Part 142: Journey's Endpoint
BGM: Monochrome Clock
"Whoops, my bad. You don't like M. Zakky?"
"I'm just not in the mood."
Amakusa turned the radio off. The world of cheery sounds was immediately swallowed up by the roar of the sea...and blotted out by the ocean's gray...
The boat captain pointed, but I couldn't really recall that scene of 12 years ago. I thought I'd surely be able to immediately remember how things had been at the time, but no memories came back to me. After that incident, the island was sealed off and left to the wild. I couldn't satisfy myself with the thought that this was just inevitable, and it felt sad and painful for some reason.
...Ah, but I at least remember one thing. You might say that it'd probably be the same anywhere on the sea, but I remember at least one thing.
...When I was young, I rarely went to the ocean. So everything that symbolized the ocean meant Rokkenjima and a family gathering to me. In short, it was a symbol for the happiness of going out with my family. However, at this point in time, it seems doubtful whether that even was happiness. In my younger days, the trip had felt like a relaxed family vacation, but considering my parents' situation at the time, it was surely a very difficult trip to handle, with the distribution of the inheritance filling the place with the smell of gunpowder. I can remember giggling all over the place, completely ignorant of my parents' feelings...
Amakusa, in an attempt to speak for my innermost feelings, tried to sound cool. The boat slowly rounded the island. I hoped that viewing it at a different angle might bring back my memories of the island's silhouette at the time just a little, but in the end, even when that inlet was hidden completely by cliffs, I wasn't able to remember anything...
"...Captain, please tell me... about that other harbor you mentioned."
"Sure. Rokkenjima supposedly has only one harbor. But that's only for public appearances."
"On the back of the island, there's another hidden harbor. Like Rokkenjima itself. It has a second face, which no one knows about..."
"...Rokkenjima is an island owned by the Ushiromiya family. But it has another face, as an island owned by Kinzo-san personally..."
"So this island... has two harbors and two mansions. He sure spent a lot just to keep a mistress."
"Who knew about this other harbor...?"
"Very few. Kinzo-san, the butler Genji-san. Those of us involved with the boats, and a very small number of the oldest servants. Both the previous owner of the Nanjo clinic and that Kumasawa baa-san knew."
"Naming them off like this makes it sound like there were quite a few, but basically, there was a small number of people who knew."
"Please... tell me about that other mansion."
"...I was only told that there was a mansion called Kuwadorian. Since I wasn't allowed to leave the boat, I never saw it, not even once."
"So it was far enough away that you couldn't see it from the harbor?"
"I don't know. But it was a hidden mansion, after all. It was probably built where you couldn't see it from the outside. Anyway, Kuwadorian was the biggest secret of that island."
"There's a theory that Beatrice lived in Kuwadorian, or else was confined there. What do you think, Captain?"
"...I did sometimes carry miscellaneous goods to Kuwadorian. And that included a lot of stuff that only women would use, and expensive stuff at that. I'm also convinced that theory is true."
"So does that mean you never saw Beatrice directly, Captain?"
"Nope. Came and went for about 20 years, and I never saw her once."
"Twenty years...! Whew, that means she was at least 20+. Look's like she wasn't some mademoiselle."
"Bang? You mean suddenly?"
"...We came to the Hidden Side on a set schedule to carry food and trash back and forth. Ah, right, the Hidden Side's what we called the harbor linked to Kuwadorian."
"I get it. So then?"
"One day, we got an urgent message from Genji-san. He said that until we heard differently, there was no need for us to go to the Hidden Side anymore."
"And did you hear differently?"
"Not really. Long story short, one day, I was suddenly told that they wouldn't need regular service to the Hidden Side anymore... and that I didn't have to take food there either. At first, I thought I was being fired. But I quickly figured it out. Going by the reactions of the servants who knew of Kuwadorian, I managed to guess somehow."
"That's what I think. From that point on, I was never told to take a boat to the Hidden Side. However, after that, Genji-san came to see me face to face and got pushy, strongly urging me never to speak of anything related to the Hidden Side until I died."
"So, if that hidden mansion was abandoned for 20 whole years... why was Aunt Eva there?"
Why was she in a hidden mansion that had been forgotten for 20 years...?
"I saw on the talk shows. Even I don't have a clue what happened. Not once did I guide Eva-san to the Hidden Side. I have no idea how or why she knew about or reached Kuwadorian."
"I wonder if it was possible to reach this Hidden Kuwadorian by land."
"...If, as we heard, the forest was dense and uncultivated, I seriously doubt a well-dressed lady person'd be able to bush-crash it."
"So what about by sea? Maybe there was a motorboat or something."
"Are you kidding? That two-nighter typhoon was awful. No way you could'a used a boat."
"You mean a tunnel long enough to connect mansions on opposite sides of a 2 kilometer island like Rokkenjima...? Well, I'd like to laugh at the thought, but this rich guy made a whole hidden mansion for his mistress. Guess I can't deny the possibility. What do you think, Captain?"
"I'm a man of the sea. I don't know about holes. But the Japanese military dug a 25 kilometer tunnel on Iwo Jima. Wouldn't surprise me if the Kinzo-san could dig at least 2 kilometers."
"...There really is something wrong with this island. Even now, not one of us really knows a thing about it."
"...I'll wait here. The mansion's that way. The path from back then's probably still there, but I'll bet it's covered with plants. Make sure you don't get lost."
"Right, let's go."
"Thanks for everything, Amakusa. You wait here too."
"...Well, I had a feeling you'd say that."
"I'm just delivering something. It'll be troublesome for them if you come too. I imagine your toxin is strong."
"I'll be back soon. Today, our main goal is Kuwadorian. After I deliver this, I'll come right back."
Ange put on her knapsack, holding the flowers she would offer.
"Give her some space, young'un."
"...See you soon, little lady. Your family's waiting for you."
It was true that the vegetation was incredibly thick, and if I didn't pay attention, I would lose track of the path. But the road that was left was much clearer than I'd guessed it would be.
Still, that didn't change the fact that it was a bad road. Contrary to the distance shown on the map, I was forced to walk a long way...
At the time, I had been threatened into staying away from the forest because a witch lived there. Of course, that fear is gone now, but... I feel it. Because I was me, I could feel the presence, like an aura, of the Golden Witch, Beatrice...
Here and there were massive fallen lumps of rock along with overgrown trees and ivy. And the voices of birds and bugs. Yeah, I feel it. I feel... that the witch... is here...
Ahead, an ivy-covered construction site fence and warning sign stood.
Yeah, that's right. When you think 'Tokyo', you tend to think of a city, but Rokkenjima is also located within the Tokyo Metropolis. Apologizing to the sign for my rude mistake, I climbed the fence.
When I crossed the steep slope beyond that, my field of vision rapidly expanded, and a fresh sea breeze blew through my hair... It was like the top of a little hill. Below me was a vast view of the island. I could only see desolated forest and rock walls spread out below me. But I realized that the mansion was probably somewhere around there.
The steep downward slope beyond this hill had probably been caused by earth and rocks collapsing from 12 years of wind and rain. It had become a slant filled with crags that you might even call gentle cliffs, and it would be easy to tumble down, though it looked like climbing back would be pretty difficult. In any event, it seemed that proceeding any further would be impossible.
This place is 1986 and 1998. And, it is that day and today. The boundary between this world and nirvana.
"...This spot is... this journey's final destination, it seems."
As the strong winds blew Mammon's and Sakutaro's hair, they looked down from the hilltop...
'Uryu, that's impossible. We won't be able to come back.'
...We won't be able... to come back. Is that it? I see. This is 1998, and I am the Ushiromiya Ange who has been left all alone.
At first, this was a journey to die. But not anymore. It's become a journey to accomplish something...
"Yeah. So, I'm sorry, you two. Although, as I was back then on that day, I would've gone down that cliff without any hesitation."
"Come on, this is pretty lame for the skyscraper-jumping Ushiromiya Ange."
'This place is as good as any. After all, you can feel the wind of that day.'
"...Was the wind... really like this?"
'Yeah. Very soon, they will come. Everyone.'
Sakutaro said it as though it was completely natural. And... I believed it. Dad. Mom. Onii-chan. All of my relatives, and those fun servants. And... Maria onee-chan.
When I started my journey to expose the past of 12 years ago, my goal had been abstract, and I hadn't understood. But now, I have no doubts. This journey... was induced by several thoughts and fates over 12 years. A journey to reach an end for me, Ushiromiya Ange. And, a journey reach an end as the last witch of Mariage Sorcière. I came here as the last daughter of the Ushiromiya family... and as the last witch...
"...Dad, Mom, Onii-chan. Sorry. Let me greet Maria onee-chan first."
A strong tailwind urged me on. That tailwind took just my soul out from inside my body... to the vast forest beneath me. And, though from here on I couldn't see, I believed that it flew me to the mansion on that day, to where everyone was, to where Maria onee-chan was. And so, even though my body was on the top of a hill, a strong wind blowing against me, my soul was now certainly dancing through that sky...
The vast, vast sky of Rokkenjima. Below me was the green of many trees. But... I understand. I can comprehend the presences of my family and relatives... and all the servants. And... Maria onee-chan too. I could even comprehend... Maria onee-chan as a witch. It was vast, more so than any vast space I had imagined up until now.
Ange called to the Maria of that day. She told her of the long journey she'd undergone. Of her long-delayed realization of just how much she'd wounded Maria in her youth. She understood magic... and now understood everything about the world Maria had wanted to show her. It was very warm, overflowing with love and happiness.
She wanted to become even happier by sharing that world, but I trampled it.
"So now, I finally understand everything. I understand magic...! Our magic is surely very faint and fills the space beside us. But it isn't something that anyone can see with their eyes. Magic is... yes, I can say it clearly."
Sorry, Onee-chan. I've already been excommunicated from the alliance of witches, but now, I understand how wonderful it is. And... I know that, after the day I wounded you, Mariage Sorcière... was transfigured into something different from what you truly desired. Even the magic that spat anger by cursing people was probably important to Onee-chan in those days. Onee-chan's environment was sad enough to permit that.
"But now, those sad days... are over. So, let's return Onee-chan's alliance of witches... back to the original Mariage Sorcière."
The grimoire was in my hands before I realized it. The strong winds were rapidly blowing its pages one after another... That world had been kind in the beginning.
How could you give birth to magic that would make candy fall from the sky?
How could you give birth to magic that would make tomorrow's dinner creme croquette?
How could you give birth to magic that would make the weather good when you went out the next day, making your whole day fun?
New spells of happiness were created one after another, coloring her world with kindness... Those days were flipped through one after another, and months began to flash by...
...Eerie magic circles and demon summonings. Evil magic for harming people.
How could you give birth to magic that would cause the class bully to catch a cold?
How could you give birth to magic that would seriously injure someone in class so that they died?
How could you give birth to magic that would cause a bus loaded with all the bullies to fall off a cliff?
Malicious spells were created one after another, burying the pages and her heart...
"...I'll... return it to how it was. I'll bring back the original Maria onee-chan, the one who scattered magic to make people happy across the entire world. That's the reason I came here. I was guided by fate. Maria onee-chan, can you hear me...? Show yourself before me...!!"
That voice rode an even stronger wind and was sent 12 years into the past... Then, the wind gradually ceased, and silence fell...
I listened to those footsteps, surprised at this miracle. Without a doubt, those were Maria onee-chan's footsteps.
Before I knew it, Aunt Kasumi and her black-suits, a total of seven people who didn't resemble Maria onee-chan in the slightest, were standing there, surrounding me. And it felt like my voice had been just about to reach Maria onee-chan, too... Because of these guys' toxin, that magic was cut off...
Ange clicked her tongue at that, but Kasumi probably didn't hear it that way.
"...Hmmmm. Are those flowers for your deceased family? How admirable. You're going to throw them, right? Go ahead, we'll wait that long."
...Just what are you waiting for...? But Ange could more or less guess. The way the black-suits unnaturally stuck their hands into their pockets clearly brought to mind the likelihood that they had handguns.
I have absolutely no interest in the family matters of the Sumadera family. But if I die, all that wealth will go to them. Unlike me, they're probably very interested and concerned about this matter. Of course, it seems that if the massive amounts of stock I own suddenly go to them, it'll be pretty bad for the Ushiromiya Group as well, and they're apparently having a secret feud, fighting over me all by themselves.
...That's probably why President Okonogi gave me Amakusa as a guard. Having Amakusa wait on the boat was a regrettable mistake...
"Aunt Kasumi, how long have you been waiting for this ambush...?"
"Since early morning. Thanks to that, I'm completely tired of waiting. After all, there are no cafes or dressing rooms here."
"No toilets either, so I guess you had to elegantly drop a load behind a tree. ...Ack-"
s "A lady with half Sumadera blood flowing through her veins will not use such filthy words. You really are Sumadera Kyrie's child. Not a trace of grace."
She grabbed me by the hair and forced my face up to hers. And then spat at me. My words might be filthy, but they're no worse than her spit.
"...Every time you talk to me, Aunt Kasumi, it's always about Mom. Am I really that much like my mother?"
"Yes, you are. That impertinent gaze. Your mouth and nose are the same too. Freewheeling and irresponsible. You thought nothing of the long history and tradition of the Sumadera family... and selfishly flew out of the house. Thanks to that, my entire life has been devoted to cleaning up your mess...!"
"I guess your life really has been covered with crap."
When I was slapped on the cheek, my ear was smashed, and for an instant, my head rang... My hair was pulled, spinning me around, and I fell to the ground. And in a flash, the ground was kicked and I was struck with sand.
"...You're a sad person. I'll bet that since you were young, you always got compared to Mom and scorned. And for your entire life, you'll never be released from that wretchedness."
"A little girl like you couldn't possibly understand. You see, your mother is a loser who threw everything away and ran away from the Sumadera family, right...?"
"Do you know how much... how much trouble I went through because of that loser?!!"
"Any trouble you went through has nothing to do with me. Sorry, but what am I supposed to do about something that happened before I was born?"
"...When will your life begin? It never will. For all eternity, you'll always, always continue to be sneered at by my dead mother until you die. If only you'd just die. Why are you living?"
"You little piss...!! You all...! Make her some tea."
"Heheheh... Leave it to us..."
"You big-mouthed shitty brat. Let us teach you a little lesson."
"Do whatever you want to her until my break is over. Teach my cute niece her place."
Sumadera Kasumi. When I think about it, she was a pitiable person. To the outside world, women of the Sumadera family were trained to be in a position that supported and deferred to men. But in actuality, strong leadership was required from them, so that they could manage all the common people.
The role demanded of them really was that of a female commander. Managing the Sumadera family with all its traditions was not something that could be accomplished with just an ordinary level of dignity. It was an unimaginably heavy responsibility. Normally, this would have been demanded of Kyrie. Kyrie had undergone that harsh training. And Kasumi, as the younger sister, should have been able to take it easy. No, on the contrary, she had lived like a lazy, selfish and affluent princess, sneering at Kyrie, who had been given the heavy responsibility.
...However, Kyrie had suddenly been disinherited. She had refused the fiancé her parents had arranged...and had gotten pregnant by her lover, Ushiromiya Rudolf. From the Sumaderas' perspective, even though the Ushiromiya family held a vast fortune, it was a low-level family that had already collapsed. And to become not even a legal wife, but a mistress to the second son of that family... Normally, a daughter of the main family would be shown no mercy for such dishonor. They would wrap her up in a mat, place a pole on end, and throw her either into the Pacific Ocean if the pole fell to the right or the Sea of Japan if it fell to the left.
...But Kyrie's punishment ended with disinheritance, an unbelievably warm-hearted decision. After that, the Sumadera family began receiving favorable treatment from a section of the Ushiromiya group. There must've been some kind of backroom deal. In other words, Kyrie openly left the Sumadera family under the pretense of gaining financial support from the Ushiromiya family. Kasumi had watched it happen in shock. No, she even disparaged her dishonorable sister as a loser. But, eventually... She realized that the heavy responsibilities Kyrie had borne would be passed on to her, and then, for the first time, she saw that she'd been outwitted...
"...Isn't that what you get for making light of life until then? ...Gyack! Gah... gah..."
"Don't you ever stop talking, girl?! Hyaah!"
The black-suit punched me in the gut, and I doubled over. But I was quickly grabbed by the nape of the neck and made to stand up again. Kasumi cold-heartedly looked down at me, smoking a cigarette...
The painful days after Kyrie had left were floating through her mind. Until then, she had been allowed to be a simple lady, freewheeling and naive. Only the older sister, Kyrie, had been harshly trained, and she, the younger sister, had been able to live as nothing more than a princess. Then, suddenly, everything got flipped over... and her life came crashing down...
"Glad to hear it. Keep up the good work."
A kick landed in Ange's side as she crawled on the ground.
Ange didn't stand up again. So, she continued to lie there like a caterpillar as she was kicked each time she spoke up.
"...I saw Nee-san at an Ushiromiya Group party once. She was with her husband, looking very happy... and laughing. She... pushed everything onto me... and found happiness... only for herself..."
"...So what? How is taking it out on me going to make you happy? Will taking it out on me turn back time and change history or something?"
" "...Uguhguhguh, gah, ghackk...!!"
"You said something a short while ago... When will my life start? No matter how much I despise you or take out my frustrations on you, I can't turn back time. So, must I keep hating my sister even though she's gone, until I die?"
"You've got to be kidding me. How long will I have to be tormented by my sister's ghost? So I thought of something. If I could accomplish one thing, I'd be able to forget all of my hatred and start over."
Ange was about to lash back out at her, but stopped. Because she'd be kicked again if she responded. Even if Kasumi didn't say any more, Ange had a pretty good idea what she meant. Kasumi thought that by taking revenge against Kyrie's daughter, Ange, she'd be able to put an end to her hatred.
...Talk about pushing your problems onto other people.
"...Who'd... say something like that?
"Ange-sama, no...! You mustn't provoke them...!! You should at least make it seem like you're going along with them, so you can buy some time...!"
"...They often say that... you should throw your foolish pride... out with the garbage..."
'Oh, what about Amakusa-san...?! If Amakusa-san comes, I'm sure...!'
"...It's no use, I can't see him... You idiot, Ange-sama...! Why did you leave Amakusa behind...?!"
I didn't need Mammon to tell me. I was seriously regretting it already.