Part 38: Guest of Honor II
BGM: Golden Sneer
Normally, Rosa would scold her daughter if she dashed over to someone who she hadn't seen and didn't know. But Rosa forgot about that, unable to do anything but stand there, shocked.
"...It's been a while. Have you been healthy?"
"Uu-! Maria is healthy! Witches don't catch colds! Uu-!!"
"*cackle*cackle*! Witches make people catch colds with curses, but how foolish would it be if they caught one themselves. From now on, you should concentrate on doing your best to not catch something like a cold."
She patted Maria's head as she said this, smiling roguishly...
Therefore, even though Rosa had never met her, even though she hadn't named herself, Rosa was able to know her name. However, that name held a special meaning on Rokkenjima and in the Ushiromiya family.
...There's no way something that stupid...!
"Beatrice! Happy Halloween! Look, bought it! Give it to Beatrice too. Uu-!"
"Hmm, Happy Halloween. Hoh, for me? How truly lovely that this unique light, of a man lost in the darkness of purgatory, unable to go to heaven or hell, would be made into a candy like this."
"...Right now, on this island that has been cut off both from the world of humans and the world of nonhumans, there may be no more suitable sweet. *cackle*cackle*!"
"...Hm? Maria, what's wrong with that?"
"...Uu-. Stepped on and smashed. Can Beato return it to normal...?"
Maria didn't go so far as to say that it was her mother who had stepped on it. However, when the witch saw the candy, for some reason, she looked at Rosa and grinned. A chill went down Rosa's spine, as though she felt that this gaze was staring right through her.
"It will be easy. Give it to me."
Maria held out the candy gleefully. Rosa could do nothing but watch over this, stunned. How would this person gloss over the fact that the candy was pitifully trampled and trick Maria...?
Maria looked as though she believed that it could be fixed as good as new. There was no way that could be done without real "magic"...!
"My, my, it is quite crushed, isn't it... Come, Maria. Close your eyes and try to remember."
Along with those strange words, spoken as though singing an improvised folk song, the witch threw the sweet into the air. Maria was closing her eyes and remembering, just as the witch had told her. What shape had that crushed candy really had?
Therefore, only Rosa saw that scene.
It scattered into several golden butterflies, and they began to gather at the witches hand, which was held up to the sky. And as she did, unbelievably, it returned to its beautiful original form, just like the time it had been bought...
Only Rosa and the witch had watched that scene. Unable to understand the event that was occurring right in front of her eyes, Rosa stood with her mouth open, forgetting to shut it...
"Uu-!! Beatrice is always awesome awesome, *giggle*!!"
There was a very bold contrast between Rosa's shocked appearance and Maria's innocently joyful one. Was that what the witch was laughing at?
A smile floated to Beatrice's face, different from the one that she had shown Maria.
"...Does my face look familiar? If you stare so fixedly, you might burn a hole through it."
"Huh... ah, I, I'm sorry...!"
Rosa was very aware of the meaning of those words. Rosa had known her face. ...She had known it from the portrait of the witch.
But, no wait... was this mystery woman really...?!
"...Maria. I will give this to you in exchange for that sweet."
The witch pulled a western envelope from her pocket and gave it to Maria. However, when Maria made to open it, the witch stopped her.
"You must not. The time will soon come that you may open it, but until then, you definitely must not. Take good care of it. It will become an invitation calling you to the Golden Land."
"Golden Land!! Finally take Maria there!! Kyakkya! Kyakkya!!"
"Take it and treat it with care. You must not show it to anyone."
"Uu-! Promise! I'll definitely keep a promise with a witch!"
"Eh...? M... me...?!"
She probably hadn't imagined that the witch would speak to her, too. Rosa was bewildered at this second western envelope, which was thrust before her. She remembered seeing that western envelope. There could be no mistake. It was Kinzo's special envelope, used when he wrote with his own hand, and bearing the Ushiromiya family crest. Furthermore, it was sealed with red sealing wax, and furthermore, it had the mark which was thought to be made by the ring of the head.
In other words, without even asking what was written inside... this woman, who Maria called Beatrice, was trusted enough that she was in charge of a personal letter of the current Ushiromiya head...!
"It could have been any of the four siblings. However, the fact that I have met you here probably means that you were chosen by Kinzo's roulette. In that case, take it. Then read its contents aloud while seated at the dinner table, when all of the siblings are gathered."
"...What did you say..."
Today was the family conference, and the biggest object of discussion was the inheritance problem. So, she had joined together with Eva and Rudolf, and they had planned to force a certain condition on Krauss to try and extort several hundred million yen in cash out of him. It was as if the witch could see through all of that... And what is she trying to announce to us when all of the siblings are gathered? With a personal envelope that no one but the Ushiromiya head can use...!
"...Maria, the weather is getting worse. Return to the guesthouse and wait for lunchtime. And Rosa, let us meet later. Allow me to name myself in that place. *cackle*cackle*cackle*."
The witch turned her back to her, laughing... And then began to head towards the mansion with an air of composure. As Maria energetically answered her and watched her go, she began to dash towards the guesthouse, leaving Rosa where she was. As though she wanted to inform the other cousins of her good fortune at meeting the witch as soon as she could.
At last, Rosa was left alone in the rose garden as the winds grew stronger, unable to do anything except pray that what had happened was just a daydream...
"We have been awaiting you... Beatrice-sama."
"...It's been a while, Genji. Hmph. You've gotten old."
"...No matter how old he is, furniture will only carry out his work like furniture, until the end."
"...I remember how that person's wife used to be jealous of you. Is Kinzo well?"
"He is very well."
The witch probably laughed because she knew that Kinzo's head physician had announced that his remaining life was slim. However, if anyone actually looked at Kinzo, his will power, which made it extremely difficult to imagine that his remaining life really was slim, might make it seem natural to call him healthy. Maybe the witch laughed at that.
"Then let us greet him. It will be good to hurl curses at each other after thirty years."
Genji followed her, as though he served her. At that time, Kyrie came out of the parlor. She probably went out to fix her makeup, or something.
BGM: Fishy Aroma
There was a guest for Kinzo, whose remaining life was not long, on the day of the family conference when the fate of the inheritance was to be decided... and furthermore, this person was well enough acquainted that Genji was following behind her. Kyrie immediately realized that this person who she had never met before was deeply important.
Kyrie and the witch's eyes met. Realizing that it would be rude to pretend not to notice, she greeted the witch.
"...Pleased to meet you."
"That is correct. This is Kyrie-sama, Rudolf-sama's current wife."
From this exchange, Kyrie realized that she was a guest of fairly high rank, even amidst the Ushiromiya family. And, the fact this was a guest of that level, coupled with the face of the portrait in the entrance hall that she bore, made Kyrie's eyes open wide in an instant...
"...Pleased to meet you. I am Kyrie. I wonder it this is our first meeting. If we did greet each other before, I apologize for forgetting your name."
"...Even though you have a vague idea, you dare to ask my name?"
Kyrie had planned on giving her a sociable and humble greeting. Her expression grew slightly cloudy at that openly oppressive response.
...Anyhow, it didn't seem like this was a person she could grow to like. But if Kyrie's imagination was correct, this "witch" probably held a huge key to what her own husband was most interested in, and something that couldn't help but influence tonight's family conference... So without shooting back a retort, Kyrie did nothing except silently watch her go up the stairs to the second floor, with Genji following behind.
So when someone tapped her shoulder from behind, she was so surprised, she almost choked. It was, Natsuhi...
"I, I'm sorry. I was just slightly fascinated by the portrait of the witch."
"...The Golden Witch, Beatrice, was it? Without the gold she gave, the revival of the Ushiromiya family to what it is today would not have succeeded, or something. Just like Father, a fantastical story."
Natsuhi spoke in a perfectly ordinary way. She spoke from the position that the idea of a witch was just foolish, and that after all, it was nothing more than Kinzo's ramblings.
However. something didn't make sense to Kyrie now, for some reason. Just now, she herself had seen the Golden Witch come in from the entrance hall and climb up the stairs. So Natsuhi's method of speech seemed almost like it was inducing her to not accept that the witch existed, or that it was forcing her to think that it might not exist...
"...I'm sorry. I think I'm feeling a bit of a headache. I think I'll rest for a little while."
"Oh, is that so? Then I have some good headache medicine. Allow me to prepare it..."
Genji, who was completely used to it, did not grimace... And the Golden Witch didn't grimace either.
"...How long has he been inside here without leaving?"
"I believe it has already been several years."
"...Did he want to make me a bird in a cage that much? How pitiful. Now you, the person who wished that, are the bird in a cage. Aren't you the ghost of the study? What a pitiful man to not recognize that."
"...He would probably continue his research until the day he could meet you again, even until he literally became a ghost."
"Is it love or madness or a delusion? If those are well enough developed, will they become magic? You sad mage."
The witch grasped the doorknob to the study.
It was the sound of the doorknob literally burning the witch's hand.
"What is this. A magic ward! Is that person unable to get by without relying on something like this...?"
"...I have heard that this door is painful for you, Beatrice-sama. Shall I open it...?"
"No... it is fine. If he wins, I will be a bird in a cage for all eternity. If he loses, only the life of a laughingstock will be left, the life of a pitiful magician who went mad with love and lost everything. Already, Kinzo and even I are nothing more than pieces laid out on the game board. All that is left is for the result of the roulette to decide who wins and who loses. Until the roulette shows its result, there is no need for me to be reunited with Kinzo."
The witch looked at her hand, which, although it was horribly burned, was beginning to heal bit by bit.
"...The magic ward could be here for that reason... Hmph. I see, that is also honorable. Now, everything is on top of Kinzo's game board."