Seven Wonders Overtime (Part 6)

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Seven wonders overtime – Part 6

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Seven wonders overtime

Koizumi stopped flipping the printouts at a particular page.

“This could be useful. An anatomical model of the human body that starts moving at night.”

Why is it that whenever we come to the topic of humanoid figures, you always want them to move on their own?

“A dummy wandering around the school at night…… would be too orthodox, I suppose.”

I feel like I’ve been gradually getting desensitized, but this does seem to be lacking in appeal.

Perhaps the dummy could run 500 rounds on the 400-meter track, or do shooting practice in the handball court?

……No, that still won’t do. It feels like it won’t be particularly interesting no matter what we make it do.

As I thought about what we could make the dummy do while sensing that our discussion was going in the wrong direction, Koizumi removed multiple sheets of paper from the pile of printouts.

“Do you know if our school has any human anatomical models?”

Yeah, the one that looks really gross. Whenever I’m moving between classrooms, I sometimes see it in the Biology Classroom. It’s an object you can’t call handsome even if you were trying to give it a compliment, with its muscles, internal organs and blood vessels all in plain sight, as well as the way it stares at you with its lidless, googly eyes while it stands dead still. I somehow find it humorous, probably due to the psychological effect where you can’t help but laugh when you’re right in the trajectory of a blood splatter..

“That dummy apparently isn’t present all of the time.”

Since it’s placed in a corner of the classroom, it’s true that I don’t happen to see it all the time either, or are you referring to something else?

“The Mystery Research Society’s compilation of data documents an incident of great interest.”

An incident, you say?

“Yes, according to them, there is currently a mystery regarding the anatomical model in the Biology Classroom of North High. Or as they called it, ‘The Terror of the Moving Dummy’. It’s exactly as its title suggests.”

Hey, wait a minute. They said that North High doesn’t have Seven Wonders, but there’s actually at least one Wonder?

“That’s because the Mystery Society considers this case as just an instance of everyday mysteries. In other words, they don’t think of it as occult, but believe that there’s a proper trick behind it.”

What is the incident about, then?

“This is all according to Miss Mystery Society’s report.”

Don’t rip off my way of referring to her. But Koizumi ignored me and continued with a smile.

“One morning, a girl from the Sweets Association opened the door to the Home Economics Classroom, when—”

Hang on. Leaving aside the fact that this is my first time hearing of the Sweets Association, why is the girl going to the Home Economics Classroom early in the morning?

“The Sweets Association usually holds their activities in the Home Economics Classroom after school, but they headed to the room early that day to prepare for sweets that they were going to make later on. By the way, they were going to make bavarois1 and other sweets. Also, I hear that the Sweets Association is a circle that branched out from the Home Economics Club.”

Not interested.

“The girl was hurrying to place the ingredients in the room’s refrigerator. Just when she forcefully opened the door to the classroom—”

Koizumi took a brief pause.

“She found herself face-to-face with the anatomical dummy, which was waiting near the entrance. Just as their noses were about to touch, the girl immediately turned tail, having forgotten how to scream, and callously abandoned the bavarois ingredients, which became unusable afterwards. The girl later commented that she regretted doing that, above all else.”

So the dummy walked from the Biology Classroom to the Home Economics Classroom overnight, and stood still to frighten people coming into its new room? That sounds a little like a supernatural tale already, doesn’t it?

“There’s still more to the story. The victim ran to the staff room as fast as her legs could carry her, and told her story to a teacher who had happened to get to work early. The two of them then returned to the Home Economics Classroom, but the dummy that had terrified the girl was nowhere to be found.”

And then?

“The two of them headed to the Biology Classroom, since that was where the dummy belonged to. They rushed into the classroom, and what they saw was—”

Enough with the suspense.

“The anatomical dummy was standing languorously at its original position, as per normal, as if nothing had happened.”

It must have dashed or teleported back, I suppose. I wonder what exactly it went to the Home Economics Classroom for, though.

“Oh, there was something related to that line of enquiry.” Koizumi flipped through the pages of the material. “Three fillets of fish were left on the counter. The fish meat was identified as that of horse mackerel.”

The dummy wasn’t trying to prepare some deep-fried horse mackerel for breakfast when it got interrupted, right?

“That is correct. In fact, the model has appeared unexpectedly at other locations.”

A case of serial terrorizing incidents perpetrated by a moving anatomical dummy, huh.

“About two weeks after that incident, a girl in the basketball team went to the gymnasium early in the morning for practice, and found herself to be the first to arrive by some chance. She promptly started preparing, opening the door to the storeroom, when—”

She saw the dummy standing at attention, correct?”

“Brilliant deduction. The first person to the scene, the basketball club member later testified with an antiquated phrase, that she was ‘paralyzed with fear’. However, there is one point that differs from the case in the Home Economics Classroom.”

Koizumi turned to the second page of the report.

“In this case, the dummy did not disappear. Since other basketball club members showed up at the gymnasium, it might not have had the chance to escape. The female basketball team went to the Biology Classroom, accompanied by a teacher who happened to be in school early, and naturally found that the human model was not there. Having no choice, the members proactively installed the creepy invader back in the Biology Room, and cursed the unknown person who had played a prank on them.”

They thought that it was a prank? Well, I suppose it’s understandable. Did it stop at the second incident?

“There is a third incident, as well as photographic evidence of it.”

Koizumi continued without altering his tone.

“The next incident was after school, after the sun had set. According to the testimony of a News Society member, their work had gone on for a long time, so they were heading home fairly late. They were walking down the corridor when they noticed a figure moving in a classroom of the school building opposite them. Thinking that something fishy might be going on, they stopped to look on at the classroom, and observed that the figure was not wearing a uniform. Straining their eyes to see if the figure was stark naked—”

Yes, yes, it was the dummy.

“The Newspaper Society member was in a dilemma, but in the end he2 couldn’t find the courage to go near the classroom. However, he didn’t forget to click on the shutter button of the mobile phone in his hand. His next course of action was to immediately go to the Staff Room and run over to the Biology Classroom with a teacher who happened to be still present.”

Was it there, or was it not there?

“It was there. Seeing that the anatomical model was not missing from the Biology Classroom, the News Society member couldn’t believe his eyes. He hypothesized that in the time he took to get to the Biology Classroom after first witnessing the model, which was no longer than a few minutes, some unknown person had carried the model back to the Biology Classroom without being seen by anyone else and had escaped afterward.”

“This is the photo,” Koizumi said as he handed me the printout.

The subject was far away, the image was grainy, the photographers’ hands had been shaking, and the photo was printed cheaply using a color printer, so I wouldn’t be able to recognize the anatomical dummy if I hadn’t been told about it. It would be difficult to decide if this can be taken as evidence.

But Koizumi spoke again before I could ask my question.

“There is no fourth incident recorded in the report. That is all.”

So, what about Miss Mystery Society’s deduction?

Koizumi turned the pages of the report forward and backward, skimming through the text, but it was a fruitless attempt.

“There is nothing like that documented in the papers. I suppose it gives off the impression that they just left it as an unsolved problem.”

Hmph. I feel kind of cheated.

“By what?”

There are various aspects, but to put it simply, by two main points. The first is naturally the contents of the story, and the second is the reason why Miss Mystery Society forwarded this mystery to us. You would probably say the same too.

“Yes, well, there are a few key points.”

It’s exactly as you say. One unnatural point in the Mystery Society’s report is the key, or the object that unlocks doors. Whether it’s the Biology Classroom, Home Economics Classroom or the equipment storeroom, all these locations should have been locked. A student who is the first to reach the location early in the morning should have to unlock the door, while the last student to leave a room after sunset will have to lock it before heading home. However, there were no such actions detailed in the story. Did you miss those points, Koizumi?

“No.”

That means it would be appropriate to assume that the Mystery Society intentionally skipped over those details.

To be precise, there is no mistake that the culprit who moved the human model here and there must have at least been able to open and close the doors of the Biology Classroom, the Home Economics Classroom, as well as the equipment storeroom in the gymnasium.

“That narrows the list of suspects.”

And another thing. In each of the three stories, there was a teacher who ‘happened’ to be in the staff room. Were they all the same person?

“Their names were not stated, so it is unclear as to whether that is true. The report was written in an ambiguous style that can be interpreted in a number of ways. However, the mystery of the keys would be immediately resolved if that teacher was the perpetrator’s accomplice. It would be far more natural than making a master key for each location.”

One more point that I’m almost certain about is that there were two dummies.

“How did you get to that conclusion?”

“If not for that, then we would have no choice but to admit that we live in a world where teleportation is possible.”

Considering the first case, the dummy that the girl from the Sweets Association saw when she visited the Home Economics Classroom early in the morning was a separate one from the dummy originally in the Biology Classroom. The same thing can be said of the dummy that the News Society member witnessed late after school in the third case. It was a plan such that no matter how speedy the victims were, they could never catch the dummy in the act of being absent from the Biology Classroom. It would have been good enough for the perpetrator to put away the dummy after seeing the witnesses leave the scene.

“Where would they put it away? It’s not something small that can be hidden easily.”

I’m not that sure, but I believe that a human anatomical model can be broken up. After separating it into its different parts, it can probably be stored in a few large sports bags. It would be easy with multiple perpetrators working together.

“I agree. The second case with the Basketball Club was to camouflage that fact, I suppose. They decided to move and use the actual dummy in the Biology Classroom for that instance. They threw in some misdirection so that people wouldn’t notice that there were two dummies.”

I think there’s another purpose for that, too.

“What do you mean?”

Out of the three cases of dummy terrorism, the only one in which something resembling a motive can be speculated is the case in the Home Economics Room. You mentioned that the Sweets Association separated from the Home Economics Club and became an independent circle. Of course, both of their club activities are carried out in the Home Economics Classroom, and it’s possible that some dispute transpired from having different groups using the same location. That could have even caused the separation itself in the first place.

Anyway, it isn’t unthinkable that some or all of the Home Economics Club blew a fuse and committed a crime to threaten the Sweets Association.

“Since they’re working in the same room, it is indeed easy to hear if someone is heading to the room early the next day. But how do you explain the three fillets of horse mackerel?”

I think it could have been left there by the Home Economics Club to warn the victims, by hinting that they were the ones who did it. If not, then it’s just a meaningless prank.

“Where did they get the imitation model from, I wonder?”

They probably bought a used dummy off a net auction or something. Also, another point to note is that they could have thought of a series of incidents once they completed the process of obtaining the dummy.

“If the first case was for their main goal, the second a cover-up to mask the truth, then the third was……”

A reminder to emphasize the occultism of the dummy. To people who believe in spirits, monsters and apparitions, a moving doll would be a topic of prime importance. The victim, that girl from the Sweets Association, might have been such a person. Another big point is that the witness was from the Newspaper Club, whether that was a coincidence or not. There’s no other incident more reportable than this one, after all.

“Hahah, so you’re saying that the first case was an act of mischief by some people, while the second and third incidents were tricks to continue the story centered around the strange dummy, cause a larger uproar about it, and make everyone gradually more afraid of the dummy, right? That’s a very well-thought deduction.”

“It wasn’t me who thought about it, but the Mystery Club.”

But Koizumi’s smile did not have a single hint of doubt.

“You’ve also realized it already, haven’t you?”

“I wonder.”

Don’t give me that. Listen. There is no record of the date when the Dummy Terror incident occurred. I don’t know exactly when, but I’m at least sure that it did not happen since we enrolled into this school. There’s no way that Haruhi wouldn’t be able to sniff out such a kerfuffle if it happened. On top of that, I’m almost certain that this event did not transpire in the past. That’s because this is a supernatural tale of this school, or one of the Seven Wonders that Haruhi is looking for, isn’t it? Even if you call this a horror-based mystery story rather than a Wonder, if the Mystery Society had documented this in their files, they would have told Haruhi about it when she asked in the afternoon.

“Basically, this is a fictional incident written by the Mystery Society.”

I concluded.

“It was probably a rush job by the chairman-senpai and his subordinates. They started composing it after Haruhi’s carrier pigeon brought them the problem, completed it after school, then had the same carrier bring the story over. It was meant as a truth-finding quiz for Haruhi.”

You did mention that they didn’t think of it as occult, but as a problem with a trick behind it, Koizumi.

“So they mixed in an occult-style school mystery they composed themselves together with the material on the Seven Wonders. That’s quite a mischievous stunt, don’t you think? Anyway, when did you realize that the episode was just a literary creation?”

I suppose it would be when I noticed that descriptions of the keys were nowhere to be found. If you clearly state that it’s a locked room, any idiot will start by doubting the teachers in the staff room who have freedom to use the keys. The answer is just straight after that point.

Well, it’s also possible that my deduction was off the mark and it was simply too troublesome to write about the locking and unlocking of each door, or perhaps it would have thrown off the story reading tempo.

“It’s quite amazing that they managed to fabricate something like this in such a short time. They even managed to prepare a photograph.”

If you’re talking about fabrications, then there’s also the Sweets Association. There’s no way that such a circle can conveniently exist. Let us just be impressed with the leaps and bounds that photo-editing technology has taken in recent times.

“But now we have a problem.”

Koizumi placed an index finger straight on his eyebrow.

“If this is the Mystery Society’s challenge to Haruhi, you’ve just rendered the challenge obsolete. What should we do now, I wonder?”

Ah, I didn’t think about that.

“My answer might not be the final truth. There could be many layers and unexpected twists to the story, and I might have just been played for a fool. We can expect Haruhi to turn everything upside down in an absurd manner.”

“If Suzumiya-san asks, please reveal your deduction again.”

The Terror of the Moving Dummy – For details, please refer to the report obtained from the Mystery Society.

Finally tired of seeing Koizumi’s effeminate face as he wrote a note with omitted details, I looked to the side.

I was thinking that it was really quiet, when I noticed something.

“……Suu.”

With both elbows firmly on the table and her well-shaped chin supported by her folded arms, Asahina-san was dozing off.

“…………”

On the other hand, Nagato had already dove into the sixth volume of the juvenile paranormal story series she was reading.

That might have been their own ways of displaying their boredom.

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  1. Also known as Bavarian cream, Bavarois is a dessert consisting of milk thickened with eggs and gelatin, into which whipped cream is folded.
  2. Just like for Miss Mystery Society member, this person’s gender is only revealed in this paragraph.

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