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 of cards placed in front of her, then carefully flipped the card 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 the 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 Isshu 5 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.
Not intentionally waiting for Haruhi, who had still not arrived, Koizumi, Asahina-san and I started the completely luck-based game of Old Priest, but we didn’t get much time on that emotional roller-coaster.
No one had drawn the Old Priest yet, and consequently, we were still in the early phases of the game, with multiple cards in each player’s hand. We were competing to see whose luck would finally turn out to be the best, and the relaxed game that was fully dependent on the cards was starting to heat up, when—
Something struck near the door of the club room.
Asahina-san convulsed as if she had been suddenly bounded by chains11, then slowly turned her head to face the door.
Good gracious, that dull noise sounded like someone collided into the door with their shoulder instead of knocking on it.
This time, the sound came from the bottom of the door. I don’t know who was there, but it seemed that our visitor possessed eccentric habits like knocking on the door with the tip of their toenails right after tackling into it. And that person apparently had some business with the SOS Brigade. Such bizarre characters tend to be somewhat rare.
If it wasn’t the Computer Research Society from next door, begging for Nagato to teach them programming, it could be Kimidori-san, Sakanaka, or our third client, whoever that may be. Another possibility was that the Student Council President, who was associated with Koizumi’s agency, was visiting to find fault with our alibis or something. Tsuraya-san wouldn’t bother knocking and Haruhi would just barge right in. I was deep in thought as I considered the possibilities.
Knock knock knock.
The shoe knocker was starting to have an irritated rhythm.
Asahina-san hurriedly stood up, fluffed her apron-skirt and put her hand on the doorknob. She then opened the door, and was met with a question from the person on the other side of the doorframe.
“Alright, is Haru in?”
Looking at the figure that asked the unexpectedly sociable question, the mystery of the unnatural knocks was solved. That person was holding a mountain of books, files and papers which occupied both their hands. That said, I’m not sure why they would try kicking the door.
“Is it fine if I come into the room?”
The visitor asked while staring fixedly at Asahina-san’s maid outfit.
The person let out a sound as if they had just stepped on a common jellyfish washed up on a beach with their bare feet.
“I’d heard the rumors, but…… one of the Wonders is here in this room, isn’t it?”
The guest said some mysterious words.
Asahina-san was showered with the visitor’s curiosity-filled gaze, but she evenly matched the other party with an expression of looking at something rare, and timidly asked a question.
“Umm, what business do you have here?”
Ah, a response befitting of a real maid. How dedicated!
“I’ve brought the stuff requested by your boss. Then again, I12 might not have been requested to do so, but here I am with the stuff anyway, since I’m a kind person and all.”
Stepping into the room with the baggage she was holding, the visitor looked at Nagato, Koizumi and me in turn.
“Alright, Kyam, accept this material already. I want my hands to be free.”
Is there someone named Kyam here?
“I don’t like names that are hard to pronounce, like Kyon.”
I agree whole-heartedly, but at the same time, I won’t stand for being called Kyam.
Since neither Nagato nor Koizumi moved, I reluctantly stood up and received the cumbersome payload. It was quite a huge quantity, so it was extremely heavy.
“Umm,” Asahina-san raised a hand reservedly.
“Who exactly is this……?”
“Ah, she’s a classmate,” I replied. “She’s in the same class as me and Haruhi, someone from Class 2-5.”
I suddenly realized Koizumi also focus his attention on the visitor.
“So, what did Haruhi ask of you?”
I placed the miscellany of books and printouts on the table so that it wouldn’t collapse. Noticing that the book at the top of the pile was titled Kokon Chomonjū13, I picked it up. Below that was Famous Supernatural Tales of All Time, as well as School Supernatural Tales, which might be targeted for kids. In any case, I had a bad feeling about those books. Is Haruhi into this nowadays?
“It was during lunch break today,” our guest remarked with an imposing stance. “I just ran into her in front of the toilet, and she asked me a question.”
“She asked me if I knew about the school’s Seven Wonders.”
Why would she ask that of you?
“I don’t know. Then again, it’s probably because I’m a member of the Mystery Research Society.”
Come to think of it, she did mention that she belonged to the Mystery Society during the class introductions at the start of the new school year. But what’s the link between that and the school’s Seven Wonders?”
“To be precise……”
Here she attempted to imitate Haruhi’s voice.
“‘Does this high school have the Seven Wonders? I think you don’t know about them, but the Mystery Society should have passed that information down each generation, right?’ — Was what she said.”
It was somehow mortifying that her imitation was pretty close to the real thing.
“Did she really say ‘Seven Wonders’? Could you have mistaken that for ‘Seven Lucky Gods’?”
“I’m certain that she didn’t say ‘Seven Lucky Gods’,” the girl proclaimed solemnly. “I was unable to grasp what she meant in that sentence about the school’s Seven Wonders, but now I know what it means. I believe Haru is looking for the so-called supernatural tales. She must think that mystery and occultism are the same thing, right?”
That can’t be it. In her tour of clubs when she was new to the school, she was indignant that the Mystery Society hadn’t run into any murder cases at all.
“Oh, now that you mention it, I did hear about that from my seniors.”
The Mystery Society member who was in my class then shook her head in a manner that gave me the impression that she was overacting.
“The Mystery Society organizes training camps in summer and winter, although I haven’t had the chance to participate yet. However, having the training camp location hit by a typhoon or being locked in a ski resort due to a snowstorm has not happened in the history of North High’s Mystery Society. Not like that’s a cause for regret.”
In the corner of my eye, I could see Koizumi extending his arms and shrugging. We had encountered both situations already, and while summer was fine, the winter one was not fun at all. Right, Nagato? I turned to look at her, and surprisingly, even the humanoid interface who showed no concern to all creation stopped reading for a brief moment to fix her eyes on the visitor, as if the uninvited Miss Mystery Society were a radio star14.
“Well, that’s good to hear,” I replied. “I now understand the appeal of the Mystery Research Society, but how did you answer Haruhi’s question?”
Without any hesitation, Miss Mystery Society responded.
“I ran over to the chairman’s classroom, and asked if there was any folklore in sets of seven that had been passed down from previous generations. The answer was no, so I instantly made a return trip and told Haru about it. All she said was ‘I see’, and then she looked away after that.”
In other words, I can take it that North High doesn’t have any home-made Seven Wonders, right? But if that’s so, wouldn’t the story be over? How did the plot progress such that you ended up carrying all those books and whatnot about paranormal stories to this room?
“About that, I don’t quite know myself.”
Great, now my head’s starting to hurt.
“I accepted my seniors’ suggestion to take all these. And that’s why I came here with this baggage.”
What overly accommodating seniors.
“Since she’s looking for the Seven Wonders, let’s help her out, with this literature. It contains a part of the Mystery Society’s collection, as well as printouts with bits of information I picked up on the internet.”
Well, I’m sorry that your hard work will amount to nothing. I feel bad that you’ve brought this all the way here, but could you quickly take it all back with you, before it catches Haruhi’s attention?
“Why? I carried all these for Haru’s sake, so why are you saying that it won’t do her any good, Kyam?”
We have our own circumstances here. I don’t think you would be able to understand.
Miss Mystery Society folded her arms and stared at me. I was slightly overpowered by the color of her two eyes, and blinked first.
“By the way, how long are you going to call me ‘Miss Mystery Society’ or ‘you’?” You should know my name, right?”
A little less than two months is too little time for me to memorize all my new classmates’ names, aside from Kunikida and Taniguchi, whom I’ve known since last year.
I could sense that she didn’t believe me at all. Alright, how should I fix this?
“Also, you only transferred in this year, right?”
On top of that, her surname is so long that you would probably bite your tongue if you recite it too quickly. That makes it even harder to remember.
“You can call me by the nickname of my first name, then. Everyone calls me that.”
For some reason, I’m not really inclined to do that.
“You’re not making much sense.”
She shook her head in exasperation, as if to say, “Whatever.”
I seized the opportunity to send her away. “By the way, how long do you plan on staying here? Could you leave now that you’ve completed your business here? Ah, I’ll thank you in place of Haruhi for the information about the Seven Wonders and whatnot. Thank you. Bye.”
Although I was waving goodbye, Miss Mystery Society didn’t move, like a flamingo trapped in ivy. She isn’t staying here until I say her name, is she?
“No, I still have one important matter.”
She then turned her body to face Nagato, who was sitting in a corner of the club room.
“I was assigned to request something of the Literary Club President.”
Nagato looked up at the assassin from the Mystery Society with a straight gaze. That was a shocking development. It was rare for Nagato to be so concerned about a visitor’s words or actions that she would interrupt her reading.
“We’ve read your club journal15.”
Without notice, a killer pass was thrown into our field.
Nagato slowly closed the book that was open on her lap, allowing me to get a fleeting glimpse of the title, Image Symbol Encyclopaedia. I thought it was thick like an encyclopaedia, and it turned out to be an actual, honest-to-goodness encyclopaedia. Figures.
The fact that Nagato had not only stopped reading, but had also fully closed the book just to listen to someone talk was something truly deserving of my astonishment. Asahina-san’s attention was still focused on Miss Mystery Society so she did not notice it, but Koizumi looked at Nagato with a discerning eye, as if he were an astronomer able to recognize an RR Lyrae variable16 in the Andromeda Galaxy with his naked eye.
However, Miss Mystery Society was not cognizant of that miracle which was, in a sense, cosmic.
“To be frank, it’s hard for me to say that I understood what was good or bad about it.”
That’s a good opinion. It’s probably the right one to have.
“Even if it’s workmanship as an anthology might have been a little out of left field, my seniors at the Mystery Society said that they could appreciate the publication of the journal itself.”
So what is her request to Literary Club President Nagato?
“The Mystery Society is also planning to compile a club journal, so we would like Nagato-san to please contribute. We will be very much obliged if you help us.”
She even bowed sincerely.
“I’ve become really interested in Nagato-san’s fantastical and poetic writing. The other club members agree with me as well. We realized that your title as Literary Club President was neither just for show nor based on a whim.”
If that’s so, then why didn’t you come here to officially request for Nagato to be a contributor, rather than mentioning it as a casual aside? Anyway, the journal was published quite a while ago. Just what have you guys and your chairman been doing up till now?
“The chairman said that he17 had a meeting in which he made the request.”
“But apparently he was ignored.”
Well, I suppose that’s not surprising.
“So how about it?” Miss Mystery Society pressed for an answer. “The publication date has not been finalized yet. We’re just at the planning stage, and it would be great if we could make it for the Cultural Festival.”
The Cultural Festival is in autumn, so that’s quite far in advance.
“We don’t mind what it is about, but we would like you to write up a few lines, no, a composition. What do you think?”
Nagato slowly rotated her head horizontally to face me.
She took about three seconds to lower her head by two centimeters, then used another three seconds to lift her head back up by that two centimeters.
Miss Mystery Society whispered into my ear with an uneasy expression.
“Oi, Kyam, can I take her gesture as evidence that she agreed to do it?”
Yeah, I can guarantee it.
“Thank you very much, Nagato-san.”
Miss Mystery Society leapt up and, with a speed similar to that of teleportation, grabbed Nagato’s hand and shook it excitedly.
Just like with the Computer Society, Nagato was probably unknowingly gaining high regard from various circles of the school. In any case, it’s definitely not a bad thing for the girl whose existence in the clubroom was like that of a Zashiki-warashi18 to get to know more people. Just a thought, but was that person dispatched here for the main motive of approaching Nagato, under the pretext of helping out with Haruhi’s pursuit of the Seven Wonders? If that’s the case, they must have a pretty good strategist over there.
Having obtained Nagato’s consent and gaining some leeway, Miss Mystery Society clasped her hands behind her back and wandered around while scanning the Literary Club’s bookshelves from end to end, on a journey to check out the spines of each book.
“You have pretty good taste. There are lots of fantastic mysteries here. This is amazing! Oh? Mm!”
Just when I thought that she had fallen silent, she pulled out another tome at the speed of lightning and swiftly turned its pages.
“Ohh! This is…… A hardcover Viking Press edition of Thomas Pychon’s Gravity Rainbow19! And it’s a first edition from 1973?!”
She raised the Western book as if she were lifting it to the heavens.
“Nagato-san, do you mind lending me this book?”
I have no idea what value that old, musty book held, but Nagato silently responded.
Once again, she executed the nod that took approximately six seconds.
“Hey, Kyam, her gesture means……”
“She’s fine with it.”
“Thank you, Nagato-san!”
Miss Mystery Society calmly placed the book on the long table by her side, then bounded over to Nagato and shook her hand enthusiastically again. If Nagato hadn’t been sitting down, she would have probably been hugged.
“I’ll definitely return it after some careful reading. Could I pass it to Kyam when I’m done?”
I don’t want that. Come here and return it yourself, to Nagato.
“Alright, that’s what I’ll do.”
She nodded deeply and held the book under her arm reverently.
“I will be taking my leave, then. I have a great amount of gratitude for all of you.”
Like a creature of the Felidae family20, she took a bow in one supple move, then disappeared from the club room with a skip.
All she left behind was the afterimage of her blond hair dancing in the air.
Even so, that was a long standing conversation.
Asahina-san, who had also been standing for the whole duration, finally came to her senses.
“Ah, I forgot to serve tea…….”
That was probably because it didn’t feel like the visitor was going to stay for a long time, and also because it was a strange course of events. I suppose you could say that there was no leeway for Asahina-san to display her avocation at that moment.
Thanks to that, a large quantity of materials regarding supernatural tales have been forced onto us. We should probably hide them somewhere before Haruhi gets back.
I went over to the Chief’s desk and was checking if there were any blind spots from that position, when I came across Koizumi’s strangely languid countenance. What’s the matter, are you that interested in the transfer student who only came into my class last month?
“I am indeed interested.”
Then, are you disappointed that she didn’t refer to your cat story that was also in the journal?
“That’s…… well, not that I care.”
Koizumi indicated Mystery Society member’s parting gift with his eyes.
“In any case, the school’s Seven Wonders is more important.”
As if displeased by my reaction, Koizumi bent forward.
“Suzumiya-san seems to be seeking out stories of the school’s Seven Wonders, passed down by word of mouth, if they exist at all. As our visitor mentioned earlier, there is no such thing. Then, we have a simple conclusion. Try predicting Suzumiya-san’s thought process.”
……I believe her motto is “If there isn’t one, I just have to make it myself!”
“Of course, that is what she will think. What happens after is also obvious. Suzumiya-san will definitely create a new Seven Wonders for this school. With her extraordinarily rich imagination, we will be beset with phenomena fully loaded with outrageously implausible occultism.”
Koizumi made a hopeless pose.
“And then there is a chance that some, or even all of the seven phenomena will become our reality.”
I drained the teacup of any remaining sencha.
Come to think of it, Haruhi did have the power to turn her wishes into reality.
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.
“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 Carr21, 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.
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 period22. 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.
The only thing I can recall about that period is the High Priest of Ninna-ji26.
“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 paw27.
“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 period28, 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 mouths29’, meaning that they did not speak a single word. They looked like demons, but they were merely eight or nine feet30, had hair like that of yaksha31, 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-dō32.”
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 Kanezane33 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 elasmosaurus34 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.”
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.”
“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 Kinjirō35, 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.”
“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.
“Another major paranormal tale is related to the music room.”
Deep into the night, music from a piano can be heard from a supposedly empty music room – that’s how the tale that anyone can easily think of goes, anyway.
“The mystery-style solution would be that someone left a phone or recorder in the music room, and an alarm or ringtone went off at the designated time.”
Isn’t that too simple?
“If music came from the piano even though no one is playing it, could it be a piano with an automatic play function?” Asahina-san asked.
That’s also possible, but a humble prefecture high school like ours probably wouldn’t have such expensive equipment in the music room.
Asahina-san tilted her head like a small bird and asked a question in an innocent voice.
“By the way, what song is being played?”
Not everything would work, right? It has to be some eerie piece befitting of a supernatural tale. I can’t think of anything besides Schubert’s Erlkönig and Mozart’s Requiem.
“Ah!” Koizumi snapped his fingers again. “I do have a most suitable piece.”
Oh? What is it?
“It’s Four minutes, thirty-three seconds.”
Is that long or short?
“No, I wasn’t referring to its duration, but rather, a piece with that name.”
What a pragmatic title. I can probably listen to it by looking it up on the internet, so I guess I’ll give it a try. I was about to boot up the notebook computer – one of those plundered from the Computer Research Society after we beat them in a computer game in the past, but Koizumi stopped me.
“That isn’t necessary. Or rather, you cannot listen to it.”
He smiled and continued.
“The style of this piece, or rather, the entire performance entails the performer sitting in front of the piano and doing absolutely nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.”
So it’s an impractical, avant-garde piece, huh.
“Whether this counts as a musical composition is up for debate, but there is no better piece to use for a paranormal story in the music room.”
Since it’s a silent piece of music, even if there was a spirit playing, it wouldn’t reach anyone’s ears. That’s a terribly harmless spirit. I’m even starting to feel sorry for it now.
“Asahina-san,” I spoke as the thought hit my mind. “Will the existence of ghosts have been proven in the future?”
Asahina-san stared on in puzzlement, with her coquettish lips open for a few seconds.
“That’s classified information, fufu.”
Why are you looking so happy about it?
“It pains me to be unable to tell you, but not being able to tell you whether the answer is yes or no or both will not cause any big problems here, so I can say proudly that it’s classified information.”
I’d prepared a partial response to her interpretation that the existence of ghosts didn’t matter at all, but since she was wearing the maid outfit that emphasized her curvaceous upper bodyline, I reservedly looked away, only to see Koizumi shrugging.
Come to think of it, this guy has been excessively wanting to bring occult stories into mystery, and while he’s been constructing sound logic for the plan against Haruhi, could it be that he’s bad with the topics of ghosts, monsters and paranormal tales? That could be why he wants the Seven Wonders to be mild, given that they might be brought into reality by Haruhi.
Using a mechanical pencil, Koizumi assiduously wrote a second movement in the notebook.
Wonder of the Music Room – In the dead of a night with a new moon, the sounds of John Cage’s Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds can be heard from the empty music room. The door to the music room was locked, and the music room was a complete locked-room mystery. No one could enter or leave the music room.
“The bit about the locked room is unnecessary, isn’t it?”
“It’s just to set the atmosphere,” Koizumi replied.
“As for the next Wonder…… how about this? At some point in time, a staircase somewhere in school gains an extra step, or loses a step. In other words, it’s a supernatural story linked to storeys.”
That’s also a commonly told story. Also, it’s a pun that everyone probably thought of before. A supernatural story about storeys36.
I ran through my thoughts. What would Haruhi do with a staircase? Koizumi answered that question first, although both of us thought of it at the same time.
“How about all of the school’s staircases turning into escalators?”
As I said, I’d rather have air-conditioners installed in all classrooms. But thanks to the jerry-built nature of our school, the walls are thin, our classrooms are hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We might as well be studying in outdoor classrooms. We should only have escalators after something’s done about that.
“We’re supposed to be discussing paranormal tales, not plans to improve the school’s facilities and amenities.”
At this point, it’s worth thinking about things we want to make a reality through Haruhi’s uncanny powers. It won’t trouble anyone for air conditioners and escalators to suddenly appear overnight. In fact, it would make everyone happy.
Koizumi lightly shook his head exasperatedly.
“If you think about it, all staircases changing into escalators could mean that really quick renovation work was done. If we think too extremely, the story could, contrary to our expectations, turn out to be far from mysterious. Let us consider simpler situations with simple honesty.”
As a result, the following supernatural story of storeys was created:
Secret of the Staircase – In the dead of a night with a crescent moon, the staircase to the roof of the south school building gains an additional step for one hour. Anyone who treads on that step will be temporarily worried that the big toe on their right foot has its nails cut too deep. In addition, leaving that aside, they will be unable to ignore the incredibly inexplicable and miraculous possibility that all of the school’s classrooms have been fitted with air conditioning units.
The latter half was the addition of my hopes, of course.
“The meanings of the two halves don’t match at all. Also, no one reading the passage can help but point out that the phrases ‘in addition’ and ‘leaving that aside’ are used wrongly.”
It should be fine. It’s a paranormal tale, so it feels more real that it has some inconsistencies.
“Suzumiya-san does not want to have the feeling of reality, though.”
Leaving behind his objections, Koizumi flipped through the pages of information.
“It seems that supernatural stories about mirrors are also relatively popular. The story usually goes like this: when one looks in the mirror at a specific time, they can see their future self reflected in the mirror, or they are drawn into the mirror and go missing.”
Which mirror should we use? I ran a search through all locations of school mirrors in my memory.
“There’s a full-length mirror installed in the passage from the central school building to the gymnasium. Let’s go with that.”
I’ve seen a pitcher from the baseball club practicing shadow pitching in front of that mirror on a rainy day, probably to check his form. I’m sure that no one knows what it’s used for, besides for that shadow pitching. It certainly is a mysterious mirror.
So what happens when someone looks at the mirror at the dead of night? Koizumi, you’re up.
“Thinking about it normally, there could be a slight discrepancy between the actually body’s movements and the reflection’s movements.”
What do you think, Asahina-san?
“Umm, the person’s reflection comes out of the mirror…… would something like that do?”
A doppelganger, huh. I’m personally quite fed up with the story of witnessing another self, though……
I should ask Nagato too, just to be sure. Do you have any opinions about this?
Nagato raised her two eyes which had been lost in juvenile fiction.
“If a person is reflected in the mirror, the amino acids their body is composed of are changed from L-form to D-form37.”
She made a scientific proposal. Perhaps because I was silent and she felt the necessity for further explanation, Nagato added a word.
She spoke in a plain voice, but since I had no clue as to how the phenomenon would be considered bizarre, I had no measures to take except for maintaining my silence and pretending to sip the tea that I had finished long ago. Looking around, I noticed Asahina-san also bringing the teacup unnaturally to her lips. Seems like I’ve found a comrade.
“Ah, I see.”
Koizumi clapped his hands together. And there we have a traitor.
“It’s a similar phenomenon to that of the statue, right? There’s no change to the outer appearance of the person, but some components of their body are reflected. That’s quite interesting, I think. You could say that this is also a sensible paranormal story that causes no harm.”
To hell with paranormal stories and them being sensible, but are there really no problems? If so, then we should use it.
Before Nagato returned to her book yet again, I thought I heard her mutter something like “……Jam.” However, there were no snacks or bread, and the contents of her cup could not have been Russian Tea, so I must have misheard.
Ah, you want to know my suggestion? If you take a peek at the mirror, your personality will become the exact opposite. Haruhi would become like Nagato, Nagato would become like Haruhi, and— ooh, I’m getting giddy just trying to imagine it. Running more simulations in my head would be dangerous, so it’s time to stop.
“Shall we leave it like this, then?” Koizumi asked smoothly.
Reflecting Mirror in the Passageway – In the dead of a night with a first quarter moon, if a person’s whole body is reflected in the full-length mirror in the passageway, the molecule structures of their body’s amino acids are reflected. Also, if they execute the second exercise of radio calisthenics38,the reflection in the mirror will have a slight discrepancy in the stopping action at the final moment. Occasionally, a doppelganger might come out of the mirror, but chance of that happening is very low. It is rumored that even if the doppelganger does show up, it immediately disappears.
I asked a question after the exalted Deputy Chief completed his rough, messy draft.
“Which one is this?”
“This is the fourth Wonder. We have three more to go.”
As expected, he seemed tired.
“Shall we wrap it up, then? There is a limit to how long we can make Suzumiya-san wait, after all.”
I was wondering how exactly they were delaying Haruhi, but I suppose I should leave it to the professionals. I’m fine with staying as a mere amateur.
During tea break time, Asahina-san refilled everyone’s teacups again, allowing me to feel at ease. Let’s hurry up and deal with the last three phenomena already.
Koizumi put down his teacup and picked up Miss Mystery Society’s report.
“How about a never-opened door? It’s a door somewhere in the school that cannot be opened no matter what you do.”
Deciding on the location doesn’t seem to be a problem.
“Yes, there is no such door currently, so we can just say that it exists somewhere.”
So why doesn’t it open? Has it been worn down by the weather, or is it nailed shut?
“It is not quite satisfactory for the door to be too conspicuous. How about a toilet cubicle that’s always locked? Toilet-related supernatural tales are also part of the orthodox set, after all.”
A never-opened toilet door, you say? Toilet cubicles have some gap at the top, however, so it’s entirely possible for someone to forcefully clamber up and into the cubicle.
“Nothing happens to those people who enter through methods other than using the door, but there are some moments when the usually heavily locked door is unlocked. People who unwittingly enter the cubicle during that time will disappear, and that is why the door is never-opened.”
Where do those disappeared people go?
“Knowing Suzumiya-san, a fantasy-like world would work, right?”
Over there, the person meets a purposeful person from another world, gets caught in some trouble by some strange circumstances, and so begins a heroic epic tale in that world, complete with fateful encounters, farewells, friendship and love-hate relationships.
“Starting a seemingly unending story would be undesirable, so I would like the person to show up in a more normal place.”
A door that turns into a warp-zone, huh. Let’s settle this by having the person appear in the men’s toilet at Kitaguchi Station, since both locations are toilets.
“But that would undoubtedly be teleportation, and we cannot explain it away as something else. We need some place closer, so what about the cubicle next door? That way, it can probably be interpreted that the person entered the wrong cubicle by mistake.”
A C-Warp39? If that’s the case, it should also be fine for the subject to disappear and appear in the same location, right? The person does indeed disappear from this world for one or two seconds and his body will only appear to flicker briefly, but it is still definitely a mysterious physical phenomenon.
“That setting is possible, but don’t you think it’s a little too plain?”
You sure have a lot of complaints. However, you’re right that it seems lacking if we want it to satisfy Haruhi.
I placed a fist on my forehead and closed my eyes, when inspiration struck.
“I got it. At that point, the person can go to a parallel universe.”
Meaning that after the person opens the never-opened door, they are transported to a fantasy world and go through the adventure as a summoned being from start to end.
“What kind of adventure will they have?”
That depends on each transferred person, but whether it’s a journey of trials and tribulations, or if it’s a cakewalk, in the end after they’ve dealt with whatever problem, they are translated back to the original toilet cubicle.
Well, they could make use of some miraculous power. Since it’s a fantasy world, there must be some kind of god there who can send the person back.
“Would it also be possible with something obscure like the will of the world? Since there is one person missing from our world, the Providence of Nature, or also known as the Balance40, is thrown into disarray, so the power of the divine scales is put into motion to reverse the damage.”
Anything goes for that aspect. However, when that person returns, they must lose all of their memories of the parallel universe. Also, the scenario must be such that no matter how long the adventure takes in the other world, only one hour has passed in the real world.
“Shall we at least set the time spent in the other world to a few months? If the person lives in the other world for years, their body would develop, and that would be inconvenient for us when they return.”
I’ll leave that to you, then.
“What do we do about their clothes? If the person changed clothes in the other world, they would probably be extremely puzzled when they see themselves in some strange outfit when they return.”
Let them be puzzled, then.
Asahina-san let out a small sigh.
“That traveler will forget about all the people they meet on the other side, huh…… Even though they would have had many happy or fun experiences…… I wonder how sad the people on the other side would be if they knew about that……”
I didn’t expect her to say something so solemn.
“It’ll be fine, Asahina-san,” I improvised. “When the sequel is written, the traveler will be transported to the other world again, be reunited with his old comrades and remember everything that happened.”
“Really? What a relief!”
A smile appeared on Asahina-san’s face, like a windflower turning into a Japanese iris.
“If it’s possible, I would like to end it with the second work,” Koizumi responded with a wry smile. “But then it would probably spill over to the third work.”
As he spoke, he started documenting the story.
The Never-Opened Door of a Certain Toilet41– There exists a cubicle in a toilet somewhere in the school which has a never-opened door that is constantly locked. In the dead of a night with a sixteen-day-old moon, a person who opened the door is transported to a different world, in which they live in for two months. However, on their return, they find that only one hour has passed in the real world, and they also lose all their memories of the other world. Details to be discussed. Possible continuation.
I noticed that Nagato, who was still reading silently alone, was already on the fourth book of the horror story series for children.
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 bavarois42 and other sweets. Also, I hear that the Sweets Association is a circle that branched out from the Home Economics Club.”
“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.”
“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 he43 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.
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?
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?”
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.”
“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.
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.
“Right, of the Seven Wonders, we only have one left.”
You shouldn’t be saying it with such a reluctant tone, though.
Koizumi fluttered through the printouts as he spoke.
“There are some major categories of school supernatural stories that we haven’t taken up yet, like skeleton samples dancing, the Music Room’s portrait of Bach making different funny faces, the Art Room’s Mona Lisa yawning, a basketball bouncing in an empty gymnasium. There are also stories of being pulled on the leg by some entity while swimming in the pool at night, stories of warashi44 that appear in the school, and so on.”
A dancing skeleton would overlap with the story of the anatomical dummy, while the portraits in special classrooms that have different expressions depending on the viewing angle can just be explained with trompe-l’œil45. An invisible or chameleon man dribbling a basketball lacks impact, while a demon hiding in a freshwater pool is bound to be a kappa46 and can thus be easily bought over with cucumbers. Also, if you want a warashi, we have one right here in this room.
“How about this, then?”
Koizumi continued with a heavy expression as he skimmed through the last page of Miss Mystery Society’s report.
“No one knows of the Seventh Wonder. If any person gains knowledge of it, they will suddenly go missing.”
You thought of that just because it’s troublesome to come up with the Seventh Wonder, right? Choosing the first six Wonders at our own discretion was quite difficult, so it’s only natural that we’re in this situation.
“If no one knows, don’t you think that someone would somehow try to learn about it?”
The person applicable for that statement is, of course, Haruhi.
“If it’s just to that extent,” Koizumi remarked, “Then Suzumiya-san’s reality-warping effect would become almost insignificant. In any case, compared to an action of creating something that did not previously exist, the action of finding something that should exist is an absolutely different vector. You could say it’s like the difference between heaven and earth.”
Is it that much different?
“Think about it. Compared to creating something from nothing, finding a lost item has much less impact on the world, correct?”
The only beings capable of the former are gods and scam artists, I suppose. Anyway, I can’t help noticing that this story is tinged with a feeling that the International Ruins Excavation Summer Camp might actually become reality.
“Well, I am worried that we might receive a bad outcome if we don’t give Suzumiya-san a mystery and leave her some room for imagination.”
It’s certainly hard to please her. For some reason, it displeases me to the extreme that I have come to understand that feeling too. If you were led by that Brigade Chief, who is like a personification of insolence, for more than a year, you would also gain the ability to predict her mood, like it or not.
As a result of me and Koizumi putting our heads together, we managed to complete the last of the Seven Wonders.
The Seventh Wonder of the Seven Wonders is unknown, and cannot be known. That is the mystery of the Seventh Wonder.
“Do you think that it is, in a sense, too short?”
It should be enough for Haruhi. The state of not being known by anyone is the core, as well as the necessary condition for the Wonder. If it is known, then it ceases to be mysterious, and the Seven Wonders collapses. For the Seven Wonders to remain as the Seven Wonders, that Wonder must definitely not be known by anyone.
“That’s Russell’s Paradox47, isn’t it? If that’s the case, it should be possible for us to use it to persuade even Suzumiya-san.”
I’m not sure what’s the link between your premise and conclusion, but I’m fine with it if you’re satisfied. Send my thanks to Russell for me.
“The only thing left is to make a clean copy of this on a laptop, print it out and present it in a fitting format.”
Koizumi massaged his neck as he placed the rough draft, which he had written using a mechanical pencil over two sheets of A4 paper, onto the table.
At that moment, Nagato, who had finished reading without us noticing, picked up the notes. Pulling up one of the personal computers offloaded onto us by the Computer Society, she began her ultra-high speed typing.
I don’t think it even took her one minute.
A few seconds after Nagato tapped the Enter key, an inkjet printer enshrined at the side of the club room was activated, and started printing.
I’d thought that she was focused on reading, but it was a great help that she was properly listening to our conversation. Well, multitasking like this is Nagato’s forte, after all.
That was a far cry from Asahina-san, who had fully nodded off to dreamland. Then again, if the situation called for us to ask for her assistance, it would definitely be an ominous one, so it’s fine this way. Having Asahina-san clad in her maid outfit and performing her maid duties in the club room was a barometer for world peace.
Announcing its completion of the print job, the printer went into cooldown mode. Taking a sideward glance to see Koizumi giving his thanks to Nagato, I stood up to collect the printouts spat out by the printer.
Title: North Prefectural High School’s Seven Wonders, selected in SOS Club Room, End of May
Items regarding the title are written as follows.
- Enigma of the Ninomiya Kinjirō Statue
- Mystery of the Music Room
- Secret of the Staircase
- Strange Mirror in the Hallway
I’ve omitted the rest of the document, but the SOS Brigade’s (excluding Haruhi) version of the school’s Seven Wonders, formed from the discussion between me and Koizumi, with one point of advice from Nagato and Asahina-san, was printed without excess or deficiency. It was like a report released by some company, but it was meant for only one person.
Koizumi had been glancing at his phone intermittently for a while now, but probably having finished checking whatever it was, he stored the phone in his uniform pocket and met my gaze with one eye closed.
Right after I heard light footsteps that seemed to be approaching Mach speed, the door opened with such a force that I thought it would snap off its hinges. And then—
“Everyone listen up! I have good news!”
With a smile that would make the Sun God seem dim even at exactly noontime, our Brigade Chief, Haruhi Suzumiya made her entrance.
Just by looking at that face, I felt that the room had become 0.5 °C hotter.
Thanks to the cacophony caused by the opening and closing of the door as well as Haruhi’s mouth,
Asahina-san returned from dreamland with a jolt48. After hurriedly trying to stand up in a fluster, she mumbled a greeting.
“Ah, ah, Suzumiya-san, good morning!”
Haruhi seemed to be in a good mood. She advanced to the Chief’s Desk with long strides, then turned around, looked at us with a lordly gaze and waved her index finger like a baton.
“I realized something today.”
Since everyone else declined to comment, I did so reluctantly.
“I realized that in spite of our search for supernatural phenomenon in this world, we’ve been overlooking the Wonders passed down from batch to batch in this school!”
So, were there any? Any Wonders being passed down or whatever?
“I did some investigating, but there were none. Then again, that’s natural, if you think about it. This is a prefectural high school doesn’t have that long of a history, anyway. But that’s a blessing in disguise for us.”
Haruhi spun on the spot as she made her announcement.
“If that’s the case, then we should create the school’s Seven Wonders with our own hands, right? For our future juniors! Wonders that will bring out the richness of our normal high school life!”
I highly doubt if paranormal tales contain any sort of richness, but I suppose they are, in a way, rich with gloom.
I held a hand out to interrupt Haruhi, who seemed like she was about to continue her speech.
“Before we listen to what you have to say, there’s something you need to see.”
“What is it?”
It seemed that Haruhi only now realized that the atmosphere in the room was different from usual.
Nagato was frozen in that posture after hitting the Enter key, while Asahina-san was on tenterhooks, holding onto her tray as if it was a shield. Koizumi had made a mistake in his choice of expression, and was wearing a weird, nondescript look on his face.
I calmly picked up printout placed on top of the clutter on the long table.
“I was wondering if you would bring up that topic.”
I handed over that document that everyone here excluding Haruhi had discussed about.
After scanning through the printout, Haruhi’s expression instantly changed. The document was easy to understand, after all. She made a face that looked like she was pondering about how a fried bitter bug would taste like50, then she responded.
“I see. The Mystery Society, right?”
Having discerned the situation, that one line was naturally all she could speak.
After taking a glance at the copy of Kokon Chomonjū and the file of printouts, Haruhi’s eyes became like that of a nauseous spectacled caiman.
“It was a mistake for me to ask that girl.”
You couldn’t have surmised that she would have so much drive, so if we ignore the result, there aren’t any problems with the process, right? Only Sherlock Holmes in his heyday could predict that the girl would actually bring over a large quantity of materials, including some stuff written by the Mystery Society, with such promptness, and on the same day.
“I might have underestimated the Mystery Society a bit.”
After her words of reflection, Haruhi looked over all of us in turn with a gaze devoid of sweetness.
“Even so, that was surprisingly quick work! It makes me so proud! As the brigade chief, seeing you members grow is my greatest joy!”
You don’t look very joyful, though.
“Anyway, you came in so late that you might as well be an executive. So where were you goofing off?”
“I thought that the principal would know some old stories.”
Haruhi continued with a disappointed countenance.
“I went to the principal’s office to listen to some stories, but for some reason I was made to play shogi. I was chasing his king using my king, when I noticed that I was already on the other end of the board.”
Entering king51, huh. Well then, I suppose it’s understandable that you took so much time.
I stole a sideward glance at Koizumi, and noticed a smile of feigned ignorance plastered over his face. So that’s a collaborator other than the Student Council President.
“If I had known, I would have quickly finished the tea and rice crackers, and just come to the club room. Seriously.”
It seemed that Haruhi’s anger was not directed anywhere, and instead she was displaying a complex emotion she rarely felt. Her mouth moved nervously, a sign that she was stopping her lips from releasing the words that should be said.
What’s the matter? Don’t you know that keeping silent about whatever you want to say is like poisoning your body?
I think she would have stamped her feet in frustration if no one else was around.
“Everyone was doing such an interesting activity!”
Haruhi raised both her hands.
“I wanted to think about it with everyone, too!”
It felt refreshing to finally hear her true feelings.
Savoring this fresh feeling I haven’t had in a while, I replied.
“So, can we use these ideas for the Seven Wonders? You can rest assured that your humble brigade members made us of wisdom equal to that of Manjushri52 plus one, as well as imagination required of insurmountable leaps in logic to create this work for our exalted Brigade Chief.”
“Seems like I have no choice.”
Visibly reluctant, Haruhi let out a sigh from her pouting lips.
Come to think of it, isn’t this the first case where we’ve jumped the gun on her?
Usually, Haruhi would say something, and we end up having to follow that order. As a result, we also have to deal with the incidents and phenomena that are caused by her. This is a rare event where we managed to circumvent the pattern by anticipating the problem and preventing it before it happens.
We could probably use this approach in the future. If we can think of and predict in advance what Haruhi is planning to do next, we can make the perfect preparations beforehand. It’s an arrangement such that Haruhi will be called offside before the kick-off whistle is blown. Something that might be considerably troublesome for us is to prepare multiple counter-measures, which is a foundation of the art of tactics, although it probably wouldn’t change much.
“But I have a number of problems with this. What’s this about the Ninomiya Kinjirō statue? We don’t have one in North High, right?”
Wow, you actually said something logical for once. I’m unconsciously moved.
“Huh? Are you stupid?”
Although she had given her approval once, Haruhi wasn’t graceful enough to remain silent about the parts she was bothered by. She used her fingertip to flip the pages on which the privately published Seven Wonders was printed on, and started expressing her opinions.
“About the Four minutes, thirty-three seconds that the ghost plays…… since it’s the same room that the Wind Ensemble uses, it should contain some wind instruments. Make it an orchestra version with the piano and all available instruments in the room. It’ll be more lively and the ghosts will have much more fun!”
I tried imagining all members of the wind ensemble performing that soundless piece together, with all of them dressed as ghosts. That version certainly bears no relation to the word ‘desolate’. With Haruhi in the picture, all supernatural stories with a bleak atmosphere will be ruined.
Haruhi continued her speed reading of the report and stopped at the third Wonder.
“What’s with the air conditioners in classrooms? Isn’t that just a personal request?”
Can’t we make that work?
“I don’t know. Well, perhaps I’ll bring it up to the principal next time.”
Is that some light I see at the end of this road?
“I also have some problems with the mirror.”
Haruhi went on about the strange mirror that Nagato suggested.
“The body won’t be able to absorb proteins if all amino acids are changed to D-form, right? But this is convenient for dieting, so we can get a long line of people worried about overeating. We can earn big money even if we charge only 100 yen per person! But we can’t have the dieting effect go on for so long, so we’ll do them a big service and make it last for 48 hours.”
I thought that Haruhi would be pleased with the Wonder that had to do with adventuring in a fantasy world, but she had some complaints with it.
“What do you mean, ‘possible continuation’? If you don’t write under the conviction that the battle will end in one volume, you won’t be able to continue with a sequel. Also, the setting is too opportunistic. The outline is fine as it is, but revise the story, starting from the plot.”
“That is what we will do.”
Koizumi’s facial muscles were on the verge of locking in place for being used too often in his wry smiles. If only there was a phrase to describe it, like ‘bitter anger’ or ‘bitter joy’!
She moved on to the sixth Wonder,
“The culprit is the Mystery Society!”
After her direct assertion, she continued.
“That’s how it would go on a meta level, but following the story, I’ll think that the real culprit is the secret society known as the ‘Friends of the Dummies’. The dummy terror incidents will also carry on uninterrupted, because the secret society—”
For some reason, I had the feeling that further investigation in this direction would be dangerous in every sense of the word, so I decided to ignore her with all my might.
Haruhi placed the report on her desk, then crossed her arms and turned to look at me.
Did she ignore the seventh Wonder?
Noticing that her face was once again decorated with another huge grin, I had a generally unpleasant premonition. But before I could find the source of my apprehension, Haruhi announced the answer.
“I’ll be thinking about the eighth Wonder, after all!”
I reflexively voiced out.
“Oi, did you read it properly? No one knows about the seventh Wonder. Having an eighth Wonder doesn’t fit with consistency.”
“The seventh isn’t known yet, so it has to be out there somewhere. But it doesn’t matter, since nobody knows.”
“You understand, Kyon? Being unknown is completely different from not existing at all. No one knows the 9,999 trillionth digit of pi53 after the decimal point, but it definitely has to be a digit from 0 to 9.”
“I regard the Seven Wonders of North High as a completed product. I can see some hints of hard work from the report.”
Well, thank you for the kind statement.
“But the fact that we’re going to create an eighth Wonder is not up for negotiation.”
But then it’ll cease to be the Seven Wonders.
“Isn’t it common for the Four Heavenly Kings to have a fifth person54?”
What world are you talking about? Jikoku-ten and the rest will feel hurt by that statement.
“Aren’t there five kings in the original Four Heavenly Kings55?”
Haruhi counted off with her fingers.
“Jikoku-ten, Zōjō-ten, Kōmoku-ten, Tamon-ten, Bishamon-ten. See, there’s five of them!”
I was about to nod in agreement, but something was off.
“One of those names was another name for one of the kings, if I recall correctly.”
“Tamon-ten is also known as Bishamon-ten. But that was a trick to deceive the humans of future generations. Yes, Tamon-ten and Bishamon-ten were basically twin brothers. Either that, or they were split personalities. Or they were two people acting out one role. Why not? It’s so much more dramatic this way.”
I don’t know what kind of drama it is, but it seems to be a story that makes me worried about Buddha’s punishment. Or in this case, I suppose it would be heavenly punishment. In any case, I don’t understand why it was necessary for Taishaku-ten’s56 close associates to prepare a trick for future generations of people to misrecognize them.
“You need to have a futuristic thought process with flexible ideas, instead of being tied down by rigid beliefs. Stopping for the flow of time won’t help you with anything. From now on, we shall be in the age of the Eight Wonders!”
Eight Wonders Age. Yeah, I have absolutely no clue as to what that means at all.
Hoping for reinforcements to support my dissenting opinion, I looked around my surroundings, and the only person to look me in the eye was Koizumi, but both his palms were facing upward, signalling that he had already unconditionally surrendered.
Asahina-san had started preparing to make tea, as if trying to evade the tentacles of words extending from Haruhi’s mouth, while Nagato had opened the latest book in the children’s horror series.
Aren’t you three being unfair here?
It seemed that it would now be my sole, hard struggle to make the eighth out of the Seven Wonders a reasonable one.
From here on, if the Seven Wonders passed down in schools across Japan became the Eight Wonders, it would be Haruhi’s responsibility.
The person in question leapt into her seat.
“Give me something extra bitter.”
“Would a double umekobucha57 do?”
Seemingly ecstatic, Asahina-san quickly got to work.
Meanwhile, Haruhi carefully scrutinized the materials brought over by the Mystery Society as well as the SOS Brigade’s report that was typed out by the swift key-puncher Nagato, comparing the two sets of documents, sometimes groaning, grinning, or furrowing her eyebrows in the process. She looked busy and it would be bad to disturb her.
As I returned to my folding chair, Koizumi, who was sitting next to me, drew close to my ear. Just what secrets are you planning to tell me?
“I’m also fine with talking in a loud voice, but I’m not sure about you.”
“By the way, there is one Wonder that isn’t part of the Seven Wonders, or rather, a mystery.”
Koizumi muttered in a thought-provoking tone.
“About the reason why you don’t want to call that girl from the Mystery Society by her nickname.”
There isn’t any in particular.
“Is that so?”
What are you trying to say?
“Suzumiya-san started calling you by your nickname quite a while ago. Basically, that makes up one part of your feelings.”
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
“That girl calls Suzumiya-san as Haru, without using honorifics. Could it be that you also—”
Alright, I get it, you don’t have to say it all.
I would like to know how to make Koizumi shut up. Right now.
“Addressing someone without an honorific is in itself a form of deep affection, but it is still not the same as calling someone by their nickname. Weren’t you thinking that since you don’t address Suzumiya-san by a nickname, you shouldn’t call another girl by her nickname? If you were not aware of this, then it was an unconscious decision; if you were indeed aware— then of course, it was a conscious decision.”
Seeing that I was at a loss for words, Koizumi continued.
“Well, between calling someone by their name alone and calling that person by their nickname, I’m not sure which one is more friendly, or how different the two actions are as an indication of the closeness between two people.”
You don’t have to say it even if you knew.
“Since Suzumiya-san started out by calling you by your nickname, I think there’s nothing wrong in addressing her as ‘Haru’. Try to imagine yourself doing just that.”
I actually complied. It was a blunder on my part to be thoughtlessly led on by the power of Koizumi’s words. Before I could regain my sense of reason, my imagination depicted the aforementioned situation in the back of my mind, and even simulated Haruhi’s reaction and emotions. The result was that— she didn’t take it badly.
Probably unable to let my countenance pass unnoticed, Koizumi let out what I can only describe as a chuckle, then delivered an affected smile.
“Well, take it easy.”
I can’t tell if he meant it as a piece of advice, a warning, or just a statement to show his sympathy. Leaving behind those words, Koizumi picked up the printout that had taken the place of the original notebook, then started polishing the fifth of the Seven Wonders, or the parallel world fantasy. I wonder how many revisions it would take for him to escape from Haruhi’s series of rejections.
Now, a request from me.
Someone, please give Haruhi a more interesting nickname. If I like it, I won’t even be reluctant to say it in front of her. Send your responses to ‘North Prefectural High School, Literary Club, c/o SOS Brigade’. The winner will be revealed in a speech made by yours truly.
Bored from having lost a person to talk to, I turned over a Hyakunin Isshu card from the pile we’d used to play Old Priest.
Premature name as one in love stood out in the way of love to be won.
What fun is there in having it known to anyone else than you I’ve held so secretly dear?
I thought that I’d leave it to the cards to tell my fortune, and that a card expressing my current state would appear, but this one’s somewhat off. Let’s take a look at the next one.
I wished the world never changed the way it is now,
Gently waving as the net drawn by a fisher’s humble boat.
I reached out to take a third card— but I stopped myself.
It felt as unproductive as drawing fortunes until a ‘Great Blessing’ appears, and since the cards didn’t come with their modern interpretations, I have no idea what they exactly mean.
I’ll have to instruct Koizumi to limit the analog games he brings in to those that are playable even for us uneducated people. I was wondering if there were any such foreign-produced games, when I remembered something.
Ah, that’s right. It would be bad if I don’t tell her about Miss Mystery Society’s request for Nagato to submit a composition. At first glance, since the subject was the Literary Club President Nagato, we didn’t seem to have any relation to this, but the leader for our club journal was Haruhi, so I had to tell her about it.
“What is it, Kyon?”
Tilting her teacup filled with double umekobucha, Haruhi looked straight at me, with the corners of her eyes flashing.
I don’t know when she’d moved, but Nagato was once again seated in the corner of the club room, zealously engaged in reading. She had apparently finished reading the horror story series for children, for the thick encyclopedia was back on her lap.
Asahina-san was heating up the kettle with the portable stove, while raising and lowering the tea caddies in both hands, seemingly in a dilemma about which tea leaves to brew next.
Koizumi tapped his temple with a mechanical pencil as he muttered about the fantasy setting he was going to write, which was a rare appearance that I hardly got to see. That being the case, it felt really weird to look at him while he was in that state.
With Haruhi installed in her home position, the room’s effective temperature assiduously increased, as if the atmosphere had suddenly remembered where it had left the warmth it should have brought in.
“The Mystery Club’s President apparently had a request for Nagato.”
“Oh? What kind?”
Spring would soon fade into the distance, and with the end of this season of fresh verdure, a climate overflowing with sunlight would be sure to come in the blink of an eye, along with anticyclones58 from the Pacific. On such a day, the SOS Brigade was now truly operating as per normal.
I deeply apologize for the long silence. This is Nagaru Tanigawa. By the way, the preface of a chapter in Kokon Chomonjū titled ‘Monstrosities’ uses an excerpt from a poem by the famous Bai Juyi59:“Such men and not their homes are wretched”. Speaking in simple terms, in means, “When a calamity befalls someone, it is not the fault of the house they are living in, but it caused directly by that person”. The author of Kokon Chomonjū, Tachibana Narisue, expressed an opinion that “perhaps monstrosities should also be thought of in that way”, based on the poem.
Taken together with the preface of ‘Apparitions’, we can speculate that Narisue possessed a stance that was doubtful of occult phenomena. While I’m in wonder that there was a person who thought realistically and could say, “There is no such thing as ghosts!” in the Kamakura period, I also imagine that such a character could play the role of detective in an orthodox mystery set in the Heian period, although I might be alone in that interpretation. I’m sorry if such a mystery already exists.
First, congratulations for Haruhi’s 15th anniversary! My companionship with Kyon, Haruhi and the rest has gone on for quite long now, and they seem to have matured more in my mind than what has been covered in the stories. I drew the illustrations for this issue while looking at my past illustrations, thinking that such sentiments were captured in them. It would be wonderful if those traces can still be seen in the differences between illustrations. Also, I had fun reading about the SOS Brigade’s exchanges after such a long time!
- 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.
- Reference to Himeko Tsuruta’s reaction (ビビクン ) whenever Mairu Shirouzu uses her skill “Reservation” from the mahjong manga, Saki.
- Here the visitor uses あたし, or a female version of ‘I’. This is the first time the visitor’s gender has been alluded to, which might explain the lack of gender-related pronouns in the previous few paragraphs.
- Meaning “Notable Tales, Old and New”, this collection was completed in 1254 by Tachibana no Narisue.
- Stellar objects that produce copious emissions of various radio frequencies.
- The one that was written in Editor in Chief★Straight Ahead!, in which Nagato wrote a fantasy horror story.
- Periodic variable stars (Stars whose brightness as seen from Earth fluctuate) commonly found in globular clusters.
- No information was given regarding the gender of the Mystery Society’s Chairperson, but it would be weird for the member to refer to her leader as ‘they’, so I assumed their gender. Please do not crucify me for this.
- Spirit-like beings who appear like children and live in storage rooms.
- A story published in 1973 about people trying to uncover the secret of a mystery device named “Schwarzgerät” at the end of World War II.
- Another term for felines, but Kyon apparently wants to show off his vast knowledge.
- 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 favorite mystery authors. Read: Nagaru Tanigawa interviews Honobu Yonezawa.
- A period in Japanese history (1185-1333), known for the emergence of samurai and the establishment of feudalism in Japan.
- I left the date in this form because Japan didn’t use the Gregorian calendar until 1873.
- A short era that lasted from February 885 to April 889.
- A hall in the grounds of Heian palace, used mainly for viewing horse-racing in the palace.
- Such a character appeared in a passage in Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), a famous collection of essays written by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenkō.
- Refers to a person used unwittingly or unwillingly by another to accomplish the other’s own purpose.
- Yet another short era that lasted from April 1171 to July 1175.
- Just my little attempt to make the sentence sound archaic.
- This is in Japanese feet, which are 10/33 metres or 0.9942 normal feet.
- Buddhist guardian deities.
- A Buddhist temple in Kyoto.
- Also known as Fujiwara no Kanezane, he was a minister in the Heian and Kamakura periods.
- Aquatic dinosaurs with extremely long necks (about 7.1m long).
- 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.
- In Japanese staircase and story are both pronounced as “kaidan”. Storey was the only thing I could think of to fit the pun. I also left it in British English to reduce confusion.
- I gave up on biology long ago, so I believe this website will explain better than I can: http://www.phschool.com/science/biology_place/biocoach/bioprop/landd.html
- Couldn’t find any information about this one, unfortunately. Might be a game or anime reference I’m not getting.
- In the original source, the phrase is translated literally as “Written as ‘Providence of Nature’ and read as ‘Balance’”, but it didn’t really make sense in English, so I decided to interpret it this way.
- Possible reference to A Certain Magical Index.
- Also known as Bavarian cream, Bavarois is a dessert consisting of milk thickened with eggs and gelatin, into which whipped cream is folded.
- Just like for Miss Mystery Society member, this person’s gender is only revealed in this paragraph.
- Spirit-like beings that take the form of children (related to Zashiki-warashi).
- An art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions.
- An amphibious demon typically depicted as green human-like beings with webbed feet and a turtle-like carapace on its back. Folk beliefs claim the cucumber as their traditional favorite meal.
- This refers to the paradox that arises when you consider a set of all sets that are not members of themselves. If you didn’t understand that, here’s an example, the Barber Paradox: Let the barber be defined as “the person who shaves all and only those who do not shave themselves”. There is a contradiction if you consider the problem of whether the barber shaves himself, because 1. If the barber shaves himself, he ceases to be the barber by definition, and 2. If the barber does not shave himself, he fits into the group that needs to be shaved by the barber, so the barber does shave himself.
- Mikuru goes ビビクン again here, meaning that she convulsed as though bounded by chains, but I didn’t want to use such an unwieldy phrase again.
- I’m not sure why Mikuru and Haruhi say “Good morning” when it’s clearly afternoon. Perhaps some people say “Good morning” when they wake up from a nap.
- A play on the phrase 苦虫を噛みつぶしたよう, meaning to have a sour expression, as if having consumed a bitter bug.
- This is a state of the game where an opponent’s king has entered a player’s own territory, making it hard to go for checkmate due to the forward attacking nature of most shogi pieces.
- A bodhisattva associated with prajna (insight).
- As a matter of fact, about 22.5 trillion digits are currently known.
- In Pokémon games, The Elite Four (Four Heavenly Kings in Japanese) has five trainers, for instance.
- Four Buddhist gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world.
- Ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa heaven in Buddhist cosmology.
- Tea made of powdered kelp and pickled plum.
- Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as cooler, drier air. Fog can also form overnight within a region of higher pressure.
- Renowned Chinese poet and government official in the Tang Dynasty who was influential in the development of Japanese literature.