This was the season in which the leaves were developing a deeper shade of green.
“If it’s alright with you, could we go together?” Holmes-san had asked when I mentioned that I would be going to Mt.Kurama.
Whenever I remember the gentle smile he wore back then, I would get a tingling sensation.
It was a Friday evening in the first few days of July.
After school ended, I entered Kura, an antique shop at Teramachi Sanjou, and diligently dusted the important goods on display, as part of my part-time job. At the same time, I was secretly trying to hold back the butterflies in my stomach.
Both Holmes-san and Manager were also in the shop, which was a rare occurrence.
Holmes-san was checking the account book, while Manager was, as usual, working on his manuscript.
“Say, Kiyotaka, Aoi-san.”
Manager stopped his pen and looked up. We replied, “Yes,” in unison.
“Didn’t you two talk about going to hike at Kurama once July arrived?”
He was right. We would probably hike on a Saturday or Sunday, when my shift would be likely to come up, so I had informed Manager about our plans already.
“Yes, and come to think of it, it’s already July.”
With his eyes looking at the calendar on the table, Holmes-san said, as if having just realized that fact.
On the other hand, I was totally looking forward to the arrival of July.
“I’m sorry for the sudden request, but could you go to Kurama tomorrow?”
Manager asked solemnly, causing us to go “Eh?” and widen our eyes.
“Well, I know a fellow author who has an estate in Kurama.”
Upon hearing Manager’s words, Holmes-san nodded.
“Ah, I see. You’re talking about Kajiwara-sensei, right? He passed away three months ago, if I recall.”
“Yes, and his family wants to consult you for something. They don’t mind if it’s after your hiking, but I was wondering if you could go listen to what they have to say.”
“…Fine.” Holmes-san replied dispiritedly.
“Sorry to you as well, Aoi-san. That’s it, you can have lunch at Kibune no Kawadoko with Holmes-san. I’ll contact the shop myself.”
He must be feeling really apologetic.
“K-Kibune no Kawadoko, you say?”
If you mention Kawadoko1, the terraces by the banks of the Kamogawa River would come to mind, but Kibune no Kawadoko is different. It is a place where a clear stream flows under, which is the height of summer extravagance.
I was introduced to that place by a travel program, and I was so fascinated by it that I thought at the time, “I want to visit this place just once.”
I’d never thought that I would seriously get to visit a place like that.
It’s like a dream to be able to go to Kurama and have lunch at Kibune no Kawadoko!
As I got excited at that thought, Holmes-san took a small breath.
“Alright, since Aoi-san looks like she doesn’t mind, we’ll stop by on the way back.”
Holmes-san said half-heartedly and shrugged.
“I’m really sorry for ruining your special hiking trip.”
Manager said with a relieved looked on his face.
He mentioned this request as if it just crossed his mind, but he must have been waiting for the perfect chance to bring it up.
I wonder if it’s difficult for him to request things of Holmes-san, unlike for Owner?
Those were my thoughts as I replied, “No no, it’s fine, since we’ll only be stopping on the way back.”
In fact, I was really happy since we could go for our hiking trip so promptly.
But at that time, I hadn’t realized it yet.
—That I would be embroiled in the curious mystery at the Kajiwara Estate, as well as the internal family troubles there.
The next day at nine o’clock in the morning, I went to Demachiyanagi Station to meet with Holmes-san. I arrived slightly earlier than the meeting time, and properly parked my bicycle at the bicycle lot next to the station.
Incidentally, Demachiyanagi Station is just to the East of the confluence of the Kamogawa River and Takanogawa River.
There were platforms for Keihan Electric Railway (underground) and Eizan Electric Railway, and since you could go all the way to Osaka via the Keihan Railway, that train service was used by many people.
I exited the bicycle lot and headed towards the ticket vendors, and I noticed that Holmes-san was already there.
“Good morning, Aoi-san.”
“Ah, good morning.”
“Shall we go, then?”
Holmes-san smoothly proffered the tickets.
“Sorry that you even bought the tickets.”
“No no, I must also apologize for our sudden circumstances.”
“No, that’s fine.”
Especially when everything was working out perfectly for me.
After passing through the small ticket gate, a train with only two cars appeared before our eyes.
This was just the start of our journey, but I felt the impact of seeing the train cars right in front of us.
“Let’s take the first car. The mountain scenery looks more beautiful from there.”
“Alright.” I replied and headed to the front car with a buoyant sensation.
There were seats lined up on the sides of the car, just like the trains in the city.
That being said, these carriages were really empty, making me think of trains in the rural, mountainous areas.
I somehow had the feeling that we had already traveled far on our journey, filling me with excitement.
I eagerly looked around the car and noticed a single pink heart-shaped hanging strap, causing me to go “Eh?” in bewilderment.
“Holmes-san, why is there only one pink strap?”
I asked in surprise, while Holmes-san responded with a nod.
“Eizan Railways has a carriage equipped with a heart-shaped strap. There’s a jinx that says that grabbing the strap will grant one fortune2. It’s called the ‘Hanging Strap of Fortune’, apparently.”
“The Hanging Strap of Fortune!”
“Since it’s quite a rare chance, how about grabbing the strap, Aoi-san?”
“Eh, ah… alright. Since I wouldn’t normally get to see this.”
Fighting back the embarrassment, I tightly grasped the pink heart-shaped hanging strap.
The train moved off after that, so I immediately sat down.
“W-What about you, Holmes-san?”
I asked in order to hide my embarrassment.
“Well, it’s not my first time on the Eizan.”
Holmes-san replied with a grin.
It wasn’t his first time on the Eizan. In other words, he’d grabbed the strap some time before.
Holmes-san didn’t seem like the kind of person to come here alone and grab that strap, so could he have ridden this train with his ex-girlfriend? Or was it with someone else?
Holmes-san had mentioned that after the disagreement with his ex-girlfriend, he “lived his university life in a manner which completely ran counter to his earlier wishes to enter the priesthood”. Was he referring to having relationships with other women?
Come to think of it, he is a handsome guy and has a great academic record, so it’s natural for him to be popular.
I’ve asked about his past, but does he have a girlfriend right now?
Perhaps I’ll try asking him right now.
The question, “Holmes-san, do you have a girlfriend?”
I snuck a look at Holmes-san, who was sitting next to me.
His side profile as he gazed outside the window was, as always, cool.
“…If you have something you want to ask me, go ahead.”
He spoke without hesitation.
My heart leapt as Holmes-san displayed his usual sharp insight.
If I asked if he had a girlfriend, I would definitely be misunderstood.
“N-No, it’s nothing.”
I shrugged, and also turned to look out the window.
The train zipped through a mountain road. As the countryside scenery unfurled before us, I couldn’t imagine that we were still in Sakyo Ward, where I lived. It really felt that we had already traveled far on our journey.
Eventually, we reached a tunnel of fresh verdure.
This was the reputed ‘green maple leaves’.
“Wow, it’s really beautiful!”
“It has a different flavor compared to the red leaves in autumn, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s refreshing and incredible!”
“I didn’t mind going to Kurama by car, but taking the train has its own taste.”
“Going by train really makes me feel that I’m on a journey. On top of that…”
It’s a trip to deal with heartbreak, after all. But I couldn’t say that aloud, so I closed my mouth, leaving the words hanging.
“Yeah, on top of that, there’s hiking,” Holmes-san continued my sentence.
I felt a little relieved by that save.
I gave a slight smile and looked out the window again.
The green maple leaves were simply dazzling in the bright sunlight.
Finally, we reached our destination, Kurama Station. It was a small, old-fashioned station.
“…It’s like the train station in Poppoya3.”
Hang on, that was set in Hokkaido, right? Small, old stations are probably common everywhere. Even so, this station still felt like Kurama, since it was decorated a picture of Yoshitsune and Benkei4.
Upon exiting the station, an objet d’art of a gigantic Tengu5 face came into view.
“Wow, that’s such a large Tengu! And that’s just its face, too!”
It had a deep red face, eyes that stared sharply straight ahead and a long, stretched nose.
It gave off the exact feeling of Kurama, the mountain of Tengu.
“There are a lot of people taking commemorative photos here. Shall we take one too?”
“Ah, no, it’s fine.”
Hearing my immediate refusal, Holmes-san looked surprised.
“I don’t like being in photos. I like taking photos for commemoration, though.”
I gave a wry smile as I retrieved my smartphone and snapped a photo of the Tengu.
“What about Purikura6, then?”
“Hmm… I suppose I’m fine with Purikura.”
“I see. Are you the type to accidentally narrow your eyes when your photo is being taken?”
He was right on the mark, causing a flush to creep up on my face.
“H-How did you know?”
“You dislike photos, but you’re fine with Purikura. You can adjust the images in Purikura, so I thought that must be it.”
Holmes-san replied cheerfully.
“You don’t have to read into something like that,” I complained with a pout.
“Sorry. I don’t say such thoughts aloud in front of other people, though.”
Holmes-san spoke as if talking to himself. After hearing his words, I exclaimed “Eh?” in astonishment and stopped moving.
“Aoi-san, shall we head to Kurama Temple first, then?”
There were some souvenir shops lined up by the side of the station. There was even a banner with the words, “Ushikawa mochi7”, as well as a stack of Tengu masks, which left a lasting impression in my mind. By the way, Ushikawa mochi was named after Ushiwakamaru8. We were well and truly in Kurama.
As we walked along the hill road, Kurama Temple’s Niōmon came into view.
The faded vermillion of the tower gate really gave off the feeling of a mountain temple.
“This gate enshrines the Niō9 statues created by Tankei, a sculptor active in the Kamakura period, and serves as the boundary between the mundane world and sacred ground.”
“T-The boundary between the mundane world and sacred ground. So, past this gate is an area that has been purified?”
“Exactly. This place is quite a famous power spot, or so they say.”
“Yes, I’ve also heard about that.”
I nodded, and passed under the Niōmon with Holmes-san.
So it’s a sacred ground from here on out.
“The atmosphere is certainly different here.”
I said with a serious look on my face, but Holmes-san burst out laughing.
“Ah, you must think I’m very susceptible to autosuggestion.”
“I did think so, but I also believe that it’s a good thing. For example, crossing this Niōmon with and without knowledge about it will bring about different feelings. There might be some degree of autosuggestion, but I think that by appreciating this place after learning of its origins, you’re able to capture much better things in your mind.”
That’s true. I also think that since I’ve heard that ‘this place is a sacred ground’, I can gain a lot more value from going past the gate, compared to someone who hasn’t heard anything about it.
After walking a few steps past the gate, a small shrine known as the “Kiichi Hougen Shrine” came into view.
“This enshrines Kiichi Hougen, a martial arts expert who imparted the art of war to Ushiwakamaru.”
“There are stories of Ushiwakamaru being trained by the Tengu. Was he taught this way in reality?”
“It’s said that Kiichi Hougen is a fictitious person, though.”
“Yes. Minamoto no Yoshitsune is quite a mysterious person, in a lot of ways.”
“You’re right.” I replied with a nod.
“But do you think that the stories of him being trained at Mt. Kurama are true?”
I asked as we slowly ascended the hilly path.
“Well, Ushiwakamaru was born as the third son of the Minamoto clan’s head, Minamoto no Yoshitomo, and his concubine, Tokiwa Gozen. When Yoshitomo was defeated by the Taira clan, there was a high chance that his children would be executed, but Kiyomori10 showed them mercy and spared them, and so Yoshitsune was brought up at Mt. Kurama.”
“Why did Kiyomori spare them?”
This is something that I should have known if I’d properly studied history. But even though I’d forced the year numbers into my head, the detailed episodes associated with those numbers were only faint recollections. I apologize for being such a failure of a high school girl, really.
“According to one theory, Ushiwakamaru’s mother, Tokiwa Gozen, was a ravishing beauty. Entranced by her beauty, Kiyomori offered her to become his concubine, and she acceded with the condition that he spare her children.”
“Wh-What? Basically, Tokiwa Gozen became the concubine of the enemy general, the person that killed her husband, just to save her children?”
“That’s how it went.”
“And on top of that, Kiyomori was defeated by the very children he spared, right?”
“Yes. It’s all karma, don’t you think?”
Upon hearing those words, I sighed.
It was indeed karma.
“A person with as much power as Kiyomori would be surrounded by beautiful women, so why did he go out of his way to make his enemy’s wife a concubine? Was she that beautiful?”
“Well, Tokiwa Gozen was said to be the best out of a thousand beauties. She was the first woman to win a beauty contest in Japan.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“At that time, the empress consort… or in other words, the reigning emperor’s wife, loved beautiful things. When she was hiring servants, she wanted to hire someone more beautiful, so she gathered a thousand beautiful girls in the capital, and in the end, Tokiwa Gozen was selected. She was indeed an unparalleled beauty in the capital.
“I’m not sure how much of that is true, though.”
“Oh, wow, that’s interesting.”
As we had that conversation, we finally reached Kurama Temple.
The temple, which was built solitarily on a mountain, had a much more frugal and simple bearing than I thought.
It certainly gave off the impression of a “mountain temple”. The interesting thing about it was that there weren’t Komainu11, but…
“Those are tigers, right?”
“Yes, they use tigers here.”
And the thing that drew my attention more than anything else was a gigantic hexagram which had been drawn on the ground in front of the main shrine.
“This exact place is said to be a power spot.”
“Ah, I’ve seen it on TV! They say the energy from the universe pours into this area! I’ll try standing there for a while.”
Like a typical trend follower, I walked into the hexagram and stood on a triangular piece of stone in the center. At that moment, I felt a shock in my right hand, as if static electricity were being passed through it.
“!” I hurriedly clenched my hand into a fist.
Wait, what was that?
In my bewilderment, I softly left the hexagram and stepped into it again, but I didn’t feel anything this time.
“Did something happen?”
If I said that I felt a shock on my hand, I would feel totally embarrassed.
It’s just a simple mountain temple, but it’s actually amazing, isn’t it?
“Ushiwakamaru used to live here, right?”
Looking at the temple, I changed the subject of our conversation. In response, Holmes-san nodded.
“Yes. He was brought up on this mountain, so you can tell that he was destined to be more powerful than others, in many ways.”
“That might be true,” I said with a chuckle.
He was born to a mother who was a one-in-a-thousand beauty, lived on thanks to his mother’s wishes, and was brought up in this temple. After that, he descended to the city and met Benkei at Gojo Bridge.
He was a delicate, nimble, handsome youth who fought as if he were dancing lightly under a moonlit night.
I don’t know how much of that is true, but I can feel the majesty and romance of that era.
After that, we walked on the Tree Root Pilgrim Path, then headed towards Kibune12.
The weather here was great, as expected of a mountain.
The cool wind, which was unthinkable for the first third of July, soothed my heart.
It was certainly the perfect weather for a hike.
Finally, I could see Kifune Shrine with its beautiful vermillion archway. The lanterns lined up on both sides of the stone staircase left a deep impression on me. Apparently, this is where the god of water is worshipped, a practice that was carried over from a long time ago.
A lot of bamboo plants were placed within the compounds, and tanzaku13 of variable colors were hung on the leaves.
“Right, it’s almost Tanabata14, huh.”
“It seems that you can write your wishes and hang them here. Would you like to do it?”
Holmes-san asked with a smile on his face.
“I hope that I can always be lovey-dovey with my boyfriend.”
After spotting such a tanzaku, I instantly averted my eyes.
“I’ll pass this time.”
“I see. Shall we go, then?”
The two of us paid homage at the shrine, then decided to try the “Mizuura Mikuji”.
To the right of the main shrine is the Mizuurayu Garden, and if you place the omikuji15 in the holy water there, the spiritual power of the water will cause characters to appear. That strange way of fortune telling is Mizuura Mikuji.
“This is quite interesting, isn’t it?”
We bought the fortune-telling papers and let them float in the water.
Eventually, the words “Great Fortune” appeared on my paper.
“Wow! Great Blessing! Yay!”
“Mine’s a Middle Blessing.”
“You said it.”
With the fortunes in our hands, the two of us laughed.
“Shall we go for lunch, then?”
Holmes-san asked as he checked the time.
“Ah, yes. I’m actually starting to feel hungry.”
I nodded with a light smile.
We were finally going to the rumored Kawadoko. My heart thumped with excitement.
After exiting Kifune Shrine, we descended down a mountain path to get to the riverside.
As we did so, we could see a few restaurants with Kawadoko dining areas.
(There are actually quite a lot of restaurants doing Kawadoko.)
The ambience in each store also varied, and there were even Western-style Kawadoko restaurants with vermillion parasols. Seeing people eat there while going down the mountain path lifted my spirits.
“The store my father favors is this one.”
Holmes-san pointed at a Kawadoko restaurant that looked like a well-established store, then stepped in without hesitation.
A waitress clad in a dark blue kimono stood at the entrance and bowed deeply.
“We have a reservation under ‘Ijuuin Takeshi’.”
Holmes-san nodded, causing the waitress to nod with a light smile.
“Yes, I understand. You are sensei’s son, correct? You do take after him.” The waitress laughed pleasantly, then said, “Please come this way” and led us through a passage to the interior of the shop.
That passage was still connected to an open-air area.
From the open door, I could see the smoothly coursing river as well as the floor foundations placed on it.
The floor was made up of soft rush mats arranged on top of a vermillion carpet. Black square tables and soft rush zabuton16 were placed on those mats. The ceiling was a bamboo screen that also served as a sunshade.
This was a realm of tranquillity, an extravagant indulgence.
I stood stock still in awe as the waitress said, “This way, please” with a faint smile.
We complied, going down the stone steps in the slippers that had been prepared for us.
The cool mountain wind pleasantly caressed our skin which had been sunburnt during our hike.
“Amazing, it’s really cool here!”
I exclaimed in surprise. In response, the waitress nodded.
“Yes, it’s 25 degrees here even in the middle of summer, and currently its about 23 degrees. Here is your seat.”
We were allocated a table at the upstream end of the platform.
We could easily see the flowing river up close at this spot, so it might be the best seat in the restaurant.
On top of that, due to the difference in water levels, we could even see the water cascading down the river.
“H-Holmes-san, is it really alright for me to be indulging in such extravagance when I’m so young?”
With a serious look, I revealed my concerns. Holmes-san and the waitress’s eyes widened for an instant, then they burst out laughing.
“Extravagance is split into ‘good extravagance’ and ‘bad extravagance’, I believe. For example, you might think that an activity might be too luxurious, but if you can use that experience as spiritual nourishment, then that activity will be a wonderful learning point, and will fall under ‘good extravagance’.”
Holmes-san sat on the zabuton.
“I, I see. It’s like learning about society.”
Feeling grateful, I also took a seat.
“Also, if you’re talking about age, I’ve been brought to surprising places and come into contact with treasures worth hundreds of millions for as long as I can remember, and that was all thanks to my grandfather.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Holmes-san had certainly used all his experiences as spiritual nourishment.
And as a result, he became who he is now.
Satisfied with that answer, I nodded alone.
Gentle light seeped in through the gaps in the bamboo screen. A pleasantly cool wind blew. The whooshing of the rapids, the murmuring of the clear stream and the cries of mountain birds echoed around us.
It was so brilliant that I could feel the detestable parts of the everyday life get washed away…
Later on, if someone asks, “What is Kibune no Kawadoko like?”, I would be able to properly answer. I could even hold on to this experience as a conversation topic.
Thinking about it, this extravagance might be worth experiencing.
Before now, I’d thought that this was beyond my position, but I also thought that it could be an amazing experience if I forced to try it.
As I was pricking my ears and listening with rapt attention to the murmuring of the flowing water, the food was brought before us.
To start off the meal, there was amuse-bouche17, appetizer, soup, sashimi and salt-broiled trout.
They were all so delicious that I was entranced.
Each dish had a really small quantity, so I was at first worried that I wouldn’t be full, but after finishing everything, I was surprisingly satiated.
But that definitely wouldn’t be the case if just one of these amazing dishes was removed, right?
This feeling of satisfaction existed because the dishes were served at the perfect timing.
Even my body was enveloped in some gentle sensation.
“That was really delicious! I’m so full now.”
Even as I said so, I brought a piece of melon to my mouth. It was flavorful, and had a smooth texture.
“You might be full, but the fruit after the meal are an exception.”
Holmes-san commented with a sweet grin.
With all his elegant mannerisms, it was truly fitting for him to be in a place like this.
Earlier, I couldn’t help worrying that I was out of place.
If not for Manager’s plans, I would have no business being in a place like this, and might not even get a chance to come here in my entire life.
I should thank him when I get back.
“…Come to think of it, does Manager himself come here often?”
“Yes, he apparently comes here once a year. On top of that, his author friend Kajiwara Naotaka-san owned a mountain villa in Kurama, and they often dined here together.”
“Kajiwara-sensei passed away three months ago, right?”
“Yes, he was reaching his 60th birthday, but his diabetes condition deteriorated.”
“Yes. Born in Kyuushuu, he was a large-hearted man who loved to drink sake. He did receive warnings from doctors, but he refused to heed them, saying that he would drink and eat whatever he wanted to. In a sense, this might be a ‘bad extravagance’, but the man in question recognized that, and probably led a carefree life.”
“…I see. He was a completely different type of writer compared to Manager, huh.”
“And that was likely why they got along so well.”
At that moment, the waitress approached us cheerfully.
“Um, you have a phone call from Kajiwara-sensei’s residence.”
Upon hearing those words, Holmes-san stood up, replying, “Ah, yes,” and followed the waitress to another area.
Speak of the devil, as they say.
I wonder if they wanted to ask about our time of arrival?
Anyway, I could really feel the romance of two writers chatting at Kibune no Kawadoko.
The stream babbled on as the leaves of the trees fluttered in the wind.
It was so beautiful that I would want to write if I had the ability to.
But since that was impossible, perhaps I could try a haiku?
“…Falling summer rain, swiftly flows as it gathers…”
No, that’s not good, I’m just ripping off Bashō20!
Also, this river isn’t ‘swiftly flowing’, and isn’t fast at all.
“What about the summer rain?”
Holmes-san’s voice came from behind, causing me to jump in surprise.
“Ah, no, nothing, really.”
“Were you talking about the Mogami River21?”
“Y-You heard everything, didn’t you? That’s mean!”
Feeling my face turn a deep shade of red, I raised my voice.
“By the way, the river here is just called ‘Kibune River’.”
Holmes-san explained as he stifled a laugh.
Ugh, that’s the calm, slightly mischievous smile. The mean Kyoto guy is going strong.
“M-More importantly, what was the phone call about?”
I changed the subject with a pout.
“Ah, sorry about that. Kajiwara-san said that he would pick us up from here if we’re fine with it. So how about it? Do you want to stroll around some more before meeting him?”
“Ah, it’s fine. We’ve done quite a lot of hiking already, so I don’t mind going to Kajiwara-san’s place now.”
“I shall reply to them, then.” Holmes-san retraced his steps.
“Eh? You were in the middle of the phone call?”
“Yes, I thought that I would only give them a reply after getting your consent.”
“Y-You don’t have to be so considerate for me…”
But even as I said that, I felt a little happy.
Holmes-san sure is a gentleman no matter where he goes.
(Although he’s also mischievous.)
I wonder what the deceased author’s family wants to consult Holmes-san about?
Did he leave behind some antiques that needs to be appraised?
If that was the case, they wouldn’t have to go out of their way to ask for Holmes-san.
Still confused, I gulped down the rest of my cold plum juice.
—We waited for another 10 minutes or so.
While drinking some tea, I was touching the flowing river with my hand and saying, “As I thought, it’s cold,” when Kajiwara-san’s emissary arrived at the front of the shop to receive us.
“I am Kajiwara’s secretary, Kurashina.”
The smart-looking man who was bowing and introducing himself was clad in a suit and looked to be in his forties.
So Kajiwara-san had a secretary. That seems amazing.
“I am Yagashira Kiyotaka.”
“I-I am Mashiro Aoi.” I bowed, while he returned a grin.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Thank you for coming all the way here to receive us.”
“No problem. I also apologize for sudden, impolite request. Please, get in the car.”
Kurashina-san said as he opened the back door of the Benz parked outside the restaurant.
A Benz! And a black one, too!
“Authors have a lot of money, huh.”
Overwhelmed, I muttered to myself and got onto the car with Holmes-san.
“Aoi-san, do you know of the movie ‘Power Struggle’?”
“Yes, but I only know about it by name. It’s a movie with a messy fight between politicians and the yakuza, right?”
I hadn’t watched it since it was a genre I wasn’t interested in, but I knew that it was a famous movie that even had a television series.
“Kajiwara-sensei was the original creator of that movie.”
“What, really? That’s amazing!”
Kurashina-san, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, chuckled.
“It’s not a movie that a young girl such as yourself would watch, huh?”
“S-Sorry. My father was watching that movie, and he liked it, I think.”
I also recall that the content of that movie seemed really complicated.
“Kajiwara-sensei was a student at the University of Tokyo at the height of the student movement22. After he graduated, he became a lawyer, and sometimes got to catch a glimpse of the underground community. Making use of that abundant experience, he wrote ‘Power Struggle’. That work earned him the Rookie Award, and was a big hit, adapted into a drama as well as a movie, propelling him towards the path of a spectacular writer.”
Holmes-san explained to me, as usual.
“You are well-informed, Kiyotaka-san.”
“Yes, naturally. He was a great author who was really close with my father, so I felt proud for him too.”
Holmes-san spoke with a first-rate smile on his face. As expected, he was flawless in terms of tact.
“However, Kajiwara was not only the author of ‘Power Struggle’, Kiyotaka-san. He also wrote beautiful works like ‘Blossoming of A Hundred Flowers’ and ‘Forbidden Fruit’.”
Kurashina-san cheerfully introduced us to the writer’s other works as he drove.
While he appeared to speak casually, I could feel the enthusiasm behind those words.
“Yes, I hear that Kajiwara-sensei’s ‘Forbidden Fruit’ is also quite popular. Kurashina-san, you seem to be quite a passionate fan yourself.”
“…Of course. I might be his biggest fan, even.”
Probably feeling embarrassed that he had been seen through, Kurashina-san shrugged.
The car continued moving up the mountain path.
“…Amazing, we’re really in the mountains.”
Outside the windows were green maple leaves that made my eyes sparkle.
This view of the mountains might not have changed since a long time ago.
That was what I thought as I felt a strong emotion welling up from deep within me.
After turning into a small road from the main street, a woody mansion in the middle of a grove of trees appeared, giving off the exact impression of a mountain retreat.
“Wow, it looks majestic!”
“Thank you. This is Kajiwara’s workplace.”
“Did he confine himself here whenever he was writing?”
Holmes-san asked for confirmation. In response, Kurashina-san nodded and said, “Yes, that is correct.”
“During those times, his wife and myself would come here with him, so you could say this is his second residence.”
“Where is his main residence?”
“It’s an apartment on Shijō Street. He used to have a house at Kinugasa District when his children were young, but when the three children grew up and moved out, it became too big for just Kajiwara and his wife, so he moved into the apartment.” Kurashina-san said as he stopped the car outside the mansion.
We immediately got off the car.
A refreshing breeze containing the fragrance of greenery blew past.
“The air’s really clear.”
Feeling comfortable, I stretched my arms and took a deep breath.
The air seemed to be filled with the “essence” of Mt. Kurama.
I could certainly understand why the author would want to seclude himself here to write.
“Please, come inside.”
Kurashina-san stepped forward and opened the door, revealing a woman who looked to be Kajiwara-sensei’s wife.
“Welcome to our humble abode. I am Kajiwara’s wife, Ayako.” She then deeply lowered her head.
She was about fifty, I think?
She was a beautiful person, slender and delicate like an actress.
“Nice to meet you. I am Yagashira Kiyotaka. I have often heard about you from my father, Ayako-san.”
“My, Ijuuin-sensei mentioned me?”
“After meeting you, he would always say, ‘She’s so beautiful that I’m jealous of Kajiwara-sensei.’”
“My, how nice. Kiyotaka-san, you look a lot like your father, don’t you?”
She chuckled to herself. From her words, I could tell that she wasn’t someone from the Kansai region.
“I’m really sorry to interrupt your date today.”
Ayako-san shifted her gaze onto me, causing me to return a startled look.
“So, what did you want to consult me about?”
Holmes-san ignored the changed the subject smoothly.
Wait, does that mean that he acknowledged our hike as a date? Well, it is certainly a date.
“Ah, please come inside for now.”
The lady held the door wide open.
“Sorry for intruding.”
I said as I took a step into the mountain villa.
The living room had a retro Showa atmosphere.
It had a black chandelier and a huge wall clock like the one in Kura.
There was a counter that would fit into any bar, as well as a billiard table. Three men were seated on the velvet sofa, and they stood up as we entered.
“And Yagashira Seiji’s grandson.”
“Welcome to our house.”
The three of them spoke in succession.
They must be Kajiwara-sensei’s sons.
They were all male, so that would make them the Kajiwara brothers.
One of them looked to be in his early thirties, another in his mid-twenties and the youngest one in his early twenties.
They didn’t say it aloud, but I could tell that they were somewhat troubled by Holmes-san’s young age.
“Nice to meet you, I am Yagashira Kiyotaka.”
“I-I’m Mashiro Aoi.”
After we introduced ourselves, the three of them followed suit.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Fuyuki, the oldest son of the Kajiwara family.”
The first son, who looked like a young entrepreneur, spoke.
“I’m the second son, Akihito.” The guy in his mid-twenties was slim, and gave off the impression of an artist.
Taking after his mother, he was quite handsome.
“I’m the youngest son, Haruhiko.”
He looked to be about Holmes-san’s age.
With his cheerful, gentle atmosphere, he seemed to be an agreeable young man.
Judging from their outer appearances, the oldest son, Fuyuki-san, probably looked like his father, although I had never seen the man himself, the second son, Akihito-san, looked like his mother, while the third son, Haruhiko-san, had a split of his parents’ features. As expected of a group of three brothers.
I could also tell which season they were born from their names23.
Come to think of it, it was actually a really simple naming pattern for an author…
“Well, authors are sometimes unexpectedly bad at naming.”
Holmes-san whispered so that only I could hear, causing my body to jolt.
Seriously, stop reading my thoughts! It’s really scary!
“Please, take a seat.” Hearing that suggestion, I sat down on the velvet sofa.
I was immediately brought coffee and baked sweets, and was relieved to see that milk and sugar had been prepared.
“Kiyotaka-san, I heard that you’re a student in Kyoto University, just like your father?”
“Yes, although I’m a graduate student there. Before that, I was in the prefectural university.”
Holmes-san replied with a smile.
“Ah, the prefectural university. Our Haruhiko’s currently a second-year student there.”
“I’ll work hard to enter Kyoto University as a graduate student as well.”
Ayako-san and Haruhiko-san laughed cheerfully.
Haruhiko-san is a second-year university student. That means that he’s about twenty years old.
At that moment, the second son, Akihiko-san, shrugged and spoke.
“The prefectural university and Kyoto University are different worlds for a high school graduate like me.”
“You did suddenly fly off and said that you would become an actor.”
Fuyuki-san said as a wry smile appeared on his face.
“Since you got into Tokyo University just like Dad, I felt ashamed for being bad at studying. But then again, thanks to you going to Tokyo, I got to proceed to the capital as well.”
“Seriously, you just crashed my house and leeched off me for a while.”
“My husband was openly against it, but on the inside, he didn’t mind providing some assistance if Akihito truly wanted to be an actor. Yet Akihito said at the time that he ‘didn’t want to ride on his parents’ coattails’, so he hid the fact that he was the son of the writer Kajiwara Naotaka while training to be an actor. He has been slightly rewarded for his efforts, and has recently gotten to appear on movies and on television, although only as side characters.”
Ayako-san said in a way that gave off the impression that she was embarrassed but had to convey as much.
“Ayako-san, I remember hearing that when you were young, you also aspired to be an actress. You met Kajiwara-san through an audition, right?”
Ayako-san gave a small nod to Holmes-san, who was bringing the coffee to his lips.
“Ijuuin-sensei has really told you about all sorts of things, I see. Yes, I wanted to be an actress but failed due to my lack of talent, so I was really happy when my son succeeded my dream.”
Ayako-san, it wasn’t Manager who told him everything. It’s just that Holmes-san somehow gained that knowledge.
I silently said in my heart as I listened to their conversation.
“So, what is today’s consultation about?”
Holmes-san suddenly placed the coffee cup down and looked up.
Ayako-san and her three sons shot each other troubled looks, as if to say, “Where should we begin?”
At that moment, the secretary, Kurashina-san, stepped forward.
“…I shall start with the explanation.”
A feeling of tension spread through the previously calm living room.
“When Kajiwara-sensei passed away, his lawyers were entrusted with two wills. One was an official will dealing with the inheritance of his fortune, and was opened immediately. The second was to be opened here in his mountain villa three months after his passing.
“Three days ago marked the third month since his passing. We received the will from his lawyers, and it read, ‘I want to give my treasured artworks to my three sons.’ The number to a safe was also written there, and we found three hanging scrolls inside that safe.”
Listening to that story, I gulped.
“Hanging scrolls, you say?” Holmes-san quietly responded with a polite interjection.
As I thought, they wanted Holmes-san to appraise those works of art.
The great author left behind three hanging scrolls to his three sons.
I wonder what value they hold?
I was nervous and excited by this development.
Next to Holmes-san, I looked on with anticipation for the scrolls, as Kurashina-san took a short breath and cast his eyes down.
“Fuyuki-san was to receive an artwork of Taira no Kiyomori, Akihito-san was to receive Hokusai’s Mt. Fuji, while Haruhiko-san was to receive an artwork of Taira no Tadamori24. I instantly had them appraised, but since they were found to be replications, they have no value as old works of art. We believe that Kajiwara-sensei just wanted to give artworks that he liked to his sons.”
My jaw fell to the ground after I heard that statement.
What, they’ve already done an appraisal?
They didn’t call Holmes-san here to have him appraise the scrolls?
As I was lost in bewilderment, Holmes-san sat beside me without any change to his expression, waiting for the next statement.
Fuyuki-san let out a deep sigh.
“That day, the three of us talked about taking good care of the scrolls that our father left us. We drank and ate here in this villa, and slept carefreely.
“…But the next day, something unexpected happened.”
“Something unexpected?” Holmes-san and I asked in unison.
“Those three scrolls were burnt in the incinerator at the back.”
Haruhiko-san divulged, with his face distorted by sorrow.
“Ehh?” We were lost for words, and our eyes were wide open.
“…They were burnt. Are there no traces left of the scrolls?”
Holmes-san asked with a frown. In response, Kurashina-san shook his head.
“No. Some parts of the scrolls remain, but the important pictures were burnt up.”
“Who could have done this, and why?”
Ayako-san’s shoulders shook as she bit her lip and looked down, while Akihito-san made a big show of shrugging.
“Mother, isn’t it obvious that someone in our family did it?”
“Yes, the only ones in villa on that day were us.”
Fuyuki-san firmly stared at Holmes-san as he spoke.
“But brother, I’ve said this many times, but which one of us would want to burn the scroll? It would be a different question if they were stolen.”
Annoyed, Haruhiko-san raised his voice.
“Well, it’s also possible that he burnt dummies and stole them away~”
Akihito-san spoke with a smile on his face, as if he were enjoying this situation.
“But aren’t the scrolls worth nothing themselves, aren’t they? Even if you sell them, you’d only get some tens of thousands.”
“No no, the pictures might be worthless, but they might contain some secret left there by Father. Clues to a hidden fortune, for example.”
“Hmm, you might say that, but aren’t you the one who did it, then? Out of all of us, the one who needs money the most is you, isn’t it?”
“What did you say?” Fuyuki-san and Akihito-san stood up in their heated exchange.
“Stop this!” Ayako-san shouted.
—I feel like I’ve been somehow dragged into a huge mess!
In the midst of all that, Holmes-san was drinking his coffee indifferently. While his facial expression was calm, I could tell from a slight upward curve of his lips that he somehow found the situation amusing.
“Hey, Holmes-san, what are you thinking about?”
I elbowed him slightly and asked in a small voice.
“Ah, I apologize. I was just thinking that you were very much alike, to an alarming degree.”
Holmes-san put down his cup gently and raised his head.
“Very much alike to an alarming degree?”
Who are alike?
Was he referring to the three brothers?
I’m not sure about their inner personalities, but they seem to be different types on the surface level.
Or was he saying that the three brothers are like the recently deceased Kajiwara-sensei?
I’m not sure, since I don’t know much about Kajiwara-sensei.
Or was he talking about how Ayako-san’s and Akihito-san’s faces were similar?
They are indeed quite alike.
As I slightly bent my head to the side, the verbal argument continued clamorously before me.
“—Please, calm down.”
After hearing Holmes-san’s voice, which was calm yet resounding, everyone stopped.
“Since you’ve called me here, you haven’t consulted the police, right?”
“Of course. No matter how you think about it, the person who did it is here, so we don’t want to get the police involved.”
Fuyuki-san said with a strong tone. In response, I nodded and said, “I see.”
The perpetrator must be one of them, so they don’t want the police to investigate.
However, they still want to resolve this inexplicable situation, so…
“So, after talking to Yanagihara-san who did the appraisal, we found out that Ijuuin-sensei’s son is a prodigy with a sharp mind and goes by the nickname ‘Holmes’.”
Haruhiko-san continued. Holmes-san weakly placed a hand on his forehead and replied.
“I see, so the appraisal was done by Yanagihara-sensei.”
“You know him, Holmes-san?”
“He’s an old friend of my grandfather’s.”
“Ah, Owner’s friend.”
That’s the usual ‘lateral connections’ at play.
Having regained his composure, Holmes-san looked at everyone.
“…If Yanagihara-sensei has examined the art pieces, there should be no problems with the appraisal.”
It seems that we can trust the words of the appraiser that they had no artistic value.
“Well, that doesn’t matter. Mr Detective Holmes, you’d better investigate all of us and find out who burnt the hanging scrolls. I’m quite a fan of Sherlock Holmes, so I’m quite interested to see how good you actually are.”
Akihito-san spoke with a mischievous grin.
He was also a handsome guy, but I had a bad feeling about him, because he gave off a flashy atmosphere.
“I’m called Holmes, but my family name is ‘Yagashira’, so I’m not sure if I can meet your expectations.”
Holmes-san returned a grin to Akihito-san.
As I thought, Holmes-san was really calm and mature.
“So you can’t help us with this problem, huh?”
I was startled by Akihito-san’s provocative tone.
I wonder why Akihito-san is picking a fight with Holmes-san? They’re both handsome men, so was he somehow dissatisfied about something? Or was it because Akihito-san’s such a fan of Sherlock Holmes that he’s displeased with someone calling himself ‘Holmes’?
“Yes. However, I do have an idea of the perpetrator. I don’t have any proof, unfortunately.”
Holmes-san flashed a composed smile.
“W-What?” Everyone exclaimed in astonishment.
“Is that true?”
How did he manage to figure out the culprit just from such a short explanation of the situation?
“Seriously, you’re kidding, right?” Akihito-san raised his eyebrows conspicuously.
“W-Who is it?” Everyone leant forward with interest.
“I apologize, but since I do not have any proof yet, I will not reveal my suspect. Now, I think I shall properly investigate.”
Holmes-san must have been quite peeved to say all that even without evidence. While he might usually display an easy-going attitude, he might unexpectedly hate losing.
Akihito-san apparently sees Holmes-san as the type of person he hates, but perhaps that’s also the same for Holmes-san?
“…Yes, an overbearing, arrogant playboy like him is certainly not to my liking.”
Reading my thoughts yet again, Holmes-san casually answered my question by whispering into my ear, causing me to almost spit out all the coffee I’d drunk.
“Now, I would like to ask each of you some questions. Let us first start with Fuyuki-san. Could you tell us your full name, age and occupation?”
Holmes-san linked his fingers in front of his chest and looked over at Fuyuki-san.
“Ah, starting with my name? Understood. Kajiwara Fuyuki, 32 years old. I started an IT business as a student in Tokyo University’s Faculty of Economics, which I’ve continued running up till today.”
So Fuyuki-san’s 32 years old. As I thought, he was indeed in his early thirties.
“You’re an economist, huh. Could you tell me the name of your company?”
“It’s called ‘West Japan’.”
“It’s a small, elite company with good ratings and rising stock prices, right?”
“…Thank you for the compliment.”
Fuyuki-san looked perplexed as Holmes-san immediately rattled off information about his company.
He’d probably expected Holmes-san to not know anything about it.
“Were you agreeable with the contents of the will from three months ago, with regards to your inheritance?”
I looked on in surprise as Holmes-san decisively asked such a question.
However, Fuyuki-san didn’t seem to mind, and nodded.
“While he was alive, he said that ‘the three of us would receive an equal amount’, and the contents of the will reflected exactly that, so it was expected. Anyway, my father was a huge spendthrift, so he didn’t leave behind much.”
“I see. Fuyuki-san, what did you think when you saw the hanging scroll your father left you? Please tell us your honest feelings.”
Holmes-san made firm eye contact with Fuyuki-san, who scratched his head.
“Ah, well, I knew that my father liked Kiyomori, so it made sense to receive a picture of Kiyomori. That was what I felt… And I also thought that I would have no where to hang it up even if I got it.”
That seemed like a really frank response. It’s even possible that he had felt excited wondering what he would receive, but was disappointed upon seeing a hanging scroll that he didn’t particular like.
“Thank you. Akihito-san, if you please.”
Holmes-san shifted his gaze to Akihito-san, who was sitting on a chair in front of the counter.
“You already know our names, so why do you want us to introduce ourselves again? Fine, I’m Kajiwara Akihito, 25 years of age. I work as an actor at the AK Company.”
Akihito-san replied as he shrugged resentfully.
“AK Company has a good reputation among entertainment companies. What did you think about your inheritance?”
“Well, Dad always said, ‘I won’t give a single yen to a prodigal son like you,’ so when I got it, I thought, ‘Wow, he actually gave some money to me?’”
“That’s different from what Fuyuki-san said.”
“I don’t know what he said, but he always told me that he would never give me anything, so I was surprised in a different way.”
“What did you think when you saw the hanging scroll?”
“Ah, I was simply ecstatic. I like Hokusai, although it seems to be a fake.” He laughed gently.
Akihito-san does seem like quite a playboy.
“I see. Now, we’ll move on to Haruhiko-san.”
Holmes-san coldly turned away from Akihito-san.
“Wait, that’s all for me?” The actor exclaimed in response, apparently unsatisfied.
Having been pointed out, Haruhiko-san laughed at Akihito-san’s appearance, then corrected himself.
“Kajiwara Haruhiko, 22 years old, and I’m a sophomore at Kyoto Prefectural University.”
“Haruhiko-san, what did you think of your inheritance?”
“Ah, I honestly thought that we had more money than that, so I thought, ‘That’s it?’ But I also knew that Father was a spendthrift, so it was understandable.”
He laughed to conceal his embarrassment.
This also seemed like his frank opinion.
“What makes you think that your father was a spendthrift?”
“He was always really large-hearted. He would gather people he’d received favors from, and treat them to feasts. He would even treat total strangers at his favorite izakaya, saying ‘This is my treat, so drink as much as you like!’”
Remembering his father’s generosity, Haruhiko-san’s face relaxed.
That told me that he respected and adored his father.
“…You’re the youngest out of three brothers, so was your father especially strict with you? Or did he pamper you?”
“My father always fawned on Haruhiko.”
“Yeah, the youngest son is special, after all.”
Before Haruhiko-san could answer, his two brothers replied, unsatisfied.
“I don’t know why, but Father was always really gentle towards me. Perhaps it’s because I always saw my brothers getting shouted at, so I did things to please him and not get him angry.”
That might be a perk to being the youngest sibling. My younger brother who just got into middle school also acts cleverly after seeing me get scolded by my parents.
“Haruhiko-san, what did you think when you saw the hanging scroll?”
“Well, I didn’t know what to make of it?”
Haruhiko-san laughed and crossed his arms.
“You didn’t know?”
“For my brothers’ artworks, anyone could tell in a glance that they were of Kiyomori and Mt. Fuji, but mine had a picture of a warrior I didn’t recognize. Even when I asked my mother and brothers, they didn’t know. It was the appraiser, Yanagihara-san, who informed us that the warrior was Taira no Tadamori.”
Haruhiko-san said with a wry smile.
That statement conveyed his slight disappointment with his inherited art piece.
“I see. Now, could I ask you all for details of the pictures you received? Fuyuki-san, you were given a picture of Taira no Kiyomori, but what kind of picture was it?”
After hearing Holmes-san’s question, the three brothers looked at each other.
“Hmm… It had Taira no Kiyomori in a golden kimono, holding up a large fan to a bright red sun.”
Fuyuki-san spoke as he recalled. In response, Holmes-san nodded, the corners of his mouth curving upward.
“Was it in the pose of ‘Kiyomori Calls Back the Setting Sun’?”
“Kiyomori Calls Back the Setting Sun?” Everyone asked in unison.
Upon hearing that statement, Ayako-san went “Ah!” as if having remembered something.
“Now that you mention it, my husband liked Kabuki.”
“Yes, my father enjoys it too, and he occasionally went to plays with Kajiwara-sensei.”
Holmes-san and Ayako-san laughed.
“As for Akihito-san, what was your picture like?”
Holmes-san steered the discussion back to the main topic. Akihito-san said, “Hmm,” and linked his arms.
“It was mostly an unpainted background with a black dragon rising to the heavens from a smart-looking depiction of Mt. Fuji.”
“I see, it’s ‘The Dragon of Smoke Flying Over Mt. Fuji’. Next, Haruhiko-san.”
Holmes-san immediately changed direction.
“H-Hey, haven’t you been awfully cold towards me the whole time?”
Akihito-san complained discontentedly.
“You sure are an funny person to say that when you spoke aggressively to me earlier.”
Holmes-san turned around and brandished a first-rate smile.
Overwhelmed by its intensity, Akihito-san was lost for words.
—There it is, that mischievous smiling attack!
While he doesn’t directly badmouth his opponent, he still manages to give a sharp jab to them. That’s a Kyoto guy for you!
I found myself cheering for him in a fight I didn’t understand.
“So, Haruhiko-san, what was your artwork like?”
Just as Holmes-san returned to the topic with a serious face, the atmosphere in the living room also became more tense.
“Ah, yes. Mine had an old priest holding a lantern and a general walking through a forest.”
“A priest holding a lantern…”
Holmes-san was silent for a moment.
“I see, thank you very much.”
After a short bow, he turned towards Ayako-san.
“…Ayako-san, could you introduce yourself?”
She raised her head in surprise, apparently not expecting to be questioned.
“Ah, me? Alright. I’m Kajiwara Ayako, 53 years old.”
As she mentioned her age, the inflection of her words became smaller.
Her hesitation was probably due to her wondering if she should give her age.
“Ayako-san, when did you get married?”
“I got to know Kajiwara when I was 18, and we got married when I was 20.”
“Kajiwara-sensei was 7 years older, is that correct?”
“Did you know that Kajiwara-sensei had prepared three hanging scrolls for your three sons?”
“No, not at all.”
“Did he prepare anything for you?”
“No, nothing for me. Ah, but…”
Ayako-san showed us the ring on her left hand’s ring finger.
The light blue jewel sparkled brightly.
“Before he passed away, Kajiwara gave this to me as a present. It’s a ring inlaid with a birthstone.”
“It’s an aquamarine, which means that you were born in March, right?”
“Yes. Kiyotaka-san, you’re very well-informed.” Ayako-san happily touched the ring on her finger.
“Ayako-san, what did you think of the pieces of artwork that your three sons received?”
“Hmm. I was certain that those hanging scrolls had some artistic value, so I was bewildered when it was revealed that it wasn’t true.”
“Did Kajiwara-sensei like hanging scrolls in the first place?”
“He had an interest in all sorts of things, so that could have been one of them. Then again, I was quite surprised, since no hanging scrolls are displayed in this villa or in our mansion.”
“I see. Thank you very much.”
Holmes-san bowed, then shifted his gaze to Kurashina-san.
“Finally, Kurashina-san. Would you mind?”
“Alright.” Kurashina-san nodded earnestly.
“Kurashina Youhei, 42 years old. I work as Kajiwara-sensei’s secretary.”
“Kurashina-san, were you aware of the existence of the hanging scrolls?”
“No, the only person who knew of them was the lawyer in charge of the second will.”
“…I see. By the way, Kurashina-san, how did you become Kajiwara-sensei’s secretary?”
“Well, it’s a little embarrassing to talk about it, but I used to be in a biker gang.”
As Kurashina-san gave a wry smile, I exclaimed, “Ehhh?”, openly showing my surprise.
“Shocking, isn’t it? That someone as diligent as him used to be in a biker gang.”
Ayako-san and the three brothers chuckled.
It seemed that the whole family knew about it.
(And there’s no doubt that Holmes-san was aware of it too.)
“When I was 18, I got into some trouble with the police, and Kajiwara-sensei, who was at that time a lawyer, helped me out. I’ve adored him ever since that incident. Since I wanted to be of use to him, I loitered around and became hired as his driver. Two years later, he said, ‘You’re quite useful,’ and made me his secretary.”
Kurashina-san explained with a smile. The three brothers nodded.
“Kurashina-san might have been a biker gang member, but he turned over a new leaf really quickly.”
“Just goes to show how academic records aren’t everything.”
“On top of that, he’s Father’s savior!”
As the brothers spoke in succession, Holmes-san opened his eyes wide and asked, “Father’s savior?” This was probably the first time he heard about this.
“Yes. After writing ‘Power Struggle’, he drew the ire of the gang he used as a model. A bloodthirsty member of the gang took a knife and charged straight at Father, but at that moment, Kurashina-san stood in front of him and got stabbed instead.”
“That’s… the first time I’ve heard of that.”
Holmes-san folded his arms in admiration.
“Well, I was stabbed, but I made a full recovery after just two weeks. Since we didn’t make the incident public, we managed to reconcile with the gang. It’s a great achievement for getting an injury.” Kurashina-san smiled.
“This is a question for all of you. When did Yanagihara-sensei conduct the appraisal?”
“He came here soon after the lawyer brought the hanging scrolls,” Fuyuki-san answered.
“You invited Yanagihara-sensei here?”
“Yes. We said that we would pick him up, but Yanagihara-sensei knew this place, so he drove here on his own. After the appraisal, he said that he would go to the Kurama Hot Spring.”
“Between obtaining the scrolls and those scrolls being incinerated, there was about half a day, correct? Did anyone leave the villa during that time?”
Everyone looked at each other after hearing those words.
“No, no one left this villa.”
“That’s right, we came here after buying the groceries and other stuff.”
“After Yanagihara-sensei’s appraisal, all of you came here to drink, right? Where were the hanging scrolls at that time?”
“On top of the counter.”
Akihito-san placed his hand on the counter in question.
“Did you all get dead drunk in this room?”
“No, the only one to be wasted was Akihito, while the rest of us returned to our bedrooms.”
Upon hearing Fuyuki-san’s words, Akihito-san scratched his head awkwardly.
“Were the scrolls on the counter when you left the room?”
“Yes, I think… On second thoughts, I’m not sure.”
“I also don’t remember.”
They tilted their heads in bewilderment.
“By the way, did anyone handle the incinerator that was used to burn the hanging scrolls?”
“Yes. My father originally used it to incinerate rejected manuscripts so that no one would be able to see them.”
Fuyuki-san answered, while Holmes-san nodded and muttered, “I see.”
“But… this is… difficult.”
I was startled by Holmes-san’s rare display of anxiety.
While he mentioned that he “had an idea of the perpetrator” earlier, did he start having doubts after listening to their answers? Could it be that Holmes-san originally believed Kurashina-san the secretary, to be the culprit, but then started having second thoughts?
Is he alright?
As my heart fluttered, Akihito-san laughed.
“As I thought, you don’t know who did it, huh? In that case, would you like to look at the burnt remains of the scrolls? Why don’t you pretend to check if they were replaced?”
He opened a furoshiki on the counter and showed us its contents.
There were only the tragic, charred remains of the hanging scrolls.
“No, they definitely weren’t replaced.”
Holmes-san asserted as he gently covered his eyes with a hand. In response, everyone in the room exclaimed, “Huh?” and stopped moving.
“Every person here was unaware of the contents of the second will, or in other words, you all didn’t know of the existence of the hanging scrolls before receiving them. I can tell that it’s the truth from your earlier statements.
“Basically, you all first knew of the scrolls on the same day, at the same time. After that, you had Yanagihara-san conduct an appraisal, and you found the burnt scrolls the next day…
“During that time, no one left the house. No one would have had a chance to prepare dummy scrolls.
“Furthermore, there is no place here in which anyone could have prepared dummy scrolls without being seen by someone else.”
Everyone was satisfied by that explanation.
“More importantly, what I find difficult is not in identifying the culprit.”
Holmes-san revealed with a bitter look on his face.
What he finds difficult is not in identifying the culprit?
What does that mean?
Probably having the same feeling as I did, everyone else looked at each other, perplexed.
“What do you mean by that? If you know something, spit it out. Or are you just giving excuses?”
Having grown impatient, he struck the table.
“Akihito, you’re being rude to the guest we invited.”
Ayako-san snapped, unable to endure it any longer.
“…I suppose that might be true.”
Ashamed, Akihito-san’s diction suddenly became unclear.
Fuyuki-san then walked forward and lowered his head.
“Kiyotaka-san, I apologize for Akihito’s rudeness. But if you do know something, could you tell us without hesitation?”
“Yes, please tell us. Did the burnt scrolls contain a secret to a hidden treasure or something like that?” Haruhiko-san asked cheerfully, even in this situation.
He might be thinking of this situation as nothing more than a riddle.
“…Alright. The pictures on the scrolls don’t contain anything about treasure, but they hold messages for each of you.”
Holmes-san spoke hesitantly.
I could tell from his tone of voice that he was in fact reluctant to do so.
Even so, everyone else leaned forward, wanting to swallow every word.
“First, let’s start with Fuyuki-san’s ‘Kiyomori Calls Back the Setting Sun’. The sun was about to set before an important ceremony, so Kiyomori, having heard the story of a Chinese emperor shooting down 9 suns27, used his fan to beckon the sun to rise.
“As he did so, the evening sun actually rose, and people in the surrounding area, awed by Kiyomori’s power to move even the sun, prostrated themselves… and that is what the artwork depicts.
“Since Kiyomori was unable to keep his power and authority28 even in a time when ‘You are not human if you do not belong to the Taira clan’, there is in a way some irony expressed in this picture.
“And you should know what happened in Kiyomori’s final moments.
“Kajiwara-sensei, who liked Kiyomori, was trying to tell you as you were finding success in your business, that while you should aim for greater heights with your unique charisma similar to Kiyomori’s, but at the same time, you should avoid succumbing to that same hubris.”
Holmes-san spoke softly as Fuyuki-san’s body shook.
His eyes turned red in an instant.
“My father was not the type of person to talk about every single detail. It’s true that I was getting a little arrogant because my business was succeeding. To think that I didn’t think deeply enough about the piece of art that contained such important advice… I’m such an idiot.” Unable to contain his tears, Fuyuki-san wept.
He must feel disappointed that the scrolls were burnt.
My heart ached for him too.
While staring at Fuyuki-san sorrowful state, Akihito-san flicked up his hair weakly.
“So, um, what about mine…?”
Akihito-san asked meekly.
He’d been quite aggressive to Holmes-san and now found it awkward to ask for a favor, but he must have really wanted to know about the meaning behind his inheritance.
“Alright. Akihito-san’s ‘The Dragon of Smoke Flying Over Mt. Fuji’ was drawn three months before Hokusai’s death. He lived until he was about 90, and in his final moments, he said, ‘If only Heaven will give me just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.’29
“Even up till his death, he wanted to keep drawing and lamented his in ability to reach the top. Thus, he can be said to be a true artist.
“I believe that Kajiwara-sensei was trying to tell you, “If you truly love the path of an artist, you should strive to instill yourself with that attitude. Don’t be half-assed. Become a star, just as how the dragon rises to the heavens from Mt. Fuji, the top of Japan.’ He was cheering you on, even though he couldn’t bring himself to say all that.”
Holmes-san concluded his explanation with a gentle smile.
Akihito-san’s eyes opened wide.
“…Dad…” His body shook slightly.
Probably not wanting to show us his tear-filled face, he turned around and sat at the counter without a word.
“Lastly, as for Haruhiko-san’s picture…”
Just as Holmes-san started,
Ayako-san shouted in a pained voice.
“Ehh?” We turned around, surprised.
“Please, stop. I… I was the one who burnt the scrolls. That’s enough, isn’t it?”
Ayako-san spoke with a raised voice, causing the rest of us to widen our eyes in shock.
“Eh, Mother… Why?”
“B-Because while I got this ring, I didn’t like how my name didn’t appear once on the second will! Those scrolls were cheap, and I couldn’t stand the sight of them, so I burnt them in a drunk state!”
“B-Because of that?”
Haruhiko-san’s jaw dropped.
“Yes, exactly! I didn’t know that they would contain such messages! I was wrong! So that’s enough, right? Kurashina-san, thank them and send them off!”
Ayako-san stood up and left the room with vigor.
“Wait, Mother!” “Ayako-san!”
Haruhiko-san and Kurashina-san hurriedly rushed after her.
Left in the living room were me, Fuyuki-san and Akihito-san, absentmindedly staring at the door that Ayako-san and burst out of. Only Holmes-san put a hand on his chest in relief.
“…Seems like the problem has been solved. Shall we leave?”
He said something like that so readily.
“Huh? Has it really been resolved?”
“We’ve found out why the person who burned the hanging scrolls did it,” Holmes-san said as he got up.
“Hold on. We haven’t heard from you about Haruhiko-san’s picture.”
Akihito-san blocked the doorway to stop us from leaving.
“…Please, tell us. We could tell that our mother was trying to prevent you from explaining about it.” Fuyuki-san pleaded with a deep bow.
Holmes-san took a breath.
“It could be something that you’re better of not hearing. On top of that, Ayako-san doesn’t want you to hear it.”
“…I don’t mind.”
“Yeah, we’ll keep it to ourselves.”
Seeing their serious looks, Holmes-san gave a small nod.
“Haruhiko-san’s artwork is about a story of the ‘Tadamori lantern’.”
I repeated instinctively. I had absolutely no idea what it was about.
“When Emperor Shirakawa went to the streets of Gion to see his favorite concubine, a Gion court lady, he saw a demon in front of him, so he ordered his companion, Taira no Tadamori, to slay it. However, when Tadamori captured it to determine its true identity, it turned out to be an elderly man from Gion.
“Thus, the old man was not killed by the Emperor’s mistake. The Emperor was thankful for Tadamori’s prudence.
“After that incident, he gave that Gion court lady that he dearly adored to Tadamori as a reward, and that led to the birth of Kiyomori.”
Holmes-san finished speaking, causing silence to return to the living room.
Huh… so what does that mean?
“What does giving the court lady to Tadamori mean?”
I asked solemnly. Holmes-san returned a weak, wry smile.
“…In other words, he allowed the two of them to spend a night together.”
“H-Huh? And as a result, Kiyomori was born?”
“I’m not sure if this is historical fact, but such a theory exists.”
To put it bluntly, the Emperor lent his woman to his subordinate for one night?
But, what was the meaning behind Kajiwara-sensei leaving Haruhiko-san that picture…
“W-What? Could, could that mean that Haruhiko isn’t Dad’s son? In that case, just whose…”
Akihito-san started, but fell silent.
Kurashina-san risked his life to save Kajiwara-sensei. That was about 20 years ago.
If Kurashina-san held a yearning for Ayako-san, whom he was unfamiliar with, and Kajiwara-sensei knew about it, he might have given Ayako-san to him as a display of sheer gratitude.
Kurashina-san and Ayako-san… And as a result, Haruhiko-san was born.
And then Kajiwara-sensei brought up Kurashina-san’s son as his own?
A chill ran down my back.
“Ayako-san really didn’t want you to know about this. She probably didn’t understand the meaning when she first saw the picture of Tadamori, but she did some research, I believe, and was shaken when she found out the truth.”
Holmes-san softly said. Meanwhile, I stood on the spot without a word.
“I-If he didn’t say anything about it, he could have kept it as a secret, so why did Dad give him Tadamori’s picture…”
That was true. Why would he give a confession through a piece of art, three months after his death?
That seemed quite irresponsible of him.
“This is just a guess, but did Haruhiko-san celebrate his twentieth birthday recently?”
At those words, Fuyuki-san and Akihito-san nodded and said, “Ah, yeah.”
“Haruhiko’s birthday was two weeks ago.”
“I think Kajiwara-sensei decided to wait for him to get to twenty years old before letting him know the truth, and that’s why the will could only be opened ‘three months later’. However, in my opinion, it’s too early for Haruhiko-san to learn of this truth. Ayako-san probably also feels it in her skin too.”
A bitter countenance appeared on Holmes-san’s face.
So that’s the ‘difficult’ part he was talking about!
“I’ll take my leave for today, and it would be great if I could talk to Fuyuki-san at a later date.”
“Hey, what about me?”
Akihito-san asked in a loud voice, but was ignored.
“…Thank you very much for telling us. What should we do about this case?”
Fuyuki-san gave a pained look.
“Please tell Haruhiko-san of this when he’s grown up enough, based on your own judgement. But never take this secret to your grave.”
“Why should we not keep this a secret forever?”
Akihito-san raised his eyebrows.
I was also thinking along the same lines. I felt that it would be good to keep this secret forever as well.
“If you make light of your ancestors, your family will definitely be ruined. Haruhiko-san is in the Kajiwara family, but has the blood of Kurashina. That fact must be recognized.”
Feeling some indescribable weight behind those words, we swallowed our breaths.
“Shall we go then, Aoi-san?”
Holmes-san looked me in the eye. After hesitating for a moment, I nodded and said, “Ah, alright.”
“I’ll send you home. Where do you live?”
Akihito-san offered, with a car key in his hand.
“Thank you. We’ll be fine if you send us to Kurama Station.”
“Just to the station?” Akihito-san asked as he left the living room.
“Ah, Kiyotaka-san, please accept this as a token of our gratitude.”
Fuyuki-san said, holding an envelope.
“No, no, it’s alright.”
“Come now, don’t say that. These are tickets for a Kabuki performance.”
“…Then, I shall accept them. Thank you.”
Seeing Holmes-san received the envelope with both hands, I quipped in my heart, “So you’ll accept gifts if they’re Kabuki tickets!”
As we left the mountain villa, the brilliant evening sun colored the west sky.
So it’s already sunset. Was that a long meeting, or a short one?
“I wonder if my mother is alright.”
Fuyuki-san turned back to look at the villa with concern.
“Kurashina went after her, so she should be fine.”
Holmes-san replied as he reached the car.
“Oh yes, please tell this to Ayako-san when the time is right. The aquamarine ring that Kajiwara-sensei gave her is not just about the birthstone, but also contains his feelings in the language of gemstones.”
“The language of gemstones, you say?”
Fuyuki-san asked with his mouth agape. Holmes-san nodded.
“Just as there is the language of flowers, there is also the language of gemstones.”
“I understand, but what does aquamarine mean?”
“Aquamarine mean presence of mind, wisdom, as well as ‘freedom’.”
I see, so Kajiwara-sensei wanted Ayako-san to move on to the next part of her life after his death.
This time, he was really entrusting Kurashina-san with Ayako-san.
As Fuyuki-san and I were lost for words, Akihito-san heaved a deep sigh.
“…Wow, that’s amazing.”
“I’ll admit it, you sure are ‘Holmes’.”
With a grin, he opened the door to the backseat.
“Please get in, Holmes-san.”
With that sarcastic smile on his face, Akihito-san put a hand on his chest.
“Thank you very much.”
Holmes-san responded with the same first-rate smile.
As usual, they were fighting over something I could not understand, but a competition between two handsome men was a delectable sight.
With such thoughts, I also entered the car.
“Kiyotaka-san, thank you so much for today. I apologize that you had to see such embarrassing things just now. Please allow us to visit your place at a later date to bring you gifts.”
Fuyuki-san bowed outside the car. In response, Holmes-san shook his head and said, “No, no.”
“We don’t need gifts, but come over to hang out anyway.”
Fuyuki-san lowered his head again, and the two of us also nodded.
“Shall we go off then?”
Taking hold of the steering wheel, Akihito-san drove off.
We went off the small road into a main road.
“You’re seriously amazing, though.”
Akihito-san muttered as if talking to himself as he drove, causing me to almost laugh.
“No, I’m not quite that amazing.”
“Just when did you figure it out?”
Ah, that was what I wanted to ask as well.
“As soon as I saw Haruhiko-san, I immediately knew that him and Kurashina-san were father and son.”
Upon hearing Holmes-san’s smooth reply, Akihito-san and I choked.
We asked with amazement.
“I mean, they look so alike,” Holmes-san said, as if that were obvious.
“Ehh? How did they look alike?”
“E-Ears?” Our loud voices betrayed our surprise.
“Yes, Kurashina-san and Haruhiko-san had similarly-shaped ears, and that would be impossible unless they were father and son. At that moment, I thought that since the two of them were father and son, Ayako-san and Kurashina-san could be in an adulterous relationship.”
“Wait, you were having such thoughts behind that fresh smile?”
“Yes. You have a problem with that?”
As Holmes-san casually answered, I shuddered.
“You’re really too scary,” I spoke, causing Akihito-san to burst out in laughter.
“Well, you seemed like a creepy rascal with a high level of education30, but you’re quite interesting, aren’t you?”
“You’re also a creepy person, but you’re quite interesting too.”
Holmes-san immediately shot back.
“Creepy, you say…” Akihito-san was lost for words.
“…You used that word yourself first, so don’t be so dejected when it’s used against you.”
Holmes-san chided exasperatedly as Akihito-san pouted. Seeing their appearances, I couldn’t help but laugh.
“…Come to think of it, the two of you were having a date today, right? Sorry that you had to get caught up in our affairs.”
Upon hearing Akihito-san’s words, my cheeks grew hot.
D-Date, he said.
“Right, shall we go to see a Kabuki performance with the tickets we got today, Aoi-san?”
Holmes-san directed a gentle smile at me, to which I replied, “Y-Yes!” with an excited nod.
“Hey, what’s with the two of you enjoying yourselves so much at the back? Hurry up and go home already.”
Hearing Akihito-san grumble, I chuckled yet again.
As the laughter echoed, the car raced down Kurama’s mountain road.
The dazzling sun lit up the green maple leaves from the west, giving them a
reddish tint, and creating a picturesque scene of a summer sunset.
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- Kawadoko is a Kyoto style of restaurant where the floor is placed over and/or besides a river to welcome customers in summer. Kawadoko is a special seasonal way of eating that helps to cool you down, usually available from May to September in Kyoto.
- This is actually a thing. It can be found in one of the 22 train cars operated by the Eizan Railway, and its position is changed every few days. Click here for more information.
- A 1999 film about a railway station master at a dying end-of-the-line village in Hokkaido.
- Minamoto no Yoshitsune was a warrior who fought for his brother Yorimoto in the Heian Period, eventually leading to the establishment of the first shogunate in Japan and start of the Kamakura Period. Benkei was a Japanese warrior monk who lived in the later years of the Heian Period; he later came to respect and serve Minamoto no Yoshitsune.
- Tengu are a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion, originally believed to take the form of birds of prey, but are now depicted humanoids with extraordinarily long noses.
- A photo booth machine where you can take photos with your friends and the get a printout of it afterwards.
- Mochi with horse chestnut and savory bean paste filling.
- Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s childhood name.
- Two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha that usually stand at the entrances of Buddhist temples.
- A military leader and head of the Taira clan, who established the first samurai-dominated administrative government in Japan.
- Statue pairs of lion-like creatures typically guarding the entrance of shrines and temples.
- A small town in a forested valley in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, which developed around Kifune Shrine. Why the town and the shrine names are written the same but pronounced differently, I have no idea.
- Small pieces of colored paper on which wishes are written.
- A festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by Vega and Altair respectively), who can only meet once every year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. It is usually celebrated on July 7th, by hanging tanzaku on bamboo.
- This usually means a slip of paper for fortune telling.
- Flat floor cushions used for sitting and kneeling.
- A bite-sized Hors d’oeuvre.
- Refers to noodles made from konjac yam.
- Very thin noodles, usually served cold with soy sauce and dashi dipping sauce.
- Refers to Matsuo Bashō, recognized as the greatest master of haiku. The poem that Aoi is copying goes “The showers of May, swiftly flows as it gathers, Mogami River.” (This is my own translation, so I apologize for any inaccuracies since I’m not very familiar with haiku translation.)
- A river in Yamagata Prefecture.
- This was apparently part of the global “student power” movement in 1968, in which the younger generation of students felt disillusioned by the teaching administration who had failed to keep pace with rapid modernization, as well as declining job opportunities for graduates.
- Fuyuki (冬樹) has the character 冬 for winter, Akihito (秋人) has the character 秋 for autumn, Haruhiko (春彦) has the character 春 for spring.
- Father of Taira no Kiyomori.
- Classical Japanese dance-drama, with elaborate make-up worn by actors.
- In the play, Kiyomori is so powerful that he can call back the setting sun by beckoning to it with his fan so that the building work of Itsukushima Shrine can be completed before sunset.
- This is referring to Hou Yi, a mythological archer who shot down 9 out of 10 suns in ancient Chinese lore.
- Soon after forcing the emperor to abdicate and installing a puppet emperor in 1180, many of Kiyomori’s allies turned against him and worked together with the old rivals of the Minamoto clan to rise against the Taira clan. He died early in the next year from sickness.
- I omitted a line here explaining the previous sentence since the English translation is simple enough to understand.
- I’m not sure why Akihito mentions the high level of education in his insult. Is it part of the insult, or is it an admission?