Chapter 3: A Million Wishes (Part 1)

C

Chapter 2 Part 9 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 2

{Note about chapter name: Hyakumanben is another name for Chionji Temple in Sakyō ward, a temple associated with the priests Ennin (794-864) and Honen (1133-1212) and is a Jodo-shu sect (A branch of Pure Land Buddhism) temple of Japanese Buddhism. The name Hyakumanben (“One Million Times”) comes from a period of pestilence and plague in the city in 1331, following an earthquake, when the abbot of Chionji held a service where Namu-Amida-Butsu was recited one million times over the period of a week.}


June arrived in Kyoto, and so did the rainy season.

I was in Kura, where quiet jazz music was being played.

The sound of Manager scribbling on manuscript paper with a pen also resounded in the air.

As I held a binder in my hand and checked the goods on the shelves, I stopped for a moment to turn my gaze at the view outside the window.

I could see people walking inside the arcade with umbrellas in their hands.

It was raining, and it was as if the sky was weeping.

 “—Aoi-san, is anything the matter?”

After hearing Manager’s words, I turned around and tightened my grip on the binder.

“Ah, sorry, I spaced out for a moment.”

“If you’re tired, don’t hesitate to take a rest. I don’t mind if you do your homework here, since Kiyotaka and I are always doing our own things anyway.”

I could see Manager’s eyes narrow gently through his spectacles. I replied, “No, it’s fine,” and shook my head.

“I’m receiving part-time pay for this, so I’ll work, even if I can’t do much… But I suppose I can’t say that right after spacing out.”

I shrugged, while Manager chuckled pleasantly.

He gave off the exact same vibe as Holmes-san at times like this.

Incidentally, Holmes-san was having classes in college, while Owner was jetting around somewhere, as usual.

“Our shop doesn’t attract much customers, but we can’t have no one tending it, so we’re really grateful that you’re here to look about the shop. On top of that, you do the cleaning, set up the display, perform the stock checks and even help with the wrapping. You’ve been working so hard, Aoi-san, and I sincerely thank you for that.”

I felt saved by those words and Manager’s kind smile.

“T-Thank you.”

“There’s no end to the stock checks, so how about we take a break and drink some coffee?”

“Ah, I’ll go prepare it, then.”

Unlike Holmes-san who had an interest in making coffee, Manager was apparently not very good at it.

 As such, it was my job to prepare the coffee whenever Holmes-san wasn’t around.

I made it as properly as I could, then placed it near Manager and said, “Here you go.”

Since his manuscript was there, I used caution when placing the coffee.

His handwritten manuscript was filled with such skilful writing (?) that I could hardly make out anything.

“Handwritten manuscripts are an anachronism in today’s day and age, don’t you think?”

Probably having noticed my gaze, Manager said as he reached for the cup.

“Ah, you’re right. Everyone uses a laptop today, I believe.”

I nodded and sat next to Manager so that I could react if a customer came in.

“There’s a rumor floating around that I make editors cry.”

His handwritten manuscripts would have to be all typed out, so I suppose editors would cry at the thought of that. And the editors can actually read his writing… I felt a sense of admiration for those people.

“Are you bad with computers, Manager?”

“Not at all. I consult my editor via email, and I use Excel to manage the store.”

That was quite a surprise. I always thought he wrote by hand because he was bad with computers.

“So why don’t you use computers? Isn’t it tiring to write by hand?”

“You have a point, but… when I started writing, it was by hand, so I’ve gotten used to it. More importantly, I feel that the soul cannot be contained in the writing if a keyboard is used to type it out.”

“The… soul?”

“It differs for other people, but in my case, I feel that I can include more in my writing if I do it by hand.”

“That’s true. It’s the same thing for letters, right?”

“Yes. Handwritten letters are a part of culture that I definitely don’t want disappearing, although since my works will eventually be converted into data by the editor, so perhaps they’re not entirely related. It could just be psychological.” Manager said as he gave a light smile.

Capturing the soul, huh.

“…I’ve read a few of your works. They’re great, and really give the feeling of ‘capturing the soul’.”

Manager’s work was titled “Kōkyū1”, under the pen name Ijuuin Takeshi.

It was a mushy love-hate drama set in the Kōkyū, or the harem of the Heian period, and depicted the stories of ministers kicking others out of their positions due to their desire for power, as well as concubines desperate for the affection of the emperor.

It was really detailed and realistic, so I would be too immersed in the story and feel so much pain for the characters that I could never read it in one sitting.

I certainly didn’t expect this gentle, calm Manager to be able to write such a mushy story.

“I see, so you’ve really read my books. Now you understand why I didn’t want you to come into contact with my works, right?”

As I was startled by his words, Manager brought the cup of coffee to his mouth with a wry smile on his face.

“Ah, uh, uhh, well, how do I put it, I didn’t expect you to write such sentimental stories.”

I accidentally blurted out my true thoughts. In response, Manager chuckled.

“…In my works, I release the darkness lurking within.”

He turned to look outside the window, as if he was talking to himself.

“The darkness lurking within…”

I also looked outside the window.

I think I understood.

I had a feeling that I knew the meaning behind Manager’s words.

After all, I had my own darkness as well.

“…I lost my mother when I was young. She didn’t pass on, but she got divorced. Thus we became a father-son family, and with my father jetting around the world, I was raised by relatives in Tokyo.”

As Manager started telling his story in a voice that was as quiet and natural as the jazz music flowing in the shop, I said nothing, waiting for his next sentence.

“Those relatives are my father’s younger brother and his wife, and they have no children, so they treated me really well. However, since they weren’t my real parents, I still felt lonely. I missed my father, and I did return to Kyoto during the long school holidays, but I couldn’t stand it even if I was spending time with my father. Since we were both men, the time we spent together was quite awkward.”

I could also understand that feeling.

Leaving aside the question of a mother-child relationship, a father-son family would seem to be clumsy and awkward.

“Troubled over what to do with me, my father brought me to his workplaces. He would be called to museums and luxurious households to perform appraisals, and to my young self, my father looked so dazzling and cool when he spotted counterfeits in one look. He was like Sherlock Holmes, who can discern the true culprit immediately. Oh, I loved reading books when I was a kid.”

Manager added, while I grinned and nodded.

“I extremely admired my father, and I held thoughts of being an appraiser like my father some day. When I entered Kyoto U, I worked wholeheartedly, with the one wish of returning to my father’s side.”

“…I see.”

“However, I realized that I was lacking in the quality of ‘perception’. There was nothing I could do about that, so I gave up on my dreams of becoming an appraiser, and found employment with a publisher.

“I might not have been able to fulfil my dream, but I married the girl I was going out with, was further blessed with Kiyotaka’s birth, and managed to live out happy days. My father really dotes on his first grandson, Kiyotaka.”

 “…It certainly feels that way.”

“I’m ashamed to admit it, but I feel some jealousy for my son. I don’t have memories of my father treating my affectionately, you see. While my Kiyotaka is precious to me, I also envy him for being on the receiving end of unsparing love from my father.”

I felt sad for Manager after hearing him say that, since it seemed unbelievable to be envious of one’s child, but in his case, it was inevitable.

“When Kiyotaka was two years old, my wife passed on due to an illness… It started out as a small cold, but complications developed.”

“That’s…”

“Since the root cause of her passing on was a mere cold, my father became extremely nervous about Kiyotaka. He would say things like, ‘His body’s still not fully developed, so we can’t send him to kindergarten, which is filled with viruses.’ Refusing to listen to other people, including myself, who advised that being exposed to germs in a community would cause Kiyotaka to become more robust, my father was in constant attendance of Kiyotaka.

“Being an obedient, mature boy, my father had Kiyotaka follow him wherever he went, from appraisal venues to auction houses.”

—That was surprising. It meant that Holmes-san never went to kindergarten.

“Since Kiyotaka was born with special ‘eyes’, he was brought around by my father to look at real artifacts from a young age, and that helped him develop his potential even further.

“There was one time when Kiyotaka, my father and I went to the antique market at the temple. At one point, Kiyotaka pulled my sleeve, saying, ‘Amazing, there are even Tsukinowa Yūsen2 bonsai pots here!’, but to me, they were only bonsai pots. When he heard that, my father exclaimed with joy, ‘You’re a genius!’ I should have been happy together with my father, but I had regrettably succumbed to the feelings of envy.”

I gasped as Manager cast his eyes down.

I had no idea what I should say.

“While I love Kiyotaka, I also envy him greatly. Not knowing what to do with this feeling, I took up the pen and started weaving a story. It was based in history and was about a master jealous of a talented young man. That won the Newcomer’s Prize.”

“Eh, really? That’s amazing, then.”

“…Thank you. So that’s the story of how I debuted as an author. However, I still get these feelings of jealousy for Kiyotaka’s talent. I throw all these dark feelings into my compositions.”

Manager quietly said, then took a sip of coffee.

…So that’s how it is.

It must be painful to be envious of the person closest to you.

Observing my silence, Manager produced a wry smile.

“I’m sorry for suddenly telling such a heavy tale. I haven’t told this to anyone else, but you possess some strange charm, Aoi-san.”

“N-No, not at all. It’s probably because I’ve felt way that you have. I also have these dark feelings surging through me.”

“…Towards that ex-friend of yours who stole your lover?”

Manager asked in a restrained voice. I nodded.

“Yes. Towards those two.”

“Isn’t it about time that you’ve saved up the transportation cost to Saitama?”

“Yes, I have enough money for the train ticket now.”

“There are no consecutive holidays in June, so are you going back next month?”

Manager asked, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth.

Seeing that I was unable to speak, he smiled gently.

“There’s no need to rush, so take your time to think about it.”

As I nodded, Manager stared outside the door and narrowed his eyes gently.

“Oh, Kiyotaka’s here.”

I looked up in response.

The doorbell rang, and Holmes-san’s figure appeared.

“Thanks for the hard work.”

Upon seeing us, Holmes-san bowed and placed his umbrella in the stand.

“How’s the rain?”

“Looks like it’ll stop soon. Tomorrow will probably be a clear day.”

“Tomorrow’s the fifteenth, huh.”

Manager glanced at the calendar on the table.

The next day was a Sunday, and I was supposed to come in again for part-time work.

“Kiyotaka, are you also going there this month?”

“Yes, I think I will.”

“If so, you could bring Aoi-san with you. It’ll probably help her learn.”

I went “Ehh?” and opened my eyes wide in response to Manager’s suggestion.

“Umm, where to?”

Holmes-san grinned after observing my consternation.

“To Hyakumanben Chionji Temple’s ‘Handicraft Market’. It’s something like a freemarket held every month on the fifteenth, and surprising treasures show up every now and then. As my father said, it’ll help you learn, so let’s go together. Of course, it’ll be treated as part-time work.”

“O-Okay.”

Still confused, I nodded anyway.


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Editors (Tier 2) : Bennet Kilian, Yazmin Arostegui, Steven Baltakatei, Smash the Oni

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  1. This refers to the section of the Imperial Palace where the Imperial Family and court ladies lived. Many cultured women gathered as wives of Emperors, and court ladies, as well as the maids for these women. Significant contributions to the literature of Japan were created in the Kōkyū during this period, like The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, and The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon.
  2. A famous painter of bonsai pottery who lived from 1908 to 1998. It is estimated that only a hundred of his bonsai pottery painting exist today. For more information, please refer to this website.

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