Part 56: Fleeting Resistance
October 5th, 1986, 6:00 PM
"...Yes. We described everything as we saw it."
George folded his arms and started humming again. And the kitchen was once again absorbed by a long silence.
"George-sama, I understand well that you aren't able to believe that so suddenly. Anyways, even though I should have seen it with my own eyes, I'm still not sure what it was I saw... I'm sure I saw it. And I'm sure I got into a scuffle! And yet, I almost feel like it was all an illusion..."
"...I see. So that's why you couldn't go into the details in front of Aunt Rosa. If what you said is true, then we're in even bigger trouble... I see, I understand that Genji-san handled the whole thing composedly."
"...If only I had the power to explain it."
George had not actually seen it, and even when pressed to believe, he just couldn't imagine it. It was only natural. Because even the people who had actually seen it had given up asking themselves what it was...
"...That's right, I was thinking about that as well. Why spider-webs?"
"In the past, I happened to hear it from Kumasawa-san. A long time ago, evil spirits lived in Rokkenjima and they, umm, feared spider-webs. And they say there's a legend that people treasured spider-webs as amulets. And, umm... right at that moment, I, I think I was also a bit confused..."
"...When it came to those old stories, Kumasawa was very knowledgeable."
"That's because spiders are useful. Certainly, the existence of such a creed isn't strange at all."
"...I'm sure. I think that torii shrine was entrapping the power of those evil spirits. And, since the spirit mirror was broken, that power revived... I have no doubt that it became the power to make Beatrice-sama revive... If I, as weak-hearted as I am, hadn't done such an outrageous thing... Whaaaaaaa...!!"
"...Shannon. You don't have to worry about that anymore. I don't blame you for that."
After listening to her, George had come to think that this was typical of a girl, associating love with fate, chance, and miracles. George thought that she had gone a little too far when she broke the spirit mirror that was offered at the torii shrine, but he had smiled and forgiven her, thinking that it was only a little prank she had done because she had seriously desired a relationship with him. Just breaking a mirror in some musty shrine wouldn't change the fate of our meeting. And that would never cause any curse. I should have cheered her up, saying it was only a musty mirror covered in dust.
"...I had heard the story of a spirit called Beatrice from several coworkers ever since I started working on this island."
"In the beginning, I thought it was ridiculous, but since it would appear indiscreet to comment on that... outwardly, I conducted myself as if I also believed it. But, could it really-"
"She existed. Beatrice-sama was in this mansion all along. But Beatrice had lost her powers, and could not appear before us. She did 'exist' all along. It's just that we couldn't see her."
"...I'd like to hear Genji-san's opinion."
"...I do not have any opinion. All that I would like to say is, at that time, there were five people there. And I thought that Kanon had returned through the back door. Then, we carried him to the servants' room, something happened, and Doctor Nanjo and Kumasawa became people who will never come back."
"...That is all. We have already explained everything we saw. I understand that it would be very unreasonable to try and force you, who didn't see it, to believe it."
"How could he believe it? I thought that it was undoubtedly Kanon-san. But that guy got up from the bed, and, that's right, when he started to grope about that wound in his chest in that manner, I felt that this wasn't Kanon-san, but some different being."
"...You probably couldn't understand it, George-saa. The terror of that moment when the person I thought I knew well exposed that he was in fact, a different person... I can't explain. I can't explain it at all..."
"I understand. I can guess at what kind of a shock such a dreadful thing would cause to Gohda-san."
"...Thank you very much, George-sama."
And they all went silent again. Shannon kept crying no matter how many times she was consoled, thinking that listening to the witch's sweet whispers and breaking the spirit mirror on that day had all been a mistake...
"...I think she explained it to me a little, but I don't really remember. I think she said something about how she couldn't release her power if that mirror existed."
"...What happened to this mirror that you broke?"
"I don't remember. I probably left when I broke it, so it's probably just how I left it."
"...So when, as they say, the reef was struck by lightning and disappeared, the bottom of the ocean... Well, I'll bet picking it up and taping it together won't make it effective again. Hahahahaha."
"...Truly, what... have I done..."
"...Sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
The servants didn't blame Shannon, but it seemed that they believed that had been the beginning. But even now, there was no way George could believe that far. Even if he was told a story about witches and evil spirits, it just sounded fake to him. Even so, he listened seriously to Shannon's story, trying find a hint that might relieve at least a little of the pain in her heart.
"Come to think of it... I think it is different from the one in that torii, but I have heard that Madam keeps a spirit mirror as a charm."
"...Really? Aunt Natsuhi?"
"Yes. I believe she received it as a memento from her grandfather or something, and that it held a very strong magic repelling power, of high pedigree? A spirit mirror or something..."
"...I have also heard the same story. Something about the mirror having the power to reflect that which is not good and send it back."
BGM: Dead Angle
When George proposed this, the servants looked up.
"...The shrine and the torii where it was enshrined are gone now, but the important thing is that there is still another spirit mirror. I've heard that Aunt Natsuhi's family is descended from Shinto priests. Maybe that isn't just a simple mirror."
"I, I am sure that I have heard Madam say that she keeps it safe in a treasure box. It might not be very large."
"...I don't think its size is a problem. Even the mirror I broke didn't look so big at a glance."
"...If our opponent is occult, then we too must resist by using occult measures. If we just sit around here, nothing will be resolved. It's worth trying, if only for some peace of mind."
Of course, this didn't mean that George had accepted the witch. However, he thought it would be necessary to have some kind of purification ceremony to heal the wounds in Shannon's heart. So this story about Natsuhi's spirit mirror was really convenient.
"Let's go. I won't say that it will finish off the witch or something so outrageous. However, I think it would be nice if we had something that repels magic to protect us from the witch."
"...Maria-chan told me about it earlier, but the door to Grandfather's room was supposed to be able to repel magic, right? As expected of Grandfather. This means he was pretty good on defense when it comes to the occult. Let's go. To Aunt Natsuhi's room!"
"B, but, I think Madam's room is locked...! We returned the master keys to Rosa-sama, and even the key box in the servants' room is now locked away..."
"...In that case, Aunt Natsuhi should have been walking around with that key. Aunt Natsuhi's corpse should still be in the chapel. It would be bad to disturb it ourselves before the police come, but we can fully explain that."
"However... the entrance to the chapel is also locked..."
"Hahaha, Gohda-san, can't you break a single glass window with your physical strength? You could smash it with a rock from around there."
"W, would it... umm, be okay to break the window of that important chapel...?"
"When Grandfather gets mad at us, I'll take responsibility. From the beginning, I was planning on fighting with the whole Ushiromiya family today. So that they would permit my engagement with you... So I'm even more prepared than before."
"Let's break the glass. Then, let's borrow the key from Aunt Natsuhi's corpse."
It seemed that George's claim that he would take responsibility gave the servants a great amount of courage. Shannon and Gohda faced each other, and then looked at George's face again.
"Grandfather knows everything about the occult. I'm sure he'll understand if it's about the power of Aunt Natsuhi's spirit mirror. Don't worry, he won't get mad at you."
"...I wonder if Madam's mirror... can really seal... Beatrice-sama once again."
"I don't know. But I think it's worth trying. So let's go. It's getting darker and darker outside. Quickly!"
"Shannon, get a flashlight! Gohda-san, find something that looks like it can break the glass! Sorry Genji, but could you get us some umbrellas?"
The servants, who had been rejected by Rosa, gained a new master and started to move. George, who was normally calm and gentle, was now oozing dignity.
Shannon checked the emergency flashlight. Just in case, she changed the batteries. Gohda was testing several heavy looking cooking tools. Normally, a highly praised chef like himself wouldn't want to use them for something other than their intended purpose. But now he was frantic to fulfill the orders of the one he accepted as his master. After some worrying, he took a large, thick-feeling frying pan. Genji removed several umbrellas from the umbrella stand set in the corner near the kitchen door. He took three of them.
"...I cannot go with you. It would be embarrassing for me, as the head servant of the Ushiromiya family, if we were all gone when an order is given."
"Wh, what in the world, Genji-san?! Even you should understand how dangerous it would be to be alone in this mansion now...!"
"...I cannot go. So that the Master can call for me at any time, I must remain here."
"...Go, so that you can work for George-sama. Be sincere, so that there are no blunders. Gohda, I am counting on you to be an example."
"Y, yes. Leave it to me."
"I will surely fulfill my duty..."
"Is this really alright, Genji-san?"
"Yes. I am already at this age. All the days of my life until now have been in repayment for the Master's favor. Whatever happens to a senile old man like myself will be decided by the roulette. I want to sit here and see what the result will be with my own eyes."
As Genji said that, he sat down.
When George saw this, he decided to leave Genji there.
"Let's go, everyone. It looks like the wind is a little softer right now!"
When George took an umbrella and dashed down the hallway, Shannon and Gohda chased after him, each holding a tool. After they flew out of the room, Genji quietly stretched his hand out to the corner of the room with the chessboard. He softly pulled something that was there towards himself, and hid it by covering it with his palm. Genji killed his breathing even more than before.
...As he did, something flashed gold.
It was almost as though it had seen George and the rest off, and was trying to secretly chase after them...
It happened in an instant.
After the gold butterfly beat its wings several times, looking like it was in pain, it accepted the fact that it couldn't break free, became fine gold powder and smoke, and disappeared as though it had melted into water...
Genji still gazed down at the chessboard as though nothing had happened. Maybe he would think up a brilliant move very soon. But no matter what move he made, his opponent would not be able to respond for all eternity. Even though he knew that, Genji searched for a brilliant move. It must have been the perfect way to kill time, during the short period before some fate would be given to him...
...He didn't know what result the roulette would bring about. But that decision would be made very soon. No one could interfere with the tumbling roulette ball...
So Rosa scowled, apparently thinking that if a suspicious person appeared, it would be by breaking the window. Sitting on a one-person sofa, her back to the door, she continued to hold onto her gun.
I didn't know what was what anymore, and even though my body and mind were worn out, I played with Maria, as she wanted. Maria had said it. Beatrice wanted to see whether the epitaph of the gold could be solved, so we had to challenge this riddle. In the beginning, I had been a little interested, and had tried to solve it, but I had never had a clue about what that weird paragraph meant. I didn't doubt that there was some riddle hidden there, but I couldn't imagine that I would solve it by chance.
In the middle part of the epitaph, there were the lines from the first to the tenth twilight, saying to journey to the Golden Land.
It was obvious that this hinted at the first six murders that had already occurred in the chapel, and Jessica and Kanon-kun's murders. If this was being followed, we still had to be prepared for five more people to be killed.
Doctor Nanjo and Kumasawa baa-chan's corpses hadn't been found. However, if we reasonably assumed that they were the sacrifices of the fourth and fifth twilights, they would surely be found in a pitiful state, with their head and chest gouged. In which case, could we expect that three more would be gouged in the stomach, knee, and leg and killed? Who would that be?
...I looked around the room, noticing that there were three people here, but, how should I say it, my emotions seemed paralyzed. I couldn't understand my strange and frightening feelings. As I leaned on the sofa with the top part of my body, gazing up at the ceiling, Maria noticed. Somehow, it seemed as though she felt I was slacking off in my riddle-solving. She was mad at me, like I wasn't being serious enough.
I was sure that the witch had written in her letter that she would give up on collecting the debt, or something abstract like that. I optimistically took that to mean that she would give up on killing the whole family, but was it really written with that meaning?
I didn't really feel like solving this riddle would actually save us. I thought that even if we did solve it, would that be doing just what the culprit wanted us to, and would all be a wasted effort...
"No, that's not true. If you solve the epitaph, Beato's ceremony will be over. So there won't be any need for more people to die."
"...Really? Isn't that rule just something she made up...? If we solve this riddle, we'll probably know the location of Grandfather's hidden gold. She'll surely go after that..."
"Uu-. Won't go after."
"...Why are you so sure?"
"The gold has been Beatrice's from the beginning. She wouldn't go after something that's hers."
"...Then... then why is Beatrice giving us all these big hints? Not just that, why did she even set up this game-like thing?"
"...Risk. I don't really know what you mean."
"For example, in a marathon, do you think that a medal that anyone can get by running the whole thing is worth the same as the medal given only to the person who gets first...?"
"No, I don't... So what does this mean? In the end, she's just playing around? Purposefully giving us a chance-"
"W-ro-ng. That's what a witch is. No matter how great the magic, there are definitely risks and weak points. No, there has to be."
"...I don't get this stuff you call magic, but if I think about it as a gamble, I can understand a little. If you aren't prepared to lose big, then you can't win big. And the slimmer the chances of winning, the bigger the payoff."
"That is correct. So Beato properly explained the risk of the ceremony to everyone. Therefore, if this riddle is solved, the ceremony will be suspended. After all, if she breaks her promises, then there wouldn't be any risk."
"If we solve this... will she really keep her promise?"
"Humans can bring about miracles by gambling their death. If there were an undying human, that person would have no way of bringing about a miracle. Us too, life too, the witch and the ceremony too. If we don't bear a risk, we can't succeed in anything."
"...What do we do if we solve the riddle? Should we raise our hand and cry 'That's it!', tell the witch our answer and see what she says?"
"Uu-. I don't know about that. But, if we solve it, the ceremony will surely end automatically."
"...You sure know a lot, Maria. Did you learn all of that, from Beatrice?"
At least when making moves in chess, players grope for the best move, always trying to avoid risk and hoping for an advantageous turn of events. They don't trust to chance, like in gambling. That's right, there's no room for gambling in an intellectual game. And yet, this person called Beatrice had committed such an outrageous crime... or maybe a ceremony... while purposefully imposing conditions for her own loss and announcing them to us.
In chess, you always play the best move. So by standing in your opponent's position, you can predict their next move. However, you couldn't say for sure that Beatrice's moves were always the best moves. I thought she was probably making us focus on the epitaph to trick us in some way, speaking in riddles.
...But Maria said only that was impossible. She said that this was a genuine risk that the witch had taken, and therefore proof that this was a formal ceremony for magic.
Even though she is supposedly committing this chain of murders with some goal in mind, why did she go to all the trouble of exposing the conditions by which she would lose? No matter how I turn the chessboard over and think from my opponent's perspective, I can't understand why she would give up if this riddle is solved. Isn't it almost as though Beatrice doesn't care whether she wins or loses? It's natural that chessboard reasoning wouldn't work if you played chess against an opponent like this...
...I don't understand, I don't understand. What is Beatrice after that's making her cause this crime? If she just wants to massacre us all, she could just do it secretly, without this whole crazy setup. There was no need for that scrupulous advance notice, this closed room acting or anything. It's all over-acting. I don't understand at all what it means. As long as I continue to think of Beatrice as a greedy human culprit, will I be able to understand anything?
...If she was really a witch, and everything Maria had said was true, there would be only one thing for us to do. The reasoning and the discord and searching for the culprit had all been pointless. We should have all gathered in the dining hall, combining our knowledge to solve the riddle. If we had combined the knowledge of that many people, maybe we would be able to at least grasp a thread of the answer...
The greedy humans, desiring to gain something more than their opponent, were being offered up as sacrifices one by one, without gathering their knowledge together. In the end, did the humans get what they deserved? They thought they were thinking, but they were actually thinking only of their greedy selves. In the end, chessboard theory is a technique of thinking where you project yourself on your opponent. So greedy people see their greedy selves inside their opponents...
She was probably tired from being under all this tension the whole time. She couldn't sleep, but she kept staring vaguely at some point off in space. Aunt Rosa had proclaimed that she couldn't trust anyone who had not been killed. Aunt Rosa's chessboard thinking... saw herself inside her opponent. In other words, Aunt Rosa might have been an isolated woman, unable to trust anyone and unable to let her guard down.
Long ago, I think I heard a bit about it from my dad. Aunt Rosa had originally been a very obedient child. But her age was too far separated from the other siblings, and furthermore, because conflicting demands were often made of her by her confrontational siblings, since she was young, her thoughts had become psychologically harsh. Often, when she copied one of her siblings, another sibling would give her a hard time. Certainly Aunt Rosa had said many things today that could be taken as abusive language. But, in a sense, those were words that had been showered upon her, and engraved on her vocabulary. The many abusive words that she had spoken... were also words that Aunt Rosa had been showered with in the past...
Now that I think about it, I've had the feeling that her style of speech sometimes has traces of Krauss oji-san or Eva oba-san in it. I'd accepted that they might be similar because they were siblings, but maybe that wasn't the case... I sympathized from my heart with Aunt Rosa, who I had come to think of as being only gentle...
If we could solve the riddle that the witch announced to us, the ceremony would be halted and we would definitely be saved. And I think she also said that Beatrice would never break that promise. But this is Maria we're talking about. She herself would never break a promise, and she had the most innocent heart... So she believed that Beatrice also wouldn't break a promise. She could believe that.
But wasn't that just an image of Beatrice that Maria imagined...? There's no proof that the real Beatrice definitely keeps her promises, right...?
"...So you're saying a complete monster like you follows the rules?"
"I won't deny that I am brutal and unjust and a monster."
"However, I am a witch. I use magic. In order to use magic, there are some rules that must be followed. Because I am a witch, I cannot neglect those. You should believe at least that much."
"...Even after everything's gotten so crazy, you're still telling me to believe only those rules?"
"...I do play tricks. Of course, I also deceive people. That's no different from humans. But not once have I disregarded something that I have said as a promise. What about humans? Do you always keep your promises?"
"...Since we have catch phrases like 'Keep your promises', it's doubtful that we always follow them properly."
"From my perspective, humans are much more selfish monsters. There's nothing as doubtful as a human's promise. Even I sometimes make contracts with humans, but it's hard to imagine how strict an agreement must be made just to grant a single foolish wish."
"...If there's even a small loophole, they'll immediately say something like 'Increase the number of wishes to one hundred', or 'try changing into a tiny speck'."
"...Dad often tells me something. He says that there's nothing as scary as contracts. He said it's only natural that people who agree without reading them thoroughly will be chewed to the bone. He made a killing through vice."
"...Realize this. When people are born, they don't know of fraud. ...They suffer it somewhere. And so it is learned."
"Yes, the crimes of the human world, which must be forced on one another. Let me see, I've heard that from a witch somewhere. Oh well. I'm not as heartless as you think, you see? *cackle*cackle*cackle*!"
"Liar!! You killed so many people!! And you did it in such a horrible way too, how could you not be heartless?!! You say you keep your promises?! Don't say stuff like that!! I won't accept you. Never. I believe that not giving that up is the only way I can resist you!"
"...I see. So you're saying that this eternal torture, will be the same for me. ...*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle*."
"Damn you, babbling on and on about this incomprehensible stuff. Let's quickly continue this eternal torture. I'm prepared to stick around for one thousand years or even ten thousand years."
"*cackle*cackle*! Good, good. It looks like you've regained some of your will to fight. It would be boring otherwise."
"Come now, don't you often see it in competitive games? Sometimes one player intrudes on their opponent's territory, but the opponent is so weak that it's a bit of an anticlimax, so the first player loses on purpose to extend the game until the last round, when they get serious and shower their opponent with blows, right?"
"...I don't get the analogy."
"It's the same as wine. If you don't let it age well, it won't sparkle. You are the same as that wine. I'll carefully make you age. I'll raise you to be the best alcohol to color my elegant time..."