Forest of Correction.
That’s the name of the forest in the grounds of Shimogamo Shrine.
There is a large stone monument with the words “World Cultural Heritage” near the shrine entrance that leads out to a granite path. From that point, a walkway extends straight towards the main shrine. The primary forest1 on both sides of that road is the Forest of Correction, and has been designated as a World Heritage Site along with the shrine.
On top of that, it is also a famous power spot. In fact, the concept of “power spot” used to be hard to swallow for me, but since I moved into Kyoto, my thinking has changed a little.
Thus, in the early hours of the morning, I moved over to the Forest of Correction which was devoid of other people, and I could feel something there that made me agree to its classification as a power spot. There was a special kind of atmosphere in the air, similar to that when entering a forest or when climbing a mountain.
Since I’d reached the forest earlier than the meeting time of eight o’clock, I took a little walk, taking deep breaths along the way.
(Ah, this feels great!)
As dazzling sunlight filtered through the trees, the chirping of birds resonated in the air.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the sounds of the forest. I was truly in a deep forest.
At that moment, I noticed some light footsteps.
“Good morning Aoi-san. You’re early.”
Holmes-san’s voice reached my ears.
I silently opened my eyes, turned my head to the direction of the voice, and there was Holmes-san’s figure standing in front of me.
Of course, he looked wonderful.
Rather than being like a prince, his appearance at the deserted Forest of Correction was like that of a noble from the Heian period.
“G-Good morning. I live nearby, so I could get here early.”
“Your eyes are red. Were you so curious about the truth that you were unable to sleep?”
As Holmes-san moved right beside me and peered at my face, my cheeks went hot.
“Of, of course I was curious.”
At the end of yesterday, he’d evaded my questions about the truth with the words, “You’ll find out about everything tomorrow.”
“I see. And just like you, the curious have arrived.”
As he straightened his posture and turned around, I went “Eh?” in confusion and stretched my neck.
In front of Holmes-san’s field of view was the Miyashita family, who was walking into the forest grounds with pensive looks on their faces.
In this quiet forest which contained no one else besides us, where I could only hear the sounds of the birds and the wind, the footsteps of the mother and two daughters resounded as they slowly approached us.
They stopped about three steps away from us, then lowered their heads.
“Good morning. I apologize for calling you here so early in the morning.”
Holmes-san put a hand on his chest and bowed. Behind him, I also quickly bowed.
“So, erm, will the culprit who sent the threatening letters come here?”
Mrs. Miyashita answered while looking around at the quiet forest. In response, a grin appeared on Holmes-san’s face.
“Yes. Or rather, the culprit is already here.”
Upon hearing those words, the Miyashita family went “Eh?”, with their eyes widened.
Holmes-san produced a copy of the threatening letters from his jacket pocket, then turned to the concerned parties with a firm look.
“The one who made the threatening letters — is you, Kaori-san.”
Holmes-san clearly announced while glaring at Kaori-san. Shocked, Mrs. Miyashita and I exclaimed, “Eh? Really??” in loud voices.
The Saiō representative’s little sister who is in my year, Kaori-san?
In contrast to my consternation, Holmes-san maintained a calm expression.
With her eyes wide open, Kaori-san stood on the spot, her body trembling slightly.
“W-Why do you think that?”
Kaori-san asked in a quavering, unsteady voice.
“Well, first the question came to me. Why does the elder sister, Saori-san, go to a prestigious private university, while the younger sister, Kaori-san, go to the prefectural Ōki High School, which is an absolutely normal high school? I believe anyone would naturally hold that question.”
Upon hearing those words, I nodded. Indeed, I had also thought, “Why does the elder sister go to a school for rich girls, while Kaori-san goes to a normal high school?”
“I asked your grandfather, and according to him, the two of you went to the same private school until after middle school, when you, Kaori-san, enrolled into a prefectural high school. Apparently, you pleaded to your parents that your friends were all entering Ōki High School, so you wanted to go there no matter what. Since Ōki High School is quite a well-known school with a long history, so your parents allowed you to enter without objection.”
Holmes-san said, while Mrs. Miyashita nodded silently in response.
Come to think of it, Holmes-san mentioned that he had something to confirm with Owner. I suppose that was it – the reason why Kaori-san moved to a prefectural school.
“However, that is only the ostensible reason. Kaori-san, when you were in your second year of middle school, the Miyashita Draper Shop opened a branch store in Roppongi under the advice of an acquaintance, but business didn’t go well and they shut it down after a year. You were concerned about your family’s financial situation, so you decided to switch to a prefectural high school, right?”
Holmes-san asked in a kind manner, but Kaori-san clenched her fists without a word.
“A few days ago, Saori-san was selected to be the Saiō representative, you were worried about your family, weren’t you?”
I raised my eyebrows.
“U-Um, why would she be worried for her family when her sister is selected to be the Saiō representative?”
“I’m not sure how much of this is true, but I’ve been told that the preparations are mostly paid out of the pocket of the representative. The clothes alone costs five hundred thousand, and I’ve heard rumors that the total goes up to one million yen.”
“That’s why they say that the role is only given to girls from well-established families.”
I see, so that’s why Yoshiko-san and Yuuko-san were saying that it was totally unreasonable.
Finally accepting it, Kaori-san bit down on her back teeth with a grinding sound and lifted her head.
“Exactly! We’re only an old shop in name, and we’re in the red! That famous enka singer might have come to us to have their kimonos made and brought us some prosperity, but that was a long time ago. No one gets their kimonos made at such an expensive shop anymore! On top of that, we fell for that scam to open another branch, and made another huge loss! I thought we were about to recover, but with Sis being chosen to be the Saiō representative, that ain’t happening! My father and mother are such show-offs, so they ain’t rejecting that offer easily, so I thought that a threatening letter would give them a just reason! That’s why I took it upon myself to write that letter, but…”
Kaori-san explained in a vigorous stream of words, but suddenly stopped short.
Holmes-san gently narrowed his eyes.
“…Ah, it’s exactly as I thought.”
“You wrote the threatening letter, but didn’t actually use them. Am I wrong?”
Hearing those words, Kaori-san twitched strongly.
Bullseye. She clenched her fists and nodded.
“…Yeah. I’d completed the letter, but I still had some reservations. At that time, my father and mother said, ‘Fair winds must be blowing in our direction for Saori to be chosen as the Saiō representative. The preparations may be expensive, but they’re a trifle for advertising.’
“Hearing that, I realized I’d done something foolish… so I decided to dispose of the letter.”
Kaori-san said as she looked down in shame.
“But the letters that you were meaning to dispose of disappeared before you noticed it, and appeared in your sister’s bag, right?”
Holmes-san asked for confirmation, to which Kaori-san responded with a nod.
“Since it was in a manilla envelope, I was thinking that it got in by some sort of mistake.”
“It was no mistake. You found the letter and placed it in your own bag, right, Saori-san?”
Holmes-san swiftly changed directions to look at Saori-san.
“…” Her face turned pale in an instant.
“Eh, really? Why? You’re happy that you got chosen to be the representative, aren’t you? You were also worried that you received those threatening letters!”
Saori-san looked on gravely as her mother asked in surprise.
“On top of that, Saori-san, you also created another threatening letter on your own. This is the second letter.” Holmes-san said as he retrieved the other letter from his jacket pocket.
A temporary silence fell.
“…How did you know?” Saori-san quietly asked while looking down.
“…The two works at the flower arrangement exhibition. The small arrangement done at home was not done by you, but by your little sister, Kaori-san, right?”
After hearing that, Saori-san and Kaori-san instantly looked up, as if they had been caught off guard.
“The instructor mentioned ‘a difference in craftsmanship’, but that’s not the problem. I couldn’t see them as anything other than as works that were produced by different people. If the one you made in the classroom was your own, then the one created at home was done by another person.
“Also, the threatening note. The first note shows surprising sensitivity in the cutting and pasting of each letter, but the second was not on the same standard.
“The person who created this note probably also noticed this difference, for it contains much fewer words than the first note. Two different people wrote the threatening notes, and two different people created the flower arrangements. Naturally, Saori-san and Kaori-san came to mind. However, the two of you had different motives for producing the notes.”
Holmes-san calmly asserted, while I gasped in surprise.
Kaori-san’s motive was that she was concerned about her family’s state of finances.
Then what about Saori-san?
I secretly looked at her.
Crestfallen, she hung her head, seemingly about to burst into tears.
“I-I didn’t want to be… hated even more.”
After a brief pause, Saori-san spoke in a voice that seemed like it was about to disappear.
“…In high school, Yoshiko and Yuuko suddenly shunned me, and my mother berated them for that, which led to the dissolution of our friendship. But I wanted us to return to our previous relationship. Finally, the antagonism of that incident looked to be fading, and we could have restored our friendship if things stayed the way they were for a while, but then I was chosen as the Saiō representative.
“If they had congratulated me after hearing that news, we could have reconciled, but in reality, the opposite happened. I was hated even more than before…
“It’s just so painful. I thought that if I received a threatening letter and resigned from being the Saiō representative, they would be worried and act kindly towards me. Then we can go back to being good friends again…”
Saori-san said as tears rolled down her cheek. However, we couldn’t say anything in response to her revelation.
Her painful feelings were understandable, but she did all that just for the sake of getting her friends to sympathize with her, to repair their relationship.
In actual fact, the two of them were extremely jealous of Saori-san, so I don’t think they could become good friends again no matter what happened.
It just seemed so foolish and shallow that I couldn’t say a word.
But then her sobbing, quivering figure was exactly like mine at that time.
That figure of mine as I tried to sell my deceased grandfather’s antiques and return to Saitama.
From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed totally unnecessary, but it meant the whole universe to that person.
Saori-san was always feeling pain as she studied with her former friends in school and in the flower arrangement class.
“—Sis, you dummy!”
As Kaori-san’s shout reverberated in the forest, I raised my head in shock.
“I thought ya were also worried about the family, but ya did it just for something like that! It’s so stupid I could cry!”
Wow, Kaori-san. I agree with your sentiments, but that’s quite a harsh thing to say.
“You don’t understand, Kaori! You don’t understand how much I’ve been ostracized!”
“Yeah, I don’t! Why do ya insist on sticking with those useless folk? Ya don’t even like flower arrangement, so why do ya continue with it, just to try and reconcile with those two girls! They don’t know your merits, so ya should stop being attached to them already! Graduate and see a whole new world! Become a woman so amazing that those two girls can shamelessly say, ‘I was friends with that person!’”
I was taken aback by Kaori-san’s forceful shouts.
It also seemed to resonate with Saori-san, for she muttered, “Kaori…”, as tears returned to her flushed face.
In the silence that fell and surrounded the area, Holmes-san clapped his hands.
“That was amazing, Kaori-san.”
Upon hearing those words, Kaori-san blushed, apparently having come to her senses.
“Here, Miyashita-san, I shall return these to you.”
Holmes-san handed over the two threatening letters.
“…This has been embarrassing for us. Thank you.”
Mrs. Miyashita weakly accepted the two sheets of paper.
“Kiyotaka-san, I sincerely apologize.”
Saori-san and Kaori-san bowed, but Holmes-san shook his head.
“Saori-san, I agree with what Kaori-san said. I hope that you will be a great Saiō representative who can charm everyone.”
Saori-san responded with a nod as she wiped her tears off with a finger.
“And Kaori-san, I have a question to ask of you.”
A look of caution appeared on Kaori-san’s face.
She must be feeling afraid since he was straightforwardly pointing everything out.
“You moved to a prefectural school for the sake of your family, and you did flower arrangement for the sake of your sister. How did you become so dedicated? You’re the one with an interest in flower arrangement, but you allowed your sister to get lauded for it, didn’t you?”
Kaori-san’s eyes widened, but then she gave a light chuckle.
“Ah, it’s nothing much. I’m the second daughter, so I have the freedom to leave the family. But Sis has to get a husband and continue the family line.
“That’s why I think that it’s only natural for her to go to a good school and learn things like flower arrangement, for the sake of the family’s honor. I respect and pity her at the same time, so I try to support her wherever possible. Sis has good looks, but is absolutely hopeless at other areas.”
Kaori-san spoke with a sunny smile, causing me to brighten up as well.
“Mother, we need to get to the shrine office soon.”
Kaori-san looked at her watch. Taken aback, Mrs. Miyashita and Saori-san looked up.
“You’re right. We’ll be going off then, Kiyotaka-san. I am truly sorry for causing so much trouble. Erm, if possible, please keep this case…”
“Yes, you can be rest assured that we will not divulge this to anyone else.”
Upon hearing those words, the three of them heaved a sigh of relief, bowed deeply, then headed towards the main shrine.
I stared at the retreating figures of the three women.
“K-Kaori-san.” Before I noticed, I had called out her name.
She turned back as if to say, “What is it?”, while my heart suddenly beat faster.
Hang on, why did I even call her back?
“U-Um, I heard that there’s a place with cream-filled bread near Hotel Okura. A-Apparently you can’t order it for takeout, and I-I can’t go in alone, so if it’s alright with you, shall we go together next time?”
I asked with a raised voice. Kaori-san had a look of surprise for a moment, then replied.
“I’ve certainly heard of the famous bread at Okura! I haven’t tried it before, so yes, let’s go next time!” A wide smile appeared on her face.
“T-Thank you,” I waved my heart, as my heart beat even stronger in joy.
“That’s great, to be able to meet someone you naturally wish to be friends with.”
Holmes-san commented with a kind smile, but all I could do was nod wordlessly.
Yes, there wasn’t any reason behind it, but I did think, “I want to be friends with this girl.”
I took a deep breath and looked at Holmes-san.
“…It’s great that you managed to solve this case without it turning into a big incident.”
“Yeah. The location probably helped quite a bit in getting the two of them to speak from their hearts.”
“You’re right, this place does have a very dignified atmosphere.”
“That is true, but do you know the origin of the name, ‘Forest of Correction’?”
“Eh? The origin?”
“The name comes from the legend where the enshrined deity, ‘Kamotaketsunumi-no-mikoto’, holds a trial in this forest. In this context, ‘correction’ means investigation2.”
Holmes-san explained as he looked up at the sky, while my eyes widened.
—The courthouse of the gods. I never knew this was such a sacred place.
A cool wind blew past.
“Now then, shall we go to the main shrine?”
“Ah, yes. Since we’re here, after all.”
I nodded, and we also followed the walkway.
Behind the vermillion archway was an imposing tower gate that was also vermillion in color.
On the left, there was a weird cluster of trees, with two trees overlapping on one other tree. Apparently, it’s known as a matchmaker.
We passed under the gate and continued on to an area with altars deifying the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac surrounding the large main shrine in a circle. There were no bells in this area.
I’ve heard from a tour guide that very old shrines often don’t have bells3.
After the shrine visit, Holmes-san looked at his watch.
“—It’s still nine o’clock, huh. Aoi-san, if it’s alright with you, would you like to come with me for breakfast?”
“Y-Yes, please. I actually haven’t eaten anything in the morning.”
“That’s great. There’s a café nearby that I highly recommend.”
“Wow, I’ll look forward to it, then. Ah, before that, could I draw a fortune?”
“Sure. Shimogamo Shrine’s fortunes have all sorts of aphorisms written on them, so it’s quite interesting.”
“As expected, you’re well-informed about everything.”
After that conversation, we drew our fortunes and turned our backs on the shrine.
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- Primary forest are forests that are largely undisturbed by industrial-scale land uses and infrastructure such as logging and mining, have unpolluted soil and water, and are more likely to possess the full complement of their evolved, characteristic plant and animal species with few if any exotics.
- I translated the forest’s name, Tadasu-no-mori, as Forest of Correction, since that was the name given on Wikipedia. However, the Shimogamo Shrine’s website says that Tadasu (the word for Correction) could mean delta or justice, but since the name is so ancient, it is uncertain. Another possibility is that the name is a double-entendre meant to encompass both possibilities. I’m not sure how Holmes’ explanation fits into all this, unfortunately.
- I believe these bells refer to the large bells draped over the entrance at some Shinto shrines. It is said that ringing them calls kami, allowing one to acquire positive power and authority, while repelling evil.