?"
Will knew so much about the Ushiromiya family because Bernkastel had shown him all of the Fragments so far. Of course, he had no sort of connection with the Ushiromiya family himself. The very plane of his existence was on a different level.
"...My name is Ushiromiya Lion."
"Willard. Call me Will."
For the first time, Will introduced himself. The mutual introduction was finally completed, and Lion was finally able to talk with him on an even footing. However, Lion took a deep breath, and looked up at the sky, wearing a vague smile.
"Call me Will. I'll call you Lion."
"...Will. To be honest, even I don't know much about this person called Beatrice."
"...I see. I guess it's called a game for a reason."
If only Lion could've told him everything, revealing the truth without any effort from Will... Apparently, things wouldn't be so easy after all.
BGM: L&D Circulation
"That's because of the massive portrait hanging in the entrance hall, isn't it? That portrait was first displayed in April of 1984."
"Really... how is it that you know so much? Ah, well. It's about time I stopped finding that odd. I'm sure you'll just start speaking in riddles again."
Lion was the successor to the head and lived with the main family. Kinzo frequently chose to speak with his successor. Because of this, Lion must have been used to chatting with people who were moody or hard to follow. With the understanding that getting stuck on the details would be nothing but a waste of time, the conversation naturally fell into a pattern as though Lion and this unknown man Will had been friends for a long time...
"Everyone knows Beatrice. And yet, no one knows her. Kinzo's the only one who's ever met her."
"...The Head seems to be particularly cranky today. I'll introduce you to him when the chance presents itself, so I ask that you develop an appropriately discreet attitude, Will-san."
"That was quick. I thought you'd resist a bit more than that."
"I'm used to speaking with the family head. I've learned to accept most unreasonable situations and just go with the flow."
Bernkastel had set up a 'barrier' cutting the chapel off from the rest of the world. To destroy that, they would have to find out 'who killed Beatrice'.
For Lion, who had already experienced many of Kinzo's rantings, understanding this much was all that was necessary...