Part 27: Tea PartyYou've done well to make it this far. Did you enjoy your stay on Rokkenjima?
The Golden Witch has granted you an invitation to her tea party. We hope that you choose to attend.
BGM: String Quartet #1 in G Major
"Uu-. Definitely a bad ending. Uu-."
"That's right. Beatrice's letter, which Maria-chan read on the first day, did tell us in advance to solve the riddle of the epitaph. We were all so busy trying to protect ourselves and look for the culprit that we didn't even take a shot at it."
"That's right. If we had actually tried to solve the riddle, I'm sure things would have ended differently."
"I wonder about that. Shannon-chan, you did a good job too! You don't have to be our waitress and serve tea. After all, this is a wrap party. As a group of people who met a horrible fate, let's all get along and lick each other's wou~~nds! Licklickli~ck!!"
"Speaking of a horrible fate, Shannon beats the rest of us hands down, doesn't she? She was such a beautiful character, so I thought she'd definitely survive until the very end, but she was killed right in the beginning, and on top of that... what was it? Half of her face was smashed, right? That's the worst!"
"...That was my role, so, umm... there was no way around it..."
"...Nee-san, it's nothing for you to worry about. Judging by the last epilogue, even Milady and the rest of them met an extremely tragic end."
"Ahahaha, it seems so. I think I remember seeing this horrible picture, kind of like my entire body had been eaten apart and dismembered."
"Speaking of which, don't you think Kanon's last moments were the coolest? Even though he had the tables turned on him, it was a showdown with the culprit, right? It's a whole bunch better than our confusing last moments, ri~ght?"
"...Though, in the end, I was unable to get a solid hit in."
"Still, I think that Kanon-kun's death was a big hint. After all, because of that, the existence of the 19th person was made clear."
"That's right. At that time, everyone's location was obvious. So it was impossible for anyone other than some unknown 19th person to kill Kanon."
"Uu-! Maria said it was Beatrice from the beginning, o-ver and o-ver. Uu-!"
"...I don't wanna believe it, but that does prove the culprit was a witch calling herself Beatrice."
"That's right... There were many strange things that happened... which a human couldn't do..."
"Uu-. Only a witch could do things like murdering aunt Eva in that closed room. A human couldn't do it! Uu-!"
"...Not only is the existence of a 19th person clear, but it is also obvious that this person holds a power that humans can't even imagine."
"In that case, I don't think there's anything wrong with calling this person Beatrice."
"...We probably met at the very end... Met with the Golden Witch."
"...I think that, despite the fact that horrible cases kept occurring one after the other, Maria-sama was able to avoid Beatrice-sama's menace until the end."
"Maria believed in Beatrice from the very beginning. But if that's the case, how do you explain why Kanon-kun and the rest were all killed? They believed in Beatrice just as much, right?"
"...Beatrice-sama probably had her reasons."
"If the song of the epitaph represented Beatrice-sama's resurrection ceremony, many sacrifices were needed. He must simply have been designated to be one of those."
"...Shannon-chan, you met a horrible end... At the very least, I wish your death could have been more peaceful and pretty."
"...Umm, well, it's not like it hurt... Anyways, right now, I'm perfectly fine, so don't worry."
After seeing him stroke Shannon's cheek, which had been crushed during the story, everyone laughed out loud, smiling.
"...Uu-. I-t's not fantasy! Beatrice exi-sts! Uu-."
"...Yes, we understand. Beatrice-sama does exist."
"That's right. Beatrice-sama does exist."
"...I hate to admit it, but I've got no choice. Because it's obvious that a 19th person, a witch, was involved...!"
"Many things happened that would be impossible for humans. During the story, I thought of all kinds of things, trying to deny that... Now I can say it clearly. Each one of them, all of them, were crimes impossible for a human. Those crimes would be impossible to carry out unless it was the witch Beatrice using all of the power magic could provide."
"The culprit was a witch. That point is perfectly clear. Long live Beatrice. Hahahahahaha."
"Uu-. Everyone believed. Maria's happy. Uu-!"
"...Gods and witches might seem terrifying to people who are frightened of them, but I think they must be affectionate to people who believe in and respect them."
"...I think you're right."
"So, this murder case game is finally over. Now's the time to pull ourselves together and try hard to solve the riddle of the epitaph, just like Beatrice said, right?"
"Uu-! I agree! Beatrice will definitely be happy."
"Hahahahaha... Everyone ignored that letter during the story."
"...Even though it was thrust right in front of us, we almost completely ignored it. I kind of feel sorry for Beatrice-sama."
"I have a memo with the epitaph on it! Let's all solve it, let's all solve it...!"
"This story probably went wrong ever since that time."
"...That may be so. Maybe we should have tried solving the epitaph's riddle from the beginning, like Beatrice said."
"Well, it's a little late now. Even so, let's try solving it now and see if the witch forgives us. Let's go, let's try to solve the riddle of the epitaph. It was something like, 'my beloved hometown, the sweetfish river running through it'..."
Maria put her notebook on the table, and opened to the page where the epitaph was written. While everyone stared at it, they got really into it as they started guessing this and that about the riddle. Surrounded by the smell of the black tea and the freshly baked vanilla cookies, they spent the time comfortably and happily...
But Battler spoke in a way that cut through the conversation. His expression looked a little unhappy. What could he not like about all of this fun?
"...I've been listening to you guys for a while. Why did you all stop thinking? Why are you so sure that the witch was behind all of this? Don't you realize something like that can't exist?"
With just those words, the happy atmosphere surrounding the tea party evaporated in an instant. George and Jessica. Shannon and Kanon. Maria. All of them stared blankly, wondering what in the world Battler was talking about. Even the foolish, arrogant Battler realized that he hadn't chosen his words well.
"...B... because, isn't it clear that these crimes were impossible for a human?"
"Th, that's right, that's right. None of the cases would have been possible for a human."
"That's true... After all, wasn't it full of things that humans couldn't explain...?"
"...I don't understand what you're saying, Battler-sama."
"I... I'm the one who doesn't have a clue what you guys are talking about! Isn't it obvious that humans committed these crimes? There's no way something like a witch exists, right...?"
"Th, then... what about when I was killed in the storehouse, and something horrible was done to half of my face? If the culprit was human, how could they have accomplished it...?"
"...That's... well, it's hard to imagine how they did something that awful. But that was the rose garden storehouse, right? I'm sure there were plenty of weird tools in there. Let's say they used some electrical tools like a grinder or an electric saw."
"...Th... that's... umm..."
"Then, Battler... How do you explain Grandfather's disappearance from the closed room of his study...? Even though the door was sealed, Grandfather unexpectedly disappeared, right...?"
"We talked about that during the story, too. It's not impossible that Grandfather used some trick to fool the receipt. It's also possible that he went out the window, fell down, and aunt Natsuhi locked the window from the inside. I could think of a bunch of tricks you could use without relying on magic... you see?"
"...Th, that makes sense, but..."
"...Well, we did have to leave that trick alone during the story. Anyways, there's at least a good chance that the culprit had the key. And it was possible to look in through the crack of the door that the chain allowed. It's really painful to talk about it, but it is possible that some device was used through that crack. Like maybe they stuck something through the crack...? Hmmmm, well, even though the chain is incredibly simple, it's a big factor in setting up the closed room... However, there's probably some closed room trick they could have used. If you bought some closed room mystery novels from the bookstore, you could probably find some trick that would fit perfectly. Anyways, I can't think of one now... but I claim that there's nothing humans can't do if they try hard enough."
"Isn't that argument horribly irrational? It's just ridiculous to claim that it's possible for a human to do something, even though you can't explain how..."
"...Why is that ridiculous? Why did all of you stop thinking? Even something that looks impossible has to be doable. Doesn't it always work like that?"
"Battler, you're the one being ridiculous. If you think a human could've done it, try explaining how. You can't, can you?"
"And you're okay with saying the culprit is a witch just because I can't explain it? With that argument, all of the unsolved crimes in the world could be resolved by saying a witch is the culprit!"
"...Battler, you're sidestepping the issue, and you aren't explaining anything. We are saying 'A human can't do it. Therefore the culprit is something that isn't human. And that something is a witch.' And yet you keep arbitrarily deciding that witches are impossible even though you can't explain anything."
"Kihihihihihihihihihihihi, it's almost like humanity was during the dark ages. Like those fools who claimed that the heavens spun around the earth... those who said that the earth couldn't be spinning, even though they couldn't explain why."
"...Th... that kind of argument kinda pisses me off. So this is basically what you're trying to say. If I can't explain how a human could do it, I must accept that the culprit is a witch?"
"...Battler-sama. When I died in the boiler room, I was killed by a 19th person who shouldn't exist. Can you explain how a human could have done that? At that time, the locations of the 18 were well known. Even so, I was killed."
"We talked about that in the story as well, right...?! Kumasawa baa-chan, for example. She said that she followed right after you and headed down to the boiler room, but we can't know for sure whether that was a lie. For all we know, she might have entered the boiler room with you and caught you by surprise! Or maybe, when you stepped into the boiler room, you activated some kind of trap, one that might have been set up to hit you with one of those icepicks."
"After all, the stink of Grandfather's body was coming from the incinerator. That's because someone had come there before, and if they had just set up a trap, it's certainly possible that the culprit could stay away from that place and use the time of Kanon-kun's death to create an alibi...!"
"...You talk about a trap in the boiler room...but what kind of trap could it be?"
"That's right. Following his death, everyone immediately ran over to the boiler room. But we didn't find any kind of weird device, did we?!"
"...That is correct. Battler-sama, what kind of trap could I have been killed with...?"
"Well... I don't know that. But anyways, they must have skillfully used some kind of trap, or maybe someone is lying... or what about this?! Kanon-kun, what if the whole thing was just you playacting?! Th, that's it, you were playacting!! Aunt Eva and uncle Hideyoshi were also playacting. They made the closed room themselves, and were only pretending to be dead!"
"...Battler... Has your head been, umm, feeling alright...?"
"...Umm, should I bring some cold drinks...?"
"D, don't look at me with those pitying eyes... I'm not saying something that crazy, right? I'm just pointing out that it would be possible if you could think of the trick, alright? Look, isn't one of the fallbacks in mystery stories that the victims aren't really dead!?"
"I, in other words, when Kanon-kun was killed, we really did know for sure where the rest of us were. And let's assume that Kumasawa baa-chan wasn't lying. But that only holds true for the survivors. What if the culprit pretended to be dead, placed themselves together along with the real victims to hide themselves, and then acted on their own later? Everything would be explained!"
"...Huh...? So are you trying to say that aunt Eva or one of the rest of them was the culprit...? But didn't Doctor Nanjo confirm everyone's death as a doctor?"
"...That's right. Doctor Nanjo checked all of the victims. Battler-sama, for your theory to work, wouldn't Doctor Nanjo have one of the culprits too?"
"Uh, yeah, that's right!! Once you consider that Doctor Nanjo might have been one of the culprits and faked the proclamation of death, the whole story changes...! See, that's also a fallback in mystery novels, isn't it?!!"
"...But Doctor Nanjo was also killed, right...?"
"Umm, about that... that's right, Doctor Nanjo faked his death! After all, there wasn't anyone but Doctor Nanjo who could perform an autopsy, and everyone was really confused then anyways. We didn't have any spare time to check and see if he still had a pulse! With this theory, any one of the dead people could have been walking around!"
"...I think that it would have been hard for the six of us who died in the beginning to do that... After all, the shutter was closed, and there was a padlock that couldn't have been opened from the inside..."
"That's right. Mom was holding onto that key. So was Mom one of the culprits too?"
"...Aaaaaaah, wait a sec... maybe it was impossible for the first six, but in the case of Aniki's parents, the door was only locked on the outside. So they could have opened it from the inside... That's right, after we left the room, maybe they jumped out the window and got to the boiler room first! Is... is that too much...?! Or maybe Doctor Nanjo made a mistake with the autopsy?!"
"...I don't know why you've been trying so stubbornly to say that one of us is the culprit. Kihihihihihihihihihi, in other words, you wants to suspect one of your relatives...?"
"That's not it... It's just, uh, I can't easily accept that a 19th person existed... and even if one did, I think we should construct our argument from the point of view that the culprit was a human. I'll only accept that it's a witch in desperation, at the very end, after everything else has been disproved."
There's no way witches exist, right?! Why has everyone been casually accepting that the culprit was a witch? I think it's great how your family love makes you hate the thought that someone close to you is a murderer. But is it alright to let that fool you?! Don't you want to find the detestable culprit who killed so many people?!"
"Aniki, don't you want to avenge your parents?! Jessica, don't you want to avenge Kanon-kun, and Kanon-kun, don't you want to avenge Shannon-chan?! Shannon-chan, you should at least want to know who it was that killed you. Why has everyone totally surrendered and decided that the culprit was a witch?! What's wrong with all of you?!"
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
"...Kihihihihihihihihi. I'm shocked. All I see is you repeating this nonsense, thinking you've figured something out, Battler. Then? What's next? How would a human do it? Practically? I imagine you'll say 'I just can't think of anything now' or 'with some kind of device.' Using abstract words to run away and evade the topic."
"...What I want to know, Battler, is this. Why don't you believe in Beatrice? She exists, so why don't you believe?"
"...Aren't you acting just like an unmanageable spoiled child?"
"...Battler-sama, I understand your feelings, but..."
"...Beatrice does exist."
"Battler-kun, why don't you believe? Even though there's so much proof."
"I don't accept the argument that the witch must've been behind everything just because I can't explain it. Does this mean that if you don't know how a light bulb shines, then magic is the cause? That's wrong, isn't it?! There's nothing that can't be explained without magic!! All of this about witches and magic is just abdication of thought! You just surrendered and gave up because you don't understand what happened! Isn't that right?!"
"...Ki, hihihihihihihihihihihi. Well, unsurprisingly, it looks like you alone won't believe no matter what, Battler. If even a single person doesn't believe, the 'miracle' won't occur. So, if you don't rethink your ignorant theories, the miracle, the magic won't be completed."
"Sorry, but why don't you let me turn the chessboard over one last time...? If you want to force me to accept that there's a witch, there's a really easy way. And it's not the indirect way of saying 'humans can't do it so it must be a witch'! All you have to do is show me that a witch did it with magic. Furthermore, what Maria said earlier is what will really dig her grave. You said that if even one person doesn't believe, a 'miracle' won't occur."
"But real miracles happen whether people believe in them or not! Even if I alone don't believe!! So any miracles or magic or witches that exist only because I believe in them are downright lies!!"
Video: The Witch Appears
Whose laugh...? Battler was surprised. He had never heard that voice before. When he looked at George and Jessica, at Shannon and Kanon and Maria, he noticed that they had suddenly gone respectfully silent.
BGM: Organ Short #600 Million in C Minor
"Wh... Who... are you...?"
"...Don't you even know the host of the tea party you were invited to? Simply wonderful. *cackle*cackle*...!"
"...This is the Golden Witch who has lived for a thousand years, Beatrice-sama."
"I am honored to see you, Beatrice-sama..."
"...Please forgive Battler-kun's ranting."
"Th, this guy's just stubborn, and, umm, he still doesn't understand the situation he's in...!"
"*cackle*cackle*cackle*... How very wonderful. After a thousand years, most witches get tired of living. How nice it is to meet a man with backbone such as yourself every once in a while."
"...It is quite an honor to be present when Beatrice shows herself, Battler."
"...Heh... heh-heh-heh-heh!! How... astonishing. Are you really that desperate to make me believe that a witch... that a 19th person is the culprit...? This is starting to get interesting...! And it's all useless...!! You must be the illusion that they all claim is the witch Beatrice."
"...So, if everyone believes you exist, you will finally be allowed to exist. You have that kind of a half-existence, right? That's why you want to make me believe too. You can't exist because I alone don't believe in you. Isn't that right?!"
"...Your power of understanding isn't bad for a mediocre person who knows nothing of magic. I see, it seems that you were born with a strong magic-resisting power. The natural enemy of us witches. No matter how much we turn your world upside down, you never believe in us. Therefore, the magic won't succeed. I accept that attitude of yours. *cackle*cackle*...!"
"I've got no clue what you're saying, ihihi! It's very kind of you to go to all of the trouble of showing yourself to us, but I don't believe you exist in the slightest."
"It's true that many strange things happened during those two days. Like Maria said earlier, even though I think that all of the tricks could be explained, I still can't lay out the practical details of each one. However, that doesn't mean that I'll surrender."
"I'm different from the rest of them, you see? I'll never argue that it was the work of a witch just because I can't explain it."
"This keeps getting more interesting. Making you surrender will be worth my time... You're just the kind of man I'd like to force into praising my name... I'd love to try making a man like you kiss my toes. ...*cackle*cackle*cackle*!"
"If you want to talk nonsense, talk all you want...! I deny you exist. All of the events can be explained with human tricks...!! There's no room for even a speck of magic or witches!!"
"Wonderful! This is the perfect form of diversion from a thousand years of boredom. Then let me ask you. A short while ago, you said that using the crack in the door would be sufficient to kill Eva and Hideyoshi, right...? Explain how they could have been killed using some human trick."
"...Heh. Suddenly jumping right into the toughest part, are you? Does that mean that this is the trick you're proudest of? Miss Real Culprit?"
The door in front of them, slightly opened but secured by the chain, was... That's right, it was the door to the room where Eva and Hideyoshi had been killed.
"...N, nice trick..."
"Erk... th, they probably had some device to shoot those 'icepicks'. If they used that..."
"How would they reach Eva over on the bed when you can't see that far through this crack? And how would they reach Hideyoshi, in the bathroom with the door shut...?"
"...Damn... There's a crack... There should be some way..."
"*cackle*cackle*. If you can't think of one, allow me."
"...Oh? How would a witch do it...? C'mon, let's see your little trick..."
"...Battler, you're being rude to Beatrice..."
"How nice, how nice. What a charming man. That will make it even more fun to force him into submission."
"...Heh! You really want to make me kiss your toes that much...!? Only if I surrender! But watch... I'll definitely expose this trick, and then I'll make you kiss my ass instead!"
*cackle*. What a delightful man. I'll remember that promise. Weak witches kiss the behinds of demons to gain power. Because there's no more humiliating oath. Just being told that makes me want to humiliate you. *cackle*cackle!"
Paying no mind to Battler's worthless ranting, Beatrice once again shook the golden pipe. That's right, that golden pipe was her precious magic cane.
"Beelzebub and Asmodeus. Come, forgive the sins. Release the spirits of the sinners...!"
Then, several scattered noises refracted through the wall, making a sound like a woodpecker. And at the end, a pleasant sound could be heard. It was a small, satisfying sound, like the one heard when someone is chopping firewood and the falling ax neatly and easily slices through the wood.
It was the sound of the two picks burying themselves deep into Eva and Hideyoshi's foreheads.
"Y, you moron... Th, that's insane...! Y, you think you can just kill them like that?!!!"
"I can kill them. I can kill them just like this...! *cackle*cackle*cackle*!"
Satan's stake was buried deep into Kanon's chest.
"K, Kanon-kun... Kanon-kun!! D... damn iiiiiiiiiit!!"
Battler was the only one getting agitated. George, Jessica, Shannon...everyone else was meekly hanging their heads like students being yelled at by their teacher.
"...Kanon was captivated by a trifling anger and tried to disturb my banquet. Your deadly sin is being easily captivated by anger. Cleanse yourself, regret, and do it over."
"...at...rice... sa, ma..."
"B, Beatrice-sama... Please, forgive him... I think Kanon-kun has repented enough...!"
"Wonderful. I am generous to those who respect me. *cackle*cackle*!"
"Don't screw with me!!! Do you think I'll accept your existence because of this cheap play?! Like hell you're a thousand year old witch! Your tricks aren't a thousand years old, they're just the accumulation of one hundred years of fallbacks from the mystery world! There's no such thing as magic!! Definitely!! All of the crimes can be explained with human tricks!!"
"*cackle*cackle*! You would explain my thousand years with a hundred years by humans...? Good, good, that's why I like you...!"
"...Foolish Battler... Kihhihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi...!"
"...Cut it out, Battler-kun... You can't... go... against the witch..."
"...nn, ...u, ...u..."
It looked like that redness was causing Shannon unbearable pain... Her fingers were pressing in against her cheek, and drops of sweat appeared all over her body...
"...Shannon... Shannon...!! Hang in there... hang in there!"
"What's going on?! Damn it, what the hell is that red stuff...?!"
It expanded rapidly, covering half of Shannon's face... Then, the stupid dunce Battler finally realized...
For the first time in his life, Battler heard that sound, like a pomegranate splitting. The red spray even landed on Battler's face... Poor Shannon's face had been split in half, and her last horrible moments in that storehouse were repeated once again.
"U, uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, Shannon, Shannon!! Uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!"
"D... da da da, damn it, damn iiiiiiiiiiit! Stop it, stop it, stop it!! Don't humiliate the dead, don't humiliate the deeeeeaaaaad!!"
"Uuuu, ...gah, ...eeeggh!!"
Looking at this bizarre spectacle, Battler was petrified as he frantically thought with his pitifully clumsy imagination... about the nature of this strange death George and the rest were experiencing... Eventually, ...that redness reached the nearby Jessica as well...
"Gah... eeh... ack... hh!!"
"S, stop it, stop it, stop it!!! What did Aniki do, what did Jessica do, just STOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!"
George was no longer recognizable as a human. He looked like the pile of leftover meat after the good, delicious meat has been scraped off to be cooked. The only thing that even resembled a human was the shape of his lower jaw and rib cage.
And it was clear that Jessica, who was covered with a steadily strengthening redness, was approaching the same fate.
"...Uu-. Battler. Quickly, believe in Beatrice... If you don't, everyone's magic... will dissolve..."
"M, Maria, it's all over your body, too...!!!"
"I revive all the dead with my magic. But as long as you don't believe, that magic will hold no true power. *cackle*cackle*cackle*! But I'm sure that a man like yourself won't surrender to something like this, right...?"
"B... Battler...! We... didn't want to doubt our friends... We refused to face reality... and gave in to the witch...! But... Battler, you won't... won't... give in to the witch...! Geh, ggghh... gggggghhkkkkkkk!!!"
"Jessica, Jessicaaaaaaa, waaaaAAAAAAAaaaAAAahh!!"
"...Battler. Don't cry. Beatrice will restore the dead over and over. So there's nothing to be sad about... So, even if we die, we're still... just... fine..."
The redness began eating into the whole of Maria's body... The foolish Battler watched and screamed.
BGM: Prison Strip
"I won't forgive, I won't forgive, I definitely won't forgive you!! You'll regret making me, Ushiromiya Battler, your enemy!! I'll deny you no matter what!! No matter how baffling things get, it can all be explained by humans!!! I'll erase every cell of you from this world!!!"
"Well said, Battler...! That's the kind of thing that can divert me from my thousand years of boredom! Come, explain. Try explaining it all with human tricks! And learn how lowly humans are!! Let's see if what humanity has built up in a hundred years can oppose my thousand years!! That's what will make forcing you to submit so pleasant...!!"
So tell me, Battler! What about Maria's letter? How the six were killed? The shutter? The receipt's seal? The closed room with the chain? Kanon in the boiler room? Genji and the others in the lounge?! Natsuhi's suicide?! The riddle of the epitaph?! The location of the hidden gold?!"