In response to their unasked questions, I shook my head. "I'll tell it all in time, but right now it's probably best to keep the momentum going. It seems that this really is unlocking my memories. Where was it that Mr. Minazuki said he was proud of? The ballroom?" I walked towards the door out, but stumbled as a wave of dizziness overtook me.
Chou was by my side in an instant, supporting me. "Are you alright? For goodness sake, sir! You are going to force me to overrule you as your nurse if you don't take a break!"
I don't know why I had such a sense of urgency, to be honest. However, the more I delved into my past, the stronger the feeling was that I had to solve this riddle. What's more, it would not wait for anything. Perhaps it was irrational of me, but I felt like if I didn't solve it soon, I'd never get a chance to later. I covered the hand on my arm with my own, and looked at her. "Please, Chou, I need this," I pleaded, quietly enough that I don't think anyone else heard. Her eyes searched mine, and her lips pursed, but then she nodded. "Alright, sir, but please be mindful of the present as well..."
She let my arm go and I turned to the group, trying to project strength. "Sorry, just the altitude. Shall we?"
It was actually something of a blessing that I had that moment of weakness, as it curtailed conversation on the way back to the main building. As we entered and took off our coats, the other maid came and let us know that Mr. Minazuki wanted to let us know that dinner was coming along splendidly and would be ready in a little over an hour, as planned. I will be available to assist you with anything you need until then. Unfortunately Ayame is needed elsewhere." She turned to her sister and whispered a few things that I didn't catch, and her sister nodded and excused herself.
I explained that we were on our way to the ballroom, and she led us there without preamble. We entered through large double doors that seemed similar to the dining room, but this room was even larger. My eye was immediately drawn to the large, ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, but as I walked further in I allowed my gaze to roam over the intricate designs on the walls and ceiling, as well as the simple but elegant furniture and decorations. I could see why Mr. Minazuki had been proud of the work he'd done here. To our left he had even put a bandstand, likely as close as possible to the bandstand that stood here that...weekend...
I stared at the bandstand, and blinked.
There was a large stereo system set up, and Mr. Minazuki was playing records. He had apologized that it was the best he could do, and a live band would be arriving tomorrow, but I was fine with it. It was actually more amusing to watch my generation and my parents' generation argue about what records to play. Jessica was fighting for rock, of course, and Father and Mother were voting for a waltz. It was all in good fun though. Especially since I spied Ange climbing up onto the stage while no one else was watching...
The band was on break, helping themselves to the food that had been placed on the table by the far wall. As I was helping myself to some as well, I took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with the lead singer, Will. He was rather dour, honestly, but once I got him talking he was actually quite insightful. Looking around I could see Ange and Maria chatting with two of the other new arrivals, girls about Maria's age...
I blinked. Then I blinked again. I was back in the present, though I could still feel the past all around me in this room, like a crushing weight upon my soul. My thoughts were jumbled, confused. Things were wrong here, not like they had been then. They needed to be like then, if I wanted to know more. I needed to know more. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I started to hyperventilate.
I heard someone muttering, and after a moment I realized it was me. "No no no, not there, there..." I ran over to some chairs and rearranged them around the table they were at. "Less light, it was dark then..." Hurrying to the windows, I pulled the curtains together, blocking out the view of the snowy early evening outside. As the last one closed, I could feel something like a pressure building in my mind. I imagined I could hear the laughter of people that I hadn't even known I'd missed. Flickers of movement teased the edges of my sight. I was almost back there, back to my family...
I turned to those who had followed me here. "Noise. Talking. Laughter. Please, I'm so close!" They must have thought me a madman, but I didn't care. Not now. Understanding what I meant, Chou began talking to Ms. Kojima. I didn't even pay attention to what she was talking about as I looked around, desperate to find the next scrap of memory. The others started talking, and the large room came alive with the sounds of humanity. A whiff of some enticing smell brushed my nostrils...
The sounds of voices were everywhere around me. The rich aroma of food was nearby, and Will was sipping from a glass of punch. I looked away from where I had been watching Ange be amazed by some simple sleight of hand that the young blonde girl had performed, and I looked to the empty bandstand.
On the bandstand, there was the sound system, and Ange was sorting through the collection of records the Mr. Minazuki had supplied. But...hadn't Ange just been...?
"Are you alright, Mr. Ushiromiya?" asked Will.
I smiled at him, "I told you, please call me Lion. But, something seems strange, don't you think?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, looking around with piercing eyes. He was incredibly perceptive, and his deductions were going to be useful in the next couple days. Wait, how did I know that?
I shook my head, and looked back to the bandstand where Eiserne Jungfrau's equipment was going to be set up tomorrow. Ange had found a record she liked and started it up. Everyone was surprised, and started laughing and dancing. I didn't, though, because the song I heard was sad, and not providing the beat the others were dancing to. Why were they hearing something else?!
I felt myself start to panic, but pushed it down. I remembered what was going on, and that all this was simply my memory. The song continued to play in my mind, but that's all it was. This was all in my mind's eye, and I began to make sense of it.
My mind had unlocked two different recollections of this room, and the sheer information flooding in had caused them to mix. Turning a technique I learned for business to a different use, I began to focus on one thing at a time, compartmentalizing it. I envisioned my relatives and the guests calming, and they did. All stood like mannequins, each a font of information, waiting to be examined to see what I could learn. My head ached terribly, and my heart was still pounding in my chest, but I was back in control for now. Still, I could feel the information was far more than I could examine easily, so I had to choose what to focus on.
A. Learn more about Maria, Ange, Hachijo, Satoko, and Rika.
B. Learn more about Jessica, Krauss, Natsuhi, and Grandfather
C. Learn more about Eiserne Jungfrau
D. Learn more about Battler, George, Rudolf, Kyrie, Eva, and Hideyoshi