Part 79: Skirmish
October 5th, 1986, 7:00 AM
However, when we woke up, there was an unbelievably cruel reality waiting for us...
George-aniki and Jessica were crying over Shannon-chan and Kanon-kun's deaths. Right now, everyone who was alive had gathered in the lobby on the first floor of the guesthouse. And there were 12 people there. Unbelievable, right? There were 18 until yesterday. And in one night, a third of that number had lost their lives...
I eventually sobered up from my agitation and, along with my lack of sleep from being woken up so early in the morning, I was beginning to feel a faint sense of unreality. I want to think this is some kind of bad dream... My cheap escapism keeps telling me that over and over. Maria had gone back to sleep on the sofa Rosa was sitting in. Rather than her having nerves of steel, she probably genuinely hadn't had enough sleep.
...Apparently relics from a time he'd been obsessed with Westerns, there were four guns altogether. Those had been split up among the four siblings: Uncle Krauss, Aunt Eva, my dad, and Aunt Rosa. Paper boxes filled with bullets lay on the table, and the siblings were silently loading them.
"...It's a little scary. Even now, touching one of these, I get the feeling Dad'll yell 'Don't touch that!' and hit me."
"Well, isn't that great? No matter how much you touch them, you won't be hit again."
"Well, I never did expect Kinzo-san to die normally in his bed, but even so... it is too horrible..."
"Hey. I wonder if that really was Father...? I think it might be a different person's corpse, used as a substitute to trick us..."
"...No, it was Father, without a doubt. You saw his toes, right? Generally speaking, there aren't many humans with six toes on both feet."
"But... that doesn't mean that such people don't exist. I've heard that polydactyly isn't that rare a disease. He was a man who liked large-scale tricks, right? He might have obtained a corpse from somewhere that had the same number of toes on both feet."
"Ridiculous. Why would he do something like that...?!"
"...I'd agree if it was a normal person... But this is Father we're talkin' about. You can't be sure Kyrie-san's talkin' nonsense."
"...After all, burning a corpse makes it hard to identify. Still, there should be a few ways to examine him from his teeth and bone structure. If the police investigated, of course they'd be able to know whose body it was right away."
"The problem... is that we need a telephone engineer more than the police right now."
"...The boats probably won't come in this typhoon. So, will they arrive tomorrow?"
"Most likely, the boat will come again at 9:00 tomorrow. Then, I believe we will be able to contact the police."
"...It's the same for us...and the culprit. Until the typhoon passes, this island will be closed off."
BGM: Dead Angle
First, early that morning. In various places throughout the mansion, a total of six corpses, including Grandfather and all the servants, had been found one after another.
The servants had died, each shut up in the rooms throughout the mansion that had magic circles drawn on them. The cause of death for the servants was uncertain, but according to Doctor Nanjo's diagnosis, there was a high likelihood that they had been stabbed by something like a spear... or possibly shot with a gun. That was why the adults had started arming themselves with Winchesters.
And what made the situation even more chaotic... was the fact that the telephones had become unusable. It was unknown if lightning had caused them to break down or if the culprit had broken them. At any rate, since contact with the outside had been cut off, we couldn't reach the police. So until the typhoon passes and a boat comes tomorrow morning, we'll have to protect ourselves. After all, Rokkenjima is now isolated by the typhoon. And just as we're stuck on the island, so is the culprit.
...So right when the adults had been in an uproar over money, the murderer had been killing under the same roof... They say Aunt Natsuhi's been strict about locking the doors and windows at the night. And yet, some suspicious person had entered and left the mansion. The adults had decided that the inside of the mansion was too large to be safe, so they had pulled out the guns and moved to the guesthouse, where we had been.
Which brings us to the present. George-aniki had begged to see Shannon-chan's corpse, but the adults had refused, saying that he mustn't do so until the police arrived. That wasn't just because they wanted to seal all the rooms to preserve the scene. After all, the culprit who had killed six people was wandering about the mansion. To the Ushiromiya family right now, the mansion that should've been their home... was now a danger zone that an unknown murderer could enter and leave at will...
After all, it's a huge mansion. There are plenty of blind spots and dark places, and it's too vast to guarantee absolute safety with this number of people. Relatively speaking, the guesthouse was much smaller. It had two above-ground stories. Something like 10 or so rooms? Apparently, it had originally been constructed to serve as a small hotel, as part of the plan to turn this island into a resort. So, it was easier to know what was going on everywhere inside it, and it'd be easier to keep safe. It made for a good place to hole up in.
After all, the culprit had proclaimed so in a letter. I heard that a Western-style envelope with the family crest, just like the one Maria claimed to have received from Beatrice yesterday, had been found in the boiler room where Grandfather's corpse had been discovered. This was what the letter said.
So that there will be no misunderstandings. The game I seek is whether or not you can solve the riddle of the epitaph, not whether or not you can catch me.
If you do not solve the riddle of the epitaph, the pitiful sacrifices will increase in number. It would be more wise to spend your time solving the epitaph than searching for me.
If no one can solve the riddle of the epitaph, no one will survive.
If a person appears with skill enough to solve the riddle of the epitaph, I will give them all the gold of the Golden Land, the Ushiromiya family headship, and all of my power.
I was the one who succeeded the Ushiromiya family headship from Kinzo-sama. And I look forward to seeing who will receive the headship from me.
The Golden Witch, Beatrice.
...This riddle of the epitaph was... that thing. That strange epitaph written by the portrait of the witch on display in the hall of the mansion. Grandfather was the one who had it written, and the person who solved it would, supposedly, be given the inheritance or the hidden gold or something like that. Ever since it was first put on display there several years ago, the relatives had secretly tried to solve that riddle, despite saying on the surface that the whole idea was silly.
However, up until today, no one had solved it. We were once again being urged to solve that unintelligible riddle, and this time, we were faced with the threat that we'd all be killed if we didn't solve it. If that wasn't a 'game', what else could it be...?
However, there was a good chance they were armed, and there might not be just one of them. And, while they might have been able to kill more than six people, they had stopped at 6. The opinion that won out in the end... was that we should avoid needlessly antagonizing the culprit, and hole up in a safe place while we waited for the police to arrive...
After the adults carefully checked that the doors and windows in the guesthouse were locked, they set up camp in the lobby. As they loaded their guns to distract themselves from the tension, their expressions showed that they were already fatigued from this long day, which had still barely begun... There was nothing for me to do. Now, all I could do was be taught how to use a gun, to prepare for the off-chance of something happening that led to an excess of guns...
...That's fine. Just obediently stay there, me and the rest of you.
"Most likely, that child has carefully studied your moves from the last game... and has made an optimal move by taking the pieces you were most likely to suspect from the start."
"...That makes sense. That was true both last time and the time before that. The servants, who know everything about the mansion and who walk around with keys, always fall into the most suspicious category of people."
"...A good example in the last game would be Jessica's closed room. If I'd only accepted that a servant was the culprit, that wouldn't even have been a closed room."
"And so, that child went straight for them, probably to block off a method of escape you'd be likely to attempt sooner or later."
"Beato already proclaimed in red that there are no more than 18 people on this island. In other words, it's time to give up on that. Now I've got to suspect one of the 18."
"...That child will probably come at you by stealing the pieces for all the 18, while also making an appearance as a 19th person who shouldn't exist, for then you would be forced to accept that your opponent is a witch. After all, now that the intimidation approach has failed, trying to force you to surrender by showing you magic, the only remaining option is a frontal attack."
"...Perfect. Bluffing won't work anymore."
"Be careful. Deception is what witches are best at. No matter what your opponent says or shows you, it will not be able to threaten the truth that you believe in. Don't forget that."
"...Sure. As if I'd fall for the same moves over and over. Come on out, Beatrice. Let's get started!!!"
"...To think we would end up having Madam as our foe. This will not be easy, Milady. Our moves will be read thoroughly."
"I care not. By now, Teacher's moves are all old-fashioned classics. There is nothing to fear."
"...So, just what moves can you make beyond the classics I taught you? I look forward to seeing, Beatrice."
"...*cackle*cackle*cackle*cackle* You okay with this, Battleer? Can someone who denies witches really accept a witch as a strategist...?"
"Your stupid provocation is pointless. This is my advisor... no, my second. That doesn't change one bit... that this is a fistfight between you and me."
"I understand. One as wobbly as yourself probably needs training wheels on his bicycle. Do as you like."
"Come, let us begin!! It's your turn!"
BGM: Dancing Pipe
"The first corpse discovered was Shannon's. She was found in the parlor on the first floor of the mansion. The door and windows were locked, and a closed room was established."
"...Beato, I need some details. Let's reconfirm the definition of a closed room."
"Indeed. The term 'closed room' refers to a room where the inside and the outside are completely cut off from each other. Naturally, it will be impossible to even affect things across that boundary line, much less enter or escape across it. This includes an all-inclusive denial of the existence of hidden doors, as well as all possibility of intervention from the outside. Henceforth, this shall be referred to as... 'Beatrice's Closed Room Definition'!"
"Let's focus in a bit. How do you define 'all possibility of intervention from the outside'?"
"I refer to all types of direct intervention from the outside, such as using a fishing line or a long, thin rod. In conclusion, there are no gaps in the doors and windows through which such tricks will work."
"I wonder about that. Even if there wasn't a gap, you should be able to interfere with radio waves, like with a remote control, right?"
"Very well. I'll add to this definition that interference due to radio waves and related methods of remote control shall be impossible."
"There's also an extension telephone in the parlor. A device connected to that wouldn't count as remote control, right?!"
"The phones are already unusable, are they not? Ah, whatever. I'll include that too. All direct and indirect methods of interfering with the inside of the closed room from the outside of the room are impossible."
"What about a voice or a knock? Those should be able to interfere from the outside without someone entering the room, right?"
"...Even though it's a closed room, it probably isn't impossible for someone to knock or call out. The closed room definition does not cover whether transmission of intent across the boundary is possible or not."
"In other words, you can't make it so your definition includes the blockage of all methods of communication with the outside?"
"That is indeed the case."
"Understood. So, Shannon-chan's parlor satisfies Beatrice's Closed Room Definition, right?"
"...Closed Room Definition, understood. Continue, Virgilia."
"Yes. Shannon's corpse was in possession of one master key. The relatives who discovered her collected this."
"Repetition request for Beato. How many master keys this time?"
"Which means this still isn't a closed room. There are still four master keys left. It just means that after Shannon-chan was murdered, one of the other four keys locked it."
"Correct. And, it wasn't only a master key that was found."
"Yes. Alongside the corpse, there was a Western envelope with the family crest. Instead of a letter, the key to a guest room on the second floor was inside it."
"...The key to a second floor guest room... The only key other than the master key that can open the door to that second floor guest room. Is that definition correct?"
"Indeed. There is no problem. And, unlike the master keys, only one of those exists."
"In other words, apart from the five master keys, there will be only one key that can unlock certain rooms."
"...In other words, this is a message telling them to go to the second floor guest room next? So the adults moved to the second floor guest room, right?"
"Inside, Kumasawa's corpse was discovered. It was a closed room. One that satisfied Beatrice's Closed Room Definition. Kumasawa was in possession of one master key. The relatives collected this. And like in Shannon's case, there was a Western envelope discovered alongside her. Inside was the key to the third floor waiting room. The relatives moved to the third floor waiting room."
"So, there was a magic circle on the door to the third floor waiting room, and that door was locked?"
"Yes. Inside the room, Gohda's corpse was discovered. The room was a closed room. One that satisfied Beatrice's Closed Room Definition. Gohda was in possession of one master key. The relatives collected this. And like up until now, a Western envelope with the family seal was discovered, inside of which was the key to the second floor VIP room. The relatives moved to the second floor VIP room."
"...What's going on here...? What are you planning...?"
"*cackle*cackle* There's no need to glare, is there? It may be a closed room, but there are still multiple master keys that can open it, correct? And besides the master keys, I've even given you keys specific to each room."
"...I don't like where this is going. But I'm starting to see how it'll turn out. So it continues like this for all six people?"
"One master key was collected. The key to the underground boiler room was discovered. They moved to the underground boiler room. Inside the underground boiler room, Kinzo's corpse was discovered. The key to the chapel was discovered. They moved to the chapel. Inside the chapel, Kanon's corpse was discovered. One master key was collected. The key to the first floor parlor was discovered. With this, our reconstruction of how all six corpses were discovered is complete."
"An addendum. Along with the key to the chapel, a letter was enclosed in the Western envelope found near Kinzo's corpse. The contents of the letter were as you saw. It further urged the relatives to solve the riddle of the epitaph."
"...In that case, what's going on? If the last place, where Kanon was, had the key to the very first room, the parlor, where Shannon was... That makes six closed rooms, all tied together, right?"
"In other words, the six closed rooms form one massive closed room, and all of the master keys as well as the individual room keys are shut up inside it...!"