Part 13: The Six Chosen by the Key
Maybe the rain had died down a tiny bit since the previous night... But it didn't look like the thick rain-clouds were planning to let any trace of the morning sun get by. The morning was dim, and far from refreshing.
Kanon finished checking his appearance, and exited the washroom. In a normal schedule, it was rare for anyone to have to suffer going straight from a midnight shift to a morning shift.There was a special system for the two days of the family conference. But then, as long as the typhoon didn't leave today, the relatives' stay on this island would last until tomorrow. Kanon thought that it was best to be prepared for the special schedule to be extended one more day.
The two of them left the guesthouse, opening their umbrellas. The rose garden had been devastated by the wind and rain last night. Even though they had spent several days making it beautiful to welcome the guests, it had only taken one stormy night to ruin it.
Kanon sighed. The two headed for the mansion. They were supposed to meet up with Gohda and prepare breakfast. Gohda was such a perfectionist that he had probably already woken up, and was probably already preparing a breakfast both exquisite and as elegant as glasswork.
Genji took from his pocket a bundle of several keys, and used it to unlock the front door. There was nothing on Rokkenjima outside the Ushiromiya family mansion, so, in the past, they hadn't been in the habit of locking up. However, Natsuhi had ordered that the mansion would be locked up from midnight to early morning. After that, unlocking the door in the early morning had become part of the servants' morning shift. This task had been given to Genji and Kanon so that Gohda could begin the preparations for breakfast as soon as he woke up.
"...Well then, let us begin the morning chores."
The two of them split up and began opening the curtains throughout the mansion. If the curtains remained closed, the inside of the mansion would still be dim, as if it hadn't managed to escape the previous night, and they wouldn't be able to clean. Kanon, in a well rehearsed procedure, went around the mansion opening one window after another without having to retrace his steps once. Even with this horrible weather, by opening the curtains, it began to feel just a little bit like morning.
While doing that, he passed in front of the kitchen. Even though he knew that he wouldn't be able to smell it yet, his stomach started aching for some of Gohda's much bragged about cooking.
The kitchen was darkly lit, and there was no fan for ventilation, much less curtains to be opened. Since it was still cold without a hint of a fire, it was obvious that no preparations for breakfast were taking place. Even though it wouldn't be permitted, maybe Gohda had overslept. Even servants are human. They can sometimes be late when they are unable to wake up. In the rare case when that happened, clamoring to hide the unsightly scene, casually smoothing it over, and making sure that the presence of such a mistake was never noticed by the master were just some of a servant's virtues.
Kanon took the receiver of the phone that had been fitted to the wall and dialed the number for the extension line to the room where the servants slept.
Kanon tried picking up the receiver again, but even so, he couldn't hear the usual dial tone. He tried dialing again, but it had no apparent effect. Could it be that the lightning last night had done something to one of the machines and broken the extension phone? The equipment in this mansion was all worn out. Kanon fully understood that even the smallest thing could have caused it to break down.
Kanon gave up trying to wake him with the phone, and dashed over to the room where the servants slept.
Her sleep was always light, and she wouldn't even have been able to sleep at all without medicine. To Natsuhi, sleeping was definitely not a happy thing.
When she looked outside, she saw that it was still pouring. If she hadn't sensed a tiny amount of light, she might have mistakenly thought that it was still last night. She herself was one of the hosts, so she mustn't wake up later than her guests. Urging herself on, she raised up her body, which still hadn't completely recovered from yesterday's weariness.
While she was inside this room, no one would torment her. Her headache wouldn't get any worse than it already was. This room was her only peaceful space. So when she left, it meant returning to the world of her husbands' siblings probing each others' minds.
BGM: Moonlit Night
...Even though most of the time she would carelessly call Kinzo names for staying locked up in his own room, the truth was that she actually longed to do so herself. Natsuhi gave her head a small shake, and her fantasy was replaced by the reawakening of her usual headache.
When she reached for the doorknob, trying to leave the room, her hand touched the scorpion charm that she had hung from it before going to sleep the previous night. It was Maria's charm, that Jessica had given Natsuhi. Surely, Jessica had said something about it having the power to repel magic, and that she should hang it from her doorknob. Maybe it was thanks to the charm that at least this room had been protected from her husband's siblings' malice. As she thought this, her mood began to get a little more cheerful.
Natsuhi opened a drawer on her dresser, and she took out an antique accessory case that she had treasured when she was a child. Inside, there were many small objects that Natsuhi had thought were valuable at the time. From amidst those, she pulled out a red pouch. Inside was a small, round mirror about 10cm across. It looked quite old, but the design on the back of the mirror was very ornate, and it felt like something with historical value.
At the very least, it looked much more effective when compared to the other charm, which looked like a plastic scorpion key-holder. She had heard that this mirror was a spiritual mirror to ward off evil spirits, and she had been given it specially by her Grandmother when her grandfather's mementos had been distributed. It had been believed since long ago that a strange power slept in that mirror. It was believed that, in the same way it reflected light, it also deflected misfortune and malice.
Natsuhi returned the mirror to its pouch. It would probably be a fitting object to hand over to Jessica.
Just as she was placing it in her pocket, the sound of someone knocking on the door suddenly echoed throughout the room.
No servant had ever come to her this early in the morning, nor had they come to her directly. Maybe something bad had happened. For example, maybe some fatal oversight had been made during the preparations for breakfast and the household had been put to shame in front of the guests, or something. Natsuhi took a deep breath in anticipation for whatever troubles she was about to be told of...
When she opened the door, Genji once again said a morning greeting to her while bowing deeply. Natsuhi tentatively responded.
"The extension telephone has been interrupted? That will be troublesome. Will it be possible to repair it?"
"...I am afraid that we don't know the location of the damage. I would like to call an expert and have him repair it."
"Does that mean that we will be unable to repair it until the typhoon has passed? Which means that the guests will be unreachable for the duration of their stay. Will there be any problem for our guests?"
"...We will do all we can to make sure there is none."
"That is fine. I will be counting on you to make sure that there are no blunders."
Natsuhi let out a small sigh of relief. She had been prepared for the worst, but damage to the telephones wasn't the kind of trouble she was worried about. But then, even this would probably be enough to spark sarcasm from Eva. Natsuhi gave her head a light shake.
Natsuhi was indignant. To her, this was a much bigger problem than the phones not working. And despite that, this piece of information was the part that had been postponed. Why did everything go well most of the time, and then come to something like this when the relatives were visiting...
Natsuhi smacked her head with her hand and nodded distractedly.
"I guess everyone oversleeps sometimes. Anyway, it doesn't matter who, just hurry with the breakfast's preparation. Wha-"
Natsuhi exited into the hall and turned around for a second to close the door to her room. The unpleasant "thing" that she saw there silenced her completely.
"Wh... what kind of prank is this...? How awful...!"
"...I also just noticed it as I came to call you. I will clean it later."
"...P, perhaps, a vulgar joke by one of the guests. Disgusting, truly disgusting...!"
Who in the world would pull such a childish and disgusting prank! Natsuhi had a pretty good idea, but of course there was no proof, so even if she pushed the issue, it would just seem as though she was making a fuss about nothing. On the contrary, after having such a prank played on her, it would definitely be better if she didn't notice it. Natsuhi gave the order to have it cleaned, and headed off to the parlor with a squeak of her heels.
When Natsuhi and Genji arrived in the parlor, Eva and Hideyoshi were already there.
Natsuhi returned Eva's gaze, which was fiercely competitive even though it was early in the morning, with a weary expression. Then, Kanon jogged in. After bowing in apology to the relatives for running inside the mansion, he noticed Genji and told him something in a small voice.
"...Kanon. Have you still not found Gohda?"
"...My apologies, Madam. I went all over the inside of the mansion and the guesthouse, but I still haven't..."
"Where in the world has he gone? For now, breakfast is a higher priority than finding Gohda. Quickly, take care of it."
Kanon glanced at Genji. It looked like he had something else to report, but that he was asking Genji whether he should say it himself. Genji nodded, and he decided to give the report himself.
"Yes. I thought I would report to him before Madam about the lack of preparation for breakfast, and visited his room, but I did not find him there. Furthermore, it was not only he who was missing. Rudolf-sama and his wife, as well as Rosa-sama are nowhere to be found."
"Not even in the guesthouse? Not in the mansion?"
"...Yes. They are also not in their rooms in the guesthouse."
When she had heard that Gohda alone was missing, she had thought that he might have slept in or was loafing around somewhere, but once she heard that several of the relatives were also missing, her optimistic way of thinking began to change. Could last night's family conference have continued all night and still be going on? It was also imaginable that they had wanted to cool off their heads after being in that stuffy room, and had all gone off on their own walks through the rain.
...The part about 'cooling off their heads' really sounded like something Krauss would like to say. Probably, Gohda had been called to go with them to aid them with something. Gohda was not a man who lost track of time. He had to have understood that, if he did not return, the preparations for breakfast would be hindered. Even so, there had been that inescapable atmosphere, so maybe that conference had continued to this very moment.
...I see, thought Natsuhi. To her, this was an extremely persuasive theory. Natsuhi remembered the illusion that she had felt that morning of being sucked into a continuation of the previous night. When she learned that the feeling wasn't just an illusion, she once again took a deep, weary breath. Because that banquet of filthy vultures circling around Kinzo's property was still continuing.
"Nii-san and Rudolf sure are tough. Maybe it's just youth in Rosa's case? The two of us were so tired that we had to go back to bed just after midnight. I do remember that Nii-san and the rest were still having a heated discussion at that point. Men sure are nasty when they get excited."
Natsuhi snorted, her face still blank.
"Kanon, search outside. If you find Gohda, tell him to return immediately and begin preparations for breakfast."
"Natsuhi nee-san, they aren't necessarily outside, right? Couldn't they also be inside Father's study?"
"...I see, that wouldn't be impossible to consider. I dunno what they've been discussin', but there's also a decent chance that they've moved to Father's study and included him in the discussion."
"...I can't imagine that Father would be so pleased at that detestable topic that he would invite them into his study."
"You really think so? Well, then there's nothing we can do. I'm sorry Genji-san, Kanon-kun, but could you search outside? I'm sure it wouldn't be odd for Nii-san to propose that they go outside for a walk to cool their heads. Even in this weather. I will go to Father's study. Maybe there's still some chance they'll be there, isn't there?"
"...Eva-san, a guest such as you mustn't trouble herself. I will go. I can also tell him good morning."
"Really, then I'm counting on you, alright? But I somehow doubt whether he will return your greeting. Natsuhi nee-san, have you always been on such good terms with Father?"
"...I don't know whether it could be called good terms, but I am sure that I have gained his trust as the wife of the successor to the Ushiromiya family."
"Then I'm sure that he will at least answer you, right? I want to at least eat breakfast with Father. I wonder if you could convince him to come down and join us? It seems that he thoroughly despises the rest of us, but I'm sure if his trusted Natsuhi asks, he will surely listen."
"...If you can't convince father after speaking to me so sharply, and have to come down by yourself... I'm sure you will never again be able to say that you're trusted by him, right...? *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*!"
Eva's mean-spirited and unreasonable demand made Natsuhi clench her fists slightly. When Genji realized this, he softly spoke to her over her shoulder.
"...Madam. If you would, please take this."
Genji handed Natsuhi a sparkling gold key of ornate design. It was the key to Kinzo's study. The study would always lock itself, and couldn't be unlocked as long as Kinzo forbade entrance. However, since Genji was especially trusted by Kinzo, he was allowed to carry a key to that door...
"But, if this key is used, won't you also receive the blame...?"
"...When the master is sleeping deeply, simple knocking on the door will not reach his ears... And when persuading the master to leave his room, it would be more difficult if you must talk through the door. Please use it..."
Until now, Natsuhi had thought of Genji as a cold servant who, since he worked directly under Kinzo, would not do anything for her. But it looked like she would have to alter her understanding of him...
She wanted to communicate her feelings of thanks, but by then, Genji had already turned his back on her, and was walking down the corridor with Kanon.
...The words that reached Natsuhi from behind her as she watched them go were sneering.
"Then, you must bring Father with you, right? After all, it's his son's cute wife who's asking. I'm sure he'll listen to you. *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*. We are guests, so let us leisurely relax here."
"Quit it, Eva, ya're talkin' too much. Sorry, but Natsuhi nee-san? We're counting on you about Father..."
Natsuhi, without answering, forcefully spun around on her heels and quickly left that place.
As she rubbed her sleepy eyes and looked around, the loud snoring coming from the three cousins continued. For a while, Maria had to think about what had happened. After that, she realized that her mother was not with her and quickly got lonely.
Maria left the cousins' room, trying to head to the room that had been arranged for her and her mother. Paying no heed to the three who were sleeping soundly, she made a loud banging sound. In response, Battler mumbled and rolled over in his sleep, but it wasn't enough to wake him up.
After a while, Maria returned, once again opening the door with a lively bang.
When she had left the room, her face had been sleepy, but after returning, she now looked discontent. After that, she climbed up on Battler's bed, which happened to be the closest, and started yelling and jumping on it like it was a trampoline.
After making sure that I was awake, Maria moved over to George-aniki's bed and started jumping on that too. In that manner, the three of us were all greeted with an extremely pleasant awakening.
"Thanks, Maria-chan, for waking us up. You stopped us from sleeping in after that late night... But maybe it would be better if you could be a little more gentle..."
"...George nii-san, you really are an adult, I respect that..."
"It'll be 7:00 soon... Well, it's not really a bad time to wake up. *yaaawn*."
"No-t he-re!! Uu-uu-! Uu-! Ma-ma-! Uu-uu-uu-!!"
Maria kept groaning 'uu-uu-' and looking unhappy. It seemed like she wasn't simply lonely because she couldn't find her mother, but actually unhappy because her mother wasn't in the place Maria thought she was and this made her feel like she'd been tricked. She might have been satisfied just to hear where her mother was, but unfortunately, as long as aunt Rosa wasn't here, we had no way of knowing where she was.
"Anyway, it's time to go to breakfast, so let's head over to the mansion."
"That's right. Maria, will you go to the mansion with us? I'm sure aunt Rosa will also be there."
"Uu-? Mama's in the mansion? Then I'll go. Uu-."
"That's right, let's go to the mansion. Our parents have probably already gone there."
Maria, as though her earlier temper had been a lie, regained her usual composure. We got dressed, left the room, and headed for the mansion.
...Even though he was the head -- no, especially because he was the head, he couldn't fail to make an appearance.
I wonder if I can convince him myself? Natsuhi readied herself, and, using the key that she had borrowed from Genji, opened the door...
Even though she was prepared for the sweet stench that seemed to eat into her brain after pouring out through the small crack in the door, she couldn't help but grimace. Thinking that he might still be sleeping, Natsuhi entered the room quietly...
"S, so you're awake... Good morning..."
"...How did you get in?"
Kinzo spoke with his back still facing her. His voice was not harsh, but calm, and Natsuhi was slightly reassured. However, even though he had been awake, he was at least in a bad enough mood that he had ignored the sound of all of that knocking. Natsuhi wasn't able to break the tension.
"...My sincere apologies. I asked Genji-san, and he allowed me to borrow the key to the study..."
"Ho... Genji did? If my friend thought it was that important, then I have no choice but to listen. Tell me, what business do you have?"
"Y, yes... Breakfast will soon be prepared, and I would greatly appreciate it if you would join us..."
"I will eat here. Have it brought here like always."
"But Father... This is the annual family conference. Please, at least let them see your face."
"...Go back downstairs. Are you asking me to join in on the discussion of how they chew my inheritance to bits after I die? How foolish. They can keep talking about that kind of thing as much as they like without me. And if that's what you call a family conference, it's nothing so important that I should leave my room for it. I am busy. Do not bother me."
"...Is that so...? Understood... I am sure that everyone will be sorry to hear it, but I will tell them."
Natsuhi decided to give up. Bowing silently, she tried to leave the room before Kinzo's spasmodic temper could fire up.
As she did, Kinzo spoke to Natsuhi. Compared to the usual Kinzo, this voice was calm and gentle, like it came from another person.
BGM: White Shadow
It was definitely not an exaggeration. Natsuhi had been that determined when she had taken the name Ushiromiya. That was why she was so sorrowful that, despite all of her fruitless effort, she was not even accepted by her husband.
"...If Krauss were a woman, and you were his husband... No, I won't say that."
"Wh, what do you mean by that, Father?"
Natsuhi was shocked. If Kinzo's words just now had been meant literally... To Natsuhi right now, those words would be more than enough to make up for all she had suffered up to that point.
"...Forget it. It's just the nonsense of an old man."
Kinzo once again faced away from her. He had told her to forget it, but Natsuhi couldn't help feeling a warmth in her heart...
"...Father. Even though I, Natsuhi, am not connected to you by blood, I am still your daughter. The honor and glory of the Ushiromiya family, and everything that you have left... I, Natsuhi, will definitely show you that I can protect it...!"
Without saying anything more, Kinzo remained with his back to Natsuhi. However, Natsuhi couldn't help but feel something warm well up inside her that she hadn't felt since long ago, when she had been just a child. Natsuhi bowed silently to his back and left the room...
When Natsuhi left the study, she saw Eva climbing the stairs and their eyes met. Eva, thinking that Natsuhi would leave drudgingly after failing to convince Kinzo, was smirking unpleasantly. However, the way Natsuhi was now, such a frivolous laugh would not disturb her.
She was not permitted to wear the family crest on her clothing. But she was permitted to wear it in her heart. So she spoke calmly, clearly, and confidently with the dignity of the one who would protect the glory of the Ushiromiya family.
"Father said that he would not join in on the family conference. He says that he has no interest in such an obscene topic."
"...I'm sure he said something like that. If you weren't able to persuade Father, say so frankly."
"...How pitiful. I'm beginning to understand Father's feelings of regret."
"Wha, what do you mean by that..."
Natsuhi did not answer. Just as Kinzo had done earlier, she showed Eva her back as she headed down the stairs. Eva finally realized that she was being made fun of, and that something had happened to quickly bolster Natsuhi's confidence. Even so, she didn't have the courage to risk Kinzo's wrath. Unable to even knock on the door, she could only scratch at the air in front of it, cluck her tongue, and follow after Natsuhi.
"S, so, were Nii-san and the rest there? Did Father tell you about them?"
"...I didn't get the chance to ask, but they were not inside the study. It is impossible that Father would let them into the room for such a lowly conversation, so there was no way for him to know where they went. Let us go downstairs and wait for the servants to return from their search. Breakfast may be late, but how about some tea, Eva-san?"
"...Th... that would be fine."
Eva couldn't hide her confusion over the complete difference in Natsuhi's appearance. She was acting so boldly, and while Eva hated to admit it, she even had a sense of dignity about her. Unable to find fault with anything, she could only follow Natsuhi back to the parlor.
When the two of them returned to the parlor, not only Hideyoshi, but the four children and Nanjo as well had gathered there. Genji, who had been talking with Hideyoshi, reported the current situation when he noticed that Natsuhi had returned.
The clock read a little past 8:00. 8:00 should have been the time to start breakfast.
Normally, going over that time limit was a disgrace to the host.
"...Kanon is now searching outside. Furthermore, no one has seen Shannon."
"Even Shannon? Seriously, how many people does my husband have to order to go with him when he wants to go for a walk?"
How many people couldn't be found? After the number of people had grown so large, it was starting to feel truly unpleasant, as though they were the only ones being left out on something interesting. At the very least it looked like the children, no, Maria especially felt the same way. She was indignant, her stomach grumbling, almost as though her mother and the others had left her alone to go off and eat something delicious without her.
Trying to fix her bad mood, the other children were flipping through the channels on the television, trying to find a program that might interest Maria. Nanjo was sitting in the sofa, gazing blissfully at the children while reading a book. It must have been a book about chess.
The sound of footsteps came rushing towards them with a pitter-patter. There was only one set, so they realized before they saw the source that it was not Krauss and the rest, but probably Kanon.
"...Madam, excuse me."
"Judging by your appearance, you still haven't been able to find them."
"...My apologies. I still haven't..."
"That will be enough. You've worked hard."
She didn't know where they were, but they had to be somewhere on this island. They hadn't put anything in their mouths since last night, so their stomachs must be growling about now. They would surely saunter in any time now. Natsuhi was already dumbfounded, and she had begun to think that there was no urgent need to find them right then.
"I will go to the kitchen to prepare some tea for all of the guests. Thanks to both of you for all of your hard work so early in the morning."
Natsuhi, acting as though the release in tension had caused a new surge in her headache, left the parlor. Kanon tried to call to her back, but Natsuhi left swiftly.
Kanon sounded evasive. He still didn't know where they were, but maybe he had found something with some relation to that. When Eva and Hideyoshi noticed this exchange of words, they came over. Maybe Kanon had noticed something that looked strange.
"What's goin' on, Kanon-kun? Did you find Krauss nii-san and everyone else?"
"...Actually... Something looked odd about the rose garden storehouse."
"...Something looked odd... what do you mean by that?"
"...It was, um... how should I explain it..."
Kanon once again hesitated. He wasn't speaking anything like you'd expect from the usually fearless Kanon. Eva and Hideyoshi looked slightly doubtful at his appearance...
"What do you mean? They aren't inside the storehouse, are they?"
"No... I am going to inspect the inside now. I was just returning to bring the key, but... umm..."
"I don't really get it, but it sounds like everythin' will be fine if we just investigate inside it. Where's the key to that storehouse?"
"...It is in the servants' room. I will go check the storehouse immediately."
Kanon dashed off to the servants' room and returned with the key.
Genji left the parlor, saying that he would go check, but Eva and Hideyoshi also followed. What was this 'something odd about the storehouse' that had caused the usually fearless Kanon to hesitate? It was still pouring outside, but their curiosity over this 'something' that Kanon couldn't talk about won out.
While the children made a big fuss watching television, Kanon and the rest dashed over to the entrance...
It was definitely not a pretty building. Because of its appearance, it had been built hidden in a corner of the rose garden.
Kanon, Genji, Eva, and Hideyoshi came cutting across the rose garden holding umbrellas. They entered a small path just off the rose garden, which was normally off limits for those appreciating the garden and only used by those maintaining the garden. As they dashed along that as well, the front of the storehouse came into view.
Eva and Hideyoshi arrived at the storehouse long after Kanon and Genji.
"Ha... ha... You two sure are fast...! I thought my heart was gonna explode..."
"I guess they did build a storehouse over here... bu, wha... what is that...?"
When Eva looked at where Kanon was pointing, she was at a loss for words. Noticing this, Hideyoshi also followed Kanon's finger and was likewise too shocked to speak.
The entrance to the storehouse was a kind of shutter. And there... Everyone there suddenly realized why Kanon had been unable to find words that could describe what they now saw.
On the shutter, which was completely filthy from being exposed to wind and rain for so long, stuck right on it...
There were no words that could describe it. Some kind of mark was drawn, ...with a ghastly substance meant to look like blood, in a shape meant to suggest something ominous. Two circles were drawn there, and inside them was a design that looked like a cross. The four ends of the cross were widely exaggerated, and it looked like some kind of crest from somewhere around Europe. And in the cracks between these shapes, written closely packed together, were some unfamiliar characters, or possibly symbols...
"...What a vulgar scribble... Could this be... one of those? One of those magic circles used in demonic ceremonies?!"
It was only natural that Hideyoshi would say that about the ghastly shape, drawn with a deep-red, dripping substance.
"When was this written...?!"
"...Last night, I came here before it started raining, but there was nothing drawn here at that time."
"...We must do something before anyone else sees this. If they laid eyes upon it, it would cause them great discomfort..."
"That's right... Even though it's just a shed, I don't want to leave such an unpleasant scribble alone for even one second."
"There is some paint inside the storehouse. Let us paint over it temporarily as an emergency measure, than repaint it again someday when the weather is good..."
"Kanon-kun. Let's remove this scribble quickly and return, alright? Even though it's just a storehouse, it's really irritating to have graffiti around the home I was brought up in."
"...Yes. I will take care of it immediately..."
Kanon squatted in front of the shutter and unlocked it. He then lifted it up with all of his strength. A boisterous noise resounded, and the eerie shape drawn on the shutter began to get sucked in through the top as the shutter was raised.
At least for the time being, that sign of misfortune disappeared from their direct gaze, and they all breathed a sigh of relief...
Nanjo sat on a sofa by himself, passing the time by reading quietly.
They heard hurried footsteps coming from the hallway. They were footsteps from a single person. Did that mean that it wasn't the group of four that had just left?
Genji was the one who had returned. It was very rare for Genji, who considered being out of breath a violation of a servant's virtues, to be gasping for air. He had probably come dashing back from outside the mansion. His shoulders were soaking wet, and he didn't have his usual smart appearance.
When Genji noticed Nanjo looking at him, he gave a small, silent bow and quickly approached him.
"...Doctor Nanjo, my apologies. Please, come with me, quickly."
"Wh, what has happened?"
As Genji whispered something into Nanjo's ear, Nanjo's face changed color. He stood from the sofa, trying not to be noticed by the children who were still engrossed by the TV, and the two of them rapidly left the parlor, muffling their footsteps.
Just when they were about to leave the parlor, they came across Natsuhi, who was pushing a serving cart loaded with a tea set. Genji whispered something into Natsuhi's ear, and Natsuhi's face too changed color, shocked. Then, leaving the serving cart where it was, the three of them started dashing towards the entrance...
George noticed them running down the rose garden through the window.
"...What is that? Genji-san and Doctor Nanjo and, and that's aunt Natsuhi, isn't it?"
"What's up, Aniki?"
"...Maybe something has happened. They looked horribly flustered."
Jessica and Maria also realized that something had happened from the fact that Eva, Hideyoshi and Nanjo were no longer in their seats, and because the serving cart had been abandoned in the entrance to the parlor.
"Could there have been some kind of accident...?"
"...Let's go check it out. It's no fun if we're the only ones left out, right? Ihihi!"
For some reason, what Battler said sounded extremely indiscreet. But they couldn't deny that they were a little insecure and concerned after seeing the adults run off into the rain regardless of appearance.
"...Let's check it out, alright? I'm worried something might have happened..."
Jessica's insecure words spoke for all of them.
"Hey Maria, are you coming too? Or will you watch TV?"
"Uu-! Maria wants TV! Uuu--."
"Then only the rest of us will go. Maria-chan, we'll be back soon. Stay here watching TV."
It felt like the wind suddenly got stronger. The malicious sound of thunder began to ring out like it had the previous night. It felt like an eerie something had surrounded the island, and was trying to stop us from moving forward.
"Jessica, is there something over this way?!"
"I'm pretty sure there's a storehouse for gardening tools or something."
"What in the world could there be in a place like that..."
Just as Jessica had said, they began to see a storehouse in front of them. They could also see the adults there. The shutter to the storehouse was open, and several adults looked as though they were searching for something. For some reason, only Natsuhi was outside the storehouse. Without even holding an umbrella, she looked like she was hanging her head, and her back was facing them...
Genji, Nanjo, and Natsuhi, who had just left. Since Kanon, Eva, and Hideyoshi, who had left earlier, were also there, it appeared as though there was a large gathering of people, but there was absolutely no bustle of activity.
When Natsuhi realized that the children had come, a terrible expression rose to her face, and she ran at them with her arms spread wide.
Inside the storehouse with the shutter wide open, a flickering fluorescent light shone down. And over there...