Chapter 3: A Million Wishes (Full Text)

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{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.}


1

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.

2

The next day.

I was riding my bicycle towards Hyakumanben.

Hyakumanben Chionji was not that far from my house.

It was actually even closer than Teramachi Sanjou.

I traveled down south on Shimogamo Main Road until it merged with Imadegawa Road, then turned left (East). I eventually reached a large, busy intersection known as “Hyakumanben Intersection”. The Kyoto University building could be seen from a particular angle.

After progressing a little East on that intersection, there was the Hyakumanben Chionji Temple.

However, since I had arranged to meet Holmes-san in Tokyo U’s parking lot, I nervously entered Tokyo U, still on my bike.

Even while it was a Sunday, there were still many students milling around. There were absolutely normal students wearing shirts and jeans, but there were also those with ruffled hair, clad in sweatshirts and jerseys, giving the strong impression that they didn’t care much about how fashionable they looked.

“……”

Come to think of it, a friend in class said, “Whenever I see someone with clothes that look like they can’t be bothered, I assume that they’re from Kyoto U.”

There were really a lot of students who couldn’t be bothered with how they looked. Were they too focused on their studies such that they couldn’t pay attention to their style?

I was a little nervous about entering the school for the first time, but seeing those shabbily-dressed people helped me relax.

But more importantly, the parking lot is so huge. Where should I park my bicycle?

I frantically looked around.

“Good morning, Aoi-san,” Holmes-san’s voice reached my ears.

When I turned towards the direction of the voice, his figure, clad in a rough jacket, V-neck and jeans, appeared in my field of vision. It was a simple yet clean fashion.

As I thought, Holmes-san was really cool. On top of that, his handsomeness was further emphasized by the location, or the parking lot within Kyoto U.

“G-Good morning. How did you know that I would be here?”

“Well, you know how to get to Chionji Temple from Imadegawa, so I thought that you would enter Kyoto U from this gate.”

Holmes-san casually answered.

That was a stupid question, I thought regretfully.

“Can I park my bicycle here?”

“Yes, it’s fine.”

“Come to think of it, Holmes-san…”

I started, but held my tongue.

It might be a little late for me to realize this, but he could be embarrassed being called “Holmes-san” in front of all these people. This is a university, after all.

Then, how should I address Holmes-san? Should I call him “Kiyotaka-san”? Or should it be “Yagashira-san”?

Those were my concerned thoughts as I locked the bicycle.

“Ah, Holmes-kun, ya came today. Will ya be in school later?”

A girl who was passing by called out, causing me to choke.

“Nah, I’ll be going to Chionji now. What’s up?”

“Chionji! I see, it’s the 15th. Well, I was hoping that ya would take a look at my report. I just need it for next week, so would ya take a look?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Thanks! See ya later, then!” The female university student waved and left.

It might be natural for fellow students, but it was fresh to hear Holmes-san speak casually in Kansai dialect.

…But that wasn’t all.

“Holmes-san, you’re also called ‘Holmes’ in university?”

I squeaked in surprise.

“Yes, I’ve been always called that since elementary school, even up till now. That’s because my family name is Yagashira.”

Holmes-san faced me as he spoke with his usual mannerisms. It was quite a weird feeling.

“Come to think of it, you were about to say something, weren’t you, Aoi-san?”

“Ah, yes. It might be late to ask, but what do you primarily learn in university?”

“I take ‘Philology3 and cultural studies’.”

“Philology and cultural studies?”

I didn’t know what that meant, but it did seem like a subject for Holmes-san.

“Shall we go, then?”

“Ah, yes.”

I walked out of the gate together with Holmes-san.

As we did so, I noticed other students peeking at Holmes-san as they passed by.

Yup, Holmes-san is a cool person, after all. And he’s tall.

During the Aoi Festival incident, those university and even the Saiō representative were getting excited over him, so he must be really popular.

…Now that I think of it, does Holmes-san have a girlfriend?

I’ve worked with him for about three months at Kura already, but I haven’t found the slightest trace of a girlfriend, although I wasn’t specially paying attention to that…

We continued walking in silence.

“What’s the matter?” Holmes-san suddenly asked as he peered at me with a curious look on his face.

“Wh-What?”

I yelped.

“You seemed to be deep in thought.”

“Ah, yeah, well. But if you’re saying that, doesn’t that mean that you’ve already read what I was thinking?”

“Your thoughts are often relatively easy to infer, but this time, I can’t really tell.”

Holmes-san said, causing my cheeks to go hot.

I definitely couldn’t say, “0I was thinking about whether you have a girlfriend.”

Since that would probably get me into a weird misunderstanding.

“W-Well, I wasn’t thinking of anything important.”

“I see. You did give off that vibe.”

“That’s mean.”

We laughed, exiting from the school gate.

Once again, the Hyakumanben intersection came into view. As expected of the student quarters, it was bustling with people, and we were surrounded by dumpling shops, gyudon restaurants, burger bars, yakitori stalls, izakaya4, as well as other food and beverage stores.

“There’s an amazing number of food shops.”

“Yes, it’s really lively here, don’t you think?”

“Do you go to izakaya on the way home from school, Holmes-san?”

“Sometimes, but there’s the shop, so not really.”

“Right, you need to tend the store.”

I nodded as went across the pedestrian crossing and headed East.

Soon after, we could see the temple’s old, magnificent gate.

A sign with the words “Handicraft Market” was set against the gate, and there was a great deal of hustle and bustle past it.

Under tents and parasols were various goods, and the temple ground was packed with people who came to browse those goods.

“W-Wow, this place looks really prosperous!”

Seeing me being overwhelmed at the entrance, Holmes-san grinned and nodded.

“The Handicrafts Market is always held on the 15th of each month, and its popularity seems to be compounded by the fact that it’s a weekend today.”

“I see, so it’s because it’s a Sunday today. Weekdays must be slightly better.”

We entered the crowded space together and slowly walked around while looking at the goods on sale.

Like in a normal free market, clothes were on sale, but since this was Kyoto, they were mostly kimono, obi and fabrics.

There were cute animals made of wool felt on sale, as well as bags and shoes made of real leather.

On top of that, there were accessories and gamaguchi5.

I was blown away and pleasantly surprised by the range of products here, which even included pickles, dried young sardines, cookies and coffee.

“It’s such a nice atmosphere, like a festival.”

“That’s great. Finding such treasures here is also part of the enjoyment,” Holmes-san said he held a porcelain cup in his hands.

“…With its deep hue and supple fullness, it’s quite a well-shaped cup.”

As Holmes-san said, it was a superb cup, with a deep blue mixed within a shade of black, and a gentle roundness.

By the handle was a tag with the figure “1500 yen”. A typical price.

“…Is that a hidden treasure? Is it a work made by a great person?”

I asked in a small voice, but Holmes-san shook his head.

“No, this is an honest-to-goodness work produced by that seller over there.”

In front of our eyes was a stern, fully-bearded, middle-aged man sitting on a folding chair.

W-Woah! He’s totally giving off the impression of a grumpy potter!

“He must be a gentle, delicate fellow.”

Holmes-san murmured quietly while studying the cup, causing me to stop and go, “Eh?”

“W-What are you talking about? He looks like he would seclude himself in a mountain to fight bears!”

I replied in an even smaller voice, but Holmes-san chuckled.

At that moment, the fully-bearded old man who looked like he fought bears on a regular basis frowned dubiously.

“So, what of it, mister?” He stepped towards us.

“I would like to buy it. The curves and the hue are exquisite, making it an amazing work.”

Holmes-san replied with a smile and handed over the money. However, the man, seemingly embarrassed, couldn’t say anything, and speechlessly wrapped the cup in a newspaper and placed it in a vinyl bag. He only spoke after that was complete.

“Here you go. Also, this is on the house,” He said as he gave us two pieces of candy.

He even gave us a free gift! He must be really happy that Holmes-san praised him.

“Thank you very much. I looked forward to seeing your future works, sensei.”

Holmes-san said as he received the bag.

 “I-I don’t deserve to be called sensei. Really, what do ya mean by that!”

This time, a conspicuous flush appeared on the old man’s face.

…Ah, I see. He is indeed a gentle, delicate fellow.

I could finally accept Holmes-san’s claim.

“I’m glad that we managed to find such a good buy right off the bat.”

With the cup in his hand, Holmes-san spoke, openly pleased with himself.

“Do you think that that person will eventually become famous?”

“Who knows? I do think that he has a brilliant talent, but whether he becomes famous is a matter of chance… Moreover, his other works didn’t have the same brilliance as this cup, so he could be an inconsistent person.”

I instinctively laughed at Holmes-san’s last statement.

“That cup could have been a miraculous work of that old man.”

“It could be, but he does possess the skill to produce this cup.”

“It was an eye-opener for me to hear you call him ‘sensei’.”

“Well, I really appreciated his work, and am thankful towards him for it.”

“That makes me want to find good bargains too.”

“Yes, please do. I invited you here for the sake of learning like this, after all.”

“Ah, yes, I’ll do my best.”

“Don’t work too hard, and just have fun.”

“Alright.”

We both laughed, and then continued wandering around the grounds and looking at all sorts of goods.

As we were pushing our way through the crowd, a monk emerged from the main temple building.

“We will begin explaining the origin of Hyakumanben’s name in the main hall. Please come and listen if you would like that.”

The monk spoke in a raised voice, but the other patrons of the Handicrafts Market continued their shopping, as if they couldn’t hear him.

“Aoi-san, since they’ve taken the trouble to invite us, shall we listen to their story?”

Holmes-san asked with a smile, to which I replied “Yes” with a nod, and we then proceeded to the main hall.

The first things that caught my eye in the main hall was an elegant gold-colored altar, as well as a likewise gold-colored lantern and canopy hanging from the ceiling.

“Sorry for intruding,” we said as we removed our shoes and sat with our knees on the tatami.

The hall initially contained a few other people, but after some more appeals by the monk, it became quite filled with people.

With a wide smile on his face, the monk looked around at us and bowed.

“The bazaar’s also good, but this is a good chance to visit the main hall and listen to the story of this temple. You all probably don’t mind after you get6 all those sweet bargains.”

The monk said and laughed with the guests.

I wasn’t expecting the monk to say a word like “get”. That was certainly interesting.

“Right, I will now begin with the story of how the name ‘Hyakumanben’ came to be. Please sit at ease and enjoy the story.”

Complying, I sat cross-legged without reservation.

The monk’s story went like this.

—It was about 680 years ago.

A horrible plague had spread through Kyoto, and the situation was grave.

Many people died, and their corpses lined the riverbed of the Kamogawa River. Observing this scene, Emperor Go-Daigo sighed in despair and asked the heads of the shrines and temples, “What should we do?” However, none of them could come up with a solution for the situation.

In the end, the one who was singled out was Zena-san, the famous abbot of Chionji.

As tasked by Emperor Go-Daigo, he secluded himself in the Imperial Palace and chanted the prayer “Namu-Amida-Butsu”…

On the seventh day, the rampant disease was cured, as if the abbot’s prayers had been heard.

When he finally came out, the emperor asked,

“Zena, how many times did you chant the prayer while you were confined?”

To this, the abbot gave a gentle smile.

“I chanted it one million times.”

“—And thus, this temple was known as Hyakumanben Chionji.”

After the monk finished the story, I applauded, along with everyone else in the hall.

3

“That was a really fascinating story. It was good that we stopped to listen to it.”

 With the main hall behind us, I spoke excitedly as Holmes-san looked at me with gentle, narrowed eyes.

“You’re right. Coming to a place like this and listening to that story was an extraordinarily good use of our time, I think.”

“Yes, I think so too. But Zena-san was also quite good at talking. If it were me, I would have probably said something boring like ‘He prayed with utmost effort, but no one knows how many times he actually prayed since it wasn’t counted.’”

“At that point, when he said ‘He prayed one million times’, I felt that it was really smart and humorous.”

We continued our discussion while we returned to the lively Handicrafts Market.

As he was looking at an antique stall, Holmes-san suddenly went “Hm?”, stopped moving and strained his eyes to get a better view.

“Holmes-san, is something wrong?”

Slightly bewildered, I turned around to look at Holmes-san who had suddenly stopped.

“Ah, no, just that I recognize that stall owner in that antique corner over there.”

Holmes-san’s eyes were on the middle-aged man selling antiques.

“…He’s called Kanebayashi-san, and he also used to operate an antique store, but I believe it was closed down last month.”

“So he’s setting up a stall here to deal with all the antiques left from his old store?”

“I suppose,” came the reply. A little further away from us, an elderly lady approached Kanebayashi-san.

“My my, if it ain’t Kanebayashi-san? I was worried when you said you closed down your shop.”

Upon hearing the lady speak, Kanebayashi-san’s face lit up with a smile.

“Long time no see, Nakamoto-san. Yeah, I went bankrupt. The antiques weren’t selling very well, so I shut the shop down and started a business in Osaka.”

“I see, that’s good to hear. So, do ya getting rid of yer stock?”

“Yeah, so please buy some. Ah, but this one’s just there as a sign to draw customers; it ain’t for sale.”

Kanebayashi-san said as he pointed at a tokkuri7 on a table.

“Oh, is it something good?”

“Yep, it’s a ‘washed-up bizen ware’8. Ya must have heard about it too, Nakamoto-san.”

“I’ve certainly heard of washed-up something or other. Is it rare?”

“Exactly. It’s a rare treasure that is hard to obtain. That’s why I placed it here, as a good luck charm for my business. And that’s why it ain’t for sale.”

As I listened to their conversation, I glanced at Holmes-san.

“…Holmes-san, what’s ‘washed-up bizen ware’?”

“A ‘washed-up bizen ware’, huh… Sometime in the first ten years of the Showa period, a sunken ship was found in the Seto Inland Sea9, and bizen ware from the Momoyama period10 was retrieved from the ship. At the time, it was huge news in the antique world, and it was known as ‘washed-up bizen ware’.”

“So it’s like a treasure sleeping in a sunken ship?”

“Yes, exactly.”

Holmes-san explained without taking his eyes off Kanebayashi-san.

“If ya were to sell it, how much would ya take for it?”

“Hmm, three hundred thousand, I suppose. There probably ain’t anyone here who can come up with that money, so I don’t need to worry about that. But this treasure of mine’s gonna be worth even more in the future.”

“Three hundred thousand, huh. It’s amazing that the price will go up even further.”

As the lady continued staring at the tokkuri, the stall owner spoke.

“Don’t just look at this one, look at the rest, too. I’ll sell them to ya for whatever price you care to name!” Kanebayashi-san grinned.

“Kanebayashi-san, I’ll play ya three hundred and fifty thousand, so could ya sell it to me?”

The lady asked with a serious face, but Kanebayashi-san’s face clouded over.

“Even if ya ask me like that, it’s my treasure… But three hundred and fifty thousand, huh. I was just in need of some money for my new business. But still…”

Kanebayashi-san muttered, apparently still mired in hesitation.

“Please wait while I get the money,” the lady said as she energetically left the area.

 “Well, what can I do?”

Kanebayashi-san murmured with a smile.

Does he usually us this tactic of putting on airs to sell his items? I wondered.

Holmes-san slowly walked towards him.

“Long time no see, Kanebayashi-san.”

Upon seeing Holmes-san’s figure, the stall owner’s eyes opened wide in surprise.

“—Yer Seiji-san’s…”

As expected, Owner was widely known.

“Could you show me the ‘Washed-up bizen ware’ too? If it’s in good condition, we would be willing to offer five hundred thousand for it.”

Holmes-san asked with a sharp look in his eyes, and in response Kanebayashi-san’s face stiffened.

“Nah, no can do. I wasn’t plannin’ to sell it to anyone in the first place.”

But before he could hurriedly hold out his hands, Holmes-san had already picked up the tokkuri.

“…”

After carefully studying it, a grin appeared on his face.

“Unfortunately, this is a fake, Kanebayashi-san.”

“T-That’s an unreasonable claim…”

“No, I do have every reason to say it. There are many points that are off about it, but the most recognizable one is this. Take a look at the stand.” Holmes-san said, pointing at the base of the tokkuri.

“’Washed-up bizen ware’ all have snake-eyed stands, but that is not the case for this one. This is just a normal piece of bizen ware.”

Kanebayashi-san was lost for words.

He was apparently shocked by the revelation that his treasure was a fake.

…Kanebayashi-san himself might have believed that it was a real piece of bizen ware, even though he didn’t have much conviction about it. Someone could also have told him that it was the real deal.

“…You don’t seem to be intentionally selling this fake, but it would be a crime if you took three hundred and fifty thousand for this.”

“Y-You stinking brat!”

With an unsteady posture, the enraged antique seller made a swipe at Holmes-san.

“Holmes-san!”

Unable to move, all I could do was cover my mouth with my hands.

It happened in an instant.

Holmes-san caught Kanabayashi-san’s hand, and in the next moment, the older man was on the ground.

“—Ehh?” I was dumbfounded.

“I was made to do aikido since young to build up my body.”

Holmes-san casually explained.

At that moment, the bearded potter from earlier rushed over with a worried facial expression.

“Mister, did anything happen? Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine. He just tripped and fell.”

Holmes-san replied, then offered a hand to Kanebayashi-san.

“…Hmph.”

Kanebayashi-san stood up without taking the hand, dusted himself off and started packing his goods into cardboard boxes. It seemed that he was going to retreat.

“Kanebayashi-san, you’re really not suited to managing an antique shop. It was the right choice to close your shop and sell off the rest of your goods.”

Holmes-san directed those words at the stall owner’s back.

“What did ya say?”

Kanebayashi-san turned around, enraged.

That rage was understandable. Why did Holmes-san add fuel to the fire?

As I watched on nervously, Holmes-san smoothly retrieved a white pair of gloves from his inner pocket.

That was what he always did when he was about to appraise something or hold a valuable item in his hands.

“I’m really surprised,” Holmes-san said as he picked out a red tea bowl from an assortment of tableware.

“…Yeah, there’s no mistaking it. I’m truly surprised.”

With the tea bowl in his hands, Holmes-san’s eyes narrowed.

“What is it?” Kanebayashi-san growled irritably as he stared at Holmes-san.

“This is a Kawakita Handeishi11 tea bowl, and it’s the genuine article. I was surprised that you didn’t take notice of such a treasure, and treated it like a normal tea bowl.”

The corner of Holmes-san’s lips curled upwards as Kanebayashi-san stared at him.

“A genuine Kawakita Handeishi tea bowl, you say?”

“There is no mistaking it. You should bring it to a suitable place and have it appraised. It can probably give you additional funds for your new business.”

Holmes-san gently placed the tea bowl back on the table.

“So, how much would that fetch?”

The bearded potter who had been listening from the side suddenly leaned forward.

Nice, Mr Potter, I was about to ask that myself.

“Hmm, I suppose two million would be trivial.”

Holmes-san clearly asserted, causing the bearded potter, myself, and most significantly, Kanebayashi-san to open our eyes wide and lose our ability to speak.

“R-R-R-R-Really?”

“Yes, so please take good care of it.”

“Understood. Thank, thank you very much, mister.”

Clasping Holmes-san’s hands, Kanebayashi-san shook them spiritedly.

Wow, what a complete reversal in his attitude.

At that moment, the lady from earlier ran over and said breathlessly, “Kanebayashi-san, I’ve withdrawn the money. Won’t ya sell me the washed-up bizen ware?”

“Ahh, Nakamoto-san. Sorry, but I can’t sell this. There ain’t any appraisal note, so there ain’t any proof that it’s genuine. Still, thanks for ya interest.”

Kanebayashi-san lowered his head apologetically, naturally unable to say that it was a fake.

“…I see, it’s too bad then.”

“Well, I’m still clearing my stock, and it’s still filled with a bunch of goods, so please take another look and see what ya like.”

With a look at Kanebayashi-san talking cheerfully, we softly left the area.

As we did so, the bearded potter approached us and said, “Wow mister, looks like you should be the one called ‘sensei’ here.”

Hearing that statement, I instinctively smiled.

As expected of Holmes-san.

As always, he had a good eye for appraisals.

4

How do I put it…

“I think I somewhat understand why he feels jealous.”

I muttered to myself while walking. In response, Holmes-san went “Hm?” and looked in my direction.

“Ah, no, it’s nothing.”

I hurriedly shrugged. I couldn’t possibly say that Manager was envious of his own son, Holmes-san, and held discord in his heart as a result of that.

“…Aoi-san, shall we buy some coffee and drink it next to the hall?”

Holmes-san suggested, pointing at a handmade sign with the words “Homemade Coffee for Sale”.

“Ah, yes. That sounds good,” I answered with a nod.

Holmes-san had black coffee, while mine had sugar and milk mixed in. With our drinks, we went to a deserted staircase a small distance away and sat down there.

“Delicious.”

I brought the coffee to my lips, which naturally warmed my cheeks. Holmes-san gently peeked at my face.

“…I think you’ve saved up enough money to go to Saitama, so what are you going to do?”

Sitting next to Holmes-san as he asked the question quietly, I looked down at the milk coffee in my cup.

Thanks to the flowing wind, I could hear the bustle from the Handicrafts Market, which was a short distance away.

“Actually, whenever I think of returning, I hesitate. I thought that I would definitely go back once I saved up enough money, but I can’t move because I’m so hesitant, and I hate myself for that.”

I laughed with self-derision. Holmes-san took a small breath.

“I understand how you feel. I think that you shouldn’t rush things and go with the natural flow.”

“…Holmes-san.”

As usual, Holmes-san is so kind—

“I’m surprised that you can understand such feelings.”

I said with a faint smile. In response, Holmes-san smiled wryly and shrugged.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t invite you to take up the part-time job just because you have good eyes.”

“Eh?”

“Actually, I’ve had the same experience as you.”

“Eh, Ehhh? What do you mean?”

“I’ve had my girlfriend stolen from me, although the person who stole her away wasn’t my best friend.”

“R-Really?” I can’t believe it!

“W-When was that?”

“…It was when I was in high school.”

Holmes-san took a small breath, then started slowly telling his story.

“I’d just hit the third year of high school. I received a confession from a classmate, and thanks to that, we started dating. We were a completely normal couple. We studied together since we were both preparing for examinations, and we had fun every day.

“However, I was always surrounded by adults since young. I would often get teased with statements like ‘You’re preparing for exams, but if you get into a relationship with a girl, you’ll be too engrossed and won’t be able to study.” — Of course, that was only when I was alone with them. I didn’t take such playful words to heart, but I felt they had a point.

“I swore in my heart that we wouldn’t go so deep into our relationship during the important year before exams, for both our sakes. To uphold the name of Kiyotaka, our dating would be pure and noble12.”

“I see.”

—Wow, I never knew his name had that meaning behind it.

“I was thinking that once both of us successfully got into a university, we could take things to the next stage as a couple. I wanted us to work hard in the areas important for aspiring university students, for our own sakes.”

“…That’s a correct way of thinking.”

“Yes, but being correct isn’t everything. As soon as we entered university, she went to a goukon after being invited by a friend. There, she met an arrogant, overbearing playboy, and her heart was instantly stolen by him.”

“W-What?”

My voice betrayed my surprise at that unexpected development.

“According to her, I was too much of a herbivore, and that made her feel lonely and insecure. I hadn’t communicated to her that I was thinking for the both of us, you see. On my part, I had noticed that she wanted to go beyond kissing, but I didn’t realize that such feelings of loneliness and anxiety were growing within her.

“That arrogant, overbearing playboy slipped through the gaps of her heart and stole everything as a result. I was so shocked, jealous and vexed that I even wanted to become a monk and go to Mt. Kurama13!”

“B-Become a monk and go to Mt. Kurama?!”

“After that, there was even a period of time where I lived my university life in a manner that completely ran counter to my earlier wishes to enter the priesthood.”

“Eh, ehh?”

“Well, leaving that aside… I’ve experienced these things in the past, so I understand how you feel, Aoi-san.”

As I looked at his faint smile, my chest tightened.

I was surprised. Surprised that even Holmes-san had such a vulgar past.

“So you are a normal human, after all.”

I let those words out of my mouth without thinking, causing Holmes-san’s eyes to widen for an instant, but then he burst out laughing.

“What’s up with that?”

“T-That’s because you’re so far away from a normal human. In fact, even Owner, who is an amazing appraiser and Manager, who is a great author, hold you in high regard, don’t they?”

So much so that Manager is jealous of his own son’s abilities.

“…Aoi-san, did you read my father’s works?”

“Um, about half of it.”

The feelings of envy were so real that… I couldn’t continue past that point.

“They might be a little harsh for you right now.”

As usual, he saw through me.

“However, you should try your best and read it until the end.”

“Eh?”

“When I finished reading, it left behind a feeling in my heart that was beautiful beyond comparison.”

Holmes-san said as he closed his eyes and placed a hand on his chest.

—A beautiful feeling.

“It taught me that as a result of laying bare your feelings, you might get too hurt to move, but what you see when you finally raise your head is absolutely beautiful. While he is my own father, I think he’s an amazing writer.”

As Holmes-san complimented Manager with an unclouded smile, it somehow became difficult to breathe.

“…Holmes-san, do you know what Manager has in his heart?”

Since he’s Holmes-san, he should be able to see through his father.

That was what I thought as I quietly asked.

“I see…My father has always ardently admired my grandfather and wanted to be an appraiser, but was discouraged by his lack of talent and gave up. I do know that he feels I have ‘some talent he doesn’t have’, and holds some sort of jealousy in his heart.”

I was startled by Holmes-san smooth reply.

He’s actually grasped the situation more fully than I thought!

As expected of Holmes-san.

“Ah, sorry, were you referring to something else?”

“N-No, you’re on the right topic… What do you think of Manager when he’s like this?”

I asked, feeling the difficulty of putting that question into words. In response, Holmes-san made a face, indicating that it was also tough for him to answer that question.

“What do I think, you ask? Hmm, I suppose I think he’s naive.”

Holmes-san flatly replied.

“N-Naive?” My eyes opened wide in surprise.

“Yes, my father gave up on being an appraiser because ‘he didn’t have the qualities required’. But what are the qualities of an appraiser? Indeed, I might have better eyes compared to most people.

“However, my grandfather, who both my father and I respect, did not originally have a good eye for antiques.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes. When my grandfather was fifteen, he became a disciple to a master at an antique shop. He worked hard in keeping up with his master and training his mind’s eye, in order to get recognized out of so many other disciples. My grandfather became the national appraisal ‘Yagashira Seiji’ that he is today as a result of his blood, sweat and tears.

“That’s why I believe that if my father really wanted to become like my grandfather, he should have put in the same amount of effort, or even more, to achieve his dream. But he didn’t put in as much effort as he should have, and then he made a complete turnaround, thinking that ‘he didn’t have the required qualities’. When he had almost forgotten about his dreams of becoming an appraiser, he felt those qualities in me when I was young, giving him a shock.”

“I, I see.”

“My father probably thinks that I was born with the required qualities, so I can easily become an appraiser, but that isn’t true. Due to certain circumstances, I didn’t go to a kindergarten, and instead always followed my grandfather around…”

I knew all about that, so I nodded.

“Whenever my grandfather brought me to his workplaces, he would say, ‘You’re my assistant, so just stand at the side and don’t get in my way.’ Those might be quite some harsh words to say to a child, but they were really important to me at that time. That I was the ‘assistant’ of Yagashira Seiji, the appraiser that everyone praised as ‘amazing’. In order to not make a fool of myself as an assistant, I studied desperately from that young age.

“I looked at antiques beside my grandfather, and learnt the differences between genuine works and counterfeits, the characteristics of each period, the common features that can be felt from fake products. Ever since I can remember, and even up till now, I’ve always continued learning.

“However, I still cannot catch up to my grandfather, because of his continued learning and his built-up experience. This is a boundless field in which there is no end to learning, and your existing knowledge can sometimes be overturned. My father did not step into this world, and instead stepped away from it.

“Knowing that he holds jealousy for me, I can only think that he is ‘naïve’.”

Overwhelmed by Holmes-san’s strong statement, I swallowed my breath.

Yes, it was exactly as he said.

It was indeed naïve for Manager to be jealous of that talent without putting in painstaking effort, without shedding blood, sweat and tears.

“That said, I plan to understand my father’s feelings. That’s why as long as he holds this jealousy towards me, I shall strive for greater heights.”

“…Strive for greater heights?”

“Yes. For example, if you lose to your rival team at the Koshien14 District Qualifiers, you’d want that team to continue winning, right?”

“Yeah, you might be right.”

“I’ve also experienced that feeling first-hand.”

“Experienced it first-hand?”

“Yes. Apparently, my ex-girlfriend and that arrogant, overbearing playboy are getting married.”

“Eh, ehh?”

I was taken aback again. I didn’t think that they would get married already.

“I’m actually mollified to see them go all the way. If the two of them have such a strong connection that they’re getting married, then it can’t be helped that I got dumped. That’s what I think, anyway.”

“Y-You’re right.”

I would feel the same way if I were in his shoes.

“That’s why I think that the person on the receiving end of jealousy should work hard for the sake of the jealous person. In my father’s case, it is because of that envy and sense of inferiority stirring in his heart that he can write such brilliant works. He might not have noticed yet, but this is destiny, I believe.”

“You mean that while Manager aspires to be an appraiser, it’s his fate to be a writer?”

“Yes, that’s what I think. Furthermore, if he was serious in his aspiration, he wouldn’t have withdrawn so easily. Just like in Priest Zena’s story, if you have a wish and put in the effort equivalent to chanting it a million times, I believe it will definitely come true.”

As I stared at Holmes-san, who was looking up at the deep blue sky, a warm feeling spread in my chest.

If you have a wish and put in the effort equivalent to chanting it a million times, it will definitely come true—

Come to think of it, I wonder if my feelings of wanting to meet him are that strong?

Just like Manager, the word “naïve” would probably be a fitting one for me.

All I’ve done is mope around regretfully, without taking any action.

I clenched my fists on my lap.

“…Holmes-san… I… I’ve decided not to go to Saitama.”

“Eh?”

Probably not expecting those words, Holmes-san looked at me with a rare display of surprise.

“I, I mean, the transportation costs will come up to tens of thousands, right? I don’t want to spend the money I earned working hard in this part-time job for something like this. I-In exchange, I think I’ll go hiking at Mt. Kurama.”

I feigned a laugh, while Holmes-san looked on with gentle, narrowed eyes.

“I see. Well, if you wait just a little, it’ll be the viewing season of green maple leaves from the Eizan Railway.”

“Ah, is that so? Red leaves bring up the image of autumn, but people also love seeing green leaves, huh.”

“Yeah, they’re fresh and invigorating to look at. I would also like to go, since I haven’t gone in a long while. If it’s alright with you, could we go together?”

With a slight grin, Holmes-san peered at my face, causing my heart to leap.

“S-Sure. I’ll be lonely if I go alone, so I’d be glad if we went to view the maple leaves together.”

W-What should I do? My voice is going shrill.

“I’ll look forward to it.”

“Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Yes, I’ll look forward to it too.”

I could only hear the sound of my heart thumping.

“Well then, shall we go for lunch?”

Holmes-san and I stood up in unison.

“There are many food shops around this area, but not many where you can relax in. Aoi-san, what do you want to eat?”

“A-Anything.”

I awkwardly answered as we left Hyakumanben Chionji Temple behind. It was the 15th day of June.

The unstable sky, which was split between rainy and sunny regions, was like a representation of my heart at that very moment.


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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.
  3. The study of language in oral and written historical sources.
  4. A type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.
  5. Literally translated as “Frog’s mouth”, this refers to a purse with a metal clasp on top.
  6. This word is in English.
  7. A flask that serves as the server of a sake set.
  8. I couldn’t find a standard English translation for 海揚がりの古備前, so this was the best I could manage.
  9. The body of water separating Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū.
  10. The final phase of the Sengoku period, from 1573 to 1600.
  11. A self-confessed amateur artist who is known for bringing life and innovations to the then stagnant field of ceramics in the 20th century, as well as setting the foundation for the ceramic revival of the Showa period.
  12. 清 (Kiyo) is the word for clean/pure, while 貴 (Taka) is the word for noble.
  13. A mountain to the northwest of Kyoto, said to be home to the king of the Tengu.
  14. An annual nationwide high school baseball tournament. It is the largest scale amateur sport event in Japan.

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