Part 6: Dining Room II
October 4th, 1986, 1:30 PM
BGM: Doorway of Summer
However, because the sons and siblings had been lent a great fortune, in the Ushiromiya family, which considers only those that achieve success in business adults, it literally was a conference.
How much of the fortune was invested? What kind of business was conducted? How much was earned? As a result, how much of the fortune borrowed from the main family can be repaid? Or, possibly, how much will be borrowed for future business ventures? What lessons have they learned, and what could they learn from their mistakes? It seems that topics like these had been discussed very seriously in the past. My dad called it a bed of nails.
Apparently, it used to be a very serious family meeting, bathed in harsh and angry voices. Even on a good year, it was common for someone to get slapped. However, that had become a thing of the past. Now, with everyone pursuing their own business ventures and achieving success, it was a normal yearly get-together.
Even so, hearing about Grandfather's condition caused a significant amount of stress, so while to us grandchildren it was nothing more than a simple meeting, to our parents it was still a real stomachache. I guess that since the ringleader was absent for various reasons, today's lunch was even more delicious. The phrase 'while the demon is not around, everyone can relax' comes to mind.
Well then, let's introduce Jessica's father, whose face I hadn't seen for six years. The man sitting to my father's left was his older brother and the father of Jessica, uncle 蔵臼.
Just like with aunt Natsuhi, I didn't have many memories of speaking with uncle Krauss. He had never been one to talk to children, and I felt like he was always talking with the adults, just like aunt Natsuhi. From my father's gossip, it seems that he was a pretty spiteful and unreasonable person. If what my father said is true, he used to be very domineering as the oldest sibling, and was hated by aunt Eva, aunt Rosa, and the rest of the family.
Huh? It looks like he's having a friendly chat with the rest of the family, doesn't it? Oh, well. Even if their relationship was bad when they were children, sometimes when people grow up and go their separate ways, their relationship changes. That's probably what this was. After all, they all had children of about the same age. By sharing the same family environment, they probably profited by exchanging opinions. Maybe because of that, a short while ago the circle of parents began to discuss the exams Jessica and I were taking.
Jessica, in order to escape the discussion of exams with my father sitting on her left, purposefully faced right while firing off a rapid series of comments, so as not to show any weaknesses.
Moving on, let's look at the end opposite from Krauss and the others. In the very last seat at the table, an old gentleman with a sturdy physique sat facing Kyrie-san. This was my first time meeting him.
He had known Grandfather since the very beginning when the mansion was first constructed on this island, and had built up a relationship over several decades. I thought that he might be Grandfather's companion in his suspicious hobbies, but, surprisingly, it seems that he is Grandfather's chess partner... I see. That kind of hobby seems very like our Grandfather with his love of western style.
You could probably say that he was the only person who could enter Rokkenjima and was neither a family member nor a servant. He gave an impression of a calm old gentleman as he listened to Kyrie and the other women's conversation. After staying by our short-tempered Grandfather's side for so long, his big heart was nothing to laugh at.
Still, even if he was the head physician, having anyone outside the Ushiromiya family attend the family conference was a little odd. I imagined that because Grandfather's condition had grown much worse, it may have become one of the major topics of discussion. George was just saying it, too. Reports that Grandfather's remaining life was very short had been appearing continuously since around a year ago.
It was a nasty story, but Grandfather was an extremely rich man. At the time of his death, his wealth would suddenly be released, along with our parents' stomach acid, and would probably lead to ulcers. With this kind of thing, the greater the share, the more trouble would be caused. This would probably also be included in the family conference. Oh well, it's not like it had anything to do with us children.
Finally, even though he was absent, let me introduce our Grandfather.
As you can probably guess from the topics that have been raised, he was a frightening person with an extremely short temper. Because I was one of the grandchildren and hadn't met the family since elementary school, I had no memory of being beaten, but it seems that our parents were raised with an iron fist. That earlier conversation between my father and uncle Krauss about who should go try to convince Grandfather to come out seems oddly funny if we take this into account.
In order to tell Grandfather's story, you have to first go back and recount that episode that occurred before the Showa era (1926-1989). Until the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishou (1912-1926) eras, the Ushiromiya family was great and prosperous. They owned several spinning mills, so while they just laughed heartily every day, the money kept rolling in, making them very wealthy.
Even so, during the Great Kanto earthquake in the year Taisho 12 (1923), the mansion owned by the Ushiromiya family in Odawara was flattened. The spinning mills in Tokyo were all burned down in a huge fire, and the Ushiromiya family lost most of its wealth and family members in an instant. It then became a matter of who in the main family would become the heir, and it seemed as though no one except the branch family, which included Kinzo, was left. Kinzo himself later said that it was such good luck, it was as though fate itself had been turned upside-down.
With that, Grandfather's normal life did a 180. He was entrusted with reviving the wealth that the dying Ushiromiya family had almost completely lost. Naturally, just because he had been entrusted with this task didn't mean he could accomplish it. It seems that the surrounding people weren't really expecting much.
However, from this point on, Grandfather began displaying his extraordinary talent and good luck. Grandfather used all of the family funds and everything from the hair on his head to his toenails as collateral to borrow a massive amount of money, created a gigantic supply of funds and soon revived the family's business. It was like tumbling down a hill on a bike without any brakes. And then, jumping onto a neighboring bike, and then another one! Just like some crazy street performance. Probably, anyone would have thought that Grandfather had no business ability.
Even so, with an unbelievable amount of good luck and miracles, with coincidences piling up and every chance taken advantage of, before anyone knew it, he began to make connections with the occupying forces. At that time, McArthur and the GHQ were in charge. Grandfather, in a twinkle of the eye, began succeeding in business under the protection of the occupying forces, quickly becoming very rich. At this point, it was no longer luck but information that won the day. He must have made some seriously thick connections with the occupying forces... Grandfather knew beforehand about emergency demands that would be made for the Korean War. No, on the contrary, he must have foreseen these special procurements from the very beginning and started eating into his businesses.
As we read in the history books, all of Japan made a large profit off of the emergency demands for the Korean War, but in actuality that didn't happen. Only a very limited number of the super rich played the money game and made an easy profit. Most of the citizens remained poor. In other words, Grandfather was an extremely lucky member of this group of winners.
This all happened... during the year Showa 25 (1950), I think. And, since the year following the Great Kanto Earthquake was Taisho 13 (1924)... That means Grandfather was able to revive the near-dead Ushiromiya family in only about 20 years to a level even higher than it had been before. With that, you'd think that he would revive the main family in Odawara, but for some reason, he went and did something as crazy as buying an entire small island in the Izu archipelago.
After the war there were prevention measures against food shortages, and, furthermore, having the sponsorship of the GHQ meant that nobody could oppose him. It seems that Tokyo Metropolis had almost no money at the time and offered this land. Later, Tokyo made difficulties by telling Kinzo to return the land, but the pushy GHQ intervened.
Anyway, it seems as though under the table bribes worked perfectly. In the end, the city gave up in frustration. Grandfather, with considerable skill and blessed with good luck, managed to weather the stormy seas of that period, obtaining a vast fortune and his own island.
Of course, it wasn't all luck. He was skilled with English, and this was cultivated by his western obsession. Using this as a weapon, he was able to take a bite out of the GHQ. A mansion was immediately built on the island. That would be this mansion. Grandfather, with his western style, made this once uninhabited island, Rokkenjima, a canvas upon which he could realize his dreams to his heart's content. With the western mansion that he had always imagined, overflowing with emotion, to the beautiful garden where various roses had been planted, and a private beach where nobody other than himself would ever be permitted to leave a footprint.
...If a boy could have this much, it would be a dream come true. After that, making good use of his huge fortune, he became a large stock holder in the extremely stable iron and steel industry and was able to live an easy and comfortable life just using the dividends. Well, he's just that incredible.
This kind of person usually has the ability to foresee and predict the future, or at least that is how they are portrayed. Grandfather denies all of that, repeatedly saying that he was simply blessed with extraordinary luck...
Anyway, even a lord like that, with all of his dreams made real, can't help but grow increasingly odd when locked up alone on an island.
Did his love of black magic begin way back when he became fascinated with everything western, or, possibly, did his miraculous stretch of good luck which allowed him to revive the family cause him to feel a mysterious power in himself? At some point, Grandfather began to make the research of black magic his life's work. He filled his study up with suspicious books, chemicals, and magical items as he became increasingly bizarre.
I heard that, as a successful man, he had the right to decide how he wanted to live the rest of his life, and those surrounding him warmly watched over him, but... That's definitely a lie. They probably were just driven away, thinking 'that's disgusting, I don't want to get involved.' Well, that agitated period was like a big gamble, with both opportunities and risks.
Let's say Grandfather was born in this time period. He would've had no opportunities and would probably have advanced like a chess piece from mandatory education to college at a leisurely pace, never becoming more than an average salary man. If that happened, he'd probably have sat somewhere, happily talking behind his boss's back. No, no. Not in a mansion's dining hall. More like a table at some bar. If that were the case, I'm sure that this would be a more comfortable family conference.
"I'm already convinced by the sashimi salad! Gohda-san is an excellent chef! Plus, these fish were caught in the adjacent seas, weren't they?! They're totally different from sashimi you get at the supermarket!"
"Hey, quit it Battler. Your upbringing will be exposed."
Everyone let out a big laugh. Damn it, you say that even though you love those cheap pubs.
"Hahahaha. Depending on the situation with my job, I also have eaten at many odd places, but compared to all of those, this is an excellent dish. Gohda-san probably also learned a lot that way."
"Well, I don't know too much about it. At the famous hotel where he used to work, employee politics got pretty complicated and everyone split into factions. In the middle of all that, he was apparently forced to retire. Then, by chance, Mom sent out job offers for a servant."
Gohda lowered the empty plate and, without losing his smile, began to recount his own uneven past.
"That is because among all of the applicants, you were the most talented. The decision was not based on personal feelings, but purely objective, so there is no need to thank me."
...Oh man, why does aunt Natsuhi always have to speak so frankly. If only she spoke more gently, she might give off a different impression.
Shannon-chan and Kumasawa-san entered from the hallway with a serving cart.
"Please excuse us."
"Now then, let us move on to today's dessert."
Gohda-san and the others laid out the beautifully adorned dessert. I guess it's true when they say you have another stomach for dessert. I'd thought that being fed all that delicious food had totally filled me up, but as soon as I laid eyes on the dessert, my stomach started yelling 'More!'
I don't know much about desserts, but this looked really good. A white pudding-like substance was garnished with two shades of red sauce, and elegant rose petals adorned the dish. With such magnificent food distributed in front of everybody, it was time for the chef to extol the virtues of his creation. However, Maria, who was completely indifferent to this strict rule, got excited by this beautiful and delicious looking dessert and jumped into the fray as soon as it was placed before her. Aunt Rosa scolded her, calling it bad manners, but George responded by saying 'Now, now, it's alright.'
"Uu-?! This part's sour! This part's sour! Battler, this one's no good! Uu-!"
Maria exclaimed as she sampled the two colored sauces.
"What, some are good and some bad? Alright, I'll give it a go~! Mmmmm?!"
Apparently the sauce was a blend of sweet and sour. Despite it being bad manners, I also stuck my little finger in and licked it. Whoa, half of it was sour enough to make you pucker up. If it were yellow, I'd have suspected lemon, but I couldn't guess what kind of sourness would be red. I decided to ask Shannon, who was putting away the serving cart behind us.
Maybe she was just setting the table and doesn't really know. Man, she's at a total loss... did I ask something wrong? Or did they use something that we'd be better off not knowing about?
While aunt Natsuhi acted as though she had a headache, Kumasawa-san, who was setting the table at the opposite seat, began to laugh with a 'Hoh-hoh-ho'.
"What ingredients do you think we made it out of? Hoh-hoh-ho, it'll shock you..."
"Huh? I, I don't have a clue. Wait a sec, Kumasawa baa-san, that laugh's pretty creepy. So, what is it?!"
"Don't tell anyone, alright? Let me borrow your ears."
Kumasawa-san leaned across from the other side of the table. I leaned forward too when she asked me to listen. Their interest caught, Jessica, George-aniki, and, of course, Maria also put their ears closer.
"Uu-. What? Wha-t? Quickly-! Quickly-!"
"That's crazy," we all thought, horrified. Only Maria accepted it, nodding with an 'uh-huh'.
"Uu-? Mackerels are sour? If you squeeze them, this comes out!"
When Maria started clamoring that mackerel were sour, the adults were unable to contain their laughter. Only aunt Rosa, her face red, told Maria that mackerel is sour only once prepared, in a small voice.
"Kumasawa baa-chan, you sure haven't changed...! You know Maria's gonna believe now, right?"
"Hoh-hoh-ho, it's just a joke, right? Now, Gohda will tell us what the sauce's true nature is, won't he?"
Gohda looked a little put off about his masterpiece being laughed at in such a strange way, but after clearing his throat once, he introduced the dessert to us.
"Well then, allow me to introduce tonight's dessert. Based on the rose garden that everyone seemed to enjoy so much today, I finished this panna cotta in a rose garden style. The rose petals scattered across were selected just now from that rose garden. The sauce is a combination of two reds, strawberry and rose hips. Please enjoy this mixture of the strawberry's sweetness and the rose hip's sourness. Furthermore, the rose petals are merely decoration, so please avoid them while you eat. With that said, please, enjoy."
...Ha... Man, I almost want to applaud before eating. Just like with medicine, reading the instructions seems to work better than just drinking it. As Gohda-san elaborated on the details of this dessert, it started to feel even more appetizing.
Seriously, should you call him subtle or just talented? The dessert was probably planned from the beginning, but taking the hint when we all stopped in front of the rose garden earlier today, he displayed an incredible and timely awareness by just adding a few rose petals from that garden. This combination of sweet and sour was also exquisite. If it was just sweet, you'd just get used to it and bored halfway through. But if you reached the sour sauce at that point, you'd get a really vivid taste. And then, once you returned to the sweet sauce, all of the sourness in your mouth would be replaced with an enjoyable sweetness. I'm sure everyone else felt the same way.
Every time Gohda-san passed by one of the seats, someone praised the taste and his creation.
"How is it, Madam?"
"Splendid, as always. It is worthy of entertaining our guests."
"I am most grateful for your words. ...Madam, did you know? I have heard that rose hip has the ability to cure headaches. I thought that Madam especially would appreciate it, so I had it specially prepared."
"Is that so? Thank you."
"See, didn't I tell you, Natsuhi nee-san? Rose hip works on headaches."
"So it seems. At least it would be nice if that were the case."
"Haa-! Gohda-san, I love ya! Hey, later, why don't you tell me how they're treating you! If you've got any problems with it, just lift a finger and I'll give you whatever salary you want! Having your talent monopolized by this small island is sacrilege to humanity's cooking culture! Wouldn't you be willing to display your talent to all of the guests at my company?"
"Hahaha, Hideyoshi-san. Are you trying to recruit our Gohda? how troubling. We better start treating Gohda better or he'll get snatched away."
"*giggle* Yes, you really should. If you don't, he'll be lured away and you'll be stuck with three meals a day of Kumasawa-style mackerel cooking, won't you?"
"Hoh-hoh-ho, that's harsh. It seems someone's holding a grudge against me."
Kumasawa-san often claimed that mackerel had a precious nutritional value that could do things such as prevent aging and make people smarter. It seemed that while it couldn't stop the outward signs of aging, it helped prevent aging on the inside. Since she was still healthy enough to tell these kinds of jokes at her age, that benefit must be the real thing.
"Hoh-hoh-ho... In that case, if you'll excuse me... Prepare yourself for tonight's dinner! I'll be cooking plenty of mackerel dishes for you to eat, so look forward to it!"
"Wahahaha, we sure will. I want to get all dressed up for tonight's mackerel!"
"That sounds wonderful. I wonder if any delicious Japanese sake will be included."
"Really, is that so? How about some of our famous Rokkenjima mackerel liquor..."
Kumasawa-san, together with Shannon-chan, bowed and pushed the serving cart away. Amusingly, Gohda-san, who looked just as though his stock had been stolen from him, explained very seriously that tonight's dinner would actually be calf steak.
"Hoh-hoh-ho, I haven't done a~nything that requires thanks."
Kumasawa may have played dumb, but she had obviously understood and saved Shannon in the nick of time. Back when Battler had asked for the details of the dessert, Shannon had unfortunately hesitated. There may have been several ways to dodge the question, but all of them would have been tricky.
Shannon, who hesitated when hard pressed for a response, was always suffering because of this small weakness. If only Shannon, like Gohda, had a little of the craftiness needed to skillfully shake off a mistake, her days would be a little more comfortable. As far being able to flawlessly handle her work, this weakness was especially unfortunate. Naturally, those whose knew of Shannon's meek nature and her inability to gloss over a mistake and deceive people would understand this. Therefore, Kumasawa came to her aid without hesitation.
"I just heard from Genji-san that there was a change in the afternoon shifts. I believe Shannon-san was given a break until this evening. Hoh-hoh-ho, I'm jealous."
"Huh... ah, I'm sorry. I haven't checked the list of shifts yet."
"Ah, yes. I was thinking I might start cooking some mackerel in the oven. If you don't mind, I would be happy if you would help out a bit before your break."
"Ah, yes...! I would be delighted to help."
To Shannon, Kumasawa was like a mother among the servants.
BGM: Steady Pace
Maria insisted that she also wanted to drink the black tea, but was rejected by the old bastard, who told the children to go play outside.
"Battler-kun, why don't we all go for a walk outside?"
"It's alright if you just go to look at the roses. But keep a close eye on the weather. The sky's still clear, but the weather report kept talkin' about rain."
"Uu-! Maria wants the beach, wants the beach!!"
"Aw, isn't that great? Playing on a sandy beach isn't something that you get to do often, is it?"
"Really? Alright, let's all go to the sandy beach then!"
"Uu-! Let's go, let's go!"
"Maria, be careful not to get your clothes wet. Your shoes, too."
"Uu-! Won't get wet!"
"*giggle*, that obedience is so cute. Battler-kun, make sure you keep an eye out for Maria-chan, okay?"
"Great, leave it to me!"
"Haaah, isn't your obedience to Kyrie's request just as cute? ...Why don't you also listen to me obediently for a change?"
"Heh! Hell no! Let's go everyone, c'mon!"
The children flew out of the parlor. They were replaced by Genji, who pushed a serving cart in and prepared the black tea. The parlor was filled with a sublime aroma which entertained everyone while they waited to appease their thirst...
"That's true~. Jessica-chan really has been raised to be cute. hasn't she? This is also the fruit of your training, isn't it, Natsuhi nee-san?"
Natsuhi answered coldly. With that, the conversation halted, and the parlor became silent.
Possibly because he couldn't stand it anymore, Hideyoshi broke the silence with an exaggerated gesture.
"Still, they sure do grow fast. ...I've always thought of them as children, but they've been gettin' huge right before my eyes and, before I knew it, they've joined the group of adults. Battler-kun, for example, is beyond recognition!"
"His body has gotten much bigger, but he is still a child. Well, my husband is also still a child."
"I wonder where the border between child and adult is. I still don't feel as though I've grown up."
"Hmph, isn't that pitiful. That's not something the mother of a child should say."
"That's right. We're not children anymore. We are all adults. So I want to stop this sentimental talk and move on to a more intellectual discussion."
"We have all intended to have an intellectual discussion for some time now, haven't we? ...It seems that your sarcasm is poorly timed. Just as it used to be."
"...'Just as it used to be,' is it? My, my. I wish I could wrap those words up and send them to this room a few decades ago. Right, Rosa?"
Rosa smiled with an uncertain face. Whether she agreed or disagreed, she knew that she would earn the displeasure of her brother or her sister. It was a bit of worldly wisdom she had needed to learn as the youngest sibling.
BGM: At Death's Door
"Last year, his life expectancy was estimated at about three months. Which means that you could say that it's already minus nine months now, couldn't you? I guess this means that it could come at any time now."
"The family head is still in good health. Raising such an inappropriate topic while the sun is still bright...I can't help but doubt your true intentions, Rudolf-san."
"Still, Natsuhi-san. If we don't discuss this until somethin' happens, it'll be too late. He's still healthy now, so we must figure out something while we still have some time left over. It's the same as financial etiquette."
"It seems as though everyone is concerned about Father. ...Doctor Nanjo. Could we hear the details from you? It seems as though they are also hoping for that."
Nanjo, standing by the window and staring out at the rose garden, let out a single cough when he realized that he was being called.
"...Doctor Nanjo. ...How is Father's condition?"
"Well, first off... Because my estimate last year that he had only three months to live has not borne out, allow me to start with that revision."
"No need to explain. You're saying that measuring remaining life is only a prediction, not a promise, right?"
"...That is correct. Because of that, while I will accept everyone's repeated questions, I can by no means confirm when he will pass away. A human's life is supported by their body and their mind. If the body is weak, the situation becomes more dangerous, but if the mind is strong enough to compensate for that weakness, the lull in one's condition can be preserved."
"So you're saying that even if his body is weak, his mind is still firm and spirited."
"...Kyrie, sorry, but please stay quiet for a while."
"That is correct. Kinzo-san's body is being overwhelmed by the demon of ill health. Furthermore, to continue having a taste for that kind of strong liquor is very, very..."
"So drinking is reason why he's teetering on the edge. Is his long life also the liquor's fault? Sounds like Father, the heavy drinker."
"Well then, Doctor, I know you can't give anything more than a prediction... but what do you think about Father's chances of living until this day next year...?"
"Ah, Natsuhi-san, forgive her! Eva, couldn'try and choose your words a little more carefully, okay?"
"I'm sorry. I was just so concerned over Father's condition. *giggle*."
"Is that so? I hadn't realized."
"Doctor Nanjo, please tell us. For the sake of the beautiful family love of a daughter worried about her father's lifespan."
Krauss laughed sarcastically, and Eva, smiling sweetly, returned an identical chuckle.
"...You ask whether he will still be healthy next year, but as a doctor, it is very hard to say. Because while I do think this lull in his condition will continue for a while, if he suffers some kind of fit, there may be nothing we can do. Anyways, Rokkenjima is a solitary island. It is not as though an ambulance can quickly jump in to save him. Normally, I would want to have him hospitalized in a large hospital on the mainland, but..."
"Father stated that he does not want his noble research interrupted. It seems he holds a grudge over the way we tried to force him out last year. Apparently, he strongly suspects that he'll be shut away in some hospital if he goes outside. And that's how things are now."
"Has Doctor Nanjo been examining him?"
"Father trusts Doctor Nanjo. It seems he can be examined when in a good mood..."
"I can examine his condition, but if I try to recommend medicine or hospitalization, he refuses to listen. I've really only been able to look."
"It's true that there are people that hate doctors... Still, what a hassle!"
Nanjo sighed deeply. The purpose of an examination was to determine what medical treatment was appropriate. Receiving an examination and then not following the advice given made the whole thing pointless...
"I understand Doctor Nanjo's opinion. What do you think, Krauss nii-san?"
"...Hmph. To be perfectly honest, I have to disagree with Doctor Nanjo. I find it truly difficult think of Father as a person so sick that he has only three months to live. His yell is as healthy as ever, and I still get the chills at the thought of his fists raining down on me. Pushing the care of your father solely on the shoulders of the eldest sibling is far from fair."
"Hahhaha. In the next world, get born after me..."
"Alright, let's return to our discussion. In that case, according to the impartial and neutral doctor's opinion, it wouldn't be odd for him to go any time. Sorry, Aniki, but I'd rather trust the opinion of a specialist. With that, I believe the discussion of Father's fortune is no longer a premature topic."
"Father's personal funds probably reach as far as several ten billion yen, right? But, it's not as though all of that is neatly gathered as ready cash. It's not as simple as neatly cutting a birthday cake with a knife."
"...Aneki's metaphor is interesting, isn't it? That's right, sometimes strawberries or chocolates are placed on top of the cake, making it hard to cleanly divide it into equal parts. Taking that into consideration, I think it's important to first discuss how best to stick the knife in, don't you...?"
"I truly don't understand everyone. Even while the head is still alive, you're discussing the matter in loud voices as though he were already dead."
"Come now, don't you see how important this is? After all, when the time comes, the inheritance of his fortune must be carried out immediately, right? Moreover, the glorious Ushiromiya house's wealth is vast. Don't you understand that a careful discussion is necessary beforehand? Because there's a huge difference between this family's resources and your family's wealth."
"...How rude. The family I was born to has nothing to do with this."
As Natsuhi resentfully responded in a low voice, the already dark atmosphere grew even more hostile...
"Give it a rest, Eva... Natsuhi-san, forgive us! Pardon her rudeness."
Hideyoshi, tried to smooth things over by glancing at both with a forced smile, but it only resulted in making the hostility between Eva and Natsuhi even more intense...
After the doctor had exited and his footsteps had disappeared into the distance, Krauss recrossed his legs.
"In other words, what you all have to say is something like this. Father's remaining life is short. You want to quickly enter into a practical conference concerning the distribution of the inheritance... Why are you so eager, I wonder? Certainly, as you say, estimating and distributing the Ushiromiya family's wealth is no simple task. In that case, shouldn't we carefully and deliberately calculate? It seems to me that you are all impatient to split up the cake tonight. That's true, isn't it Rosa? Is something making you impatient?"
"...We are not impatient. However, a decision between the siblings is essential. It doesn't matter when, but if the day when Father's condition worsens is approaching, discussing the matter beforehand isn't what I would call impatience..."
Rosa shot a glance at Eva and Rudolf. As the youngest daughter in the family, being cross-examined by the eldest was harsh.
"...Oh? Is that your true opinion? I didn't expect that the most honest and pure-hearted of the siblings would say something like that. I wonder if those two told you to say that...?"
"Quit it, Aniki. Rosa is also our sibling. She has a fair right to Father's inheritance. It's obvious she would be interested, right? After all, Father will definitely die, and that's not something that'll happen in the distant future. On the contrary, Aniki, you are far too relaxed. It seems almost as though you would like nothing better than to turn the discussion away from the distribution of the inheritance."
"...What do you mean by that? Are you trying to accuse my husband of something?"
"C, calm down Natsuhi-san. Listen to what we have to say..."
"Nii-san, I hear these are very good times nowadays. That's right, on the one hand, since last year the rise of the yen has led to an unprecedented boom in prosperity. It seems that it's no longer a dream that the dollar will reach 100 yen. Also, the ruling party says that it will establish health resort maintenance law by next year. At this moment, resort development companies across Japan are running about trying to gather as much capital as they can."
"You sure are knowledgeable. Soon, Japan will see an unprecedented boom. Just like when Father revived the Ushiromiya family. Another case like the Korean war demands. The people of Japan have gotten into in a frenzy trying to realize vast economic growth and become the most prosperous people in the world, glorifying the spring of our society. Private spending has increased, and institutions that can profit from that can make easy money in this era. The people's needs are not three kinds of electrical appliances. Places to ski, to golf, public pools. Resort hotels and theme parks!"
"Krauss-san, your foresight isn't something to be trifled with. When I heard that several years earlier, I thought it was ridiculous. However, when I heard about the G5 nations' Plaza Accord, that changed. The yen became increasingly strong, and the price of land will soon skyrocket, I believe. The day that Japan becomes the economic center of the world isn't far off. You have a very forward looking view. At least there can be no debate about that."
"I feel the same as Hideyoshi-san. Aniki, you can read into the next decade of history. That keen sense surely came from Father. It's incredible... However, unlike Father, there have been cases where the timing of your predictions have been mistaken, haven't there?"
"Nii-san, believing that Japan will definitely face an economic boom, you have been planning resorts everywhere. And almost all of them continue to fail. While I'm sure that the era you predicted is arriving, it seems that you misread the timing of that boom."
"...You were too early. And then you hurriedly tried to sell everything off, and as a result opened the wound even further. If your nose was really so reliable and you predicted the coming of a boom, then there should be no reason for you to sell off your property. Is this proof that you don't trust your own ability?"
"...How rude! Are you trying to insult my husband?"
Natsuhi's forehead creased as she rose from the sofa. Eva, paying this no heed, stared at Krauss with a confident smile. Krauss, who also maintained his confident appearance, told Natsuhi to sit down.
"Please stop, Natsuhi. My little sister has always talked that way. ...Calm yourself a little. Your headache will get worse."
"Proof that you have no talent is also right here. After all, Nii-san, weren't you all excited about turning this island into a resort? Building a wonderful resort hotel, beautifully maintaining the garden. I'm just an amateur and don't pretend to understand, but you must have used a significant amount of money, right?"
"Then, what are you trying to say! My husband's business has nothing to do with you!"
"Actually, that's not true, Natsuhi-san. Rokkenjima is not Aniki's. It is Father's. Of course, the hotel that was constructed is Aniki's, right? If you like, you can charge us lodging fees tonight. Right, Rosa?"
"...Well, hmm. If what I have on hand will suffice."
"If I can make it into a resort, this island's financial worth will rise. It is true that expenses have piled up, but we can hope to have a large harvest in the future. When that happens, it should prove to be beneficial to all of you as well."
"I understand that. If the value of this island rises, that will increase our shares when we distribute the inheritance. Of course, I won't ask you to divide the island and the mansion into four equal parts. But that's only if the matter can be settled by calculating its financial worth."
"If you understand that much, what about my business makes you so dissatisfied?"
"We aren't dissatisfied, we're uneasy. In the first place, Aniki, when do you plan to open that hotel? Left this way, you won't get anything out of it except our grubby hand prints, right?"
"That's right. It's an important tool for your business, isn't it? Surely you can't keep it locked up until the moment you open it for business, right? Buildings go bad if you don't use them and air them out every once in a while. Even so, it's a bit extravagant for a guesthouse that we only use once a year. Right, Rosa?"
"...That's right. If it is that wonderful, I'm sure that it will become quite popular once you open it."
"Oh...The hotel that you mentioned earlier is actually the guesthouse, isn't it..."
"It's splendid. Just as Rosa said, if you were to open it, I'm sure it would become popular."
"Nii-san, it's just like all of your enterprises. Your attention and planning are both fabulous. Then, it always becomes unable to maintain itself partway, and ends without being able to collect any profit."
"It was brilliant of Aniki to spot that this island, when used only as a place to live, was a waste. I think that turning it into a resort which could use things like marine sports, fishing, or honeymoons to attract customers was a pretty good plan. If I were the oldest son, I'm sure I would be puzzling over what kind of profit I could get out of this island."
"But, two full years have passed since you finished building, right? After two years, you still haven't had the opportunity to open it? Where is the managing company you entrusted it to?"
"...Impertinence! That is not my husband's fault! There has just been some trouble with the company that my husband contracted with. No matter how you look at it, we are victims here!"
"And yet... This company that Krauss-san hired... I haven't heard many good rumors about it."
"Just spit it out. Did you think that rumors about nonpayment, embezzlement, and projects that disintegrated mid-way wouldn't reach my ears? I've been collecting evidence."
"I don't know what kind of evidence you found, but it's all baseless! As new members in the sightseeing business, it is necessary to lay the groundwork with various people. It is also important to discuss how trustworthy the other party is. This is nothing more than taking some time to meet that end!"
"...I'll accept that, in my rashness, the hotel was completed too early. However, we are not paying maintenance costs. It's a slow and vital strategic arrangement."
"Liar. I'll bet you want to sell it but can't. There's no reason for anyone to buy such an extravagant hotel on an isolated island without any established sightseeing routes. What happened to the financing that you collected for this project?"
"Even if you aren't incurring maintenance costs, the borrowed money that you can't return is steadily swelling. Sorry, Krauss nii-san. I investigated the development plan for this island a little. Honestly, I have also heard nothing good."
"Hideyoshi-san. I'm sure that only looking at the current financial condition could lead you to that impression. However, that is a prior investment. I have no choice but to admit that my prediction was mistaken, and that up until now, several liabilities have been created."
"However, the times have finally caught up with me. I will soon regain everything that I have lost up to this point. No, actually, all of the investments I have made until now will finally return to my possession. That's right, just like throwing away a small fry which then becomes a salmon, they will come back even bigger than before."
"I'll accept that. Starting soon, the resort business will probably see an unprecedented boom... Whether it'll be enough to bury all of your liabilities is... However, Krauss nii-san. After all your miserable and repeated failures in the past, who in the world would supply you with funds? It would have to be a massive amount of funds. Enough funds to cover your massive debt, right?"
"...What are you trying to say, Hideyoshi-san?"
"Ahh, Natsuhi-san, please don't get angry! We also investigated that. We investigated to see if anyone loaned Krauss nii-san, who has continued to lose so much, a large enough investment to support him recently."
"...And the result, there is none. There is no backer. Turning things around during a time of weakness is the iron rule of the money roulette. Aniki's was a well known time of weakness in this neighborhood. Surely this era seems set to welcome an economic boom, but when we asked who, with respect to Aniki's failures, would find him worthy of funding, there was no one."
"Then what...? Where did you raise that money from? ...That's the question, now."
"...Ho. Isn't this an interesting story. And?"
"D, dear! How long do you plan to ignore these abusive remarks!!"
"Sit down, Natsuhi-san. Let me say it directly. Aniki has been diverting Father's private funds for his own business. There is almost no doubt. If we made some mistake, please, feel free to explain it for us."
"They aren't abusive, they're right on the mark, aren't they? I'm sure he'd like to make his business succeed so that he can recover his losses, but his debt is actually growing! He's just trying to cover up the failure of one gamble by making an even bigger one. If he had funds close at hand, it's only logical that he'd try to use them! Let me say it clearly. Nii-san, what you are doing is embezzlement. You're betraying our father. You know that we'll the the courts settle it after this is all over, right? Do you think that kind of person has any right to assume the position as successor to the Ushiromiya head house?"
"Y-, you can't say that... s, saying that he's betraying the head isn't something that can be easily overlooked!! You have no right to straddle the threshold of the glorious Ushiromiya family!! Leave this place immediately!! All right?! Get out!!"
Natsuhi, who had already reached the limits of her anger, shouted at Eva in a rage. She then pointed alternately at Eva and the hallway, indicating that she should leave.
Eva took out a folding fan and fanned herself with it, glaring maliciously at Natsuhi as though silently daring her to repeat what she'd said. However, her mouth was still smiling, curved in the shape of a crescent moon. In that unpleasant silence, Rosa gulped.
"I'm speaking to the extremely impolite sister of my husband!! As the person in charge of the main family's kitchen, I cannot overlook any more of this!!"
"In charge of the kitchen? Huhuhu, hahahaha, ahhahahahaha!! Shut up, you maid servant!"
Eva folded the fan with a snap and rose powerfully. Compared to the elegance and playful behavior she had shown until just now, she was unimaginably aggressive.
"How foolish. Bow down!! Before Eva of the Ushiromiya family!
There were a hundred ways Natsuhi wanted to respond. However, her anger and sorrow crushed her throat, and not one of them managed to make it to her mouth. The anger which had lost any place to go became a single hot tear which slowly dripped down...
"Whaaat? If you have something to say, please, say it now. Come on."
Eva faced her with a provocative gaze. However, Natsuhi's fist was shaking; she trembled all over, unable to do anything...
Krauss quietly broke that powder-keg tension.
"D, dear, don't you understand what they're saying about you?! These people are baselessly calling you a traitor to Father!! They are making light of the fact that we protect the glory of the Ushiromiya family and in order to receive that glory from Father, we have been purely spending our days expending every effort. They trample all of that underfoot; what a painful rambling!!! You are you. Why don't you talk back! Since you won't talk back, I have, but for a while you have been relying completely on me!! Are you telling me to go cool my head and come back?! It's a-lways me!!"
"Even though I have always seriously considered this family's affairs, you've...!! WhaaaAAaaAaaaa, whaaaaaAAAAAAA!!!"
Natsuhi was already unable to hide her tears. She flew from the room in that state. After that, all that remained was an somewhat embarrassed mood about the parlor...
When the sound of footsteps grew distant and silence returned, Krauss shrugged his shoulders slightly.
"...I apologize for my wife. She has always been bad at controlling her emotions. It's hard even for me right now."
"If she's been managed like that, it must worry Nii-san to no end, huh? *giggle*giggle*...!"
Natsuhi flew into her room and bent over the bed, lamenting... Those heartwrenching sobs reached Kumasawa in the hallway...
There is a deep enmity between her and and Eva-sama. Explaining their relationship would be very tiresome for a woman such as myself...
The Ushiromiya family held blood in high regard, but if someone married outside the family, they were normally removed from the family hierarchy. Thus, under normal circumstances, Eva-sama should have been removed when she married Hideyoshi-sama.
However... this was not anyone's fault. Madam definitely bore no guilt. There's no way to say it other than calling it a whim of god. Krauss-sama and Natsuhi-sama were not blessed with children for some time.
Anyways, this was the male dominant Ushiromiya family. A wife was just a tool to create a heir. If that wife could not fulfill her only duty, she would not be treated as a human. It is painful to remember how much the Master tortured Madam during that time...
During that time, Eva-sama and Hideyoshi-sama's wedding was discussed. Eva-sama was sly. Taking advantage of Madam's inability to become pregnant, she gained the favor of the Master. She inspired him to allow her to marry and give birth to a successor herself, making sure to avoid transferring her name out of the Ushiromiya register. There was a vast difference in the Ushiromiya hierarchy between Madam, who married into the Ushiromiya family and was treated like an outsider, and Eva-sama, who was related to the family by blood and whose husband took on the Ushiromiya name. And beyond that, Eva-sama was the first to give birth to a boy...
As for how much weaker Madam's position was compared to Eva-sama, I believe you could see for yourself... I'm sure Madam is tormented by the thought that if only she had gotten pregnant earlier, the Master wouldn't have accepted Eva-sama's request to keep her last name after marriage, and Eva-sama wouldn't have been permitted to act as arrogantly as she had today... However, that was not Madam's fault... All of the blame lies with god's whims and the stork that delivered Jessica late...
Even so, Madam won't allow herself to see things this way... She probably can't help but cry bitter tears at her inability to carry out the duties expected of a wife...