Seven Wonders Overtime (Part 3)

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Seven wonders overtime – Part 3

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Seven wonders overtime

Our SOS Brigade Chief had yet to appear. It was a stroke of good luck that she didn’t meet the eccentric Miss Mystery Society.

“I should think so too. Thanks to that, we managed to gain some time.”

Seeing Koizumi’s triumphant expression, I asked.

“What time?”

“Some time to think about the Seven Wonders of this high school, of course. Before Suzumiya-san’s seven strange phenomena can drive North High into a state of disorder, we have to work out plans to mitigate them.”

I suppose we can’t leave them be.

“If it’s something like cherry blossoms going into full bloom in autumn, we can explain it away as the result of the Earth’s unstable climate. However, if the pigeons at the shrine were to turn into supposedly-extinct passenger pigeons and get discovered, biologists would faint.”

So it’s the same situation as when we were shooting the movie, huh.

And thus, us four members hurriedly held an emergency meeting.

I wonder how many times we’ve held SOS Brigade meetings without Haruhi. Although I suppose this is the first time we’re doing it in the club room.

While Asahina-san refilled everyone’s tea, we had Nagato join us at the long table from her fixed position at the corner of the room. She reached for a children’s horror story from Miss Mystery Society’s pile of materials and started reading it silently.

At any rate, I wonder why there are so many paranormal stories and folklore in Miss Mystery Society’s collection. Has the Mystery Society been infiltrated by a Horror spy?

“Horror and Mystery are like two sides of a coin, after all.”

While inspecting the books brought over by the sudden guest, Koizumi explained.

“If a ghost does turn out to be a ghost, then that story would be treated as horror, but if it turns out to be just withered flowers or a weeping willow and only looked like a ghost by some sort of optical illusion, the story would just be mere gossip. The process of applying real world common sense to these horror-esque phenomena and explaining it within the bounds of reason is a structure unique to orthodox mysteries. Dickson Carr1, for instance, gained recognition through expert use of that style.”

You should have brought out this topic when that person was here. You would have probably left a deep impression.

“I felt that it would turn out to be a lengthy mystery discussion, so I restrained myself.”

My head would probably start hurting if you talked to me in that tone for a long time.

“Here.”

Asahina-san went around distributing tea to the three of us from a tray, then returned to her seat. Koizumi expressed his thanks and continued with his explanation.

“I said this last year while we were shooting the movie, but in short, we have to prepare some reasoning such that the principles our world was built on will not be altered.”

Could you tell us again what that means specifically?

“There is a perfectly fitting example in the material that your classmate brought, so let us take a look.”

Koizumi retrieved a book from the pile. It was a hard cover edition of Kokon Chomonjū.

“This is a collection of stories compiled during the Kamakura period2. The author, Tachibana no Narisue, recorded numerous incidents that he heard and witnessed. It is valuable literature for learning the manners and customs, as well as the background of that era.”

Well, classical literature isn’t my strong suit.

“There is one well-known episode out of the incidents chronicled in Kokon Chomonjū. In fact, it’s a horror-esque mystery. According to that story, a bizarre murder transpired, and it was apparently committed by a demon.”

“It should be around here,” Koizumi muttered as he flipped through the pages to search for the correct passage, and eventually his hard work paid off.

“This is it. The title is ‘8th month, 3rd year3, Ninna era4, Apparition at the pine grove east of the Budokuden5’.”

The only thing I can recall about that period is the High Priest of Ninna-ji6.

“According to the author, it was an event that occurred on the 17th of August, Year 887, if we’re using the Gregorian calendar. Three court ladies were walking on the street at night, when a man of attractive face and figure appeared, grabbed one lady by the hand and invited her to join him by the shade of a tree.

I guess even overbearing flirters existed back in the Heian era.

“The man and woman were deep in talk, but before long, their voices suddenly stopped. Thinking that something suspicious had happened, the two other ladies peered into the darkness, but all they saw was the limbs of a woman scattered around.”

A mutilation murderer, huh.

“In a panic, the two court ladies ran to the area where guards were stationed. After hearing the details of the story, the guards rushed over to the crime location, and they observed that indeed, only the limbs remained. The head and torso were nowhere to be found, and neither was the man.”

It is certainly bizarre that the murderer took away a part, or rather, a large part of the body. So, that man—

“Yes, the people at the time apparently thought that it had to be the work of a demon; that the man was an apparition taking the form of a man; that there was no doubt a demon had committed the gruesome crime.”

What happened afterward?

“The record of the incident stops here. What happened afterward is another story. However, in the same month of that same year, many strange events were reported, like numerous earthquakes hitting the imperial capital, as well as attacks of large swarms of winged ants and herons.”

Koizumi might have said all that casually, but it must have really tough on those people living in Kyoto in the past, especially when they didn’t have insecticide and anti-bird nets. We still get earthquakes today, however, and thinking normally, they shouldn’t have anything to do with murders.

Koizumi continued with his impromptu lecture.

“Broadly speaking, there are two conclusions we can draw from this. First, we consider the case if the perpetrator is really a demon. If that is so, then there is no problem leaving it as is. The Heian period was a world where human-eating demons or non-humans existed, and fantastic beings were rampant in the streets.”

That’s a Heian era I’ve only seen in games.

“Second, in the case that the perpetrator is not a demon, then that means that a human did it. This can be further split into multiple explanations. One such explanation is that there was a bizarre killer who mutilated women’s bodies and collected their heads and torsos in the capital at that time.”

Even so, the murder was exceptionally quick, the body was horribly mutilated, the killer escaped with the head and torso, and there was a lack of eyewitness testimony after the crime. These facts point to the work of a non-human.

“Another possible answer is that the murderers were the two court ladies who ‘survived’. For some reason, they collaborated and killed the victim. However, the head and torso of the victim could be taken as evidence against them. For instance, there could have been multiple knife wounds, pointing to a woman’s weak hand. Having no other choice, the murderers chopped off the limbs of the victim, dumped the head and torso, then reported the murder.”

Koizumi gave a faint smile and continued.

“The testimony was outside the bounds of conventional knowledge, and the crime scene was even more abnormal. It wasn’t unreasonable for people to think, ‘Good Heavens! This must be the work of a demon!’ and jump to that conclusion. In any case, no matter how you thought about it, it couldn’t have been the work of a human, just as you concluded.”

I feel like I’ve been artfully made to be a cat’s paw7.

“Well, drawing that conclusion would certainly make all the contradictions disappear.”

Koizumi lifted the teacup that had his name written on it.

“The best part about this deduction is that it does not allow for bizarre murderers or even demons to exist. The world is not fantastic, and we can say that the deduction fits with the reality that we know.”

Sipping the steaming hot green tea, he continued.

“With the common point of demons, let me introduce another story from this book.”

Koizumi was on a roll. Once again, he took great pains to search for the page destination with an analogue style.

“Ah, here it is. ‘7th month, Year 1, Jōan period8, Landing of demon vessel on a remote island in Izunokuni’. That title states the content of the story.”

He’s still going on? Even when I’m so bad with classical literature. I would like to be spared from this already, but he isn’t just venting his frustration of not being able to use the Seven Wonders as a pretext to have a discussion about mysteries, right?

“The main difference between this story and the earlier one about the bizarre murder is that instead of ending with the deduction that the man was probably a demon, it starts by saying from the beginning that a demon did come.”

Asahina-san was listening attentively. With her ability to look good from any angle, she could represent Japan in the International Maid Symposium.

On the other hand, there was no guarantee that Nagato was listening at all. However, I realized that she was reading the second volume of children’s horror stories with her usual silent demeanor. Was she perhaps interested?

I informed Koizumi about that and told him to bear it in mind as he told an abridged version of the story.

“In July, Year 1171 CE, a vessel drifted and landed on an island in Izu. The inhabitants of the island thought that it was a wrecked vessel and went to examine it, but about eight demons disembarked onto the island. The islanders offered them wine, upon which they drank and ate like horses. However, as it was written, ‘The demons produced nary a sound from their mouths9’, meaning that they did not speak a single word. They looked like demons, but they were merely eight or nine feet10, had hair like that of yaksha11, tattoos on their red-black skin, eyes that were round like that of monkeys, wore only straw skirts, and held poles of approximately six or seven feet in length.”

I’m kind of curious as to why the islanders were not scared of the demons.

“Eventually, they expressed their desire for a bow owned by the islanders, but the islanders refused. Enraged, the demons instantly roared and started attacking the people on the island. Five were killed, and four suffered heavy injuries. The demons were shooting fire from their armpits, so the people were planning to fight them off using the sacred bow, but the demons returned to the sea, got onto their vessel; and sailed off into the distance. At that moment, a demon dropped a sash off the side of the vessel, and that sash is now kept in Rengeō-in, or by its current name, Sanjūsangen-dō12.”

Just a thought after listening to the story, but the demons didn’t really seem like demons. The only things fitting the image in my mind were the straw skirts.

“Indeed. Evidently, this was an event that really happened, and Kujō Kanezane13 documented the daimyo of Izunokuni delivering such a report to the imperial court. Kujō Kanezane stated that the things who had floated to the island were ‘some sort of savages’, and deduced that they were citizens of a neighboring country.”

Isn’t that the right deduction? Those ‘demons’ didn’t seem to have horns or unnecessarily sharp teeth, and if they were real demons, the people living on the island would have been too afraid to approach them, let alone offer them wine.

“Yes, it is normal to explain the vessel to be one drifting from another country, due to a typhoon or something like that. It would also be valid to think that they ‘ate and drank like horses’ because they were starving from being adrift at sea for a long time. Afterwards, the dispute which led to the killing and harming of islanders was naturally caused by the visitors not being able to speak or understand the Japanese language, or in other words, it was a miscommunication between Japanese locals and foreigners.”

So what was that about them shooting fire from their armpits?

“The description of the ‘demons’ gave the nuance that they came from somewhere in Polynesia, so it might have been recorded that they had pine torches used for fire dancing.”

Koizumi said in a joking tone.

“Unlike the story of the mutilation murder earlier, this story isn’t that strange if the subjects were not demons. There were eyewitnesses to everything they did from start to finish, and their actions were within the bounds of human knowledge. The foreigners who had drifted onto the island suddenly realized that since they had committed acts of violence, they could not stay any longer, so they went back to their vessel and left.”

I suppose that even the people of the past didn’t easily believe that demons had appeared after hearing about it, without thinking about it for themselves.

“In fact, I don’t think there is a big difference between then and now.”

Koizumi lightly flipped through the well-thumbed pages of the collection again.

“Something of great interest is the preface to the 27th chapter, titled ‘Apparitions’. As the author wrote, ‘By undergoing innumerable transformations, apparitions mislead humans and misappropriate their trust.’ Apparitions, or in particular, demons are on the top of the list of monsters. The author intentionally highlighted his belief that monsters appear in various forms to deceive humans, and that groups of such mysterious beings did exist. This means that people from eight hundred years in the past did doubt the existence of demons, and these people were in a much more advantageous position compared to us in the distant future.”

It’s not very convincing coming from you, given that I’m seen you turning into a ball of light before, even though I’m not sure if that counts as ‘innumerable transformations’.

Seeing that Koizumi had closed the hard cover and placed it back on the table, I concluded that he had reached a break in his talk, and for the sake of simplicity, I asked him about what he really wanted to say through his lengthy lecture about supernatural tales of the past and whatnot.

“Basically, following that logic of yours, no matter what kind of Seven Wonders Haruhi comes up with, we can cause them to be no longer mysterious if we forcefully treat them as optical illusions, information of uncertain rumors, or false testimony, right?”

“That’s a simple way to put it.”

Say, for instance, that an elasmosaurus14 appears in the school’s swimming pool late at night. If it raises its long neck, disturbs residents nearby with a deafening roar and on top of that, is seen by everyone, is it even possible to treat all their testimony as optical illusions?

“I plan to push through with that course of action,” Koizumi strongly asserted. “If it does come to that.”

Even if countless photos and videos of the full incident are recorded and spread on the internet?

“It’s easy to alter image data nowadays. We could just take them to be CG that’s really well done.”

You’ve gotten able to say this kind of thing, huh. It feels like you’re steadily getting swayed by Haruhi’s style of thinking.

I shook my head like a person exposed to the sun.

“I don’t think Haruhi will be satisfied with that.”

“Is that so?”

In fact, we might be moving towards a set of large-scale, transcendental Wonders that leave no room to be interpreted and are clearly understood by everyone to be insanely strange phenomena, accompanied by a large sense of realism that we cannot explain away.

“That would indeed be troubling.”

As I thought, we should think about ways to prevent Haruhi from causing bizarre phenomena, rather than finding the point of compromise and giving them realistic interpretations after they’ve occurred.

Koizumi replied, seemingly relieved.

“It would be optimal if we could achieve that, but what should we do?”

We should flip our thinking. Instead of dealing with whatever Haruhi comes up with, we should create the Wonders by ourselves beforehand. It would be a great plan to claim that North High already has Seven Wonders and tell Haruhi what they are to shut her up.

“What do we do if Haruhi reject them?”

If we’re going that far, it’ll be a gamble. However, I believe that the Seven Wonders we think of ourselves and present to Haruhi will not be refused by her outright.

“So we’ll bet on that possibility, then?”

Koizumi freed a bunch of photocopying paper pinned under the hardcover of Kokon Chomonjū and handed it to me.

“The materials that your classmate, that outstandingly talented exchange student in the Mystery Society, brought in might prove to be useful.”

There were more than ten sheets of paper with printouts from what seemed to be a haphazard collection of websites, enumerating many paranormal stories of the school. Now let us gratefully consult all this information.

“But, then again……”

Is it alright to have a meeting discussing the measures to take against Haruhi right here? The person in question could burst in at the next moment.

Koizumi’s eyes flew rapidly to his mobile phone.

“Rest assured, I am constantly updated about Suzumiya-san’s location. She will not appear in the club room for a while longer.”

Did you place a GPS tracer on Haruhi?

“Well, members of our Agency are, so to speak, pros of Suzumiya-san to a certain extent. It goes without saying that we wouldn’t use such a simple measure.”

What a boastful way of putting it.

“Moreover, external helpers of the Agency in the school are not limited to the Student Council President. If need be, we can even delay her, using peaceful methods, naturally.”

I know. I know that you and those other red balls of light are like tranquilizers to Haruhi’s mentality. I wouldn’t think of doubting you now of all times.

I tossed the copies onto the long table.

“Then, let us begin the meeting to decide on North High’s Seven Wonders in earnest.”

“Alright!”

Only Asahina-san offered me applause, as expected of the mascot girl that our club prides itself on, as well as the club room’s exclusive maid and my personal source of therapy, causing a little warmth to exude from my heart.

 

“Umm, by the way……”

Asahina-san looked at me and Koizumi in turn.

“Um, are the Wonders scary stories?”

Have we used it in any other context?

“Since it’s the Seven Wonders, I thought it had to be something like the historical structures that existed on Earth in the past.”

What do you think of Koizumi’s excessive explanation of those old stories?

“There was a story of Kyoto in the distant past, right? I recall that Kyoto has been recognized as a historical relic from then till now, but……”

So that’s how it’s recognized by someone from the future.

Then what about the second story?

“The story of the island of demons……”

Speaking of the incidents in Tokyo and the island of demons as a separate class, the majority of people would think about the Seven Wonders of the World when told about the Seven Wonders. You know, like the Colossus of Rhodes and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I don’t think Miss Mystery Society, who displayed such expert vocal mimicry earlier, misheard Haruhi’s words, so Seven Wonders of School was probably correct. Then again, we’re talking about Haruhi here. There is a chance that she might suddenly get into a different mood and jump over to Seven Wonders of the World.

“If that does happen, this year’s summer training camp will be held overseas.”

The tint in Koizumi’s eyes showed that he was calculating exactly how much the travel fees would cost, as he stared into space.

The only Wonder that still exists to this day is the pyramids, so Haruhi might propose finding the remaining six Wonders, and then she might dig them up for real. I haven’t asked about her plans for the future, but wouldn’t archaeology be a natural calling for her?

“I would not recommend that.”

Why not?

“Please imagine what would happen if a stone Suzumiya-san inadvertently picks up turns out to have hieroglyphics depicting the true reason behind the construction of the pyramids.”

It would be the biggest discovery of the century, wouldn’t it? I would be happy, as a member of the human race.

“And what if that stone’s contents do not bode well for mankind?”

What would happen?

“I have no idea. Well, we will make preparations to deal with that, if it ever happens. Anyway, let us get back to the school’s Seven Wonders for now.”

Koizumi cut back into the main topic.

“First, what do you think when you first hear about supernatural stories of the school?”

I replied without thinking.

“The statue of Ninomiya Kinjirō15, I suppose.”

I picked up one of the papers Miss Mystery Society brought and gave it a cursory glance.

“According to those guys’ research data, it turns out to be the first or second of almost every school’s Seven Wonders. It seems to be the staple of staple Wonders.”

Although the original moving story involved Kinjirō reading while walking to his workplace, it did not manage to withstand the currents of time, and I hear that he is now being depicted as sitting down and reading. I’m fine with that, but another problem surfaced.

“Does our school have such a statue?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“If there isn’t one, then there wouldn’t be a mystery about that statue, right?”

“However, as you said, Suzumiya-san probably thinks that the class of paranormal tales involving a Ninomiya Kinjirō statue is indispensable.”

So what?

“If she strongly believes that one of the Seven Wonders must be the Ninomiya statue, then one such statue would appear somewhere in North High. It will even have deteriorated over time and have considerable presence, as if it had been there since the school’s establishment.”

How great it would be if even more equipment would spontaneously appear. Air-conditioning units for each class, for instance.

“If you were Suzumiya-san, what strange phenomena would you think a Ninomiya Kinjirō statue would have?”

I thought for a moment.

“The statue would fly around in the sky every night in a Superman pose, and then explain that it’s tired of always being in the same posture and needs to deal with its lack of exercise.”

“That is certainly an eclectic idea that Suzumiya-san would have. I expected nothing less from you.”

It doesn’t feel like I’ve just been praised.

“Let our starting point be a flying Ninomiya Kinjirō statue. Our main objective, then, is to figure out how much we can play the supernatural tale down. Commonly known stories include the eyes on the statue glowing, the statue changing directions, waving its hand, the number of pages in its book decreasing, the quantity of logs changing, and so on.”

Ninomiya Kinjirō does unexpectedly normal things in the supernatural tales, huh.

“All of them are on the level where we can treat them as optical illusions. Shall we choose one of them, then?”

Koizumi wrote a note on a brand new A4 photocopying paper with penmanship that was far from skillful. Who’s the SOS Brigade’s secretary again? All I remember is that this guy’s the Deputy Chief.

I shook my head.

“Haruhi probably wouldn’t be satisfied with something so conventional. Let’s try twisting it a little more. Asahina-san, what would you make Ninomiya Kinjirō do?”

The time traveler in the maid outfit blinked in surprise.

“That person is a bronze statue, right? Can that move? What kind of mechanism does it have?”

No, it’s strange for a statue made of bronze to be able to move.

“Ahh, I see! But does it have to be bronze? You can make metals with mobile properties move if you insert an actuator into them.”

If you’re going that far, it would become a kind of robot. As I wondered about how to get my explanation across to Asahina-san, Koizumi snapped his fingers.

“That’s a possible solution.”

You’re going by the logic that by giving the statue a mechanism, it wouldn’t be strange for it to move, right?

“No, that’s not it. It’s about the material of the statue. Bronze is an alloy, usually composed of……”

“85% copper, 5% tin, 5% zinc, 5% lead.”

The person who answered was Nagato, who didn’t take her eyes off the children’s book. She had been apparently listening to the conversation.

“What if that ratio changes once every year? For example, if it changes to 85% copper, 4.9% tin, 4.9% zinc, 5.2% lead, the statue would not undergo any visible change, but it would be quite strange, would it not?”

That’s a little weak for a Wonder. I thought for a moment, then replied.

“How about 84% copper, 4.5% tin, 4.5% zinc, 4.5% lead and 2% orichalcum?”

“I see, but isn’t that too much of a metal that didn’t exist? Would 85% copper, 5% tin, 5% zinc, 4% lead and 1% orichalcum be better?”

Why in the world are we selling the statue by the weight of metals in it?

“We seem to have reached quite a peaceable conclusion,” Koizumi remarked, satisfied. “There will be no harm even if this is made into a reality.”

I don’t think that it’s impossible for something crazy to happen if 1% of unidentified metal finds its way into the statue, but I can only pray that it’s a needless worry.

“That should be it for the first of the Seven Wonders.”

Koizumi jotted the necessary information down on his notebook.

Enigma of the Ninomiya Kinjirō statue – In the dead of a fully moonlit night, the statue’s composition changes from 85% bronze… (abbreviated for convenience) to … (likewise abbreviated), 1% orichalcum. It returns to its original composition when the sun rises.

He must have thought that it would be fitting to have the process happen in the middle of the night, but I have no objection to that shallow thinking.

Right, on to the next Wonder.

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  1. John Dickson Carr, an American author of detective fiction, with notable works like ‘The Hollow Man’ and ‘The Burning Court’. He is one of Nagaru Tanigawa’s favourite mystery authors. Read: Nagaru Tanigawa interviews Honobu Yonezawa.
  2. A period in Japanese history (1185-1333), known for the emergence of samurai and the establishment of feudalism in Japan.
  3. I left the date in this form because Japan didn’t use the Gregorian calendar until 1873.
  4. A short era that lasted from February 885 to April 889.
  5. A hall in the grounds of Heian palace, used mainly for viewing horse-racing in the palace.
  6. Such a character appeared in a passage in Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), a famous collection of essays written by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenkō.
  7. Refers to a person used unwittingly or unwillingly by another to accomplish the other’s own purpose.
  8. Yet another short era that lasted from April 1171 to July 1175.
  9. Just my little attempt to make the sentence sound archaic.
  10. This is in Japanese feet, which are 10/33 metres or 0.9942 normal feet.
  11. Buddhist guardian deities.
  12. A Buddhist temple in Kyoto.
  13. Also known as Fujiwara no Kanezane, he was a minister in the Heian and Kamakura periods.
  14. Aquatic dinosaurs with extremely long necks (about 7.1m long).
  15. Born in 1787, Kinjirō read books while delivering firewood as a boy and eventually became chief advisor of the Odawara domain. Statues of him are in almost every school in Japan to espouse the virtue of diligence.

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