Part 21: Boiler Room
Natsuhi proclaimed it as though she didn't care whether we agreed or not. If anyone had a right to object, it would have been George, but he looked as though he had shed enough tears. George nodded slightly, still facing away from us, and when he stood up, everyone else agreed too.
The letter in the head's western-style envelope that Natsuhi had picked up still hadn't been opened. But now that we had decided to leave this room, she had decided to unseal it in the parlor, where everyone could watch.
BGM: Hour of Darkness
"Ah, did you notice it too, Maria? ...What is this stench... it smells awful..."
When everyone sniffed the air, they did notice a horrible burnt smell drifting through the hallway, one that none of us had smelled until then.
"...I will go quickly to check the kitchen... I'm sure I turned the flame off..."
After noticing a burnt smell, it was natural that Kumasawa, who had just been using the fire in the kitchen, suspected that her own clumsiness had caused it. Kumasawa hastily dashed away.
"...Kanon, go with Kumasawa. Do not let her be alone."
After nodding at Genji's order, Kanon followed after her. He wasn't running, but as he followed her, he tried to search for the cause of the smell in other directions as well.
"...Uu-. Stinks. Uuu--."
"It truly is... a stench that makes the nose wrinkle. However, that doesn't mean we can just open a window for ventilation..."
Natsuhi was reluctant to open the windows in a situation where self-defense was so important.
"...Let us run the fan. I do not believe there will be any need to open the windows."
"...The chain for this room was set. From what I could tell by looking at it, I'm positive that it couldn't be opened from the outside. In other words, this was a perfect closed room."
"...That makes sense. In the case of the rose garden storehouse, they might have sneaked the shutter's key out of the servants' room, or maybe they had a duplicate key. I can imagine many ways they could've done it... But this chain is different. Among generally used locking techniques, a chain is the simplest one to create a closed room with."
"Only a chain will block everyone coming from the outside as long as it isn't physically broken. So does this mean that the culprit couldn't have gone in or out through the door...?"
"...That's interesting. Just a few hours ago, I seem to remember everyone making a fuss over how to enter a room without using the door."
That's right. If you include Grandfather's disappearance, three cases have occurred, and all three times, the door has been the point of interest.
The next was the door sealed by the receipt. However, since aunt Natsuhi had entered the room, then if Grandfather had left through the window or been thrown out, she would have been able to lock the window before escaping. Or, like my theory, he could have hidden until the receipt was gone, and left the room later. Basically, this door can be defeated with a handful of desperate tricks. In that sense, you really can't call this one a closed room either.
And now, we have the door sealed with the door chain. Finally, we have to give up. The window, the door... everything had been locked. It was a perfect closed room. The first hadn't been a closed room because everyone could be suspected. The second hadn't been a closed room because aunt Natsuhi could be suspected. But this time, no one can be suspected! This room was a perfect closed room because everyone had been sealed outside just as completely as everyone else because of the door chain...!
"...In that case, did the culprit carry out the crime without entering the room...? Some method from outside the room...?"
"Well... because of the chain, even though it can't be opened wide enough for a person to fit through, you can open it a small crack. Did the culprit knock on the door to make them peer out before attacking them...? Wait, is that naive...?"
"Yeah, it is. If aunt Eva's body had been lying right next to the door, then it might have been possible. But she was on the bed in the center of the room! And uncle Hideyoshi was even in the bathroom. Looking from the crack in the door, you couldn't even see them, and you couldn't reach them with your hands either. Damn it, it's all useless. I don't have a clue!!"
...Something was tugging softly at my sleeve. It was Maria.
"...Kihihihihihihihihihihihihi. Battler, since you didn't want to doubt any of your relatives...you made a wish, saying that you wanted the culprit to be Beatrice, right? Well, Beatrice granted that wish. Just as you said, she 'did something that was completely impossible for a human to make you believe in the witch'. And even so, you're so selfish. Kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi. O-uch."
I tapped Maria, who was laughing unpleasantly, on the head with my fist.
BGM: Scar Sound
"...Kihihihihihihihi. That one had a really memorable and characteristic design, so I'd hoped you'd at least know what it was. O-uch."
"I don't know, so I'll give you all the credit. Quit whining and explain."
"...You sure are violent, Battler. I won't tell you if you're too mean, get it...?"
"O-uch! Uu-, I'll say it, I'll say it, stop hitting me. That's the first magic circle of the moon."
"What does it mean? What is this magic circle's benefit?! What does the Hebrew writing mean?!"
"That sure is convenient magic. So you're saying that they're trying to make it look like they're a witch because this closed room has a door that can't be opened without relying on magic...?! And the other effect?!"
"When you are blocked in every direction, it finds an unopened door and opens it. By using it in a difficult situation, it gives you a solution you hadn't even thought of until then. To put it simply, you receive the power of observation and the power of discernment, inspiration and intuition. Kihihihihihihihihihi. Beatrice is trying to provoke you lowly humans, since she thinks there's no way you could figure out how this door was opened. Kihhihihihihihihihihihihihihihi, O-uch."
"Alright, good work, so shut up. Sounds great, I'll accept this challenge from the witch!"
"...Maria-chan. Things like witches and demons don't exist in this world. Someone killed Father and Mother! I don't know whether that was someone I know or not. But either way, it was definitely a human...!!"
"...Yeah, but... how? How did they reach them through that crack in the door? It couldn't have been more than ten centimeters wide...!"
"At any rate, I can hardly stand this stench. What in the world could it be...?!"
"...The boiler room..."
"...I wonder if there's something wrong with the boiler again..."
Those stairs led to the underground boiler room. The mansion's boiler was old, and in poor condition. Both of them had witnessed problems with the boiler on several occasions, but they had never smelled the boiler belching out a stench like this before.
BGM: Closed my Heart
"Wh, what was that sound...?!"
The sound that they had heard from the basement had definitely been the sound of a door closing. Kumasawa tried to speak, as though asking a question, but she had already realized that the sound couldn't have been anything else. Kumasawa was so surprised at that sound that her knees gave way yet again and she cowered...
...Because, at that very moment, no one could have been in the boiler room.
Just a few seconds ago, everyone had been crowded together around Eva and Hideyoshi's room! So who caused the sound of a door closing just now?!
After taking a second to sort out the situation, Kanon ran down towards the basement...!
Since they had heard the sound of a door closing just now, and there was no trace of someone climbing the stairs, it meant that the person who had closed the door was now inside the boiler room. If the boiler room had been a dead end, Kanon wouldn't have rushed in so hastily. But Kanon was a servant, so he knew. There were two entrances, one that opened to the mansion and one that opened to the courtyard. If he didn't chase them now, they might slip away...!
Kumasawa reached the same conclusion long after Kanon did... But she couldn't let him go alone...! If the thing in the boiler room was the culprit, an opponent who had easily killed six adults in the first murder, then no matter how Kanon confronted them, he wouldn't be a match.
Of course, with this argument, even if Kumasawa joined him, it wouldn't change anything... At any rate, after a delay, Kumasawa decided that she mustn't let Kanon go alone, and she dashed down the stairs...!!
And on top of that, the room was full of that horrible stench...which made Kanon feel like he was going to be sick. There was no doubt that this room was the origin. In that case, Kanon should have been searching for where the smell was coming from. However, Kanon kept gazing straight forward as he grabbed a hatchet from a tool shelf just off to the side of the door.
He hadn't stretched out his hand because he'd wanted a hatchet. He had wanted to grab a weapon, any weapon. Why?
"...In roulette, you bet on a number or the colors red or black, vying for a payoff. However, low risk bets like black and red only offer a similarly low payoff."
The words coming from Kanon's mouth... were swallowed up by the darkness. That darkness suddenly started to swirl, glittering...
Kanon continued speaking, directing his words at the darkness as it swallowed the butterflies up. But as the butterflies gathered in the darkness, they... perhaps... probably... no, they must have... laughed.
But Kanon continued to speak without faltering in the slightest.
"...On the other hand, if you bet on something of a lower probability, you receive a payoff proportional to the risk. The Master called succeeding despite an astronomical risk a 'miracle', and called the astronomical payoff gained as a result 'magic'."
"...I have no interest what kind of 'magic' you and the Master were seeking when you spun that roulette... But you forgot something. You forgot that roulette has a pocket that is neither black nor red."
Roulette has a special pocket called '0', which means that the house takes everything in certain variants of the game. This means that all of the coins bet on the table will be swept up, just as though everyone has forfeit...
"...This isn't one of the Master's rules, and it certainly isn't one of yours. I made this rule myself. I'm not furniture anymore. I'm the zero on your roulette...!"
Kanon's face was twisted with humiliation. It was clear that his self-restraint was being ridiculed somehow. Kanon's brow creased even further, and a furious expression that Kanon had never shown anyone appeared on his face.
...The hand grasping the hatchet was shaking. His sweat became drops which slid down... It was clear that the emotion causing Kanon's hand to shake was not anger alone. However, Kanon suppressed that emotion...
When Kanon swung the hatchet upwards and tried to dive into the darkness, the darkness definitely sneered. It sneered at that courage as vulgar, lazy, futile, and meaningless.
Kanon, his hatchet still held aloft, couldn't take another step after that...
With a *clang*, the hatchet that Kanon had been grasping fell and rolled on the floor... And following that, with a pair of thuds, Kanon's knees hit... left, then right... That hand, which looked like it was trying to catch the sky now that the hatchet had been dropped, gradually lowered, landing on his chest. Then, the other hand did the same.
Kanon was curled up in anguish, fresh blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth... It was... makeup over Kanon's white skin... Around this scene, the glittering gold butterflies danced through the darkness, mesmerizing... It was a beautiful, beautiful dance...a funeral march of tribute, ridicule, and contempt for single boy's self-sacrifice.
For only a moment, a bright-red spray gushed out. It made an unpleasant *bloop* sound. It probably resembled the sound of Kanon's soul as it was sucked into the swamp of the dead...
Kanon was lying in a pool of blood... Kumasawa's heart was a complete mess. Aah, what a horrible fate! He wouldn't have been killed if I had been with him! Aah, what incredible luck! If I had been with him, I might have been killed too!!
As she screamed, her expression was filled with complete confusion, and all of the muscles of her face were pulled up, almost as though she was smiling while crying... No one own would ridicule an expression such as this...!!