Part 140: Cause of the Tragedy II
BGM: Scar Sound
"Wait. After all that's happened, I'm not interested in some stupid game about who'll become the Successor."
"My game is to take you and that damn geezer... and all of you guys who killed everyone... and smack 'em with a Gian punch. One of those face-crushers."
"Hoh. So, you will fly through the air up to my balcony? Very well, very well, *cackle*! Then, look, come on right now, here here, up up!"
"...Damn you, acting so carefree just because you're in a completely safe place... I'm coming over there right now, so prepare yourself and wait for me!!"
"Aah, no, no. The door is locked. Of course, the shutters are down for all the windows. My castle isn't so fragile that a single knight like you could break in!"
I tried opening the door to the entrance anyway, but it really was locked. When I looked around, I noticed that the shutters were closed on the windows after all. Normally, those wouldn't be closed.
Gohda-san and Kumsawa-san probably had master keys, but they were in the closed room of the gardening shed. I can only give up for now...!
"Damn... Guess she's no fool herself."
"Do you really want to be right beside me so muuch? All right, if you impressively pass your test, why don't I grant you an audience? If you pass, then you'll become the Successor and my new master. My flesh and soul will be yours to do with as you please. For I am no more than the Ushiromiya family's furniture! Ahhahhahhahhahha!!"
"...Well, it looks like you want to make me take this test no matter what. Okay. I'll give it a shot. If I pass, my first prize will be a punch to your face."
"Scary, scaary... But it's not like I mind being controlled by violence, you see? Grab onto my head! Make my face twist in pain, tear me apart like a hawk does with its talons to its prey, scratch at me and trample upon me...!! Aaah, remind me of Kinzo in his younger days once more...!! That single time in my thousand-year life! Remind me of that day I was taught the joy of being controlled, surrendering and being reduced to furniture!! Uhyaaahhyahhyahhyahhya!!"
"...You damn drunk, we aren't getting anywhere."
Ignoring the stupidly smiling witch, I picked up the box.
"Yes. Open it. Inside is a letter. Read it."
I opened it. There was a faint smell of cigarettes. Apparently, it really had originally been a cigar case. But there were no cigarettes or cigars inside. Instead, there was a Western envelope with the One-Winged Eagle crest.
And when I opened that too, there was a letter inside. I looked up at the witch. She was grinning down at me. It seemed she was looking forward to seeing what kind of reaction I'd have to the contents... Damn, just perfect.
Its contents were something like this...
Among the three mentioned below...
BGM: Melody (instrumental)
"...What's this? Some pretty creepy stuff's written here. More importantly, the second one's blank, so I don't even know whose life it's supposed to be."
"Indeed. That second one is where you put the name of the one the test-taker loves the most. For Jessica's test, it was Kanon's name, and for George's test, it was Shannon's. Since they had obvious feelings for certain people, those names were written in beforehand, but I don't know whom you have feelings for. So I didn't know whose name to write and left it blank."
"That's perfect. I love you, Beatrice. I'll stick your name in here. In that case, I'll choose the second choice. Happy now?"
"Hey hey, quit joking, quit joking. Heey, please, Battler. Tell me the name of the person you have feelings for. If you don't, then this won't be a test, right?"
"Sorry. I don't have any girl in particular. Even if I did, why the hell would I tell you?"
"In that case, this test will not work for you. Hmmm, what a shame, what a shame. And I was really wondering what kind of woman was your cup of tea! *cackle*cackle*!"
"...What would you do if I said I liked flat-chested lolis with long, black hair? That wouldn't match you at all, right?"
"Lies, you breast sommelier! Blonde and bouncy is best, right? Am I not truly the embodiment of your ideal, *cackle*cackle*!"
"If guessing your bust size is the test to become the Successor, I'll take it gladly."
"Ah, yes. This was the test to choose the Successor, wasn't it? It was so fun chatting with you that I've been getting a bit off topic."
Video: Battler's Sin
The witch, who had been joking around like she was drunk until a second ago, suddenly regained her dignity. She looked as though she truly had stepped out of that majestic portrait...
"...Do you have the qualifications to inherit the Ushiromiya family and all of my gold? That is what I will test. State your name."
When faced with a dignity you wouldn't have imagined from her appearance a short while ago, I answered without any hesitation. And from that... yes, I see, I can tell why she's worthy of calling herself the true queen of this island.
"Very well, Ushiromiya Battler. However, for these six years, you have thrown away that Ushiromiya name, have you not...? Why was that...?"
"...Nn... Because I ran out of love for that old bastard."
"I know. It was because you felt that your father's remarriage disgraced the death of your mother, whom you respected, yes...? I see, you have no blood relation to your new mother whatsoever. It's not as though I can't understand why you'd be unable to accept that mother. However, no matter whom your father remarried, that wouldn't change the fact that his blood runs in your veins, correct?"
"...What are you trying to say?"
"I can somewhat understand the childishness that led you to resist your father's remarriage, since you wanted him all to yourself."
"However, was throwing away the Ushiromiya name as a means of resistance not a disgrace to your family and blood? You were born and raised Ushiromiya, were you not? Do you think you had the right to forget that debt and throw away the Ushiromiya name?"
"...It's got nothing to do with you. This is between me and Dad...!"
"The Ushiromiya name does not belong to you and your father alone. That was your childishness, nothing more than your inability to forgive the fact that your father was stolen away by an unknown woman. Those six years during which you threw away the Ushiromiya family register were a significant period during which you covered the Ushiromiya family in mud. Know the depths of that sin."
"...Well, sorry I'm so childish..."
"However, even though it occurred around the time of the deaths of your grandparents, you did well to return to the Ushiromiya register. For that, let us give you a chance to purify that sin yourself. Now is the time to compensate for your sin of six years ago."
...At that time, a massive thunderclap rang out, making my mind go blank.
"...What do you mean, repent? Are you trying to tell me to apologize?"
"...The test has already begun. You may think as you wish."
The witch's expression did not look like a person forcing a tough question on someone and sneering at them. She was asking seriously, and he could even sense a quiet determination. Even though the rain fell on Battler, he did not shift his eyes from that gaze.
The witch threw her umbrella away. She abandoned herself to the falling rain. So that the rain would fall on her until Battler answered that question. She had chosen to let the rain fall on her as well until he reached an answer. For some reason, Battler understood that. And yet, he didn't understand.
"...I hear that Dad always kept on paying for my living expenses... and that he even said he wanted to participate in school events. The only reason he couldn't come... was because I told Grandpa and Grandma not to let him come, no matter what..."
"...I-It's true that... I can't argue back if you wanna call that my childish resistance. But you know, in that case, who would clear away Mom's... Ushiromiya Asumu's regrets...?! Even though Mom was so devoted to our family and did the very best she could...?!"
"Despite that, Dad was cheating with Kyrie-san. He even got her pregnant with Ange...! And then, along with her birth, he rushed to move them into his register."
"...If that wasn't a betrayal of Mom, then what was it?! Who... will clear up... Mom's regrets?!! But what you're saying is also right. Even though the cheating was a fact, the debt I owed for being raised was real too."
"In that case, they cancel each other out, so there's absolutely nothing wrong with me leaving the family, is there?!! That's right, I had the right... no, the duty to smack Dad in Mom's place, didn't I?!"
"But I didn't do that! I left without saying anything, as though I hadn't been there in the first place!! And Dad forgot all about me and started a new family with Kyrie-san and Ange! Doesn't that settle everything?!!"
BGM: Worldend (solo)
Kyrie-san understood my anger, and even so, she tried to interact with me, even if it meant tearing her heart apart. Ange didn't know anything about the situation, and even though I lived in a separate house, she was raised believing that I was her real big brother and loved me as if it were true. Dad casually said to come home any time I wanted.
"It started to feel more and more ridiculous!! I thought it was about time for me to cool my head as well. So I said I'd put it all behind me as long as Dad apologized. Then came the day of Grandpa's funeral! Then, he really did put his hands on the floor and apologize...!! Looking unbelievably pathetic...! Dad did that and seriously bowed his head to me, you see...?! When I saw that, it felt like it'd be stupid to keep it up any longer. I'm sure Mom thought the same thing! Every time Dad and I fought, Mom would always laugh and mediate for us. 'Oh, were you fighting over something that silly?' is what she'd say. I could feel Mom saying that and laughing...!!"
"So, though I couldn't actually say I'd forgive him, I thought it might be okay to start over again from square one. So I decided to wind everything back to how it was six years ago. Then, I returned to the Ushiromiya family register...!! I'd also cried, raged, and worried for a whole six years! It might've been the same for Dad... and for my dead Mom. Maybe even for Kyrie-san and Ange. So we went back to square one, and I returned to being Ushiromiya Battler!!! That's my immediate family's problem... and has nothing to do with the Ushiromiya family!!"
"You have no right to judge that as a sin, and I have no obligation to show repentance to you! If there was anyone I should've done that for, you've already killed them!! So I won't apologize for anything! I won't repent!! That's my answer for this test!!!"
Part of me had fully responded to her provocation, and I'd supposedly vented out all the stuff I'd kept inside my chest, stuff I hadn't wanted to show anyone. That was what the witch had supposedly been expecting. And yet, the witch's blank expression didn't change in the slightest.
I'd been sure she'd start cackling and guffawing, sneering at my childish, foolish, and shameful past. But to the contrary, I could feel a sense of disgust about her, something you could almost call disappointment.
"...What do you mean 'Is that all?', I've exposed everything about me, right? What more could you want?"
"Atonement? What the hell, are you asking me to prostrate myself right here and apologize like Dad did...?!"
"...That's not it. I have no interest in matters concerning your immediate family or your home. Where are we? Rokkenjima. The main residence of the Ushiromiya Head Family. Isn't there a sin you ought to remember, fitting for this place...?"
BGM: 599 Million Ruins
"...Remember, Ushiromiya Battler. Not being able to remember that is your sin. For that reason, I shall forgive you. If you can remember it, I shall forgive you. Remembering that is my test of atonement for you."
"...Even if you... tell me to remember..."
"Sorry, Beato. I have absolutely no memory of it."
"...You make it sound like I caused you trouble six years ago or something, but I supposedly met you for the first time at this family conference. It's true that your legend also existed six years ago, but I shouldn't have been acquainted with you."
"...Naturally. On the Rokkenjima of six years ago, I had not yet materialized."
"Then what kind of sin are you saying I have? Are you saying... I've sinned against you somehow...?"
"Don't make me say the same thing twice. I had not materialized six years ago. There was no way for me to become acquainted with you. In the world that you are, it was as though I didn't exist."
...Beato's cold eyes... felt as though they were pursuing some kind of sin. At a glance, it felt as though she still hated me for something I'd done to her... and that she blamed me for it. However, I naturally didn't have a clue, and Beato had said it herself.
Six years ago, there was no link between us.
"...At least give me a hint. Does this sin... have anything to do with you and me...?"
"I had no connection to you six years ago. Remove me from your thoughts already. Why... do you think it is a sin against me?"
"My eyes...? ...Hoh."
"Because... your eyes are whispering at me to apologize. But I had no connection with you six years ago, and it looks like you acknowledge that too."
"...Is that true? Is it really not a problem between me and you...?"
"...I already said it wasn't. No problem between me and you has anything to do with this."
"But still, your eyes are telling me differently. So I don't even have a clue."
"...Can you say it in red? Can you proclaim that the sin you're telling me to remember isn't something between you and me?"
"...Then... why are you looking at me with those eyes...?"
"I don't know. I am simply gazing at you blankly. If it feels that way to you, perhaps there's something making you feel that way."
"...What kind of sin are you saying I have?"
"Ushiromiya Battler has a sin."
"...And I'm asking you what kind. I'll bet it's just some trivial sin, like hitting someone or tricking someone."
"Because of your sin, people die."
"L-Liar...! I've never killed anyone...!! Then say it! Who did I kill?! When? Who? How?!"
"Due to your sin, a great many humans of this island die. No one escapes, all die."
"...Wh-Whaaaaat?!?! Wh-What kind of incomprehensible thing are you saying?! Are you saying I killed everyone?! I'm a killer?!"
"It doesn't mean you carried it out directly. However, because you committed a sin, from an imperfection in the cogs that stretch back a full six years, a distortion was created, and tonight, this many lives are lost."
BGM: Fishy Aroma
"...Qu-Quit messing around!! I'm the cause?! Then what?! Are you saying 13 people died because I abandoned the Ushiromiya register six years ago?! Are you saying that 13 people died because I came back to the Ushiromiya family after six years?!"
"Don't fuck with me, give it a rest!!! For these six years, I've been the man farthest from the Ushiromiya family, right?! How could I have influenced anything in any way?!"
"It's not like I came to the family conference because I wanted to, right?! I'd returned to my family after six years, so to make up for that lost time, I came to Rokkenjima reluctantly...!! It's not like I had some duty to come here today!"
"I came back, and because of that, a massacre occurred? Then what?! Are you saying that if I hadn't come back, no one would've had to die?! Say it in red!! Can you say in red that, if I hadn't come back, this massacre crime wouldn't have occurred?! There's no way you can say it, because you're the culprit for everything!!"
"...Can't do it, can you? You can't say it! The culprit is you, not me!! Don't try to rub that responsibility off onto meeeeeeee!!!"
"...Answer in red!! Try to repeat it...!! You can't! My existence has nothing to do with the crime."
"Quit saying incomprehensible stuff and trying to confuse meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"
...The rain earlier had just hurt, but now I felt a tormenting cold from those raindrops...
"...Is there nothing that you remember?"
"...Sorry. I don't even have a clue."
"...Hey. I'm starting to get a little pissed off. If there's something you wanna say, then say it. If you have a grudge against me. you just have to say it out loud. Don't do it in such a dirty way, forcing me to remember."
"...I'll ask one more time. Can you remember any sin?"
BGM: Soul of Soul
Even a hopeless bet can leave behind regrets if you do not take it. That's enough. The betting itself has meaning.
"...That may be true. In that case, this is... the end of my regrets... and my game."
What will you do...?
"...Who knows. I'm not interested at all anymore. Sorry, but I wish to leave the game board now."
...I see. I understand.
"...I'll be counting on you... to finish up the rest."
The witch who had questioned Battler hid herself, and the other witch, who had appeared from behind, remained. She certainly was identical, the same witch, but her expression was somehow indifferent and ice-cold, completely removed from the one who, despite seeming drunk up until then, had been in high spirits.
The witch did not answer. Her eyes were as ice-cold as Battler's shoulders. She was now clearly a different person since the time she'd first appeared on that balcony.
The witch gazed into my eyes... and gave two small shakes of the head. Even without words, I was able to gather that she was expressing some kind of disappointment...
Without saying anything, the witch turned on her heels. After that, only Battler remained, the cold rain still beating down on him...
It seemed that Gaap was making fun of Virgilia, having tripped her up in some stupid way. They were spitting 'Lialialia' and 'Gapgapgap' at each other. With this as a sideshow, Kinzo and Ronove had opened a new bottle.
"Maria's test got passing marks with no complaints, you see? I've despised her as a little girl, little girl, but see, but see, why, why, oh my, oh my, not bad, not bad! Wahhahhahhahhahha!!"
It seemed like Kinzo was dead drunk. Facing Beato, who had returned, he laughed with the same level of tension as the time they'd left for the tests. However, Ronove and Virgilia instantly noticed the change in enthusiasm. Gaap also froze her expression and went silent.
"Wahhahahahahahhahha, what is it, Beatrice, my beloved witch? Not enough to drink? Not enough on the side? Let's pour it all over a cow or something and roast it whole, ooh, not bad!"
"Ronove, prepare one right away! Beatrice, let's leave the results of Battler's test for later. Why don't we have a toast with spare rib first, uwahhahhahhahhahha!!"
"...Roast yourself whole."
The witch, who had spoken bluntly, coldly passed by Kinzo's side as he doubled over laughing in a great mood. Then, behind the witch's back, the old summoner's body suddenly went up in flames...
BGM: Witch in Gold (cembalo)
As crimson flames spat from his eyes, mouth, nose, every hole on his body, Kinzo rolled around. Even though it was a terrible hellfire, it didn't burn anything except Kinzo.
Kinzo didn't have a clue what was going on. Unable to understand why Beatrice, who had been in such a good mood, had suddenly turned so cold, he rolled around... The dancing silhouettes of the witch and demons created by that massive rolling torch... looked like a group of excited spectators around a burning at the stake. However, the eyes of the demons who watched over it were indifferent...
When Kinzo finally stopped moving, the fire disappeared, leaving a pitch-black corpse. The inside of the room was commanded by the stillness of the sound of the rain...
"I've gotten over... my excitement. Clean up those bothersome cinders."
Beatrice's expression... was unbelievably indifferent. There was an iciness that might easily bring the others to the same fate as Kinzo if they annoyed her.
"...Y-Yes. I will clean it up..."
Gaap made a jet-black pitfall swallow up Kinzo's cinders. If she hadn't carried that out quickly, Gaap might also have been burned. You could even feel that thirst for blood. No, a thirst for blood probably isn't the best way to describe it. Just like humans don't have any particular emotion when they step on an ant while they're walking... That was how much, unconsciously and mercilessly, Beato was now filled with a brutal emptiness that wouldn't hesitate to bury a passerby...
"I don't want to answer. No, even answering is too much of a pain to do now."
"...What is it? This isn't like you. Did something happen? Did Battler say someth-"
"...ack, gah, gyah-"
Beatrice didn't even answer. It seemed that she even ignored it. But there was a change in Gaap. From her feet, a creaking, cracking sound rose, like thin ice breaking, and in an instant, turned Gaap into a glass sculpture.
"...Disappear for a while. I'm in a very bad mood."
Beatrice spoke that... in a truly cold voice, which could freeze the heart just by hearing it.
"...Certainly. Then, please allow us to retire. If you need anything, call at any time."
After bowing, Ronove turned into a cloud of gold butterflies and hid himself. After turning Gaap, who had become a sculpture, into a cloud of gold butterflies, Virgilia also turned into a cloud, which mixed in with the others and disappeared.