Delta In The Darkness - Scene 4
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Translator: Mr. Steak
Within a grove of trees, a small wooden house quietly stood. One could barely see the remains of what had once been white paint on the panels forming its outer walls, which were lined with window frames of a similarly-faded blue color.
This was on the same plot of land as House Oumei Rokkaku at the very north of the property, on the opposite side from the main entrance, and close to the rear gate. Directly next to the building were two large ginkgo trees, and besides those, a great number of other trees which produced a blanket of colorful leaves in the fall. This building, which paled in comparison to the main mansion Oumei Rokkaku in terms of size, was a separate dwelling named Silent House and resided in an area sheltered under a thick shade, within a sort of natural dome where barely any sunlight could reach.
Here in Silent House was where Sezaimaru Beniko’s family lived. That would mean, namely, Sezaimaru Beniko herself, her son, and Negoro Kichiei, for a total of three people.
Negoro Kichiei was a servant of the Sezaimaru family. However, he had not recently received a single cent by way of salary. The reason for that was clear, as Sezaimaru Beniko had no income whatsoever, and was therefore in no position to hire a servant.
A long time ago, during its heyday, the Sezaimaru family had employed many servants. This enormous Oumei Rokkaku estate and the mansion itself had also been the property of the Sezaimaru family. But now, none of that remained. Not the people, nor the possessions, nor the land. Not the money, nor the influence, nor the reputation. All had been lost.
Beniko, the final daughter of the Sezaimaru family, would turn thirty this coming winter. Because the sight of such a woman and her young son being left out on their own would be too brutal to bear, they had been greatly cared for by those around them. This had been a number of years ago. For the sake of this mother and child who’d had no means to provide for themselves, their servant Kichiei had risen to the task of caring for them. His initial promise to stay at Silent House only until she found herself a job, as well as his good-natured spirit, had ended up continuously taken advantage of since that time. For the past three years, the new homeowner Odawara Shizue had been strongly urging them to vacate the premises soon. This was a source of anxiety for Kichiei every day, but as for Beniko herself, she showed no signs of minding. She just casually proceeded with her life as normal.
Last night, Beniko had visited the apartment building of a young friend she’d made recently, named Kaguyama Murasakiko. Apparently, it had been a get-together to play mahjong. When she’d returned home at just after three in the morning, Kichiei had opened the door for her. However, to his surprise, Beniko hadn’t been the only one standing there, as Kaguyama Murasakiko had been with her.
“We decided to keep drinking, so please fetch us some liquor,” Beniko had said abruptly. Saying things abruptly was Beniko’s style. She had even once declared, without prompting, that she wants to ride on a satellite.
The two of them had ended up conversing until morning, it seemed. Beniko wasn’t a person with many close friends, so this was an extremely rare occurrence for her. Since Kichiei had always felt that Beniko needed to develop a more social disposition, he had welcomed Kaguyama Murasakiko with open arms. Apparently, the girl was still attending university. She was quite courteous for her age, and he saw promise in her.
He aired out the laundry, ate a modest lunch, went out to the nearby supermarket for groceries, and upon returning home, finished up cleaning every room except for Beniko’s (of which there were hardly any). Then he took out his toolbox and checked the pipes in the bathroom, after which he took the opportunity to fix a loose hinge on the living room cabinet.
Finally, by the time he’d brewed himself some tea and lit his pipe, it was already half-past three.
He heard the sound of a door opening, and Beniko emerged wearing only her pajamas.
“A fine morning to you, Milady,” Kichiei greeted, after standing up from his chair.
Beniko stretched her back with her arms thrown over her head, then shook her body as if convulsing and yawned. “Yeah…… Where’s H?”
“The boy left for the library early this morning.”
“Oh, right, it’s Sunday,” Beniko said while scratching her head. “Kichiei, coffee.”
“Yes, I shall prepare it posthaste.” Kichiei gave a small bow, then walked into the cramped kitchen.
On the first floor of Silent House, there were only two rooms. This one which connected directly to the front entrance, dubbed the living room, and a modest kitchen tacked on next to it. As such, there was no door separating the two. On the other hand, the wall opposite the kitchen did have a door, and inside was a single room, which is Beniko’s study/bedroom/office. It was the largest room in the building, but that still only meant a size of ten tatami mats. On the far wall of the kitchen, there was a small door leading into a narrow storage area, from which a very steep set of stairs, almost like a ladder, rose into the loft. This loft was segmented in two and was used respectively by Negoro Kichiei and Beniko’s son, who had the nickname H.
Sezaimaru Beniko sat on a simple round chair, plopped both elbows on the table, and held her cheeks in her hands.
“Aah, I’m so tired…… Alcohol is no good,” Beniko mumbled amidst forlorn sighs. “It makes you sleep, to no avail. It makes you need to sleep just to digest it. I want to live more like a normal person.”
“I would venture to say that resting frequently may be the most human quality of all. And this is likely too forward of me to mention, but I have heard it is good for beauty as well.”
“Hmph,” Beniko laughed through her nose. “If beauty and health are all we’re after, then the best method would be to never eat anything and get all our nutrition from an IV drip. Digestion is superfluous. Yeah, and we wouldn’t have to deal with the mysteries of taste either. Why is it anyway, that we eat too much and drink too much, and think stuff that’s bad for our bodies like salt and fat is so delicious that we have way too much of it? That’s certainly a detriment to the individual’s survival. It’s such a mystery…… Shouldn’t those tastes have been eliminated already?”
“Perhaps they were essential while we were children,” Kichiei answered.
“Aah, I see…… That’s probably it.” Beniko nodded. “So it’s just the lingering traces of that. Essentially, our bodies can’t let go of their glorious growth period. Once something’s imprinted, there’s no way to cancel it again; you could say that’s a fault shared by all life on Earth.”
“Maybe we have simply been living too long,” Kichiei replied, turning on the coffee maker.
“Yeah, an astute observation.”
“You are too kind.”
“The Odawaras are hosting a party tonight, it seems.” Beniko said, looking toward the window. It wasn’t visible from here, but in that direction, to the south, was the Odawara mansion, Oumei Rokkaku. “Just like always, they’re going to make way too much food to possibly finish, and leave a bunch leftover. That’s wasteful.”
“One could also say that allowing food to be leftover is a form of etiquette.”
“It’s illogical and I hate it.” Leaving her right hand on her cheek, Beniko looked up at the ceiling. “Humans eat too much in general. We really should cut down on our meat consumption.”
“We also expend a lot of effort solely for the purpose of eating.”
“It’s Mrs. Odawara’s birthday, apparently.”
“Eh? Aah, a birthday party, is it? Hmm, come to think of it, that horrendous ordeal happened a year ago, yes. That’s right, it was around this time of year.”
Last June sixth, on the night of Odawara Shizue’s birthday party, there had been a terrible storm. Furthermore, because her husband Masaya had been late returning home from a business trip in Tokyo, Shizue’s mood turned very sour, and with that as a catalyst, absolutely everything had become a disaster. Put simply, the night had turned into a huge argument with all in attendance verbally abusing one another. Exactly who had been fighting who was a detail Kichiei had already forgotten, but he did remember that the company had been quite bizarre, so the atmosphere had been a powder keg from the very beginning. That fact alone was strangely vivid in his memory. Unsurprisingly, events transpired such that Sezaimaru Beniko had made an enemy of practically everyone at the party. As for what Negoro Kichiei had been doing at the time, his actions had been limited to minor supportive duties such as pinning Beniko down in an attempt to stop her from overturning a table, but that alone had been enough to earn him a severe scolding afterward. “Who’s damn side are you on?” she had shouted and then refused to speak to him for an entire week if memory served. That had been exactly one year ago.
Having realized that fact, Kichiei felt an extremely bad premonition about the night.
He presented the coffee to Beniko. The cup was specifically for her own use and was one of the few remaining items she’d inherited from the Sezaimaru Family. She took the cup in both hands and sipped from it gracefully. Hair teasing the flawlessly plucked eyebrows on her fair white forehead. Large, impactful pupils always seeming as if surprised by something. Her small, pink lips like a doll’s. Straight black hair falling behind her shoulders. If it weren’t for her arrogant demeanor, and if only her expressions were not so uncivil, she would undoubtedly look like the young daughter of a respectable family. Kichiei did not know of any woman more reminiscent of an innocent young maiden, or more beautiful, than she. Simply by watching her across the table for these precious seconds, his heart was calmed. This was currently, in return for his endless laboring, the man’s only salary.
“It was that same night too, when the Irinaka murder happened,” Beniko said, still holding her cup. “Kichiei, you remember?”
“But of course.” The sudden change of topic threw him for a loop, but Kichiei quickly recalled the details.
The incident had occurred in a neighboring town, yes, but much more importantly, Beniko’s ex-husband, that is to say, Kichiei’s former employer…… indeed, that half-baked, block-headed oaf was currently in charge of the murder investigation. It was for that reason, especially that the incident was relatively fresh in Kichiei’s mind.
“Do you remember how old the murdered office lady was?”
“I do not. However, I seem to recall she was in her early thirties, perhaps.”
“Yep, thirty-three.” After saying that, Beniko took another sip of coffee. On her expressionless face, only those beautiful eyes like little glass orbs were flitting about shrewdly. “Moving on, the previous July seventh, in other words, the day of the Tanabata festival two years ago, another murder happened, believe it or not.”
“Hold on now, I am sure murders occur somewhere every day.”
“Moron. Don’t interrupt me.” Beniko glared at Kichiei. “Listen up. This is intel I just learned from him recently.” The “him” was Beniko’s ex-husband. “Pay attention. A female university student was killed in this very Showa district. The method of strangulation was the exact same.”
“I see……” Kichiei blew smoke while still holding the pipe in his mouth. “This is the first I have heard of that. I hadn’t expected the existence of a past incident with such a strong connection to the case.”
“There’s more.” Beniko perked one eyebrow and smiled teasingly. “On Tanabata exactly one year earlier, there was another killing with the same modus operandi. And of course, the location was around here as well.”
“Now wait for just a second……”
“That time it was an elementary school girl who was killed.” Beniko frowned ever so slightly.
“Milady, will you permit me to ask a question?”
“Has it been confirmed beyond a doubt that the methods were the same?”
“That’s what it sounds like. He wouldn’t tell me the specifics no matter how much I pried, but apparently, the thing used to strangle them was a unique object you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. And all the incidents had that thing in common. Essentially, it’s been concluded that all of them were committed by the same culprit.”
“I understand…… This is what you discussed with him yesterday?”
Yesterday evening, the block-headed oaf had stopped by at the house. He worked as a detective with the prefectural police department. Consequently, they had broached such topics. Beniko’s ex-husband showed his face here at a rate of up to once a month. On those occasions, though it chagrined him majorly, Kichiei had made a habit of taking Beniko’s son out of the house. During those few hours, the degree to which Kichiei’s blood pressure increased was frighteningly incalculable. If ever there were thoughts that shortened one’s lifespan, these were it. Even as this age, he was still discovering ways in which his discipline was insufficient. Thankfully, by the time he’d returned home last night, the man was already gone. In his place had been Kaguyama Murasakiko, who’d come by to invite Beniko for mahjong.
“Milady…… Don’t tell me, there was yet another incident a year prior?” Kichiei was smiling slightly as he asked.
“Nah, there wasn’t.” Beniko shook her head with a serious expression on her face. “That would’ve been zero-zero, so……”
“Yeah. And that doesn’t exist outside of roulette.”
“I apologize for being slow, but what is your meaning?”
“The university student killed a year before last was twenty-two years old. And the elementary school student who was killed three years ago was eleven.”
“Ahh……” Kichiei nodded in understanding. “That is indeed far too precise to be a coincidence.”
“To sum up, since three years ago, women aged eleven, twenty-two, and thirty-three, were killed by the same method, in other words, the same murderer, just about a year apart from each other. The first two were on July seventh. And last year was on June sixth, same as today. If we follow that principle, where does it lead?”
“The person killed on today’s date of this year, according to the arithmetic sequence, will be a forty-four-year-old woman.”
“The victim has become quite middle-aged,” Kichiei murmured, before hurriedly correcting himself. “Ah, that was impolite of me. Please forgive my slip of the tongue.”
“Next year, it’ll be a fifty-five-year-old woman on May fifth, then the next year a sixty-six-year-old on the same date, then the next year on April fourth it’ll be a seventy-seven year old, then the next year eighty-eight, then the next a ninety-nine-year-old on March third…… Hmm, it’ll get progressively harder. Not the actual killing, but finding victims would be a problem.”
“Erm, Milady, “Kichiei interrupted while blowing a thin stream of smoke. “What possible reason would the killer have to fixate on this pattern of matching numbers?”
“That’s the question……” Beniko leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “That was a hot topic of debate last night too. A big part of the reason I ended up talking to Kaguyama so long is that we were talking about that. But even after all that, we weren’t able to think of a decent reason. It’s probably just an inside joke or something.”
“An inside joke?”
“Yeah, for fun.”
“Killing for fun. Is that what you are implying?”
“Killing for fun is the healthiest way to go about it,” Beniko replied without thinking. “Compared to killing for work, or killing for the sake of your studies, or killing to cure a disease, or because you’re hungry, that’s a way more normal reason.”
“Milady, you are being uncouth with your words.”
“Well, what would be better? Killing for a religious ceremony? Killing because of a burning desire for revenge? Is that what you’re saying? As long as it’s for revenge, that’s acceptable? As long as there’s a sufficient reason, it’s perfectly fine to kill? If that’s the case, would you prefer our local ward office starts accepting applications for murder licenses?”
“At the very least, if they have a reason you can empathize with……”
“Ridiculous! What difference would a reason make?” Beniko glared at Kichiei with an expression that looked like she was having a good time. “What would be enjoyable about understanding the inner thoughts of a killer? What would you gain from that?”
“Not enjoyable per se, but to know that it falls within the scope of an average person’s imagination, and is, well, more or less understandable… how to put this… it could be seen as a comfort.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard…… The inner workings of a murderer being within the scope of your imagination is so much more macabre. How could you ever be calm knowing that you might someday want to kill someone too? Compared to that, filing it away as killing for fun, something I can’t understand at all, is more comforting to me. People kill things for fun. As a kid, even I used to play around by killing lizards.”
“Wh! When did you do such a thing? How could you, I mean, that is so……!”
“Don’t get all worked up,” Beniko ordered Kichiei, who had half risen to his feet in shock. “I’m kidding. Sorry. I won’t do it again.”
“Milady, do you find pleasure in ridiculing me so?”
“Yes I do, “Beniko answered. “You’re mad. That’s funny.”
“You are seriously deplorable,” Kichiei mumbled, mustering his best glare in Beniko’s direction. “Why in the world are humans such malicious creatures?”
Upon finishing her coffee, Beniko stood up and stretched.
“Kichiei, take out my best dress.”
“Ah, so then…… you will be attending the party?”
“Yep, I’m going.”
“Oh, but what of your invitation to Miss Kaguyama for dinner tonight? I even made a note of it in your calendar……”
“Have you started the meal prep yet?”
“No, I was about to begin shortly.”
“Then it’s cancelled. She’ll come with me.”
“As you wish.”
“You’re coming too. So change into something nice,” Beniko said as she started to walk away.
“Eh? I’m attending as well?”
“Yeah,” Beniko said with a grin, then opened the door to her room and turned around. “There’ll be too much food, so I’m trying to gather as many people as I can. Seriously, they’re so wasteful.”
“Milady, I believe worrying yourself with such matters is unnecessary.”
“It’s fine. I’ve made up my mind. I’m taking another short nap, so wake me up in two hours.”
“Yes, as you wish.”
The door shut.
Negoro Kichiei clucked his tongue quietly. This was an extremely unwelcome kindness. He had been looking forward to relaxing and watching a television drama tonight.
However, for Kichiei, Beniko’s orders were absolute. Just the same as how scissors will always beat paper, they were an absolute truth with no margin at all for distrust.
But still, they mustn’t arrive empty-handed. It was the host’s own birthday, so bringing some sort of present was the courteous thing to do.
Now then, where could he scrounge up the money to buy one?
Having reached his wits’ end, Negoro Kichiei let out a sigh full of smoke.
Then, remembering where he’d been storing his tuxedo, he realized that the first thing he should do was repair the iron’s faulty wiring, and so with that new objective, his thoughts turned in a different direction.
Translator and Editor Notes:
Hi! I’m sorry for the long delay between updates! I’ve been on-and-off sick, plus the days really start to blend together when you’re quarantining yourself in your house 24/7 lol. Anyway, I should be able to release these faster now that I’ve stepped away from translating a certain crappy webnovel which I won’t name here. Yeah, I know I promised I wouldn’t drop it, but it just got so damn boring lmao. So now I’m focusing on this.
About the scene itself:
Finally, we’ve met Beniko! Though interestingly, the section is clearly written from Kichiei’s perspective. Both of them are real fucking weirdos, aren’t they? Lol. They’ve got some mysteriously unclear motivations for their actions that I’m not sure how suspicious I should be of. For Kichiei, it’s mainly why he continues to work for Beniko, but the text seems to strongly imply it’s because he’s in some sort of love with her. But is Beniko just blatantly taking advantage of that? Kind of scummy, if she is. But regardless, the whole vibe of this haughty yet improper “princess” with her overly-formal butler, contrasted with their destitute living situation… it’s just so perfect lol.
I absolutely adore the random-ass tangents these two spiral into at the drop of a hat. Like, the discussion about tastes and how that relates to natural selection (ears perk up at the 3rd oblique reference to Charles Darwin) was completely unnecessary but also pretty interesting. I also love the significantly more relevant (but they didn’t know it at the time) discussion about motives for murder. It was a very meta sort of discussion, but at the same time not really breaking the fourth wall. Beniko’s perspective on the matter is super understandable, but not one that I would have immediately thought of. And that’s the best kind of logic. Though it did come very close to breaking the fourth wall with Kichiei bringing up the subject of a motive being “something you can sympathize with”, since the novel’s prologue was sort of hinting at that too, with that whole “the conclusion of this mystery will be satisfying to readers” thing. It’s generally not satisfying for the culprit in a murder mystery to have a lame motive like “lol I just killed them for shits and giggles”, you know? And with that in mind, it’s interesting that Beniko essentially listed out a whole slew of potential motives that might be the actual motive in this (soon to occur) murder. I wonder if it’s gonna turn out to be something entirely different from anything she said.
About last year’s party: that’s so weird! Lol there is a lot of random weird shit in this story, which I love, don’t get me wrong! It reminds me a lot of the Dangan Ronpa videogame series in that way, with how the mysteries are obfuscated by bizarre weird plot stuff, and you’re never sure whether something’s just weird as a distraction, or actually important. I’m a huge fan of that particular method of confusing the reader in a mystery plot lol. As for what significance the previous party might have to this mystery…. I’m sure it’ll come into play later once we dig deeply into past character relationships.
And of course, the Sezaimaru family’s past and their relationship (if any?) to the Odawara family will surely be a factor as well. Though it’s interesting since Beniko would obviously be a suspicious character right now if we didn’t already have pretty much conclusive evidence from the prologue, that none of the main 4 were involved. On that note though, one thing I did notice upon rereading the prologue, is that Beniko actually speaks to Horokusa in a rather friendly tone, despite seeming like she barely knows he exists in the current timeline. So I’m wondering if their relationship is going to develop somehow over the course of the novel….
Best analogy of the section: I’ll probably go with the comparison of “our bodies can’t let go of their glorious growth period”, since it ties into the whole Sezaimaru family situation in a really cool and subtle way.
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