Part 11: Legend of the Gold
October 4th, 1986, 10:00 PM
Maria was repeatedly barraged with questions by aunt Rosa and the other parents and became increasingly ill-tempered when they refused to believe her. If I tried to raise my voice in this kind of situation, I would just be ignored.
Our parents were all stirred up, firing back and forth about the distribution of the assets, and completely forgetting that we children were even there. Even though I'd already figured that they had been talking like this in the shadows, I hadn't thought they would be so blunt. It gave all of us kids a considerable shock. From what we could overhear, all of the parents wanted more money as soon as possible.
Back and forth about Grandfather's inheritance. Back and forth about the distribution of the gold if it was found. About advance payments and cash. It was so despicable, I couldn't bear to watch, even though one of them was my father.
It looked like Jessica felt the same way. Since no one particularly needed us, we left our seats and went to hang out somewhere apart from the parents.
"Well I'm already completely disillusioned with that old bastard. There's no way I could think any worse of him. Ihihi!"
"Th, that's exactly the same as me! However... that freakin' shocked me. Shocked me to the bottom of my heart..."
Jessica looked down at the floor, irritated. She was always talking about how bad her parents were, but maybe she hadn't really felt that way deep inside. I could realize that from the depths of Jessica's shock.
"...You are all minors and were brought up by your parents, so you might not understand, but getting money is neither a simple nor a pretty thing. Since you are minors now, I won't try to force you to understand... But still, I want you to realize that your parents are just doing their best in their own way."
"...Oh great, George-aniki's gotten all mature."
"I know that George nii-san has become a full-fledged member of society and is working hard, but does that mean that once you start talking about money and assets, you turn into an shameless, greedy vulture...?"
"...If you're talking about me, no, I wouldn't want to do that. However, when your family and your employees, your subordinates and their families are all counting on you, there are some times when you must fight."
"...I hate that kind of fight. That back and forth about Grandfather's inheritance, it just makes me wanna puke."
Jessica pretended to spit violently. That harsh reaction made the depths of her pain very clear.
"...Let's stop talking about this. All of this about Grandfather's hidden gold, about property and inheritance is our parents' problem, not ours."
"I agree. At the very least, I think that being considerate and staying out of the parents' way when they're talking is the duty of their children."
"...Heh... Sounds pretty boring..."
It looked like the shock that Jessica had received was even bigger than I had thought. This girl, she was always talking badly about her parents, but it looked like she hadn't changed at all on the inside since long ago. Even now, she was still a pure-hearted and delicate person who couldn't doubt others. I'm sure she respected her parents as much as anyone else did... And then her parents started raging about, going 'Money money inheritance inheritance, my money!' right in front of all of the other parents and the children. It was no surprise that the shock of hearing that was so big...
"...Jessica-chan. Please don't start hating your mother and father. I won't ask you to understand them, but at least don't hate them."
"I get it, just leave me alone a bit...!!"
Six years ago, I would have further taunted the dejected Jessica... I guess I really have grown over six years. I realized that it would be better to leave Jessica as she was right now...
Jessica suddenly looked away sulkily and left the parlor. She probably wanted to be left alone for now. I could do nothing but wordlessly watch her back as she left...
Maria, who truly looked up to witches, had expected that coming in direct contact with Beatrice and receiving the letter as proof would be an event that would surprise everyone and make them happy. However, the adults had doubted its authenticity, and without swallowing Maria's story, had thoroughly bombarded her with questions. It was hard for me to imagine how much that must have hurt Maria.
I couldn't speak to Maria or Jessica. In the end, George-aniki and I just abandoned ourselves to the sound of the falling rain in the dark night...
"I wonder what's happening with that typhoon. Maybe there's some news."
George-aniki started walking over to the corner of the parlor where the television was. He hadn't called me over, and I really couldn't have cared less where the typhoon was on the sea now. So without going over to the television, I loitered around the window.
"...That stomachache of a discussion could continue all night. It will get nasty."
"Well then, please enjoy playing vultures to Grandfather's property as much as you'd like. It's disgusting."
"I'll agree with you on that. If I could just slip away like you, I would do it. Unfortunately, I can't. Even if I'm not allowed to speak. My partner needs me, right?"
Kyrie-san took a deep breath, smiling bitterly. That's right. They probably wouldn't let Kyrie-san, who married into the family, speak. Still, as Dad's partner, she had no choice but to stay by his side and support him. She must have had to bear the full brunt of this mental pressure, much more than I did.
I wasn't going to apologize, but, realizing that I had spoken too harshly, I cut the sarcasm for the time being...
"So how does it look? Are they still stuck on the topic of the mysterious witch, Beatrice?"
"...More or less. Those four siblings are always piling up secret agreements when they come together to discuss the distribution of Grandfather's inheritance after his death. They're saying that some unknown fifth person has appeared and is trying to make things even more complicated, and there's no way that'll make for a peaceful conversation. Just when you think they're snarling at each other, they'll set up a common front. Natsuhi nee-san's not the only one getting headaches."
On the one hand, they all want a larger portion than the other siblings, so they are all rivals, but on the other hand, they don't want one yen to be snatched up by anyone other than the siblings, so they are also all allies. I haven't been told the details, but they argue on and on about their ceasefire agreement and rules to prevent anyone from getting ahead, under which their portions are protected, and which can, in the worst case scenario, even become grounds for legal action. That they would go this far to preserve their shares was more than shocking...
"So, basically, Beatrice is like an assassin sent by Grandfather. He probably wanted to scare the hell out of his children for just talking about the distribution of the inheritance without him. Ihihi!"
"Well, obviously I don't think she's a witch riding around on a broom... But she was surely a mysterious person who rated being called a witch."
"If only Maria-chan would go into more detail about that... Even though she's just a little girl, everyone has been just chewing her up over this. They really scared her, and some things that they might have asked now can't be asked. I wonder if those people have ever even read 'The North Wind and the Sun'."
"What is for certain is that Maria received a letter from a person who took the name Beatrice. Entrusting Maria with a letter and hiding away even now, when she could have just appeared and talked to us directly... she sure is shy for a mystery person. Hahahahaha..."
"...Hey, Battler-kun. Do you think that someone called Beatrice actually exists?"
"Who knows? Doesn't it really seem like a false name? Like she's Grandfather's representative, so she was permitted to take the name of the witch from his delusions?"
"Do I think that a 19th person exists, you say... What exactly do you mean?"
"Just what I said. It looks like the person who lent Maria that umbrella was not one of us 18. Therefore, isn't it valid to think that a 19th person exists, and that this was the person who lent Maria the umbrella?"
"...Well... that does make sense."
"Then, where exactly is this person now? At the very least, she must have been on this island when it started raining. And since that time, the weather has become progressively worse, so taking a boat out would be pretty much impossible. In that case, that person must still be on the island hiding from the rain somewhere... And without being spotted by any of us?"
"...Certainly, all of us have been randomly prowling around all over the mansion and the guesthouse, but no one has bumped into a 19th person... Even so, this island is huge. There might be other places to hide from the rain outside the mansion and the guesthouse."
"If Beatrice was really her name, this person would definitely be the most honored of guests. The most honored of confidants, trusted by Grandfather. There's no way that Grandfather wouldn't give that kind of person a warm reception. She would surely have been ushered into the mansion. However, we haven't seen anyone."
"Wait a second, isn't this line of reasoning a little too hasty? Yes, no one spotted them, but that doesn't mean that you can deny the possibility that a 19th person exists, right?"
"Maybe, for some reason, they landed on the island stealthily and have been hiding ever since. It's what they call the Devil's Proof. It's easy to prove that something exists. If this Beatrice appears in front of us all and says hi, then everything is resolved. However, it's impossible to prove that there is no 19th person."
"...Yes. Battler-kun, your way of reasoning isn't bad. In the current situation, there's not enough information to either accept that a 19th person exists or deny it. But if you turn the chessboard over and think of it that way, we can be nearly sure that the existence of a 19th person is impossible."
To this day, I don't know why the translators used 'turn over' and not 'turn around'.
When you got stuck trying to find a move in chess or Shogi, by turning the board over and looking at everything from your opponent's standpoint, you could often see a strategy that would give you the upper hand. It meant turning things around and putting yourself in your opponent's shoes.
"...You see? Let's say that that a 19th person called Beatrice actually exists. That person must have managed, without being seen by anyone, to stealthily arrive on this island and remain hidden since then. Maybe they had some reason, okay? In that case, why did they go to all of the trouble of appearing before Maria and handing her the letter?"
It really was a contradiction. If they had some reason for hiding themselves, then they should have stayed hidden the whole time. But even so, they had appeared openly in front of Maria.
"Then... wait, Maria even said it. Didn't she say that she had been made a messenger? Since Maria was the youngest and looked the most innocent..."
"Why would they need a messenger? If they just wanted a letter delivered to the family conference, they could have mailed it. If they mailed it to each of the four siblings, they would be unable to ignore it. There was no need for them to carry it themselves and secretly hand it over."
"...That really... does sound pretty weird."
"In the first place, if Beatrice existed, and she wanted to make her presence known to everyone, then she could have just openly presented herself to all of us. Despite that, she chose the vague method of appearing through a little girl called Maria-chan, and only gave us an indistinct impression of who she was. Contradiction. Let's go a little deeper, shall we?"
"She appeared in front of Maria, trying to give us the impression that a 19th person existed, and yet, she still hasn't appeared before us and is hiding somewhere at this very moment. These are contradictions. By keeping these in mind, you turn the chessboard over."
"...If this person wanted to hide, then they wouldn't have made their presence known. And if they wanted to show themselves, they wouldn't have used the roundabout approach of entrusting someone with a letter... Which means...?"
"It's simple. Beatrice is one of the 18 people. Which means that they want to create the illusion that there is someone outside of the 18 people. The 19th person was revealed so spectacularly. The only person who could profit from this would not be some 19th person in hiding. It would be one of the original 18 people. Of course, this reasoning is full of holes. If you turn over even a few of its premises, it will simply fall apart. But I think it is almost certainly correct."
This quickly became an pretty creepy topic. Someone had lent Maria the umbrella and handed her the letter. This couldn't have been one of the 18. And yet, Beatrice was hidden amongst those 18. What was that person planning, hiding their true form and pretending to be Beatrice...?
"I had suspected that it might have been Maria-chan playacting, but the contents of the message were extremely complicated, so it's hard to think that Maria-chan prepared it herself. However, I can't deny the possibility that Maria-chan is working together with someone."
"W, wait, a sec... Maria's a nine year old kid, right?! What could she possibly be planning, and with who?! And what about her serious, too honest, and obedient character?!"
"Yes, I also understand what kind of a person Maria-chan is... But I think that's exactly why it's possible. That girl's a dreamer who can't help but look up to and blindly accept the existence of witches. So if a person appeared in front of her and said they were the witch Beatrice, Maria-chan would be so happy that she would just swallow it up, I think."
"...So you're saying that if someone disguised themselves by wearing that fancy dress from the portrait, tricking Maria wouldn't be that hard?"
"Of course, with that reasoning, all of us women would become the primary suspects. Anyways, did Maria-chan encounter someone? Learning the details of that question would be the best key to solving this riddle."
"...But this key is being obstinately closed up inside her heart. Everyone denied the existence of the witch without listening to her, and barraged her too much with questions about who Beatrice actually was. Maria-chan probably won't open her heart to the adults now."
"...Uu-... Uu-... No one believes Maria met with Beatrice! ...Uu-... Uu-... Even though I showed them the letter Beatrice gave, they still don't believe...! ...Uu-... u, u... hic... hic!"
"Battler-kun, I think that a kid like you would be better at cheering her up than an adult like me. After she's feeling better, try asking... I know you don't care about all this back and forth on the distribution of the inheritance, but don't you think this rich western mansion mystery situation is exciting? Who in the world is this person who gave Maria-chan the letter? It makes your intellectual curiosity ache."
"Even though it's connected to that boring money problem, it's pretty exciting and a really tough problem... Adults can be pretty horrible."
I shrugged, surprised... But she had noticed it. She had noticed the dejection I had felt because I had overheard our parents' turbulent discussion, and was probably trying to turn my mood around. She had at least managed make me feel good enough to hurl abuse.
She wasn't my real mother, so I never felt like calling her Mom... But it did make me think 'she's a real adult'.
BGM: Moonlit Night
"Hehehe, I'm sure everything was all peaceful and harmonious."
Kyrie-san poked the weak spot under my arm with her elbow.
"...We decided to take a break to cool our heads a little. It looks like it'll last all night. Makes me want to cry."
His way of talking hadn't changed, but he couldn't completely hide his fatigue. I couldn't say I was sympathetic, but he looked pitiful compared to his normal, energetic self.
"Still, that rain's just awful. I really don't want to go back to the guesthouse. It looks like Natsuhi nee-san made preparations for us to spend the night here in the mansion. What'll we do?"
"...We don't need to think of it until you're done, right? If you run out of enough energy to head back to our room, then we can let them take care of us."
"That's right. We can think about it later. What about you, Battler?"
"If I stayed, I'd just get in the way. I'll be nice and go back over there."
"...Is that so? Will you go back soon?"
"I dunno. It'd be lonely to head back by myself. I'll gather all of the kids and we'll head out."
"Alright. That'd be good. So, Battler. You won't just be going to sleep that easily, right?"
"Yeah, I'll probably be up talking with the cousins. Sound like we'll be up all night, doesn't it? We'll have to do something about that."
Apparently, Kyrie-san was thinking the same thing. 'What are you talking about?' She asked him in a small voice. Anyhow, it looked like Kyrie-san also didn't have a clue what Dad was talking about.
"...I also want to talk to Kyrie about it. I'll tell you later, so don't ask now. Please."
I don't think there's anyone who ignores their family as much as this old bastard... And this was the guy that was asking us to have a talk as a family. Both Kyrie-san and I couldn't help but get wide-eyed.
"Don't make that scared looking face. I'm the one that should be scared. Anyways..."
At that point, he swallowed his words for an instant. Even though putting on airs of importance wasn't much like my dad.
"...You're freaking me out, Dad. Everyone in the family's gathered here now, right? Don't make a big deal out of it and spit it out."
Dad's expression, brightly illuminated by the lightning, was burned into my eyes. Dad face, which always looked so sure of itself and which always wore a taunting expression... was for some reason that I couldn't explain, strangely frail. It was so worn out that he looked like a different person.
"Wh, what...?! ...What are you talking about, that doesn't sound like you!"
"*giggle*. I agree. What happened? You look so timid all of a sudden. It's not like you."
"...I'm going to go fix my makeup. Don't follow me."
Dad turned away, weakly. After that, only Kyrie and I were left, still wide-eyed.
"What did he say...? Tonight, he'll be killed? You don't think that mysterious letter scared him? Hasn't he been watching too many serial murder movies?"
Kyrie-san didn't answer my lighthearted words, and continued to stare at my dad's disappearing back...
"...Battler-kun, when you told Rudolf-san to say something, he left without telling us anything. Even though he said that he had something to say to everyone, he didn't answer you. Why? Turn the chessboard over... And when you do?"
"There's the contradiction that he said he wanted to talk but then couldn't. What, can you see anything by looking from Dad's perspective?"
"...*giggle*. Yes, I can see something. He wants to talk about something. However, he doesn't have the courage to bring it up. So he actually means 'In that case, chase after me and talk to me, and ask me about it yourself'. By saying 'Don't follow me', he actually means the opposite. He actually means "Follow me and force me to answer." Seriously, what a spoiled brat."
"Whaaaa-?! Can you really reason it out like that?! Th, that's ridiculous."
"Fufufu, can great detectives deduce the emotions and feelings between men and women? They can't, right? Figuring out the feelings of the opposite sex is an even more advanced art than exposing the tricks in difficult crime cases. If you ask me, romance novels have much deeper mysteries than masterpiece mystery novels."
"I... I see. Is that how it is..."
"I stand alongside that spoiled brat. He normally loves to bluff, but tonight he's completely tired out from that heated discussion. He probably wants someone to lean on at the moment. And responding to that need is the duty of his partner."
"Ha--. Sounds passionate. Then I'll leave that old bastard in your hands."
"Yes, leave it to me."
I called out to Kyrie-san's departing back.
"Um, I wanted to say thanks. Thanks to you, my gloomy mood has cleared up a lot."
"That's good. Communication is important."
After answering with a wink, Kyrie-san followed after Dad...
BGM: At Death's Door
The discussion that had just taken place between the relatives in the dining hall was repeating itself inside Natsuhi's mind... Beatrice had proclaimed that in addition to the gold, all of the inheritance and property of the Ushiromiya family would be given to the person who could solve the riddle. In other words, she planned to undermine the absolute guarantee that Krauss, as the oldest brother, had to succeed the family head.
Originally, the other siblings had absolutely no chance to succeed the head. To them, this 'proposal' by Beatrice was extremely desirable. It was obvious that they would accept Beatrice's proposal. There was no need to play that clumsy detective game. She knew that this so called 19th person, Beatrice, couldn't exist. Naturally, Beatrice was nothing more than a fictional character used to pass a message that Kinzo had written himself.
The proof was that Kinzo remained stubbornly neutral as to that letter's authenticity. He was completely ignoring these reckless claims that he shouldn't be able to ignore: that he had given up the head's ring. In short, Kinzo had wordlessly admitted that the letter held his own message.
Most likely, one of the servants had given Maria the letter. Kinzo had probably worked out an elaborate plan where the dress from the portrait would be prepared, and someone, probably Shannon, would be made to wear it and deliver the letter and the umbrella. By doing that, he could make it seem like the witch from the portrait actually existed.
No, if anything, from that alone you could conclude that Kinzo was behind all of this.
...Now it was certain. Kinzo had listened in on the siblings' discussion in the parlor earlier that day. So he had known how Krauss had staved off the attack by the other three, and to make the scales of the battle go back into balance, he had sent out this strange letter which benefited the other three. He was trying to push this crazy theory so that Rosa, who had a weak position among the siblings because of her age, and Eva and Rudolf could join together, and with three against one, could overwhelm Krauss yet again. And by doing that, he gave them the power to resettle what had once been a nearly decided conflict. They had now started repeatedly pressing Krauss to pay them a large amount of money...
Using the condition that all of the siblings would guarantee Krauss the succession to the family head, talk about the advance payment which had once been denied was being brought up again. Of course, even without the story about the hidden gold, the Ushiromiya family's store of wealth was vast. Just that store was worth more than enough by itself. Even if the hidden gold was buried forever along with Kinzo's death, there would be more than enough to satisfy. Therefore, even if they weren't that interested in the gold itself, Kinzo had managed to instill the lifelong fear that, on the off-chance that someone found the gold, that person would be granted the position of family head. And this kind of Achilles' heel would definitely be taken advantage of by someone sooner or later.
The only person with this fatal weakness was the successor to the head, Krauss. The other siblings had found... no, they had been told by Kinzo about something that only Krauss could lose, and they had thoroughly taken advantage of that. Natsuhi, as Krauss's only ally in his painful position, and as his wife, wanted to fight alongside him. She kept trying to explain to him that the existence of the gold itself was a farce and that there was no need for him to compromise. Krauss had always told Natsuhi. He had told all of the siblings. He always, always said that the hidden gold was nothing more than an illusion created by Kinzo. Therefore, Natsuhi had believed that as his wife, and on that foundation had supported her husband.
Even though Natsuhi had fought so hard and had lent all of her strength, he continued to fight by himself, and was trying to compromise with the other three siblings. Natsuhi sadly and weakly wondered why she could not be of use to him, and started getting angry.
It had happened when everyone decided to take a short break to cool their heads. Natsuhi had flared up against Krauss. Enraged, she had asked why she could not be useful to him. He had then told her that he wanted to talk about something, and invited her into a room that she was normally not allowed to enter. That room had been sealed with a heavy-looking padlock, and just looking at it had given her an uncomfortable feeling...
Krauss removed the padlock on the door. He then motioned for Natsuhi to enter.
"Wha... what is this?"
"There's something I want to show you. This is the first time I've shown it to anyone."
Natsuhi timidly opened the door with a dubious expression on her face...
It was pitch black. She searched for a switch to turn on the lights, but since this was her first time in the room, she didn't know where it was. Krauss entered behind her, pushing her in, and when he closed the door before turning on the lights, the two were swallowed up by the darkness. Only the sound of Krauss locking the door rang out through the dark.
"...Th, that is...?"
Natsuhi had her breath taken away. The room had no windows, and at a glance, it appeared to be empty.
In the middle of the room, a small, round table had been set, and the lights brightened only that table, as if it were the leading part in a play. On top of the table, a red tablecloth of elaborate design had been set out, covered with dust... and on top of that, 'something' about the size of a grown man's arm had been set down.
That something took Natsuhi's breath away.
BGM: Witch in Gold
It was a ingot of solid gold. Even in the faint light, it sparkled with a noble and dignified gold glint...
"This is not a proper ingot. I don't even know whether it was cast inside or outside the country."
It took a high level of skill to make the purest of solid gold ingots. And in order to verify that purity, it was standard to have the original foundry and the name of the bank that guaranteed it imprinted on the gold. However, this ingot did not have that kind of seal. This mysterious gold bar had come from an unknown foundry.
"Look here. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's just a bar of gold."
Natsuhi, following Krauss's words, timidly approached the ingot...
Krauss pointed at the surface of the ingot. Natsuhi concentrated on that section...
"That's right. This is the legendary ingot that Father said he received from the witch, that the president of Marusoo witnessed and was allowed to select at random to take back with him, that gained the trust of the fixers in the business world. I had to use all possible means to find it. I found it before the other siblings could."
"...How could... Then... the legend of Father's gold is..."
"It actually exists. The gold that Ushiromiya Kinzo received from Beatrice actually exists."
"How could...! H... how could it really exist..."
Natsuhi was shocked... Krauss had always said that Kinzo's gold was just a fabrication. So she had believed it as his wife. However, the reality was different. Since he held definite proof, he had been more certain than any of the other siblings that the Legend of the Gold was true. Because of this, Krauss was deeply frightened at the possibility that someone other than himself would find the gold that he had failed to find, costing him everything.
"...Ha... have I been... so undeserving of your trust...?"
"...I didn't mean it like that. It was only that there was no need to mention it."
"I... is that all a... a wife means to you...?!"
Krauss grimaced, looking annoyed... His expression effectively communicated how much he disliked this part of Natsuhi...
"...It doesn't look like... I will be of any use to you anymore..."
"Hmmm, that's fine. I can resolve the troubles with the siblings by myself. I don't need your help."
"That's wrong!! This is the Ushiromiya family's problem! It's true that I am not permitted to have the family crest imprinted on my body! But I am still your wife!! Even so, are you saying I'm not capable of helping you...?! Are you...!!!?"
"...I especially wouldn't want to risk getting you involved. It would probably make your headaches even worse than they are now. Take a rest for today. The siblings will deal with the siblings' problems. It has nothing to do with you. That is all."
...Even if I am Natsuhi... I am not Ushiromiya Natsuhi.
As a borrowed womb, I am despised and abused for not even being able to take care of that... even so, I have tried to properly perform the duties of a wife... but have been rejected even by my husband. I did my best as though raising my daughter was the last job left to me... However, my anger and sadness, having no place to go, caused me to subconsciously strain that relationship too...
Because I have been excessively strict in Jessica's education, I am thoroughly disliked by her. Jessica despises me for not being interested in anything but grades. There is no longer anything I can do for the Ushiromiya family...
No... that's no good. Even so, I must help my husband dislodge the schemes of the other greedy siblings. The head won't be around much longer. Eventually, Krauss will succeed the head. And the next successor will be Jessica... Strictly speaking, the man who enters the family by marrying Jessica will become the next head, but it all comes to the same thing.
I have to make Jessica an excellent successor who everyone will accept as worthy to take over the Ushiromiya family. In the days to come, that greedy Ushiromiya Eva will probably be plotting to find some fault with the main family, so that if all goes as she plans, Jessica will be dragged down from the succession, with George in her place. It is regrettable, but George is a man, and even more, has matured as a person. Compared to Jessica, who is right in the middle of her rebellious period and whose grades are slightly below average, it can be seen at a glance who is more fit to succeed the head.
So in order to secure Jessica's position, I need to turn her into an excellent person. After doing that, I want to find her an excellent husband worthy of the excellent person she will have become. A wonderful man who will truly accept Jessica, and stay with her through all of life's joys and sorrows.
She had tried to block that from her memory. She had consciously forgotten that, and had actively attended to the life she had been given as Ushiromiya Natsuhi... and had built up a new life.
But it felt like, just now, all of that had been casually rejected.
"...How should I think as I live my life? ...I don't know."
Natsuhi helplessly rested her head against the glass of the window... The glass, which was cool thanks to the raindrops beating against it, was somehow refreshing. Even though it should have been emotionless, right then it seemed to be the only thing that could understand Natsuhi...
At that point, even if someone had appeared, Natsuhi probably wouldn't have cared in the state she was in. But she did care. Because it was her beloved daughter.
BGM: Steady Pace
"...Jessica. I'm sorry, Mom's headache is awful. Please leave me be."
Jessica was slightly disconcerted when she first spotted her mother's feebleness. Until just now, she had been filled with contempt for all of the parents, including her mother. But now, only a tiny bit of those feelings remained. All of it had been wiped out by her mother's completely exhausted face.
In its place, the words that George had told her floated back up in her mind. The parents are doing their best in their own way. And since they were supporting their family, they couldn't afford to keep everything pleasant, and had a heavy responsibility to fight. Couldn't her mother have been standing around in this dimly lit hallway because no one had tried to understand that...?
Jessica didn't like her mother, so it would be hard to give her mother words of kindness even if she looked a little frail... Therefore, when she tried to talk to her mother kindly anyways, she had to gather up the words from deep in her heart, both fists clenched.
"I... it looks like you really have your hands full with that discussion..."
"...It has nothing to do with you. Please go somewhere else."
"...Is your headache bad? Sh, should I go get some medicine...?"
"...You don't have to trouble yourself. I'm asking, so please leave me by myself."
Natsuhi was not being unsociable. She just wanted her daughter to go far away so that she didn't have to bump into Natsuhi's own short temper... But there was no chance that her intentions would reach Jessica.
Jessica hung her head, looking sad. Looking at that expression, Natsuhi realized that Jessica was trying to muster up the strength to be kind to her mother. She gave her head a small shake to drive away her own unkind feelings...
"Then I'll leave. I'll be with the other cousins so I don't get in the way of the adults. See you later..."
She called Jessica, who was trying to leave and looked lonely, to a stop.
"...You were worried about me. I'm alright now. I will go."
'If I stay here any longer, my feeble expression would actually make my daughter feel more uncomfortable.' Thinking this, Natsuhi left Jessica with words of gratitude and made to depart.
...This time, Jessica called out to her mother's back. Natsuhi stopped and turned around, asking what business Jessica had with her. But Jessica herself didn't know why she had stopped her mother, and for a while, she smiled wryly、muttering to herself as she hesitated over what to say. She was poking around in her pocket when her hand touched something, and she took it out.
It was the scorpion charm that Maria had given her by the beach that day. Although she had heard of its various effects from Maria, right now, Jessica's mind was blank, and she was just barely able to say even that much. Jessica, thinking that her mother probably wouldn't accept it anyway, immediately drew back the hand she had stuck out, grasping the charm.
So when Natsuhi came back to take it, she was extremely shocked...
"...What is this? Some kind of giveaway...?"
"W, well it's, I think it's something like that... You couldn't really expect a charm that looks like a toy to be effective..."
But her mother grasped that hand and accepted the scorpion charm.
"Thank you. I'll take good care of it. Sometime soon, in exchange, why don't I give you a charm that was important to me when I was a child?"
"...I, it's not like that's why I gave it to you. But, well... if you really say so..."
"Then I will rest for now. My headache is awful. Try not to stay up too late."