Part 25: Besieged III
"...Just now, I looked at the table and it was lying there. Uu-."
"I, I don't know anything, anything!!"
"This isn't funny, there's only the eight of us here!! There's no way some ninth person snuck in!! There wasn't enough time during the few seconds that we gathered around the portrait, right?!"
Video: The Third Letter
A certain voice provided by Sayaka Ohara.
BGM: System 0
Genji-san was overpowered, his face looking like he didn't have a clue what was going on... Of course, I felt the same, but a few moments late, I reached the same conclusion aunt Natsuhi had.
Until just a few seconds ago, there was no letter like this on the table...! And nobody entered this room! That means someone among us placed it there during the few seconds when everyone was looking away, preoccupied with the portrait...!!
"Battler-kun, open that envelope and read what's inside!"
I picked up the envelope. It was still sealed with wax. Even without disturbing its contents, I realized that this was an unopened envelope, an unknown envelope!
Without relying on a paper knife, I violently tore it open and pulled out the letter inside. The contents were as follows.
"That's what it says..."
"...It isn't clear who put this letter there. However, I have been able to narrow down the list of suspects. It's you all!!"
"...M, Madam... How... could we have..."
"Just before I moved towards the portrait, I set a can of food down here. At that time, there definitely wasn't anything as strange as this letter there!!"
"...Uu-. We aren't Beatrice. Beatrice 'exists'!"
"Silence!!! I don't know whether I should suspect one of you or all of you. But without a doubt, at least one among you is the culprit!!!"
"...Th... that's right. There can't be a 19th person...! There's no way witches exist!! Even when Kanon-kun was killed... yeah, that could be explained if Kumasawa-san was the one who did it!! The truth is that Kumasawa-san entered the boiler room with Kanon-kun and killed him! And then she lied, saying he had already fallen when she got there!!"
"Y, you're making a mistake, Milady...!! Why would I do something like that...?!!"
"...I don't have the slightest idea how my parents were killed in that closed room. But when they were killed, everyone except for the servants had an alibi. The only ones who didn't were the servants... But, does that mean we should suspect them...?!"
"...Y, yes... now that you mention it, they have no alibi for any of the cases... Nng!!"
"...Na... Natsuhi-san. Please, calm yourself... A lot has happened today! I understand the condition your heart is in right now...!"
"Doctor Nanjo, it truly pains me to say that you are suspicious...! But as Father's head physician, as his only peerless friend, you've been together with Father for a long time. You might even know about Beatrice. Are there any old obligations that you're hiding?!"
"How could there be...!! Calm yourself...!"
It was pitiful to watch Doctor Nanjo frantically pleading his innocence. It was probably a normal reaction that anyone would give if they were suspected. Kumasawa was the same. Since Jessica had started suspecting her in the murder of Kanon, she had been totally flustered. That was why Genji's still calm appearance looked so bold.
Aunt Natsuhi pointed the barrel of the gun.
"...Genji. You were Grandfather's number one subordinate. Was Beatrice an illusion you showed to Father, with you as the performer?!"
"...If by suspecting me, you recognize me as the Master's greatest servant... then it is a great honor to me, regardless of the circumstances. However, I am not the one who put the letter there."
"Do you expect us to just accept that!! You must be the ringleader! Maybe Kumasawa and Doctor Nanjo are your accomplices!! And Maria-chan."
"Maria-chan. By this point, we can no longer remove someone from suspicion just because they are young. So for the last time, let me ask the question that everyone's had since last night! Yesterday, who was the Beatrice that handed you the letter?!!"
"...Maria, don't try to fool us!! Make it clear! Who gave you that letter?!!"
"...Kihihihihihi. How many times do I have to tell you? It's Beatrice. The thousand year old Golden Witch. If you want to know what she looks like, just turn around. See, she's right there. Beatrice is. Kihhihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi!"
"D, don't mess with us, Mariaaaaaaaaa!!!"
"Enough, Jessica! Maria, too. Don't you understand the situation?! What are you hoping to gain by saying stuff like that?! Stop stirring each other up pointlessly!"
"...I don't understand. All of you are fine with calling someone the culprit? You only believe in Beatrice when you don't want to doubt one of your own. When you're trying to settle a grudge because someone who's close to you has been killed, only then do you want to believe in a human who you can attack with violence, and deny Beatrice."
"...Like I said, she can't be seen. Beatrice 'exists'. You all can't see her!"
"Silence!!! I don't want to label you as the culprit, but there is no longer any doubt that you enjoy making this situation unpleasant and are providing assistance to the enemy!!"
"...Kihihihihihihihi. Then what will you do? Shoot me? I don't mind. Very soon, the door to the Golden Land will be opened. Then all the dead will be resurrected. Right now, death is nothing to be afraid of. Kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi!"
"M, Mom, they really are suspicious!! We can't stay with them!!"
"But aunt Natsuhi, please, calm down...! There's no reason to shoot Maria! Please remain composed...! The letter was meant to provoke us, but it's nothing to be afraid of! Even the culprit is scared... scared of tomorrow. They're scared of the police! Right now, this island is free from the reach of the law, but that's only because it's isolated by this typhoon! Once the typhoon passes, the law will return! So you mustn't shoot...!!"
"...How can you stay so calm, George nii-san?!! One of these four is the culprit! No, maybe all four of them are working together! How can you stay so calm when one of these four might be the culprit who killed your parents?!!"
"Even I have the desire to find the culprit and kill them...! But that would be simple barbarism. I will leave the judgement of crimes to the law! So no matter how suspicious they are, you mustn't pull that trigger!!"
"I, I feel the same as George-aniki... Aunt Natsuhi. Get a hold of yourself for a second... Anyways, it'd be bad to shoot, ihihi...! In times like this, I hear you should tilt your head back and say 'Stay cool' three times..."
"...Let me make this clear. Witches don't exist! Not on Rokkenjima, not in the Ushiromiya mansion!"
Those words... were the final words of farewell... that settled everything. To protect her daughter, aunt Natsuhi would regard any suspicious person as an enemy. The only reason George-aniki and I were standing on this side was because, by coincidence, we had a clear alibi regarding the letter. If I hadn't approached the portrait... I would also be at the other end of that gun barrel, treated like a criminal...
Genji-san and Kumasawa-san and Doctor Nanjo. All of them were on Grandfather's side. Maybe you could say that once Maria started blindly believing in Beatrice, she was also on Grandfather's side. That's right, they're all suspicious. But is this really alright...?! If we throw out all of the suspicious ones so chaotically, would it still be alright for us to defy the chaos of the witch...?!
Aunt Natsuhi didn't tell them to leave with her own words. But with wordless pressure, she induced them to say that themselves. Because if Doctor Nanjo didn't say those words, this cold silence would surely continue forever.
"...Calm yourself, Natsuhi-san. But I understand your feelings well. I myself feel like there's something wrong with my head after all of these strange, repeated cases... So I understand well why you want to suspect us..."
"...If you really have nothing to do with this... I would think that what I am doing is beyond rude. However, please understand, just this once."
"...I... I don't want to...! After all, that means we'll have to leave this room knowing that the wolf is among us, right...?! I don't want to Madam, please forgive me. Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii...!"
It was obvious what Kumasawa-san was trying to say. If she was innocent, then she was being ejected into dangerous territory along with the culprit. In the current situation, urging her to leave this room along with the suspects was almost exactly the same as letting her get killed... However, Kumasawa-san really was suspicious just for being the first one to discover that Kanon-kun had been murdered. At that time, everyone except Kumasawa-san had an alibi. As long as the use of some device... or the existence of some 19th person could not be established, Kumasawa-san was by far the most likely suspect.
I didn't want to believe it. However, aunt Natsuhi and the rest of us were in such a difficult situation that we couldn't help doubting her as well... So we didn't say anything to stop aunt Natsuhi from trying to oppressively chase them from the room. We had stopped her from shooting, but we were passively agreeing to chase the others out of the room...!
On top of that, Maria spoke to the fretful Kumasawa-san.
However, the three other people had agreed to leave the room. Kumasawa couldn't fight the flow, and had to agree, crying as she left the room...
"...Well then, Natsuhi-san. That will be all for tonight. Let us meet again tomorrow."
"...Yes. Please understand, at least for tonight. When the police come, all of us will surely apologize for our rudeness. You may play chess, but do it in a safe place if you can. Genji, I leave it to you."
"...Ho, hohoho... It can't be helped, can it... They always say that the most frightening bears are those with their children."
"...Genji, Kumasawa, my sincere apologies. Let us meet again tomorrow. Maria-chan too... Please forgive your cold aunt."
"Uu-. Maria forgives. Uu-!"
"...And, I will also hand over my bundle of keys to the inside of the mansion."
He took out a bundle of about ten keys of various shapes, and handed it over. To the servants, those keys were probably proof of their position. Being placed in charge of those keys meant that they were trusted, relied upon. When they were forced to return them, it meant that they had lost that trust. Thinking about it this way, to Genji-san, who had worked here for a span of many years, there could be no greater shame.
However, Genji-san's usual indifferent expression remained on his face.
"...Genji. I had planned that, after Father passed away, I would reward you for your many years of hard work and allow you to retire. And yet, treating you like this... makes me feel ashamed from the bottom of my heart..."
"I have already received the Master's favor. Everything I have done until today has been in repayment for that. Please, do not worry over it."
"...Well, then, shall we, everyone? Good night to you all."
"Uu-. Good night. Battler too, good night, uu-!"
"...Ah, ...Maria. Wait a sec."
Knowledge of my crime made me call Maria back.
"...This repels magic, I think. ...Wear it."
"Uu-...? Didn't you say you dropped it..."
"...Back then, I was a little annoyed, and I was just bluffing that I'd lost it. There's no way I'd lose my precious charm."
"...Well then, everyone, good night to you..."
We watched them leave, our expressions completely tired out, and we weren't even able to respond. Until the door closed and we heard the auto-lock, we were unable to breathe...
Then, we were finally allowed to take a breath. After that, I noticed that Beatrice's letter, which I had been gripping the whole time and which was soaked with my sweat, actually had two sheets. The paper had been tightly stuck together, so I had mistakenly thought that there was only one.
Inside the circle, a large triangle and a small triangle were fit together in a simple design. But just as before, there was writing in Hebrew, and it seemed clear that it held some kind of meaning. I wanted to know what that could be, but we had just chased Maria, the only person who could understand the meaning of magic circles, out of the room... I thought of this magic circle as Beatrice's second message. What does this magic circle mean? Damn it...!
After chasing out all the suspicious people, all we had to do was stay barricaded here until morning, and everything would probably be over. Once the typhoon has passed, when the seagulls cry, everything may be resolved. But the letter, which had unexpectedly appeared in the study, forced us to reject that naivety. It had made it very clear that, if time ran out, it would mean the witch's victory.
When time runs out, is the witch planning to take on the offensive? This time, is she planning to display some fearful magical power, maybe something that could have been used to kill six adults at once? Wait, when is time supposed to run out? I don't know... anything...
Of course, none of us felt like breathing a sigh of relief.
At least, not until we could hear the cry of the seagulls once more...