Part 18: Occult II
"Ridiculous. After all, detective novels are just entertainment novels! You can only think of such an indiscreet idea because you read them all the time!"
"That's right!! Even if she tried to fake the time of death a little, all of that would be blown away in an instant once the police did their autopsy!! It might been effective in the past, but do you really think that kind of trick would work in modern Japan?! Are you insane?!"
"...You think so? This morning, when Doctor Nanjo looked at the corpses, he was only able to give a vague estimate of the time of death, right? It would be very easy to influence the results of the autopsy by messing around with the corpses' surroundings. It's a very relative estimate with an uncertainty of several hours. And, unfortunately, the police's scientific investigation will have to wait until tomorrow. Measuring the correct time of death after that, even in modern Japan like you said, wouldn't be that easy, right? Right, Doctor Nanjo...?"
"...An autopsy requires both experience and instinct, and is an extremely difficult task... I have heard that there is a high chance of a wrong diagnosis... It's definitely possible that, in many cases, a misreading of a few hours can occur..."
"...However, for an alibi, that's more than enough! It's an old trick! It's a trick that works well enough! Natsuhi nee-san. It's not like we want to suspect you, alright? We just want you to prove your innocence so we don't have to suspect you."
"...Maybe Father's body won't appear somewhere? Normally, a person has to be missing for seven years before they're officially dead. Wouldn't that be a clever way to extend Father's nearly finished life another seven years and keep all of his wealth for yourself!"
"I, I can't let you get away with saying that!! I can't let you get away with saying any more!! I am Ushiromiya Natsuhi!! Although I do not have the right to wear the One-winged Eagle on my body, it is certainly engraved on my heart!! What do you think you're saying to the wife of Krauss, successor to the head, and the person who will act as such in his place!!!"
"What's this? Are you going to shoot me with that gun? Go ahead. And if you shoot?! You're just desperate because you can't think of a way out, right?! Do it, just try to obscure the truth with violence...!!"
It wasn't like aunt Natsuhi had been actually holding that gun at the ready and threatening anyone. But after she was told to by aunt Eva, she did hold it at the ready!
Unsurprisingly, once things got to this stage, Jessica and Genji-san tried to stop her.
"...Calm down, Natsuhi-san. Wouldn't everything be fine it you just swear that Father was definitely in that room? Why are you getting so distracted over that...?"
"...Th, that's right. Natsuhi-san isn't lying. Isn't that the end of it...?"
"Then I want you to explain. How did Father manage to disappear from the room? The window was closed tight from the inside. The same was true for the door, right? This morning, if you really met with Father, then you must explain how Father disappeared from this 'unopened door' closed room scenario. If you don't, that would mean that you are lying after all, right?"
"How far do you plan to mock me...!!!?"
"If you want to argue back, go ahead!! That's right, try explaining it right here, right now. After that, I can apologize to you for doubting you. How did Father manage to get out from that closed room!!?"
"I can't explain that so it's unnecessary!!"
"Really? Then let me explain it. We'll take the best parts from my perspective and yours, and come up with a more friendly explanation! I'll believe that, like you said, Father was still in his room this morning. However, the next time the door was opened, Father wasn't there. You don't have any objections so far, right?"
"I have no desire to listen to anything more you have to say!! Shut your frivolous mouth!!"
"Madam, please, endure it...!!"
"Eva-sama, please stop this...!!"
"After that, when you left and said you were going to check the doors and windows, you took Father's corpse, which had fallen in the courtyard, and hid it! That was probably when you took some measures to fake the time of death, right?!"
"This ties in with the case regardin' Krauss nii-san and the rest, and also the case regardin' Beatrice last night! There's an extremely good chance that Natsuhi-san is suspicious in those cases... Normally, I wouldn't want to say this. But now that it's out in the open, there's nothin' else I can do...! Please, Natsuhi nee-san! Please explain how you can be innocent!! Otherwise, I can't help but doubt you...!!"
"Why me!!? Why must I, Ushiromiya Natsuhi, be insulted like thiiiiiiiiiiis!!!"
"...Wh, ...what do you mean 'useless', Battler..."
Jessica looked up at me, hanging on to my every word. Aunt Eva's expression was composed as always.
"...Useless, you say? What is? Battler-kun. Tell me."
"If you only look at it from one angle, then you'd be stuck thinking that it had to be aunt Natsuhi. It's not like I'm defending her, but that won't be good enough for a clear checkmate."
"I think basing the whole theory off of that receipt is passable. It's not a bad thread of logic. But I'd only give it a grade of 65 at best. If this were an exam, that'd be bad enough to get you extra lessons in detention, right? Ihihi!"
"...Oh my. Well, how would you break through a door sealed by a receipt, and make Father disappear? Other than by my theory?!"
"Aunt Eva's theory's really interesting. And if you could show that there was no way to make Grandfather disappear other than yours, then you would probably prove that the last person to see him, aunt Natsuhi, had to be responsible."
"However, since there still is a possibility that she is innocent, and that these accusations are false, you can't make that claim!!"
"...Hmm. Then, Battler-kun, are you saying that someone other than Natsuhi nee-san made Grandfather disappear? It would be impossible for anyone else to do it. My receipt proved that, right? After the first time she visited that study, and until the second time when we visited it together, the study was a perfect closed room, and when the seal was broken on the closed room, he was already missing! If this doesn't prove that she was the culprit, what kind of trick could they have used?!"
"Like I said, aunt Eva, only 65 points. So, let's try 'turning the chessboard over', shall we? It's not about how they managed to make Grandfather disappear from the outside. Think about how Grandfather disappeared from the inside."
"The door had the receipt stuck in it, so it couldn't have been used. He also couldn't have gone through the window, because you can't lock it from the outside, and when aunt Eva visited the study, she checked to make sure it was locked. So the window also wasn't used. At that point, the study really was a closed room. We have to accept this! However, the study didn't remain a closed room forever. Once the seal created by the receipt was removed, it would also be possible for someone to escape by the door."
"...In other words, it's not about how aunt Natsuhi made Grandfather disappear. We need to think about how he was able to escape!!"
"Aunt Eva, even you didn't check that far right? And then the two of you went back down the stairs, thinking that he wasn't there."
"At that time, the receipt was already gone! In other words, if Grandfather was hiding in his room the whole time when it was a closed room, and escaped after letting the two of you go past him, we can crack this closed room right open!!"
"Wh, what is this!? Why would Father want to do something that weird and then escape the room?! Don't be so absurd!"
"Yeah, it might be absurd. However, it still shows that the there is a possibility that aunt Natsuhi is being accused falsely. Your receipt wasn't perfect. In chess, we might call that check, but it isn't checkmate!!"
"And the thing that I like least is your argument, pressuring aunt Natsuhi to explain it, and then claiming that, if she doesn't, she must be guilty! If you're asking me to let that slide, then why don't you let me, Ushiromiya Battler turn the chessboard over one more time!!"
"You've been trying to force aunt Natsuhi to explain. I'm sure you can prove your own innocence, right?! Aunt Eva, who's had all of Grandfather's wealth suddenly plopped down right into her hands!!"
"Th, that's right, you are suspicious enough yourself, aren't you!!? If you say Mom's suspicious because she was the last person to see him, then what about you, aunt Eva, who were the last person to see Dad and the rest?!! Just like Battler said, prove that you two weren't the ones that killed them!!"
"...Mother, I also think that your reasoning was a little overeager. I'm sure that the receipt was an important hint. But, like Battler-kun said, that's not enough to prove that aunt Natsuhi is this culprit. I think everyone's equally suspicious. It's not right for only aunt Natsuhi to be persecuted."
"O, our great Father, crawling under his bed? You call nonsense like that an explanation?!"
Jessica suddenly started coughing. At first I thought that she was just choking after yelling too loud, but before long, I realized how painful it looked... Jessica kept coughing and choking, down on her hands and knees...
"Jessica, get a hold of yourself...!! Doctor Nanjo...!"
"...Jessica-san, your inhaler, quickly. No wait, I have one with me."
Doctor Nanjo pulled a bronchodilator inhaler from his own bag, which was lying on the sofa, and handed it to Jessica.
Come to think of it, six years ago, didn't Jessica sometimes break into violent coughing and have to use that...? However, six years ago, I had never seen Jessica look like she was in this much pain.
"*cough* *cough*!! Uu-, ga-*COUGH* *coughcough*!! *kofkof*, *kofkof*!!"
"...Milady, your medicine. Here..."
Taking the inhaler from Kanon-kun, Jessica used it with a practiced hand. It looked like her throat would still itch for a while, but she had it under control...
"Are you alright, Jessica...? You scared me..."
"...It's no big deal. Don't worry about it..."
Beads of sweat covered Jessica's whole body and she couldn't hide her rough breathing, but it looked like her sudden attack had calmed down for now... This disturbance had made the dangerous atmosphere up until now seem slightly unfocused.
But that was fine. That kind of battle of mutual suspicion was completely unnecessary.
When you think about it, even finding alibis for each other and looking for the culprit was probably unnecessary. After all, we're just powerless, ordinary people, and when the police come tomorrow, they'll definitely employ cutting edge techniques and investigate the case thoroughly, solving all of the riddles and arresting the culprit...
"...But don't you want to know too, Battler-kun? Who the culprit is? Don't you want to let them know the pain you feel from losing someone precious to you, as soon as possible?"
"...I won't deny that. Even one day would be too long to let the wonderful bastard who's behind this go."
"...But that doesn't mean that I want to doubt one of the 18. Even though I said what I said earlier, I don't even want to doubt you, aunt Eva. To me, you are an awesome aunt who's always fun, if a little playful."
"I don't want to trade insults with an aunt like that. I wouldn't want to do that with anyone here. Right? Everyone?"
"I feel the same way as Battler-kun. It's pointless to trade insults. It's probably just the stress built up because so many people have been crammed in one place since morning."
"That is true. It is not surprising... I know I have no right to say it, but I think everyone should relax..."
"...Eva. I also think we should cool our heads. The receipt is certainly an important clue in searchin' for Father's whereabouts. We should tell the police about it when they come..."
"...That's right. Right. I just felt a little triumphant when I figured out that part with the receipt. Of course it isn't fair to only doubt Natsuhi nee-san, right? I'm just as suspicious."
Aunt Eva and uncle Hideyoshi stood up. It looked like they planned on leaving the parlor.
"In the end, it's pointless for us to continue playing detectives. After all, the police will reveal everything in the end anyways."
...That's right. Even if we don't play this detective game, the typhoon will pass, and when those lively seagulls return to the harbor, everything will settle itself. If you think about it, this kind of crime is completely trivial.
"...Natsuhi nee-san, I'll take it that you don't want to see my face anymore? I feel the same. If I remember correctly, yesterday, you had some rooms prepared for us in the mansion so that we wouldn't need to go back to the guesthouse, right? There should be a bath and a toilet there, as well as a lock and a chain to secure the door. There's even a bed to lie on, and my husband will be able to watch TV without having to fight with Maria-chan over which channel to watch, okay?"
"...Do whatever you want... But make sure to be cautious."
"Thank you, Nee-san... And mind your own business. I'll be counting on you to keep an eye on everyone, alright? Because the culprit is definitely here. And Nee-san, make sure you don't forget to keep an eye on yourself, too."
"...Haven't you made enough parting remarks?"
"...Yes, that's enough. See you, Natsuhi nee-san. Genji-san, we'll call for you when it's dinnertime. Until then, we'll lock ourselves in with the chain."
"...Genji, Kanon. Escort them to the guest room."
"We'll be fine. I hate shady escorts. In fact, I would be more comfortable if nobody left this room until we reach ours. Let's go, George."
"...I'll stay here with everyone."
"George! The culprit is in this room. Do you plan on staying in a place like that...?!"
"...Leaving this room would be the same as suspecting one of my relatives. I...can't believe that anyone in our family is capable of something that horrible."
"George...! Even you're saying it...!"
"George is already an adult man. If his code tells him not to leave this room, then it's up to him. Let him do what he wants..."
Aunt Eva and uncle Hideyoshi left.
Feeling bored, I started clawing at my head when Maria and I made eye contact. Since I had thought she was completely immersed in the TV, I was a little surprised.
"...I believe it now."
"The letter, the murders, everything. It was all Beatrice... No, actually I was hoping that someone would come out and say that was true. I want it to be the work of a 19th person. Otherwise, the 18 of us will have to keep on doubting each other... I think believing in a 19th person is better than that..."
"...Bringing Grandfather outside without opening the doors or windows must be a piece of cake for Beatrice, right...?"
Maria, after taking a single, short breath, hung her head, and then raised her face again.
"...That's right. Kihihihihihihihi, locking a door is useless against a witch. Beatrice is familiar with all 72 demons. The 33rd ranked, Gaap, gives the power to instantly carry the desired person to any location. To her, taking a person out of any closed room isn't hard at all, you see? Kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi..."
"Witches sure are incredible. Tell her, if she feels like committing another crime, to do it in a way that no human could... and make me believe that a 19th person... no, a witch, exists."
"...Kihihi. Alright. If I meet her, I'll tell her."
Crap... Nothing's made sense to me for a while now...
Just when I want to believe in a 19th person, I deny it, and just when I want to believe that there are only 18 people, I deny that too. Even though I wish that there were more than just the 18 people here, I couldn't accept the existence of that 19th person.
However, it's impossible for there to be anything after the decimal point. You shouldn't be able to show the number of people with anything but an integer. And yet, 19>X>18. How do you explain the fraction less than 1...!
That witch cannot be seen. Because Beatrice has no body. Therefore, she is invisible.