Part 89: A New Life
Video: The Curtain Rises
BGM: Golden Nocturne
"What I speak is our tale. However, this is a small world, sealed by glass and cork, with no one to hear. None shall lay eyes upon it, and my entire tale shall be sealed away, set adrift in the sea of my heart until it disappears along with the seaweed..."
"Then let me ask! Where do you want it to be? Who do you want to be?!"
"Any place, so long as it will wrap itself around me gently! Anyone, so long as I am treated kindly!"
"Yes, for us...!"
""Where and who we are hardly matters!!""
"Correct. That is a very trivial thing to us. At least, until that day comes to pass. Why must we be thrown in the path of a new fate? Fate's pronouncement was sudden and abrupt."
"That wasn't the fate I'd wished for."
"But it did make your heart pound...!"
"Where will the new fate take us?!"
"It doesn't matter where!"
""So long as that place is kind to us...!!""
"When we were brought to the temporary dwelling where sad, parent-less children gather, was that a sign of God's salvation, or a lure into the demon's game where the new fate would torment us? We have no way of knowing."
"And yet, we want to believe. We want to believe that it was God's salvation sent to us, a sign of 'fukuin', the Gospel."
"But what does that mean for me? I have no religious beliefs!"
"Then that wasn't the Gospel, but a demon's lure!"
"And yet we cannot go against fate. Oh, I am one yet many. I pray that the new fate brings us blessings. The time is 1976 AD, in April. A time in which it is still too cool to be called spring. The strange new land tormented us with the same stale air and drafts..."
BGM: Far (piano version)
The servants who would start working this April all called out in unison. The rules of the Ushiromiya family are no more or less strict than those at the Fukuin House. However, here, we get paid a lot of money. They also give us a lot of help in finding our next job. We work for the Ushiromiya family, store up money, use their influence to get a job at a good company, and start on a new, happy life. That was the dream, and it was a very realistic one, held by all of us at the Fukuin House.
However, not everyone can become an Ushiromiya family servant. Only kids with a record of exemplary conduct and good grades are recommended. So, all of the kids who want to be sure of leaving the Fukuin House to live a happy life are feverishly devoted to their studies...
"That's enough for today. Tomorrow, you start early. Make sure the lights are all out at the appropriate time. That is all."
"""Yes, Madam. Thank you very much."""
After bowing until Natsuhi was no longer in sight, the new servants all followed the lead of one of the more experienced servants and raised their heads.
Of course, this experienced servant was one of the older girls from the Fukuin House. She's been here for two years, apparently. That's probably why all the other new servants, who are older than me, seem to know her well.
'That Madam looks so strict.' 'Dang, I'm tired.' '*giggle*giggle*.'
"...By the way, just who is this? Who chose this kid to be a servant?"
The older servant pointed at me and asked the room at large, a dubious look on her face. It's no surprise, really. Most of us become servants when we graduate middle school or high school. But I'm just starting elementary school. The others will be working as servants every day, according to their shifts. However, I was going to go to the elementary school on Niijima with Milady, only working on the weekends and when I had free time. It was an exception among exceptions, something that had never happened before.
...It was clear at a glance that the others, who had obtained their positions after a rigorous selection process, didn't like the fact that I was here too.
"...Both Madam and Genji-sama have told me that you are to put your studies first. But you're still getting paid. Doesn't make any sense."
If you're going to talk behind someone's back, at least do it behind them. She didn't even try to hide her discontent.
"Is this kid really that smart? A child prodigy, or something?"
"Not that I've seen."
"That one's always been kinda frail and a loner, I didn't know that kid well back in the House."
"...Now that you're here, you're part of the collective responsibility system. If you screw up, it's the same as everyone from the Fukuin House screwing up. Make sure you don't, okay?"
I nodded weakly. I'd never been threatened by someone this much older than me, and I was very frightened.
Shannon smiled at me as she spoke...
BGM: Toy Box
"Nah, there's nothing scary about it. You just thought it was scary, so you got scared."
"Then if I thought it was fun, would it be fun?!"
"Yeah, it would be. So let's put on a smile and give it our all."
"...Shannon was my only friend in the Fukuin House. She was confident and popular. The complete opposite of me. I was embarrassingly dull-witted, and no one wanted to be my friend."
"I would never have made it through those days in the Fukuin House had it not been for her encouragement. So, I would probably make it through here too, with her by my side."
"Well, isn't it about time we got ready for bed? I've got work early tomorrow morning, but you have a different job."
"That's right. Unlike everyone else, I have to go to school. When I spend the night on Rokkenjima, I have to get ready for school and wait for Milady at the dock."
"Milady looks like an energetic person. I hope you get along well!"
"D, do you think I will...? I'm scared of school, nervous...!"
"...I had grown used to life in the Fukuin House, so the more relaxed rules at school made life easy. But until I grew used to it, everything was new, and everything made me nervous."
It was completely different from the comfortable yet stagnant life I'd lived at the Fukuin House. In addition to the time I spent as a servant to the Ushiromiya family on Rokkenjima, I also traveled to the elementary school on Niijima on school days. It was the start of a time that was both rushed and busy, with hardly any time to relax.
Unlike at the Fukuin House, I didn't get to sleep in the same bed every day here. Half of the week, I slept in the servant waiting room in the Rokkenjima mansion. I would return from school with Milady, go to the mansion, and work there as a servant. I would then stay the night and go to school with Milady again the next day. When I didn't have work, I would return to the dormitory on Niijima, where I could have some time to myself in the room that I was assigned to. There was an adult dorm mother who strictly controlled mealtimes and lights-out, but I was already used to that sort of life, so it wasn't hard for me.
The rooms were slightly larger than average and housed three people each. However, either because of the number of people or some lucky chance, I was not given a three-person room.
With Shannon by my side, I felt like I'd be able to manage well enough...
"It was something Father worked out with the other side all on his own. The rest of us weren't allowed to meddle."
"Our family would strictly discipline these children without relatives and support them on their path to adulthood, but I always viewed this as the rich Ushiromiya family's obligation to society."
"What sort of kids came to serve the Ushiromiya family?"
"I'm sure they were serious, cute kids of irreproachable conduct!"
"It seemed to me that there were a lot of glaring hyenas among them."
"Let us say they had high ambitions. Those poor children without relatives. They were determined to use this rare opportunity to launch their careers, so that they could take control of their lives."
"Did all of them have to balance school and servant work?"
"That must be tough! You wouldn't be able to get much work done!"
"There has been no case of a servant going to school while they worked... except for that child."
"To be honest, I was fairly surprised when that kid first came to greet me. So obviously young. The others were all around 16 or 18 years old, but that kid alone looked almost 10 years younger."
"The extraordinarily young servant came to the family mainly for experience, so not much was expected of that child's ability as a servant."
"Very true. You couldn't rely on that kid as much as you could an adult, seasoned servant."
"Why would we accept a child who hadn't even started school? No knowledge of housework, no practical experience, and not even finished with mandatory education. I don't know what Father was thinking, but I always thought there was something clearly odd about it."
"I spoke to Father about it. I asked if it might be better to wait for this servant to graduate middle school before having them serve here."
"And what did Kinzo say?"
"Come on, we all know what he said."
"Hahaha... By that time, he was already a complete shut-in inside his study, obsessed with the occult. If you tried to talk to him, he'd yell and tell you to stop interrupting 'the journey of his mind'."
"And Father's decisions are absolute. However, the case with this particular child just didn't make sense."
"I even asked the Fukuin House about it. They said to ask Genji-san. I then asked Genji-san, and he said to ask the Master."
"And then you asked the Master, and he said 'Beatriiiiice'!"
"Ahahahaha! No one knows the truth!"
"Jessica was the only child on the island. The servants would often play with my daughter, but she wanted a friend of her own age. Someone she could play with at home, as well as at school."
"...I began to think that Father had felt pity for Jessica and employed this servant. But if that were the case, why wouldn't he talk to us about it beforehand? We should be the ones to decide which friends are suitable for our daughter."
"She must've really hated taking her kid out in public!"
"...Probably. Genji-san knew that the 'me' in this world carried Grandfather's blood, so he probably arranged for that 'me' to be summoned to Rokkenjima."
"Are you feeling okay now?"
"...It was a really big shock, that's all. I just feel a bit dizzy now."
"In this world, you're the successor. But if we move to a different world, you're a servant... or maybe a witch. You do have a troubled fate."
"Seriously... I don't regret learning about it, but if I could forget it now, I would."
"*giggle*, isn't it interesting? Even though you're a servant, you're actually an illegitimate child of the Head... Isn't that romantic, like some fairy tale?"
"...Romantic? If you think about Mom's feelings, it gets pretty complicated."
"Eheheh, true. In Natsuhi's eyes, the Lion of this world is nothing more than the baby she hated and was told to raise. And in some worlds, she does reject that child."
"...Natsuhi must adore her natural child Jessica a bunch more. A baby that doesn't share your blood is nothing more than a dirty, lukewarm sack of filth."
"Have some decency. Next time, I'll be the one pinching your butt."
"...Thank you, Will. I think I understand, more or less. That's just why I need to be grateful to my mother. She's raised me fairly all these years."
"Though at a probability so low it'd take a miracle to happen. Animals are always brutal towards children that don't carry their blood. Lions do that too, don't they? *giggle*giggle*."
"Genji's thinking must have gone something like this. 'This is a true member of the Ushiromiya family. I want this child to live on Rokkenjima if at all possible.' However, he couldn't suddenly bring Lion there and explain everything."
"...I agree. Maybe he wanted me to live on the island until I was used to it, and then reveal everything when the chance presented itself."
"However, the Lion of this world was not given special treatment. The silver ring doesn't actually exist."
"I wonder if that means Grandfather never heard about me."
"That might mean that Genji never found a good opportunity, to reveal the truth..."
BGM: Toy Box
"Why wasn't it easy?!"
"Dummy, what would happen if Natsuhi found out?!"
"Oh, right, if Lion suddenly appeared, Jessica wouldn't be the successor anymore!"
Strictly speaking, Jessica wasn't the successor, but since she'd be able to select the successor to the headship, it all came to the same thing.
"The more one learns, the less simple this tale becomes. There were some who celebrated my birth, and some who did not. Genji could only wait in silence for the day of revelation to come."
"Was it a tale hidden only within Genji's heart?"
"Lion and Kinzo and Natsuhi and Krauss and Jessica and everyone else! None of them knew of this tale!"
"Thus, the curtains slowly rise on this curious tale in the year 1976. Oh, I am one yet many. Why must fate abandon us and continue on its merry way...?"
People only found the young servant strange for the first month. Natsuhi and Krauss's protests came to naught. After all, there was no harm in it. So why not indulge Kinzo's whim...?
Eventually, everyone grew accustomed, and began to accept this slightly abnormal everyday life.
"However, it was not so for the other Fukuin servants, who were always close by and who believed that everyone should be treated equally. Their small bits of discontent over my special treatment began to accumulate as time went on..."
"Madam was really pissed off. She was, like, running her finger across the windowsills!"
"Yeah, and getting on Tadacchi's case for cleaning slow. Come on, give us a break!"
All of the kids in the Fukuin House are supposed to treat each other as family. Because of this, everyone hides their original names and uses their new 'blessed names'. Maybe because the 音 character is in the word 'Fukuin', that character is almost always combined with at least one character from the child's original name to make their new name. Still, just giving a person a new name doesn't mean they'll accept it so easily. Boys and girls, who've lived in isolation and through various trials, sometimes feel as though their real first and last names are a bond that's worth holding onto. So, most of the Fukuin children hate their '音' names, and call each other by nicknames based on their original names.
Of course, this is only privately. When in the presence of the House Director or other important people, only the 'blessed names' are used. On the job, the 'blessed names' are used. And off the job, the informal nicknames are used. Everyone is very used to living with two names like this, so they're all familiar with how to use them.
"Dang, why's it so cramped in here? Can't they get a bigger dorm if they have that huge mansion?"
"Hey, Garashi-sa~n. Why's Yasu the only one who isn't in a three-person room?"
By 'Yasu', they probably mean me. I can't remember my parents at all, but I was given the last name 'Yasuda'. And, apparently, my nickname comes from that.
"How should I know? Genji-sama's the one who decides the rooms. I don't like it either."
"Yes, seriously! Wouldn't it normally go 2 and 2?!"
"What's the deal with Yasu anyway?"
"It looks like that kid's job is going to school with Milady or something. A school friend position? Doesn't make any sense."
...Of course, on days when I am given work, I return to the mansion right after school and work alongside all the others. I help out with caring for the garden and cleaning up the mansion. I can't do any jobs on my own, so I'm always just helping out. Maybe because I'm young, the adult servants are always kind to me. It seems my fellow Fukuin servants are annoyed by this.
"Don't you think Kumasawa-san's obviously soft on Yasu? It's like she's mistaken Yasu for her own grandchild or something!"
"And why on Earth does that kid get paid the same as the rest of us? I don't get it!"
"...I realize that you have school to worry about, but don't forget that you're a servant too, okay? You need to stop being a helper and learn to do work by yourself like the rest of us. We aren't going to let you have things easy forever, okay?"
...I have been trying my best. However, I'm not very strong yet, so I can't carry heavy things. I can't carry a lot of things, either. I can't fold clothes right, and I'm not good at using a dustpan. I just can't do it as well as everyone else...
As my face turned red, I spotted Shannon, who was watching from the sidelines and not joining in. Shannon is my only ally. Unlike me, she can do everything well. However, she'll never pamper me. She'll show me how things are done, but she'll never steal my jobs from me. She really is incredible. I really want to be like Shannon, as soon as I can. She never talks behind people's backs, and no one talks behind her back. She's kind, and she gets along with everyone. I want to be like her. And she's always kindly watching over my efforts to become like her.
Yasuda's lines aren't voiced.
"I don't know."
Though I'd just been muttering to the ceiling, Shannon gave me an honest answer.
"I guess there's no way to say it, except that it's part of God's plan."
"Is this another test from God...?"
"Yep. Think of it as a test to help you grow into a wonderful person. After all, you're a special, chosen person."
"...Am I... special?"
"Of course you are. After all, everyone else here is huge, but you were the only one special enough to be chosen young."
"Why am I the only one who's little? I can't do any jobs by myself."
Everyone complains that I'm just there to play with Milady. And yet, Madam made it clear that I am not to think of Milady as a friend or speak to her in a casual manner.
"You may be ten years younger than everyone else, but that means, if you keep it up until you're the same age as the others, you'll be much more experienced than the new people who come later. Even Genji-sama will acknowledge your talents, and you'll become a leader who can teach the new kids who come from the Fukuin House."
"And then, I'm sure that everyone will respect you. By that time, even Madam, the Master, and Krauss-sama will acknowledge your skills. That's your future."
"...You mean like the ugly duckling becoming a swan?"
"That might be it. After all, it was very unusual for you to be chosen as an Ushiromiya family servant. In fact, that rumor might be true, and you might be the secret child of someone in the Ushiromiya family. *giggle*."
Shannon laughed, saying 'wouldn't that be cool' and 'then you'd be super-rich too'. But I felt a bit doubtful. After all, if that was the case, why have I had to live all alone, here in the Fukuin House? Shannon and people like the House Director are the only ones who will play with me. I didn't have any other friends to play with, and I've spent all my time by myself, in my isolated room. Maybe it's because I'm frail and always half-asleep, but it has been lonely.
"You never talk about anything, but you've known everything since the beginning, haven't you?"
"19 years ago, you heard from Natsuhi that a servant had fallen from a cliff holding a baby."
"Didn't you go to the bottom of that cliff and realize that the baby was still alive?"
"...I was not qualified to determine, whether it was alive or dead."
"Then who was?"
"The doctor, of course!"
""What do you say, Doctor Nanjo?!!""
"...If you would be willing, then I ask it of you."
...I was contacted by Genji-san immediately after the accident, and I was asked to conduct an examination in secrecy.
"...Both the Beatrice of Kuwadorian and her child were unregistered people who weren't supposed to exist. It would lead to various problems if it went public..."
"I had started the procedures to have the baby registered, but they were not complete at that time. It was a very bad time for the baby to 'die'."
"So, the servant who fell was treated as the only death?"
"Natsuhi wouldn't talk to anyone. It would've been easy to set up!"
"But that baby was alive, wasn't it?"
"Correct. Of course, the child was gravely injured. It was a miracle that it survived that wound. If the angle had been slightly different, or if Genji-san had been any slower in carrying the baby... That baby only managed to survive thanks to a series of miracles."
"...I had given up. I didn't believe the baby could survive."
"But it did."
"How strong and resilient is life!"
"No, this is fate."
"Fate! So the baby was fated to live on and eventually accomplish something great?!"
"...Yes, I did think that it was fate. I thought the blood of the Kuwadorian Beatrice-sama, whose life ended on Rokkenjima, must have imparted something onto this child to make it survive."
"However, Genji did not tell his master, Kinzo, that the child had survived. He simply said that it had fallen to its death in an unfortunate accident. Kinzo mourned, but his mourning was more one of madness than of sorrow..."
"Ooh, Beatrice, why have you run away from me once more?!"
"Why, even though I swore I'd never make the same mistake again, why?!!"
"Genji had served the Kuwadorian Beatrice for many years as well. He was very aware of what she had felt. He knew that she accepted Kinzo's affection and respected him as a father."
"However, her love was not the same as Kinzo's love. Kinzo thought her to be Beatrice reborn, and tried to use her to satisfy the many feelings he had felt for the late Beatrice. Of course, the Kuwadorian Beatrice could not accept those feelings. In the end, she had her chastity stolen by the one she thought of as her only family and respected as a father..."
"She thought he was her father, and he thought she was his wife!"
"Oh, what unmanageable, forbidden love!"
"...I did understand Kinzo-sama's feelings to some degree, Kinzo-sama himself did not decide to treat her as the late Beatrice-sama at the time of her birth."
"He... spoke to me about it a few times when we were drinking. I always thought he was just joking."
"Was he surprised to find that the daughter grew to look more and more like the mother?"
"As the daughter grew, did he suffer from a forbidden emotion he could not suppress?"
"...I thought... that he might commit the same mistake again. That was my view."
"Beatrice-sama suffered much. And yet, she never truly understood the difference between her feelings and Kinzo's. I spoke with Beatrice-sama many times, listening to her deepest feelings. However, I could not bring myself to tell her the truth."
"That would be hard to say!"
"Imagine telling her that the one she respects as a father wants to use her as a replacement for her dead mother!"
"...Let me say this for the sake of Kinzo-san's honor. He also suffered greatly. It pained him when he found that he could no longer think of his daughter as a daughter."
"...I told him to love her as a father. I think Kinzo-san followed his logic and his conscience and fought for some time..."
"Kinzo loved her. He poured his affection onto the daughter that Beatrice had left behind. He did so as a father. And yet, if so, why did he give the daughter the same name as the mother?"
"Yes, Kinzo's sin started from the moment she received life. She was born, and Beatrice died. He passed the name down from mother to daughter. From the moment of her birth, Kinzo had already decided that she was Beatrice reborn..."
BGM: L&D Circulation
"...Exactly. I get the feeling I'll get my butt pinched if I talk about other Fragments, but what if there was a Fragment... where Lion is accepted... and Kinzo commits the same sin again? Wanna see if we can find one of those? *giggle*giggle*..."
"Who would want to see something like that? Is it your job, mixing up the worst possible delusions and possibilities for every part of a person's life and sneering at them?!"
"Unfortunately, that's the sort of demon she is."
"How rude. I'm a witch. *giggle*..."
"...Genji foresaw that worst of all possible futures, and, trying to secure a better future, he intentionally lied about the baby being dead."
"Right. Kinzo was a man so impulsive that he used his own daughter. Genji, who knew Beatrice's feelings and felt sympathy for her, couldn't trust Kinzo so easily."
"Even Genji, Kinzo's most devoted servant?"
"Genji draws a clear line between the professional and the personal. While he served Kinzo faithfully, he also felt that the mistake Kinzo had made with his daughter was not one to be forgiven easily."
"...Probably. And to make sure that Lion wouldn't be found out easily, Genji lied about the kid's age, lowering it by three years."
"Good point. In this world, I'm just entering elementary school in 1976. I was actually supposed to become a 4th year then."
"If your frailness wasn't the reason, then Genji must have been careful to disguise the year of your birth. Not only Kinzo, but also Natsuhi... they wouldn't easily forget the baby from 19 years ago. If a suspiciously young servant of that age came to the island, Natsuhi's woman's intuition would definitely have picked up on it."
Had the child been too sick to go to school for three years? Or had the age been faked, so that Natsuhi wouldn't figure everything out?
"Either way, we know that your age has been lowered by three in this world."
"...Correct. The age of this world's Lion has been altered by three. This is a small, feeble kid we're talking about. An underdeveloped kid. It should've been surprisingly easy to fake."
"Genji thought he should wait and see. In the end, would Kinzo be able to accept Beatrice's child as an actual child, or not? He had the child live in the Fukuin House until a suitable age, and then summoned the child to the island as a servant. Both father and child had no clue who the other was."
"That way, they would surely regain their parent-child relationship, without anyone learning the truth. That's what he thought. Or, perhaps, the time might come naturally. When that happened, he could tell the truth to both father and child. Believing that this day would eventually come, Genji told nothing of this to anyone. He watched over Beatrice's child, waiting for the fated day..."
And time continued to pass. Days slid by as he quietly watched over Beatrice's child...