Part 19: The Two Who Are Close
October 5th, 1986, 7:00 PM
So no one mentioned the case, at least out loud. However, those thoughts were what filled our minds. All that we couldn't say aloud made our heads feel like they were going to explode... So, at least on the outside, the parlor had once again regained its calm mood.
Everything was left unsettled.
"Mom, when will the boat come tomorrow?"
"Normally, the boat to take them back would arrive at 3:00 today. They probably sent us a phone call to say that they would come after the typhoon passed, but unfortunately, the phones aren't working... But they aren't children over there. They were told to both drop off and collect our guests, so they will most likely arrive first thing tomorrow morning... probably about 9:00, I believe."
It was completely black outside. When I looked at the clock, I realized that it was just past 7:00. I was starting to get hungry...
It was an act of kindness from Kumasawa, who was trying to enliven everyone's low spirits with some food. Kumasawa wasn't nearly as talented as a professional cook like Gohda, but she was far from unskilled. On the contrary, since she had been brought up in a fishing village, the simple food she created was sometimes very highly valued.
Kanon arranged the food Kumasawa had finished creating on plates, under her direction. Kanon also helped in the kitchen sometimes, but since he was rarely placed in that role, he was slightly awkward, even though he tried his best... Self-conscious about the fact that he couldn't skillfully arrange the food, Kanon's expression darkened slightly. But Kumasawa smiled as though everything was fine.
"Hoh-hoh-ho, it's arranged beautifully. Kanon-kun, aren't you skilled."
"...If it had been Shannon nee-san, it would be even more beautiful..."
Kanon stopped arranging the food for a bit, and hung his head...
BGM: Minute Darkness
"...Forget it for now..."
Genji spoke kindly to Kanon as he advanced a pawn. Nanjo had escaped from the parlor once the mood had become sour, and Genji had become his opponent in a game of chess upon Nanjo's request.
"...Yes. I will forget it for now."
"...Hmm. That is probably for the best."
Genji purposefully faced away from Kanon as he spoke. He did so because he understood that it might make things tougher on Kanon if he noticed that someone was looking at his eyes. Nanjo also understood that, and held back any thoughtless words.
"...I wonder where Kinzo-san has gone... I hope that he is safe, but..."
"...I do not know. Only, I think everything is as the Master hoped, as he has arranged. To distrust that would exceed my role as furniture working for the Master."
"...Aren't you scared, Genji-san? I am frightened something bad will occur again tonight..."
"...I have nothing to be afraid of. I simply work for the Ushiromiya family."
Nanjo sighed through his nose, and made a carefully considered move.
Nanjo was very slightly dubious. Could Genji possibly think that he would be left out of this?
...If you liken this island to chess, Kinzo had opened the game, and as a result, six pieces had been defeated. Could it be that Genji was calm because he believed that he only was on the outside of the chessboard and safe? Nanjo thought about it. Isn't everyone just a piece on this chessboard, lined up equally, without any exceptions? Wasn't even Genji, who had gained more of Kinzo's trust than anyone... no, who was confident of his position as Kinzo's only close friend... just another one of the pieces laid out on the chessboard?
"...Genji-san. I am really frightened about tonight. I'm hoping with all my heart that we will be still be safe when tomorrow morning comes..."
So until a few years ago, they had stayed in this room every family conference and were very familiar with it. This room, just like a room at a hotel, had a bedroom and a bathroom, so even though they were still shut in, it was far more comfortable than the parlor.
"Guess it's true that you can relax more when you're alone with your immediate family. Maybe it'd be better if everyone else also shut themselves in guest rooms and locked the doors."
"Natsuhi nee-san said that no one could leave the parlor, throwing her weight around. I'm sure no one will be able to talk back. That person, she was always so dependent, and now that Nii-san's dead, she's in such high spirits that she's taking charge. Seriously, how shameless can she be."
"Come now, don't say that. Natsuhi-san's doin' pretty well. No need to jump on her like that. And about that receipt earlier, you went too far there."
"...Come on. If I hadn't said it there, there wouldn't be another good time to say it..."
Eva, sulking cutely and looking at the television, sat alongside Hideyoshi, who was lying on the bed.
"...It really has gone by in the blink of an eye... I wonder if we were too hasty in having a child."
Eva's eyes looked like they were staring off into the distance. Yes, she had thought it had been a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Her older brother Krauss had been unable to have a child for quite some time. Six months passed after his marriage to Natsuhi without any signs of pregnancy, which didn't please Kinzo at all. Eva herself had thought that, since when she married, her name would be moved outside the Ushiromiya register anyway, it didn't matter whether the successor to the head was born or not.
And then, one day, she had a heavenly revelation... Or maybe it was the whisperings of the devil that she had heard in her greed. Why couldn't she remain in the Ushiromiya register by giving birth to a successor first? If things went well, could she inherit the Ushiromiya family herself...?
When she proposed this to Hideyoshi, he had approved of it instantly. This had not been because Hideyoshi also had greedy thoughts. For Hideyoshi, who had no close relatives, it was a chance for him to feel once more the long forgotten thing called family. So when they got married, he had not fussed over which last name they were to keep, and had quickly agreed to have his name entered into the Ushiromiya family register. It hadn't been easy to persuade Kinzo, but as his daughter, Eva knew Kinzo's personality well. So, by choosing the time when Kinzo was most dissatisfied with Natsuhi, she was magnificently able to make him accept Hideyoshi as a son-in-law.
George would eventually become successor to the Ushiromiya family. They had raised him strictly with that purpose in mind. George had been worth their while, and had grown into a fabulous young man who wouldn't disappoint no matter where he went.
That was why he had not been permitted to fall in love with a servant like Shannon. So when she had learned that Shannon was dead and the engagement was invalid, while part of her had been shocked at the gruesome crime, part of her had been relieved that her cute George wouldn't be stolen by some servant girl...
"...Eva, don't blame yerself for that."
Hideyoshi got up and held Eva's shoulder. She could feel a warm understanding from him.
"Well, I reached the halfway point in my life long ago. But you know, I have absolutely no regrets about how I've lived my life until now. Not one."
"...I think that since I've been with you, Eva, I've been able to relish an enjoyable life that other men never will. After I lost my relatives in the war, you taught me once more what the warmth of family is. So I thank the Ushiromiya family, and think of it as my only family."
'In this life I've led with you, not a single thing has been wasted. It's really been a fun life up to today."
"...Thank you... dear."
"I'm the one who should be thankin' you. Until today, there hasn't been a single day that I've regretted being with you!"
"...Me too. That I could be with you... makes me so glad."
"George is already a fine adult. Even if I don't look out for him, he's a man who could do his job well... I wonder. Around New Year's, do you want to go spend some time in the Maldives? Just us, no one else."
"...No wa-y. Aren't you always saying that you're so busy responding to New Year's cards that you don't even sleep...?"
"None of that this New Year's! I won't read New Year's cards. I'll just stay quiet and check to see if I've won the New Year's lottery. It'd sure be nice if we won a color TV this year!"
"No wa--y... I don't want to check the lottery in the Maldives..."
"Then none of that either! How does it sound? Just the two of us, taking our time, a continuation of when we were newlyweds, just before George was born."
"...Yes. In that case, fine..."
"I hear the Maldives are wonderful. An island with nothin' on it, surrounded by beaut'ful coral reefs and cottages lined up over the water..."
Eva nagged at his lips, peevishly, or maybe coquettishly...
The only sounds that filled the room were the distant voice of the announcer on the news, which Hideyoshi had left on, and the obnoxious pounding of the rain against the window...
"...Madam. Dinner has been prepared. Will you eat in here again...?"
"...Yes. Bring it here. Is Doctor Nanjo still in the kitchen?"
"...Yes. He has said that he wishes to carefully deliberate over his next move. Do not worry, he is with the other servants."
"Genji-san's good enough at chess to be Grandfather's opponent. I hear he's even better than Doctor Nanjo, right?"
"...That's right. Long ago, he played against me, but he must have let me win."
"Maria, sounds like it'll be time to eat soon. But look at you, you've been watching TV all day long and you still haven't gotten bored!"
"Uu-. I've been watching TV the whole time so I'm fine. Uu-."
"Heh, Maria-chan sure is a TV kid."
"Food's coming, so we have to clean up the table."
Just now, we had torn several pages of Maria's notes out, and there was a mess where everyone had been drawing together. Jessica began cleaning that up quickly.
Still, everyone here sure can draw. Really shocking.
"...Genji. Ask Eva-san and Hideyoshi-san whether they would at least like to have dinner with us. Although they will probably turn us down."
"So Eva-san follows after father... It's really hard to gather everyone to the Ushiromiya dinner table."
Natsuhi felt her headache start throbbing again, and lightly held her temples...
Natsuhi had warned him unnecessarily not to be alone, and just now, Nanjo had also admonished him, saying that it would be better if he held a little more concern for his safety. Kanon accompanied Genji, and the two of them went to visit Eva and Hideyoshi in their guest room.
Genji knocked on the door.
"...Eva-sama, Hideyoshi-sama. Dinner has been prepared."
He waited a short while for them to come out, but there was no response.
"...Genji-sama... Look at this."
Kanon pointed under the door.
BGM: Witch of the Painting
Normally, when something was inserted this way, it would be interpreted as a message from someone outside to someone in the room. So since this might be a private note meant for Eva and Hideyoshi, it was not something that Kanon and Genji were supposed to take interest in.
But this western-style envelope was Kinzo's envelope, the same as the one Maria had taken out last night and surprised everyone with.
"...There can be no mistake. It is the Master's envelope."
"...Or could it be..."
Even though it was Kinzo's envelope, the author of the letter Maria had read aloud last night had not been Kinzo...
Genji continued knocking a little harder and called out in a loud voice.
But there was no response from inside. Sometimes, when the servants went to call some guests for a meal, the guests would be sleeping so deeply that they wouldn't wake up. In times like that, the servants would stick a letter in the door to show that it was time to come out, and leave the guest be. But despite that, Genji beat even harder on the door and called out Eva's name. However, there was no answer.
Kanon stuck his ear up to the door, and holding his breath, listened for any sounds coming from inside...
"...I hear something that sounds like the television. But I don't sense anyone. The room might be empty..."
Genji took out a handkerchief, and, careful not to touch it with his bare hands, gently pulled out the envelope which had been stuck under the door... It had been sealed with deep red sealing wax. Without a doubt, the mark on that sealing wax had come from the ring of the Ushiromiya family head...
"Eva-sama! Eva-sama!! Please, answer!! Are you still in your room?!"
Even so, there was still no answer...
Genji groped around in his pocket, and pulled out the bundle of keys that contained the key that would open the guest room.
Kanon also understood what this meant. They would sometimes unlock the door so they could go in and do things like make the beds, but only after they had made sure the guest was out. To unlock the door for a separate reason, and especially to do so when there was a chance the guests were still in there and without their permission, was an action unbecoming of a servant.
But Genji had decided. If the only problem had been that his knock hadn't received a reply, he wouldn't have gone this far. But the envelope under the door was doubtlessly Kinzo's. Or rather, one of the western-style envelopes of the Ushiromiya family head. And after last night, the sender of this envelope could be someone other than Kinzo.
If this letter had been sent by someone other than Kinzo...
There was the sound of the door unlocking. And, after slowly turning the knob, he slowly started opening the door. A light seeped through the crack of the door.
Were they in the room? Or had they forgotten to turn out the lights...?
It was the sound of the door chain being pulled tight. The chain had been secured. The chain couldn't be secured from the outside. That meant that they were in the room now.
The sound of voices on the TV seeped out of the room. The lights, the chain, and the TV. All of these things made it clear that they were in the room... but there was no sign of them.
Genji called to Eva once again through the crack of the door. But there was no answer.
"...Genji-sama. What should we do...?"
As part of their job, the servants were able to unlock almost any lock in the mansion. But they had no way to open a door with a chain. The only way to get by the chain was to cut it.
That was certainly not permitted as part of a servant's usual work. A creepy chill had already rushed up their backs... Kanon held his breath again and tried to sense someone through the door, but even so, he was not able to sense anyone.
"Wait, Kanon...! Return to the kitchen and take Kumasawa with you. You must not act alone."
It looked like Kanon was wondering why he had to do something so troublesome in the middle of this urgent situation. But Genji had said it out of wariness. He didn't care what happened to himself... But in the worst case scenario, he didn't want anything to happen to Kanon.
"...Oh, what has happened, Genji-san..."
"...Doctor Nanjo, my apologies, but please allow this match to be suspended one more time. Kanon, take care of the chain. Kumasawa, stop setting up dinner for now and accompany Kanon. I will go over to Madam. If you would come with me, Doctor Nanjo."
"H, has something happened...?"
Genji took Nanjo, who still didn't know what was going on, and quickly left the kitchen.
"...Kumasawa-san. My apologies, but please come with me."
"Wh... what happened, Kanon-san...?"
Kumasawa said almost exactly the same thing as Nanjo, unable to take in the situation, and chased after Kanon, who had flown out into the hallway...
"What are you looking for...? I will help..."
"...We're cutting a door chain. Where was that large wire cutter..."
"A door chain...? Wh, why would you do something like that...?"
"...The chain to Eva-sama and Hideyoshi-sama's room. Even though they should be inside, when we called to them, they didn't answer."
It took Kumasawa some time to figure out how cutting the chain and Eva and Hideyoshi not answering were connected, but she did realize that this was an urgent situation.
"This will probably..."
Kanon took down a very large wire cutter that had been hanging on the wall. It was called a cutter, but maybe it would be easier to understand if we said it was shaped like a large pair of pliers. The kind of thing that brings back memories of a dangerous tool that you might have been warned could easily cut through one of your fingers...
"Please wait, Kanon-san...! Haah, haah...!"
Kumasawa eventually caught up with him, gasping for breath with both hands on her knees.
When Kanon changed his grip on the wire cutters and looked up at the door, he let out an 'ah', struck speechless...
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
That was no surprise... Because, right there, on the door, just like the magic circle that had been drawn on the shutter of the rose garden storehouse, there was another eerie shape drawn with a paint that looked like blood. However, it would be odd to call this one a 'magic circle'... Because, unlike what most people would think of as a magic circle, it wasn't a circle with shapes drawn inside it, but a slightly more geometrical shape. But since in the gaps of the figure, there was something written in strange characters that were not from the alphabet, this was doubtlessly the same as the magic circle on the shutter...
He had returned to the kitchen for a short while. He had then gone to the storehouse to grab a tool, and headed right back. Put those together and it couldn't have been more than five minutes. How could someone add something this creepy during that period of time...?!
And as though it had just been drawn, almost like the door itself was bleeding, several unsettling vertical red lines slowly dripped down, getting longer and longer...
Kumasawa's knees gave way, and she sank down on the spot. If Kumasawa hadn't done this first, then Kanon surely would have wanted to.
"Hiiiiiiiiiii...! It's the work of Beatrice-sama, how horrid, how horrid...!!"
Kanon gulped, then readied the wire cutter and approached the door. He didn't want to get close to this disturbing magic circle, and he really didn't want to touch the steadily dripping substance that looked like blood. But if he didn't get close, he couldn't cut the chain.
Fighting this cold feeling, he gulped again, and after gathering his courage, went even closer, putting the wire cutter up against the chain. He then pressed with all of his strength, and cut through the chain far more easily than he had imagined. The cut chain fell into two separate parts, which continued to clang as they swayed back and forth...
"...Kanon-san, by your feet, an envelope... and isn't that... the Master's..."
It looked like Kumasawa had also noticed the western-style envelope at the bottom of the door. And that the sealing wax had been sealed with the ring of the head. Kanon was lost for a just a second over whether he should open the letter first or check inside the room, but he eventually decided on fulfilling his original purpose.