Part 94: Real Magic II
The gold snake arrow fired by the Chiesters... weaved its way through the bushes in the rose garden, weaved its way through the hedges, and climbed the stone steps towards the mansion's entrance, aiming for the keyhole.
It weaved through the corridors... and flew into the keyhole on the door to the parlor...!
It happened in an instant. One could hardly blame Beato, who was completely worn out, for not noticing it beforehand.
Furthermore, the gold snake faithfully pierced a hole through Shannon's chest once more... The two hearts were pierced by that gold snake... no, by that gold sewing thread of the new brutal witch's furniture, and it had happened in an instant, mocking the amount of effort it had taken to revive Shannon...! Before Beato's shocked eyes, the two fell over and landed on the floor...
George spent his last breath thanking Beato... and died alongside the one he loved.
The gold snake, which still sewed the two in place, spun like a large cyclone, revolving around the inside of the parlor. It was searching for further prey in that room. Then, the tip of the snake met Beato's gaze...
In that instant, Beato was prepared to die.
Instantly, gold-colored gold leaf buried the inside of the parlor. It was like a blizzard of gold...
"Beato, run while you can!! No one can escape from the Chiesters' golden bow!!!"
"45, roger that...! Modifying Search Algorithm, Switching to Anti-Personnel Image-Based Tracking. Target Lock Reacquired, Data Link to 410."
"410, Data Received. Too slow, Predecessor-sama! Coming, coming, coming... impact!!"
Prey targeted by the Chiester Sisters' golden bow did not escape. It could not be blocked. No magical barrier could even dream of blocking it without being multilayered. The gap opened during that instant of confusion caused by Virgilia's deception magic was Beato's only chance to escape. And, it was the only chance to make the sisters confuse Virgilia for Beato.
After sneaking in through the keyhole, the snake shot through George, Shannon, and then Virgilia in an instant, completely failing to notice Beato as she used that instant to escape...
As soon as Virgilia saw that Beato had gotten away, she died. The strength left her body, and like gold dust drifting with the wind, her form was erased... Beato completely erased all traces of her magical power, became gold butterflies, and passed through the wall, escaping to the wind and rain outside...
Beato felt regret from the bottom of her heart. Why? Because she had been attacked by the new witch? Probably not. Of course, she hated losing her teacher. And even more importantly, Beato was enraged at the barbarism that had boorishly stolen away the reunion between two lovers. Beato had poured out almost all of her magical power to reunite them. Even though the result had been a miracle, the time it took to steal that away had been so ridiculously short...!
Beato trembled at the barbarous cruelty that had brought about such an abrupt end. Besides, this was the true form of the acts she herself had committed up until that point... So just as strongly as Beato hated the new witch, she also looked at her previous self with disgust.
But now, she had to escape... If she was targeted next, she would probably lose her life. To think that a chess player had descended, thinking they were like a god, only to be attacked by the pieces.
"Looks like our pile of kill medals is gonna get bigger again nyeh. Nihi!"
BGM: The Candles Dance
"And along with that, I get to say goodbye to that damn fussy old hag. Ronove, you don't have any complaints, right?"
"...I do not, Beatrice-sama."
"That person interfered with the ceremony of the witch's epitaph, you see? She revived a sacrifice from the first twilight without permission, obstructing my ceremony. She's got no right at all to complain."
"Kuhhihihihhyahyahyahya...! But it sucks that she didn't leave a corpse behind. And I thought I'd be able to torture that old hag to death over and over again endlessly. Kuhhihihyahyahya...!!"
"...Wh-When, you say...? Uh, what hour was that, again...?"
"I think... it was probably around 4:00 or 5:00. At the very least, it was more than an hour ago..."
"We got sleepy... and probably dozed off after that... But I think it's probably like Jessica says. About one or two hours ago."
"I-I also remember something from around that time. I was asked if I wanted more coffee..."
Something hard to believe had happened... Apparently, when Aunt Eva had left for a second to wash her hands, Uncle Krauss and Aunt Natsuhi had disappeared. There's no way they went hiding somewhere.
Of course, the doors and windows had all been rigorously checked, and all were locked from the inside. Not one of them was broken. And that wasn't just true for the first floor. The second floor was the same. Again, all the doors and windows had locks built in a way that made it impossible to lock them from the outside. In other words, there was no way that Uncle Krauss and Aunt Natsuhi had gone outside. And yet, they couldn't be found.
Furthermore, they weren't the only ones who had disappeared. So had George-aniki, of all people. George-aniki had left saying he was going to get more coffee, and had gone downstairs more than an hour earlier. We'd assumed that he was having a conversation with Aunt Eva and the rest, but Aunt Eva, who had been in the lobby the whole time, said that no one had come down. Since all the doors and windows were locked from the inside, it was unthinkable that they had gone outside.
In a situation like this, we couldn't imagine that this was because they were playing hide-and-seek and trying to scare us with a prank. It was probably reasonable to assume that they'd been caught up in this crime...
When Aunt Eva had learned that her only son was missing, she had gone half insane, running from room to room and yelling his name. And Jessica, who had suddenly lost both of her parents, had chased after her. Cries of 'George, George' and 'Mom, Dad' had continued to echo through the guesthouse for some time...
I think George said something about wanting to see Shannon's dead face. It would be reasonable to assume that he snuck out of the guesthouse and went to the mansion. But I didn't have a clue about Uncle Krauss and Aunt Natsuhi. Did they see him leave... and then go to the mansion to search for him...? Without even telling Aunt Eva...?
At this rate, it's only a matter of time before we start planning to leave the guesthouse to go search for them. When that time comes, I'll agree. We'd thought staying holed up in the guesthouse would be safe, which was why our big, happy group of 12 people locked themselves up here this morning. And yet, now there's only four of us left. That means staying here is no guarantee of safety...
However, there's one thing we can't afford to forget. All the doors and windows were locked from the inside.
We searched around thoroughly. However, we couldn't find any traces of someone hiding. The three of them had almost certainly been taken outside the guesthouse.
"A hidden door...?"
"...The doors and the windows were built in a way that makes them impossible to lock from the outside. Even using a fish line, it would probably be impossible with the way they're constructed. So, it may be reasonable to assume that they left via something other than a door or a window..."
"...You're right. That does make logical sense. No one can be sure that no hidden doors exist. However, before leaping to that conclusion, I suspect a much simpler possibility."
"And... what would that be...?"
For some time, Battler had been opening windows, opening shutters, and checking outside, repeating this for each window.
"...Hmm. This window's pretty quiet. I see, unlike the other windows, because of how the building's shaped, the wind doesn't blow into this one."
"It appears that way... It feels strange that no wind or rain comes in, even though there is so much of it outside."
BGM: Closed my Heart
"Huh? No, I did not notice it... I believe it is well oiled."
"In other words, it's possible to slink through a window in the hallway when no one is looking. Furthermore, the wind doesn't blow in through this window, so the air pressure wouldn't cause the curtains or a door to make a sound. It'd be quiet."
Battler leaned forward and looked at the ground below. He was searching for some sign that George had jumped down. But at a glance, he didn't see any mark like that on the grass in the middle of the pouring rain.
"...There might also be a window like this on the first floor. It'd be possible to go outside without anyone noticing."
"However, not only the doors, but the windows too are all locked, and the shutters are even down as well, correct...? It may be possible to go out through them, but you couldn't lock them afterwards..."
"Sure you can lock them. Just like this, *click*"
"...B-Battler-san, you aren't saying..."
"If someone inside locked it afterwards, this closed room is as easy as pie."
"B-But that means... that means, ooooooohhhh..."
Nanjo turned pale and shook his head several times. Because the thing Battler had said had forced him to face a fact that was frightening even to imagine...
"...That's only if the trick I'm thinking of actually happened, okay? However, with this trick, only a very limited number of people can be suspected."
He didn't want to say it in front of Nanjo, but after eliminating Jessica, who had been with him the whole time, only Nanjo... and Eva could have done it.
"I-I did not do anything of the sort...! Y-Yes, I swear it...!!"
"...In this case, it becomes a battle between Aunt Eva and Doctor Nanjo for an alibi. We just have to suspect both of you, and confine the two of you separately."
"...To say it the other way around, the more survivors there are, the more effective this trick might be, but since our numbers have shrunk so much, it isn't effective at all."
...No, on the contrary, there'd be a chance of having your own neck strangled by using it. It would have been more advantageous to make it look like the culprit was outside, to intentionally leave a door unlocked or break a window...
"...Y-You don't think, umm..."
"Hmm? What is it, Doctor Nanjo? Even if it's just a thought, please say it."
Nanjo looked like he was trying to swallow his words, even though he'd thought of something, so I urged him on. After Doctor Nanjo refused several times, saying that it was just a foolish idea, he finally said it out loud.
"R-Ridiculous. There's no way witches exist."
"...The witch is trying to make her case to us. Specifically because she's doing things that humans cannot do, she must be trying to make us accept her as a witch. To me, this disappearance from the closed room of the entire guesthouse... feels like that kind of message from the witch... It's something I must not think of. Surely, it cannot mean anything. Oooh, I... I am frightened..."
As Doctor Nanjo shook with fear, it looked like he was he was trying to erase the fearsome thoughts that he kept imagining one after the other. When we went down the stairs, Aunt Eva and Jessica were enraged, and were each persistent in their desire to leave this place and search for their respective families. It was a desire that naturally hits those who can no longer see their family.
Aunt Eva told Doctor Nanjo and me to stay here, but I shook my head and started walking.
"...I've been shut up inside for a long time already. I've started wanting to breathe some outside air."
"Yeah, if we're going, let's go quickly...!! There's no way I'm gonna keep myself shut up in a place like this any more...!! Let's go and find Mom, Dad, and George nii-san right now...!!"
The blood had all risen to Jessica's head. I hope it doesn't set off her asthma.
"If anyone wants to stay, go ahead and stay. We'll be searching outside...!"
"What about you, Doctor Nanjo...? Will you watch the place by yourself...?"
"N-No... Allow me to join you..."
Aunt Eva had a gun. Moving separately from her was almost like asking to be made into the next victim. In this way, the four of us decided to leave the guesthouse. Even though it should have been safe to barricade ourselves here, we lost eight people after doing so. It was almost as though it this was a holding cell from which the sacrifices could be killed one after another.
We removed the chain, unlocked the front door and opened it. It was already pitch black. While there were some lights outside that dimly lit the pathway, they didn't have enough power to pierce the darkness that some suspicious person might be hiding in.
"I'm going...! If you fall behind, you're on your own, okay...?!"
Still holding her gun, Aunt Eva dashed out without an umbrella. Jessica followed after her. After glancing at each other, Doctor Nanjo and I chased after them.
I've just been shut up in the guesthouse with the rest of the cousins since yesterday. So I don't know anything about what's going on outside. Just what is happening that I don't know about... outside this room, in the mansion, on this island?
Everything is happening, everything is proceeding, and everything is ending without my knowing it. Somewhere in my heart, I've already started giving up. Most likely, not one of us will see tomorrow morning.