Part 84: Coronation II
They had left the guesthouse secretly, so they had to be careful when they returned. It was time to snap to it and keep their guards up.
"You decided it, didn't you Nee-san? 50% goes to the one bearing the title of Successor to the Headship. It certainly worked out well for you. Now, that portion isn't Krauss nii-san's. So your share is now 50%, along with a quarter of the rest, for a total of 12.5 billion yen."
"Isn't that incredible? 2.5 billion is enough for me. Rudolf nii-san won't complain either. Krauss nii-san will probably be the only one to complain."
"...Yeah, you're right. After all, Nii-san is the de-facto manager of Rokkenjima. And since the gold was on these premises, even though I was the first to discover it, things might get complicated if I don't handle it cleverly."
"It won't get complicated. Didn't we give it our all in that discussion last night with that in mind?"
"...I wonder if it will really go that smoothly. I've already completely gotten over my excitement. How we manage everything from here on is the real problem."
"...That's a problem for the new Head of the Ushiromiya family. A problem for you to enjoy, Nee-san. It has nothing to do with me."
"Heh, that's some big talk, coming from you..."
"...I'll support you as the second discoverer... if you'll at least give me the early payment we decided on. I'd like 150 million yen by March."
"Yes, that will be fine. If you support me, I'll graciously pay you that much. I'm not Nii-san."
"Anyway, why don't we go and shock Nii-san and the others? Even if we cover up the actual location, I want to see Krauss nii-san's shocked face as soon as I can."
BGM: Hour of Darkness
"...You idiot, isn't it obvious? This is that haughty Krauss nii-san and that sly Rudolf we're talking about. Even if we do announce it eventually, it's certainly too early now."
"Unless we carefully investigate how to make our next move, it's possible that all of the gold we've finally found will be snatched away by Nii-san."
Eva thought she was saying something extremely natural. So when she saw Rosa's expression suddenly cloud over, she was a little surprised.
"...What are you unsatisfied about? You know what kind of a person Krauss nii-san is."
"...Nee-san, that's against the rules."
"What do you mean?"
"...Didn't we make a rule that whoever found the gold would announce it immediately? If you hesitate, the foundation of the rules will be destroyed, and that could lead to something worse in the future. With Krauss nii-san as crafty as he is, that violation of the rules will come back to bite you."
"Don't be stupid. This is Nii-san's island. And that gold just now wasn't cash. We're talking about the liquidation of a vast 10 ton mountain, right?"
"It will take a significant amount of time to carry it off and turn it into cash. And that will only work in Nii-san's favor, since he has practical control over this island. Don't you even realize that?!"
"...I don't like it when you search out each other's weaknesses like that. All I want is to reach a clear decision regarding my 2.5 billion portion."
"Of course, if you were to give me 2.5 billion in cash right now, you'd be free to continue negotiating however you like. But until I have my share in my own pocket, I will follow the siblings' rules."
"How can you be so naive...? You don't understand Nii-san's craftiness at all!"
...It wasn't that Rosa didn't understand the craftiness of her older siblings. In that sense, Rosa more or less understood why Eva was being so cautious. But in her heart, she couldn't clear away her suspicion that Eva wanted to keep all of the gold to herself. Because she knew that Eva was at least as crafty as her other siblings. In other words, Rosa wanted to put a stop to any chance Eva had to keep the gold all to herself... by quickly informing the siblings of the gold's discovery...
"...Are you saying that if I don't listen to what you say, you won't be able to get me that 150 million?"
"...That isn't the way I wanted to say it. But if you really need that money, supporting me is a more realistic option. If you talk to Nii-san and Rudolf, even the portion that's your natural right might disappear. You don't want that, do you?"
There wasn't even a trace of her restraint as a younger sister. There was just the ruthlessness... no, the seriousness of a single human arguing about a vast sum of wealth. Eva made light of it, chuckling.
"...My, my. How careless we must be to stand around here talking like this, even though a frightful murder case has just taken place, and the culprit might still be on this island."
"I'm sure it was just the servants playacting. There were no murders on this island in the first place."
"...Oh? So, you do think that after all."
"...Doctor Nanjo said they were all dead, but that was a lie too. This is all a complicated act that Father cooked up. All of the servants are just playing dead. A murder never occurred in the first place. There's no way that there's a murderer prowling around."
"...Hah. I'm surprised you noticed. You looked pretty scared, so I didn't think you'd figured out so much."
"...I'm good at reading the mood of a situation. I've got you to thank for training me so well."
That's right. Come to think of it, now that the servants are 'dead', almost everyone on this island is a member of the Ushiromiya family. As for Nanjo, he proclaimed the 'deaths' of the servants, but when the relatives began to discuss the riddle of the epitaph, he disappeared off to the second floor as if he didn't want to get in the way...
"There's no way that burnt corpse was really Father. He got a corpse with the right number of toes from somewhere... and went to all the trouble of burning it in that creepy way of his, so we would see it."
"...I'm sure he's hiding somewhere, watching to see how we'll behave. I'll bet he already knows you reached the Golden Land, Nee-san. That's why you should announce that you're the winner soon. I'm sure Father will appear out of nowhere to applaud you and proclaim that you're his successor."
"...Then again, I've still got to pester you for that 150 million, so I can't stand against you in any way."
"...So you'll listen to what I say...and keep quiet about this to Nii-san and the rest...?"
"...Make your position clear, Rosa."
"...I want to tell them. We made that rule just last night. We shouldn't just throw it away."
"Of course, I will announce it in front of the siblings. However, I want to closely analyze the situation first. We've got to carry out 10 tons of gold, convert it into money, and distribute it fairly."
"...Until I have proof that I can do all that without Nii-san getting in the way, I want some time to think. I only want to postpone my announcement until then. I'm certainly not keeping it secret because I want it all for myself."
"...You'll definitely announce it to everyone sooner or later, right?"
"...Yes, of course. Even I want to rub it in Nii-san's face as soon as I can."
"...About how much time will you need to think?"
"I won't know that until I've thought about it."
"...Will one night be enough?"
"I can't promise you that it'll take only one night...!"
"Out of respect for you, the Successor, I'll support you for one night. This year's family conference will end tomorrow morning, when the typhoon passes and a boat comes to get us. That's right, when the seagulls cry. I will remain silent until then."
"...You... really are cunning, aren't you? I'm surprised. Were you always this resilient?"
"...I guess it's true that women become stronger when they have a child. I realized that in myself when I had Maria."
"...Understood. For the time being, thanks for your cooperation. We can talk about tomorrow when it comes."
"Yes, that's right. I'm convinced that you'll become a fair-minded successor to the Headship, one who'd never even consider taking all of the gold for herself."
"...Isn't that obvious?! I will split the gold evenly among the siblings."
BGM: The Candles Dance
"I won't give it up to anyone! I am the Head of the Ushiromiya family! I am, 'I' am!!"
The witch inside Eva claimed exclusive possession in a loud voice. Of course, that didn't reach even close to Rosa's ears, and it probably didn't reach Eva's either.
Maybe Beatrice was happy that Eva had called her by her own name. She cackled cheerfully. In concert with that laugh, gold butterflies crept up as though a storm of gold dust was spinning around the room, and the room shone the color of gold...
"Indeed. I am the Golden Witch, Beatrice. *cackle*cackle* There is no need to be so frightened. I am praising your exploits. Truly excellent. Imagine that you would spectacularly solve that riddle of the epitaph... It is worthy of my admiration...!"
"...You're the one who sent that letter? So, I'll inherit all of the gold and the Ushiromiya Family Headship, right...? You wrote that in your letter. And I overcame that challenge...!"
"Indeed. I shall acknowledge it. Right now, all of the gold piled up here...and everything of the Ushiromiya family... is for you to do with as you please. After all, from this moment on, you are already the Ushiromiya Family Head."
"...R-Really? It's true, right? Right?!"
"Do not be agitated. I am openly praising you. As proof, I shall grant you this."
Beatrice took a ring off of her own finger...and held it out to Eva. She fearfully accepted it... and realized that it was a ring.
"...C-Could... this be..."
"Indeed. This Golden Ring is proof of the Ushiromiya Family Headship, returned to me from Kinzo.
Eva stared closely at the ring. It certainly wasn't a fake. Without a doubt, it was the real thing. She'd dreamed of receiving this ring someday, focused on this day over and over again, and it was now finally a certainty.
This ring... had now designated her as the Head... and had been handed over to her... And timidly, she put it on the middle finger of her left hand...
Video: The New Beatrice
BGM: Happiness of Marionette
Her mind grew blank. Both eyes were opened. That ring... was on her own finger. Not in a dream, but in reality...!
"That ring is also pleased. After all, it managed to reach you, one who dreamed of putting it on their finger for so long."
"...The ring... Father's...
"How many nights have you dreamed of putting that on your finger as you have done now? The strength of those feelings became your magic and materialized itself. Now, you are worthy of calling yourself a Great Witch."
"...W-Who are you? Are you really... Beatrice...?"
"In accordance with my contract with Kinzo, I will now pass everything on to you. All of the gold I entrusted Kinzo with. And all of the wealth he built up through that. And the honor and Headship of the Ushiromiya family. And, I will pass on my power and the title of the Endless Witch."
"I will pass on all of my magical power... and the titles of the Golden Witch and the Endless Witch. Following my Predecessor's example, I will hand over my name, Beatrice, along with that title. You may now call yourself by that name!"
Eva gulped. The chandelier light, which had seemed dim, now felt too bright.
"By my name, I shall now commence the succession of the Golden Witch...!"
In the audience hall, there was a crowd of Beatrice's minions and brethren, as well as countless gold butterflies celebrating this first succession ceremony in a thousand years. When she looked, she saw Beatrice in the throne that only the Endless Witch was permitted to sit in, holding a golden staff, reigning with a dazzling dignity. Without being ordered by anyone, Eva automatically kneeled, hanging her head...
After Beatrice stood up and received that staff, she lay the tip of it on Eva's shoulder and spoke. It was a proclamation one thousand years in coming.
"Ushiromiya Eva. You have spectacularly solved the riddle of the witch's epitaph and reached the Golden Land. I praise that accomplishment... and hand over all of the Endless Magic as well as the titles of the Golden Witch and the Endless Witch."
"From this point forth, you may call yourself by my name, Beatrice...! Come, raise your face. Then stand and accept this staff...!"
Eva stood up dizzily and took the magic staff from Beatrice's hand. Her hand was trembling slightly. As soon as she grasped that staff, she was wrapped up in the brilliant sparkle of gold. As though gold butterflies were flowing out from inside of her. In the instant she succeeded the Golden Witch, Eva felt something in the depths of her soul be reborn.
To describe it in a word, it was energy. Energy with a gold color. It felt like she was waking up, as though she had been half asleep ever since she had been born and was opening her eyes for the first time.
It felt as though her true eyes inside her eyes were opened for the first time in her life.
"...Indeed. A fitting and beautiful outfit for the Golden Witch. Come, you may show yourself to all of these people. Let them know that the new witch is indeed you...!"
Eva... no, the new Beatrice turned around timidly. When she did, the witch's minions, which filled the vast audience hall, honored her with an applause that sounded like the roaring of the sea...
"...Y-Yes, I will do my best..."
"I expect a composure befitting the Endless Witch from you, unlike your naughty predecessor. Hohohohohoho."
"Teacheer, we're in the middle of a serious ceremony, so please, enough of that."
"...I am called Ronove. I am one of the 72 demons permitted to serve the Golden Witch. If you are ever inconvenienced in the slightest, please let me know at once."
"Ronove is rude, but reliable. If anything confuses you in your new days as a witch, speak to this man, and he should be able to help you."
"...Predecessor Beatrice-sama, it is a shame that I was not permitted to serve you further, even though we have finally been reunited like this. These last thousand years have been very entertaining for me. You have my deepest gratitude."
"Indeed. One thousand years with you wasn't boring. Please, take care of the new witch."
"Yes. I, Ronove, will obey the final order of the former Beatrice."
"This is the Witch of Certainty, Lady Lambdadelta. The recommendation of a witch from the senate was required for your succession as an Endless Witch. Lady Lambdadelta recommended you and became your guardian."
"...Heeey, Beatooo! This kid isn't grateful enough! I think I'll take back that recommendation!"
"Lady Lambdadelta is also the Witch of Certainty. The Witch of Certainty prefers to make fate firm, to create a fate of Certainty. She really liked and highly valued your efforts until today."
"Well, you had that unfortunate childhood, all that unrewarded effort... I can sympathize juuust a bit with that. It's not like I felt sorry for you or anything, so don't be so full of yourself! Tsu-n!"
"...From my point of view, your succession... well, it was more of a coincidence than a miracle. It isn't worthy of my recommendation."
"*cackle* This is Lady Bernkastel. She's quite hard to please. Still, you could say that just having her participate in this celebration makes you exceedingly lucky."
"...I only came because this is a rare, once-in-a-millennium event. And I heard there'd be some good sake."
"Huh? Oh... I'm pleased to meet you..."
The Seven Sisters of Purgatory were gathered in a line. The eldest sister, Lucifer, took a step forward and kneeled.
"This is furniture that serves me. As a gift to celebrate your inheritance, I will send them to you."
"Once you succeed the position of Golden Witch, you will need to carry out the resurrection ceremony for yourself. The Seven Sisters of Purgatory perform an essential role in that ceremony. They're a villainous bunch, but they serve their purpose. Have them do whatever you wish."
"We will always be by Beatrice-sama's side. Please order us to do anything you desire. We'll accomplish our tasks without fail...!"
Even after that, many nobles and minions visited and offered words of congratulation for the new witch. As she responded to them confusedly, she felt as though she was growing light-headed due to lack of oxygen. She couldn't tell if this was something real or unreal. But there was just one thing she could understand. A feeling of achievement at being permitted to call herself the Golden Witch. That alone was a truth she could definitely understand...
"Aunt Eva is the new Beatrice? Are you saying she's turned into a witch? What the hell...?!!"
"I was also surprised. To think that someone would be able to solve that riddle."
"...However, that is the rule. I must follow it... and pass on the position of Golden Witch and my name."
"It is hardly something to be surprised about. At the very beginning, you wrote that rule in a letter and announced it. Eva-sama was simply the first to be successful. That is all there is to say."
"...Virgilia, are you there?!"
"What does this farce mean?! Even if this depiction of strange witches showing up one after another is some of her bullshit...! Isn't this almost like Aunt Eva turned into a witch?!"
"Calm yourself. She has simply received the title of 'Endless Witch'... and might call herself that in the future. This succession ceremony is certainly nothing more than an act to promote that child's 'explanation'. Don't fall for the same move over and over again."
"Th-That's right... That whole grand ceremony was all phony. But it's at least a fact that Aunt Eva solved the riddle of the epitaph. And at the same time, that means she succeeded the Ushiromiya Family Headship."
"...And after getting 10 tons of gold, Aunt Eva might as well call herself the 'Golden Witch'... Is that it...? Damn, it's as complicated as ever...!!"
"...My, my. Is a boorish Human unable to comprehend the grandeur of this ceremony? Oh, well. Being unable to read between the lines is what makes you Human. I pity you, but I do not blame you."
"Damn it... Don't look at me like you feel sorry for me... Still, for the time being, there's something I need to check."
"And that's regarding this younger version of Aunt Eva...in other words, the definition of this new Beatrice. What is that?!"
"Even if I tell of it, you will just persist in your disbelief in magic and witches, correct? So there's nothing in particular for me to explain. Feel free to believe in whatever it seems to be to you."
"...What it seems to be to me...?! Then... then how should I interpret this...?!"
"For now, it might not hurt to view it as a visualization of a separate entity inside Ushiromiya Eva."
"...Of course, you cannot blindly accept that answer, but it is probably a reasonable theory to hold for the time being."
"...I-In other words, I should think of Aunt Eva and her as the same person, right? Damn, I don't like where this is going..."
"In any case, from now on, my name is no longer Beatrice. I have passed it on to Ushiromiya Eva."
"...Just 'Beato' is good enough for you. There's probably a big enough difference between Beato and Beatrice to keep people from getting confused."
"...N-Nngg. So, the same old Beato, is it? It doesn't feel wrong, but it's boring for some reason. Nggg."
"Pu ku ku ku ku... They say the temperature of black tea and a woman's heart are difficult to gauge in any era."
"...Battler-kun, at any rate, stay calm from this point onwards. The fact that we can now tell her and Ushiromiya Eva apart works to our advantage, compared to the time when that child was still Beatrice."
"...And that's exactly... why I like it even less. What's she thinking, that Beato...?"
It was like a witch's coronation. The countless gold butterflies flapped their wings, directing this fantastical, gold-sparkling space. They were all praising her. As I stared from the distance, I looked at the newly born Beatrice, who had a slightly embarrassed smile on her face. Her expression, which had been lost and confused at first, seemed to be full of the happiness that she was finally starting to recognize.
As a person who denied the existence of witches, I couldn't view this witch succession ceremony with a joyful expression and accept her... However, when I looked at that innocent smile, I felt like I wanted to offer my blessings, just for that moment.
It's always beautiful when strong efforts bear fruits and are rewarded. Aunt Eva, who had always yearned to succeed the Headship, and who had worked hard since her youth without reward, had spectacularly taken hold of the chance given to her by the riddle of the epitaph... and had finally gained that position.
How divine is the smile of a person whose childhood dreams have been granted?
It didn't reach her ears, but it did bless her.
You spectacularly solved the riddle of the epitaph before anyone else. It's your victory without any complaints. I won't accept all that about the Golden Witch and so on, but I will accept you as the new Head of the Ushiromiya family, and I'll celebrate that sincerely.
As though urged on by Battler's applause, Beato also clapped. It was a slightly odd scene. Battler and Beato, who opposed each other, were standing side by side and applauding the same person.
"I'm not applauding for a witch. I'm clapping for all of Aunt Eva's efforts up until now."
"As am I. I offer my sincere applause as a blessing to Eva, who spectacularly solved that epitaph."
"...Hmm. I don't like applauding with you. But, well, I've decided that I won't worry about it now. Divine punishment won't fall on me just because I clap with you every once in a while."
"Hmm. It's not so bad every once in a while. Still, it is fun to applaud. Even though it was Eva who was successful and not me, for some reason, I'm starting to feel happy too."
"That's because blessing someone means the same thing as sympathizing and sharing with them."
"I see. Then, I have even shared this irrational happy feeling with you. Since we are a pair of enemies trying to make each other surrender, it is an odd experience."
"Well... just for now, let's have a truce and clap, okay?"
Beato laughed impishly, playing around and applauding even louder, as though eagerly trying not to lose to Battler as she clapped. Battler went along with her and clapped even louder. When he did, as though some ceremony had ended, everyone applauded and highly praised the reborn Beatrice.