Part 83: The Witch who Came from the Sea II
When I stumbled into something and fell, I was finally able to come to my senses a little.
I could still hear intermittent gunfire. The gunfight was still going on. And, it had spread throughout the entire base. Bice. Are you... okay...?
I'll find her and take her to a safe place. The lieutenant will probably kill all of the Italians to steal the gold. Bice probably won't be an exception.
I lived for the first time after meeting you. I was born. So if you die, I'll die again. I could feel every cell in my body being reborn, not as Ushiromiya Kinzo, but as a completely different Kinzo. Of course, I was terrified that I might really be shot if I went back. But I didn't want to die anymore. To truly die. So, I was able to overcome my fear.
「There's no need for you to know. Just stay hidden there. Don't come out until one of your fellow countrymen calls for you!」
"I heard an Italian voice!! He's over there!!"
「Damn yellow monkeys!!」
Rubens stood with Beatrice behind his back and neatly shot the two men rushing at him with 2 9mm bullets from his Beretta M1934. However, one of the 8mm bullets from their Type 94 semi-auto pistols went straight into Rubens's chest. All three of the shooters were struck in the chest and fell down in a heap.
「N, no!! Rubens!!」
「... Go up to the surface... Hide in the forest...*cough*cough*!! Ggh...」
"...Heheheh. My, my. Aren't we chatty?"
The next person to appear... was the commanding officer of the Japanese soldiers, Yamamoto. The blast of three guns had just sounded. Adding on Beatrice's screams, it was hardly surprising that he had noticed the encounter.
"If it had to come to this anyway, we should've taken this woman as a hostage in the first place. Damn annoying, that's what they are!"
Yamamoto spat. Beatrice used that moment to snatch up Rubens's gun.
"Oh, picking up a gun without hesitation! Italian women sure are scary! Dammit, both of you screwed up...!!"
He spat this last part at the two dying men who lay moaning at his feet. However, it wasn't particularly surprising. And, this wasn't the first time it had happened. In this tiny, cramped tunnel, nearly everyone had met head on. When both sides shot recklessly in this situation, the result was two corpses. So, whoever sensed another person and pulled the trigger quickest 'won'. That was the only way to survive this battle without a bullet in your chest. Because of this, both Japanese and Italians had killed each other without hesitation, and they sometimes even pulled the trigger on oncoming allies. In the midst of all this were several Japanese men who had stumbled into the fight, wondering what was going on.
It didn't matter whether the other person was holding a gun or not. Everyone had reflexively pulled the trigger at the sight of anyone other than themselves, trying to stay alive. The entire base had been wrapped up in this slaughter...
There was a fierce gun battle taking place in the submarine dock. And a massacre resembling a hunt was taking place inside the base. Most of the non-combatants assigned to this base were killed before they knew what was going on. The Italians were indeed quite seasoned troops, but their numbers began to drop bit by bit. Blood-stained corpses were scattered all across the base...
At first, it had probably been a proper gunfight. However, as their minds began to grow weary and numb, it devolved into that most basic cause of wars throughout humanity, the desire to kill all foreigners you don't understand... Whenever they heard words they didn't understand, they pulled the trigger. By that point, the screams of foreigners sounded no different from those of man-shaped beasts. After all, they couldn't understand pleading in another language. So, it had long ago turned into a mere massacre...
As the number of dead surpassed the number of living, silence began to return to the base. Just when it felt as though everyone had died and the desolate sound of the wind blew through the caves, there would be a sudden scream, the crisp sound of a gun, and one would remember that the massacre wasn't yet over.
...It marked the pitiful end for those led astray by gold.
The leader of the Italian soldiers, Angelo, had managed to survive somehow. He encountered... nothing but the corpses of friend and foe. All was quiet once more in the base. If he was careless enough to call out, he might be shot from the shadows somewhere. So, he snuck about like a panther, breathing quietly and searching for the remaining enemies...
There was no sign or trace of any living person. Maybe all of the people in this base had died.
The Japanese struck first, but at that time, we were also talking about killing them. They simply made the first move as military men. So, perhaps we should be grateful to them. By the time the boat came to take us away, there would have been no honor for us. We would have been mere failures in our mission, unfit to face our dead comrades. Perhaps dying here in the Far East alongside my gun... is a more fitting end for a soldier.
I noticed the sound of shuffling feet coming from around the corner and strained to hear. Is someone seriously wounded and dragging their feet? Noticing them before they notice me greatly helps my chances. At this stage, there's no point in taking prisoners. We must dispose of all the Japanese. I'll dash around the corner, quickly check to see who they are, and shoot if it's a Japanese person. Nothing more.
I've been hiding my footsteps the whole time. They probably don't know I'm here. Once the shuffling footsteps had come close enough, Angelo leaned around the corner and raised his gun.
The voice that reached him... spoke Italian.
BGM: Golden Slaughterer
「...?! Y, you...!!」
"Heheheh, I've been looking for you, Ensign Angelo... That makes all of you. I've been counting Italian corpses, you see...!!"
「E, Ensign Angelo!! Are you okay?!」
Blood poured from Angelo's chest, his gun fell to the floor, then his knees, and then the rest of his body crumpled... and stopped moving.
Yamamoto's accuracy with a gun wasn't particularly stellar. However, Angelo had waited until they were fairly close before jumping out, so Yamamoto had made the shot. He had managed to hit, even with a short-barreled handgun in one hand... and a woman as a hostage in the other.
"Really, though, our Rokkenjima garrison was pathetic! Am I the only one who's not dead?! Trash, all of them!"
「Can't you fight without using a woman as a shield, you brute?!! Let go!」
"Quiet! Noisy, these Italian girls. If you'd just be cooperative, I'd at least spare your life. Heheheh!"
It was such an obvious lie that even he wore a bitter smile. 'The Italians were spies working for the enemy, and they all died along with the garrison in a gunfight'. Since this was the story Yamamoto wanted to tell, he couldn't afford to have any Italian survivors. By this point, he wouldn't be able to keep the entire pile of gold, but he should be able to grab as many as he could carry. Even that would be worth a huge amount of money.
Beatrice suddenly swung her head, smashing Yamamoto's nose hard.
「Someone, help! Someoooooone!!! aaah!!」
"Y, you... bitch... Ngaaah..."
She almost managed to escape. However, Yamamoto quickly grabbed her leg and tripped her. She fell onto her back, and Yamamoto mercilessly stomped his foot down on her stomach and pointed his gun at her.
"Heheheh, I don't make a hobby of taming tomboys...! Die!!"
Kinzo had jumped out from the shadows. He was holding a gun he had stolen from one of the corpses.
"Hmmm? Ushiromiya? Ah, so you're alive!"
"Let go! You're hurting her...!!"
"...It was you, wasn't it? You tipped the Italians off."
"What are you talking about...?!"
Yamamoto didn't know that the grenade had been a dud. The surprise attack, which he had been certain would work, had failed, so he had decided that Kinzo must have tipped them off.
"It's your fault the surprise attack failed and we're stuck like this! You turncoat, you traitor to your country... I know you've been working with them through this woman!"
"Can't you see that you caused all this because you were blinded by gold?!"
"<Run, Kinzo! This man has shot people begging for their lives! He'll shoot you too!>"
"Don't talk, Italian! If you open your mouth again, I won't hesitate to shoot."
"<I, it hurts... ggaahhh...>"
Yamamoto ground his heel into Beatrice's gut.
"Stop it, stop it!! She has nothing to do with this!!"
"Oho? Are you pointing a gun at a superior officer? Stop and think a bit, fool. If we agree to keep to the same story, we can have that pile of gold all to ourselves, right? I could only grab a few for myself, but if we work together, we can sneak off with even more. I don't mean this as your superior officer. Let's split it between us as men."
"Haven't you already killed the last people you said you'd split the gold with?!"
"Tch. Ushiromiya, looks like you prefer lead to gold!!"
Without any hesitation, Yamamoto raised the barrel of his gun towards Kinzo and pulled the trigger. It grazed Kinzo's right ear. If Yamamoto's aim had been just a bit better, the bullet would have slammed into Kinzo's face.
"<Kinzo?! H, how could you?!!>"
Not letting Yamamoto's momentary distraction go to waste, Beatrice lashed out and planted her right foot in Yamamoto's crotch. After moaning in pain, a demonic expression flashed across Yamamoto's face, and he stomped on her chest.
"You biiiiitch!! Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiee!!"
Beatrice shut her eyes tightly, hoping that she could withstand the coming pain. No one would want to have their eyes open at the moment they've been shot...
Drip, drip drip... A blood splash poured out of Yamamoto's chest.
"Just as you took many lives for your own sake, I take your life... for mine."
Could Yamamoto hear Kinzo's words until the end? In his last moments, Yamamoto seemed to grin. Then, slowly, he fell backwards with a spurt of blood.
BGM: Moonlit Night
Beatrice tried to stand up, but then doubled over and started coughing.
"<Bice! Are you hurt...?!>"
"<...My ribs are hurting. That brute really was stomping them hard.>"
"<Will you be alright...? I hope they aren't broken...>"
"<Italian women don't break so easily. But... thanks. I owe you my life. If you hadn't come, it'd have all ended there. Ggh...>"
Yamamoto had shown no mercy. Her ribs were probably cracked. We didn't have the option of waiting, possibly for several days, for the ship that was coming. I made the decision to carry her away from this island. The man who kept yelling about preserving the secrecy of the base is lying there dead. The next island over, Niijima, is close. A small boat should be able to take us there.
"<I need to take you to a hospital. The wound might be more serious than you realize.>"
"<...That's interesting. Never knew there was a hospital on this island.>"
"<There isn't. I'll use a boat to take you to the next island. To a hospital. If we don't clean up the mess on this island, it'll mean a court-martial.>"
"<If we go to a hospital and the embassy is contacted, I'll eventually be sent back to Italy. If that happens, I'll be interrogated about all kinds of things. I won't acknowledge those people, who let Mama die.>"
"<There's no homeland for me to return to now. This is the end for me. So, there's nowhere I want to go anymore. Ensign Angelo, Rubens, everyone who was so kind to me... they're all dead.>"
"<And because of that, you want to die here too? I thought you said Italian women weren't weak. Live.>"
"<Hey, Kinzo? What does it mean... to live? You're the one who taught me, aren't you? Living is more than just breathing. I don't want to go back to Italy.>"
"<You've said that you were dead until you met me. But it's the same for me. I died in that submarine. My homeland fell, Mama died. Even Papa died. I prayed that our sub would just sink to the bottom of the ocean. So, when we reached this place, I was actually disappointed that we'd survived. Then, right after that, Ensign Angelo started asking whether anyone could speak English.>"
When Kinzo met Beatrice, he finally forgot about dying. And when Beatrice met Kinzo... she also forgot about dying.
"<I... now that I've lost my homeland, my family, my friends, I wish you would kidnap me.>"
"<But, I know that's a wish that couldn't come true. So, at the very least, I want to be with you until the boat comes for us. I don't care about the pain in my chest. After all, when the boat comes and takes me away, I'll die.>"
Beatrice spoke this, smiling softly. She did her best to hide the pain in her chest.
"<...That's a wish... I cannot grant.>"
Looking apologetic, Kinzo lifted Beato up and gently sat her in the boat.
"<...Coward. So, Japanese men are weak after all.>"
"<You're right. I am a coward. So, I can only grant you half of your wish.>"
With a clunk, he placed 'it', wrapped in a jacket, in the boat.
"<What do you mean...?>"
"<...Huh? What do you mean?>"
"<Kidnapping you. That part, I will do.>"
There has to be a doctor on Niijima. I'm wearing a Navy uniform. I should be able to pass myself off as a survivor of a boat carrying a VIP that was sunk by enemy ships. If the doctor happens to be of the greedy sort, all the better. After all, I have right here the golden magic to make people do what I say.
The witch... from a distant country, who took my lifeless body and gave me a soul. The woman who came to me with the gold... revived me with her magic.
"<*giggle*. Yes, the Golden Witch. Even though I use the same recipe as everyone else, only my alchemy can turn pasta into a smoking black heap.>"
"<...Just like you, I'm nothing but a corpse allowed to live just as long as you're with me. If you go, I'll die straight away.>"
"<I won't let you die.>"
"<No matter what.>"
"<Take some responsibility. After all, you're the one kidnapping me.>"
"Then, wait, it was you?! You're the Niijima doctor that Grandfather took Beatrice to...?"
"Why so shocked? It should've leapt to the mind ever since the words 'Niijima doctor' showed up."
"All of a sudden, a soldier of the Navy appeared along with a foreign woman. Of course, I was astounded. And then, he actually told me to treat her wounds confidentially, since their presence was a military secret."
"Was that the first time you met Grandfather...?"
"...Yes. That was when we first met."
"So, you're the greedy doctor who followed orders for the sake of the gold?"
"That's a bit harsh... He suddenly brought in a foreign woman patient, told me it was a military secret, promised that he'd pay the medical fees later, and handed me a gold ingot as collateral. I didn't want to get involved with any funny business. I was reluctant to say the least."
"I see your point. But in the end, you did conceal Beatrice, didn't you?"
"I may not be as skilled as Kinzo, but I do have some familiarity with English. I managed to overhear part of their conversation, and that was enough to convince me that they were not troublesome people."
"*cough* Of course, if I were to say that the ingot didn't tempt me, that would be a lie. I was much younger then, you see."
"What happened to her next?"
"I treated her for some time before a messenger from the Ushiromiya family came and said that she would be moved to Odawara. They took her away."
"So Grandfather didn't come to get her himself?"
"Regardless of how Kinzo explained away the incident on Rokkenjima, he probably wouldn't be able to move about freely for some time afterwards."
"Precisely. Kinzo-san has said that deceiving the military was the greatest challenge of his life."
"So, Beatrice went to Odawara, and then what...?"
"I have heard that she hid in one of their unused villas. After all, Kinzo already had a family at that time. It must have been tricky to manage."
"So, leading a double life was nothing new for Kinzo, even before Kuwadorian."
"And later on? Beatrice and Grandfather continued their happy relationship in the villa from then on...?"
"I have heard that it was a modest, peaceful life, Several years later, they had a child."
"...So, Kuwadorian's Beatrice was born."
"You don't mean... she died?!"
"Don't be surprised. Kinzo believed his daughter was Beatrice reborn. You can't ignore the heart. It's possible to reason it out."
"Y, you're right. My apologies."
"I don't know how many years Kinzo-san spent with her in Odawara. However, judging by Kinzo-san as we know him afterwards... Even if it was only a few years, one can tell how deeply he loved her."
"So then, he made Kuwadorian for his daughter..."
"Kinzo-san cleverly made use of the submarine's gold to build up a fortune in a flash. Then, he made use of his considerable skills in English to make connections with the GHQ, becoming immensely wealthy in a short span of time. There's no need to explain this part to you, Lion-san."
"...Yes. He used that vast wealth... bought Rokkenjima, and built the mansion. The remaining relatives in Odawara scoffed at Grandfather, thinking he was crazy to buy an entire deserted island."
"If you could carry 10 tons of gold around in your pocket, Kinzo probably wouldn't have bought Rokkenjima."
He hid the gold somewhere in Rokkenjima, built up a fortune with the ingots he'd taken out of it, and then bought up the whole treasure island...
"...What about the mark of the One-winged Eagle that was supposedly pressed into the ingots?"
"The One-winged Eagle... Or, more precisely, an eagle of which only one wing is visible."
"What do you mean?"
"You see it often in Europe, do you not? A crest or coat of arms with an eagle spreading its wings on it. The flag of the Salo Republic also had an eagle... or was it a hawk? At any rate, it had some bird of that type emblazoned on it."
"So, the imprint was made too lightly... or else it was poorly done."
"Correct. They used a rough, wartime press. It was probably supposed to look like the crest of an eagle spreading its wings. It was pressed in at a slight slant, so half of it was too light to see."
"So half of the eagle spreading its wings disappeared, making it look like a One-winged Eagle?"
"Kinzo thought the seal on the gold of Beatrice, the woman who had changed his fate, looked like a One-winged Eagle. That must be why he decided to make that his own crest."
"...If the imprint had been made correctly, it would have been the eagle of the Salo Republic's flag, or could it have been the two-headed..."
"...No, no, of course not. Passing the night away with Kinzo-san in front of that massive pile of gold, drinking and wondering, was truly an enjoyable experience."
"However, Kinzo-san didn't want people using that seal to figure out where the gold had come from. The gold he took outside was all re-pressed with the One-winged Eagle design he had created."
"And all he did was show you the gold? What a cheapskate."
"Of course, after he became immensely rich, Kinzo-san came to me once more, saying that he'd pay me in full for the overdue medical expenses. The amount he came with was a bit much for medical fees. Though I did make sure to give him his change."
"And you've been friends ever since...?"
"Yes. Kinzo-san was extremely grateful to me for keeping his secret and concealing Beatrice."
"...Grandfather always says that the old relatives in Odawara were a bunch of greedy liars. I'm sure he appreciated your strong sense of duty, Doctor Nanjo. I think I understand why a person like Grandfather came to trust you."
"I also had some interest in foreign countries, as well as a hobby of playing chess. Kinzo-san and I have gotten along well ever since. It was a friendship that built up gradually, but grew strong before we knew it. Yes, we have been friends a very long time..."
"People who deal with large amounts of money are quite mindful of small amounts as well. When you refused to accept anything more than the medical fees, that must have earned you his admiration."
"Ridiculous. I was just frightened by the large quantity of the money. I began to regret it later, wahahahaha. It seems I've never had real guts."
"No need to worry there. Guts are one thing you've got no shortage of."
"You think so? Well, I appreciate the flattery."
"That wasn't flattery."
Of course, Natsuhi must have given him some hush money. Still, there could be no doubt that he'd had enough guts to withstand the pressure from Kinzo's children for a long time, without slipping up once...
"Now that's something that'd take real guts. That sense of duty must be part of your personality."
"...Hahahah. Perhaps that is my only redeeming quality..."