Part 133: The Next Head
October 4th, 1986, 11:11 PM
The atrophied, Western-style house that the cousins called a mansion was her home. And yet, she had never understood her cousins' feelings as much as she did today. At the same time, she had never felt her own home, which she knew well, to be as alien as it seemed now...
This had once been her hideaway, the only place in this vast mansion where she could feel at peace. However, she had never felt as much pressure coming from that door as she did now.
"...A test, you say...? Tch, what the hell could be waiting in there... I'm not gonna find my desk and stuff dragged around all over the place, right...?"
She acted tough, trying to deceive herself. Trying make herself believe that she wasn't scared of anything. Readying herself, she opened the door to her room.
...When she saw that, fortunately, the room didn't appear to be messed up, she relaxed. No one... was there. Of course. There was nowhere for anyone to hide here. Right away, Jessica locked the door behind her. This way, the room was safe. She peeked under the bed and in the closet, but of course, no one was hiding.
"...Wh-What the hell. Haha, haha...!"
She looked at the clock. Ten past eleven, or just a little past that. As her tension lessened and fatigue came back to her entire body, she realized how messed up this whole day had been.
It was still only eleven. The plan had been for all the cousins to gather, have fun playing around, and talk animatedly about various things together into the night. Normally, we would've been doing that kind of thing right now. Why... has that turned into this...?
She shook her head back and forth with anger and sadness... But there was no one here to direct those emotions at. Because of the lock, this room's security was guaranteed. Remembering that one more time, Jessica somehow regained her calm...
If it keeps up like this and nothing happens... I want to go to the dining hall and see Mom's dead face. Even though Gohda emphasized so strongly that it was gruesome and that I definitely shouldn't go to look at it, even so, I wanted to see her face at the end...
But we were warned repeatedly that stepping out of line even a little would put the hostages in danger. Could it be that locking the door was also against the rules...? If I close myself up in here, I alone might be saved. But if I don't open it, it'll surely be against the rules, and Dad, Kanon-kun, Shannon, Aunt Kyrie and Doctor Nanjo... will be killed.
There's no way the scales will balance out between five lives and my own one life. Jessica tightly shut her eyes, resisting the other part of herself that said 'Isn't it okay as long as I stay alive?', faced the door, and made to unlock it.
...At that time. Clap, clap, clap... A crisp applause rang out, making Jessica's heart leap...
BGM: Fishy Aroma
"However, you resisted that temptation and were about to unlock the door yourself. That bravery of yours is worthy of admiration."
If I, the owner of this room, searched everywhere a human could've been hiding, where did this man... come from...? There was nowhere for a Human to hide, but could something non-Human have managed it...?
This was supposedly my first meeting with this largely-built, middle-aged man. I didn't recognize this guy, who looked like a butler and bore the crest of the One-Winged Eagle.
"A pleasure to meet you, Jessica-sama. I serve as head furniture for the Master, the 27th of the 72. I am called Ronove."
"...Ah yes, Genji is like my little brother. Or perhaps he was my true form while in this world. You might even say he was my vessel."
"...What's... this guy... saying...?"
"Oh, my apologies. This is not something a Human would be able to understand. Well then, let us move on to the main event."
"So this is... that test or whatever the damn geezer talked about...?"
"Correct. This is the test that the Master has granted you, Jessica-sama."
At Ronove's elegant gesture, like that of a butler ordering for a meal to be set out, many gold butterflies flew up out of nowhere...
"Gwah?! What the...hell...?!"
With a gesture, Ronove urged her to pick it up. Jessica timidly did so... and opened the letter inside...
"It is an exceedingly simple test to determine whether one is qualified to become the Successor. Please attend to the question written there with a fitting attitude for the Successor who is to support the Ushiromiya family... and tell me your answer, as well as the thoughts that led you to it."
Shaking, Jessica looked between the paper and Ronove's face several times...
If things had gone normally, he had planned to give Shannon the ring that would be proof of their engagement... here, at this time, on this day. But the woman in front of George now was not Shannon.
George picked up the Western envelope, which was on the table where he'd once had tea with Shannon, and read its contents... Perhaps its message was short. After glancing at it, George's eyes grew sharp.
"...What's this supposed to be?"
"Ehheheheheh. It is as you see. This is the test given to you, to see if you're qualified to be the Successor. As you ask yourself whether you truly are so qualified, answer that question."
"...What a... stupid question."
"That's right. It really is a stupid question. Doesn't that mean the Ushiromiya family inheritance is also something on that level in Goldsmith's eyes? Heheheh."
George lowered his eyes to the surface of the letter once again, examining its contents...
"...'Among the three mentioned below, in order to gain two, sacrifice one'."
"It's a simple three choices. Decide for yourself which one you will choose to abandon."
"If you refuse to choose, the test will be suspended. I've been given permission to kill you right here by my own hands. If you want to include even that as a choice, then there are four options. It's been an awful long time since I've gotten to play with a kid like you, so I can't say I'd be disappointed."
"...Are these three choices only a test? Or will the consequence of my choice be carried out?"
"Don't be so naive. The one you choose will definitely lose their life."
Among the three mentioned below...
In order to gain two, sacrifice one.
1. Your life
2. Shannon's life
3. Everyone else's lives
If you do not choose one, all of the above will be lost.
"...Why is Shannon's name here?"
"The second choice has the name of the one most needed and most loved by the test-taker. I believe Kanon's name is written second on Jessica's test."
"...You gave this stupid question to Jessica too...?"
"*giggle*giggle* You shouldn't be worrying about Jessica, right? Right now, you are the one being tested. It really is a simple three-choice test. Which can you throw away for the sake of the other two? Isn't that simple? If you still can't decide, would you like me to lend you a coin...?"
"...A coin? How would you choose between three options with something that only has two sides?"
"No one would throw away their own life. So, there remain two choices that will leave you standing. Will you give up on everyone for the sake of the one you love? Or will you give up on the one person you love so that you can save as many people as possible? Either way, you should be able to find a fitting just cause. After all, this Rokkenjima is now a demon island. The sentimental relationships of the Human world aren't necessary here. No one will blame you. Do as your heart desires. And ask yourself whether you're qualified to succeed the Ushiromiya family Headship..."
"Or rather, make your decision as if you truly were the Ushiromiya Family Head, okay? Hehheheheheh..."
BGM: The Candles Dance
Jessica crumpled the letter up and threw it on the floor.
"I believe your anger is quite appropriate. I also find it an exceedingly pitiful... and yet truly humorous question. Pu ku ku ku."
"How could anyone wish to die themselves? And how could anyone want to remain alive after abandoning the life of the one they... l-love. And... how could anyone massacre everyone else, as long as it's good for the two of them...?!"
"No, Jessica-sama. Such a person could exist. This is Rokkenjima, the demon island! It is now completely cut off from the Human world and fully immersed in the spirit world like cheese fondue. Values of the human world get taken out with the trash."
"Pu ku ku! So please. Rank the things you desire from the bottom of your heart. Whatever remains will become a fitting answer for you in this insane evening."
"Don't fuck with me!! How could I... choose any of these?!!"
"'If you do not choose one, all of the above will be lost'... also makes for a fine fourth option. Even choosing that should give us an amusing show."
"But since that choice will result in the loss of your own life in the end, I believe it would be more wise to be pure and choose the first one, 'your life', so that the other two will be saved. Everything has been entrusted to your decision, Jessica-sama."
"Please, let me hear an answer and conviction fitting for the Successor to the Ushiromiya Family Headship...!! I, Ronove, am sincerely hoping for a wonderful answer, fitting for the Master's descendant who shares his blood!!"
That scene was observed through the magic crystal ball Kinzo held. Kinzo finally couldn't hold it back and, spreading his arms and facing the heavens, began laughing in an explosive voice...
"Isn't this problem so easy that you could answer right away? Isn't this a question that should cause you to waver less than whether to put butter or jam on your morning toast?!! Do you people know the correct answer?"
He turned to face the Chiester Sisters, who had been waiting on him.
"N-N-No, my apologies, I don't know, Lord Goldsmith!"
"Fool, not choosing at all means game oveeeeeeeeeeeer!!! You foolish rabbit, who cannot even choose a reason or a goal for your own life...!! You aren't worth a single ant that anyone might step upon without even noticing!! Die! Be crushed!! Disappear faster than I can blink!! And what of you?"
"...I would sacrifice the first one, 'your own life', sir. Weapons fight and die in battle. And weapons exist to destroy enemies and protect allies. Being able to protect those we love and then die is our satisfaction, sir."
"Hoh. A truly splendid model answer for a weapon. The immediate reply is very nice. So, have you been raised to think you'll be given an extra carrot for answering that way? Heheheheh, that's wrong, seeeeeeeee? Even that is wrong, seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...?"
"Answering that way when you are asked is nothing more than giving the answer you have been indoctrinated with!! You are the same as that other rabbit a second ago. You still live without having chosen a purpose or goal to strive for...!! You filth that doesn't deserve to live...! It would suit you well to be crushed and used as fodder for the other livestock!!"
"...! Yes sir! Animal fodder... would be an honor...!"
"I don't think sooooo! You don't want to see anyone else die anymore, riiiiiiight? Why can't you accept that? Accept that the depths of the depths of your old wound are still festering and rotting...! Yes, the rotting stench would make the nose wrinkle, you foolish rotten rabbit!! These are words of praise for you!!"
"...Th-Thank you very much, sir..."
"Nihi. Without wavering, I'd chose the second one."
"Hoh... The second. There are not many who could stick their chest out and choose to offer 'the one they love' as a sacrifice. Tell me your reason."
"Because the one you love will be lost eventually. If you don't love anyone, you won't get hurt, and if you lose someone, you still might be able to love again. So, the person you love right now isn't worth that much at all nyeh. Nihi!"
"*cackle*cackle*cackle* I see, so that is why you reach such an answer, you rabbit who has become cowardly from pain caused by love... I have heard that rabbits can die from loneliness, but just when was it that your heart was killed...?"
"Then, rabbit, I shall alter the question. Why don't I change the second option to, not 'the one you love', but 'the memories of the one you loved'? How is that? Can you still select that one? What's this about the one you love not being worth much at all, foolish rabbit...?!"
"Filth who cannot even face up to the depths of her own love!! Try and choose it, try and choose to have the one you loved forgotten!! You can do it, right? I'll bet you can, riiiiiiiight? Cooooome on, try saying that you can, okaaaaaaaaaaaayy?!?!"
"Y-Yes, I can choose it... I can choose it...!! Nihi, nihihihihihihihihihiiihii..."
"L-Lord Goldsmith...! Please, stop this...!!"
"Enough, rabbit filth!! Go to Virgilia and help keep watch on the dungeon. Disappear!!"
The Chiester Sisters, with their respective old wounds of the heart gouged out, escaped by disappearing. After that, even though there was no one to hear, Kinzo continued talking by himself as though in a play...
"Instead, regardless of which answer they choose, it is about whether they can choose without hesitation, quickly, and with a resolute conviction and their own strong, unshakable will!!"
"It's their reason and their willpower that are most essential. That is what I want to learn." Yes, my descendants, I am truly looking forward to what kind of answer you will show me!!"
"...Hmmmm? Me? *cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*! Yes, of course I once had the same question thrust upon me. Because I splendidly answered that devil's question, I was able to obtain gold and honor, and that witch as my possession."