Part 78: Virgilia
October 5th, 1986, 6:00 AM
It wasn't a refreshing morning. All that could be heard was the sound of the rain, which hadn't stopped falling since last night, and the howl of the wind...
"Hey, it could be worse. At least it's just rain and not spears falling from the sky."
"Wahhaha. Whether it's rain or spears, it's comin' down with a bang. Is it already 6:00? Fuaaaaaa... Isn't this enough? After this, we've got no measures we can take 'til the mystery 19th person, Beatrice, makes her move."
"True. However, I believe we have anticipated every trick they might use against us."
"That's right. As long as a traitor doesn't appear among the siblings, we should be able to deal with most situations."
"...Haven't we talked about this enough? We've stayed up all night. I'm tired."
"You're right. How about taking a little rest after eating breakfast?"
"...A good plan. Staying up all night is trying at our age."
As they all stretched, they enjoyed this unrefreshing morning as best they could.
"I'll go wash my face or something. I probably look horrible."
BGM: Hour of Darkness
As soon as they exited into the corridor, Kyrie openly made a disgusted expression.
"...What is it?"
"Hey, don't you smell something awful...?"
"...Nnn. What is this stench? I can't stand it..."
After hearing those complaints, everyone stuck their heads out into the corridor. The stench was faint, but once people started commenting on it, it was clearly noticeable. Each of them went into the corridor, relying on their own sense of smell to tell them where this strange odor was coming from...
"What in the world could it be? Let us have Genji deal with it. I believe he should already have arrived in the servant room to begin the morning preparations."
"Indeed, please do. At the very least, it's difficult to imagine Gohda making a breakfast that would cause such an odor..."
But the door was locked, and they couldn't check inside. At the same time, when Natsuhi's group was on its way to search for someone in the servant room, they noticed something strange near the parlor.
"...What is this...?!"
"Wh-What a horrible prank... Who would do something like this...?"
"There's no one in the kitchen yet... Wh-What is... that?"
Eva's group, who'd thought the smell might be coming from the kitchen, had returned after confirming that no one was there and that preparations for breakfast had not yet begun. Then, they noticed the change to the parlor.
"It's useless, the boiler room's locked. Wouldn't that be bad if something went wrong with the boiler? Has anyone spotted a servant?"
"...! Is one of those vulgar scribbles here too? There was another one on the door to the boiler room."
"What's that?! This creepy scribble isn't just here, but it's in other places too?! Haha, you don't think this is the witch of the forest Beatrice's declaration of war, do ya?"
Hideyoshi tried to make fun of it, but staring at this creepy magic circle while listening to the wind and rain really made it seem like a message from a witch. The dripping, bright-red paint made one think of blood, which made it even creepier. Hideyoshi tried to open the door, but it had been locked. As a general rule, the parlor wasn't locked. Someone had gone out of their way to lock it.
"...I'm sure the servants are behind this. We were together the whole time. We all have alibis. They probably received some strange order from Father and pulled this prank."
"...And there's also the case yesterday with Maria-chan's letter. It's really easy to suspect that the servants are acting on Dad's orders and planning something. Anyway, where is everyone? They can't be playing hide and seek. Let's look for them."
"B-Before that, I'm worried about the children. They are safe, right? I'll go and check, and while I'm there, I'll see if there aren't any servants there."
"Then let's split up. While you go to the guesthouse to see how the brats are doing, we'll investigate inside the mansion. I don't want to think about it, but maybe these creepy magic circles aren't just in the places we've found them already."
"...We might be wrapped up in some bizarre game of Father's. I will go to him and hear the situation. Though, I doubt he'll obediently listen to me."
As a result, they confirmed that the four children were safe in the so-called cousins' room, on the second floor of the guesthouse. They had apparently stayed up late last night playing. All of them were snoring loudly, so Rosa decided not to wake them. Furthermore, Nanjo, who had returned early the previous night to rest, was also safe. It seemed he believed in the phrase 'early to bed, early to rise' and had awoken refreshed.
During that time, Kyrie and Hideyoshi searched for the servants. But they didn't find them. The servant room in the guesthouse was also empty.
"The servant room is empty. I looked at the shift chart, and the mornin' shift begins at 6:00. They should've started workin' by now..."
"The nap room is also empty. There were signs that a futon had been slept in, but it wasn't warm."
"Hey, isn't everyone's reasonin' right on this? This is probably a game Father set up. He must've left those creepy scribbles and hid himself somewhere, tryin' to make us do somethin'."
"...Are you saying he's trying to see who's fit to succeed his wealth and the Headship? Isn't that a bit..."
"No... It might not be strange if Father was behind something like that."
"After all, Father loves doing things on a big scale. This might've been a finely-tuned plan startin' as far back as when the epitaph was hung in the hall."
"...In that case, I wonder if they'll give us an announcement of the game or some explanation of it. It certainly would be nice if an envelope with the crest, like the one handed to Maria-chan, were to appear."
"...That's right. Maybe Nii-san and the rest have found something like that in the mansion."
"Doctor Nanjo, have you heard anythin' about this?"
"...M-My apologies, I have no idea what is going on. And yet... yes, certainly, I could easily imagine Kinzo-san planning something on a big scale."
"...Shouldn't we go back to the mansion for now? Maybe they found somethin' over there."
"If I won't be in the way, I shall go too."
"I-I'll stay here. The children are sleeping upstairs. We don't know what's happening. We cannot leave them alone."
"...That's right. I'll stay with Rosa-san and watch over the place. Would you tell that to my husband?"
At the same time, in the mansion...
In a way that was hard to believe, or maybe we should say in a way that gave him a bad feeling... Rudolf's prediction was spot on. The same magic circle graffiti that had been drawn on the doors to the boiler room and the parlor... had been found in multiple places throughout the mansion.
"It was no use. I received no response. I tried putting my ear against the door, but I couldn't sense anyone."
"...There's no sign of any of the servants. Where in the world did they disappear to...?"
"This isn't funny. Father and the servants are hiding, and there are strange magic circles all over the mansion. What in the world is happening...?!"
They were all the same magic circle, and all of the doors had been locked, so they couldn't check inside the rooms.
"...Anyway, let's do something about the boiler room first. It'd be bad if something broke down and caught fire or exploded. So we need the key."
"It should be in the key box in the servant room."
They fished through that key box. Because each of the servants carried their master keys around, those weren't kept there. However, all of the individual keys should have been there.
"...I can't believe they managed to fit so many keys in there."
"...It isn't here. No matter how much we look, the key to the boiler room isn't here."
"Look, Aneki. Only the keys to the rooms with those magic circles drawn on them... are totally missing."
"...It's true. How bothersome..."
"It's as though someone didn't want us to go into the rooms with the magic circles. No, they went to all the trouble of making those magic circles obvious, so maybe they wanted us to enter..."
"I think it's the latter. This isn't a movie, so breaking down the door is probably impossible. Smashing a window might do the trick though."
For a while, Krauss pondered over whether this situation really called for smashing a window.
At that time, Hideyoshi and Nanjo returned. There was nothing strange in the guesthouse, and the children were safe. They told the others that Rosa and Kyrie had stayed to watch over the place.
"Good morning, Doctor Nanjo. I apologize for waking you so early in the morning."
"What is it? Did you find a letter or somethin'? I was sure you'd have found somethin' like that by now..."
"...You're right. I also believe this to be a massive joke or game of Father's... But if that's the case, there should be some letter telling us about it. Like the letter that was given to Maria-chan."
"Then what might the five magic circles we found in the mansion represent? And the missing servants?"
"...Natsuhi nee-san, how many servants were there today in total...?"
"Huh? Genji, Gohda... five of them, but why?"
"...So, there are five servants. There are also five magic circles. It's probably a coincidence, but I don't like it."
"...Nii-san, let's break a window. We should check and see what's inside."
"...We have no choice. Do it neatly."
Krauss made his decision and gave permission to smash a window. And he decided that the first room they would break into should be the parlor on the first floor, where the windows would be easiest to reach.
Rudolf wandered around the garden, trying to find something that would be good for smashing the window. Eventually, he found a rock bigger than a fist and came back.
"You don't have to smash the whole thing. Just open it enough so you can reach the lock."
"Don't get your hopes up, okay?"
Rudolf raised the rock and hit the glass with it several times. Eventually, he succeeded in opening a hole big enough that he could unlock it from the outside. Covering his hand with a handkerchief, he stuck his hand through that hole... and cautiously unlocked it.
"We should probably cover it with packing tape later. The rain'll get blown in."
...They could see into the parlor they knew well. They were a little relieved. They'd thought there might be another bizarre magic circle inside the room, or possibly the traces of some creepy ceremony. In any event, they didn't want to hang around out in the rain, so the six of them: Krauss, Natsuhi, Eva, Hideyoshi, Rudolf, and Nanjo, entered the parlor as a group.
"...It seems... that nothing in particular has changed..."
"Wh-What's wrong, Shannon...?!"
"Wait, wait, are you okay?! What happened to you?!"
BGM: Golden Slaughterer
"Hey, Shannon-chan! Are you okay?! Answer me!"
"Y-You mustn't shake her... I will examine her condition now..."
She had been in the shadow of the sofa, so they hadn't noticed her until they'd entered the room. Shannon was lying on the floor, her chest stained bright-red with blood...
"...Hmmmm? Oh, there you are. What are you doing, clutching at your head in a place like that?"
Battler was crouching under the table, holding his head... His pitiful figure made it plainly clear that he didn't want to see anything, didn't want to hear anything...
Had he heard Beatrice's sneering voice? Could he not hear, or was he pretending that he couldn't hear? In any event, it was clear that he'd closed up his heart like a shell...
"Pu ku ku ku... Perhaps you tormented him too much, Milady. After showing him all that and demanding a counterargument, I can understand why'd he want to mope around."
"Hey, Battleeer. If you can't argue back, then resign, okay? It's your turn. If you don't make some move or pass... or else give up, we won't get anywhere."
"...Huh? What's that? I can't hear you?"
"Don't talk to me, don't show me anything, disappear, disappear, just disappear!! Don't get that annoying face near meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"
Beatrice winced reflecively at Battler's sudden rage.
"...E-Even if you say that... If you don't finish your turn, then my turn won't come. In fact, I'm the one asking you to stop boring me..."
"Who cares, be quiet, shut uuup!! Who cares about your game?! I won't go along with iiiiit!! If your turn won't come until mine's finished, then just wait for all eternity!!"
"Aaaah, I don't know, I don't know, I don't get it!! I won't accept witches or magic, I won't accept something that screwed up!! Uuooooooooooohhh, I said don't talk to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"
I wandered aimlessly through the rose garden. It was raining and windy, but that didn't mean my body got wet. There was just a feeling of isolation as I wandered amidst the wind and rain without an umbrella.
...Actually, didn't we already have a clear winner and loser in the last game? After all, I surrendered for a time. That's why the world was tinted with witches and magic. Right now, Rokkenjima is a different world, where witches stride around openly and fire off strange spells. It isn't a matter of accepting it or denying it. Maybe I mistakenly assumed that I was playing a game on an even footing with Beato. Maybe I was already defeated in the last game, and this is just the signing ceremony of my surrender.
A minute ago, a terrible battle unfolded in this rose garden. I saw it with my own eyes. I kicked the ground. Obviously, the ground was hard. And water from a puddle splashed. Several towers had split this ground, sprouting like high-rise buildings. The more I kicked this ground, the more it felt like that couldn't possibly have happened.
But, for that very reason, I couldn't explain it with anything other than magic anymore...
"...If it was a closed room with a key shut up inside, I'd know it was probably an extension of stuff you often see in detective novels."
"...But that...? That big flashy thing...? Damn it..."
"...Huh? ...It's you..."
Someone suddenly spoke to me, so I turned around, ...and in the rose garden arbor... was the Predecessor Beatrice, whom Beatrice had supposedly defeated a short while ago.
"...I was sure you'd died. So, you survived."
"You're Beato's teacher, right? So, in other words, you're a witch too."
"...Yes, that is correct."
"Tch. So basically, that means witches really do exist? And the only one who can defeat her... isn't me. That'd be you, since you can use awesome magic, right? I'm just useless now. There's nothing I can do anymore..."
"...Oh, my. Have you surrendered completely?"
"What do you mean, surrender?! How am I supposed to explain that?! Towers sprouting and falling!! Huge giants holding shields and throwing spears!"
"Aaah, just remembering it makes me feel like I'm going insane! We're way past the point of trying to reason this all out, aren't we?!! We've left the level of tricks and things that can be explained with human culprits!! Aaaaaaaaaaahh, damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!!"
"Calm yourself. I am nothing more than a piece on that child's game board. After being removed from that board, I am no longer a being capable of doing anything. But you are that child's opponent. As long as you do not give up on your own, you will always have the power to strike back."
"Shut up! Weren't you also reciting strange spells and summoning towers and spears?!!"
"What do you mean, strike back?! Are you saying you'll teach me magic too, and make me take part in that massive magic battle?!!"
"...If you wish, I could teach you a bit about magic."
"Oh, just what I wanted! Please, give me some awesome magic to smash through her chest in one blow...!! Hah, don't screw with me!"
"A rain ceremony? That thing where you throw stuff into a fire and dance as an offering? That's not magic. They say that the fire causes an updraft, which makes rain clouds gather. That's supposed to be an accepted scientific phenomenon."
"Oh? I believed it to be a form of Eastern magic, but is that not the case? I believed people offered sacred fire to the heavens, as well as a dance of respect, so that your entreaty for rain would reach the hearts of the gods."
"Maybe people did that long ago. But most occult things like that have a scientific explanation."
"Why do things burn? Isn't that because phlogiston is contained in the material?"
"...No, things burn because of a chemical reaction. Lavoisier abolished the phlogiston theory."
"Why does heat transfer through objects? Isn't that because caloric is contained in the material?"
"...I'm pretty sure that was abolished by Joule. Heat is energy, not a substance."
"You have studied well. Your knowledge is accurate."
"...It's just some trivia."
"So, even gravity is the love of god? Well, that's probably the remnants from the period when religion rather than science was used to explain everything."
"That is correct. In the past, humans called the limits of their knowledge... no, ignorance itself, magic. Like the rain ceremony we were just talking about. Did the people of ancient times realize that there was a scientific explanation, that fire gave rise to heat to cause updrafts that summoned clouds? Even without understanding these things, they at least knew the result."
"...That probably happened a lot. That stuff called 'knowledge of the ancestors'. Even without understanding the reason, through long experience, they knew that they'd achieve results. Phenomena whose principles they didn't understand were probably the same as magic to them."
Like this person just said, ancient people who didn't understand those principles probably believed that, through the rain ceremony, their wishes would reach the heavens and make rain fall. To them, that was certainly magic. As long as they didn't understand updrafts...
"...That's pretty interesting. Well, logically, that's true. For example, I don't have a clue why the Braun tubes in a TV show a picture. Still, I think it's totally normal to see things shown on a TV. Even if I don't understand the principles behind Braun tubes, I at least know that 'If I push the switch, I can watch TV'. It's exactly the same as having a rain ceremony without understanding updrafts. In other words, if I don't know the principles, even TV is the same as magic... or even magic itself, I guess."
"Do you know the structure of Braun tubes? Have you ever taken one apart and looked inside?"
"...Nope. I think I read about it in a book or something once, but it was complicated and I didn't have a clue. I think that when electrons hit a fluorescent material, it creates luminescence or something like that..."
"Huh?! Don't be stupid, there's no way that's true...!"
"How can you deny it, if you have never looked inside a Braun tube?"
"...I've never looked inside, but I can say for sure that small people like that definitely don't exist!"
"Since there are no Braun tubes here, that is impossible to prove."
"Y-Yeah, it's impossible to prove right now, but later, I can take apart a TV somewhere and show you, and instantly win the argument!"
"...Erk... what the hell, is this one of those? Are you trying to say it's a 'Devil's Proof'? That's a favorite trick of you witches."
"A 'Devil's Proof' is a bit of sophistry, one that takes advantage of the fact that negative facts are impossible to prove. However, it's different from my Braun tubes metaphor. That could be resolved simply by taking apart a single television."
"...You're right. It isn't really a 'Devil's Proof'."
"You have proposed a scientific theory, and I have proposed a magical one. One of those is the truth. And which one it is can be ascertained the moment you look inside a Braun tube. However, until the instant that happens, we cannot deny each other's theories."
"So, even though only one truth exists, until you look into the Braun tube, you can have two conflicting truths existing at the same time. You have a realm in which two truths can exist simultaneously, even though there must be only one truth in existence."
However, until you open the box, you can claim that the cat is alive, and you can also claim that it is dead.
Both claims are the 'correct' truth according to the people making them, and even though the two sides are in conflict, neither can win the argument as long as the box remains unopened.
In other words, two truths can exist at the same time. Even though there can only be one cat in the box, it is packed with a living cat and a dead cat, forming a strange separate world.
That is what Rokkenjima is now. This island is now a different world where a scientific theory and a magical one can exist at the same time. To a resident of the world of science such as yourself, at a glance, it may feel as though this island had been sucked into a world of magic.
That might not be wrong, but it is not accurate.
So, at a glance, it appears to you as though the world is tilted towards the magical side. But, in reality, this island is now in a perfectly impartial position with relation to those two opposing worlds.
"Then perhaps you could think of it this way. This is a trial. Think of it as a court where you and Beatrice are laying out opposing claims. Call it a Braun tube trial. Your opponent claims that there are tiny people inside the Braun tubes, explaining one thing after another, talking about the lives of these tiny people, what they look like, what type of magical power they have. And what do you do?"
"...Well, I study in a library and argue back by explaining how Braun tubes are constructed."
"At this moment, both your claim and that child's claim exist in the court at the same time. If you find your opponent's claim convincing, it might sound like truth to you. It might look like truth to you. That is exactly what you saw."
"...To say it in your words, this island right now is the world right before looking into a Braun tube, right...? Therefore, the science theory and the magic theory cannot be denied. And since they cannot be denied-"
"Both can exist as truth. Therefore, both witches and magic can exist. However, at the same time, your opinion of denial also exists as truth."
"...It is a world where two conflicting things can exist at once. And, it is a world where conflicting truths cannot disprove each other. Have you managed to understand...?"
"...In other words, no matter how much awesome magic Beato shows me, it's only a claim of a 'magical theory', and it doesn't disprove my position."
"So, 'no matter what kind of magic Beato shows me in this world, it cannot become proof that magic exists'."
"That's right. That child might even try to explain an apple falling from a tree with magic, perhaps by shaking her staff and magically plucking the apple, then claiming to be the thing that made it drop down to the earth."
"However, that would be nothing more than another claim. None of your opponent's claims can prevent you from making yours. In that sense, this world is quite 'impartial' to both sides."
"...I... get it... Still, by that argument, if I show a sound argument with my 'science theory', and it collides head on with her 'magic theory', I also can't win against her. On top of that, the final judgement won't come until we peek into the Braun tube."
"...Where is the Braun tube in this world? Because it exists, there should be no reason for us to argue. Why don't we just get along and peek into the Braun tube?"
"If there really is a tiny person in there, it's my complete loss. Otherwise, it's my victory. Why do we have to hold this debate without looking into the Braun tube?"
"...Can you win an argument with an opponent in a screwed up world, where multiple truths can exist at the same time?"
"In actual fact, didn't you lose an argument and surrender like this...?"
"...Sure. Thanks, that really helps. I'll avenge you."
"Hohohoh, thank you. I look forward to it."
"What's your name?"
"...Beatrice used to be my name, but now that I have surrendered it, I do not have a name."
"Virgilia. Like Valkyria? Wasn't that a name for goddesses that show up in myths?"
"No. It means the guide who leads the way to Beatrice. I will guide you to that child, who waits at the summit of Mount Purgatory. It ought to be a fitting name for such a guide."
"Who would've guessed I'd accept help from a witch when I'm trying to deny witches... I see. If this is a contradictory world where different claims can exist at the same time, I guess that's cool. Ihihi, it's almost funny."
"I am borrowing that child's words, but you truly are like a phoenix. Your will to fight has already been revived. Come, if your heart is prepared, return to your opponent, return to the chessboard where that child is seated. I look forward to seeing how far you can fight with my disciple."
"Yeah, watch it. I won't listen to her babbling anymore. I'll cooly fight to the end. I definitely won't get provoked by her any longer."
"Then let us return. To the seat of the battle."
"...Sorry to keep you waiting. I've cooled my head a little."
"And? Did you think of a response to that pleasant, thrilling, refreshing, highly acclaimed, wonderful fantasy battle between Teacher and meeeeeeee? Isn't that impossible to explain without fantasy? Hihhyahhahahahahahahahahahahahaah?!"
"...Milady, didn't you just promise to be kind and act more gracefully?"
"Ahhyahahahahaha, oh no, oh no. I just got in such a good mood when I saw Battler's face, you see? Look, look, look, how are you gonna respond to that battle just now, Battler? Hmmmmmm?"
"In this rose garden, where do you see those spears and towers you made lying around? They aren't here, are they? In other words, it's just like the inside of a Braun tube."
"...The inside of a Braun tube?? *cackle* What in the world are you talking about now...?"
"At this very moment, there's nothing at all in the rose garden. Towers may have been sprouting with magic until a short while ago. However, that's only the case until we see what's inside the Braun tube. That magical battle is nothing more than your interpretation, your claim. The fact that there's absolutely nothing to see here now proves it."
"...Hahaha, hahahahaha! Come now, of course I can't make a huge mess when it's only the first twilight, and I am rather fond of that rose garden, you see? To prevent any damage, I had the fight occur inside a barrier. So it's only natural that it wouldn't have any influence on reality."
"...That's your claim? Well, I guess that works."
"However! At this point in time, there is nothing in the rose garden. So nothing stands in the way of my claim that there was no magic done here!!"
"W-Wait, wait, can you deny my magic with a mess like that?! It is impossible to prove that magic 'does not exist'! It's a 'Devil's Proof'!!"
"At this point in time, this garden is the truth! The instant you look inside, the tiny people inside the Braun tube will vanish. And there are no traces of magic here at all! So that battle between you witches 'did not take place'!!"
"...Have you forgotten, Milady? It is the Multi-layered Worlds Reduction Technique. The power of a Finite Witch, the counter to the power of an Endless Witch. Only an Endless Witch can perceive it, and it is most effective against such a witch."
"Sch-Schrodinger's cat box?!"
"...Th-That old hag of a witch... What an uncalled-for hint!!"
"We've lost time. Including the five servants and Grandfather, there are six corpses! Let me check the scene. I've been trudging along wasting time. From now on, I'll speed things up, okay?"