Seven wonders overtime – Part 1
Today, a tense atmosphere was floating in the Literary Club Room, which was a rare occurrence.
The only sounds seeping through the closed window from the outside world were the shouts of the baseball team, whose bark was worse than their bite; the noise of the wind ensemble’s trombone practice, which betrayed the players’ sore lack of skill; as well as the slight warbling of birds and the susurration of tree leaves in the spring wind. On the other hand, the occupants of the room maintained the complete silence within.
Koizumi and I were standing on opposite sides of the long table, with our upper bodies bent down and our eyes wandering back and forth on the table top. Nagato was, as usual, sitting in her corner on a folding chair, reading a book as thick as an encyclopedia without looking up even once. And then there was Asahina-san.
While seated, she slowly extended her willowy right hand, drew a card from the pile placed in front of her, then carefully flipped it face up and gently moved her tongue, which was pink like a Nitidotellina Nitidula1, to read the words written on the card.
“Being so lonely~”
Koizumi and I were gradually leaning further forward, with our eyes wide open.
“I would rather~”
At that moment, Asahina-san rested for a beat and looked at both me and Koizumi. She was in her usual maid outfit, but even as I noticed something new about how beautiful and cute she looked yet again, I had no time to convey that thought.
Observing our lack of reaction, the limited-edition maid-lady of the Literary Club Room continued in a mumble.
“Like to die~”
While pricking up our ears to hear the moderately slow, funny voice2, Koizumi and I shifted our eyes hurriedly along the table. Our target was one card among the dozens spread messily on the table. I softly chanted “Like, like, like” but Asahina-san spoke before I could find the target.
“Unless I cannot see you~”
Having read the text all the way to the end, Asahina-san gently placed the card back on the table, relieved.
She sighed, taking a sip of sencha3 from her personal teacup.
But the two of us were still busy searching for the second half of the phrase. Just as I heard Nagato turn the page,
Koizumi touched a card near his area and picked it up.
“This one matches, right?”4
I wonder how many times he’s been guilty of showing me that faint, ironic smile.
Answering in the affirmative, I turned my head to ease the stiffness in my neck, and continued.
“Alright, shall we go on to the next one?”
The silence visited us again, as if the previous scene was being replayed.
Koizumi and I were staring at the table, Nagato was speechlessly working diligently on her reading material. Asahina-san slowly extended her hand, selected a card and took a breath.
“In the autumn rice field~”
The two males in the room had no response.
“In the temporary……”
Asahina-san’s voice was laced with bewilderment.
Nagato murmured a reply in a flash.
“In the temporary barn~ ……Since the um, hay?”
“Straw mat,” Nagato corrected.
“Since the straw mat feels so rough~”
Koizumi and I looked on in exasperation.
“Sleeves,” Nagato muttered.
Asahina-san repeated the phrase.
“My sleeves are getting wet from the dew~”
But I had already started searching for the matching card since she uttered the first syllable. However, my effort was not to be rewarded.
Once again, Koizumi picked up a card that was easily within his reach.
Asahina-san was about to take on the challenge of reading the next card, but I stopped her with my hand and spoke to Koizumi.
“Let’s stop. It’s counter-productive for us to continue. Or rather, it’s troublesome.”
Koizumi readily agreed.
“I was thinking that it would get more exciting, but I suppose it would be difficult.”
He tapped his lower jaw as a genuine ironic smile appeared on his face.
I sat down on my own folding chair with a flop and spoke.
“It’s impudent of us to try and have a match of Karuta with our level of education and cultural appreciation. Let’s only do it after we’ve honed our memory a little more.”
I’ve played all sorts of board games and card games with Koizumi already, but probably having run out of ideas, he brought a musty, old set of Hyakunin Isshu5 this time. We thought that having a match would be a good way of killing time, but as I mentioned earlier, both of us hadn’t memorized the poems, so we unobjectionably fell into the predicament of acting like amateurish amateurs, only able to start searching for the card after the latter half of the phrase had been spoken.
To be precise, the only phrase I somehow remembered was “In this calm and peaceful spring sun, the flowers are falling without calm mind”, and for some reason it was the same for Koizumi. I’d set my eyes on that target because it was the only one I could secure, but I frankly lost a lot of motivation when it was snatched up by that guy. Moreover, while it warmed my heart to listen to Asahina-san’s cute mistakes, they did nothing to help the progress of the game go unhindered. In other words, since the reader and the players were not well-prepared, continuing any further would be an insult to Fujiwara no Teika6.
If we are playing again in the future, perhaps we should try it with Tsutsui Yasutaka’s Ura-Ogura7. I would be way more interesting, would make us split our sides laughing, and would undoubtedly bring excitement to this club room. If you don’t know about it, you should definitely give it a read. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh. Since there’s a copy of Babbling Creation Chronicles8 mixed in one section of the bookshelves in the club room, I’m sure Nagato agrees too, though I don’t think we’ll be able to see her actually laugh.
Koizumi played around with the card in his hand for a while, then sighed lightly as he placed it back on the table and began collecting the rest of the scattered cards.
Observing those clearly reluctant actions, I was seized with curiosity, and then I realized it. Digging up all my memories over the past year, I realized that I didn’t have any memories of losing in a card game to Koizumi9.
In that card-searching battle earlier, Koizumi, being in the lead, had a good chance of winning.
Basically, I could have suffered my first defeat on my record against Koizumi in all our zero-sum games to kill time in the club room.
I sipped Asahina-san’s diligently-prepared tea as I tried to discern his expression, but the mysterious transfer student of the SOS Brigade returned to his usual outer appearance as a man of gentle manners and spoke with a smile while gathering the cards.
“How about this? Since we have this set of cards, how about playing a game of Old Priest10? With Asahina-san, of course. Will you join us, Nagato-san?”
“No.” Nagato responded instantly, but only moved her fingertip to flip to the next page.
Mikuru handed Koizumi the bundle of picture cards with a quizzical expression on her face.
“Old…… what? Priest…… is that male? …… Ah, a monk! You’re talking about a Buddhist monk, right?”
Having somehow resolved her gap in knowledge as a temporal foreigner, Asahina-san gave a radiant smile.
“There are many different kinds of house rules, but let us use the normal rules this time.”
As Koizumi explained the rules, I looked at the empty chief’s desk.
After the end-of-class bell had rung, she had forced her bag onto me, cried out “I’ll go ahead first!” like a gaudy bird from the southern countries and swept away from the classroom like a whirlwind, but I wasn’t particularly interested in where our brigade chief, Haruhi Suzumiya, was and what she was doing.
That was because I thoroughly understood by now that it didn’t matter at all whether I was interested or cared about it. I would become pointlessly tired if I fussed about it while nothing was happening, so I would rather be tired only after that something had happened. Anyway, there was an infinitesimal chance that nothing would actually happen. Yep, it’s pretty good sophistry even for myself.
While Koizumi was shuffling the deck, one card inadvertently escaped from his grip, slipped onto the table and slid to the area in front of me. Lucky me, it’s a card with a maiden on it.
It seems that spring is over and summer has come, for the white robes,
So it is said, are spread to dry on Mt. Amanokagu.
The cherry blossom trees had already turned green and melted into the mountain scenery long ago, but we could still feel the chilly elements of the wind and conclude that summer was still relatively far away, probably because the school was situated in the middle of a mountain hiking course.
We were about two months into our second year of high school and the month of May was giving a last spurt to the finish line. Today, at any rate, the SOS Brigade was operating as per normal.
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- A kind of bright pink mollusc.
- Voice actor jargon for a high-pitched, cute-sounding voice.
- A type of green tea prepared by infusing the processed whole tea leaves in hot water.
- As you have probably observed, they are playing Karuta, a game in which one person reads out a phrase (usually from a poem) and other players search through a bunch of cards for the one bearing the last few lines of that phrase.
- Karuta cards based on Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a classical Japanese anthology of one hundred poems by one hundred poets.
- The poet who compiled the Hyakunin Isshu.
- There isn’t a lot of information about this, but I believe it’s a collection of poems written in classical form by Tsutsui Yasutaka, replete with dark humour and satire.
- An anthology which includes ‘Ura-Ogura’.
- This might be a little confusing for people who remember Koizumi always beating Kyon at games like Othello in the anime, but Koizumi is described as being bad at board and card games in the light novel.
- Old maid played with Karuta cards.