Once again, we went back to the hōjō and were shown into the “Waterfall Room”.
As the name suggested, it was a wide, beautiful Japanese-style room from which you could see a waterfall. Three men were waiting for us there.
“Nice to meet you. I am the deputy abbot of Nanzen-ji, and my name is Unshou.”
The deputy abbot, an elderly monk, lowered his head.
After that, a monk who looked to be in his thirties also bowed.
“My name is Shouan.”
Finally, a middle-aged man in a samue3 that appeared here in the past. I also hear that the yokai disappeared when Mukan Fumon, who was at the time a Zen priest at Tōfuku-ji, came here to exorcize them.4
“It has been about 700 years since that moment. I’m sorry to tell you that another evil spirit has snuck into Nanzen-ji.”
Holmes clearly announced, causing the deputy abbot to narrow his eyes.
“Yes, right here!”
As he spoke, Holmes grabbed something like a dagger from his pocket and forcefully brought it down on Enshou’s head.
A cracking sound echoed throughout the room.
While everyone else was taken aback, I caught sight of Enshou catching that small weapon. It was exactly the style of “catching a sword between one’s bare hands”.
And then I noticed. What Holmes swung was not a dagger, but a fan.
“—My, my. Ya sure did something terrifying with that innocent face. Were ya tryin’ to split my head open.”
A twisted smile appeared on Enshou’s face as he held onto the fan.
“I thought I would stop the fan right before the top of your head and watch as your legs give way in fright, but I never expected you to catch it like this. You’re quite impressive.”
“No kiddin’. Ya used lots of force while swingin’ this at my head. Anyway, I thought ya were a respectable person, but yer actually quite a violent kid. I never thought ya’d suddenly come for my head.”
“Well, this is just a fan, after all,” Holmes replied with a chuckle.
“With such a terrifyin’ intent to kill, too.”
Enshou quivered a little while still holding the fan, then asked a question.
“By the way, when did ya notice?”
This was quite the strange sight.
Holmes swinging down the fan, and Enshou holding it up.
They were glaring at each other, but their mouths were maintaining their thin smiles.
With that intense atmosphere, the rest of us couldn’t bring ourselves to move or talk.
“I felt that something was off when we first met.”
“Did I make a blunder?”
“For starters, you recognized me at the very beginning. You noticed me out of so many tourists and immediately approached to welcome me. I originally said that I would be coming here alone, but you weren’t fazed by the appearance of an unexpected guest. From that I could tell that you were the one to suggest calling me over to this temple.
“Furthermore, you were a little nervous in front of the Zuiryuu scroll, right? No, thinking about it now, you were probably excited. You suddenly became talkative, and your breathing was out of place during your explanation.
“At that time, I thought that that temple had put out a forgery on display for their own reasons, and you were afraid that it would be exposed.
“The next point would be your tendency to imitate. You are, at your very root, a copyist. You tend to copy the expressions and mannerisms of people around you. At first, Akihito-san mentioned that you and I were very similar. In the next moment, you started giving off the same air as the deputy abbot, and your writing was almost identical to Shouan’s. You intentionally wrote that letter in the abbot’s handwriting, correct? Someone like you can get anything they want without difficulty, so why are you going out of your way to do this?”
Holmes asked, and Enshou’s expression loosened.
“…Because I reached the peak of forgery, such that no one could notice my fakes. At first, I was ecstatic, but then it started becomin’ real borin’. So, I decided to atone for my sins and enter the Buddhist priesthood, although I had to pull some strings to achieve that.
“But then a few days ago, ya exposed a forgery of mine that had gone unnoticed for years. And something that I’ve forgotten for a long time suddenly began to stir.”
“It wasn’t just me who exposed you, but my grandfather as well.”
Upon hearing those words, Enshou snorted.
“Sure, if an old man who has accumulated much experience and has honed his craft for years exposed me, I would’ve just thought, ‘That’s only to be expected,’ and given up. But ya managed to see through my forgeries even though yer younger than me, and when I found out that yer a talented person with the nickname of ‘Holmes’, I just felt like challenging ya.
“And that piece of calligraphy was one of my masterpieces to challenge ya. Although ya quickly revealed it for what it is, it’s quite a work of art, ain’t it?”
“—That ain’t art at all! That’s like sayin’ an artificial flower with only the same shape as the original and none of the smell is a flower. Artificial flowers are artificial flowers, and completely different from normal flowers. There might be lots of differing opinions, but I ain’t recognizin’ forgeries meant to deceive people as art. That’s just shameless!”
As a surprisingly cold smile appeared on Holmes’ face, Enshou narrowed his eyes in enjoyment.
“Wow, ya sure can talk. But I suppose that’s yer true nature. With such a frightenin’ aura, yer like an entirely different person. Still, it’s way better than that respectable façade ya put on. Yer pretty good at acting yerself.”
“Thanks… but where’s the real scroll?”
“In the temple storehouse. Ya will find it instantly there. Havin’ someone like ya around makes me think that I still have attachments to this mortal world. I’ll accept this as my loss and retreat for now. See ya!”
With a grin on his face, Enshou thrust a hand at Holmes to send him flying, then jumped out of the room, still holding onto the fan.
“Trying to escape?”
Holmes tried to leave the room to chase him down, but the deputy abbot called out.
“Kiyotaka-kun, please wait!”
Upon hearing those words, Holmes immediately stopped moving.
But in the next moment, Enshou was gone.
Holmes bit his lip, clenched his fists, and clicked his tongue in frustration.
I was honestly shocked by that display. It was exactly like Enshou said. I never expected him to have such ferocious fighting spirit behind that mask of refinement.
While I was still trying to wrap my head around the recent developments, I felt a small degree of admiration.
“Kiyotaka-san, that’s the skills of a shinobi. A sheltered boy like you ain’t catchin’ him. It’ll just be a waste of yer time and effort.”
The deputy abbot said quietly, but Holmes frowned.
“I beg your pardon, but I’m not a sheltered boy.”
He replied as he turned around. While there was a smile on his face, it was apparent that he was unwilling to accept the deputy abbot’s words.
“I understand that yer not an average person. But ya just don’t match up to Enshou in terms of physical ability.”
“…Deputy abbot, you don’t seem very surprised, so did you already notice it?”
“I didn’t know that the Zuiryuu scroll got swapped, but I knew that Enshou ain’t an ordinary person, and I could feel that he had some past that he couldn’t reveal publicly. However, since he’d already decided to enter the priesthood, it is our duty to accept those feelings of determination. I don’t know what Enshou went through in his past, but he’d forgotten about the mortal realm, repenting for his sins, reciting Buddhist prayers, and was about to become a real monk. But due to yer existence, he began to feel that he still had attachments. Being exposed by the veteran Seiji-san might have be painful for him, but he would have capitulated. Being exposed by someone like ya must have hurt his pride.
“At the same time, Enshou was probably happy that ya managed to see through his forgery. Having lived as a ‘shadow’ for a long time, he wanted to be recognized as an individual. At that point, he probably felt that he had finally met his destined rival, and thus became unable to live a quiet life. How ironic it is…”
The deputy abbot’s words trailed off as he stared into the distance.
“Should we report this to the police?”
“I don’t think he was lying when he said that the Zuiryuu scroll is in the storeroom. In the end, nothing was stolen, and even if we tell this to the police, I don’t think they can do anything against that shinobi anyway.”
“So what do you plan to do? Just let him go away scot-free?”
Holmes asked irritably, but the deputy abbot put on a calm smile.
“Yer here, aren’t ya?”
“We’ll count on ya to deal with Enshou, Holmes-han of Teramachi Sanjou.”
Holmes’ eyes widened upon hearing those words.
“In the end, we were unable to fill the gaps in Enshou’s heart, and we feel regretful for that. But perhaps that couldn’t be helped. Since ya managed to completely expose and knock down his forgeries, ya might figure out something in the future.
“And maybe ya will find that this encounter was fated to become a lesson to ya.”
The deputy abbot placed a reassuring hand on Holmes’ shoulder.
We were overwhelmed by his smile which seemed to see through and accept everything.
“…I see why you’re the deputy abbot of Nanzen-ji.”
Holmes’ shoulders drooped in concession.
“But of course, I’ll expose every single one of his forgeries. I’ll make him think that making forgeries in itself is useless!” Holmes announced as he looked firmly ahead.
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- The work clothing of Japanese Zen Buddhist monks, worn when they are doing work like cleaning and wood chopping.1 said, “I’m Kikuchi, the gardener,” and bowed simply.
“Nice to meet you. I am Yagashira Kiyotaka.”
Holmes gave a deep bow, and the monks responded by bowing again.
“…I’m Kajiwara Akihito. Nice to meet you.”
I said somewhat awkwardly as I lowered my head.
Unshou the deputy abbot was seated in the middle, Enshou and Shouan were sitting together by the walls, and the gardener Kikuchi was sitting a short distance away.
In direct contrast to Enshou and the deputy abbot, who had calm smiles on their faces, the young monk was had a solemn countenance.
I’d thought that Enshou was just like Holmes, but the deputy abbot was the same as well.
Maybe people who give off that refined air are all similar to one another. On the other hand, a nervous aura could be felt from Shouan-san.
And at the same time, the gardener Kikuchi-san seemed to have the attitude of “Guess I’m just here.”
Come to think of it… where’s the abbot?
“I apologize for calling you here so suddenly.”
The deputy abbot spoke apologetically, while Holmes shook his head and leant forward slightly.
“What matter would you like to discuss?”
The deputy abbot gave a small sigh.
“Actually, the abbot is currently away at a seminar, so he is away from the temple for about two weeks.” He slowly started talking.
“This is the third day the abbot has been away. The gardener, Kikuchi-san, found this letter in the grounds.”
The abbot retrieved a white envelope from his pocket and handed it to Holmes.
Holmes produced a pair of white gloves from a pocket and took a memo out of the envelope.
“Nanzenji-sama, I have taken the dragon.”
The letter was written by hand. It was quite good handwriting, too.
Holmes looked at the letter, then pricked his eyebrows.
But I couldn’t tell what he was thinking with that expression on his face.
“When we first saw this letter, we thought it was just a prank, but just in case, we checked everything in the temple that had to do with ‘dragon’. However, nothing was stolen. And that was when we thought, it was definitely just a prank.”
On the two sides of the deputy abbot, Enshou and Shouan nodded in agreement.
“It was another three days after that. In the early morning, Shouan spotted another letter that was exactly the same as the last one, but placed under the ‘Statue of Han Shan and Ji De’ in the hōjō. It definitely was not there the night before.”
The “Statue of Han Shan and Ji De” is the one with the two old men clinging onto each other that we saw earlier, right?
That means someone snuck into the temple in the middle of the night and placed the letter there?
“I see, this is certainly an ill-natured act. Whether it’s the handiwork of someone from the inside or the crimes of an outsider.”
Holmes nodded as he studied the letter.
That’s true. If the culprit’s someone from the inside, it would be a mischievous prank, and if the culprit’s someone from the outside, then they would be committing the crime of unauthorized entry.
Also, placing such a letter under a treasure of the temple was an ill-natured act in itself.
“Yes. However, nothing was stolen, and we find that very strange. We heard that Seiji-san and his grandson are distinguished, intelligent men, so we wanted to discuss this case with you.”
I see, so that’s why Holmes was selected.
“…This letter is written in straight handwriting. Sorry to have to do this, but may I take a look at the writing of everyone in the temple?”
“Should they be newly written?”
“No, please bring me text that has already been written.”
Holmes immediately answered. I wholly agree with that. If you ask them to write now, they could consciously try to change their handwriting.
On the deputy abbot’s signal, Enshou and Shouan swiftly stood up and brought a pile of sutras before Holmes.
“And this is Kikuchi-san’s handwriting.”
The final thing that was brought out was an envelope. In it was a writ of some kind.
“Thank you very much. I shall look at them.”
Holmes bowed politely and quickly skimmed through the text on the sutras as well as the text on the writ in one fluid sweep of his eyes.
I thought he would study them more carefully, but he went through them so fast.
As expected, the deputy abbot’s handwriting was perfect. While Enshou and Shouan’s writing couldn’t compare to that, they were written carefully such that any normal person like myself could read it easily.
I also studied the other monks’ writing, and finally reached a sutra written by the abbot, who wasn’t here at the moment.
I took a sharp intake of breath in surprise when I saw that writing.
I could tell, even though I didn’t have a good eye for this kind of thing.
It was exactly like the words of the mysterious letter.
Having noticed that as well, the expressions of the deputy abbot and the other monks stiffened.
“…Thank you. I understand.”
Holmes closed the book and raised his head.
Yeah, I also understand.
The culprit was the abbot. I don’t know what he was planning, but he was definitely the one who wrote, “Nanzenji-sama, I have taken the dragon.”
“As the letter states, the important ‘dragon’ of Nanzen-ji has already been stolen.” Holmes asserted as he looked the deputy abbot in the eye, causing everyone to be at a loss for words, in shock.
“W-What do you mean that the dragon has already been stolen?”
Surprising even myself, I was the first one to raise my voice. Shouan also nodded in agreement.
“Yes, exactly. We did tell you that we checked everywhere and found that nothing was stolen, right?”
While the deputy abbot and Enshou were surprised, they calmly waited for Holmes’ next words, but Kikuchi-san just stared at Holmes with a facial expression that screamed, “What the heck is this guy talking about?”
“Rather than stolen, it might be better to say that Nanzen-ji’s treasure has been switched.”
Holmes continued with a composed tone.
About the treasures of Nanzen-ji that we’ve seen thus far…
The unryuuzu on the ceiling… no, I can’t imagine that something like that can be switched.
As for the dragon heads attached to the roof cover tiles… those aren’t considered treasures, right?
Then, the jars and hanging scrolls with dragons drawn on them… and the statue of the two old geezers that the letter was found under? Perhaps that one has some hidden meaning to do with dragons. Or maybe the fusuma I was prohibited from photographing?
…No, that can’t be it. Holmes said that they were wonderful.
Come to think of it, there is one, just one item… that Holmes didn’t praise.
There was just one article for which he said, “I think it’s quite something”…
“The ‘Zuiryuu’ scroll is a fake.”
Holmes strongly announced, causing a nervous tension to run across the room.
“Y-Yagashira-san, but that is something that we see every day. If it were to be switched, we would be able to tell immediately.”
Enshou responded in bewilderment, and Shouan nodded vigorously.
“Exactly. In the first place, how do you replace something so big?”
The deputy abbot looked at Holmes with calm eyes, and Holmes looked back at him.
“Kiyotaka-san, have you seen the ‘Zuiryuu’ scroll before?”
“Yes, many times. However, even if I hadn’t seen it, I would still have known that it was a fake,” Holmes quickly answered, surprising everyone in the room, including myself.
“Why do you say that?”
The deputy abbot wasn’t chiding him, but asked that question in an ordinary manner.
Everyone else must be curious about that too.
“…My grandfather always says, ‘In the end, fakes are fakes, and they are not genuine.’”
Everyone instinctively looked at each other as Holmes began to talk.
As usual, Kikuchi-san’s face looked as though he was about to ask, “What the heck is this guy saying?”
Unfortunately, I felt exactly the same way.
Holmes, what the heck are you talking about?
“As appraisers, we can tell if something is a fake even if we haven’t seen the real deal before. Genuine works and counterfeit products have different lines to them.
“Fakes will often have a calculative line that betrays the creator’s thought of wanting to cheat and fool others, no matter how hard they try to hide it. Regardless of the shape and color, we appraisers can discern a nasty feeling from fakes.”
Everyone was quiet as Holmes explained himself.
“However, sometimes an appraiser’s eyes can be fooled by ‘artful forgeries’. The difference between them and typical well-produced forgeries is that they don’t contain the feeling of wanting to deceive. The forger enters some kind of trance and acts as if they have become the artist and copy the work. You can’t feel that unpleasant line from these artful copies, and sometimes, they fool the eyes of appraisers.”
I thought of the conversation Holmes had with Owner yesterday.
And about those forgeries that managed to deceive the eyes of art museum managers.
Those were probably copies like the ones Holmes just described.
“In any case, this is definitely a fake. Even if you don’t see the calculative line, it doesn’t give off the aura of a genuine work. This piece of calligraphy was replaced by someone with an outstanding ability for copying.
“Of course, The average person will definitely be fooled, but this forgery is so well-crafted that it could even trick appraisers.”
I see, so that’s why he muttered, “This is quite something” earlier.
He must have seen that it was a fake from that very moment. With such perception at that young age, he’ll certainly make a name for himself.
After taking a breath, Holmes firmly looked at the deputy abbot, with a hand on the tatami.
“—Nanzen-ji is a temple known for the yokai2Supernatural monsters, spirits and demons in Japanese folklore.
- At the time, Nanzen-ji was the emperor’s new palace, but was plagued with yokai. Mukan was summoned by the emperor to exorcize the yokai. He and his monks sat in silent meditations and the yokai disappeared. Nanzen-ji was then converted to a Zen monastery and Mukan became the first abbot.