Part 108: The Future 12 Years Later II
As the violent sound drew a helix, it rushed up at me from below, threatening to swallow me up. Of course, even if I fight, there's no way I'll be able to win. And yet, running into the building would be like jumping into a dead end of my own accord. My enemies will increase in number with time. If I don't do something here and now, I won't have any more chances to escape.
Then, three muscular black-suited men came into view below me. 1, 2, 3. Three people. In other words, everyone who had gotten out of the car. If there had been just one of them, I might've been able to dropkick them or something and smash them in the head, which might work out. But it really would be impossible with three of them.
Wait, three...? If there's just three, I should be able to make it... I can do it...!
"What?! Y-You idiot, stop!! Look ooooooout!! Waaaaaaaaahhh...!!"
"01 calling 12, is the package secure, we received a response. What happened?! Respond!"
"...Sh-She's crazy... Damn it..."
...Nnnggg... Owow... See, that worked out perfectly, didn't it? There was just the three of them, after all.
BGM: Like the Gale
It's a good thing the car they came in was right beneath me. Even if it wasn't as pleasant as a trampoline, it broke my fall... a little gently, a little roughly.
The roof of the car broke my fall, leaving a massive dent around my body. Car roofs are surprisingly delicate. I don't think it's because of my weight.
Apparently, the three people on the stairs hadn't planned on me jumping down. It seemed they now realized that they'd been outwitted, and they were rushing down the stairs. I've gotta run and escape while I have the chance. I moved my body, making clunking sounds on the car roof.
But I'd been naive. Of course they wouldn't all rush up the stairs without leaving one person behind. There was one black-suited man left in the driver's seat of the car that had broken my fall. He stuck his head out the window, and when he realized what had fallen on him, he jumped out. In a rush, I jumped off the roof, but the black-suited man's reaction was really fast. Either there was a massive reward for capturing me, or there'd be some harsh punishment in store for them if they let me get away.
"15, secured, secured...!"
"Owowowow...!! Ack, don't touch me like that, let go!!"
I was mercilessly held down against the asphalt. I was being crushed face-down, covered and pressed upon from above. It was a hold without a trace of elegance, but it was extremely practical and left me no room for resistance. I tried to push back with both hands, searching for a way to resist, but I was being pushed down solidly, and I couldn't even tear myself off the asphalt.
Then another car came, squealing its tires as it slid to a sudden stop. Is it all over now?
The man that had been crushing me let out a sharp cry. He was yelling straight into my ear, making my left ear ring. What in the world?!
Along with the black-suit guy, I fell with a *thunk*. After landing face up, the first thing I saw...was an arm stuck out right in front of my eyes.
"...Amakusa...? What are you doing here...?"
Amakusa grabbed my arm, easily pulled me up, spinning me around with himself as the center of gravity. Just when I thought it was a little like a dance, he flung me through the open door into the driver's seat. I climbed over the hand brake and slid into the passenger's seat. Pushing me in, Amakusa also got into the driver's seat. Since we suddenly accelerated while I was still on all fours, I had to kick and struggle around on the chair for a while, like a turtle that's been flipped over...
Amakusa checked the rear-view mirror for cars in pursuit, but he flew into the artery of the big city without lowering his speed in the slightest. We sewed our way between cars one after another. Just like a chase scene in some action movie. I was shaken by this horrible driving and had trouble sitting back down.
"I'm fine. Humans are surprisingly durable. Next time I try to a escape a downward moving elevator, I'll jump out a window instead."
"Hyahhahaha, I guess air dives are a hobby of yours, lady. Still, I'd recommend you grab a parachute next time."
"Sure, if I remember to do it after leaping."
He smacked the steering wheel, guffawing. Need an explanation for this flippantly-talking man?
He was originally one of Aunt Eva's guards. Didn't she start to hate him because he chatted too much? He was much younger than the rest of the guards, but contrary to his outward flippancy, he'd hopped from the First Airborne of the JSDF to the French Foreign Legion, placing himself in overseas private military companies and high-class security companies one after another, making for a pretty incredible and unique career.
...But I heard he deserted both the JSDF and the French Foreign Legion, and that he'll be arrested if he enters France again. Both of these flippant episodes were very typical of him. The guards were sternly told not to chat with me unnecessarily, but he came and took a pass at me, didn't he? Aunt Eva was apparently particularly put off by that... and had supposedly dismissed him shortly before she died.
"I was coaching some people at Blackwater. When I came back to the country during my time off, President Okonogi offered me a high wage."
"...So, you deserted again? I wonder how a man like that can be useful for anything."
"Doesn't count as desertion as long as I come back by next week. I talked with him yesterday. I was told that some troublesome people might come to call on you, lady."
"Sorry that turned out to be exactly right."
"My name probably came up since I know you, and I've got lots of crazy experience. Thanks to you, it looks I'm in for a happy vacation plus some pocket money."
"...So, Okonogi-san employed you as my guard?"
"He probably wants to buy some gratitude from you, lady. After I got fired, I was indebted to President Okonogi in various ways. He's got some dirt on me here and there, and now I can't say no to him. Hyahha!"
"...Seems that getting indebted to Okonogi-san can be pretty costly later on. So, where are you planning on taking me?"
"Anywhere. I'm employed until the weekend. Anything after that'll cost you extra."
"How much per day?"
"I'll take 50 thousand. Plus expenses."
"If you stop cracking jokes, I'll double it. The period of employment isn't fixed yet. It might take several weeks."
"...That'll be tough. I'll have to call my boss to get an extension on my vacation."
"...Oh, is this about Rokkenjima?"
"Exactly. What happened on that island 12 years ago? I want to investigate it with my own hands to my satisfaction."
"Do you really expect to find anything new investigating something that old...?"
"True. But this is a journey for my own self-satisfaction. Once that's over, I'll just throw my hands up and go over to the Sumadera family. Didn't Aunt Kasumi say something about how she wanted to serve me some matcha? Maybe she'll serve me tea as I kneel on sharp wooden blocks, clutching stones or something."
"Damn that sounds freaky, hyahhahahaha...!"
"...I see, thank you. What a shame, Okonogi. Shall I take this as your answer...?"
"Letting her get away was your blunder. It has nothing to do with me."
"...I do wish to prepare some matcha for you as well in the near future. The next time you're in Kyoto, please stop by. ...I'm going."
"Oh, are you leaving already? I could offer you some chazuke first."
With her back still facing Okonogi, she laughed softly, but with an increasingly shrill and hateful tone, using that as a substitute for a sharp parting remark. Just as she stopped laughing, her features suddenly changed to look like a demon's, but because her back was facing him, Okonogi couldn't see that expression.
Okonogi watched her go, laughing cooly. His secretary whispered over his shoulder.
"...Are you sure about this? Milady Ange is our company's primary stockholder. If the Sumadera family becomes her guardian..."
"...Still, it looks like that guy managed it pretty well. All that's left is to let Ange-chan do as she pleases. I'm counting on you, Amakusa."
"...Hmm, yes. Shall we have them search for our runaway daughter? They are getting paid with our taxes, so the police must be of some use every once in a while. Hohohoho... When I left the mansion, I boldly told mother to leave it to me, didn't I? Do you intend to embarrass me further...? It looks like it might be better for me to serve some matcha for everyone at once, doesn't it? Our underground tea room is cramped, so you'll have to wait in line..."
"N-No... We will search with everything we have."
"...Ah, she really is a cute kid, just like Nee-san. Especially that way she freewheels and does as she pleases. Ah, now I can't see anything but Nee-san. Ah, I'm truly looking forward to it. If only I could invite Nee-san's daughter to my tea room, right...? Hohohohoho...!!"
"You're joking. He's my client. If he'd sold you out, he wouldn't have hired me, right...?"
"...I guess that's true."
"...Ah, so that's why you got off the elevator at the third floor."
"Him having a car waiting in the underground parking lot was just too convenient. I figured Okonogi-san sold me out. Though I guess by now, it's impossible to prove whether there was an ambush set up in the parking lot or not."
BGM: Moonlit Night
"Huh...? He was talking about you, Amakusa...?"
"I freaked when the elevator came and was empty. I wonder what would've happened by now if I hadn't been listening in on their radio."
"...So what's going on? If I'd obediently believed Okonogi-san and gone to the parking lot, there would've been no need for me to do that jump off the third floor...?"
"Pretty much, yeah. Well, it turned out okay in the end."
...What the hell. If I hadn't suspected President Okonogi, I could've easily escaped without getting caught in a tough spot.
No, since paranoia told me that it was better to assume that he'd sold me out, I supposed and concluded that 'He sold me out'. Because of my inability to believe in him, regardless of his truth, my truth became 'He sold me out'...
I thought back on President Okonogi's words. Can you really call truth without certainty truth...? Truth can change completely depending on whether you have love or not. In the end, perhaps truth itself doesn't exist. There are as many interpreted truths as there are people who speak of the truth. If I can't accept something that fluid as truth, where does the truth that I really want to find exist? And is it something I'll be able to see with my eyes?
...Even if someone sticks the truth right there in front of me and says it's the truth, I might not be able to 'see' it...
"You told me something. You commanded me to search for the truth of 12 years ago. But there's something I'm not getting."
"...What is truth? There are as many truths as there are people. There are as many interpretations as there are people. And those can be twisted by opinions and changed indefinitely. Is truth really that unfixed and vague?"
"That's right. Truth is indeterminate. It can be like a particle, or like a wave, and it can hold conflicting forms at the same time. You are free to believe that the cat in the box is alive or dead. But the truth is very delicate. It can change its appearance just by being observed."
"You're talking about stuff like Schrodinger's cat box? Nonsense. If you open the box, you learn the truth. Discussion about what happens before you open it is just an armchair theory."
"That's right. And yet, in order to deny that abstract theory, you need to open the box. It is impossible to negate any idea about the contents of a box that cannot be opened. This is what truth is."
"...As long as truth isn't denied, it keeps its form."
"That's right. As long as truth isn't observed, it keeps its form."
"In other words, if it isn't exposed, any reckless statement can suffice as truth."
"Yes. Even if they contradict each other, endless ideas can exist as truth at the same time without being negated."
"...So even something as screwed up as my family being captured by the Rokkenjima witch and shut up 12 years ago for all eternity... can exist as truth as long as we don't know what happened 12 years ago..."
"This witch called Beatrice... forcibly made room for 'Endless' imaginings in the Rokkenjima of 12 years ago, enveloping all of it inside a cat box. Everything inside the unopenable box is truth."
"...That's assuming no one opens it up. I just have to wrench it open. But that box was closed up 12 years ago, and I don't even know where it is. Even if I visit Rokkenjima, just what can I learn about what happened 12 years ago on that desolated island?"
"Who knows? I wonder what you could learn. This is something that can only be done by the person who is able to walk around freely in the world of 1998, 12 years in the future: the final witch, ANGE Beatrice."
"Beatrice's game board lasts two days, from October 4, 1986 to the 5th. In other words, you're a piece who can move freely outside her game board. And even Beatrice cannot influence this future that lies outside the game board."
"...If you say it like that, it sounds like I'm a pretty overpowered piece."
"The future of 12 years later in which you are placed certainly is distant. However, the further a piece is placed in the future, the stronger power it holds. I told you, didn't I? The truth changes its appearance when it is observed."
"Come to think of it, I heard something like that once. Even if one day, all of a sudden, a star in the constellation Centaurus were to explode, the light from that explosion would have to cross 4.4 light years, so it would take it four and a half years to reach the Earth."
"That's right. In other words, even if the sun in Centaurus has already died, people on Earth won't be able to perceive that fact for four and a half years. Because no method of perception exists that is faster than the speed of light."
When we learn that the sun in Centaurus has exploded... We Earth people will paint over our history of four and a half years ago with a new truth. We will revise history with a new fact: that it exploded four and a half years ago. However, for the four and a half year period until we learn that, despite the fact that it has already died, the mistaken truth that the sun of Centaurus still exists will be able to exist as truth.
"...That's right. By itself, the Rokkenjima accident gave rise to nothing but suspicion of a conspiracy involving Aunt Eva and the Ushiromiya family assets. But later on, it was dramatized and linked to the occult, and the conspiracy was painted over by the Legend of the Witch."
Even though it was clambered over as a conspiracy at the time of the crime, later on, strange occult theories, which claimed that it was the work of the witch, ran rampant and began to paint over the truth of October 5, 1986... The conspiracy theories will probably be forgotten over time. And only the more bizarre, impressive witch theory will continue to remain as superstition, eventually covering up the conspiracies.
"That's right. The false truth that exists before the light from an exploding star reaches Earth is almost like the conspiracy theory, which is a human theory. The wine bottle with a letter in it that drifted ashore several years later, the 'message bottle', painted over that theory and made things return to the occult theory, which is a witch's theory. That's right. A witch didn't exist during 1986. The witch took control of Rokkenjima because she was 'observed' several years later by us humans of the future, thanks to that message bottle...!"
"...A small revision is necessary. The witch could have existed even during 1986. As one of many endless possibilities that can exist."
"Certainly. She'd disappear if she were observed, so she curls up inside the cat box. That's what makes the message bottle so nasty."
"...The witch tried to get out of the box. She made it so that she'd be observed, weeding out possibilities that conflicted with the witch theory. In other words, to make it impossible to negate her, she negated all possibilities other than the witch theory."
"...What the hell. So in other words, Beatrice satisfied the Devil's Proof with a frontal attack. And, that was part of the witch's plan from the beginning."
"The message bottle is information observed in the future after 1986. It cannot be observed by Beatrice or Battler. It can only be observed by ANGE Beatrice."
"...I really didn't want to investigate the message bottle. After all, reading that would be like listening to the witch's say. I thought the witch theory was just a crazy fantasy, so I thought of it as nothing more than a waste of time."
"...But Okonogi-san told me. You can't see things in three dimensions with only one eye."
"You mean that while looking at it from the viewpoint of denying witches, you must also look at it from the viewpoint of accepting witches? That's a correct way of thinking. The number of viewpoints is like a denominator. If you have one viewpoint, the mystery in the numerator doesn't decrease in the slightest. However, the more your number of viewpoints increases, the more the mystery begins to be divided."
"I understand. There was a message bottle that washed up on a neighboring island several years after the crime. That passed into the hands of a dilettante. I made an appointment with him, just in case."
...I was able to hear Aunt Eva's say from Okonogi-san.