Part 139: Cause of the Tragedy
October 4th, 1986, 11:47 PM
"You don't?! Everyone was killed!! By that damn geezer! Who was saying something crazy about Beatrice's resurrection ceremony or whatever!!"
"So, by now, 13 people have been offered as sacrifices, and it's already time for Beatrice to revive, right?"
"Sure, that sounds great!! I'll find Beatrice too and kill them both!!"
"...We've survived the ceremony. So, we'll receive an invitation to the Golden Land from Beatrice. Over there, all wishes will be granted. If having your family killed is painful, then you just have to resurrect them. That's what I plan to do. I'll revive the really nice real Mama, the one that isn't possessed by the black witch."
"...So Mama will always be with me. There won't be any more overtime or working on days off. She'll always be with me, and think only of me, kihhihihi, and she'll always fight against fearsome enemies for my sake. Kihhihihihihihi...!"
"...There's something wrong with you. Why are you saying something so incomprehensible in a situation like this...?!"
"...Didn't Kyrie just tell you, Battler...? Didn't she tell you... to believe... in the witch?"
"...Sh-shit. This is no time to get in an argument with you over something like this...!! Now, there are no hostages or anything... anyone left alive! This weird, shitty ceremony game is already over...!!"
"Let me do what I want now. Someone might still be alive. Or someone might be hiding! I'll search everywhere, find them, and beat the shit out of them!!"
In a rage, Battler grabbed his hat stand spear and flew out of the room. Maria watched him go, looking bored...
"...Even though Beatrice will grant our wishes soon anyway... Stupid Battler. Kihhihihihi."
Maria stood up and grabbed the receiver.
"Uu-. Hello... Uu-?"
Of course, the sound of the phone also reached Battler's ears as he was about to dash out of the house. With a violent forcefulness, he turned around and dashed into the cousins' room...
"M-Maria...! Who... was the phone call from...?!"
With a terrifying look on his face, Battler yelled at Maria, who was on the phone. You couldn't blame him... Right now, the only humans left alive on the island were himself, Maria, Gohda, and Kumasawa. But there was no way those two could call after being locked up in the gardening storehouse.
Which meant... there was only one person left. It had to be Kinzo. After continuing her pleasant chat with the person on the other end of the phone for a while, Maria slowly turned to face Battler.
...Then, with an unsettling expression on her face, she laughed 'Kihihihihihihihihihi'. It felt almost as though the person on the other end of the line was chatting about Battler.
"Maria, who's on the phone? Grandfather...?!"
Battler couldn't imagine that this was the case. After all, it was inconceivable that Maria would talk intimately with Kinzo, and that she would be chatting about Battler with that eerie smile on her face. So just what kind of person could be on the phone... who could make Maria chat with a smile like that?
At that time, in the back of his mind, the words Kyrie had spoken to him drifted up.
"Yeah. Battler just came back. He sure is jumpy. Kihihihihihihihihihihi..."
"Maria!! Who's on the phone?! Who?!?!"
"...Hand it over? Sure. Here, Battler."
After getting the consent of the person on the other end, she held the receiver out to Battler...
Maria held the receiver out for him to take, as though it was perfectly normal. Battler hesitated just a little bit before taking the receiver. After all, by accepting the existence of the person at the other end, he'd have no choice but to acknowledge them.
...As Kyrie said... There is no longer... any need... to doubt that they exist.
As he did, Maria briskly left the room. Battler, who was a bit scared to find out for sure who was at the other end of the receiver, questioned Maria before taking the call.
"H-Hey! Where are you going...?!"
"To where my test is. I wonder who the next Ushiromiya Family Head will be, Battler or me. Kihihihihihihihihihihihihi."
"...D-Don't go!! You'll be killed!!"
"I won't be killed. The ceremony is already over. And even if I'm killed, I'll be revived. Whether one of us becomes the Head or not, we've already been invited to the Golden Land. See you."
Battler stretched his hand out to Maria's back as she left, but the cord of the receiver that he was gripping stopped him, just like a chain.
He readied himself. Battler put the receiver to his ear...
BGM: Happy Maria!
Screwed up, mocking English filled his ears. It was the voice of a woman he didn't know. Who was it...? The inside of his head was starting to freeze up... Who was it...?
"What do you mean 'Who is it?', Ushiromiya Battleeeeer...? Normally, you'd answer <yeees, I'm fine>! Right?? That takes me back, you do that one in middle school, right? That thing you do in pairs! Uhhyahyahyahyahyahyaaaaahh!!!"
"Y-You're insane... Who are you?!! Answer me!!!"
"Say it in Engliiish. Isn't that your specialtyyyyy?"
"...D-Don't fuck with me... Who are you?!! An underling of that damn geezer?!"
"Underling is a mean way to say it, is it not? At least say prisoner. And Kinzo is my prisoner! Riiight? Wahhahahahahahahahaha..."
That last laugh didn't sound like it was aimed at Battler. It was almost as though Kinzo was right next to the phone, cackling as well...
"...S-Say your name!! Who are you?! Who?!!!"
"I seriously waited a thousand years for today, get it?? I owe it to you! My big resurrection!! <Thank you>, Kinzo! Just for you, I'll lend an ear to that last 'I'll take that move back' of yoours!!!"
"...My, my, aren't you getting a tad too excited? Couldn't you act a bit more ladylike?"
Kinzo and Beatrice sat facing each other over the chessboard on the reception table. There was expensive cheese and snacks to go with drinks. And there were several empty wine bottles lined up. As Beatrice rolled around on the sofa in an unseemly way, she happily held a wine glass in one hand... and was probably completely drunk.
"I'm in the beeest mood today, so here's a huge bonus for you!! Hey, hey, Kinzo, don't use Chateau Petrus as a decoration! It's from 1947, right?! If you don't open it today, just when do you plan on opening it?! Let's drown ourselves in it and plaaaaaaaaay! Then let's whack each other with the empty bottles! Uhhyahhyahhyahhya!!"
"Hahhaha, how amusing. You're too excited. And you're letting loose too much."
"And what about you, Kinzoooooo?! Aren't you happy to be reunited with meee? Ah, it's the living world! The earthly world!! Long live my flesh!!"
"<Ye-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeess, I aaaaaaaaaamm>!! Thanks to Kinzo's 13-person murder ceremony, I've finally been resurrected...!! It's nice having a mouth, it's nice having a tongue! How fun it is to be able to talk to you like this! Come to think of it, even though we slapped each other with abuse so many times, over and over again, this is the first time we've had a conversation like this on the board during the game, isn't it? How very fresh!! Oh, did you hear that *pop* sound just now?! He opened it, he seriously opened that Chateau Petrus!! Do you know how much a single bottle costs?! Almost as much as a whole 10 kilogram ingot, you seeeeeeeeeeee?!?! Hii-hhahhahhahhahha!!"
"C-Cut the crap...!! Beatrice...?!! The Golden Witch, you say?! Give it a rest!! Where are you?! Is that damn geezer with you too?! I'll beat the shit out of both of you!! Where are you now?! Answer me!!"
"Oh, so you want to meet me? Uhhihihihi, it's tough being such a popular woman! But please, don't try to chat me up when Kinzo's around, okaay? This guy gets seriously jealous, so he has a bad temper, you see? ...But when Kinzo isn't around and we're all alone, I'll love you all ya want in secret, okay...? Uhyaaahhahhahhahha *giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*!!!"
"How fickle. So, are you saying you'll do Battler's test?"
"Nothing wrong with that, riiight?! That guy's so much like a younger you that it makes my heart race."
"Don't worry, I won't cheat on yooooou. This'll be the only time I'll be alone with him. I'm always alone with you in bed, riiight...? But no more tying me to the bed with a collar, 'kay? Kuhhyahhahhahahahahaha...!!!"
"Battleer, make sure you try seriously hard in this test to become the Successor, okaay? I mean, Kinzo's practically dead on his feet. If you become his successor, you'll be the new owner of everything on this island. If it's you, I wouldn't mind becoming all yours, see...? Rule over me just like Kinzo did, 'kay...? Kuhhihihihihihihihi, uhhyahhahhahahahahahaha!"
"Th-The front entrance of the mansion... Perfect...!! You drunk bastard!! I'll sober you up. I'll fix that hangover with a burning punch!! Prepare yourself!!"
Battler impulsively slammed the receiver down.
There was no need to talk through it anymore. I'll meet her face to face and settle this!!
BGM: Scar Sound
...It's hard to imagine that the young woman calling herself Beatrice is waiting for me alone. I should probably assume that, as Gohda-san and the rest said, she'll be waiting with supporting troops. Going alone would be too reckless...
I headed for the gardening storehouse first. I need all the help I can get. Gohda-san is big, so I can probably count on him for some firepower. Kumasawa's knowledge and familiarity with the terrain as a senior servant might become a huge weapon. Both of them have master keys, and they know more about the mansion than I do. They'll be pretty reliable allies.
As I banged on the shutter and called out for them to open it, I remembered that there was nothing they could do from the inside. I would have to get the key back from them before opening the door. I rounded the corner, knocked on the small latticed window there, and opened it.
"Gohda-san, Kumasawa baa-chan...! It's Battler...!! Hey, come on, get up, h...ey..."
The scene in the shed, lit by a dim lightbulb, was very... strange...
From a low ceiling beam... hung two thick ropes, and at the ends... Gohda-san and Kumasawa-san... were hanging... by their necks...
BGM: Dead Angle
...But when they showed not even a tremor after I called out to them, and because of the way the loops around their necks seemed to carry the full weight of their bodies, I could sense no trace of life from them...
"You've gotta be... kidding me, right...? Why...?"
The shutter was still closed. And there was only a single key, which had supposedly been given to Gohda-san. So how had the culprit... opened the shutter and killed both of them inside...? No, wait, they weren't necessarily killed... If this is a suicide... That way, this closed room makes sense, but I don't know why they would hang themselves and commit suicide...!!
Feebly, I slumped down on the spot. Now, the only humans alive on this island... are me, Maria... and that damn geezer. No, there's also that insane woman calling herself Beatrice... There's Maria, who had acted like the witch's ally from the beginning. And that geezer, the ringleader who revived the witch. And... the witch herself.
...What the hell. By now, I might as well be... the only one on this island...
Using my pole as a cane, I feebly rose. Damn, I can't do it like this... I've got to avenge... everyone...
Might as well cry while I can... So that my frail emotions will be squeezed out with my tears... Then, I straightened up and gazed into the darkness in the direction of the mansion.
...At the entrance to the mansion, the witch is waiting. I'll go... and settle this. I'll find the source of this weird, insane night... and crush her with my own hands...!
Amidst the pouring rain, I walked through the rose garden without an umbrella, letting myself get soaked. I could see the arbor on the other side. According to Jessica, it seemed that George-aniki had also been killed... Well, by this point, there's no need to worry about the lives of any hostages. I left the path, aiming for the arbor.
Then, I saw George-aniki's weather-beaten corpse...
The corpse was in front of the arbor.
If he had died under the arbor, he might have at least been spared being beaten down upon by the rain...
In Aniki's forehead was a gaping hole, as though he'd been shot with a gun. Perhaps because the rain had washed everything away, his face wasn't covered with blood, so he looked almost like he was sleeping. However, his clothes were stained a deep red, and there were still signs that a large amount of blood had flowed out... How happy I'd be if he were sleeping, or else pretending to be dead... But even though the rain sprayed against Aniki's eyes, they remained open. And... the hole in his forehead was no joke, but absolutely real...
There had been a faint chance that even Gohda-san and Kumasawa-san hanging by their necks in the gardening shed had been them playing a bad joke. But that naive possibility had now been completely denied. And, as I looked at this corpse, I became completely sure. Just as Gohda-san had once said. The enemy had come to take lives like pieces on a chessboard.
"...Aaaah, there's no mistake. It seems that old geezer and the witch... really don't view our lives as anything more than that..."
...That damn witch said something over the phone... Something about us being 'on the game board'...
"...Perfect... I see, she thinks this is a game... Then, if you killed everyone like it was a game, it's okay if I kill you all like it's a game, right...? Prepare yourself, Beatrice..."
The lightning caused the mansion's vast shadow to rise up. Finally, the mansion.
...According to Kyrie-san, there were massive amounts of attendants with goat heads. At least for now, I couldn't sense a large group of them hiding and staring at me...
What's this...? Beneath the roof of the entrance, there's something set down.
It looked like the kind of small box that girls often keep trinkets in. Or maybe it was the same kind of extravagant cigar case you'd find in a reception room. Either way, it didn't look like something that should be here... It clearly looked... as though I was being told to open it. But for some reason, opening something being offered to me was irritating. However, it didn't look like we'd get anywhere if I didn't open it. Could it be that it's set up with some trap to make it explode when opened...?
Thinking things like that, forgetting even to come under the overhang, I continued to glare at the box, still beaten down upon by the rain. Then, mixed in with the thunder... was some kind of... music? It sounded like that. It was the tone of the big clock in the hall announcing 24:00. It was also a sound announcing that this insane day, October 4, had finally ended, and that the much more incredibly insane day of October 5 had begun.
That sound quieted, and I could hear an eerie laugh coming out of nowhere...
I got the feeling that the voice was coming from the heavens, and I looked up at the sky.
Yes, in the portrait inside the mansion... The clothes were different, but that face was just like the witch of the portrait... Aaah, who am I kidding, I already know who this person is...!!
BGM: The Candles Dance
From the second floor balcony, leaning out under an umbrella and waving high-spiritedly, was, without a doubt, the witch of the portrait, Beatrice...!! Was the plan for the boss to take a birds-eye view and let the goat underlings torture me to death...?!
I adjusted my grip on the spear, and, imagining goats creeping out of the nearby shadows and the entrance and surrounding me, I raised my guard in all directions...
"Ahhaha, be at ease, there's no one here but you and me, see? No goat furniture, no demon butlers or Teacher, not even the demon who's my close friend. And, there's none of the gold butterflies that compose my flesh, no magic circles, and no summoners as witnesses!! Do you know what that means?"
"No clue. Quit babbling..."
"It is true that I have met you several times even in this world. Almost as though we just missed each other. As you know, this world of Humans is filled with a toxin just by your existence and your doubting of me. Almost like solid ramparts strengthening the guard around you, the king! And through multiple games, I have advanced pieces one by one, split them apart, and cornered them, leveling your ramparts bit by bit."
"As long as you stay on the black squares, a bishop on black can wield a massive influence, but if you escape just one step to a white square, even if I close in right next to you, I will not be able to touch you. That is why I have progressed through this game by sending in various pieces to prevent you from staying on a white square, forcing you out in front of me, the one who controls the black squares next to you. Howeeever!!"
"A rook plus a bishop. Is this what you're trying to say? That now, you not only control the black squares that are part of the illusion of the witch, but have been able to eat into the white squares of the human world at will...?!"
"That is correct!! You have been calling the squares with the gold butterflies that are my minions 'the Illusion of the Witch', and you have denied them as unobserved unrealities, right...? *cackle*cackle* I know...!! For that very reason, I have openly descended to the white squares like this!! Do not worry, I'll call plenty of gold butterflies and goats, demons and witches later! If you wish, I'll invite you to the Golden Land!! There, any wish can be granted...!! Wahhahahahahahahahahahahahaha...!!"
"...It's starting to look like someone knocked an ink bottle over the chessboard of this island."
"I see, a pleasant phrasing...! *cackle*cackle* Soon, you will be covered in ink as well. You will finally become covered with pitch black... and will surely become a black king...! You really are pitiful, drowning in a sea of ink right now, aren't you?"
"No, that's wrong. I'll admit that the island has been stained completely black from your ink bottle, but there's still a white square left."
It's strange... Until a second ago, I was shivering all over. But now that she's appeared openly right before my eyes like this, my terror has actually lessened. Interesting. Ghosts are most terrifying when you can only sense them. When you can see them, and they have a face you can plant your fist into, there's nothing scary about it...!!
...However, she definitely isn't an interesting or a friendly person. She can kill me instantly by snapping her fingers while rolling around giggling. Whether we interpret the result of her snapping her fingers as magic flying at me or underlings showing up to shoot me, it doesn't matter. Anyway, whether this is fantasy or mystery, that queen is in a position where she can kill me by just snapping her fingers...!