Part 95: The Witch's Courtroom
October 5th, 1986, 6:03 PM
BGM: Corridor of the Sands of Purgatory
Jessica's woeful voice echoed throughout the rose garden...
Perhaps it was the intuition of a person who lived on this island. After checking the part of the rose garden where Aunt Rosa and Maria had fallen and seeing nothing, Jessica went to look in the arbor next. Normally, the arbor was probably a wonderful location to enjoy tea peacefully while appreciating the roses on a good sunny day. Maybe even Uncle Krauss and Aunt Natsuhi... had days when they relaxed and enjoyed their tea together here.
In that arbor lay their corpses. At least they aren't drenched in the rain like Aunt Rosa and Maria had been, but there was no way I could say that out loud to Jessica at the moment...
"...St-Strangulation, I believe. Come, take a look at this. On their necks, there are distinct markings that something thin was used to strangle them."
"Right. I doubt those things were the primary cause for their deaths."
Right there... lay two stake-like weapons decorated with an occult design, which had been found driven into Uncle Krauss's thigh area... and near Aunt Natsuhi's calf. When we found these sticking out of my parents' forehead and chest, we decided to preserve the crime scene and leave them for the police, but Jessica didn't care about such matters and immediately pulled the stakes out of her parents' forsaken bodies.
"...By now, bodies gouged in the head, chest, stomach, knee, and leg have been found."
"Aaaaaaaaahh, damn it, damn it, damn it!! I'll kill that murderer, kill him!! Uwaaaaaaaaaahhh...!!"
"...With this, the eighth twilight has been completed. Is this going to continue onto the ninth twilight? The witch shall be revived, and none shall be left alive."
"Bring it on... If the witch revives, that means the culprit is gonna make his grand appearance, right?! No one's going to be left alive? Bullshit... I'll kill him...! I'll definitely kill the culprit who killed Dad and Mom with my own hands...!!"
"...We still... haven't found George. Jessica, you children had better stay here. I'll go into the mansion."
"E-Eva-san, we mustn't split up...!! It's dangerous if we do not all stick together...!"
"There's nothing we can do for Nii-san or his wife."
"But George may be still alive somewhere...! I have no time to waste here...!!"
As Aunt Eva screamed this, Jessica glared at her. Eva had no more time to bother about the dead. She was more concerned for the safety of her only son, who had yet to be seen.
"Jessica-chan, you should stay by your father and mother's side. I'll make a short trip to the mansion. Battler-kun and Doctor Nanjo, you two can stay here as well."
After arbitrarily saying this, Aunt Eva rushed out of the arbor. I called out to stop her, but there was no way she would listen. However, being alone in this situation meant nothing short of death. If we silently watched her leave, it would be the same as letting her die. Since Aunt Eva was unwilling to stop, we had no choice but to follow her.
...And, while it may be cruel to say so, Uncle Krauss and Aunt Natsuhi were already dead, so there was nothing more we could do for them... In the end, we had no choice but to console Jessica and head for the mansion together. Fortunately, Jessica stood up. Perhaps she had been able to break free from her grief. But... what had surfaced in its place was an expression like a demon's.
"...I've got my own parents to avenge. Sorry, but this is first come, first serve."
"...Yeah, that's right... Let's kill them!"
At my words, Jessica finally seemed to feel like we sympathized with her emotions. She still had that dark expression, but I felt that Jessica had regained some of her sanity. We took off. Chasing after Aunt Eva. Through the rose garden, up the stone steps, running at full speed towards the mansion, whose large, intimidating shadow flashed in the lightning.
With this, the murders of the epitaph have reached the eighth twilight. And then, on the ninth twilight, the witch shall revive. None shall be left alive.
...But at the very least, I want to burn the truth into my eyes. That's the only thing motivating me to move right now.
It seemed that all the blood had risen to Aunt Eva's head. That was probably making her fingers clumsy. It looked like she couldn't even handle the simple task of inserting the key into the lock. Then, there was a faint sound. The sound of the door unlocking. Just as though it had waited for all the survivors to unite before opening.
It felt to me as though the malicious mansion... was trying to swallow up all the remaining humans at once...
It wasn't just the charred smell from Grandfather. I think it also may have contained the regrets of the servants and Dad's group, all of the dead. What did it mean as it floated out, overwhelming us? Was it the cry of the dead, telling us not to enter?
However, Aunt Eva didn't even flinch at something like that. And we who had to chase after her... were forced to step into the mansion, even after receiving that message...
Aunt Eva shouted at the top of her lungs. Considering the situation, it's probably far too optimistic to imagine that he's alive. When we started following Aunt Eva's example and calling out George's name in loud voices...
...Aunt Eva spotted something... and stopped walking. She was standing in front of the door to the parlor.
"...What is this...? D-Doctor Nanjo, could you come here for a second...?"
"Wh-What is it...?"
I'd heard about the eerie magic circles written on doors, like the one on the parlor, from the adults. Eerie is the only word to describe that thing, which was scribbled with a deep-red paint, reminiscent of blood, so that it slowly dripped down. However, that had supposedly been there since this morning.
...Wondering why Aunt Eva, who had supposedly seen it already, would think it odd now, Jessica and I stared at the door...
"...Certainly, I have no memory of numbers such as these being written here."
"Right, they weren't. Eerie magical characters were written here, but not numbers."
From what the two of them said, only the magic circle had been there this morning. However, right now, there were eight digits written near the upper part of the magic circle.
BGM: At Death's Door
...I didn't know what it meant, but I didn't even want to imagine what someone had been thinking when they wrote it. It was drawn with the same paint as the magic circle, but it had clearly been written very recently. The way it had dried and the condition of the color was completely different from the magic circle part.
"...Pfeh. I'm sure it just has some magical meaning. No point wasting time thinking about it."
Jessica intentionally spat those words out in an attempt to push aside the eerie feel it gave off.
"It... could be a magic square. The idea that a ward against magic can reside in a certain sort of number play. I believe everyone has heard of the one where adding all of the numbers in each row leads to the same sum..."
"Wasn't that a group of numbers buried in a rectangle? This is just a single row. I don't have a clue what it could mean. What Jessica-chan said is probably correct. There isn't any point in us wasting time thinking about it..."
Even though she said that, she probably suspected that it actually meant something. Aunt Eva was deftly writing that number down on an old receipt or something with a short ballpoint pen. Unless it had some obvious pattern, it'd probably be tough to memorize a code made up of an eight-digit number.
"...Could... this be a date, or something?"
"A date...? What are you talking about...?"
"...Why would your birthday be written in a place like this? And what's up with November 29...?"
"That's what I wanna know... Still, it's probably just a coincidence. When I thought about it, it started to feel a little creepy. What if someone's birthday was November 29? That's not the birthday of anyone else in my family, not Dad or Kyrie-san or Ange. And of course, it isn't my Mom's either."
"Nothing comes to mind... I don't believe it's Kinzo-san's or Genji-san's birthday."
"It isn't from my family either. And it isn't Rosa's or Maria-chan's."
"It can't be anyone in my family... And it isn't Kanon-kun's or Shannon's. I always give the servants presents on their birthdays, so I know it for all of them, but I don't know anyone who was born on November 29..."
Once we started imagining that the eight digits weren't meaningless, but actually two dates written together, it really started to look that way. However, its true meaning may be something completely different, or there may be no meaning at all.
Anyway, since we don't have any real clues, it's probably pointless to stand around here worrying about it. The inside of the parlor's much more important. This morning, behind each of the doors with a magic circle drawn on them...had been the body of a victim.
So, if something new has been added to this door, does that mean something new has been added inside the parlor?
As soon as she opened the door, Aunt Eva let out a high-pitched scream and ran inside. That alone was enough to tell us what had happened inside the room... Doctor Nanjo and I looked at each other, and I shook my head slightly as we entered the parlor...
George-aniki lay there crumpled alongside Shannon-chan's corpse. His chest was stained bright red. And judging by his still-opened eyes, I'd hate to say it to Aunt Eva, but I couldn't pick up any signs of life.
After moving to take George's pulse, Doctor Nanjo shook his head, wordlessly reporting that George was dead. Brushing him aside, Aunt Eva once again crouched beside George-aniki...and started crying at the top of her lungs... With Aniki's death, one thing is certain. The murders hadn't ended on the eighth twilight. The epitaph was being carried out in its complete form, including the ninth twilight, 'And none shall be left alive'...
I was really starting to lose track of things. For some reason, Aunt Eva's half-crazed cries actually made me cool down... Crestfallen and exhausted, I flopped onto the sofa and plunked my feet on top of the table. Maybe all these murders numbed my heart. Instead of just being frightened, I felt completely confused.
Dad and Kyrie-san are dead, and people have been killed off one by one, starting with the servants... And there's been a hell of a lot of them by now. I don't know when the first murder happened, but they might have been killed at a rate of about one person per hour by now. We believe that the boat will come for us around 9:00 tomorrow. There's still a full 12 hours until then.
With the four of us, if one goes each hour, we won't last any longer than four hours. We don't even know if we'll last until midnight tonight...
Yesterday, after lunch, we came into this parlor. Just as they started talking about serving some tea Aunt Rosa had bought, we kids decided to take a walk. Maria was jumping around, wasn't she? Didn't Shannon-chan bring us some cookies? She said Kumasawa-san had baked them, or something. It would've been hilarious if she'd baked some mackerel into them, wouldn't it? That's right, I'll never hear Kumasawa baa-chan's mackerel jokes again, will I...?
...Oh, right, if I only remember stuff about Kumasawa baa-chan, that wouldn't be fair to everyone else... Why did Dad and Kyrie-san... even go outside? It's not like going without food for a day would kill us. So why did gluttony get ahold of them and make them go out for food? I'll bet that fearless dad of mine just started complaining about being hungry... Kyrie-san, you were supposed to be the brakes for my reckless dad... Why didn't you stop him?
...And... what about your daughter, Ange...? She's still just six years old. Don't tell me you planned to leave her in my care... After all, it's doubtful now whether even I'll be able to leave this island alive...
...It's been kinda noisy for a while. By the time I looked up to see what it was, Jessica and Aunt Eva had suddenly started fighting each other. No, maybe I should say that Jessica was grabbing at Aunt Eva.
"How foolish!! Why should I know anything about what happened to your parents?!"
"Who was on the first floor of the guesthouse?! Aunt Eva!! Dad and Mom were in the first floor lobby, along with her! And who was left alive?! Only Aunt Eva!! Why? It's obviously because you're the culprit!! You killed Mom and Dad, carried them outside, and then shamelessly locked the door, trying to make it seem like it was the witch's doing...!!"
"Then why do you think George disappeared?! He never came down to the first floor! So, did he disappear from the second floor?! And who was on the second floor?! You people were, right?!! You knew, didn't you?! You knew that George slipped out of the guesthouse!! And you brazenly acted as if you didn't know anything!! If you'd stopped George, he'd be... he'd be...!!!"
"I said stop...! Jessica-san was in the cousins' room the whole time! And Eva-san was in the first floor lobby the whole time! Neither of you is responsible for anything! What we have here is simply the sadness of losing family members...!! The culprit is no one, nowhere...!! It is all... just the witch's fault!! So stop hating each other, you two...!!"
Yeah, I finally understand why three people evaporated from the guesthouse... when all the doors and windows were locked from the inside... This is what they were after. Making us think the culprit was inside...and sparking this ugly, mutual hatred... has to be the culprit's... the witch's goal.
...But if that's the case, how did the culprit lock it from the outside...? When Dad's group was attacked, their master key was definitely stolen. But the doors and windows to the guesthouse were built so that you couldn't lock them from the outside, no matter how hard you tried. So that master key should have had nothing to do with the guesthouse closed room...
Jessica and Aunt Eva were turning their sadness at losing their blood relatives into anger at the person in front of them. Doctor Nanjo was trying to step between them. And I sat in the sofa, staring up at the ceiling, thinking about things that didn't even matter anymore with a worn out expression... I just couldn't believe that this was the same parlor that had been so warm and pleasant midday yesterday, for just a short time before the typhoon hit...
The sudden sound of a gunshot shook me out of my half-asleep trance. Smoke was rising out of the barrel of the gun Aunt Eva held. Jessica had fallen to the floor and was covering both her eyes. Aunt Eva and Doctor Nanjo were looking down at her in shock...
"A-Are you okay, Jessica-san...?! Jessica-san...!!"
"...I-It wasn't my fault... Th-This happened because you came at me even after I told you to stop...!"
"H-Hey, wait a sec, what's going on...?!"
So, did Jessica grab at Aunt Eva, which turned into a scuffle...? Did they start fighting over Aunt Eva's gun? Did some kind of impact cause the trigger to be pulled...? I didn't know if the bullet had grazed her or if she'd been burned by the discharge, but either way, Jessica was covering both of her eyes, screaming 'It hurts, it hurts' and rolling around on the floor.
"...Don't worry, calm down...! It is not a serious wound, so get ahold of yourself...!"
"My eyes hurt, it hurts, I can't see, I can't see...!!"
Doctor Nanjo let Jessica borrow his shoulder, saying that he would tend to her in the servant room. The servant room in this mansion had a bed and a first aid kit and was able to function as an infirmary.
"...I-It wasn't me, it wasn't me...!!"
"Jessica-san, you'll aggravate the wound, so don't move about...! Come, let us go to the servant room..."
Jessica continued to curse Aunt Eva as her parents' murderer. It seemed that Aunt Eva couldn't conceal her trembling at the fact that she had pulled the trigger, even if it had been an accident.
"...It wasn't my fault, it happened because that kid jumped at me... I didn't kill anyone... More importantly, who killed George? That's right, who killed George?!! George, Geooooooooooorge!! It isn't my fault, it isn't my fault...!!"
"W-Wait a sec, Aunt Eva...!! Don't go off on your own!!"
I didn't know if it was because Aunt Eva couldn't bear her mistake...or if she'd given up control of her body to anger at the person who had killed her only son...or if it was both of those all mixed together. At any rate, she ran out into the corridor, yelling, fearful, and screaming. I was also worried about Jessica's condition, but right then, I couldn't leave Aunt Eva alone. Why would she go off on her own in this mansion, of all places? Is she suicidal...?!
Doctor Nanjo took Jessica towards the servant room. I chased after Aunt Eva, dashing into the depths of the mansion...
The barrel had probably been near her eyes. There was a possibility that the flames from the discharge had injured her corneas. There was no threat to her life, but it would probably be necessary to take her to a doctor as soon as possible. Nanjo applied emergency first aid, covering the affected area with gauze and wrapping it with a bandage. As a result, Jessica completely lost her field of vision...
"Is that okay...? The wound may hurt or itch, but you mustn't scratch at it or rub it. When tomorrow comes, let us go to an ophthalmologist as soon as possible."
"...Eva-san would not do such a thing. That was an accident."
"You call that an accident...?! She killed Dad and Mom. There's no way any 19th person or witch exists on this island...!! She's behind everything. She was the only one on the first floor of the guesthouse!"
"...I-If that is indeed the case, then we'll find out about it as soon as the police investigate. The police are incredible, and with their powers of discernment, there is nothing that cannot be understood. There is no need for us to suspect or hate anyone. The police will resolve everything."
"So for now, Jessica-san, you should devote yourself to resting your body and keeping your eyes safe. Of course, if you wrinkle your forehead too much, it will do nothing good for your eyes, not to mention your beauty."
When Jessica's abuse of Eva had reached a crescendo, she actually had started glaring instinctively, and the pressure on her eyes had hurt her. Jessica herself realized that the more she talked, the more the wound would hurt, and regardless of whether she'd overcome her suspicions of Eva, she regained her composure for the time being...
"...She killed them, Dad and Mom. And Shannon... and Kanon-kun... Kanon-kun..."
BGM: Worldend (solo)
Jessica was now less fearful about the fact that she was blinded, and more frightened that the police would carry Kanon's body away while she still couldn't see, and that she would have to say her final farewell without being able to look at his face. Her anger at the culprit... and her sadness at the death of the person she'd liked. Those mixed emotions started her crying. But right now, tears were actually painful for her, so she wasn't even permitted to leisurely remember his face in bygone days... Jessica could do nothing but sit on the bed and let her head droop, withstanding the pain...
"...Well then, now I am worried more about Eva-san. I hope she isn't too shaken by this."
Realizing that Jessica had calmed down for the time being and letting out a sigh, he stuck his head out into the hallway to look for any sign of the others coming back.
BGM: Black Lilliana
Then, their eyes met. Nanjo, unable to understand who this person was, was bewildered for an instant.
"...Wh-What did you say...?"
Nanjo had no way of understanding who the person in front of him was, much less what she had just said.
"...Doctor Nanjo? What's going on...?"
Unable to see, Jessica had to rely on voices alone to make out the situation. But since she heard Nanjo say something in an uneasy tone, she tightened up, thinking that something bad might have happened.
"...S-Stop, please...! Please don't kill me...!! I have a sick grandchild...! I mustn't die here...! Please, spare me...!! Eeeek!!!"
"...Doctor Nanjo...? Doctor Nanjo?!"
Jessica couldn't do anything except call out from the bed. Judging by the tone of his voice, Nanjo was in the corridor, confronting someone. And he was scared. His life must have been threatened just a second ago.
The witch pointed the end of her gold staff at Nanjo. Even though he didn't know what she was planning to do, Nanjo assumed that she must be trying to take his life.
"Doctor Nanjo!! Doctor Nanjo!! Is someone there?! Answer me!!"
"Stop iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, ahiiieeeeeeeeehhh!!"
*bang*! A sharp sound echoed.
Jessica, who could only try to grasp what was happening with her ears, had no clue what was going on. But even so, she was able to realize that with that sound, Nanjo had died. And, she could tell that that person was now in the corridor, right in front of the servant room. Furthermore, since she couldn't see, she wouldn't be able to run away, much less resist. Knowing that she was a mouse in a trap and in a life or death situation, Jessica shuddered...
Jessica was struck with fear and let out a frail scream. She wanted to scream in a much louder voice, trying to get someone to help her. But she couldn't. When faced with true fear, it clogs up a person's throat... Right then, Jessica could barely even breathe.
"H-Help me... help me...!! Eeeeeeeeeekk!!"
She searched around with her hands, trying to find some way to escape. But even though she should have known this room well, just being unable to see made it like a closed room of darkness. She ran into a shelf or something, and things like a candy jars and bottles fell down, hitting her on the head. As she was now, it would've been tough for her to even guard her head to block it. She was painfully aware of how powerless humans become just by losing their sense of sight.
Of course, she had no time to be impressed by this fact. She crawled around at random, trying to escape from that place, but she kept bumping into things that she didn't understand, getting hit by various falling objects, and it felt like the entire room was alive, bullying her and refusing to let her escape. Then, a footstep could be heard from that presence in the hallway. And then, a voice. She'd probably poked her head into the room, since Jessica had been so loud.
"You really are noisy. Act like a lady and wait there on the bed. 'Cause I'll give you a wonderful blood-red death outfit fitting for such an honored daughter. Something good enough to make the person who finds you faint, okay? Gehheheheheheheheheheh!!"
Until just a second ago, she had sworn that she'd kill the culprit if she found them. However, she was now very powerless. She couldn't do anything except let out a scream, crawling around on the floor and bumping her head into the bed and the legs of desks.