Part 43: Wedding Ring
October 4th, 1986, 10:00 PM
...Hideyoshi's claim that advertising doubled the taste was apparently right. The kids and Nanjo, who had been chased out to the guesthouse, had gathered in the cousins' room, and were eating the cake that Kumasawa had brought there for dessert. It was both wonderful and high-class, with lavish amounts of cream and decorated deliciously with fruits, but even though it was delicious, for some reason it didn't taste quite as good...
"Haha, without Gohda-san's advertising, it doesn't taste nearly as good."
"Even if we wanted advertising, Kumasawa-san'd just say that it's made out of mackerel."
"Uu-?! Really?! You can make cake from mackerel?!"
"Hoh-hoh-hoh-ho. Yes, yes, this cake too, if you cook with the squeezed juice of mackerel mixed in with flour and eggs, it comes out all fluffy. Hoh-hoh-hoh-ho."
"That would be incredible if true. Maybe mackerel cake will show up on the new menu at Father's store."
"Wah-hah-hah-ha! Because mackerel is full of nutrients and has a healthy image. It'll be really popular with women and old people! But I'm not gonna get anywhere near it!"
"Girls won't eat something that weird."
"Even old people would wish to decline."
"Hoh-hoh-hoh-ho! But it's delicious!"
BGM: Hour of Darkness
In the end, they ended up showering Maria with questions again, since she was the only person here to have met Beatrice.
"...I can't believe that story was true."
"From the way you say that you didn't believe, it sounds like this isn't the first time you've heard of this witch Maria says she met."
"...Yeah. I thought it was a pretty common fairy tale for people of that imaginative age."
"Exiiists!! Beatrice 'exiiiists'! Every year, when we come to the family conference, she meets with Maria, and we play together!"
"That's right. Although Beatrice-sama doesn't usually show herself, I hear that she sometimes unexpectedly does so before honest people with clean hearts. Hoh-hoh-ho."
Because the family and the servants publicly accepted the image of the witch of Kinzo's delusions to keep him in a good mood, the Rokkenjima fairy tale, or maybe ghost story, was formed... To the family members who knew those details, the fairy tale of the Golden Witch was only a vague thing. However, in front of Kinzo, they hadn't been able to say that. So those who didn't know the details... like young Maria, for example, it definitely wasn't vague, but a real legend of the witch.
So Maria believed in the legend of the witch. She swallowed the story. That was natural for an imaginative girl who believed in witches. So no one said anything to betray her dream. On the contrary, they had arranged things beforehand to get her excited about her dreams.
"...I have also acted in such a way two or three times, long ago, secretly placing sweets somewhere. Probably, Kumasawa-san too, no, all of the servants and all of the Ushiromiya family have done it once or twice."
"...So, if it will make a small, innocent kid happy, you sometimes plan it beforehand and place some sweets somewhere. Come to think of it, I'll bet you do that kind of thing all the time, right, George-aniki?"
Admitting that would probably be unrefined. George admitted it while being extremely wary that Maria didn't find out.
"In other words, it's kinda like Santa Claus. To protect a kid's dreams, the parents plot together and lie, setting presents at the bedside of a child fast asleep."
"...I want to protect a kid's dreams. Although I knew that Santa obviously didn't exist a long time ago. If it's a dream you don't need to be disillusioned of, I wanted to believe it my whole life."
"...Because they know that the world is tough, adults want to at least protect a child's clean dreams.
"Uu-!! Beatrice exists! 'Exiiiists'!!!"
"Yes, she does. Beatrice-sama does exist, right? Some time ago, when I was drying mackerel to make some black tea, unexpectedly..."
"In short, except for Maria, it's a witch that supposedly no one believed in."
"Those words don't quite explain it. ...It's not that we didn't believe. Everyone was trying to make her believe."
So this was about not betraying a child's innocence. But Santa doesn't exist in reality. If you don't want them to be all disappointed when they learn that, you should just not show them that dream in the first place. Did I think like that because I was still a long way from becoming a full adult?
Battler was finally getting an idea about the true form of the Rokkenjima witch. But in the current situation, that understanding had been revised, and that premise had been turned upside down...
"...That's what we thought we knew, but the witch Beatrice-sama actually appeared. Is that what this is? Furthermore, judging from our parents' uproar, it looks like she wasn't an invited guest. That sounds kinda interesting."
"There actually is no basis to say that a woman called Beatrice doesn't exist. It's what uncle Rudolf called a Devil's Proof. None of us knew that a woman calling herself Beatrice existed."
"...But that doesn't necessarily mean we can deny the possibility that Beatrice exists."
"...Doctor Nanjo, you've been friends with Grandfather for a long time, right?"
"...At one point, I heard a lot about it at the family conference from Krauss-san and the others. A story that, long before that time, perhaps Kinzo-san had a mistress, and a hidden child with her."
"I see. Our parents' heads are full with the distribution of the inheritance. So it's obvious that if the daughter of a mistress showed up, it'd be troublesome for them."
"Krauss-san and the rest probably asked Genji-san about it first. However, Genji-san has sworn loyalty to Kinzo-san as his right-hand man, ...and is probably a more trusted friend to Kinzo-san than myself. ...Genji-san probably didn't say anything. So next, they went to ask me as his old friend..."
"And? So, did Grandfather have a mistress called Beatice, Doctor Nanjo?"
BGM: Witch in Gold
"...She's dead. And did she have a child with him?"
"That, I do not know... But Kinzo-san always says that he is researching how to revive Beatrice. Usually, if one loses a mistress and has a child left from them. they pour all of that love on that child. Therefore, we naturally thought that there wasn't a child between Kinzo-san and Beatrice..."
"...Yeah? In other words, that also makes for a Devil's Proof."
"...It does. It's impossible to prove that a child between him and a mistress 'didn't exist'. So now that she's actually appeared, we have to assume that she does 'exist'."
"That's a bit of a rushed argument. It's more realistic that someone caught wind of the trouble with the Ushiromiya family inheritance problem, knew about Grandfather's relationship with a mistress long ago, and impersonated her, trying to get something out of the inheritance problem."
"...It is more realistic. However, we can't deny the possibility that she really is a hidden child, who lived in isolation, forgotten by Grandfather, and who's returned for revenge, right...?"
"Revenge?! What do you mean?!"
"Aaah, sorry, sorry... Guys just like to embellish things to make them sound interesting. I've seen too many weird dramas. Ihihihi!"
Normally, that should have been a light joke. But it had come when a mystery guest calling herself Beatrice, who no one had invited, had marched in on the day of the family conference, when the bloody argument which the inheritance distribution had become was being discussed. There was no way that Battler's joke would be welcomed with laughter. So it was a really big help when Nanjo laughed energetically to calm everyone down.
"Hah-hah-hah-ha... I see, I see, that does sound quite interesting. I should love to read a novel with a plot like that."
"Well, I don't think that could actually work. After all, right now, on this island, there's one, two, three... 18 people, right? If they did something weird, they'd immediately be caught. And thanks to the typhoon, they can't even leave the island. In other words, it really doesn't look like some crazy crime is gonna happen."
"...I agree. In a dead-end, without any way to escape, and in a situation where everyone is suspicous, I really don't think they could pull off a terrifying revenge drama like that."
"Probably. In that case, it would be more realistic if she had come in secret, without showing herself. You do not often hear about people appearing openly for revenge except in historical plays."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that? Revenge is based on emotion, not frickin' logic. Even if that's misplaced, maybe she isn't really afraid of the police or the number of people or that there's no way out."
"It's alright, Jessica-chan. Nothing as horrible as we imagine will happen."
"Ihihi! Like the battle royal between our parents over the inheritance isn't horrible."
"...That's right. Dad and uncle Rudolf are pretty tough, and auntie Eva's even trained in the martial arts. It's alright. Yeah..."
They acted like everything was good in front of the children, but when that pretense was lifted away, like it had been at dinner, it would become a tumultuous uproar. It was only natural that Jessica, realizing that, would be frightened that her father and mother had gotten into some kind of trouble, and were about to be sacrificed for something terrifying...
"Seriously. George-aniki's right. Nothing's gonna happen. Even if she pretends that she's a witch, what can a single human woman who can't even use magic do?"
BGM: Witch of the Painting
The sudden, creepy laugh made all of us jump. And when we realized that this strange laugh was coming from Maria, we were shocked again.
"...That's right. Battler, that's your perception, isn't it?"
"Wh, what is? Don't laugh all creepy like that."
"You accept Beatrice's existence for now. At least you accept her as the 19th person and a guest. But that's all, right? You don't accept that the 19th person, Beatrice, is a witch, right...?"
"You surprised us all for that? Of course I don't. Witches couldn't exist. It's impossible for it to be anything other than a human woman pretending to be one."
"...Kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi. Hmmm...? Isn't that odd, Battler? That's a Devil's Proof, right? Witches couldn't exist? But just because Battler's never met a witch, doesn't mean you can deny that witches exist, right...?"
"...That's right. That really is right. I can't prove that witches don't exist. However, even if I can't prove it, I can claim it. I claim that witches don't exist."
"Why...? Why can you claim that witches don't exist even though you can't prove it...?"
"Because things like that don't exist."
"Kihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi! So, that's QED? You're finished proving it without any evidence or basis? Setting aside your own superficiality is typical of the ignorant. A reckless suspension of thought. Kihihihihihihihi...!"
"In that case, I have one answer, Maria. The witch's side has to show some proof themselves. This is another Devil's Proof. If you bring one, it'll be over quickly."
"...In our case, this woman calling herself Beatrice would only have to perform some magnificent magic, like sending out some sparkling stars with her wand or something, and show us something that's impossible for humans, right?"
"...Come now, you two. Please settle down..."
...It seemed as though Battler quickly realized that he wasn't acting like an adult. But Maria's expression didn't loosen. As she laughed creepily, she kept staring at Battler...
"You quit it too, Maria. Let's get back in a good mood, alright?"
"...Sure. If she lets me have a look, I'll believe."
"It's a chess argument between the witch and you, Battler. If you get checkmate, you will believe in the witch."
"Oh, that's a stylish analogy. The witch shows her magic. My king is put into check. I quibble, saying that it would be possible to reproduce that by measures even a human could take, and my king escapes. And since if I couldn't do that, it'd be checkmate, that's a pretty good analogy."
"Battler. In chess, you and your opponent have pieces which move in the same way. So you can predict your opponent's moves."
"...But you know what? Sorry Battler, but your chess partner isn't human. She's a witch. She can move her pieces in ways that humans can't. Right now, your knowledge is wrong. Battler, you like auntie Kyrie's chessboard thinking, right?"
"...Yeah. I like that style of thinking where you stand in your opponent's position."
"And that's useless. Even though your opponent is a witch, you won't accept that. So you can't understand the moves a witch can make, and your chessboard thinking won't work. Your knowledge of your opponent is wrong. The very first premise of chessboard thinking is broken down."
"...Hoh, is that what you say?"
'Sonata' is one of Japanese's various second-person pronouns - a slightly strange one, rarely used in regular conversation and sounding excessively formal. Notably, it's one Beatrice likes to use.
BGM: Minute Darkness
"...I see. So, Shannon, have you ever met this person called Beatrice before?"
"...I don't know."
That was a slightly odd way to say it. I thought it didn't sound like she meant her memory was vague.
"...For us servants, Beatrice-sama is another master of this mansion. Some say something like we were influenced by the Master and spread that rumor... but since the time I started working here, the story of Beatrice-sama was already whispered about."
"I heard about it before. There was a servant who didn't respect her, was cursed, and actually had an accident."
"Yes... but it's true that some people believed more or less than others. I, umm, believe that respect for that sort of thing shouldn't be forgotten, so I have never doubted that she exists. I dimly believed that a... umm... uncertain being called the Golden Witch surely existed."
"...And then that witch whose existence was uncertain actually showed herself and appeared openly from the entrance hall... is that what happened?"
"When you brought her dinner, did you talk about anything?"
"I see. Still, a witch that eats food somehow doesn't sound so realistic. Maybe it's just someone who knows about the witch legend on this island taking on Beatrice's name after all."
"...I think that you've probably come to respect Beatrice and think of her as something like a guardian god of the mansion. So when a person appeared actually calling themselves that, maybe you were a little disturbed."
"...That's right. I'm sure that might be the case."
George was slightly at a loss at what to do about Shannon's downcast appearance. Possibly, not just Genji, but the young servants had also been strictly questioned about whether they had a clue as to who this person called Beatrice was... Thinking that, he tried to somehow cheer her up.
Like Maria and Jessica, Shannon also had surely been unable to completely hide her agitation over the sudden visit of a person calling herself the Golden Witch. He thought that must be the case. But George probably had no technique of looking into Shannon's heart.
Shannon was bitter and sad. The door to the Golden Land... would be opened. The witch had definitely told her that. That meant the demise of everything. Even if she accepted the ring from George... now, they could never be married. No, in the first place... Did furniture like her have the right to be married? Even if the witch hadn't come to tell of their demise, wasn't it fated to fail sometime or another? Had she turned her gaze towards the fun days with George, and purposefully closed her eyes to the sad reality?
"George-san. What does it mean... to be engaged?"
"Huh?! Ah... err! It means making a promise to marry. But I think that means it's the same thing as marriage. Honestly, I want to take you as my wife right now, and take you back home. But right now, I am in the middle of training, and I'm still a long way from gaining the ability needed to create my own castle. That's why I want to stick out my chest for the first time since becoming an adult and take you home with me."
"I'm not talking about the distant future. I just want you to wait a short three years. But that doesn't mean I want to lie about our feelings for another three years."
"So, I decided to give you an engagement ring. That might be a shameful reason as a man. An engagement because I want you to wait, because I can't balance a wife and a job, might be shameful. But I will definitely-"
"O, of course not. An engagement ring isn't a simple accessory. It's an oath between lovers, an honored promise left in the form of a ring."
"...*giggle*. In that case, if we get married quickly, it would become unnecessary, right?"
"Th, then it won't be an engagement ring. I'll give it to you as a wedding ring. Either way, it won't change the fact that I'll give you a ring."
"So it's a sales contract, like saying 'This woman is mine, nobody touch her'."
"Nn, no, umm... that's not what I... *cough*."
...So, even if it was on purpose, he chose to answer a little roughly. He believed that that would be reassuring to Shannon.
"...No, that may be true. Sayo. I'll make you my wife. I won't give you to anyone else. I'll make you all mine. So no one will lay a hand on you. That's what this ring is. Without a doubt."
"Thank you very much, George-san. I'm truly, happy."
...Shannon tried to ask that, but she swallowed her words. Because George had already spoken the answer. George had said it. He had said that to him, an engagement ring was infinitely similar to a wedding ring. Therefore, accepting George's ring had a far more sacred significance than a promise to marry.
"Therefore... I will stop calling this an engagement ring. From now on, this isn't an engagement. It's a wedding ring."
"I... is that alright...? Is it alright to, umm, just proclaim that we're married without God's blessing...?"
"Yeah. It's enough to tell God, Father, and Mother about it afterwards. We'll claim that we are married. No one can cover that up."
"I'm not saying this because of a momentary emotion. I'm not just looking at how you are now. I'm looking at the you of tomorrow, of the next day. I'm even gazing at you as you'll be in old age, in the future, as I say this."
"...You are always telling me about that, George-san. About how you want to spend your old age slowly, surrounded by healthy children and grandchildren."
"Yeah. At that time, an older you will be beside me. That is what I say, no, what I foresee... Yes. Because that day will surely come."
"...Will it... surely come? ..."
"Yes. Surely. Definitely. ...And this ring proves it without words."
"...Please... show me."
"Huh? Ah, ah, ah, ...h, h, here it is...!"
George, thinking he was being told to show her the ring, hurriedly took out the ring box. Even though he had practiced so much, he hadn't been able to look cool. But Shannon wasn't looking at that. In her straight and direct gaze were vague tears and a smile.
"...Please... show me... that future."
"Y... yeah. I'll show you. Surely. I promise. And not just until old age. After we die too. Even if we become spirits, we'll always, always be together."
Shannon wiped away her tears and took the ring box. Inside was a diamond ring worthy of blessing the two of them. George said the line that he had practiced over and over again inside his head.
"I... I want you to put that ring on, whatever finger you like, and have that be your answer. Umm, so, by tomorrow morning..."
It really had looked... like a very, very natural movement, and for a while, George was stunned...
"This, is my answer. George-san."
"Shannon... no, Sayo..."
"...Even if we become spirits, we'll always... always... be together... George-san."
There was no blessing from God, no pastor to witness, nothing. But the two who were married, proclaimed it.
Two souls were joined here today...
BGM: Worldend (solo)
"...Is that so?"
"Even though you're furniture... Even though... you're furniture...!"
"I'm not furniture. Not anymore."
"...Liar!! Why are you fooling yourself?! Even though you know that you can never become human! Even though you know that you can never become human unless you go to the Golden Land!! Even so, why did you throw away your promise to go to the Golden Land...?!!"
"Oh yeah. By accepting the ring, that promise with Beatrice-sama comes to nothing, doesn't it? *giggle*, sorry."
"...From now on, I, you, George-sama, the Master, everyone, everyone has the same conditions. 13 people will be made sacrifices. Only five people will be invited to the Golden Land. And you... rejected one of those places yourself..."
"That's odd. It looks like you're the one with regrets, Kanon-kun."
"You're the one with regrets, aren't you, Nee-san! You got engaged, right?! Even though you knew it was a fate that would never be fulfilled!!"
"Yes. I promised that we would always, always be together, for eternity. So you know what? In that instant, our eternity was completed. Even if we become sacrifices, it's already completed. So, it's alright."
"...Kanon, you're the one who actually has regrets. We're furniture, right? No matter what the result, we will be freed. In that case, it doesn't matter whether we go to Golden Land or not. And yet you are set on going to the Golden Land. ...You want to become human no matter what, right? Why?"
"Because I want to become human!! I've had enough of being furniture!!"
Tears were coming from both of Kanon's eyes. And he howled.
"...I, liked Milady...!! And after seeing Milady on that day, I started liking her even more...! And when I heard that Milady also liked me, I was really happy...!! But I'm furniture, and I can't accept Milady's feelings!!"
"...You're wrong. We may be furniture. We may be less than human... But that doesn't mean that we aren't qualified to love."
"I believed that if those thoughts would never be fulfilled, it was better without them!! I just decided that someday, a day would come when I would disappear, and that would definitely hurt her... no, that's wrong!! I was just frightened!! I... was just afraid, that if the love could not be eternal, it was better without it!!"
"...Cicadas, even though their lives last only a few weeks, fall in love and disappear. There are no cicadas that don't fall in love because it will be over in a few weeks."
It seemed that Kanon was still speaking of his regrets, but by now it was all jumbled up in his crying voice...
"...That witch is detestable...!! Why did she plant these feelings in me...?! If only, if only she hadn't done that weird prank, I wouldn't have payed Milady any notice...!!!"
"...Beatrice-sama is detestable. To make you cry bitter tears, she played games with your fate. But, the witch's expectations are probably off. After all-"
Knowing love isn't a regret that ties you to life. It is the place we should reach on our journey through life...
BGM: Melody (instrumental)
Well now. With this, the conditions for all of the pieces is the same. There are 18 pieces! 13 will be offered as sacrifices! Who will the five that remain alive be?
...Or. Will someone destroy this ceremony? Who?!! How?! Fuhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!
You can frantically run from my advances, and make it a tie, an invalid match. Well, the best you can do is have this repeat on and on. And it probably won't be that difficult for you. However, this invalid match will continue forever, will eventually wear down your mind, and eventually kill it. At that time, you will accept your defeat and surrender to me!!
The reason I said it was a fair game... That is because the rules for my loss have also been established. There's nothing as boring as a game you can't lose, right? A way to defeat me. That is, the epitaph offered to my portrait.
I follow the epitaph and complete the ceremony. You solve the riddle of the epitaph, destroy the ceremony and overthrow me...! Solve the riddle hidden in the epitaph, and expose the location of the vast gold I gave to Kinzo!! What result will this game show us?!
I'm expecting a good fight, alright?
"...I have no objections. Natsuhi and I accept it."
"...Ku... I can't believe it, so I don't want to believe it, but... that is... the truth, isn't it..."
"...Natsuhi. Choose your words more carefully. She is the family's most honored guest."
"...I, I also accept it. No doubt."
"Yes. I accept it. Without even a scrap of a complaint. I can't believe it's real... I honestly have feelings of respect."
"Me too... Incredible. I genuinely respect that. So I have to accept it."
"I also accept that... I still can't believe it. But, what can I do? You've proven devils! It's your victory...!"
"...Don't torture me, witch. I already accept you. I resign."
"...Kyrie. Do you still have any objections...? I don't like it unless everyone's together. If you alone do not accept that I exist..."
As the witch laughed boldly, the siblings started getting frantic. They were afraid of displeasing the witch. Kyrie lightly closed her eyes, and after keeping silent for a while, opened her mouth.
"...I'm sorry. I resign."
Only Kyrie had faced the witch until the end with stern eyes. However, she had only held off a very short time, before accepting the truth. The truth, the being, that was before her eyes, couldn't be denied. Devils had already been proven...!