Part 26: The Golden Witch
October 5th, 1986, 11:30 PM
All of the suspicious ones had been chased out. Even though we had known that there might be some innocents among them, we had chased them out. We had chased them out of this paradise where people didn't have to doubt each other. But our motive for chasing them out had been suspicion of others, the worst kind of crime for a human.
If we had accepted the existence of a 19th person, of the witch, then we all might still be talking face to face, trusting in each other. In that instant, we had agreed to chase out all of the suspicious people. But had that been the right thing to do?
During this endless silence, we could do nothing but be quietly tormented by that sin...
George-aniki gazed through a gap in the closed curtains by the window, looking down at the courtyard and the mansion that surrounded it. I didn't know whether he was checking to see if a suspicious shadow would become visible through the window, or whether he was wondering to himself about something. Jessica was sitting sideways on the sofa next to aunt Natsuhi, with a dead expression on her face. And every once in a while, as though she'd just remembered something, she would take out the inhaler that she had used during her asthma attack and stick it in her mouth.
It seems that it was such a vague thing that she hadn't realized it herself... You know. It's the kind of thing that other people tend to spot before the person in question realizes it. In that case, she might have first learned of her feelings when the person she liked died. It was truly pitiful and sad.
Come to think of it, Kanon-kun had been the one to hand her that inhaler. Maybe she was remembering that.
Even though we were shut up here in a defensive position, my rebellious nature made me want to find some key, some way to resist. After all, we have plenty of time until tomorrow morning. No matter what I do with that time, no one can find fault with it.
No one else showed that much interest in this magic circle. Its meaning was unknown, and once we understood it, we were sure to find some message that would cause us unnecessary anguish. I also agreed about this. However, I couldn't just ignore it, so I killed time pretending to research it...
"Aren't you tired, Battler-kun? You should take a rest while someone else stays awake. Aunt Natsuhi told us to stay vigilant all night, but there's no way our bodies can handle that. We should take turns sleeping."
"Then you sleep first, Aniki. I'll keep researching until I get sleepy."
"...That magic circle just now?"
"...Pretty much. We've got plenty of time to kill. I thought it'd be interesting to find out what kind of message Beatrice-sama put in it."
"...Give it a rest. If you do that, you'll start getting obsessed with all this weird stuff."
"Don't worry. I've been certified by Maria. She said I've got barely any spiritual talent. Ihihi...!"
"But Mom... If Maria wasn't involved, and there's a culprit besides her, she's obviously a soft target for the culprit. If she's killed because of this, then we've... just let her die..."
A gloomy silence settled once again. It looked like Jessica regretted letting her emotions take hold of her and snapping at Maria. She had always been like that. Always acting tough and regretting it later.
"...I understand how you feel, but Maria was in close contact with the culprit, and she might have been siding with them, talking like that over and over to further obscure things. I am relieved that we chased them out."
"That's pretty harsh, aunt Natsuhi. Couldn't it just have been the nonsense of a nine year old girl?"
It probably wasn't very convincing to hear that coming from me... I myself had thought Maria was creepy on several occasions, and I had doubted her true nature. And when Maria had been chased out of this room, I couldn't deny that I'd felt some relief...
"...If that is the case, then tomorrow, we will apologize for what we did. I will take full responsibility for chasing them out of this room. This isn't something that the rest you have to worry about."
"...Why does Maria have to keep saying stuff like that? She's bringing about her own ruin..."
"...I think that the reason Maria-chan adores witches and magic so much might be because of aunt Rosa."
"Because of aunt Rosa? What does she have to do with this?"
"Didn't you realize it too, Battler-kun? Maria-chan's real father ran off somewhere a long time ago. Although aunt Rosa tried to confuse the issue by saying he's on a foreign business trip."
"...Talking about Rosa-san's family has become a kind of taboo in the Ushiromiya family."
"I think aunt Rosa thought about remarrying. But I also believe Maria-chan may have become her shackles and made that quite difficult. After all, she sometimes... got really emotional and hit Maria-chan."
"...I agree with you there. It looked like aunt Rosa was trying hard to like Maria... Which means that she didn't really like her. She might have thought of Maria as an obstruction to remarriage..."
"...I think that the emotional rejection from her mother must have left some deep scars on her young heart. So she learned about this occult hobby from somewhere, and immersed herself in it so she could bury the holes in her heart. Did you know? To Maria-chan, the image of a witch isn't negative at all. Remember, yesterday, at the beach, when she showed us her notebook...?"
"...Yeah. It was full of all those fun-looking scribbles."
Yesterday, when we were down by the beach, doubting the witch... Maria had gotten all riled up and started explaining about witches.
The sorrow of not being loved by her mother. Had Maria saved herself from that, seeking help from witches as beings who could give her happiness? Someday, a witch would come, and using her wonderful magic, would bring Maria happiness. Even though she believed that, as she grew older, she had to face reality as her fleeting dreams were sliced to ribbons one by one.
If in front of a girl like that, something claiming to be the witch of Rokkenjima appeared, and whispered that she would take Maria to the Golden Land, where Maria could be happy...
"...I... now that it's come to this, I want to confess what's in my heart. Maybe throwing out Maria-chan... no, Genji-san and the rest too... was probably... the wrong thing to do..."
"...It wasn't... pleasant..."
Since Jessica had been the one to face them and slam them with words of rejection, her conscience must be tormenting her a lot right now.
"Then, how do you all explain that letter? No one could have set it there except the four people standing behind us. I made sure of that with my own eyes. If those four are innocent, how was that letter placed there in a closed room with eight people?"
"Useless? What is?"
"Right. It might not be worth anything anymore, but let me turn the chessboard over again. In other words, if one of those four really was the culprit, isn't that weird?"
"...That's right... Wasn't setting that letter openly on the table the same as confessing that one of them was the culprit?"
"...You're right, that's weird. If they were going to do it, you'd think they'd put it in the crack of the door, for example, to make it look like someone had slipped it in from the outside! That's right, they should have understood that they would be suspected if they didn't make it look like the culprit was outside the room!"
"Yeah, that's it exactly. If the culprit was one of those four, setting that letter right in the middle of the table would be both risky and meaningless."
"...But, putting aside whatever trick they used to set it there, if we assume that the culprit is someone other than those four... in other words, someone who was outside the room, then they had a lot to gain from that letter..."
"...Stop that, Battler-kun. Right now, that's a trivial problem."
Natsuhi-san quickly guessed what I was getting at. No, maybe she had thought of it long before I had, and had simply held her tongue...
"...If the culprit was outside the room, then once we shut ourselves up in a closed room where the culprit couldn't touch us, it was all over for them. That's right. It's the same as the theory I proposed about how Grandfather disappeared from this room, isn't it?"
Come to think of it, when we found the scorpion magic circle on the doorknob to the study, Maria had said it herself. Beatrice couldn't get through this door. But she could induce someone to leave of their own accord.
"...In that case, does that mean we fell for the culprit's trap completely... and sent out some new potential sacrifices?"
"...Genji and the rest aren't fools. When they try to protect themselves, they should find the next safest place after this room. They will definitely be able to hide themselves there."
Aunt Natsuhi hadn't answered the question. She herself realized that if the culprit hadn't been in that group, that letter could easily have been a trap. However, it wasn't worth the risk of calling back the people she had once thrown out. To aunt Natsuhi, right now, her greatest and only duty was to protect the children... She was thinking that, in order to do that, a few sacrifices were unavoidable...
"It's true that a lot of brutal things have happened. But as a mother, you thought you should protect your daughter no matter what. Because of that duty, you chased them out, even though you knew that you would eventually be held responsible for it. It's not like I'm condemning that. But, umm. I was just thinking about what a great mother Jessica has."
"...That's right. You've been dealing with these incidents since morning, and you've been pulling all of us along this whole time, without losing your composure. If you were all confused too, the rest of us would probably be in the culprit's grasp by now. So I think that we all have to thank you."
"...So what you're trying to say... is that you want her to act as Maria's mother too...?"
"...I... always thought of Maria as a real little sister and adored her. And yet, a few things happened, we got a little confused... and I've said a lot of mean things to her, hurt her... Mom, please. Let's stay together with Maria... no, everyone... there was no... culprit among us... The culprit in this case is... the witch, Beatrice, okay...? So, let's stop doubting each other..."
Aunt Natsuhi closed her eyes for a short while. Was she coping with her throbbing headache again, or was she thinking of something...
That was some pretty strong language at the end there... She realized very well that she was oversimplifying, but even so, she was strongly resolved to protect her daughter even if she had to become a demon. But that was because the knowledge of her crime tormented her.
Today had been so long. So many things had happened in one day, and we had been cornered so thoroughly... I wonder if we have the right to greet tomorrow the way we are now...
...Th, there it is.
Inside the book I had been flipping through, I had found the same magic circle that had been drawn on the second sheet of the letter. George-aniki peered at it as well. This magic circle's name was... the third magic circle of Mars.
"...Wait a sec... Seriously...?"
Could there be a more fitting way to describe our current situation and mental state? We couldn't help but be stunned into silence.
"...So, this letter was a trap...?! How did they place it here?! There wasn't anyone in this room except for the eight of us, right?!"
"A, anyways, let's ignore how they got it in here for now. The culprit was after just one thing! They wanted to spread the seeds of doubt inside this impregnable room and use us to throw the sacrificial sheep out...!!"
"In that case, what they're after... is the people who went out of the room...!!"
"M, Mom, ...what should we do?!! Those four are in danger...!"
It wasn't surprising that aunt Natsuhi remained unpleasantly silent. Even this was all a trap by the culprit, even if the four who had been chased out of the room were in danger, it had nothing to do with the safety of the four people in here. And there was no way to prove the innocence of the four people we had chased out. If we're willing to let them die, then we shouldn't leave this room no matter what. That way is... safest!!
It was the antique extension phone that was set on the table in Grandfather's study. It had started ringing right as we began this conversation. It was natural that we would think it an SOS from the others we had chased out. But then aunt Natsuhi spoke.
"If the problem with the phones was the culprit's work in the first place... then this phone call is, probably..."
With that one sentence, the ring of the phone, which had sounded like a scream for help... started to sound like a ghastly cry from some unknown person...! Aunt Natsuhi hesitated over whether to pick up the receiver.
"L, let's take it, aunt Natsuhi...! The phones might have been fixed for some reason... It could still be an urgent call from Maria-chan and the rest...!"
"That's right! And on the slight chance that it is a call from the culprit, bring it on! Why don't we listen to them...! It's just a phone call. No matter what they babble through the receiver, it's not like it's gonna hurt you...!!"
"...If you don't pick it up, then I will...!"
"I... I will take it. Hello?"
I stretched out my hand to take the receiver, but aunt Natsuhi grabbed it before I could reach. We all held our breath, trying to figure out who the person on the other end of the phone was...
But for a while, aunt Natsuhi kept saying 'hello'. A silent phone call...? There's no way Maria and the others would do something so creepy. Which means... could this phone call... possibly... really...?
Natsuhi stopped repeating 'hello' and strained her ears. It looked like she would hear something on the other end of the receiver, coming from far off. What was it...?
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
"...I don't know. Faintly, from the other end of the phone, I can hear someone singing... I wonder what... it could be..."
"G, give it here for a sec... Hello?! ...?!"
I half forced the receiver from the stunned aunt Natsuhi's hand, and pressed it against my ear. At first, I didn't hear anything.
At the very least, the one who had made the phone call hadn't been Maria. After all, Maria was singing some song far away from the receiver. In that case, the one who made the phone call should have been Genji-san, Kumasawa-san, or Doctor Nanjo. And yet, they weren't saying anything. Why...? For what reason... The person who made this phone call... who was it...?!?!
"Hey!! Hello!! Who is it? Answer me!! Is that Maria singing?! Answer me!!"
"W, what's happening! What is it?!"
"I don't know...! All I can say is, this is probably a trap... and Maria's in trouble..."
Aunt Natsuhi took the receiver again, but after yelling into it several more times, she realized that she wasn't getting anywhere and hung up. She then dialed quickly. She clicked her tongue. That's right, if the phones were working, we should be able to reach the police. But judging by her reaction, the outside telephone line still didn't connect.
"Hold it. I cannot let you go alone. I will go too. Jessica, wait here."
"And you'd have me be the only one left out?! Quit joking around, I'm going too...!!"
"That's right, it might be better that way. If the goal of that phone call was to split us up further, it wouldn't be a good idea to leave someone to watch this room."
"There's no time to argue. Let's all go!"
Aunt Natsuhi raised the rifle high and took the lead. I couldn't go unarmed myself. I found a three-pronged candlestick and readied it. Although the pins on it, which were used to fit candles, were short, it was almost like a three-pronged spear.
Video: Journey to the Golden Land
BGM: Closed my Heart
By doing this, we had been lured out, even though we had barricaded ourselves in a safe closed room. Perhaps, we were doing exactly the same thing that Grandfather had done when he had disappeared from that room...
"Maria-!! Where are you-?! Answer me-!!"
I listened closely, but didn't hear anything... The mansion was vast, and since the passing typhoon was making its last stand, the sound of the rain was even noisier than before.
"...Maria-chan said that she wanted to watch TV in the parlor, right?! Let's try going downstairs!"
"...That's right. Let's try there. Everyone, be mindful of your surroundings!"
It was just as though the magic of that magic circle designed to spread discord had worked. We had split up, and furthermore, had thrown them out into dangerous territory. In other words, even now, we were doing just what the culprit wanted us to do. This was a separate world where it wouldn't be odd for anything to suddenly occur...
Aunt Natsuhi nervously pointed the barrel of the gun at every dark spot and shadow. It felt like that motion was out of fear rather than caution... But the rifle she held in her hand should have been a trump card that the culprit was afraid of...
"...You know, I've been thinking. It wouldn't be impossible to stick one of those 'icepicks' into someone's chest, like in Kanon-kun's case. But splitting the skull and sticking them into the forehead, like in my parents' case, wouldn't be that easy."
"You think that the culprit had that kind of animal strength...?!"
"...They probably had some kind of weapon, a device that can shoot or pound in those 'icepicks'. That handle was too short to be driven in that deeply by a human's strength alone."
"...Either way, they have enough force to break through a skull. It seems that Kanon's wound even reached his lungs. Even if you see our opponent, don't go forwards. You mustn't move away from my back."
Just how sinister and frightening was this weapon that could shoot those creepy icepicks? And could I do anything to combat it with just this candlestick in my hand? In the first murder, the culprit had probably assaulted all four of our parents at once as they discussed the inheritance problem in the dining hall. And we also had four people.
Apparently, I wasn't the only person thinking this. George-aniki, Jessica, and, of course, aunt Natsuhi... were stretching their senses to the utmost limit, in the highest and worst state of tension, slowly advancing one step, then another...
...Aaah, what have we done? Because of the seeds of doubt spread by that one letter, we threw Maria and the rest into the middle of this terrifying world...
When we listened carefully, we could hear it faintly. Maria's eerie singing voice. She wasn't singing naturally, as though she were in a good mood. She was singing mechanically, like she was at a graduation ceremony and she'd been ordered to. The song she was singing was just a common folk song, one that everyone has probably sung in school at one time or another. But why that, in the middle of the night, alone, with all her heart, over and over, why...?!
When we had just left the study, we had called out in loud voices, asking Maria where she was. But this time, no one said even a single word. We hid our breath and the sound of our footsteps, and, intensely aware to the point of being completely high-strung, we stepped forward...
Aunt Natsuhi put her hand on the handle of the doorknob, when George-aniki stopped her.
"...I'll open the door... aunt Natsuhi, Battler-kun, ready your weapons."
"...Understood. Take care."
"They might attack as soon as we open it... George nii-san, watch yourself...!"
Natsuhi took the bundle of keys from her pocket and gave them to George. There were about ten keys, and none of us had a clue which was which. Because of this, George had to fumble around loudly and test several of the keys. Since we had hidden our footsteps, preparing to make a surprise attack on the room, this felt almost fatal...
The whole time, we could hear Maria's voice from the parlor, singing the same song over and over. It was like a broken, crazy cassette tape... In the morning, we had been in that room the whole time. All of the frightening things had occurred outside that room. So we had been under the impression that only that room was safe. That baseless impression was quickly falling apart...
"...Nn, it's open."
"...Thank you. George-kun, Jessica, move behind me."
"...Aunt Natsuhi. Let's all jump in at once and split up in different directions. If we just stand around after opening the door, those icepicks might fly right through the center...!"
"I agree. Ready...?"
"Ihihi...! Like I'd quit now...!"
I readied myself. If they were going to be throwing icepicks, I needed to be ready with my candlestick!!
But what our eyes landed upon... was an incredibly... strange sight...
This place, where we had spent almost the entire day, where we had pressed in together to protect ourselves from some unknown malice, had become stained with fresh blood, had become an ocean of blood...!!
On the floor lay Genji-san, Kumasawa-san, and Doctor Nanjo, their entire bodies stained bright red with the blood... But the only way we could identify them was by their clothes.
BGM: Golden Slaughterer
And that wasn't all. Their bodies had other wounds. They were those 'demon's icepicks'! They were in... Genji-san's stomach, Doctor Nanjo's thigh... no, his knee? That's right, his knee...! In the epitaph, the sixth twilight was the stomach! And at the seventh twilight, the knee was gouged! So after seeing one of them stuck near Kumasawa baa-chan's calf, I couldn't help masochistically laughing 'Ahh, that's right'...!!
She was facing the wall in the inner part of the room, standing stock still, completely alone. She faced away from this horrible scene, standing by the wall, singing her song over and over...
There was nothing else in the room. Just the corpses of the three who had been brutally killed, and the receiver, which was still off its hook, showing that it had been this room that the call had come from. Just that and Maria, her back to this scene, facing the wall as she kept on singing...
We couldn't even scream at this bizarre scene. We could only stare shocked, our mouths hanging loosely open...
Jessica called out to her. But Maria showed no reaction. Alone, she kept singing, on and on... We had come here, trying to save Maria from some approaching danger. So, now that we had found her, we should have been running up to Maria, hugging her, joyous that she was safe. And yet, not one of us could do that...!
Everyone thought it. But they couldn't say it. After all, because... because... that's right, even if that's crazy... no, it couldn't be...!!
With the candlestick still readied, I ran up to her, and forcefully... no, violently slammed my hand down on her shoulder. Then I pulled on her shoulder, forcing her to turn around!
Maria's small body was quickly pulled down and fell. And, as though unhappy about how her singing had been interrupted, Maria looked into my face with her usual expression.
Even in this gruesome situation, she was just like normal!!
"C, cut that crap!!!"
I threw the candlestick I had been holding against the wall. The violence of that reckless sound should have gone straight into Maria's heart... But Maria's expression didn't change at all!
"Quit it, Battler-kun! Maria-chan, this time, you should have seen the face of the culprit who killed these three. Was the culprit... the same Beatrice who gave you the letter?!"
"Well, in that case it's certain. There is a 19th person, Beatrice does exist!! Then, Maria, will you at least tell me this much? How did they kill these three people? What did they use to kill them in such a brutal way?!"
"...I don't know."
"How could you not know?! It happened in this room!! Are you trying to tell me that you were so absorbed in singing that song that you didn't notice?!"
"Calm down, Battler-kun!! Ma... Maria-chan. Talk to me. Okay?"
George-aniki, as he always did, crouched down next to Maria so that their eyes met, and talked to her very kindly...
"...Uu-. Everyone came into the parlor together and sat down. Genji-san made sure to lock the door."
"It was locked when we got here... but then, how did Beatrice get into the parlor?!!"
"Uu-. But Beatrice is a witch so locks don't matter. She turned into butterflies and came in through the crack in the door."
"Huuhh?! Calmly joking at a time like this?!!! Like hell that happened! What are you saying?!"
"Kihhihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi!! You can't believe it? That's why I didn't want to say. No matter how I say it, you won't believe. But Beatrice is a witch. She can do anything with her strange magic. That's why Beatrice doesn't care whether a door is locked or not. Kihihihihihihihihihihihihi...!"
"A, and then?! After Beatrice appeared, what happened to everyone?!"
"...Beatrice talked to us. She said Grandfather's study was protected by a powerful force, and she couldn't enter no matter what she did. So she told us that she'd select three sacrifices from the four people in the parlor. Everyone said 'no way'. Kihihihihihihihihi, Kumasawa-san kept saying 'no way, no way'. But Beatrice chose. And when she did, Beatrice said Maria would be fine. Why do you think?
"So she decided to use the other three as sacrifices. After that, Beatrice spoke."
"So I was singing the whole time. Over and over. So I didn't hear anything, didn't know anything. And then all of you came. Uu-."
"Are you asking us to believe that?! You think we're stupid?!!!"
"Kihhihihihihi! Then who will you suspect this time? Suspect me? Try killing me right here? Even if you do that, Beatrice won't stop 'existing'. Now, the eighth twilight is over, and Beatrice will revive!!"
"Are you serious?! I've had enough of that talk!! As if witches could exist, as if I'd let myself get tricked!!! I won't accept it, Beatrice doesn't 'exist'!! I definitely won't accept it!! So I won't let her exist, I won't let her revive!! The legend will remain a legend forever. I won't acknowledge something like thaaaaat!!!"
"Quit it, Battler...!! It's not like Maria killed them or let them die!! B, Beatrice came, and Maria had to obey, unable to resist...!!"
"...Just now, she left by herself, reading a letter."
Letter?! Th, that makes sense, the culprit must be so exhilarated now that we've reached the eight twilight. They might left a letter so that they could brag even more. We had been so wrapped up in questioning Maria that we forgot to look for a letter...! But even as well armed as she was, why had she left the room by herself in this dangerous mansion after reading it?!
Jessica tried to chase after her and tugged at the handle to the door, but it resisted strangely and wouldn't open...!
"Mom, Mom!! What's going on?!! Open... open...!!!"
It was only natural. Natsuhi had picked up the candlestick, which Battler had thrown at the wall and which had fallen to the floor. She had then skillfully wedged it between the doorknobs on the double doors like a bolt, holding them closed. The intricate design of the candlestick caused it to get caught solidly, and it really did make a sturdy seal on the door.
The tragic scream of a daughter for her mother... Did it reach Natsuhi's ears, or not...?
Natsuhi threw down the letter that she had read in the parlor, Beatrice's last letter... readied her rifle again, and in a voice that rang clear, yelled in the massive space that was the entrance hall.
"...I am Ushiromiya Natsuhi, representative of the Ushiromiya family!!! Show yourself, Golden Witch, Beatrice!!!"
Natsuhi gave one more huge gulp, and pointed the cold barrel of the gun at the gold butterflies...
"...So you have finally... shown yourself. I still can't believe... that something like you really exists...But that isn't a problem. Both I, bearing the title of representative to the Ushiromiya family, and you, the one who claims to succeed the head of the Ushiromiya family, are here right now. At this point, whether you are a witch or not is a trivial problem!"
The gold butterflies slowly formed a human shape, which walked into the dim light...
Natsuhi readied the rifle, ...and glared. The witch raised her golden staff overhead, ...and laughed.
Natsuhi's finger, slowly squeezed the trigger...
At that time, they heard it. They certainly heard the crisp sound of gunfire once...!
The noise had come from the entrance hall. And the entrance hall... looked like a stage.
Half-crazed, Jessica ran up to aunt Natsuhi. On aunt Natsuhi's forehead, it was almost as though a sparkling shard of pigeon's blood ruby had been placed there. And, from it, one stream, of blood makeup, passed by her eye, and began to traverse her face...
The faint smell of gunpowder smoke came from the barrel of the rifle aunt Natsuhi still grasped.
"Mom, Mom Mom!!! UWAAAAAaaaAAAAaaAAAA!!!"
"...I, I don't get it!! Why did she run away alone... why did she shoot through her own forehead?!"
"...Maria-chan, aunt Natsuhi left the room after reading the letter, right?! There's no letter here! Damn it, what did she read, and why was she lured out here?!"
"I don't know, I don't know, who cares about that...!! What the hell, why did she kill herself?! Why... did she leave me alone?! UwaaaaaaAAAAAaaaaaa...!!"
Jessica clung to her mother's corpse, crying earnestly...
George-aniki, even in this situation, was trying to calmly figure something out, but that might have been a fruitless effort. And only Maria was completely indifferent.
...So is this all supposed to be some kind of predetermined fate? No, that's not it. This is all... a prelude to a wonderful world.
The door to the Golden Land will finally...open.
There, all of the dead will be revived, and even lost love will be restored. So, in Maria's eyes, it's just as though all of today's tragedies didn't happen. It's as though all the time she spent deprived of love never happened.
"Stop it!! What's so fun? What's to be congratulated?!! There were 18 people on this island! 14 are dead! Only the four of us are left!! I'm definitely not gonna die! Until the night is over... no, until the typhoon passes, and the seagulls gather again at the harbor, I'm definitely not gonna die!! I'll stay alive, I'll stay alive, definitely!!"
"...Kihihihihihi. Give it up, Battler. Guns are useless against witches. Survival and everything else doesn't matter... because it's over. The journey has already ended. See, look at the clock."
...Huh? The clock? Hearing those words, I looked at my wristwatch. Both needles were almost touching near the top. Very soon, it will be 12:00 at night. In other words, 24:00.
Maria suddenly called out happily, and ran towards the darkness. It was almost as though Beatrice was somewhere in that darkness, and Maria was running up to her.
As Jessica hugged her mother's corpse, as George-aniki stood there, shocked, I looked down the barrel of the rifle, gazing into the darkness...
We were in front of Beatrice's portrait.
You've got to be kidding me... this is... just impossible... Like I'd fall for something like this... witches don't exist, I won't accept it...! Something like you shouldn't exist, because this is a human world! You think I could accept something that's not human?! I definitely won't accept it!!
When I pulled hard on the rifle's lever, the cartridge was ejected, fell on the floor, and a new cartridge was loaded. Then, I sighted the witch down the barrel...
Maria turned around. Still clinging to the Golden Witch, she turned around.
"I won't accept the existence of witches!! Who are you?!! Just try moving one step, just try moving one finger!! I'll blast you away!!!"
The laughter of the witch... no, the witches... joined together until even large clock in the hall was laughing... It was probably telling us that the time was 24:00. It was both a tone telling us that we had reached the culmination of this day, and a tone informing us that all had returned to nothing.
The rule that the witch would win when time ran out had already been revealed.
BGM: Bring the Fate
Afterwards, the police came and conducted an investigation of the scene.
The corpses of the children, who were thought to have survived until the very end, were never found. However, because of the body parts that were discovered and the unimaginably gruesome nature of the scene, the police were forced to conclude that the chances of survivval for any of the 18, even the children, seemed hopelessly dim...
However... the witch was fickle. She made a point of leaving behind this tale which didn't need to be heard, and it was allowed to spread.
Then, many years later, a strange wine bottle that had drifted on the waves was pulled out by a fisherman. Inside it was a thin, tightly rolled notebook fragment, written upon in crammed small letters.
Written there... was this tale. Through this notebook fragment, people will finally learn the truth of the mysterious and riddle-filled two day period that started on October 4, 1986.
This incident was later called by names such as "The Rokkenjima Mass Murders" or "The Eighteen Killings of Rokkenjima," though dilettantes from around the world knew it as the "Legend of the Witch Serial Murders."
While lovers of the occult claimed it was all the result of an immoral ceremony that had sealed off the island, those two mysterious days were savagely embellished with many different interpretations as the story began to spread far and wide.
However, not one of these interpretations approached the truth of the facts.
Furthermore, while the notebook fragment tells of this mysterious incident, it does not tell the full truth. That's right, perhaps not even the writer of the notebook knew the truth. Perhaps she wanted to know.
According to the writer... her name was Ushiromiya Maria.
The witch will priase the wise, and should bestow four treasures in the Golden Land. There, they chose to revive the souls of the dead and love that had been lost. After all, no matter how large a mountain of gold they might have desired, it would have been out of their grasp.
George chose his lost fiance.
Jessica chose the boy she had liked and lost.
Maria chose the lost love of her mother.
Sleep peacefully, Beatrice. Let nothing disturb your slumber ever again.
The winner is the Golden Witch, Beatrice. Time ran out before even one of the eighteen people could solve the riddle of the gold. All eighteen died. When the seagulls cried, there were no survivors.