Part 2: Arrival at Rokkenjima
BGM: Doorway of Summer
"I don't know why, but this guy hates any vehicle. He always babbles that it's going to crash or sink. You're a disgrace of a man, you are."
"...Shaddup. It's only to be expected, with all that shaking... It was my first time on a small plane like that, so I just got a little stressed, that's all..."
"You call that uproar 'a little stressed'? Heheheh, if I ever travel overseas with you, things will surely be quite lively. Would you like to go to Egypt with your aunt? I'm sure you could handle 14 hours on a plane, right?"
"Ahhahaha! That's a good plan. Battler-kun, go get some training from Eva nee-san. Still, it's so hilarious! Ahhahahaha!"
"Wah-hahaha, now now, everyone's got their strong and their weak points. It's bad to laugh at 'em. Wah-hahaha...!"
"D, Dad, you're laughing too. Hey, Maria-chan, stop laughing already."
"Stop laughing already? Uu-!"
Dammit, dammit! Is being scared of planes really so bad? Everyone obviously thinks I'm a great big oaf now... Tch!
Since it's a neighboring island, it's not that great a distance. By boat, it's a leisurely 30 minutes to the island.
After going to the pier where the boat to the island is anchored, we saw a silhouette waving its hand.
BGM: Towering Cloud in Summer
"Ah, Jessica-chan, it's been a year since I saw you! You've gotten taller again, haven't you?"
"Kyah-haha, don't gimme that, it's embarrassing when you say that every year!"
"...H-hey, Aniki, you've gotta be kidding me. That's really Jessica?!"
"Wait a sec, George nii-san... This big guy...is Battler?!"
And then there's this. For what it's worth this particular side of Battler gets sidelined pretty early on. Until then, I guess you get to watch Battler try to get to second base with his cousin.
"Don't screw around with me, I'm a blushing flower of 18! Just like hair grows out, so'll other stuff! You think I got boobs just so you can go and rub 'em, loser!? And what about you, Battler? You got all ridiculously big only physically!! Did you get a little stronger?"
"Don't screw with me, I'll show you how much training I've piled up since back then!!"
"You're pissing me off!! I'll beat you at your own game!"
She's Dad's older brother's daughter. That older brother is in fact the oldest son of the Ushiromiya family, so for now, it means Jessica is the direct heir of the Ushiromiya family.
Because I'm the same age as her, and because we've always had boy-girl squabbles, since long ago, when we got together at the family conferences, we brawled together while still keeping a playful relationship. Jessica grew quickly, and the truth is, in terms of size and physical strength, I always lost to her. So, when we scuffled as a contest of strength, it usually went Jessica's way. Even though I clearly understand that I'm bigger now, I still feel like I can't win against Jessica with my strength.
"...Woh...ah...! What the, wha, you're getting serious...! Owowow..."
"Hey hey hey, this is nothin'! Jessica, you've gotten weak."
"Sh-shaddup. I'm a woman, so there's no way I could beat a man with physical strength forever, right?!"
"Weeelll, that's certainly true! The meat I put on my arms all went to your chest. It looks like it'd be a pretty even test of strength between my arms and your boobs, don't you think?!"
"I told you, my boobs aren't for you to feel up!! Besides, how 'bout you? Did your cute lil' elephant-san get a bit bigger to go with the rest of you?!"
"Stop it, idiot! Nooo, you perv! I'll be ruined for marriage! Don't touch my crooootch!"
"D, don't say stuff people are gonna misinterpret!!"
And I guess it's even more true for Jessica. She sure didn't think she'd lose to me. Because she lost so easily, she must be shocked at all the growth I've had these six years past.
...Six years, was it? Once more, I realize the blank that all this time means.
"Crap... total defeat. It's like I'm no match for you anymore."
"That's not true. Even Battler-kun must have his weaknesses. Right, Maria-chan?"
"Uu-! Faaall, faaall!!"
"Shh, cut it out Maria~, let's keep that a secret, okay?"
"Fall? What the hell's that?"
"Heheh! Sorry, but there's no chance Jessica'll be able to see that weakness of mine now! After all, the nightmare plane trip is already over and done with! Only thing left is the nice, quiet splashing of the boat trip. I never thought I'd start loving that piece-a-junk boat this much. Ihihi!"
"Hu-h???? George nii-san, is there something wrong with his head?"
"You'll understand soon. Very soon."
At the time, I didn't understand what Aniki meant by that big smile...
"Battler-kun, you remember? Look, it's Kumasawa-san, the servant."
"How could I forget Kumasawa baa-chan! Anyway, you haven't aged a bit in these past six years. Wait, you haven't gotten younger, have you~?"
"Hoh-hoh-ho! Lately, my skin has been getting all smooth and silky! And look, hasn't my chest gotten even bigger as well? ...Want to try rubbing it?"
"V-very funny! My breast rubbing is strictly limited to bouncy girls!"
"Even I had some bouncy ones in my youth, you know~? Now, now, please feel free to have a go!"
"Hyoo, gimme a break! It's girls I'm looking for! Not grannies!"
The jokes I'd cracked about Jessica were being used against me. Come to think of it, Kumasawa has always been the type to tease people.
"Kumasawa-san, stop that now. People with one foot in the coffin shouldn't jump around."
"To sport with the young is the best rejuvenation medicine. Hoh-hoh-ho!"
"It's rare for Kumasawa-san to come pick us up. Now, I do wonder why? Whenever you're entrusted with something to do, your lumbago always kicks in. *snicker*."
"Hoh-hoh-ho, Eva-sama, you are harsh as usual. I found myself with some urgent purchases to make, and while I was at it, I thought I would come welcome you all. Although, it does give a bad impression if the one waiting to greet you is a decrepit old woman. Hoh-hoh-ho...!"
Aunt Eva spoke sarcastically, but Kumasawa baa-chan's years of experience are nothing to sneeze at. She showed that she was capable of smoothly and coolly letting that comment slide.
Well, it feels weird to say it, but as a servant, old Kumawasawa-chan may be past her prime. She might behave as if she's doing well, but between the headache and the lumbago, her body is falling apart. To tell the truth, the very fact that she's still working is already impressive... How old is she this year again? She must be pushing eighty at least. It's incredible thata she's still able to act so brightly.
"You just seem to get more and more lively. Oh, that's right, here you are. It's the tea I told you about before. Look, I bought you some. Please do try it later on."
Aunt Rosa takes the bag with the present in it out from her suitcase. To think that she remembered the promise that she had apparently made last year and faithfully bought it. This kind of conscientiousness is just like aunt Rosa. She's the kind of person who won't forget or break a promise.
Whether or not Kumasawa baa-chan remembered the promise, she seemed deeply touched by the fact that someone would bring a gift to a simple servant like her.
It seems like her only flaw is a tendency to slack off. I hear she tries to get away from heavy or troublesome work by playing up her chronic diseases... In Kumasawa baa-chan's case, maybe we should call that a laid back craftiness rather than a tendency to slack off.
...Though it probably doesn't help her in the eyes of those paying her salary. Ah well, even if she's pretty flaky when it comes to work, I don't dislike her. I guess that's probably because of her cheerfulness and her constant smile.
"Haaa, seein' ya lookin' lively as always is the best! How's yur back doin' then?"
"Even with the medicine, it's not getting one whit better. According to the doctor, nothing can be done for this one. It's what's called an incurable disease, hoh-hoh-ho!"
"At any rate, Jessica-chan's only gotten prettier. Good thing she looks like Natsuhi nee-san."
"R, really...? Personally, I don't think we look alike at all... I mean, I don't even want to look like my parents. 'Cause I got zero respect for 'em."
"Now, you shouldn't say such things. *giggle*, even though there are quite a few people who don't want to look like their parents in our family."
"Ah, that's me!"
"You idiot, don't you start looking like me. Your nose looking like mine already pisses me off."
"What are you talking about? You're surprisingly alike, you and your father."
"Come on, you can't be serious... Just how am I like Dad?"
"You're his copy in arrogance and self-importance. Father's blood is especially strong in you and Nii-san. Wouldn't you say, Rosa?"
"Oh, absolutely. Krauss nii-san and Rudolf nii-san are almost unbelievably like Dad."
"Alright, alright already, why am I the only one under fire from the girls? Hideyoshi nii-san, please help me out."
"My my, Rudolf-kun, yer always popular with the ladies. I'm jealous! Wah-hah-hah-ha!"
"Hoh-hoh-ho! As usual, you're popular enough to make me jealous. Well then, everyone, shall we head over to the boat? Come now, Maria-chan, let's get on the boat together, alright?
"Get on the boat together. Uu-! Everyone gets on together. Uu-!"
"Hell yeah, this time around I'm not gonna be scared. I'm used to being shaken by the waves. With that piece-a-junk fishing boat, I'm less afraid of the shaking than the engine breaking down and the boat drifting off."
"Oh yes, Battler-kun, I forgot to tell you. That fishing boat was completely decrepit so it was taken out of use a few years back. Now we get taken to the island in another boat."
"Ohhh, right. It's Battler's first time in the new boat! It's super comfy! And frickin' fast! It can go at crazy high speeds!"
"Ohhh... That means less trip time, right? That sounds great! Anyway, even if it's only a bit better than an airplane, as long as we get just a little less time exposed to the danger of sinking, that's really just awesomely great~."
"...Uu-. Is Battler going to faaall faaall again?"
"That's only on airplanes. Everything's fine now!"
"Anyway, it's the captain's pride and joy, and it's a kinda modded high-speed boat. Seems he tinkers with big parts of it. He was bragging about how he attached four-base high efficiency propellers to it so that he could break 40 knots or something like that. I just remember how he's always bragging."
"Me too, I remember since we're told about it every year. The captain says that since he lost a speed contest with a foreign fishing boat a long time ago, he became obsessed with modding. He says that at the time, even though it was only in a fishing boat, his opponent could go at over 30 knots."
"To fulfill his thirst for a revenge match, he created an awesome whole new super high-speed modded boat. I'm sure you'll just love it, Battler."
"Battler-kun, you shouldn't lean over the railing too much. You might fall."
"Uu- Uu-!! Faaall, faaall!!"
"Daaaaammiiiiit, so this is why you were all grinning before!"
So this is the super high-speed boat that the captain started modding, oh yeah, it just can't be compared with the other piece-a-junk boat.
"Uu-uu-uu-!! Fall fall faaall!!"
"If I fall I'm in the ocean, I'll drown... a parachute... no, wait, where's the buoy?! Gimme a life jackeeeet!!"
"Waah-hah-hah-hah-ha! What's up, Battler, what's with that kinda attitude, waah-hah-hah-hah-ha!"
"Jessica-chan, Maria-chan, it's not nice to tease. Battler-kun, if you're scared, then just don't come out on the deck. I think that if you stay inside the boat, you'll be a bit less afraid."
"Heheh, that's a no thank-you, Aniki! Shipwreck victims are always the ones inside the boat. The survivors are usually those on the deck during the accident. That's why I'm here!! But, it's shaking!! I'm gonna faaall!! Whooooaaaaaahhh!!"
"Shake faaall!! Uu-uu-uu-!!"
"Maria, I told you to behave yourself! ...But Battler-kun, it looks like you really can't handle it... I'll go tell the captain to slow down for you."
"Whooooa, aunt Rosa, thank yooooouuuuu! I confirm that safe, slow driving is the thing, even on the seaaaaa!!"
"*cackle*! Don't do that, Rosa. Ordeals are necessary to the young. Right, Battler-kun? If it's only this, you can easily conquer it, right? Otherwise, you won't be able to go to Egypt with your aunt!"
"Whooooa, aunt Eva, you're meeeeeeeeaaaan! Ooh noooo, I'm gonna faaaaaall!! Life jackeeeet, parachuuuute?!! Whoooooooaaaaaaahh...!!! N-no, okay, turn it over and think that way!! What's the enemy aiming for?! He wants to make me afraid like this?! If that's what he's aiming for, he's soft, I'm not gonna be scaaaaaaaared!! But stooopp iiit, I'm gonna faaaaaaall!!!"
"...Haa... This speed is a bit better...earlier, I didn't even feel alive..."
The max speed I can tolerate seems to be considerably slow. But that earlier was abnormal... The whole boat was shaking! Sliding and leaping on the ocean's surface! Instead of a boat, I felt like I was riding on a flying fish...
Jessica was still guffawing at me as I leaned against the railing, tired and disheartened.
"I lost in that strength contest earlier, but I'm glad to know I'm no worse off where it really counts. But seriously, hahahahahah!"
"Dammit... go ahead and laugh. One of these days, I'm gonna find your weakness and I'll get back at you, and then your boobs will be mine to squish..."
"Ahahaha, well, we'll see about that if you ever do find it, okay?! Waah-hah-hah-ha!"
"Uu-. Battler, all weak."
"Yeah, Battler, all weak... I want to die on land, not in the ocean or the sky..."
Maria was patting my back, so I tapped her head in return. Her expression is blank as usual, but I understand that she wants to console me.
Judging from Kumasawa-san's big grin, our parents inside the boat are probably right in the middle of yucking it up over my big fuss. Dammit, I'm so embarrassed I don't want to face any of them... If I don't start on some other topic, I get the feeling I'm gonna be the butt of jokes for who knows how long, so let's pick a nice, safe topic of conversation.
"...Hey, Jessica. How are uncle Krauss and aunt Natsuhi doing?"
"My old man and my mom? Unfortunately, they're fine. Though every other word out of their mouths is 'study, study', which pisses me off. I'm so jealous, since it doesn't look like uncle Hideyoshi or uncle Rudolf say those kind of things."
"Hahaha, oh no. When I was slacking off during exams, I was always getting told 'exams, exams'. I thought it was annoying, but now I'm grateful."
"Hah, I knew it, George-aniki can be human too... By the way, my family is tight-fisted about praises. Haven't gotten a single one! Oh well, even if I got one I wouldn't listen, hihihi!"
"Battler-san, you still cannot return to your home?"
"...Well, I kinda go back now and then. I'm still leaving lots of clothes and stuff at the previous house."
"...Uu-? Battler has two houses?"
"Hm... hmmm. Something like that."
"Why? Why two houses? Uu-? Uu-?"
Only Maria, who can't really grasp the situation, voices her naive question. But even though they know, everyone glances at me and doesn't answer.
"Maria! Look, you can see the harbor now...! Look, over there! Can you see it?!"
"Uu-! Saw the harbor, saw the harbor!"
It seems Jessica intends to gently redirect the situation... Sheesh. It's not something I'd like to say, but being strangely trod around as a taboo makes me feel bad.
...I don't mind that much myself anymore.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I ran away from home. The pig-headed one at fault is my dad.
...I don't mind that much about Kyrie-san. It's a big deal that she holds the old bastard's reins and that she can ride him out well... But just the betrayal that the old bastard inflicted on my Mom... Sorry, but I'm still scrambled up about it inside.
"*Ahem*. We'll be getting there soon."
George-aniki is trying to divert the conversation by clearing his throat.
"...Please forgive my indiscretion. It seems this old woman has said too much already. If I have hurt your feelings-"
"Heheh! I don't mind it and no one's feelings are hurt. Don't worry, Kumasawa baa-chan."
After Kumasawa-san said those tactless words she looked like she was regretful, but I stood up and tried to pass it off lightly so that I didn't have anyone trying to console me in some weird way. After that, I have a taste of some soda and go over to Maria and Jessica, who are gazing at the silhouette of the island.
"Uu-! Battler, saw the island, saw the island! There there there! Uu-uu-uu-!"
"Where is it...oh, I see it now. Even after six years, the island hasn't changed a bit."
The island's name is Rokkenjima.
Included in the Izu archipelago, it's a small island about 10km around. Just because it's called "The Izu Seven", lots of people misunderstand it as there being seven islands, but that's not true. There are actually more than seven. Rokkenjima is also one of the meager islands that couldn't even get included among the seven main ones.
That notwithstanding, there are probably very few people who know about this island, because only the people of the Ushiromiya family come to this island. In other words, it has no ties whatsoever to outsiders or tourists. Therefore, you're never gonna find this island's name in a travel brochure. Rokkenjima is in its entirety an estate possessed by the Ushiromiya head house.
So, only the Ushiromiya family lives there, and only people connected to the Ushiromiya family come and go. There's only a harbor and a mansion. The island is for the greater part left as uncultivated forest. Such a waste, when it could be made into a nice golf course. But, when one considers that the shore in its entirety is a private beach, I guess that makes it pretty luxurious.
I was living a commoner's life at my grandparents' home these six years, so I had completely forgotten, but the old bastard's house sure is awesome, and I think it feels like every single thing there is a gaudy display of wealthy tastes. Come to think of it, George-aniki, Jessica, Maria, and of course I, sorta turn into wealthy, high-class gentlemen and ladies. Needless to say, none of us feel that way at all. I don't see myself as being rich, and George-aniki, who is quite spartan, doesn't depend on anyone. Jessica doesn't need money, so she's always grumbling about how she wants to move to the city, and Maria's still a kid who has no interest whatsoever in money.
...Is that still gaudiness? Looking at it from the perspective of people in poverty who can't pay the bills, we must seem like we've been blessed with a lot.
Explaining more here would be too much, so I'll stop. Well, it's the same as not being able to choose the parents you're born from. I didn't ask to be born in a rich family. And I guess it's also a mistake to envy that. Whatever you do isn't estimated at its proper value, and people talk all the time and are sour because you're rich, so it's a lot to put up with...
While I was immersed in this kind of sentimentalism, Maria started to make noise while leaning over the railing.
Have a quick look at the general flow of the game, plus a first glipse at the voice cast! So far:
Battler: Daisuke Ono
Maria: Yui Horie
George: Kenichi Suzumura
Jessica: Marina Inoue
Kumasawa: Hideyuki Umezu
"Uu-uu-! Gone gone! Uu-uu-uu-uu-!!"
Maria is clamoring 'gone, gone'. Solely from her words, you'd think she dropped something, but as she goes 'gone, gone' over and over, she points over the ocean.
"What's wrong? What's gone? I'll look for it too if you want. What is it? ...?"
However, since my last memory of the scenery is from six years ago, I managed to notice before Aniki, who comes here every year.
"...Huh...? ...If I remember correctly, wasn't there a Torii or something on top of a small crag around here? ...That's right, it was definitely there. I remember it well, since as we get closer to the island, it's the first thing to greet us, like a landmark."
"Maybe they were washed away by the waves or something? It was a small crag, it probably got brittle because of its exposure."
"I think so too. It probably disappeared during the summer. Whatever."
"Or perhaps a huge lightning bolt fell one evening and smashed the shrine... The fisherman whisper that having a thunderbolt fall upon our honored tutelary God would be a certain sign of misfortune. Lightning begone, lightning begone..."
Kumasawa-san impishly smiles as if teasing us, and makes a gesture rubbing both hands, mocking the Shinto gesture for prayer. However, Maria seems to be believing it, and screwing her face up seriously, she stares fixedly over the ocean to where the crag can be thought to be, where the tutelary God is enshrined.
"...A sign...of misfortune... Uu-."
"Enough, Kumasawa-san. Maria isn't old enough to understand this kind of joke."
"It's alright, Maria-chan. It's just a coincidence. Nothing scary's gonna happen."
George-aniki puts a hand on Maria's shoulder to calm her down, but Maria's sharp-eyed expression doesn't budge.
Maria repeats that word feverishly. Apparently, repeating a single word over and over is a habit that Maria's had for a long time. However, since the word she's saying is literally 'misfortune', it's kinda creepy.
"Hey now, Maria. If you say it over and over like that, misfortune will really end up happening, you know?"
I tap Maria's other shoulder. And then, Maria whips her head around, stares at my face, and unblinking speaks.
BGM: Hour of Darkness
Thinking to relieve the tension in the air, I answer light-heartedly. Then, Maria stabs her finger upwards, arm raised high, and points to the heavens. Looking up, the sky was cloudy as usual, but it had gotten a great deal more leaden than in the morning.
I see, she was saying a typhoon's drawing near... We're gonna have to spend a night on the island, but if during that time things don't go well, I'm not gonna be able to go to school on Monday. Well, I guess that's a perfect excuse to be absent.
...It looks like she's sensing some kind of misfortune in this cloudy sky. She's been muttering that non-stop for a while now. Maria's at an age where girls tend to be very sensitive. Supposedly, girls who have a strong sense for the supernatural or who would make good mediums often start to kick up at just around Maria's age. For all we know, this could be her child-like sensitivity.
"It's alright, Maria-chan. The weather might get worse around tonight, but tomorrow it'll clear up and become a pretty blue sky."
"Uu-. Pretty blue sky... Uu-..."
"That's right, by tomorrow it'll be a pretty blue sky. There's no rain that doesn't end, no clouds that don't clear."
"Uu-... Rain that doesn't end... Clouds that don't clear... Uu-..."
"I know the typhoon's coming, but soon it'll go away! It's alright, Maria."
"...Uu-... Uu-!! Uu-uu-uu-!! Uu-uu-uu-!!"
Maria starts yelling her 'Uu-uu-'. It looks like she's losing her temper since what she wants to say to us isn't getting communicated at all. What in the world is Maria trying so desperately to warn us about? We don't understand, and we can't help but feel a vague sense of misfortune...
...I hear that everyone can feel the supernatural, but that it weakens with age. In that case, Maria, being the most juvenile of us all, still possesses that perception of something that we lost because we got older... I wonder if that something is giving her a warning.
Then, Kumasawa-san quietly opens her mouth.
Just as Kumasawa-san tried to begin some story, Jessica flatly interrupted her. Even from Jessica, it was extremely blunt.
Out of simple curiosity I wanted to press her to continue, but judging by Jessica's look when she interrupted the story, it's easy to imagine that its contents would stir up Maria's anxiety even more. Even if I insisted, I'm sure it wouldn't be a story to make the heart all bright and cheery.
"...Hoh hoh hoh, I do apologize about that... The wind here is hard to bear for the elderly, so if you would excuse me for now..."
When those that like to gossip are told not to talk, there's no reason for them to be in that place. When Kumasawa-san finally realized that she'd poked her nose in too far, she went back inside the boat.
BGM: Towering Cloud in Summer
Since he'd shown up partway through, he completely failed to notice the complicated atmosphere that hung about the scene, so he refreshingly and unwittingly swept that atmosphere aside.
"It looks like we're gettin' there! Right, just a li'l more! Since today we went all leisure-like, it took summat more time. Ya know whose fault that is! Wah hah hah hah ha!"
"Aww, uncle Hideyoshi, gimme a break already... hahaha!"
"Ahaha, please, say more to him. Honestly, because of Battler, it's takin' forever~!"
Maria probably doesn't think anyone's gonna hear her out. She's looking down with a fretful face. As she does, George-aniki crouches down to meet her eyes, and kindly speaks.
"Maria-chan. There's nothing to be afraid of. Because we're all together. There's nothing to be afraid of if we're together. Go ahead and say it."
"...Uu-... There's nothing to be afraid of...if we're together..."
"Yes. There's nothing to be afraid of if we're together."
"That's right, exactly what George-aniki said. If we're all together, there'll absolutely never be anything at all to be afraid of. Right, Jessica?"
"Yeah, no doubt about that. What George nii-san said will always be true, Maria."
"...Uu-. George onii-chan always true."
"Yes. I don't lie. So trust me. There's nothing to be afraid of if we're all together."
"Uu-. George onii-chan doesn't lie. I trust you. There's nothing to be afraid of if we're all together... Uu-, not afraid!"
Maria jumps into George-aniki's arms and clings to him tightly. As soon as Aniki caresses her, she jumps away. Her facial expression, in a 180 degree change, has gone back to normal. She'd turned back into the Maria from before.
"Uu-. There's nothing to be afraid anymore, because we're together... Uu-uu-."
"Yeah, that's it. You look all better now. You're strong, that's awesome!"
"...Uu-! Maria, awesome!"
"Whass up, what happened? Maria-chan, didja get seasick? Hm?"
"Hahaha, well, something like that. We'll be arriving soon."
The harbor was already drawing near.