“Do you have any antiques lying in your abode? If so, we can appraise and purchase them here.”
If you walk down the bustling arcade at Teramachi Sanjou1 in Kyoto, you will find a small antique shop nestled within the row of stores with linked eaves.
There is one word on the shop’s signboard – “Kura”2. That is apparently its name.
(When talking about antique shops, names like “Gallery XX”, “Antique XX” or “XX Hall” usually come to mind, so a one-word name like “Kura” is surprisingly simple, isn’t it?)
That was my first impression of that shop.
The atmosphere inside was like that of a retro café, rather than what you would expect of a traditional antique shop.
It appeared to have a blend of Eastern and Western styles, making one think of the Meiji and Taishō periods. A tea corner was near the entrance, while the shop’s goods were lined up in the back. I could see the figures of an elderly woman and man drinking coffee while chatting comfortably.
If not for the signboard, I would have really thought that this was a café.
I noticed passers-by intermittently looking in my direction as I committed my act of stealthily peeking inside the shop.
I hurriedly straightened my posture and put on an innocent look.
It was probably weird for a high school girl to loiter around the front of an antique shop.
I might be viewed as a girl who wanted to enter the shop but couldn’t.
If that was what others were thinking of me… they would be correct.
Yes, I was just a deplorable high school girl who wanted to enter the antique shop but was unable to do so, only managing to loiter around outside.
I would have no problems with a Northern European-style general store or an antique shop with a lighter ambience, but the atmosphere of this “traditional antique shop” was too much for me to casually walk in.
“We can appraise and purchase them here.”
After chancing upon those words, I became interested in that shop, and had thought of entering it multiple times, but I always ended up just passing it by.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Kyoto is the best sightseeing spot in Japan. Crowds of tourists from all over the world visit this place all year round. However, to high school students living here, it is unexpectedly a town without hangout spots.
While the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples hold beauty enough to heal one’s soul, those are not places for friends to gather and hang out.
The only places to hang out are at the Karaoke lounges, large shopping malls, or in the arcade leading to Sanjou’s movie theater.
By the way, Sanjou shopping street’s official character, Sanjou Tori, is a bird-shaped mascot. It’s pretty cute and I like it quite a lot.
The shop also had a poster of Sanjou Tori pasted near its entrance.
Ah, it’s so cute as always. Aside from being comforted by the poster, I had always passed by that antique shop with only a sidelong glance whenever I went into the Sanjou shopping street.
I can’t hesitate forever.
I thought as I squeezed the cords of my paper bag.
(Alright, I’m going in!)3
But at the moment I resolved myself, a middle-aged man in a suit suddenly overtook from behind me and opened the door with a clank.
“Hey, is Holmes in?”
He called out as he entered the shop.
Perplexed, I stepped into the shop, as if I was being led in by that man.
The first thing that caught my eye was an antique sofa that made me think of a reception room of a Western-style house in its halcyon days.
I also noticed a middle-aged woman cheerfully bringing a cup of coffee to her lips, a small chandelier hanging from the ceiling that was definitely not high up, a gigantic wall clock, as well as antiques and miscellaneous goods displayed on the numerous shelves at the back of the store.
It looked like quite a small shop from the entrance, but it actually extended quite far in the back.
Next to the reception space with the sofa was a counter, and a young man that looked like nothing but a university student was seated there.
The guy at the counter who had to be a student looked at us and grinned.
He had a slender body, slightly long bangs and pale skin. With a well-defined nose, he was quite…
No, he was really good-looking.
…He looks so cool. Is he a part-timer?
“Holmes, would ya take a look at this?”4
The suited, middle-aged man took a seat and placed a Furoshiki5 on the counter.
“Ueda-san, I wonder if you could stop calling me ‘Holmes’ already.”
“It’s fine, innit?”
Being called ‘Holmes’ in good grace by Ueda-san, the handsome guy shrugged, put on white gloves and carefully unwrapped the Furoshiki.
It seemed to be a hanging scroll which seemed to the atmosphere of an expensive artifact.
“A gold-brocaded Zhuangbiao, huh…”
“Heh…” A sound escaped from Holmes’ mouth as he looked up.
“That is quite a good kimono.”
“Yeah, right? I thought so too.”
I tilted my head in puzzlement while listening to that conversation.
(That’s a good kimono?)
At that moment, the middle-aged lady who had been drinking coffee on the sofa stood up.
“My, my, a kimono, ya say?” She asked as she eagerly leaned forward.
“What? You said that ‘it’s a good kimono’, but it turned out to be just a hanging scroll. Anyway, it sure is elegant, ain’t it?
She unreservedly raised her voice, and Holmes-san smiled in return.
“Mieko-san, the saying of ‘a good kimono’ means that it is ‘too elegant’.”
It seemed that both of them were regular customers.
“Is it bad for it to be too elegant?”
“Just like how someone telling a lie will fluently arrange his words into believable sentences, boxes and Zhuangbiao can be made to look so elegant that they end up looking like fakes. Such objects are said to be ‘kimonos that are too good’, or ‘to have bad circumstances’.”
After listening to his calm explanation from the side, I slightly nodded and muttered, “I see.”
“Oh, is that so? In other words, it’s a bluff, I suppose. In that case, is that also a fake?”
Holmes-san shook his head in response to Mieko-san, who had lowered her gaze to the hanging scroll.
“No, I’ll have to take a look at it now. I cannot be taken in by any preconceptions, after all.”
He gingerly retrieved the hanging scroll and slowly opened it to reveal a drawing of Mt. Fuji inside the gold-brocaded Zhuangbiao.
In the foreground were some cherry blossom trees.
Behind it was Mt. Fuji, towering over its surroundings with a tranquil atmosphere.
That image had an intensity that could take away one’s breath.
I remember being deeply overwhelmed by the Mt. Fuji in that hanging scroll, even as I secretly peeked at it.
“Oh, this is…”
Holmes-san murmured, apparently moved.
“Yeah, it’s amazing, ain’t it?”
Ueda-san leaned forward with a twinkle in his eye.
“Yokoyama Taikan’s Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms. This is quite a great work.”
“Right? It’s still in good condition, too. It’s amazing, yeah?”
“My, it’s a Yokoyama Taikan, to boot! Won’t it be worth a bundle?”
Mieko-san looked at Ueda-san as she spoke.
“Well, if it’s the real deal, five would be too little. If I put it up on auction, it’ll reach ten, don’t ya think?”
“Ten million! Ueda-san, that’s amazing!”
Looking on at the excited pair, Holmes-san frowned, with a slightly apologetic expression on his face.
“…I see. It is very beautiful, and it is indeed in fine condition, but I regret to inform you that this is a ‘replication’.”
Upon hearing those words, Ueda-san stopped moving and furrowed his brows in doubt.
“…Really? A replication of a major work usually has a seal saying that it’s just a ‘replica’, right? There’s no such seal, yeah? So ain’t this real?”
“No, this is definitely a replication.”
With Holmes-san stating his opinion without hesitation, Ueda-san’s shoulders suddenly drooped weakly.
I didn’t know what a “replication” was, but it seemed to be some sort of fake.
Just like the person named Ueda-san, I was also disappointed.
I’d been moved by that picture, after all.
What a shabby person I must be, to be moved by a fake!
But the shock must have been greater for the person who had brought it in thinking it was real. He definitely would not accept that appraisal.
This shop clerk’s pretty young. He might still be inexperienced.
I whispered those unspeakable words in my heart, but to my surprise, Ueda-san immediately displayed a pleasant look on his face.
“Okay, I hear ya. I was just thinking that maybe it could be the real thing. Well, if ya say it, it’s gotta be true.”
Ueda-san took a breath and rested his chin in his hands.
(…Huh? He just agreed so easily.)
As I peeked on at the situation, I was let down by how simply he withdrew.
He even said something like “if ya say it, it’s gotta be true”. He must have a great deal of trust for the young, handsome shop clerk.
Even though he looked like a mere university student in my eyes.
“Hey, Holmes, what price would ya put on it?”
“I see… it is in good condition, so about a hundred thousand, I suppose. Would you like us to buy it off you?”
“It’s fine. I’ll just bring it to an antique shop that doesn’t have a good eye for this kinda thing.”
Ueda-san said with good grace, then wrapped the scroll with the Furoshiki.
…A hundred thousand.
That is quite a sum. I myself would certainly be more than happy to receive so much money.
As I listened in on their conversation, I felt awkward for spying on them from such a small distance away, so I hastily headed for the back of the shop.
“…Wow.” I unconsciously let out a sound.
On a row of shelves were vases and tea bowls displayed neatly.
On the opposite end, there were also Western antiques like tea sets and candle stands.
While there were many kinds of objects laid out, from expensive artifacts to cheap goods that were within even my reach, they gave off a feeling of tidiness, rather than one of disorder.
I could tell that they had been well taken care of.
(There sure are a wide variety of things here.)
I noticed a vase that wouldn’t look out of place in a Chinese palace, a Tansu8, as well as a set of tea utensils. There was even a Western antique doll.
The doll was beautiful, with skin made of china, large blue eyes, and flowing blonde hair.
As I stared at it, I shivered for some reason.
It’s certainly a beautiful doll, but at the same time, it’s somewhat scary.
I hurriedly turned to look at something else.
Ah, this ornament is amazing! There’s even some rare packs of black tea!
I enjoyably looked at this and that, but stopped at a tea bowl on display in a glass case.
At first glance, it looked like a crooked, distorted, reddish-brown tea bowl with a white base.
It looked simple and didn’t have much splendour, but for some reason, it made me feel like saying, “This is great.”
I stood there on the spot and gazed fixedly at the tea bowl, when I heard a voice.
“…Have you taken a liking to this tea bowl?”
Surprised at hearing a voice coming from behind me, I whirled around to see Holmes-san with a gentle smile on his face.
“Ah, no, I mean, I don’t know. I was just somehow thinking that it looks nice.”
I replied nervously.
That person looked even more handsome from up close.
He had silky hair, he was tall, he had long legs. And most importantly, he looked really elegant.
His lips continued making that gentle smile even as my eyes swam.
“I see. In that case, please take your time to browse.”
With those words, he turned back, but I instantly called out to him. “U-Um!”
“Yes?” Holmes-san turned around again.
I’d planned to present my paper bag and say, “I would like you to appraise this”, but the words wouldn’t come out.
“Uh, umm… Why are you called ‘Holmes’?”
Having been asked a regrettably outrageous question, he blinked in surprise.
“I-Is it because you know a lot of things, like Sherlock Holmes9?”
Overcoming the initial embarrassment, I continued talking with vigor.
In response, his eyes narrowed into thin arcs, giving off the impression that he was having fun.
“…I see. You’re a student from Ōki High School, and you’re not originally from the Kansai region, but from the Kanto region. You’ve lived in Kyoto for about half a year since you moved in. You came to this shop because you want to have something appraised, but that object doesn’t belong to you. Well, that’s all I know.”
My eyes and mouth were wide agape, as he was spot on for every single point.
“Anyone could tell you that. Your uniform is that of Ōki High School, and your intonation is from Kanto.”
Taken aback, I checked my outer appearance. I was wearing a navy blue blazer and a checkered skirt.
Right, I am wearing my uniform now. How stupid I am to forget that!
“B-But how did you know that it has been about half a year since I moved here?”
“That was just a guess. You don’t seem to have just moved here, but on the other hand, you don’t seem to have become totally familiar with this place. That probably means that you moved here in summer last year.”
It was exactly as he said. I transferred to my current high school near the end of the summer holidays last year.
It has been half a year, and now it is March.
“So how did you know that the thing I want appraised does not belong to me?”
“I cannot imagine a high school student owning something that can be appraised here. Then, it is natural to think that it actually belongs to your grandfather or grandmother. On top of that, your were feeling hesitant about getting it appraised since it is not your own— Am I mistaken?”
I could not speak a word.
…He had mentioned that anyone could tell me as much, but would any normal person know about all this?
No, that was impossible.
That was likely to be the reason why he was called “Holmes”.
“However, you need the money, and since you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, you brought it out without asking for permission, is that right?”
This time, his words made my heart leap.
…Did you know? I wanted to ask, but was unable to complete my question.
“If it was something you had permission for, you wouldn’t be hesitating, would you?”
I choked, as if a knife had been thrust into my throat.
“By showing that hesitation, that means that you aren’t normally a kid who would take out something belonging to your family and try to sell it on your own. However, you still put that plan into action. In other words, you are truly at your wit’s end. No matter what, you need that money as soon as possible, correct?”
I was shocked to the extent that I forgot to close my eyes or mouth.
Having taken a surprise attack, I stood stock still, while Ueda-san, who had been listening to the conversation, sighed in a disappointed tone.
“Hey, Kiyotaka, you’re scarin’ the girl. Knock it off already, would ya? That’s why we call you Holmes.”
The young store clerk, whose name was apparently “Kiyotaka” according to Ueda-san’s words, smiled wryly.
“Ah, sorry, I got carried away.”
He lowered his eyebrows apologetically. In response, I shook my head, stuttering, “N-No, i-it’s fine.”
However, my heart was still pounding loudly.
“By the way, I’m called ‘Holmes’ not because of ‘Sherlock Holmes’, and it’s actually just a nickname.”
“…S-So, did you get that nickname because you know everything?”
“No, my surname is ‘Yagashira’, and that’s why I’m called ‘Holmes’.”
He pointed at the nameplate at his chest.
Yagashira, as in house-head?
“…Ah, I see.”
I suddenly felt that it was pretty stupid.
At that moment, Meiko-san bent forward imperiously.
“That’s not all! Kiyotaka-chan’s just amazin’! He’ll be goin’ to Kyoto U for graduate school this spring!”
Graduate school in Kyoto University?
As I thought, he’s a student. On top of that, he’s going to Kyoto U…
After those words leaked out from the bottom of my heart, Holmes, or Kiyotaka-san grinned happily.
“That’s not what’s amazing about me.”
“I’ve always wanted to get into Kyoto U, since my father and grandfather studied there.”
“But I couldn’t get in through the entrance exams right after high school. I was fooling around too much with my grandfather.”
…Wait, did he just say that he was ‘fooling around with his grandfather’?
No, I must have misheard, right? He couldn’t possibly fool around that much with his grandfather.
Basically, Holmes-san took a gap year, self-studied and managed to get into Kyoto U? That was indeed amazing. If it were me, I wouldn’t take a gap year, and would be satisfied with entering whatever university would accept me for the time being.
I nodded in agreement.
“So, I decided to get into Kyoto Prefectural University.” Holmes-san said, with his index finger raised in the air.
“Huh? Kyoto Prefectural University?”
“Yes, or Kyoto Prefectural for short. However, I’ll be transferring to Kyoto University’s graduate school this spring. What do you think will happen to my academic record if I finish my studies there?”
“U-Umm, ‘graduated from Kyoto University’?”
“Exactly. Even though it’s Kyoto U, it’s relatively easy to get in as a graduate, with a side-entry course from Kyoto Prefectural. Don’t you think that’s a smart move?”
I looked away from the store clerk who was speaking proudly with a twinkle in his eye.
That seems a little crafty.
“…Ah, did you perhaps just think that I’m ‘crafty’?”
That’s scary! As I thought, this person is really like Sherlock Holmes!
Once again, I almost broke out in cold sweat.
“What’s your name?”
“It’s Mashiro Aoi.”
“What a lovely name. Was it given by your grandmother or grandfather?”
“I see. Aoi-san, your family moved into your grandparent’s house, correct?”
“Y-Yes, that’s right.”
“Is the residence in Sakyō Ward?”
“Quite close to Shimogamo Shrine?”
“Y-Yes, that’s right. How did you know?”
As I widened my eyes in shock, Ueda-san and Mieko-san suddenly chuckled.
“Well, there is that…”
“When you say ‘Aoi’, y’know…”
The three of them laughed merrily, but I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it.
As I cocked my head in confusion, Holmes-san straightened out his emotions and slowly met my gaze.
“…Aoi-san, we don’t buy from minors. You’re required to be accompanied by a guardian, or be in possession of an official letter of attorney.”
Upon hearing those words, the tension in my shoulders was released. Rather than being disappointed, I felt relieved.
It was the same feeling a would-be criminal would have getting caught before committing a crime.
“However, we can appraise your item, so could you show it to us? Since you brought it in, it has to be something good.”
Receiving his faint smile, my eyes widened.
(What did he mean when he said that it has to be good because I brought it in?)
“I’ll make coffee. Do you want one?”
“Ah, yes, if there’s sugar and milk.”
“Then I shall make it a café au lait. Please take a seat on the sofa.”
While I stared at his figure retreating to the back of the shop with a merry smile on his face, I sat down on the sofa at the café corner.
“Where did ya come from, Aoi-chan? Tokyo?”
I shook my head in response to Meiko-san, who was leaning forward in fascination.
“No, I came from Ōmiya in Saitama.”
“Because your parents had a job transfer?”
“Yes. My grandfather passed away two years ago, and my grandmother was left alone, so we decided to use that opportunity to live together. My father’s transfer application was finally granted last summer, and that was when we moved here.”
“You’ve already gotten used to this place, huh.”
I quietly nodded, when the fragrance of coffee swept over my nostrils.
I raised my head to see Holmes-san with a tray in his hands.
“Here you go. We always offer a drink as a service here. Just a hobby of mine.” He said as he placed the porcelain cup in front of me.
I cast my eyes on the delicious-looking café au lait.
“If you moved here in the summer, you must have felt really hot.”
Holmes-san commented and sat on the opposite side of the sofa.
“It was hot, but it wasn’t different from when I was in Saitama. I was surprised at how cold winter was, though.”
I gently picked up the cup and brought it to my mouth.
Speaking of which, March is the period of time when the difference between warm and cold becomes quite extreme.
The café au lait that Holmes-san made spread through my slightly frigid body.
“I suppose that’s true. The winters here in Kyoto are horrible. They freeze ya to ya bones!”
“Exactly. I was surprised by how cold it was here when I came from Osaka.” Mieko-san and Ueda-san spoke in succession.
It seemed that Ueda-san originated from Osaka.
“Shimogamo-san11 is further in the north, so its even colder there.”
Holmes-san nodded in agreement.
Come to think of it, Holmes-san was always using standard Japanese. Which part of Japan did he come from?
“Ah, I’ve lived in Kyoto my entire life. Although it can be hard to tell because I use polite speech.”
Shocked at getting a reply to my inner thoughts, I spurted out some coffee.
J-Just how deep into my thoughts can this person see!
“As I said, Holmes, ya should stop that. Aoi-chan, you’re surprised by this guy, aren’t ya?”
“Y-Yes. Is he always like this?”
“No, I usually take more care to avoid saying everything I think of. I wonder what’s wrong with me today.” He mused and tilted his head.
If he avoids saying everything he thinks of, then as I thought, he must be a person who is always sensitive about these things. I wonder if appraisers are all like this?
“…Aoi-san, may I take a look at your artifact?”
The store clerk held out his hand, having apparently restored his composure. In response, I handed him the paper bag.
“What’s this?” “There’s two things in there.” Ueda-san and Mieko-san drew closer, their eyes shining with curiosity.
I somehow felt the urge to run away.
“A hanging scroll, huh.”
With white gloves, he carefully took it out of the bag. After opening it, he muttered, “This is…” with widened eyes.
In the middle of the scroll was the image of a vigorous daruma12.
It had lines which looked like they were drawn on with ink, and the daruma’s sharp eyes left a strong impression.
“…A Zenga13 painting by Hakuin Ekaku. This is quite a surprise, it’s real.”
He spoke in a composed tone, but I could tell that he was excited from the sparkle in his eyes.
“I don’t know about Hakuin Ekaku, but I feel like I’ve seen this picture somewhere before. So it’s real?”
Mieko-san asked gleefully. Holmes-san nodded in response.
“Hakuin Ekaku was a Zen monk during the mid-Edo period and was known as the progenitor of Rinzai school’s rejuvenation.”
“Rinzai school’s… rejuvenation?”
“Rinzai school is a sect teaching Zen Buddhism, while rejuvenation means ‘reviving something that has declined and ceased to exist’. In other words, he is someone who made great contributions in the revival of a particular teaching of Zen.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Hakuin preached Zen Buddhism in a way that was easy to understand, and thus earned his name as the father of its rejuvenation. He was a virtuous monk put on the same level as Mt. Fuji, in the saying ‘Suruga has two great assets that are two good for the province: one Mt. Fuji, the other Hakuin of Hara.’”
After providing that information, Holmes-san lowered his gaze to look at the scroll.
“Wow, I’m really surprised. This daruma painting is in really fine condition, it’s quite incredible.”
“Hey, Holmes, what price would ya give it?”
Ueda-san jumped into the conversation with a blunt question. Holmes-san narrowed his eyes and murmured, “…I see.”
“It’ll fetch about 2.5 million yen, I believe.”
“Two, two million?” My outburst betrayed my astonishment.
It’s worth that much? And I was just hoping it would bring in fifty thousand or so.
My heart raced at the thought of a sum I didn’t even imagine.
I had carefreely put such an amazing thing into a paper bag and brought it here.
“I’ll also take a look at the other item.”
Ignoring my agitation, Holmes-san reached for the remaining contents of the paper bag in high spirits.
“Ah, that’s also a painting by the same person, I think. It’s not of a daruma, though.”
“It’ll be a pleasure,” Holmes-san said as he opened the hanging scroll, but abruptly stopped moving.
“What’s this? It’s a painting of a baby this time, huh. It’s cute, ain’t it?”
“Oh, so Hakuin also did this kind of paintings.”
In contrast to the two people chatting merrily, Holmes-san said nothing, with his eyes wide open.
It might have just been a figment of my imagination, but his face looked pale.
“What’s wrong, Holmes?”
“Ah, it’s nothing. I’ve seen… paintings of infants by Hakuin, but this is the first time I’m seeing this picture of a baby.”
The hand that Holmes-san was using to hold the hanging scroll was quivering slightly.
“What, is it something amazing?”
“That’s right… Or rather, I can’t put a price to it.”
Holmes-san quietly declared, while I let out a perplexed sound. “Eh?”
He can’t put a price to it?
As I sat with my mouth agape, Holmes-san raised his head to look at me.
“…Aoi-san, to whom does this hanging scroll belong to?”
“It belongs to… my late grandfather. He really liked antiques, so he collected all sorts of things.”
“I see. If I may be so forward to ask, what could you need money for so badly that you would bring out your late grandfather’s antiques?”
With a firm gaze, Holmes-san asked in a gentle tone. However, I was unable to meet him in the eye, and instead looked down.
“…The price of a ticket on the Shinkansen. I really wanted to go back to Saitama.”
“Right, it’s almost spring, so I suppose you wanna meet your friends. But how ‘bout asking your mother?” Mieko-san suggested.
In response, Holmes-san put his index finger to his lips, as if to say, “Keep quiet for now.” Seeing that pose, Mieko-san hurriedly closed her mouth and shrugged.
“Did something happen?”
I was met with another gentle question, but I continued looking down and bit my lip.
After a brief silence, I spoke up.
Upon opening my mouth, tears suddenly started overflowing.
“L-Last month, the boy I was dating said he wanted to break up.”
I spoke as if I was spitting the words out. Mieko-san and Ueda-san wore gentle expressions on their faces.
“…A-At the time, I thought ‘there’s no helping it’. We live so far away now, and we rarely see each other. I thought it couldn’t be helped that we would drift apart… although I still felt really sad and heartbroken at the time…”
We had been dating since middle school.
I’d believed that we would enter the same high school and be together forever.
But then I had to move to Kyoto…
“In this day and age, we’re always connected by the internet, so having a long distance relationship shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll definitely go to the university in Kyoto, anyway.”
That’s what he said when I left Saitama.
However, we started drifting apart.
“…Sorry, I don’t think we can continue like this.”
Eventually, that is what he told me, and we broke up.
That was what I’d expected. It was painful, but at that time, all I could think was that ‘there was no helping it’…
I had to move away due to my family circumstances, so I was feeling apologetic, feeling that it was all my fault.
“But he started dating another girl right after that. And that girl was… my best friend. I found out about that a few days ago.”
Yes, that girl was my best friend… or the person I thought was my best friend.
We hit it off immediately after entering high school. We were almost together, and I thought we were the best of best friends.
“Aoi, you and your boyfriend make a really good couple. I’ll watch over him to make sure he doesn’t cheat on you, so just relax and go to Kyoto.” That was what she said, but…
Did she become close to him after I left?
Was she happy when I moved away?
To think that my boyfriend and best friend would start dating. It made me feel vexed, heartbroken, miserable.
– I didn’t know what to do.
All I knew was that I wanted to go back to Saitama.
“I see, so that’s why you want to rush back.”
Holmes-san nodded, while Mieko-san said, “Oh my,” as she narrowed her eyes awkwardly.
“But what are ya going to do once ya return?”
I was at a loss of words for that question.
That’s right. What do I do once I get back?
I’d thought about that question multiple times.
“…I, I want to see for myself. And after that, I have a lot of things to say to the two of them! That they’re awful! That I’ll never forgive them! Because it’s just so cruel! Too cruel!”
Something that I had restrained within me burst forth and spilled out.
Because I didn’t want my family to worry, I couldn’t cry at home.
I also didn’t have any friends I could talk to at school.
…I had been enduring this all on my own.
I really wanted to cry at the top of my lungs.
I fell flat on the table, with tears flowing out of my eyes, and a big hand gently stroked my head.
“…Aoi-san, please take a look at the picture of the baby that you brought in.”
Upon hearing those words, I looked up, still sobbing.
I looked at the drawing of the baby, with its gentle curves.
It was sleeping, but also looked to be smiling.
“Do you know about Hakuin?”
He asked kindly. I quietly shook my head.
I only brought this picture because ‘it looked nice’, and didn’t know a thing about its creator.
“As I said earlier, he was a virtuous monk regarded on the same level as Mt. Fuji. However, there was a period of time when that name was dragged to the ground.”
“When Hakuin was staying in Shōin shrine, the daughter of one of the shrine parishioners became pregnant. Her father interrogated her about whose baby it was. Stumped as to how to answer that question, the girl remembered her father worshipping Hakuin earlier in the day, so she lied and said ‘This is Hakuin’s baby.’ She must have thought that she would be able to calm thte situation down by bringing out Hakuin’s name.
“However, the girl’s father flew in a fit of rage and carried the baby to Hakuin. ‘To make my daughter pregnant, you must be a horrible, corrupt priest! Here, take this baby,’ he said and forced the child onto Hakuin.”
“Eh… so what did Hakuin-san do?”
“Faced with accusations he knew nothing about, Hakuin did not say a word in defence of himself, and took in the baby.
“After that, even as he was lambasted as a ‘corrupt monk’ by the people, he walked around town searching for a woman to nurse the child. The person who could not tolerate seeing him like this was the woman who had given birth to the baby.
“Consumed with guilt, she cried and revealed the truth to her father. Taken aback by the truth, the girl’s father immediately rushed to Hakuin and apologized profusely.
“Hakuin merely responded, ‘Is that so? It’s good that the child has a father.’ He then returned the baby without a single ill word for the girl or her father.
“How do you think Hakuin really felt about this episode?”
I couldn’t say anything in response to that question.
He was betrayed, made to bear a false accusation, criticized, and even so, didn’t say a word to defend himself, instead devoting his energy to taking care of the baby. He returned the baby to the parishioner when he came to apologize.
How would he feel about that…
He must have felt angry about how selfish they were being.
“Don’t you think his feelings are reflected in this picture?”
Holmes-san gazed at the picture of the baby with a gentle look in his eyes.
The picture of the baby sleeping peacefully. All I could feel from it was “love”.
Once again, large teardrops fell.
No matter how poorly he was treated, Hakuin accepted it and surrounded it with love.
Even as things were forced onto him, even as things were taken from him.
I felt ashamed at myself for hating, for being spiteful, for saying that they were cruel and I was unable to forgive them.
I felt really ashamed for trying to sell off such a wonderful treasure belonging to my grandfather, just for the sake of storming over and spitting out hateful words.
…But even so, the feeling of bitterness was still within me.
That feeling still brought me pain, and I could do nothing about it.
The tears wouldn’t stop.
“Aoi-san, would you like to work here?”
Confused by the words falling into my ears, I raised my head. “Eh?”
“You have quite a good eye, after all. How about earning your train ticket by properly working here, instead of secretly selling your family’s treasure?”
“When you’ve saved up enough money for the trip and still want to go back to Saitama, you can go and get everything off your chest then.”
Seeing Holmes-san’s grin, something warm filled my heart.
– That’s right.
I’d only considered going back immediately to see the situation with my own eyes, then complain about it.
That was why I thought that I didn’t have the time to do a part-time job, because I wanted the money right away.
Being spurred on by that impulsive action, I had lost sight of a lot of things.
I remember someone saying that there are times when a road appears before you, as if it had been prepared just for you.
That was the exact feeling I had.
I wanted to learn something here, from this mysterious person.
“Yes… Please let me work here.”
I lowered my head, while Ueda-san and Mieko-san clapped and exclaimed, “That’s great!”
“Good, we were actually looking for someone to help out.”
Another kind smile drifted onto Holmes-san’s face.
“– Thank you so much for today. I look forward to working with you from now on.”
Having returned the Hakuin hanging scrolls to the paper bag, I bowed again.
“I look forward to working with you too.”
Holmes-san also bowed.
“I’ll be leaving, then.” I was about to leave the store, but stopped and turned around.
“Um, why did you say that I had a good eye? Also, how did you know where I live?”
I asked a couple of questions that I was curious about. In response, he chuckled.
“Because of that tea bowl that you stopped to look at earlier. That’s a Shino tea bowl, and it’s one of my grandfather’s treasures.”
“Shino tea bowl?”
“It’s a national treasure from the Momoyama period14, and it’s said that it cannot be reproduced once lost. If I had to put a price tag on it, I would say it’s worth about 60 million yen.”
“S-Sixty million yen? Is it alright to place such a valuable object here?”
“That’s our little secret.”
Holmes-san put an index finger to his lips and smiled mischievously.
“But I was moved by the painting of Mt. Fuji earlier! Wasn’t that a fake?”
“Ah, that’s a replication, and they’re generally produced to let an even larger number of people appreciate a work of art. Much effort has been used for the spread of such replications, to the extent that sometimes even the same ink is used.
“Replicas are recognized by the original artists, so even if they are not the real deal, they can still have quite a bit of impact. I believe that being moved by them also shows that you have a good eye.”
“I-I see. So, how did you know where I live?”
“Ah, about that… you’ll find out in due course.”
Holmes-san replied with a mischievous laugh.
– I’ll find out in due course?
Confused, I thanked the store clerk again and left the shop.
The sky had already turned dark. The arcade of Sanjou Shopping Street had been lit up brightly, producing a different kind of bustling scenery from that in the afternoon.
Now, time to go home…
And work hard in my new part-time job.
My fate might change from today onwards.
Those were the events of that chilly Spring which led me to that strange premonition.
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- A street in Teramachi, a famous shopping district in the western part of downtown Kyoto.
- This can be taken to mean “treasury” in Japanese.
- I’m not really sure why there are lines like these in brackets, but my guess is that the main character is muttering to herself.
- This person is speaking in Kansai dialect. As per the norm, I will translate it into southern slang.
- A type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth traditionally used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods.
- A type of tree cultivated in Eastern Asia.
- A frame for painting and calligraphy on rice paper.
- A mobile storage cabinet indigenous to Japan.
- I would like to point out that Sherlock Holmes does not know about a lot of things. In fact, he doesn’t care about facts that aren’t useful in the science of deduction, like that of the Earth rotating about the Sun (Source: A Study in Scarlet). I apologize for the somewhat random footnote but as a Sherlock Holmes fan, I feel the need to correct this misconception every time it arises.
- House (Ya in Yagashira) is like Home, which can be read as ホーム (Hōmu), while head (Gashira in Yagashira) can be read as ズ (Zu), so stick those two words together to get ホームズ (Hōmuzu), which is Holmes in Japanese.
- This refers to Shimogamo Shrine in Sakyo Ward, I presume.
- A hollow, round and typically red Japanese traditional doll modelled after the founder of the Zen tradition of Buddhism.
- The art of Zen Buddhist painting, done in ink, which is usually simple, bold and abstract.
- The final phase of the Sengoku period, right before the start of the Edo period and the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate.