Part 88: Here's the CulpritWARNING: Discussion of sexual assault in this update. No depiction, though.
"Yeah. More or less."
"You don't mean the Head, do you?"
"Bernkastel isn't asking about the two Beatrices involved with Kinzo. She's talking about who killed the Beatrice of 1986."
"...I'm not really sure what you mean by 'the Beatrice of this year'. What's all this about a witch called Beatrice? There's what we were just talking about, and that epitaph too. Isn't it about time you explained all this to me?"
"Alright. No point stringing you along."
BGM: 7 Weights
"Strictly speaking, it isn't a person. It's the concept known as 'Beatrice, the Golden Witch'."
"You mean the ghost stories themselves?"
"To be more specific, even the ghost stories are only one of the elements that create the concept."
"You've lost me."
"Ghost stories are normally told in the second-person or third-person. However, someone started telling those in the first person."
"You mean someone started saying that they were Beatrice themselves...?"
"The legend of Rokkenjima's evil spirits, and the made-up story for keeping kids out of the forest... These were combined with Kinzo's constant cries of 'Beatrice, Beatrice' and gradually became the legend of the witch. Ushiromiya Maria became entranced by that fictional witch and begged for a chance to meet her. And then, someone 'granted her wish'."
"...I'm still not following, but I'll just nod and tell you to keep going. What do you mean by 'granted her wish'?"
"Because of the unfortunate way in which Ushiromiya Maria was brought up, she became obsessed with the occult. Someone felt sympathy for her, acted the part of Beatrice, and played with her."
Maria tends to recognize people by their behavior instead of their physical appearance. Though Rosa is only one person, Maria calls her mother 'the black witch' when the latter gets violent, and at these times, Maria views Rosa as a different person, not her mother. So, this means that she tends to think of the same person as different people depending on their behavior. We can use this to see the scene where Maria first met Beatrice in a new light.
After being chased out of the mansion by the adults, Maria decided to drink some tea in the rose garden. At that time, someone probably started talking to Maria. Then, when they heard this occult-loving girl talking happily about how she wanted to meet the witch Beatrice, this person acted as though Beatrice was possessing them. On the outside, they didn't look like Beatrice. However, when their manner of speech and behavior changed abruptly, Maria would recognize them as a different person. That's why 'her' appearance was so sudden.
"We can probably view Maria's love of witches and the occult as a form of escapism. She believed the power of witches could change her unfulfilling and incomplete life. That's why she wanted to believe that witches exist. She thought that believing could make her happy."
"...It's true that Aunt Rosa brought up Maria by herself, and that she was always busy with work. I do feel sorry for Maria, but still..."
"Don't ignore the heart. So, Maria believed for the sake of believing. She believed in Beatrice's conjuring trick from the bottom of her heart. That probably comforted her a lot. And, at that moment, the witch Beatrice was born."
"Someone saw that Maria-chan wanted to meet a witch, so they decided to play witches with her...?"
All of that about living a thousand years and being bound to Rokkenjima. That was mixed into the story of ghosts wandering the mansion at night, which was part of the legend about Rokkenjima's evil spirits. As Furudo Erika guessed, the two ghost stories fused. Someone fused the two stories together and acted the part. So, Beatrice held traits from both ghost stories. She was the master of the mansion's night, while also fearing spiderwebs.
"So, when Bernkastel asks us who killed Beatrice, she means who killed the kind person who pretended to be Beatrice?"
"That's close, but not quite. It's not the one who pretended. We're talking about two different people. In Maria's eyes, just like how her mother and the black witch are different people, Beatrice and the person who played that part are also different people."
It's just like Mariage Sorciere. That was where one person would be the creator, and the other person would acknowledge those creations, thereby nurturing the illusion. The Golden Witch Beatrice was also created by one person, and then nurtured when Maria acknowledged her.
"You mean, even if you kill the acted character, that doesn't mean you've killed the kind person who was playing the part?"
"Even if Beatrice's vessel is lost, that isn't the same as Beatrice being killed."
"...It's easier to understand if we use a telephone as an example. Let's say I call you on the phone. From my perspective during the call, the phone is you, in the sense that it is what I talk to. But what if I break the phone?"
"...I see. If you kill the phone, you won't be able to talk to me, but that doesn't mean you've killed me."
"We know Maria once offered to let Beatrice possess her, early on in their relationship. That clearly shows that Beatrice did not look like the portrait at that time."
"So, if the person acting the part and the witch character they play are different people, we're talking about killing just the witch character itself. Is that even possible?"
"Only the actor can kill the character. In other words, the person who killed Beatrice is the person who played the part of Beatrice."
"You mean that the person who played witches with Maria-chan is the culprit Bernkastel's talking about?"
"That's it. But, as if this wasn't confusing enough, this chapel is now a world inside a cat box. The culprit is the cat, there are now two cats existing at the same time... one alive, and one dead."
"...Confusing is right. I'm still lost, but keep going. You're saying that there are two culprits?"
"Right. The human who can create and kill Beatrice... and the human who never gave birth to Beatrice in the first place, who can kill the entire concept of Beatrice. Both of those humans are here."
"Then let me ask. In this Beatrice murder case, who are the two culprits?"
"Let's start with... the dead cat."
"Who is it?"
"It's painfully easy to guess. Your world is the only one where the witch Beatrice doesn't exist."
"I don't understand."
"Both Maria and Jessica told me stories about the witch Beatrice. However, when they talked about the ranking system at the dining table, you weren't there."
"I... wasn't there...?"
"Maria came to visit Rokkenjima with Rosa. And Rosa was sitting next to her. That's impossible. If you exist, then Lion comes after Rosa, then Jessica, then Maria."
There should be two people between Rosa and Maria in rank. In that case, they should be across the table from each other and separated by one seat. In other words, in the world where Lion exists, it's impossible for Maria to be sitting next to Rosa.
"It was the same in Jessica's story. If you were added to the ranking system, then when looking down the table towards Kinzo's seat, you should be on the left side and Jessica should be on the right. After that comes George on the left side and Ange on the right. Jessica and Ange will be sitting next to each other whether you're there or not. However, which side of the table they're sitting on changes."
"Every time someone talked about the witch Beatrice of 1986, they were all talking about a world where you don't exist. And, in your world, there are no ghost stories about a witch. To you, Beatrice is either Kinzo's mistress or his benefactor, not a wandering ghost."
"The Head loved Beatrice deeply, did he not? I can't imagine why she would be made into a ghost story."
"Exactly. If you exist, the witch Beatrice doesn't. Your existence... 'kills Beatrice'."
"Are you saying I'm the culprit who killed Beatrice...? That's... just crazy. How can I be the culprit if I don't even understand her and have never met her?"
"Flip it around. If you don't exist, Beatrice will be born."
"Flip it? Are you trying to say Beatrice and I are two sides of a coin?"
"That's a good way to put it. That's it exactly. You're a coin, and Beatrice is on the other side."
"I don't get it at all."
"At first, I didn't get your existence either. But, I have formed a theory about you, after hearing all this. The important fact is that you're 19 years old."
"...I don't remember telling you my age, but you got it right. How?"
"Jessica said you were already the student council vice-president when she started, and that you became the president the next year. That means you're one year older than Jessica."
Jessica is 18 years old, so Lion must be 19.
"I see... And what sort of theory can you make, now that you know I'm 19?"
"...How rude. I don't know what game you're playing, but I won't allow you to insult both me and my mother like that."
"Why are you the successor to the headship, instead of Krauss?"
"I will succeed the headship when I come of age. When I have a kid, I'll probably pass the title down to them when they come of age."
"Then why didn't Kinzo give the headship to Krauss when he came of age?"
"...You heard what our Head said. He was used by the cunning elders of the Ushiromiya family and suffered much. That's why he decided that only young people should inherit the headship from now-"
"In the world without you in it, there is no silver ring for the successor to the headship. That silver ring proves that Kinzo had a strong desire, which he didn't show in any other world, to see that you became the next head."
"...I can't deny that you may have a point there. The Head always seemed to adore me particularly, and I was very young when he first promised to make me the Head when I came of age, he was very strict when he told me to keep up in my studies in preparation for that day."
"...But I don't think my father was any less talented. Why did Grandfather skip over him and make me the successor? I've thought it strange from time to time, but since it's always been that way, I never said so aloud."
"Do you know why Kinzo wanted you and not Krauss to become the next Head?"
BGM: L&D Circulation
There was a crisp applause and a mocking laugh.
Bernkastel appeared sitting on the altar, almost as though it had become her own personal chair.
"When did you realize that Lion shared Beatrice's blood?"
"As soon as I realized that Lion was 19. It was the same number as 'the baby from 19 years ago', that hint which appeared in the 5th game."
"...Didn't that baby fall off a cliff?"
"Lion is the baby who was accepted by Natsuhi and didn't fall off the cliff. In other words, if Natsuhi rejects the baby, Lion doesn't exist."
"You're saying... I'm not Mom's child...?! That's insane..."
"You say that, but you don't look too sure. *giggle*. That's right. Ushiromiya Lion is not Natsuhi's child. This is the grown-up version of the baby Kinzo got from somewhere 19 years ago."
"Not 'somewhere'. Lion clearly shares Beatrice's blood. The proof is the silver ring, which is only ever given to Lion across all of the many worlds."
"Why does the ring prove that I share Beatrice's blood?"
"In all of the many worlds, you are the only one who is given it. That means that, in all worlds, you are the most important person to Kinzo, second only to Beatrice. And his love for you is clearly greater than it is for his son, Krauss, or his granddaughter, Jessica. And you are 19 years old. In other words, if we look back to see what happened 19 years ago, we are led to one theory."
"19 years ago? What's supposed to have happened at the time I was born?"
"...You heard it too, didn't you? You even heard it today. And Will was with you, right?"
"That's right. Rosa's story came out in the 3rd game, and when the age of the baby in the 5th game matched that date, a certain theory became possible. The fact that Kinzo brought a baby from somewhere and tried to add it to his family... proves that the baby was somehow important to him."
"And I'm... the child... of the Kuwadorian Beatrice..."
"The Kuwadorian Beatrice was the daughter of the Beatrice who came in the submarine. But Kinzo didn't think of her as a daughter. He believed she was the same person, Beatrice reborn. When that 'reborn Beatrice' reached the same age as the first Beatrice, and truly looked like Beatrice's double... Kinzo made a terrible mistake."
"...I... I don't want to hear it!"
"If we consider Kinzo's heart, this is the inevitable theory we reach for explaining why he treated you so specially. He regretted his mistake so much that he tried to make you his proper grandchild."
"...In almost all cases, Natsuhi's pride is brutally hurt, and she refuses to raise Lion. Because of that, you almost always fall from the cliff and disappear."
"...I, I heard... that I was the child they were finally blessed with after so long... and that Jessica was born the next year..."
"If you really never suspected that Natsuhi wasn't your mother, then you should thank her in this world. The reason you never realized the truth is because she's shown as much affection for you as she did for Jessica."
"...There's no need to thank her. After all, it took a dizzying span of time just to find a Fragment with you in it."
"Mathematically speaking, there's actually a 2,578,916/2,578,917 chance of her refusing to raise you. You should probably be thanking me for creating this miracle, not Natsuhi. *giggle*giggle*."
"Enough with your stupid probability games."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"I realize that. Still, I would like some time to calm down and think things through. That is, if you'll refrain from ignoring my heart."
Lion took a deep breath and looked upwards. Anyone would be shocked to find that their parents weren't who they believed them to be. Still, Lion should be grateful. Grateful towards the family that raised a child who wanted for nothing...
"It is pretty interesting. Hard to believe that the Golden Witch Beatrice might've lived such an ordinary life, even at absurdly low probabilities."
"Isn't it? I think moments like this are hilarious..."
Will had said it plainly. Ushiromiya Lion... is how the Golden Witch Beatrice appears in a different world. The baby Natsuhi rejected 19 years previous. If she had accepted that child, this is the future that would occur...
However, if she doesn't accept that child, the witch is born. The baby whose birth was not celebrated becomes a witch...
"Lion is the dead cat. However, Lion's existence has nothing to do with what you're interested in, the Rokkenjima Serial Murders. In other words, Lion is the cat that disappears when you open the cat box."
"...*giggle*, exactly. Lion is just a disappearing cat. But this was pretty fun for a side-trip, don't you think?"
"You're the only one having fun. If I wasn't trapped in here, I wouldn't even worry about reasoning this out."
"...I think I know why I was chosen to be your partner in this strange detective game. It seems this Bernkastel witch, enjoys toying with people's fates and sneering at them."
"Wow, incredible. It's rare for someone to understand me the same day they meet me. *giggle*."
"Apparently, I become something that's called a witch in another world. And, apparently, I'm the cause of some sort of crime. Is that my sin?"
"It's no sin of yours. You are you. How things would be if the coin were flipped the other way doesn't matter to you."
"Thank you. Even so, I don't think anyone would be pleased to hear that they caused some sort of trouble, in the world of a different fate. Please, tell me. What do I do in that other world?"
"Should we show the Fragments to this kid?"
Will opened his hand... and something that looked like a pale-blue, glowing shard of a crystal appeared there. It was a memory... no, a game record... of all the games so far.
"...Well, your face is telling me that I'd be happier if I didn't touch it."
"Of course. You've probably guessed, but the story here is not a happy one."
"Even so... Even if it is another world, it's still about me."
"...You have both the right to know and the right not to know. If you can convince yourself that the one similar to yet different from you is a separate person, then touch it."
"Don't you want to know...? You wanna know the fate you might have reached?"
"...I ask this as your partner. Would you show that to me?"
"As your partner, I'd say 'look'. But as a friend, I'd say 'don't'."
"Unfortunately, I'm not your friend."
"Then, as a partner, I have one last question."
"...Well, that came out of nowhere."
"I could see you as a fairly slender boy. But then again, I could also see you as a no-nonsense sort of girl. Even Bernkastel has been intentionally keeping it a secret. She made Jessica call you 'our Successor-sama' all the time, instead of 'big brother' or 'big sister'."
"...*giggle* You are quick."
"People often ask me about my gender. So, I always give the same irritated response. Which do you think I look like?"
"...In the 5th game, you're treated as a boy. But in countless other games, you're thought of as a girl. In the sixth game, when Ushiromiya Battler was the Master, two demons of different sexes appeared, but we didn't know which was which. In fact, strictly speaking, it started all the way back in the very first game. Your gender is one of the hidden mysteries that exists outside the games themselves."
"I'd hate to give you an answer so easily, so I won't. We're partners, right? Does it really matter if I'm not the gender you'd prefer?"
"...You're right. If we're working together on this, I don't care what your gender is."
"Thank you. I've formed a bit of a complex about it, so your words are very gratifying."
"I'm all for gender equality. If someone's a waste of space, I'll smack 'em no matter who they are."
"And of course, I'll pinch rude people no matter which gender they are."
Slowly, Lion reached out and touched the Fragment. A moment later, Lion seemed to undergo a violent bout of dizziness... and silently slumped over like a puppet with its strings cut. It was no surprise. When people who don't understand parallel universes have many different fates jammed into their heads, they tend to feel like their heads are swelling and their sense of self is melting away. Lion seemed to have lost consciousness.
"A perfect piece to be your partner, wouldn't you say?"
"I'll continue my reasoning. I've talked about the dead cat."
"Very true. Next up is the living cat."
"The only one who can kill the Beatrice of 1986 is the one who created her."
"There are tons of hints. If you think about it, they've been coming since back when Beatrice was running the games."
"That's true. In the 4th game between Beatrice and Battler, Beatrice's origin became clear. And, at that point, I learned who Beatrice was, and about that person's heart."
"What do you mean by heart?"
"...The motive. The reason why Beatrice had to commit a game-like crime on October 5th, 1986, putting even her own fate on the line."
"Impressive. So, you figured out the 'who dunnit' and the 'why dunnit' by the end of the 4th game. Then what about the 'how dunnit'?"
"Once you know who the culprit is, theorizing about the 'how dunnit' isn't impossible. Those linked closed rooms in the third game were a pretty nice job, almost made me feel like applauding."
"And the 'who a-m I?', from the end of the 4th game...?"
"The 'culprit' who can kill everyone at 24:00 on October 5th, no matter where they are. It's possible to make a certain hypothesis for that time. You might call that the other treasure of the Golden Land."
"...Ooh? So, you say you can reach all of the answers by the 4th game? In other words, with just Beatrice's games?"
"It's possible. After that, Lambdadelta's game and Battler's game were just full of extra hints. As is this game of yours."
"*giggle*giggle*... Well now, why don't you stop stalling for time, and just tell me? Who i-s... the culprit...?"
That silhouette slowly walked up to Will and Bernkastel... and gave a small bow.
"...So, you've come."
"Did you call this person here?"
"Yeah. 'Who dunnit'. 'How dunnit'. And 'why dunnit'. I understand this person's motive."
"...And are 'you' going to give up just because he's found out your motive...? There's no concrete evidence, right? You could make a flashy fight of it, with red and blue."
"That's not what they want anymore."
The person nodded slightly. Their wish... was to be noticed. Now that this had happened, there was no need for trivial excuses or pointless word games...
"I believe that I understand your motive... your heart. I'm going to say it now. I called you here... to listen... and correct me if I've gotten anything wrong."
The two of them nodded to each other once more.
Having this person confess in this empty chapel might be pointless. However, even so, I believe it will give her some sort of salvation. People are only saved when someone understands them. No matter how many years have passed since her death, it's about time to forgive this pitiable witch, whose life ended before the one man she wanted to understand her could do so.
At the end of the 5th game, Battler finally understood. However, it took him so long... and he didn't make it in time. So, even though she is alive here and now, Battler cannot save her. So, Battler is not here at Beatrice's funeral. He won't come. He didn't make it in time.
"...This is Beatrice's funeral. You will confess, the divine Master will hear, and I will forgive you. That's supposed to be Battler's job, but he didn't make it in time. So, you'll have to settle with me."
"...And Beato gave Battler so many hints, too. Lambda also gave that idiot a ton of hints. In comparison, that Battler's game of repentance after that was just laughable. But I won't make anyone laugh. I'll just indifferently carry out your funeral."
"No more talking from you. That's my job."
"If you're ready, let's begin. No one will rush you. Bernkastel has closed off time for eternity until your funeral ends. You have as much time as you need to prepare yourself emotionally..."
The silhouette slowly shook its head. It had come here because it was already ready. Will nodded to show he understood. Then, the two of them looked into Bernkastel's eyes, and Will spoke out clearly.