Part 88: Battle to the Death in the Hall
October 5th, 1986, 1:00 PM
"Of course, we understand. Still, as time passes, it'll get darker and darker out. It's probably at its brightest now. It's the most convenient time."
"Only about an hour has passed since Rosa-san was attacked. This is simply too reckless...!"
Certainly, on top of their fatigue, their hunger was tormenting them. In the beginning, a mild level of hunger had been just what they needed to fight off drowsiness. However, it now just made their minds hazy, since it was still only midday, and their bodies felt like they were reaching their limits. The thought of going to the kitchen in the mansion and bringing back some food certainly was attractive.
"I am opposed to this. It may be a little rough, but we definitely shouldn't leave this place."
"...Don't worry about us, but it would pain my heart to keep the children hungry... I must be responsible as a parent."
"D-Dear...! Now that Father is dead, you are the Ushiromiya Family Head. It is not permissible for you to take on such a danger...!"
"...You're right. It's like Natsuhi-san says. Krauss-san, you should remain here, as our leader."
"...Then who will go to the mansion?"
"I think it should be Kyrie and me, and Hideyoshi-san too. Hideyoshi-san and I have guns. They shouldn't be able to lay a hand on us that easily."
"Rosa-san also had a gun, but she was attacked. Won't it be dangerous?"
"...When I went out to check on Rosa and Maria-chan, I had a gun, but I was alone. And yet, I wasn't attacked. Maybe they'll be cautious if their opponent is a man."
"We'll have two men. And even two guns. Those two will act as guards, and I'll transport our cargo using a cart. I believe the situation will be significantly different than it was for Rosa-san."
"If you're countin' on me 'cause I'm a man, I'd be happy to help. I may not look it, but I'm built up pretty strong from pushin' food stands around. Leave the heavy liftin' to me!"
"You men can devote youselves to guarding. There's a folding cart in the servant room, and using that, I should be able to handle carrying the food. Of course, we'll be careful. And if we can succeed in this adventure just once, there won't be any need for us to take risks again."
"...Is there any way I can get you to rethink this? It may be painful for everyone to deal with empty stomachs, but even so, we do not know what is happening outside now..."
"We'll take care. And Eva's feelin' pretty darn bad right now. We can't let her stay hungry. If her stomach's empty, she can't take her medicine. I have to go out for Eva's sake as well."
"How is Eva?"
"Looks like she's finally gotten to sleep. She has a high fever. If we just leave her be for a while..."
"Then, we'll take a little trip there and back. A speed contest. Canned food's okay, right? You at least have a can opener here, don't you?"
"Y-Yes. We have a can opener and a bottle opener..."
"There's running water in the guesthouse, so we won't need anything to drink. We need to get ten people's worth, so no being picky about what you get."
"All right! Why don't we dash out and bring it back quickly? There's no time to open umbrellas...!"
"See you, Aniki. I'll trust you to look after this place."
"...Take care. Under normal circumstances, I'd want to go too. Being a man, I despise how this title of the oldest brother prevents me from lending a hand in an emergency like this."
"This is about the only time we get to show off. Sit back and take it easy every once in a while, Aniki. Okay, Natsuhi-san. Wait here and get some towels ready or something. We aren't using umbrellas, so we'll be soaked to the bone when we get back."
"U-Understood. Take care."
Rudolf, Kyrie, and Hideyoshi, each leaving their own brave words behind, left the lobby...
Rudolf's group of three people jogged through the rose garden without umbrellas, holding their guns and a folded cart. If everything had been still and quiet, without the wind and the rain, they would probably have kept their ears open and moved with caution. But in this rain, even if some suspicious person was hiding nearby, it would be difficult to notice them. Because of that, it had been Rudolf's plan to instead dash through the dangerous area.
...If there was a chance that their opponent was equipped with a gun, then walking slowly with their guard up would only make them targets. Taking swift action was probably the correct choice.
"Please, let nobody come out of there..."
Even as Rudolf and Hideyoshi continued to run, they looked around restlessly, vigilant of their surroundings. Rosa and Maria's deaths had not been caused by a projectile weapon. However, it was easy to suspect that the servants had been killed in such a manner. Will they come flying out of the dark? Or will they take careful aim and snipe from the shadows? Either way, they couldn't relax their tension for even an instant.
But even so, when they reached the overhang in front of the entrance to the mansion and escaped the reach of the raindrops, they felt themselves breathing a sigh of relief.
"No problems for the first step. Unlike how it was for Rosa-san. Maybe they can't get their hands on us easily."
"I'd like to believe that. Kyrie, unlock the door while we keep a lookout."
"Sure. Returning home to the mansion with a pair of SPs makes me feel just like an executive."
"Wahahahaha. If we had a welcoming party of servants with a red carpet, it'd be perfect."
"A welcoming party, huh? You never know. Be careful."
As the two cautiously surveyed their surroundings, Kyrie unlocked the entrance with the master key she had been given.
"Hideyoshi-san, could you take the front? I'll keep an eye on the rear."
"Understood. Kyrie-san, try not to move from my shadow. Okay, let's break in!"
"Rear guard, roger that. Covering...!"
"...Ah, men. Even in a situation like this, you're just playing around, aren't you?"
BGM: At Death's Door
...It felt like the air in the mansion was stagnant with a gloomy silence. And on top of that, it was still thick with the stench from Kinzo's burnt corpse in the boiler room, and they were struck with an uncontrollable desire to leave the mansion.
"No problems in the front. Just a short dash to the kitchen."
"Let's finish this quickly and head home. This suit'll get fumigated with Dad's stench."
The three of them dashed towards the kitchen...
BGM: The Candles Dance
"They were lured out just as planned... Just as planned, they got caught in my trap."
The witch grinned. Thinking about it now, no matter how unbearable their hunger had grown, it hadn't even been a few hours since Rosa and Maria had been attacked and had lost their lives.
In that case, why had they needed to recklessly leave the guesthouse...? Until that question could be dealt with, the only answer was that they had been called out by the witch's magic...
"What reckless people. They'll never leave this mansion alive."
"Seal yourself, lock. Seal yourself, mansion!"
The instant she proclaimed that... The mansion was sealed off into a separate world. Unless her barrier was undone, no longer would anyone be able to exit this mansion or enter it.
"Well, I have been a witch since the time of my birth. Who taught you how to blink? That's what using magic is like for me."
"...What a fearsome person."
The witch's face twisted with brutality. She just couldn't help looking forward to toying with someone's life again.
"...If you don't mind me saying, your Predecessor-sama has left instructions that you are to restrain yourself from committing murders of unnecessary cruelty. And, there is an etiquette for offering the sacrifices from the fourth twilight onwards. For that, you must borrow the power of the Seven Sisters of Purgatory."
"...Oh, really? Now that you mention it, that's right. I could only play as I like with that second twilight. Boring. Just when I thought I could play to my heart's content like I did with Rosa."
"...But, that only counts for how they're killed in the end, right?"
"I could just kill them however I want over and over again, revive them, and then follow the epitaph during the last time I kill them, right?"
"...So, in the end, no matter how I play, it isn't a problem. Who'd act well-behaved with an entertaining power like this...?! Kuhhihihihihihihi!"
However, that referred to the way those people died in the end. In other words, in the process leading up to that, she was free to tease and kill them however she wanted. She just had to keep on reviving them... and follow the rules only when she killed them the final time. Though Ronove felt that her innocent cruelty was part of her talent as a witch, he was beginning to notice a innately brutal side of her.
"...They do say that apprentices are the most brutal of witches, and now I see this may be true. Do as you wish... is what I would like to say, but here, it may actually be wiser to show restraint. They have guns. Weapons with a high anti-magic power, such as guns, are the natural enemies of witches and demons."
The witch stared blankly at this demon butler, who was surprisingly afraid of guns.
"...That can't be right. Shouldn't witches be able to take a shot from a bullet easily?"
"No. It would be just as fatal for a witch as it would be for a normal Human. To prevent that weak point from being noticed, most witches rigorously strengthen their guard with a defense of protective barriers and furniture."
"Do I have any of those protective barrier things?"
"...Constructing a barrier to make even gun bullets ineffective requires much in the way of preparation and ceremonies. I am afraid to say that Beatrice-sama currently has none of those. Furthermore, you are currently ill prepared to summon furniture strong enough to block a bullet."
"So even though I've become a Great Witch with this much magical power, I really do have to be afraid of lead bullets. It's annoying, but I don't have a choice. So, in that case, should I call some furniture to act as my arms and legs?"
"Yes. Leaving everything to your servants while not exposing yourself to danger is also a part of a witch's refined tastes. Beatrice-sama, leave this to the furniture and hide in a safe place."
"...I get it. I call on the Seven Sisters of Purgatory. I don't care who, any two...!"
Leviathan and Belphegor responded to that call.
"Belphegor of Sloth, right here."
"Show me your power. Your targets are Rudolf and Kyrie. Don't attack Hideyoshi. Come on, show me just how cruel you can be, furniture."
"...My apologies, but we've received orders from the Predecessor-sama to refrain from unnecessarily cruel actions."
"Buuut, I think the Predecessor-sama's order does give us some leeway to tease them. Do you still wanna go through with it?"
"Hmph. I get it, I'll compromise. Don't let them die easily. Thoroughly corner them and let them taste the fear of death before killing them. Will that be okay, Ronove?"
"Yes. Depending on the degree, I do not believe there will be a problem."
""Yes, leave it to us...!""
"Your opponents are armed with guns. For those such as you, dodging them should be easy, but if you are hit, the wound will be fatal. Proceed with an appropriate level of caution."
"Don't worry. We aren't that incompetent."
The two Sisters of Purgatory vanished. Ronove bowed and vanished himself.
As the witch looked up at the portrait of the Predecessor Beatrice hung in the hall, she cursed...
BGM: Scar Sound
Considering the possibility of poison, they gave up on the alluring fruits and vegetables... and gathered a whole cardboard box full of only the safe canned foods. It was very heavy, but by piling it on the cart, they could carry it well enough. This should be more than enough for ten people to hold out until tomorrow's breakfast. That should carry them until the boat arrives.
The two men were supposed to be focused solely on guard duty, but the weight of the load was tough on Kyrie even with the cart. Hideyoshi, who wanted to show off his power, switched to be the cart-pusher, and Rudolf and his wife took up the task of guard duty.
When Hideyoshi vigorously announced their departure, Kyrie frowned and seemed to be gazing into the distance. There was a wall in that direction. No, if her gaze could go through that, there was the main hall beyond it...
"...What is it, Kyrie?"
"...It's vague, but I've got a bad feeling gnawing at me."
Kyrie stopped walking and narrowed her eyes even further.
At times like this, Kyrie's intuition often rang true, even when she didn't have a logical reason. Rudolf believed in that intuition.
"...Then there's no reason to go back the way we came. There's a back door over there, right? Let's leave that way."
Rudolf made to unlock the back door. When goods were carried into the kitchen, they never passed through the part of the mansion that the family came and went from. So outside the back door, there was probably a ramp used to carry things in. Surely, they would be able to leave through there with the cart.
"Can't you open it?"
"Nope. Is it broken? It isn't giving an inch..."
Rudolf tried various things, first using force, then coaxing it, but the lock was as hard as stone and didn't even budge.
"...Don't force it. Let's leave through the front entrance. Right now, it'll be even worse if we stand around wasting time."
"...You think this is a trap?"
"...I don't know. Be careful."
With strained expressions, the three of them returned to the hall again and headed for the entrance...
"Wh-Who is it?!!"
The instant they exited into the hall, Rudolf noticed a suspicious shadow right in front of them and yelled... In that instant, a storm of gold leaf started blowing, and gold butterflies covered the area with a gold color.
BGM: Dance of the Moon Rabbits
"I-It isn't my fault. I was hiding my presence...!"
"Don't hesitate!! Fire!!!"
The two guns spouted fire. The lead bullets blasted right through the magical defense of the pair as easily as though it were a wet paper wall, but the two figures that should have been there had disappeared. Certainly, guns were frightening objects for them... But there was no need to fear as long as they weren't hit. They at least had enough speed to dodge those.
"Wait a sec! You won't even give us a chance to say our names?! This is why I hate Humans!"
Leviathan was a full 10 meters from where she had supposedly been, popping her head out from behind the pillars in the shadow of the staircase and protesting.
That voice came from overhead. Belphegor could be seen on top of the hall chandelier. Elegantly looking down upon them, she proclaimed their execution with a cruel smile.
"...Wh-What are these girls...?!"
"Forget the cart!! We have two opponents, so if we split up, they can't chase all of us!"
All three of them were well acquainted with the inside of the mansion. In case of a crisis, they had planned to run off in separate directions, returning to the guesthouse by breaking windows or leaving through a back door. Fighting was forbidden. As long as they could fully escape.
"Hahaha, in a tight spot, escaping is victory...!"
The three of them ran into the depths of the mansion at full tilt. That pair of furniture calmly watched them go.
BGM: Worldend Dominator
The furniture in the shadows of the pillars and on the chandelier made their figures explode, and, leaving behind only the sound of a hopping beetle knocking against the wall, they pursued their respective targets. Their speed was overwhelming, and they easily blocked the others' paths of retreat.
"Beatrice-sama, it may not be prudent for you to reveal your form unnecessarily..."
"And you don't unnecessarily move your king away from the center. That's part of a monarch's... and a witch's dignity!"