Part 96: Days of Trial
"I'm lending it to you. After all, I hate idiots. *giggle*giggle*. Call yourself Clair, as a temporary name. Or would you prefer Beato?"
"...You have my gratitude. This way, I won't have to expose my pitiful form."
Bernkastel had given Clair a fake form. It was a temporary form, for the person acting the part of Beatrice. A fake to fool those who still hadn't discovered Beatrice's true form...
"...Then... is this a tale... about me in another world?"
"Lion. This is a tale of you in another world, and also my tale. The tale of the world where I live as a witch, not a human..."
"...I am capable of imagining 'what if' scenarios for my own life. However, the tale you tell... is beyond anything, I can imagine..."
"Even so, it's the life that another 'you' has led."
"But still! That doesn't mean I can accept it easily."
Lion suddenly yelled and looked at the floor.
Lion already knew. Because of the Fragments lent by Bernkastel, Lion knew. This was a different world, where the same person lived as the Golden Witch Beatrice. And, in this world, eventually, on the day of the 1986 October family conference, this person would be the ringleader of a terrible crime.
"...Be quiet, listen, and figure it out."
"In a different life, I end up as a servant! And if that wasn't enough, I suddenly become a witch! And then, I eventually carry out several terrifying murders...! How am I supposed to figure that out?!"
"Yeah, I see where you're coming from. I doubt anyone could understand. This person here thought that no one would ever understand. That's why you're here. That's why Bernkastel brought you two, two people who never should have met, together like this."
"...It's not like I had any deep reason for it. It was just a whim."
"It's a motive that no one else can understand, Lion, so you need to be the one to understand it. I'm not the main character in this tale. You are. I'm just here to help you understand."
"You said that you understood the culprit's motive."
"Is it... a satisfying motive, for explaining why I'd kill my entire family...?!"
"Who knows. That's for you to decide. Even if I say it's satisfying, that doesn't mean it'll satisfy you. You have to decide that for yourself."
"I really don't have a clue what's going on...! I've seen several crimes called game boards that Beatrice supposedly carried out. And now, I'm hearing another me talk about a different life from mine. But none of that fits with the crime! I don't understand!!"
"...At this point in the tale, even I... could not have dreamed that I would eventually carry out such terrible crimes. In fact, even if I could have dreamed it, I did not have the power to commit those crimes at that time."
"Probably. Your misfortune probably came... when you solved the epitaph's riddle."
"...Huh? You mean that epitaph about the hidden gold, which Grandfather supposedly wrote...?!"
"First, a system for gaining different accomplices for each crime. Reasoning leads us to the possibility that the culprit possesses a vast amount of money. And, the other system... for inviting all to the Golden Land... and making all loves bear fruit."
"...It wasn't just the motive. So, you've already seen that far."
"That's the answer to the final riddle in the 4th game. Your great misfortune was solving the epitaph, reviving as the Golden Witch in the truest sense, and gaining magical power."
"...Looking back, perhaps that was an ill-fortuned event. I do not know. However, as long as the fact that Battler-san returns in 1986 remains unchanged, some sort of tragedy would certainly have occurred."
"That's right. If Battler had returned a year earlier or later, that incident might not have occurred."
No, some small incident would probably have occurred. And it would surely have been a mysterious, impossible incident, which no one could understand. But even so, compared to the Rokkenjima serial murders, it would be a tiny thing...
"...If Battler-kun... had returned a year earlier or later, then what?"
"...Fate can be so filled with irony. It made me walk the path of a witch, and when I solved the epitaph, I became a true witch."
"...Then, six years passed, and I learned of his return. If all of that was fate, then this crime must have been inevitable and inescapable for me."
"In 1980, when Asumu, his mother, died, and his father remarried too soon for his liking, Battler left the Ushiromiya family. And for six whole years, he had no direct contact with the family."
He convinced his grandparents on his mother's side to help him and had his last name changed to his mother's maiden name. Then, when those grandparents passed away, he finally made up with Rudolf... and returned to the Ushiromiya family again in 1986...
"...I did wonder. Why, after six whole years, did he finally come back?"
"I understand. In a way, it would have been better for you if he had never come back."
"Of course, my suffering would have continued. However, I would not have tainted myself with the unforgivable crime of mass murder."
"...How could Battler-kun leaving create a motive?"
"You've got it backwards."
"The crime didn't occur because Battler left. It happened because Battler came back."
"...The more I think about it, Ushiromiya Battler... was quite a disagreeable man. More than anything else, because he never realized that the outbreak of the crime was his fault."
"He did remember, in the end. However, that was long after you gave up and disappeared."
"...If that is so, then it would give my heart some peace..."
"I don't have a clue what you two are talking about anymore. But I'd like to ask you straightforwardly. I want to know. What on Earth happened to you that made you decide to commit the crime?"
"Yes. That's the most important part. Just like how Ushiromiya Battler respected the 'why dunnit' in mystery novels. In the tale of the Golden Witch and in the game, the answers to all the riddles are hidden there."
"In that case, allow me to continue. 1980. Six years before I resolved myself to committing the crime."
"That's what Krauss-sama and Rudolf-sama were saying! What a shock!"
"...That Battler can get annoyingly stubborn. Sort of like someone else we know."
"If you are unable to understand Battler-kun's feelings, I believe that would make you a failure as a father."
"Enough, Natsuhi. I'm sure Rudolf was just trying to show how dedicated he was to raising Kyrie-san's child, in his own way."
"That would be perfectly satisfactory if it happened next year. But why this year? He's still in his period of mourning. If you consider the timing of this pregnancy, one must acknowledge that Rudolf-san has acted disgracefully."
"...Come on, don't be so harsh. This is my way of atoning for what I've done..."
"Battler-kun feels as though he's resisting you for the sake of his departed mother, Asumu-san. I deeply understand how he feels. If he were here, I would like to hold him and cry along with him."
Natsuhi's words were sharp. They pierced Rudolf mercilessly. Rudolf had no retort. His relationship with Kyrie had been improper, plain and simple. According to Rudolf, he had been close to Kyrie longer than Asumu. And, even after his marriage to Asumu, that relationship had not disappeared...
So, that just means you've been betraying Mom from the start!! Sure, I know Kyrie-san. You've told me that she was your business partner and a friend whose advice you could always rely on! If you're trying to say after all this time that she was more than that, then why should I give a damn?!! Now that Mom's dead, you can do whatever you want! I'm right there with you, saying that you should live life as you please! But just when did Kyrie-san get pregnant?! Back when Mom was still alive, right?!
Yeah, now I finally see! This is why you always make me want to vomit! Are you glad that Mom is finally dead now? You are, aren't you?! I'm sure it'd have been so hard on you, keeping your infidelity and even a kid secret while Mom was still alive!! But now that Mom conveniently kicked it, you get to marry Kyrie-san, and I get a new little brother or sister!! You can bet that Mom's crying in heaven!! You bastard, you're embarrassing!! I'm embarrassed!! So embarrassed I can't stand to have the same last name as you!!
The kid is completely guiltless. He or she'll need two parents to look after him or her. Go ahead and build a new family to give that kid a happy life!! But I'll never forgive you!! Mom isn't here to hate you anymore!! So I'll hate you in her place!! With all of my body and soul!! So long, old bastard!!
"That is enough, Natsuhi. Rudolf hasn't lost the affection he feels for Battler-kun. It may take some time, but he wants to fix their relationship one day."
"As any father should. This is your own flesh and blood son. This is clearly your responsibility."
"...Go ahead. Despise me all you want. I won't argue. That's the only way I can atone."
"At the very least, make sure you give the new child a happy life."
"...The new kid... and Battler. They're both my kids."
"Wedding Kyrie-san after Asumu-san's death may have been painful for Battler-kun, but it was the best choice you could make for the coming child. I understand why you did it."
"And I understand why Battler-kun felt like telling you that you were happy Asumu-san is dead."
"Stop, Natsuhi. Rudolf has already been scolded enough from the person most fit to do so."
"...Now then, how about some black tea? Could you go ask someone in the kitchen to make us some?"
Natsuhi took this as a signal to leave the room and did so. Once she left, Krauss relaxed slightly.
"Almost as though... Asumu knew that, and stepped down from the stage of her own choosing. Did I kill Asumu...? If so, then how long has it been since I started killing her..."
"If you still treasure Asumu-san's memory, then, though it may take several years, you must fix your relationship with Battler-kun."
"...Yeah. I know."
"And be sure to pour just as much affection on Kyrie-san and the new child that is to be born. While also bearing Asumu-san's cross."
"...If they have reserved seating in hell..."
"If they did, I'd like to reserve myself a spot near the top..."
"...This is a matter for the family. We servants have nothing to do with it. Instead, we should focus on memorizing the face of the newest member of the Ushiromiya family, Kyrie-sama."
"Yes, that's true. She will be coming to the family conference this year..."
If the person who would be joining the Ushiromiya family would be coming to the conference... Then what about the person who just left the Ushiromiya family...?
"That seems the most probable outcome. How lonely is the loss of a single, noisy man."
Though most people felt a bit lonely to see Battler leave the Ushiromiya family, they didn't think any more about it than that. However, what about Shannon? Wasn't Battler supposed to come for her on a white horse...? I was surprised at first. I thought that, since he had left the family, he might not be coming to this island anymore. If we consider Battler-san's feelings, this is only natural, I guess. I understand painfully well why he wanted to leave his family... But, does that really mean he won't come to Rokkenjima anymore...?
What on Earth is going on? Will he really never return? Unable to ask him this directly, I was forced to live each day fretfully... Battler-san. I understand how you feel... But... To say that you'll never return because you've abandoned your family... That's a lie, right...? I was so confused that the world seemed to be spinning around me...
I have a tight feeling in my chest, and I can't think about anything.
When I happened to touch my cheek, I was surprised to find it hot and wet.