Part 124: Ushiromiya Kinzo II
BGM: Scorpion Entrails
Genji pulled back Kinzo's seat and motioned for him to sit. But Kinzo stayed standing, signaling with his chin for Genji to move back.
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle* Fuhhahahahahahahahahaha...!! Welcome to Rokkenjima, ladies and gentlemen. Why the frightened face, Evaa?"
"N-No, why would I be frightened...! I'm just relieved to find you in excellent spirits, Father..."
"Wahhahhahhahhahhahha...!! Evaa, you're as amusing as ever, aren't yoou? Why don't you just honestly say how frustrated you are at losing your bet with Krauss? *cackle*cackle* You can't say it, can you? *cackle*cackle*!!"
Eva realized that their conversation during the day had indeed been leaked to Kinzo, and she hung her head, turning red.
"Well then, my sons and daughters and their companions! Tonight, I shall make an important announcement regarding my inheritance and the succession that you all seem so keen on."
"But first! I must tell you how incredibly disappointed I am. After all, until this very day, no one has been able to solve the riddle of the epitaph."
"...I had planned to hand over everything to the one who could solve it. But none have been able to solve it before today, and here we stand, with nothing of mine passed down to anyone."
"How shameful...!! To think that not one among you has come forward with the qualifications to succeed me! How truly disappointing, and shameful, and patheetic!! Wahhahhahhahhahhahha!!"
The siblings hung their heads in silence. Of course, they would have solved it if they could. True, they couldn't deny that they'd wasted a golden opportunity, but it was just so hard...
"Therefore, I am proclaiming here and now that I will suspend the use of the epitaph's riddle as a method of choosing my successor. In short, time's up!"
"This is game over. And what a shame for you all. Even though it should have given you all an equal and fair chance, that's gone now! Gehhahahahah!!"
It truly sounded like Kinzo was making a victory proclamation.
"...You understand, right, Krauuss? I certainly gave you the title of Successor. But all you did was let it go to your head... Do you know what a Successor is...?"
"...It means... the person who will inherit your position after you, Father..."
"Wrooooooooooooooooonnnng!! The position of Successor isn't something that's guaranteed by the current Head at aaaaaaaaaaall!"
"...Listen up, Krauuss. I won't tell you this again. A Successor... is what you call someone who finds everyone else who's after the Headship, thoroughly breaks their noses, and makes it so they can never disobey him again."
"This is not only something that can be said of the Headship. It's the same with money! A 'rich person' doesn't mean someone who has money. It means someone who crushes everyone who had more money than himself, and who scrabbles together more money than anyone else."
"It's the same with talent. A genius is not what you call a person blessed with talent! It means a person who crushes everyone with more talent than themselves! A person who can coerce geniuses and all other people to call them that using strength and charisma!! You have a mistaken impression when it comes to all of these things. So, you aren't of the right caliber to be my Successor. *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*!!"
"...I-I'll take your words to heart..."
Perhaps that truly was Kinzo's philosophy. As a result of faithfully carrying out that rant-like philosophy of his, Kinzo had glorified the Ushiromiya family to the state it was in today... It may be hard to imagine after his immersion in the occult in recent years, but that brutally overbearing outlook was no more or less than Ushiromiya Kinzo's charisma and aura...
"Such an unsatisfactory person is not qualified to inherit everything of the Ushiromiya family. In that case, is Eva, Rudolf, or Rosa qualified?"
"And even that scheme was thoughtless! You can't even corner Krauss all by himself! There could be nothing more shameful!"
"You lack the avarice to steal away the position of Successor by any means!! In order to get what you want, you should sacrifice everything, becoming as covetous and greedy as possible...!! The goddess of luck smiles upon the greedy!! You three, who don't have that wild spirit, are as unfit for the succession as Krauss is!!"
Eva and the rest had no words to respond with. And they couldn't calculate what it was Kinzo was about to say... Was Kinzo actually planning to proclaim that no one would succeed the Headship? If so, that would work to Eva, Rosa, and Rudolf's advantage. After all, in the end, they'd just have to renegotiate everything among the siblings after Kinzo's death, splitting the inheritance evenly. It would surely be more troublesome if a specific person's name was raised and proclaimed to be the Successor.
...But would Kinzo really say something to benefit any of the four siblings after demeaning them so much?
"...You don't think... he's going to say that because no one will succeed him, he'll donate all of his fortune to charity or something, right...?"
"...I'm afraid I wouldn't put it past Father."
"The blood's just risen to his head... We can't do anything but let him talk for now."
"...W-Well then, Father. What thoughts do you have regarding the Succession of the Headship?"
"The Ushiromiya family was crushed long ago in that earthquake. The current Ushiromiya family is nothing but an illusion of gold I'm glimpsing for an instant. The likes of which will end when I awaken from my slumber. Hehheheh! Everything in this world is a dream, an illusion. Life is but a daydream before the awakening called death. Aaah, yes, that's how it was from the beginning!! That I should lose everything when I die was part of Beatrice's contract, and her curse! Fuhahaha!! As if I'd let you, Beatrice! I will be the one who captures you!! Tonight, that goal will be realized. *cackle*cackle*! Wahhahahahahaha!!"
For a while, Kinzo was overcome with cackling, and his eyes bulged. Whenever he talked about Beatrice, it was always both eloquent and insane...
"Foolish children such as yourselves truly are daydreams!! It's as though you were never there from the beginning!! Disappear! Wake up!! Disappear from the doze of the truth that I am...!! You failures that have not built up anything that makes you worthy to succeed me!!"
"What is it, my friend?"
Nanjo nervously raised his hand, asking to speak. Kinzo allowed him to.
"I understand how you feel, Kinzo-san. Because you love your children, you expect a lot of them, and as a parent and grandparent myself, I understand how parental affection can make you feel as though your expectations were betrayed."
"...However, you are extraordinary, Kinzo-san. A genius. Isn't saying that it's only natural for them to catch up to you a little too harsh...? Despite that, Krauss-san, Eva-san, Rudolf-san, Rosa-san, and all of their partners have done their very best to catch up with you...? And even so, that has not stopped them from trying - Krauss-san, Eva-san, Rudolf-san, Rosa-san, and all of their partners, are doing their best to catch up..."
"Hohoooooooooohhh??? And just how much money have they built up with this 'Doing their best'? After these cowards fail completely in ventures and gain debt, and still try to sponge off me, how can you say that they did their very best...?!!"
"Money is the crystallization of everything in this world. If you cannot grasp that, then you cannot grasp the world! If a life cannot strongly grasp this world, it doesn't deserve to live!! Disappear!! Disappear from my life and reality!!"
"...That's a reckless argument. With that logic, even I must not live. Even so, I believe the time I spend playing chess with you was worthwhile for both of us, Kinzo-san... You should know better than anyone else that there are many things in this world that cannot be bought with money."
As the siblings motionlessly hung their heads, they cheered Nanjo on inside their hearts. Not one of the siblings could offer their opinion in front of Kinzo in a rage, but Kinzo's close friend Nanjo alone was allowed to... Even though Kinzo had raged so fiercely, after being admonished by Nanjo, he nodded several times as though in agreement. This surprisingly obedient side of him might have seemed cute, but there was no one here who could laugh.
"It may be true that your children haven't built up as great a fortune as you have, Kinzo-san. Though, even so, they're rich enough to make me jealous."
"But besides money, they have also built up many things that cannot be bought with money. When it comes to that, they are in no way inferior to you, Kinzo-san."
"Hoh. And what do you claim they have built up that cannot be bought with money?"
"Grandchildren are wonderful. We older people can look at these young grandchildren, who will live on into a new era that we will not even be given a chance to see, and in them, we can imagine an endless future. Isn't that the sole entertainment we have in our old age? Remember, Kinzo-san. Remember your joy when they first brought back their grandchildren...! Your children and your grandchildren... will carry your great works on to future generations, setting an example. That is something that an individual cannot accomplish no matter how much money they have."
The siblings all nodded in agreement... Certainly, Kinzo had looked happy when his grandchildren had just been born. Back when he still had some sanity in his heart. However, did Kinzo's heart still contain a Human's warmth...?
"In other words, in exchange for the vast riches I created, instead of gaining money, I have gained my grandchildren?!"
"N-No, no, that's not what I..."
"So, in exchange for the several tens of billions in wealth that I have built up, I have gained a single grandchild from each of my children!!"
"Hahhahahahahahahahahaha!! This is wonderful! So, I have created a single life using ten billion yen! That's how it is! Interesting, truly an interesting example in the alchemical sense, riight...?!"
"Hooh, what valuable grandchildren! Wonderful, wonderful!! Wahhahhahhahhahha!! Is that right, Krauss? Is your daughter worth ten billion yen...?"
Krauss couldn't answer instantly. It wasn't that he didn't have confidence in his daughter. It was because he didn't have a clue what Kinzo was trying to test him with in this question. But when Natsuhi was then pressed for an answer, she responded, breaking Krauss's silence with an answer of her own interpretation.
"Hoh. So, you can state for certain that she's worth ten billion. Hoh hoh! What about you, Eva? What about your George...?"
Since Natsuhi had answered that way, Eva naturally came up with her own answer as well. Even though Eva should have known better than to respond to a provocative question like this, she answered as well.
"Yes, Father. George is worth ten billion... no, even more than that."
"And that's not in the abstract sense of things money can't buy. George will certainly build up a fortune equal to his worth. He'll become a grandson worthy of carrying on your great works, Father...!"
Eva sent a glance at Hideyoshi and Natsuhi as if she'd scored a point. When she heard what Eva had said, Natsuhi was about to add more praise for her daughter, but stopped at a glare from Krauss.
"Hmm, I see. Then what about you, Rudolf? What about your Battler?"
"Compared to George-kun, there's nothing about Battler I can brag about. If he was kidnapped and we were threatened with a ransom of ten billion, I'd feel like sticking a bow on the guy and letting them have him."
"On top of that, he's an idiot and reckless. He talks about grand dreams and things that couldn't be done. I guess in that way, he's a super idiot worth the equivalent of ten billion normal idiots."
"...But at the very least, there's no doubt that watching over his life will be more fun than looking at ten billion average people."
Eva clicked her tongue at that clever style of speech, which would probably match Kinzo's tastes. Apparently, Rudolf had done that on purpose, so he grinned back at her.
"...What of Maria?"
"...M-Maria is my adorable and only daughter. Her value cannot be measured with money. That is all."
"Hmm. I see. Dreams and the future, miracles and possibilities are the source of my magical power. No magic without hopes holds any strength."
"...Heh, I cannot expect any more from you who have proven to be average, but I see, my grandchildren hold future possibilities, and expecting a magical miracle from them may be worthwhile."
"If you're saying that, in this way, they are worth more than ten billion... hmm, yes, I can see where you're coming from. Hmmm, hmmmm..."
When Kinzo got in a rage, he wouldn't let anyone speak up, but even so, he would sometimes accept something on his own while yelling by himself... and change his own opinion. That's what this felt like to the siblings. Apparently, even though Kinzo had been disgusted by his unsuccessful children and had cast them away as being unfit for the inheritance of his title or his fortune, he wasn't sure about his grandchildren.
At this rate, he might soon say that the inheritance would go to his grandchildren instead of the siblings. As the siblings sat in fear of what their fickle and short-tempered father might suddenly think of next, they carefully watched his every move...
"...Hmm. Let me change my thinking a little. I have absolutely no desire to hand over all I have to any of you."
"And testing them for that would be... yes, it would be a shame to abandon that final side-trip in my remaining life. Hmmmmm, well then, what shall I do...?"
"...I-I can, with confidence, recommend George as someone fitting to follow after you!"
Eva claimed that right away. Natsuhi looked like she was about to follow along, but Krauss gave her a look telling her to restrain herself, so she swallowed her words.
BGM: Golden Sneer
"Howeeever!! That does not mean that one of you will indirectly receive the inheritance. I am already disappointed in you all. There is no longer anything I have to give you. Not a thing! The ones I will question are my grandchildren. And the ones who might succeed me are my grandchildren. Make absolutely sure that you do not mistake this, understood...?"
"...I shall obey Father's decision."
"Same here. I'll go along with what he decides. What about you, Aneki?"
"O-Of course. I believe Father will make a wise judgement."
"I-I will also obey Father's decision..."
"I shall think of how to test my grandchildren. Which means this is no longer any business of yours. After all, none of you are involved with the succession in any way now."
"...So right here, right now, perhaps we should discuss a different matter that does involve you."
"A different matter...?"
"Indeed. That is tonight's true purpose, and the true purpose for this final Ushiromiya family conference as well."
"Quiet...! Father's talking now...!"
Rudolf and the rest had automatically narrowed their brows at the occult-like word. Could he be planning to start some strange ceremony involving Beatrice's resurrection again...? And he wanted their assistance...? What in the world was he planning to do?
In the past, he had carried out many eccentricities that he called by the same name, such as starting to burn a strange incense and filling the whole mansion with the stench. To the siblings, a ceremony was nothing more than one of the aged Kinzo's obnoxious hobbies.
"Father, just what do you mean by that...?"
"If we can assist you, we'll do anything. Right, Rosa?"
"Y-Yes... But... what in the world... is it...?"
"A ceremony as inscribed in my epitaph. A ceremony to revive Beatrice and open the door to the Golden Land. That witch, who escaped her cage of flesh and sneeringly slipped through my fingers, I shall now capture... and force into submission with my greatest hidden art. For that purpose, I must offer 13 people as sacrifices."
"...Hehheheheheh! Gathering 13 people's worth of sacrifices is no easy feat. But tonight is the family conference! Many adults have gathered on Rokkenjima. There could be no other day on which to carry out this ceremony."
Taken literally, it sounded like he was telling them to become human sacrifices for his dark ceremony and die. Ridiculous. Was it some kind of metaphor...?
But they didn't even have a clue what he was trying to illustrate. The siblings whispered together about what Kinzo was saying...
"...What's Dad going on about? Is this his usual sickness...?"
"Probably. Listen silently for now."
"I'm sorry, Father... I don't understand what you mean by that."
"What is it you don't understand? I am making this extremely simple. I told you that I'll choose 13 of the humans on this island and offer them as sacrifices in a ceremony to revive Beatrice."
"Even worthless people like you can be very useful as sacrifices in my ceremony. Wahhahhahhahha!!"
BGM: Organ Short #600 Million in C Minor
"There are now more than 13 humans on this island. In short, that's a head count that can easily satisfy the massive number of sacrifices I require! Become the sacrifices for my ceremony!!"
"...Kinzo-san, you weren't... serious about what you said back then, were you...?! It wasn't a joke...?!!"
Unusually for him, Nanjo's face changed color as he stood up and shouted. It seemed this wasn't the first time Nanjo had heard all this dark talk about 13 sacrifices.
"Sorry, my friend. That was no joke nor anything of the sort. It is what I bet my life on, the final ceremony, the final game that I will attempt."
"Yes, this is a game! If gaining my fortune and leaving the island is your goal, then there are only two ways to achieve it! Will you escape being chosen as one of the 13 sacrifices and spectacularly survive, by finally solving the riddle of the epitaph and stopping the ceremony, or will you kill me?! And thereby stop this ceremony. Those are your only two options!!"
By now, everyone wasn't just whispering, but chattering and muttering away. Even the siblings had noticed that Kinzo was beginning to act abnormally...
"...Father, are you a little tired? Genji-san, has Father been drinking?"
"...No. The Master is sensible."
"Sorry, Dad. I don't have a clue what you're talking about... Dad's free to start up any weird ceremony he wants to revive the witch he loves. That's his hobby. But getting wrapped up in that... ahaha... and being made into a human sacrifice is a little more than I can handle."
"Rudolf, are you trying to interrupt Father?!"
"What are you talking about, Aneki?! You expect me to listen to something that shady and say 'Oh, really?'?!"
Was the 'ceremony' Kinzo had mentioned literally something disturbing, or was it some kind of test to choose the Successor? It seemed that Rudolf had taken it literally, but Eva apparently still believed that it was something like a test or examination to find a proper Successor. But Kinzo responded with a clear smile.
"Well then, that is all I have to say. Nooo objections or opinions are necessary from you...!! I will simply awaken from my dream of having four unsuccessful children. To all of you, what will occur now before your very eyes may seem like a dream, an illusion, something that couldn't conceivably be of this world, and a world that defies understanding."
"But that itself is my reality!! Now, I will finally awaken from the shallow, useless dream that all of you are!!"
"Come, the game has already begun, see? With this many of you here, I can take lives starting with anyone...!!"
When Kinzo raised his arms high like an opera singer and yelled as though towards a packed audience, the air shattered like glass, and the outlines of three people who supposedly hadn't been invited to this island appeared...
"Chiester 45, right here...!"
"Chiester 410, riiiight here!"
BGM: Dance of the Moon Rabbits
Three girls with strange forms suddenly appeared behind Kinzo. Where from? When? Who? Who were they?? The Humans were thrown off balance, and their minds went blank. Because they spent all that time thinking, they lost their last chance to survive.
"You have permission to shoot six to death. I leave the choice of targets up to you. Begin your attack."