Holmes of Kyoto Vol 2 Chapter 3: The Lost Dragon – Kajiwara Akihito’s Report (Full Text)

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1

“—Yes, yes, please. Thank you so much!”

I’m Kajiwara Akihito, 25 years old. My occupation? Being an actor.

I excitedly hung up from the phone call with my manager.

That phone call was regarding a new gig.

“Since your family lives in Kyoto, this job should fit you perfectly, Akihito-san.”

It’s a travel program, and is like the Kyoto version of “See the World by Train”1, I think?

They might be short episodes, but they’ll display the beauty of Kyoto.

Finally, a favorable wind is blowing!

I’ve always only been on minor parts too…

“—Can’t believe such a great deal came in!”

No matter what you say, it’s a job with a leading role on national television.

After taking a large breath, I plunked myself onto the sofa.

In front of me was a hanging scroll.

It was a painting of Mt. Fuji by Hokusai. The scroll my father had left me were burnt up in that spot of trouble we had in our family a while ago, so I found another one like it and bought it.

Come to think of it, its name is…

“Hmm, what’s it called again?”

I opened the memo app on my smartphone and checked the name. The Dragon of Smoke Escaping from Mount Fuji. Oh yeah, so that’s what it’s called. I nodded.

At the same time, I was reminded of the words from that guy with the nickname “Holmes”, Yagashira Kiyotaka.

“—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.’2

“Even up till his death, he wanted to keep drawing and lamented his inability 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—”

Thinking about my father’s feelings that Holmes had conveyed to me, a burning sensation crept into the corners of my eyes.

“……”

Come to think of it, the good roles started coming in after hearing Holmes explain my father’s dying message, strangely enough.

(I managed to snag the role of Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream right after that, too.)

Now it’s time for my main job. If I can get noticed here, it’ll probably lead to even bigger jobs in the future.

And I’ll actually be the one to introduce the city of Kyoto to the whole country! While my parents didn’t originate from Kyoto and I don’t even use the Kansai dialect, that doesn’t change the fact that I was raised in Kyoto.

So I’m a Kyoto guy too (in a sense).

Since we are now deep in the middle of autumn, there should be plenty of great sights to see in Kyoto.

Then again, I’ve just returned to my Tokyo home, but now I’ll have to get back to Kyoto. Those Tokyo girls will say, “You’re leaving me to go to Kansai?”

My cheeks relaxed as I had those joyful thoughts.

Since they were planning to start by introducing Nanzen-ji, so perhaps it might be a good idea to go for a preliminary viewing before the recording.

And before that, I can show up at Kura and say hi to that guy…

I could have him tell me all about Nanzen-ji.

Since it’s him, he’d look annoyed, but still kindly teach me all that he knows.

With my smartphone in hand, I looked at the picture of Holmes I took at the party the other day, and grinned.

2

A few days later, I headed to Kyoto.

I took the Shinkansen from Shinagawa Station and reached Kyoto Station in about two and a half hours.

The station that I alighted at had a modern design with, large staircases, overhead paths, a rooftop garden and an observation platform, making it seem far from a train station of an old city.

Apparently, there’s still some controversy surrounding this station. My father, who was a writer, was fuming about its aesthetics.

“I hoped it would’ve had a retro modern design like the Kyoto National Museum.”

He would always mention that to his writer friends whenever the topic of the station was brought up.

It might have its fair share of criticisms, but if you set aside the notion that it’s supposed to be the train station of the old city of Kyoto, the magnificent designs of the buildings are impressive and amazing to look at. That’s what I think, anyway.

It’s certainly not bad for the entranceway to one of the world’s largest tourist destinations.

You can get subjective views on all sorts of things if you just take a step away from your hometown.

Outside the station, I hailed a cab to take me straight to Teramachi Sanjou.

I alighted at Oike-dori, near the city hall, and walked into the shopping arcade.

My heartbeats quickened as I walked on.

What am I getting so nervous for? I glanced at my watch. It was three thirty in the afternoon.

Come to think of it, it’s a weekday, so Holmes might not even be around.

Even so, he’ll probably come in if I just wait there.

Finally, the “Kura” sign and the antique storefront entered my view.

“Yo!” Trying to hide the fact that my heart was pounding, I pushed open the door and heard the familiar tinkle of the doorbell.

The first thing that entered my eyes was the view of Holmes and Owner sitting on opposite sides of the counter.

(It’s rare that Owner’s in the shop.)

But as I had that thought, I noticed that both of them seemed to be crestfallen and dejected, bewildering me to no end.

With their elbows on the table, they were cradling their heads. It was just like a funeral.

“D-Did something happen?”

I awkwardly asked, causing Holmes to look up quietly.

As usual, he was refreshingly handsome, with his annoyingly well-defined features, white skin, and glossy, silky hair.

“…Why, if it isn’t Akihito-san. I did hear that you returned to Kyoto.”

“Yeah, I’ve returned to Kyoto once again!”

“Did you run out of work over there?”

“N-Not at all, quite the opposite, actually,” I raised my voice defensively.

“I know. I can tell from your energetic expression that a new job has come in. And that job’s in Kansai, so that’s why you came back, right? Also, I can see from your luggage that you came directly here from the train station. And that means, you have something to discuss, correct?”

As always, he smoothly hit the mark on everything, as if he were a psychic.

At first, that gave me the creeps, but now that I’m used to it, I realize that it’s good, since it makes everything go quicker.

“W-Well, that’s about right. So what’s with the gloomy faces?”

I sat down on the sofa. With a hand on his forehead, Owner sighed.

“A while ago, I went around to the art museums in other prefectures with Kiyotaka.”

“…Uh huh?”

“There were phonies mixed in.”

“Phonies?”

“It’s exactly as it sounds. We found forgeries mixed in with the art pieces, and well-produced ones, too.”

Holmes answered faintly, his shoulders drooping.

“It’s deplorable for such forgeries to fool the eyes of the museum managers and be proudly displayed at those places. I’ll have to contact Yanagihara-han and other appraisers and tell ‘em to keep a more watchful eye out. But seriously, I never expected another master forger to show up and surpass Yoneyama.”

“…Exactly.”

The two of them heaved a deep sigh again.

“Who’s Yoneyama?”

I asked curiously, and Holmes responded with a feeble smile.

“He’s a forger that my father exposed in the past. He’s turned over a new leaf and now works at an art gallery, but he possessed quite a lot of skill in his craft. We were even saying that there could be no forger better than Yoneyama-san. But such a person did appear, so we’re really feeling the weight of the situation.”

“Well, new talent always shows up. There were many exceptional here in Kyoto in the past, and they deceived my eyes in my younger days. I’ve said it many times already, but forgers have excellent judgment, and as appraisers, we must go above their level.”

“I know.”

“And it’s also a problem if we ain’t nurturing any talented appraisers. We have to get ya to be fully qualified for the job soon.”

“Yes, I’ll do my best.”

“Now, then, I have a meeting with Yanagihara-san. Kiyotaka, I’m countin’ on ya tomorrow.”

He slowly stood up. I noticed that his face didn’t have its usual energy.

It must have been a shock for him to find out that forgeries had found their way into art museums.

“Yes, I understand. Anyway, Owner, you don’t have to act so depressed. I know that you’re going to fool around in Ponto-chō.”

Holmes asserted without hesitation.

“Shut up, that’s the source of my energy!” Owner snapped, then left the shop.

On second thoughts, it seems that Owner’s acting as per normal.

“—So, Akihito-san, what did you want to talk about?”

Holmes slowly shifted his gaze to look at me.

“Ah, right, that’s it. I’m now the host of a new program.”

After coming to my senses, I explained my situation to Holmes.

I told him about how I came to be the leading figure for a show with five-minute episodes that focused on visual appeal and would be broadcasted on the national network, and that I would be introducing the streets and sights of Kyoto to the audience.

And that the first episode would be about Nanzen-ji.

“—I’ve had my friends show me around places like Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera, but I’m not really familiar with Nanzen-ji. So I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be great if I visit the temple once with Holmes?”

After I finished, Holmes openly frowned.

“Basically, you’re telling me to show you around Nanzen-ji?”

“Yep, you have a vast stock of knowledge about it, right?”

 “Vast stock of knowledge, huh… but you can research about it by looking through books and the internet, can’t you?”

Holmes took a sip of coffee disinterestedly.

“No, I mean, it’s different.”

“What’s different?”

“Even if I do such research, it won’t stick in my head, or rather, it doesn’t resonate with my heart. But if you teach me about it, I don’t know why, but it goes right into my head, just like that!

“Like with my father’s parting words, or with the tapestry at the Gion Festival. They just leave a deep impression in me, you know? So, I’d like you to accompany me to Nanzen-ji and lecture me all about it! I think the first episode will be important, too.”

I leant forward in desperation, but Holmes looked back at me without changing his expression.

Ugh… what’s with that cold attitude? Was I too passionate, which caused him to be put off?

He might think that I’m too noisy.

“I understand.”

Holmes quietly nodded, causing me to go “Heh?” in surprise.

“If you put it that way, then I cannot refuse. I will accompany you to Nanzen-ji. It might be sudden, but would tomorrow be fine for you?”

“Ah, yeah, I don’t mind. Is it convenient for you tomorrow?”

“…It’s really good timing, since I’m invited to Nanzen-ji tomorrow afternoon.”

I stopped moving upon hearing Holmes’ ready words.

“W-What? You have some business there?”

Come to think of it, Owner did say, “I’ll be countin’ on ya tomorrow,” so he must have been referring to Nanzen-ji.

“Yes, and it’s a different matter from guiding you around.”

“Of course.”

“Well, since it’s a program that introduces Kyoto, I want to be as big of a help as I can. I’ll have you study properly and show off the wonder of Kyoto.”

He said all that with a strong tone of voice, so I immediately straightened my posture and blurted out, “Y-Yes!”

For some reason, that gave me a lot more confidence than my manager’s pep talks.

“Shall we look through the materials on Nanzen-ji before going there, then?” Holmes suggested as he reached for a thick book on the shelf.

This guy’s… younger than me, right?

As I watched Holmes open the book with a calm demeanor, I smiled wryly at the gap between us.

3

And thus, our plan to go to Nanzen-ji the next day was set.

We’d arranged to meet at 11 in the morning in front of the sanmon3. Naturally, I was thinking of going to Nanzen-ji by car, but Holmes said as follows:

“Akihito-san, please head to Nanzen-ji by bus or by train.”

He said that in a warning tone.

Why did he say that? I thought, and he immediately answered.

“Almost all tourists who come to Kyoto get around by public transport. If you’re going to introduce the city of Kyoto, it’s important to understand the feelings of the tourists. You always get around by car, don’t you?” Faced with such a question, I couldn’t argue with him.

Indeed, I would always travel by car.

I’ve never even thought of using public transport to get to tourist locations in the first place.

“If you’re going by bus, you should alight at Nanzenji Eikandomichi, and if you’re going by subway, you should alight at Keage Station. As for me, I usually take the train and head to Nanzen-ji via the tunnel called ‘Nejirimanpo’.”

“Nejirimanpo’s an aqueduct4?”

Even though I was raised in Kyoto, or perhaps because I was raised in Kyoto, there’s a lot of things I don’t know about the city.

Even for Kinkaku-ji, I’ve only been there once on a bus tour in elementary school. I think I’ve gone to other places on school trips as well, but I can’t remember much about them.

“It’s not an aqueduct, it’s a small tunnel, or in other words, a pipeline. It’s inlaid with bricks and is quite a sight to behold, so I recommend going by that path.”

Holmes explained. With a small nod, I replied, “I see.”

***

—And so, I went on the subway that I’d rarely taken from Karasuma Oike station.

Since it was a weekday afternoon, there were few passengers.

It was only four stops to Keage Station. The ride was over before I knew it.

Kyoto’s roads are small and crowded, so this is actually much faster than getting around by car.

That was what I thought as I studied the route map.

***

After alighting at Keage Station, I went up to the surface and was dazzled by the green hill before my eyes.

That would be the grounds of the Keage Water Purification Plant. It’s always arranged beautifully, and azaleas bloom there in May. I remember seeing the Keage Incline5 during a trip to the nearby zoo with my family in elementary school.

At that time, my father had pointed at the train line that isn’t being used now.

“There used to be a railway track here that transported boats.”

“The sakura would be open if we’d come here last month. This is also a famous place for viewing sakura.”

My mother had continued, and then we talked and planned to come here again the following year.

But in the end, that didn’t happen.

Because it was in the city, it was a place we thought we could visit at any time, but it was often that we would end up not visiting such places.

Indeed, if this quaint railway line had blossoming sakura trees around it, it would certainly be a sight to behold. Now that my father has passed on, it’s a shame that I won’t be able to see this with my whole family, but it’d be great if I can convey that beauty in a television program next year in spring.

As I had that thought, I started feeling motivated to do this job well.

Nejirimanpo was actually just a few steps away, and it was a small tunnel inlaid with bricks. It felt exactly like something built in the Meiji Period, but at the same time, it also felt like a tunnel used by a small village of a foreign country. It had an arch shape, and upon entering it, one could see the bricks arranged in such a way that it was as if they were twisted and warped onto one another.

“I see, so that’s why it’s called Nejirimanpo.”6

I passed through the tunnel with a newfound admiration for its name.

Past the tunnel, I walked for a short while, and Nanzen-ji’s sanmon finally came into view.

“Wha—”

I was overwhelmed by the gigantic, sturdy black gate that I had to raise my head to look at properly.

The circular pillars holding that huge door up were also thick and majestic, temporarily enveloping me in their austere atmosphere and leaving me with a profound feeling. Is this what they call “feeling the history with your skin”?

I stood around wondering if that could be applied to such a magnificent gate, when…

“Good morning,” a voice sounded from behind me, causing me to turn around in surprise.

There was Holmes in a jacket and jeans. It was a rough, simple attire, but it had good sense.

With the help of his face and great style, it fit him well.

Damn, he’s seriously such a handsome guy, huh. But he’s still not as prominent as me, right?

As usual, my rivalry flared up as he approached.

“Could you stop glaring at me like that as soon as we meet?”

Holmes continued, a smile still on his face. I hurriedly shook my head.

“I wasn’t glaring or anything.”

“How was the stroll from Keage Station?”

He asked as we started slowly walking.

“Ah, yeah, it wasn’t bad.”

“After passing through the tunnel Nejirimanpo that makes you think of a foreign country, gazing at the sanmon fills you with an inexplicable emotion, and at the same time, your heart feels like it’s being gripped by a strong force, right?”

He calmly spoke while looking up at the sanmon.

—I understand what he’s saying. I also felt the same way.

“I thought it’d be good if I got you to experience that feeling, Akihito-san.”

He continued. Realizing that I’d fallen right into his expectations, I smiled wryly.

“Nanzen-ji is the main temple of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen, and holds the highest rank of Zen temples in Japan.”

The highest rank! I never knew that.

“You can tell a temple’s rank from the size of its sanmon, and this massive sanmon goes up to twenty-two meters in height.”

“…W-Wow!”

Perhaps it was the sanmon’s amazing aura, but I felt overwhelmed by something I couldn’t see.

“Shall we go to the top of the sanmon, then?”

Holmes pointed at the platform on the second floor of the entrance gate, causing me to excitedly nod and reply, “Sure!”

Since we would need to pay an entrance fee to climb the sanmon, I spoke.

“Ah, I’ll pay here! I’m the one who asked a favor from you, after all.” But Holmes swiftly offered me a ticket.

“—Heh?”

“I arrived here early, so I bought the tickets. Let’s go.”

He grinned as I accepted my ticket in blank amazement.

This guy’s way too smart!

Overcome by his high escorting skill, I almost collapsed on the spot.

“…Holmes, I’ll really have all sorts of things to learn from you.”

With the ticket in my hand, I said those words from my heart, causing the corners of Holmes’ mouth to curve upward in amusement.

Perhaps because it was a weekday morning, but the grounds of Nanzen-ji were devoid of people, and there was almost no one going up to the second floor of the sanmon.

“Akihito-san, the steps are quite steep, so be careful.”

As Holmes said, the wooden staircase used to ascend the gate was surprisingly steep. A person who’s easily afraid might even go down on all fours just to climb the staircase.

“After you,” Holmes said. Taking up the offer, I went up the stairs first. I could tell that he was following closely behind while carefully holding onto the handrails.

I see, he’s thinking of catching me if I happen to slip.

He’s so gentlemanly even when he’s with another man.

Perhaps it’s because he’s gone around with Owner a lot.

When moving with Owner, I expect that his disciples must often think about what could happen next.

Since he’s acquired that habit, Holmes is able to be naturally smart to others and escort them well.

As I reached the second floor, I could feel the autumn wind blowing straight onto my face.

From this height, I could survey the grounds.

There were trees with leaves that were lightly tinged with color, as well as people who had come to sightsee.

“A-Amazing!”

With both hands on the handrails, I let out a cry of exclamation, as Holmes nodded, smiling.

“Makes you want to say, ‘What an amazing view!’, right?”

“Huh?”

“It’s from a Kabuki7 play. The Great Thief of the World, Ishikawa Goemon8, sits on top of the gate smoking a pipe and exclaims, ‘What an amazing view!’9… You understand how Ishikawa Goemon feels in that scene, don’t you?”

Holmes explained as he looked over the scenery and narrowed his eyes pleasantly.

You can see the beautiful trees in the grounds, and if you look further out, you can even see the four seasons of the city of Kyoto in one unbroken view.

The famous Daimonji and Funagata10 of the Gozan no Okuribi can also be viewed here.

“—Yeah, it’s really an amazing view. So Ishikawa Goemon also came up here, huh.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“Huh?”

“As I said, it’s from a Kabuki play. This sanmon was built after Ishikawa Goemon’s execution, so he did not come up here in reality.”

“What? Seriously?”

“People in Kyoto just feel that much romanticism to the amazing view from here.”

He said as he gazed at the scenery again.

As if lured by Holmes, I followed suit.

I see, I understand being moved by this scenery and wanting to use it in a work.

Holmes looked at me and grinned as he saw me nodding in agreement.

“Akihito-san, the good part about you is that your honest nature. Please do not forget this feeling, and convey to your viewers the deep emotions you felt here.”

I was somehow deeply moved by those words.

Honest nature — that’s probably the first time someone’s said that of me.

That made me believe from the bottom of my heart that I shouldn’t gloss over things, and I should instead convey the strong impressions and feelings I received from this scenery, exactly as they are.

“But please refrain from saying words like ‘Amazing’ and ‘seriously’ on television. In a sense, you’re representing Kyoto guys on that television program.”

Upon hearing that sharp suggestion, I folded my arms and sullenly said, “Y-Yeah, I know!”

“We’ll be entering the temple after this, so shall we look at the Waterway Pavilion, then have lunch?” Holmes asked while checking the time.

“Ah, but I’ll be treating you for lunch, you hear? Let me treat you, because that’s what I want to do!”

I grabbed Holmes’ hand as I got worked up.

“…Thank you very much, but you don’t have to say that in such a loud voice, nor do you have to grab my hand. Look, those girls over there are blushing because they’re misunderstanding our relationship, and that’s the last thing I want.”

Faced with a surprisingly cold smile, I pulled my face away.

—We then went down the sanmon, and went further into the grounds of Nanzen-ji to find an arch bridge with a retro design, or the Waterway Pavilion. It was like a raised aqueduct from Ancient Rome, or one of those brick bridges in Europe that seem like historical remains.

Come to think of it, this is also the first time I’m properly seeing this Waterway Pavilion.

“The Waterway Pavilion is an unparalleled achievement of the Meiji Period. A tributary of the canal from Biwa Lake flows on top of the bridge, like a small stream. It’s been over a hundred and twenty years since it was built, but it still fulfils its duty.”

Holmes quietly placed a hand on the brick structure and look up at the bridge.

While I felt it strange that a raised bridge made with old bricks in the style of foreign countries would be adjacent to the highest-ranked temple, Nanzen-ji, but at the same time, I felt that it fit in quite well.

It was a raised bridge made out of red bricks, arranged as a sequence of arches. It gave off a strange feeling, as if I’d accidentally wandered off into a different world.

“…This is amazing. I never knew such a bridge was just next to Nanzen-ji.”

“Apparently, it faced plenty of criticism when it was being constructed. Since they were worried about destroying the environment, they constructed a foreign-style water pavilion that was epochal for its time, and now it has blended into the environment here. It’s a good example of Japanese-Western Eclectic Architecture. By the way, this Water Pavilion has been designated as a historical monument of Kyoto.

As usual, his display of knowledge was impressive. It’s like he’s a guide.

As I thought, it’s good that I asked him to come. However…

“I’d totally like to come here on a date. Girls will love it, don’t you think?”

Hang on, should I not have asked him that, since I’m having him accompany me?

“I agree,” Holmes readily nodded, causing me to laugh without thinking.

“Now that you mention it, do you have a girlfriend?”

I’d thought that he had a good relationship with Aoi-chan, but I was apparently mistaken. But since he’s so smart and erudite, I’d expect him to have a girlfriend.

“I don’t.”

“Seriously? Someone like you would encounter many women, right?”

“…There’s a unique part about me. When I’m with someone else, I tend to figure them out, for the most part. I can tell if they’re lying or trying to deceive, and if they’re being calculative. I see too much into others.”

I nodded to Holmes’ statement.

Indeed, he would definitely see through his companions.

No matter how perfect a girl’s lies are, Holmes would still know it all.

“On top of seeing too much about others, I also had a bad experience with the first girl I dated. It ended with a painful betrayal…”

“You were betrayed by the first girl you dated?”

Surprised, I interrupted him. I never thought he would hold such a past behind him.

“Yes, and that’s why I’ve become apathetic towards girls. I’ve even begun thinking that it might be good to just get into fleeting relationships with girls, without getting myself invested too deeply.”

He said all that, then took a breath.

“…”

Huh? Did he just casually say all that outrageous stuff? With that elegant face?

As I maintained my silence, he continued.

“Well, this isn’t very pleasant, so please keep it between us.”

Holmes placed his index finger on his lips and grinned.

“Yeah, sure,” I replied. This guy’s actually quite crafty, huh.

“Hey, so what about Aoi-chan?”

“Aoi-san, you say?”

“I thought that she’s special to you.”

Holmes said nothing in reply, but the corners of his mouth curved slightly upward.

“Ah, as I thought, she’s special, right?”

“I wonder if you can call it that. When she broke down in tears in the shop during our first meeting… it was as if I was seeing my past self.”

“Your past self?”

“Yes, the circumstances around her broken love were really similar to mine. However, I never acted like her, because I was desperate to protect my self-respect and maintain appearances even though I was hurt. While I acted that way, she cried there and then, boldly and unashamedly revealing her weakness and ugliness. I found her to be brilliant, and was jealous of her… and that’s why I wanted to help her.”

Holmes muttered while looking off into the distance, as if he was taking to himself.

He seemed to give off an air that made me feel that he didn’t want to discuss it further, so I was lost for words.

“B-But, it’s too bright today, don’t you think? The weather’s way too hot for autumn, right?”

Unsure of what to say, I changed the subject and fanned myself with a hand.

“The temperature has gone up to twenty-six degrees today, after all. Would you like to use this?” Holmes pulled out a pocket fan from his inner pocket and offered it to me.

Wow, this guy’s so well-prepared.

While I was still in admiration of his gentlemanly behavior, I was also beginning to get a little tired of it.

“N-Nah, it’s fine. It’s not so hot that I need to use a fan.”

“I see. Shall we go for lunch, then?”

Holmes returned the fan to his pocket, his usual expression on his face.

“Yeah, I can’t wait.” I nodded vigorously, and we moved away from the Waterway Pavilion.

4

After that, we took lunch at a boiled tofu shop near Nanzen-ji.

I studied Holmes as he ate his food elegantly.

I see, so you can look good eating like this. I’ll have to eat in front of the camera later on, so this will be helpful.

As I was engrossed in my observation, Holmes chuckled.

“…You sure are passionate.”

Having been figured out, I smiled wryly in embarrassment.

“Oh yeah, you were called to Nanzen-ji, right? Is it for an appraisal?”

As I evaded the subject, Holmes let out another small laugh and quietly placed his chopsticks down.

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh? Not an appraisal?”

“I have not yet asked about the details, but all I was told was that they have ‘something to discuss’, so it doesn’t seem to be an appraisal.”

“Something to discuss, huh…”

A temple is usually a place where people come in to talk about their problems, but now this temple is discussing their issues with Holmes. That’s amazing.

I wonder what they want to talk about?

I somehow felt excited thinking about that.

***

 After we finished our meal, we returned to the Nanzen-ji grounds, this time at a more relaxed pace.

We walked past the sanmon we’d climbed earlier and headed straight for the hatto11. Naturally, it had an “exceptional”12 atmosphere.

The surrounding trees had quite some color on their leaves, but you couldn’t call them red yet.

“If the leaves are colored all the way, this place would be seriously beautiful, right?”

“You’ll probably be able to capture it when that time comes. I’ll look forward to the broadcast.”

We quietly talked as we walked on.

He only mentioned that he would be looking forward to the broadcast, but I became nervous upon hearing Holmes’ words.

If he puts it that way, I’ll have to work hard to not let him down.

“It’s almost time, so shall we head to the honbo?”

Honbo?”

“It’s the main residence of the priests. That’s where I’m being called to.”

As we walked towards the honbo, an enormous mansion with white walls and a black tiled roof came into view.

While it was a residence, it appeared that anyone could enter as long as they’ve paid the entrance fee.

I also caught a few glimpses of tourists wandering around.

There was also a young monk standing outside the building, as if he’d been waiting there the whole time. As soon as he saw us, he lowered his head deeply.

“You are Yagashira-san, I presume?” He asked with a gently smiling face.

“Yes.”

“Nice to meet you. I am Enshou, a monk of Nanzen-ji. Welcome, and thank you for making the long trip here. Please, this way.”

With a polite bow, the monk named Enshou showed us into the building.

We followed behind him to a Japanese room with a large tsuitate13 for calligraphy on display.

There were two kanji characters written on the screen. However, they were so well-written that I couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be.

“Wh-What’s written there?”

I hesitatingly asked, causing Holmes to stop moving quietly.

“The words瑞龍 (Zuiryuu) are written there. That’s the mountain name14 of Nanzen-ji.”

Holmes answered in his usual smooth manner, and Enshou nodded with an expression of surprise on his face.

“This is calligraphy written by the 8th abbot of Nanzen-ji, Shimada Kikusen. And yes, Zuiryuu is the mountain name of Nanzen-ji. Good that you know about it. As expected of ‘Holmes of Teramachi Sanjou’.”

He spoke admiringly.

“No, I’m called Holmes, but my family name is Yagashira.”

Holmes replied with a gentle smile.

Why do they always react this way?

“What are you talking about? Starting with Ninna-ji, you’ve been going around to various temples and providing your services.”

“Ah, the case at Ninna-ji, huh…”

Holmes nodded in agreement, while I leant forward in curiosity.

“Hey, what did you do at Ninna-ji?”

“All I did was appraise a tea bowl.”

Holmes casually answered. I frowned, slightly annoyed.

Damn, he thinks it’s troublesome to talk about it. It’s definitely more than just an appraisal.

“If it’s alright with you treasured guests, would you like to see the article we are proud of before I show you in?”

Enshou turned around and stopped, as if having just remembered that.

“Yes, we would like to take a look.”

Holmes’ eyes narrowed, apparently feeling ecstatic from the bottom of his heart.

“Then, please come this way.”

Enshou gave another brief polite nod and walked on.

It’s the same for Holmes, but this Enshou has elegance in his actions and mannerisms. I wouldn’t expect less from a monk of the highest-ranking temple.

“Hey, Holmes, what do you think of the calligraphy we saw earlier?”

I couldn’t read it, but I could tell that it was impressive.

I wonder how much it’s worth?

I asked that question in a small voice.

“…Yes, I think it’s quite something.”

Holmes quietly responded while we walked on.

“Now, please take a look at the hōjō15, which has been named as a National Treasure.”

On the left side of the honbo was a big entranceway with a karahafu16 that led to the hōjō. We passed through it and went in.

“It is said that this was brought from the imperial palace’s Suiryo-den17 and reconstructed here. The painting on the fusuma18 is also one of our proud treasures.”

As Enshou’s eyes sparkled with pride, Holmes also looked joyfully at the interior of the building.

“This is my first time entering, but the fusuma painting is wonderful and resplendent.”

Hearing Holmes speak of it with such passion, I stared at the painting as well.

“Yeah, it sure is gorgeous.”

I took my smartphone out to snap a picture.

“Sorry, we do not allow photography here.”

Enshou put his hands together apologetically.

What? I stopped moving, but Enshou gave a little chuckle.

“However, it is fine to take photographs here. This is the ‘Statue of Han Shan and Ji De’, another of our temple’s treasures.”

“Han Shan and Ji De are the names of two monks in the Tang Dynasty. Known for their eccentricities, the two of them are often depicted in carvings and paintings, based on folklore.”

“Oh, really…”

Even though it was specially recommended to me, I didn’t feel like taking a picture of two old geezers.

In contrast, Holmes happily studied the statue next to me.

We then also looked at porcelain jars and hanging scrolls with dragons drawn on them.

“Speaking of the temple’s treasures, I hear that the Unryuuzu is also one of them. We passed the hatto earlier, but it’s a shame that it wasn’t open to the public, so we couldn’t see it.”

Holmes placed a hand on his chest, apparently feeling regretful from the bottom of his heart.

“Unryuuzu?”

“There’s a panlong19 drawn on the ceiling of the hatto by master painter Imao Keinen20.”

“Ah, those that you often see in temples.” So unryuuzu means a dragon painted on the ceiling.

“Would you like to take a look at it now?”

Enshou asked, causing me to be taken aback.

No, come now, we’ve walked all the way here already, we don’t have to return to the hatto, do we? It’s such a pain!

I screamed in my heart, but Holmes nodded and replied, “Gladly.”

It seems that he doesn’t spare any effort to look at art.

While I was feeling fed up, Holmes and Enshou headed back to the hatto with a light gait.

Even their quick footsteps were somehow refined.

“I don’t know why, but you and that Enshou-san give off the same vibe.”

I earnestly revealed my thoughts as we walked, causing Holmes to turn around and say, “Huh?”

“Is that so?”

“You don’t notice it yourself? You two are just really similar. You might even be the type to be a monk.”

I chuckled.

“I might look like this, but I’m filled with earthly desires,” Holmes said as a smile appeared on his face.

“Oh yes, Akihito-san. The roof cover tiles in Nanzen-ji are also shaped like dragons,” he continued as he looked at the roof.

“Roof cover tile?” I looked blankly at the roof to see a dragon head pointing out of the corner, and sighed in admiration.

“Wow, I never noticed that.”

Enshou also put his hands together near his chest, apparently impressed.

“Yes, most people do not notice that. As expected of someone like Holmes-san.”

“That’s not exactly a very amazing feat.”

Holmes shrugged and put on a wry smile.

Thus, we proceeded to the hatto and headed for the center of the unryuuzu.

Drawn on the ceiling was a dragon in a circle, keeping a watchful eye, and with one claw clutching a jewel.

As a whole, it was a very bluish picture.

“—As I thought, it’s wonderful.”

Holmes spoke earnestly as he studied the unryuuzu on the ceiling.

“Actually, it is this unryuuzu that we wanted you to see.”

Enshou revealed in a soft voice.

“Is there something wrong with the unryuuzu?”

“…I will tell you the details in another room.”

The monk bowed with a pained expression on his features, causing Holmes and I to instinctively exchange glances.

5

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 samue23 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.24

“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.

“Evil spirit?”

“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.

“Wha—!!”

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.

“—Tsk!”

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?”

“Huh??”

“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.

6

After that, we received the deputy abbot’s courteous words of thanks, as well as various gifts.

“Please keep this matter between ourselves.”

He added those words as he saw us off, and we left the hojo.

With Holmes, I slowly walked across the wide grounds.

He apparently had a lot to think about, for he had a difficult expression and didn’t say anything.

“—The deputy abbot told us not to tell anyone, but you’ll be telling this to Owner, right?”

I asked quietly, and Holmes raised his head.

“Yes, of course, I’ll report to Owner… although I’m quite reluctant to do that.”

“Reluctant?”

“If he knows that a genius counterfeiter challenged me and I let him escape, he would definitely scold me, ‘What are ya doin’, ya halfwit?’ He would be extremely loud about it, too.”

Holmes dejectedly let out a small sigh.

I winced as I easily imagined Owner ranting on and on with his face deep red and with a frightening, threatening attitude.

“My condolences. You could’ve caught that guy if the deputy abbot hadn’t stopped you, too.”

All because Holmes momentarily stopped when the deputy called his name.

“No, it’s as the deputy abbot said. He does have excellent physical ability. That’s why he holds such exceptional powers of imitation, and it isn’t an exaggeration to call him a shinobi. It would have been useless to chase after him.”

“I see, so he’s that amazing, huh.”

“Exactly. He’s the worst forger I’ve ever met, but he repented and tried to become a monk. It’s such a complicated feeling to find out that my existence hindered his decision to turn over a new leaf.” Holmes cast his eyes down miserably.

So that’s how it is. He’s feeling so dejected because he resurrected a genius forger who was about to disappear from the world, just by existing.

“—Well, even so, I’ll still do my job. I’ll smash any forger who dares to show up.”

Holmes swiftly raised his head, displaying a dauntless smile, causing a shiver to go down my spine.

Enshou’s definitely not normal, but as I thought, this guy isn’t, either.

“Man, I was seriously shocked when you suddenly swung your fan at Enshou. I thought it was a dagger, and honestly, I was the one to be paralyzed with terror. I never thought you to be the violent type.”

His swing was like a flash of light.

Enshou’s also impressive, to be able to guard against such an unexpected attack.

“Wording it that way makes me sound bad. When I was young, I was always told by my grandfather to train up my body. Thanks to that, I’ve already become his bodyguard. It’s necessary because we sometimes buy expensive antiques in countries with poor public security.”

I see. It should be fine in Japan, but dealing with priceless antiques overseas comes with danger. They might have met with some unexpected dangers in the past and returned with frightening memories.

That might be why Holmes was so ticked off by the phrase “sheltered boy”. Thinking back to that time when he said, “I beg your pardon,” his face was actually quite amusing.

“What are you laughing at?”

Holmes stared at me from the side.

Since it’s him, he probably knows what I was thinking.

“Well, sorry. I was just thinking that I should try not to anger you in the future.”

“Yes, please don’t. If you do, I’ll slam that fan down on your head.”

“Wait, that didn’t sound like a joke at all!”

“Because it wasn’t a joke.”

“Hey, what?”

“By the way, Akihito-san, do you have plans later today?”

“No, not really.”

“Would you like to visit Kura, then? We just got all these sweets, and I’ll be making coffee.”

Exhilaration stirred within me as a smile appeared on Holmes’ face.

“Oh? Alright, then. And you can tell me about the yokai at Nanzen-ji too. I’m quite curious about that.”

“Yes, sure. Aoi-san’s working part-time today, so I’ll tell you two about the yokai of Nanzen-ji, as well as the mysterious stories of Kyoto.”

“I’m fine with stories of yokai and other mysteries, but easy with the horror stories. I’m not good with seriously scary ghost stories.”

“Oh, is that so? Then, have you heard of Ichijō Modori Bridge? It’s quite a creepy story, but Abe-no-senmei25…”

“C’mon, don’t start with that already!”

I raised my voice, but Holmes smiled with mirth.

The passing tourists also glanced at me, causing me to laugh a little.

I frowned, then said, “Ah,” and raised my head as I remembered something.

“Oh right, Holmes. I have a favor to ask of you.”

“A favor?”

His face showed that he was expecting it to be something bad.

“Don’t make that kind of face. My aunt’s looking for an industry expert to appraise and purchase for her, you see.”

“Ah, if it’s that kind of favor, then I’m all ears.”

While we chatted, a cool breeze swept through the grounds of Nanzen-ji.

The color of the its surroundings wasn’t quite there yet, but it was an autumn breeze.

I felt that various events would happen later on as autumn intensifies, but my heart was stolen by the beauty of the colorful temple grounds to care about the unknown. It was just such an autumn afternoon.


This post is made possible by our amazing patrons!

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  1. A Japanese short factual television program broadcast daily by TV Asahi since June 1987. It follows railway journeys in various countries around the world, featuring people on board the trains and sights along the way.
  2. I omitted a line here explaining the previous sentence since the English translation is simple enough to understand.
  3. A sanmon is the most important gate of Japanese Zen Buddhist temple, and usually stands between the sōmon (outer gate) and the butsuden (Hall of Buddha).
  4. Aqueduct (水道) and tunnel (隧道) share the same pronunciation. Can’t think of a way to localize this misunderstanding, I’m afraid.
  5. A 582 meter long slope with railroad tracks.
  6. Nejiri means “twist” and manpo means “stroll”.
  7. Classical Japanese dance drama, known for the elaborate makeup worn by performers.
  8. A Japanese outlaw hero who stole gold and distributed it to the poor during the Sengoku period. He tried but failed to assassinate Totoyomi Hideyoshi, and was boiled alive in public along with his son.
  9. The full quote is “What an amazing viewǃ The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but ’tis too little, too little. These eyes of Goemon rate it worth ten thousand!”
  10. The giant bonfires made to form characters during the Obon festival (Refer to the prologue).
  11. Meaning Dharma Hall, this is a large lecture hall that cannot be entered by the public.
  12. The status of Nanzen-ji as a Buddhist temple of Kyoto Gozan Temples is “exceptional”, which is the highest rank.
  13. A movable screen originally used to hide certain things from view. It’s like a byōbu (Japanese folding screen) that cannot be folded.
  14. Temples used to be built in mountainous areas, so they are metaphorically called mountains and are given honorific mountain names.
  15. The abbot’s quarters.
  16. A type of gable with an undulating curve at the top, a style peculiar to Japan.
  17. Pavilion used as the Emperor’s habitual residence at Heian Palace.
  18. Sliding paper door.
  19. A panlong, or coiled dragon, is an aquatic dragon usually depicted in Chinese art. Small, unrelated note: There was a typo here. The text writes 幡龍, but it’s supposed to be 蟠龍.
  20. A Japanese painter and print designer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who was part of the shin-hanga movement, which revitalized traditional ukiyo-e art that was from the Edo and Meiji periods.
  21. The work clothing of Japanese Zen Buddhist monks, worn when they are doing work like cleaning and wood chopping.21 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.

    “…Excuse me.”

    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.”

    That’s surprising.

    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.

    “Wha—!!”

    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 yokai22Supernatural monsters, spirits and demons in Japanese folklore.

  22. 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.
  23. An onmyōji who lived in the middle of the Heian period and advised emperors on the spiritually correct way to deal with issues. He believed that the Ichijō Modori Bridge was linked to the spirit world, and there were stories of people meeting with their dead relatives and friends on the bridge.

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