Perhaps now I too have the time and energy to participate again. I won’t be giving any theories yet, just general thoughts on things that caught my interest.
Finally read through the narrative and convinced myself that there’s a hidden passage between the library and Kinzo’s study. I mean, it all fit - why Kinzo would be so super defensive about a mere library (excessive locks, being angry if people touch the books), why Jessica and Battler would hear one quarrel through the supposedly soundproof walls when they heard nothing else (sounds from Kinzo’s study could carry through because of the passage), why there would be numbers in the books when there seems to be no code input anywhere (the passage is a classic bookshelf thing that is activated by pressing the right books or somesuch - the numbers are there to remind what the order is)… but there’s a red directly denying any and all hidden passages. So I guess that is a bust.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if there could be some other mechnism than a hidden passage in the library. It can’t be anything too complex, though, as we’d run into problems with the decalogue.
The culprit set up a game of sorts where rescuing either Battler or Jessica is the prize. He put the two into a room that was locked with two keys that he hid in the mansion, and poisoned them with Kinzo’s poison. He left one vial of the antidote in front of the library door, easy to find. However, if this game was intended to be fair (which it might not be, considering the skull key was inside George), wouldn’t he had to have known that Kanon was told of how the antidote works? If we strike off Kinzo from the suspect list due to his relatively early death, the prime suspect would naturally become the other guest of Kinzo, for whom Kinzo explained the poison, and supposedly also the antidote. As the antidote has to be administered in a somewhat unusual way for it to work (straight to the heart), if the culprit didn’t know that at least one of the survivors knows this, the game would’ve been rigged from the start.
However, it doesn’t seem like there’s any reasonable way the culprit could know this. I mean, it could be they were randomly walking past Kinzo’s study right as Kinzo was talking to Kanon, but that’s a bit of a stretch. So, as the key being inside George’s body already suggests, does this mean the game was meant to be impossible from the start? Even if they “won”, the culprit had every reason to think they wouldn’t administer the antidote properly. Which suggests it all was arranged only to torment the participants. Which in turn would require some reason for the culprit to hate the victims of his torture so. I would expect that by this point, there’s something in the narrative that would establish said motive. Battler’s storytime about Asumu’s death pops to mind, but that seems a bit difficult to connect to the targets of this torture.
Speaking of those targets, if we take the “game” to be at the heart of the culprit’s plan, the other deaths were mere window dressing - the real deal is Battler and Jessica dying slowly to poison under circumstances that supposedly allow the other survivors to rescue them. After all, the story already brought up the idea of punishment through the slaughter of innocents close to the guilty, as Kanon was musing about George’s impending death. So, this would mean that whoever are the closest to Battler and Jessica are the true targets of the culprit’s vengeance. With Jessica, it is easy enough - Kanon and Natsuhi care deeply about her. With Battler, though, it’s a bit strange. Nobody really cares that much about the poor sod - Rudolf is dead, Kyrie is Kyrie. Sure, people would be sad if Battler died, but he isn’t beloved to the same degree as Jessica is. So, why choose Battler as one of the prizes? To truly torment a single individual, one would pick two people close to that person as the prizes, and then force that person to choose only one, only for even that to ultimately fail. I guess you could torment a group of people by making them fight with themselves over who to save.
In any case, I suppose that isn’t the most effective approach to solving anything. I guess I just like the idea of starting with the motive.
I doubt this has much relevance either, but it is interesting how the deaths of the adults parallel the first gameboard. Krauss was hanged both times, Eva was brutalized both times, Rudolf’s head was cut off both times, how did Rosa die in the first gameboard, again? I don’t remember. In any case, considering how other things happened differently, I wonder if the way these characters died has a specific purpose for the culprit. I suppose Rudolf is the only one who could benefit from such a thing - if everyone has died in various but generally brutal ways, someone having their head cut off doesn’t stick out quite as much, and arouses less suspicion of the corpse not actually being who they think it is.
Regarding Natsuhi’s death, I’ve only glanced through other posts in the thread, but I don’t recall anyone pointing out how strange it is that Kanon heard nothing except the toilet flushing and the sink being turned on. Natsuhi never screamed. Kanon never heard her body hit the floor, or any sound that would come from a knife being stabbed into someone’s skull. If we take Natsuhi’s lack of response to Kanon’s knock to mean she was already dead by that point… how could the murder have taken place? She was stabbed in the forehead in a small room where nobody should’ve been. Even if we ignore the problems with someone entering the room or having somehow hidden themselves in there in advance, it seems excessively unlikely that they could stab Natsuhi in the forehead before Natsuhi could make any sound. Granted, Kanon didn’t examine the corpse in detail, so I guess it’s possible that she was killed in some other way and the knife was stabbed into her forehead afterwards.
Natsuhi’s death is so weird I’d be inclined to call it a suicide if not for the problems Natsuhi being the culprit would cause. In any case, we should probably pay attention to what happened right before Kanon checked the toilet. Natsuhi started randomly stumbling, saying she’s had these weirdest headaches today. If not for Knox’s 8th, I’d be halfway tempted to say that she collapsed and then was stabbed through a small opening in the floor or the wall or somesuch. Though that would naturally also bring up the question of how exactly could the culprit predict any of this. It could perhaps be explained by some knockout trap of sorts being in the toilet… but that would make Natsuhi’s prior strange headache pointless. We know that our gamemaster isn’t averse to using coincidence in his boards, but I have trouble imagining any kind of coincidence that would result in a knife being lodged in Natsuhi’s forehead.
Anyhow, that’s enough of aimless meandering for now. Maybe later I can actually give a theory or two.