Part 70: Possibility of a 19th Person II
For a while, Beatrice continued to laugh unpleasantly and gloatingly... or maybe spitefully.
"...Are you ready? I'll keep going. Again, repeat it."
"'There are 19 people or more on this island'!"
Beatrice fell silent once again.
The red has already become a foothold for my counterattacks. Now that we know this, it makes the red very risky for the witch. But if she couldn't repeat this, her 'Hempel's Raven' wouldn't be effective. To break my 'Devil's Proof', she would need to settle the existence and number of people outside the 18 in red.
That's right. She couldn't break the existence of a 19th person unless she used red. I've closed Beato in, giving her no choice but to speak in red...! There really is... a way to fight... in this witch's game!
"It's okay to refuse. If you can't say it in red, that means there's a total of 18+X people on this island."
"...That X is a pretty massive piece to lose on your first move, right? After all, from now on, all of the tricks that were impossible for the 18... can be explained with a human X who isn't in that group. This huge piece can break open all the rooms you said were closed because everyone had an alibi...!"
It was just like how a chess bishop can cut a thin line through enemy forces as long as there's a slight gap. It could only be effectively used on squares of the same color, but it was very good at controlling territory on the board.
It looked like Beato also noticed her current plight. She couldn't just let such an important piece go, especially this close to the beginning of the game... If she pulled out her red treasured sword, it wouldn't be that difficult to save herself from this. But Beato was completely aware that I was expecting it. She was afraid that a careless red truth might end up strangling her own neck...!
Because... in the first place, a witch is something that ought to be denied in red.
They can only exist in the valleys between truths. They have a fragile existence, curled up in these cracks, frantically trying to protect themselves from the brutal winds of truth, and they can only barely exist like a mirage by surviving on falsehoods and illusions. In other words, the red, which only witches can use, is the reality that might easily deny their very being. The more they brandish their red words, the more they begin to lose bit by bit that crack in truth inside which they can endure. That's why they don't want to use red words and carelessly lose that crack in truth, which is based on fuzzy information... or illusions, in other words.
That's because they understand that they're gradually being cornered. Of course, that bastard will never admit it. Because, if she did, it'd be the same as admitting that she's something that can't exist in this world, like an imaginary number.
Don't be afraid. Stay strong...! I know that she's the one who's really been pierced to the bone. After all, her red treasured sword can't be used without a lot of preparation...!
"...What's wrong? I'll say it again. Repetition requested! 'There are 19 people or more on this island'!"
At the end of Beato's worrying, she took a single deep breath and quietly announced her refusal.
...I thought she'd use it. But Beato refused to speak in red, even though it would cost her victory in the opening part of the game.
"You refused...? Which means that, from now on, I can create as many fictional character Xs outside of the 18 as I want...?"
"Do as you wish. I have refused to repeat what you have told me. Isn't that enough for now? The reason for my refusal is... no, I won't tell you yet. Anyway, you'll know soon enough."
"...Ihihi. Still acting tough, I see..."
"...Choosing not to use the red is another way of using it. You called it my red treasured sword. A pleasant metaphor. I will use it too. A treasured sword is at its best when it is sheathed. In fact, there are times it can instill even more fear because it is sheathed."
"That's right. As I fight, I always have to keep in mind whether you might spin everything around with those red words. It's some pretty serious pressure. And there are also times when you make things pretty tough by refusing to repeat after me. Those times, I can't tell if you can't repeat because my guess was right, or if you're just misleading me and letting me flounder about."
"If you think of it that way, yeah. It's a sheathed treasured sword."
"...So what? If I'm going to push you off a cliff anyway, best to let you climb a bit higher first. We have still barely begun. Much is left to come..."
"I'll resign from this challenge. Go and get drunk on your faint victory for now. But only for now."
Practically speaking, the early part of the game ended with her being a sore loser. Even so, I couldn't relax my guard at all. That tension didn't fade one bit... until I was greeted by the sound of Ronove's applause...
"Who knows... I still don't know whether I've taken a piece by my move, or whether she guided me into taking it."
"...After all, knowing you... You probably know I'm being led into a trap, and that clapping is just you mocking me openly, right...?"
"How could you think that? I am innocently celebrating your ability, which has enabled you to take one shot at Milady, even though it is only the first round. In any event, Milady is a person who is quick to become arrogant. I believe that a little encouragement such as this can be good medicine every once in a while."
"...This butler of yours sure has a vicious tongue..."
"He does, doesn't he? Sometimes he ticks me off as well."
"My, my, how incredibly rude of me. Well then, Milady, Battler-sama. How would you like some more black tea? The game has still barely begun. Please allow me to prepare all the tea and snacks needed to adorn this game. I ask that you continue your game without any reservations."
"I will. Let's move forward. Now is when it really starts."
"...Hmph. Very well. Let us advance the clock. Ronove, black tea please."
"Certainly. How about a cookie?"
"I don't need one. Give it to Beelzebub to keep her happy. Remain silent for now."
While listening to the sound of the demon butler pouring tea, the witch closed her eyes slightly and fell silent. For some time, she was deeply lost in thought, but eventually a roguish glint came into her eyes.
BGM: The Candles Dance
"...What...? Bring it on. Show me what you've got."
"*cackle*cackle*... Yes, that piece really was big enough that I'd hate to lose it."
"...It may be hasty, but allow me to make my move. I won't use the red, but from here on, Rosa will explain on my behalf. Listen."
"Huh? Ah, sorry... M-Me too. I think that too."
"...What's wrong, Rosa-san? You've been really quiet for a while now. Are you feelin' sick...?"
From the beginning, Rosa had never been one to cut in on the siblings' fights. But even so, she seemed unmotivated... and had said almost nothing during this night's conference. The whole time, she had hung her head... and appeared to be thinking of something else...
"You've been in a daze for a while now. Do you think you can protect the inheritance like that? You're also the mother of your child, so get a stronger hold on yourself."
"Did you wake up really early in the morning? If you feel sick, you shouldn't overdo it."
"...The beds in our guest rooms have been prepared. How about taking a rest? I will guide you."
"No, I'm fine. Thank you."
"...What is it? Is there something you're worrying about?"
"...No, not really..."
"Is that so...? It feels like your mind has been elsewhere this whole time. I wonder if that has anything to do with what we've been talking about...?"
As if in response, Rosa's shoulders quivered. Apparently, Kyrie's guess hadn't been wrong. Rosa couldn't deny it either...
She swallowed whatever it was she had been trying to say and went silent again. Of course, the other siblings also began to realize that something about her appearance was different from usual...
"What is it? You've been weird for a while. Did you think of something...?"
"We all just swore to remain united, didn't we? Don't hold back, worryin' by yourself. We said we'd talk."
"...Rosa, tell us."
The men pressed her one after the other, and Rosa confessed resignedly and nervously... The atmosphere made it seem as though she was confessing to some modest prank, which had inadvertently brought about a serious situation.
"Huh? Isn't it obvious that she's alive? After all, she was able to send that letter to us."
"Whether she's in good health or not is a different story though. The woman in that portrait must be getting up there in age by now."
"I'd say she's healthy. People who are crafty when it comes to money stay healthy no matter how old they get! Her evil plan might even be the best rejuvenating agent. Wahahaha."
"...She shouldn't be... alive."
"Huh? ...What did you just say?"
BGM: Witch of the Painting
"Wh-What did you say...?!"
"...Wh-What do you mean, Rosa...?!"
It was so sudden that everyone was lost for words. Rosa kept on talking, unable to stop, holding her head as her hair flew all about...
"Calm yourself...! Rosa-san...!"
"I-I have absolutely no clue what's goin' on...! Already dead? What do ya mean...?!"
"...I think it means two things. First, its literal meaning. And second, it backs up our earlier guess."
"Which means... Rosa... has met with Beatrice, right?"
"I-I've never heard Rosa mention anything like this. Rosa, when was it? When could you possibly have met Beatrice?!"
"...Calm down! Nobody's blaming you for anything, right? First, drink some water. Okay? Natsuhi-san, the pitcher please."
"Y-Yes. Here you go, Rosa-san. Please, calm yourself..."