“Aoi-san, is it possible for you to stay overnight?”
It was a quiet Saturday evening.
As usual, I was doing odd jobs in Kura, when Holmes casually asked me that question, as if he meant nothing of it.
Stay overnight? What does he mean by that?
Could he be inviting me on a holiday with him?
Going on a holiday with Holmes… but why?
I couldn’t think of what to say as my heart pounded excitedly.
Holmes narrowed his eyes apologetically.
“I think you’ve misunderstood.”
He continued, causing me to squeak, “Heh?”
“Actually, we’ve decided to appraise the antiques left in the house of Akihito-san’s aunt, which has just become empty. Apaprently, there are quite a lot of antiques there, so Akihito-san said, ‘Since we’ll take the trouble to go there, let’s stay there,’ and insisted on that. I’m not really inclined to staying the night alone with him, so I thought it’d be great if you could come along as well, Aoi-san.”
I stood stock still with my mouth agape as reality ended up quite far removed from my expectations.
So he invited me to stay over at the house of Akihito-san’s relative, which has recently become empty.
Ahh, I was jumping to conclusions!
That was such a big leap from “stay overnight”!
Of course, Holmes wouldn’t invite me to go on a vacation with him.
But even so, staying over with Holmes-san and Akihito-san sounds fun.
“Are you fine with it, Aoi-san? It’s on next Saturday.”
“Ah, yes, sure, I want to go.” I came to my senses and nodded strongly.
“By the way, where is Akihito-san’s relatives’ place?”
“He said it’s close to Tōfuku-ji. It’s the house of Kajiwara-sensei’s older sister. Since her husband has passed away, she wants to sell the house, but before that, she wants to sell all the items in the house.”
I see, one house might be too big to live in alone.
But even so…
“There are that many artworks that you have to stay over there?”
“The man who passed away was an antique collector, who said that he didn’t mind if his antiques were sold after his death. Well, I don’t think it’s so bad that we have to stay overnight, but I think Akihito-san wants to spend the day with both of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“The first episode of that program will be broadcast on that day.”
I hit my hand and went, “Ah!” as Holmes-san smiled gently.
“That program which introduces Kyoto!”
It certainly wasn’t impossible for him to want to see it with Holmes-san.
At that moment, the fixed phone in Kura rang, and Holmes-san quickly picked up the receiver.
“Yes, this is Kura,” he simply answered.
“…Yes, I am Yagashira Kiyotaka,” he said as he nodded.
As usual, I continued cleaning up, but I was still listening out for that phone conversation.
“No, no, I didn’t do much… Yes.”
A grin appeared on his face.
“Ah, yes, I understand. Later, then. Goodbye.”
Holmes-san pressed a button to hang up the phone, then placed the receiver back in its cradle.
Who exactly was that? It didn’t seem like a customer.
“It was from Akihito-san’s office.”
As always, he read my thoughts and answered my question.
“By Akihito-san’s office, you mean the entertainment office, right?”
If I remember correctly, it’s a famous production company called AK Company.
“Yes, the person on the phone was Akihito-san’s manager.”
“Why did Akihito-san’s manager call you?”
“He just checked the first episode that will be broadcast soon, and he was surprised by the quality of the recording. He checked with Akihito-san, and my name came up. He called me just to give his thanks.”
“I see. He’s such a courteous person.”
“In that kind of industry, courtesy and an eye for details are necessary.”
I see, that certainly sounds true.
I’ve heard that even if the talents themselves act rashly on TV, they’re still valued if they’re staffed by people who keep a low profile and are courteous backstage.
“By the way, you said, ‘Later, then,’ right? So he’ll call again?”
“Yes, he wants to discuss more about Akihito-san, so I told him that he could call again later at night. My guess is that he wants me to accompany Akihito-san to the location before recording, just like last time.”
“Wow, the first episode is so well-produced, huh. I’m looking forward to it!”
“Yes, me too.”
The two of us looked at each other and giggled.
And then the next Saturday arrived. Akihito-san had made arrangements to head to his relative’s house after checking out Tōfuku-ji, which was the subject of his next episode.
“You definitely shouldn’t go to Tōfuku-ji by car in autumn.”
Holmes-san said in a strong tone of voice as he drove the shop’s jaguar.
“……” As I sat in the front passenger seat, I looked back at Akihito-san in the rear seat, and we silently exchanged looks.
We’d met up at Kura and were now on the way to Tōfuku-ji, starting from an underground car park in Oike.
“…Hey, Holmes, aren’t you contradicting your actions?”
Akihito-san leant forward and asked. I nodded as well.
“Yes, of course, I don’t plan to go to Tōfuku-ji all the way like this. Your aunt came to Kura the other day and lent me the house keys.
“We’ll first stop the car at the house, then walk to Tōfuku-ji from there.”
“Ah, I see, so that’s how we’ll go.” Akihito-san nodded.
Holmes-san dropped us off in the vicinity of Tōfuku-ji.
“I’ll catch up with you after I park the car, so you two go ahead first,” he said, then drove off to the house of Akihito-san’s aunt.
“…Holmes is really smart, as I thought. If it were me, I would have parked the car at my aunt’s place, and we’d walk all the way from there.”
“You’re right. It’s probably because Holmes-san always has to attend on Owner.”
“I also thought of that. It must be rough to be Owner’s chaperone.”
“He’s certainly a very wilful person.”
We talked as we headed to the gate of Tōfuku-ji.
“By the way, is this your first time at Tōfuku-ji, Aoi-chan?”
Akihito-san looked at me as he asked that question. When he stands tall like this, he certainly looks handsome.
(But I wonder why my heart isn’t fluttering at all. That’s surprising.)
“Ah, yes. What about you, Akihito-san?”
“I only came here in elementary school, so I’ve forgotten all the details about it. Shall we take a look at the sanmon, which is considered to be a national treasure?”
Akihito-san lightly asked as he led the way.
“They say it’s a national treasure, but it’s definitely no match for the one at Nanzen-ji.”
He said to himself as he put his hands behind his head.
Speaking of Nanzen-ji, that’s the temple that Akihito-san will be introducing on the program tonight.
I heard that he checked it out with Holmes before recording.
“Was the sanmon at Nanzen-ji that amazing?”
“Yeah, it was totally overwhelming. Oh? Have you not been to Nanzen-ji, Aoi-chan?”
“No, not yet.”
“You definitely have to go there. The Waterway Pavilion was amazing, too.”
“I’d love to go there.”
“Sorry, Aoi-chan. I’ve already gone to Nanzen-ji alone with Holmes before you.”
Akihito-san said as he peeked at me with a teasing smile, causing my face to heat up in an instant.
“W-What are you saying!”
As I glared at the chuckling Akihito-san, we passed through the entrance gate called Rokuhara-mon and entered the grounds of the temple.
“So that’s the sanmon…”
I looked up at the sanmon before me, and let out a sigh of admiration.
It was a gigantic, beautiful door, with its white walls providing contrast to its dark brown roof. It was wide in breadth and so tall that you had to look up at it, and gave off the impression that it was an entrance to another world.
—I was overwhelmed. It was probably the most impressive door I had ever seen.
“It has such an amazing amount of intensity! Is the sanmon at Nanzen-ji really more amazing than this?”
“Well, I would say they’re amazing in their own ways. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Nanzen-ji.”
“I see! Nanzen-ji must be amazing, huh.”
Akihito-san replied, “Yup, it’s amazing, all right,” and continued taking photos with his smartphone in hand. After that, he stood a short distance from me and gazed at the sanmon. At that moment…
“—Sorry to keep you waiting. I wasn’t expecting you to be still here, though.”
Holmes-san’s voice came from behind, causing us to turn around.
“Hey, Holmes. The one at Nanzen-ji is majestic, but this sanmon’s amazing as well.”
Akihito-san said as he placed his hand around Holmes-san’s shoulder in a familiar manner.
“This is said to be the oldest sanmon in Japan, and that’s why it’s designated as a national treasure.”
As usual, Holmes-san explained.
“I don’t need this arm here.” He lightly shook off the arm on his shoulder.
“Ah, how awful.” I laughed reflexively upon witnessing that scene.
“Seriously, you’re way too cold.”
Akihito-san muttered in an unsatisfied tone.
“Well, then it might be more amazing than the sanmon at Nanzen-ji.”
He pulled himself together and asked while looking up at the giant gate.
“…To say which one is more amazing depends on the person, but ‘Kyoto’s Three Great Gates’ are the gates at Nanzen-ji, Chion-ji and Higashi Hongan-ji. Unfortunately, this sanmon isn’t included in that collection.”
Holmes-san said, causing Akihito-san to ask, “Really?” in surprise. I also let out a sound, “Hehh?”
“However, I believe that you can decide for yourselves with your hearts. All of them are wonderful, and no gate in particular is superior or inferior.”
Holmes-san placed a hand on his chest and smiled gently.
I was moved by his words.
Sure, there are all sorts of things like rankings and power spots, but it should all be about what you like personally.
I’ve been to a lot of temples and seen their gates, but just as Holmes-san said, there aren’t any that are better or worse, and they are all beautiful.
“…I see, it’s the same as with girls, right? Everyone has their own preferences, so you might like a different kind of girl,” Akihito-san nodded, convinced, while I was at a loss for words.
Seriously, this person…
“Let us go, then.” Holmes-san ignored Akihito-san’s comment and moved off. I giggled and replied, “Sure!” and quickly followed behind.
“Hey, wait up!”
With Akihito-san running after us, we headed for the main hall.
“The founder of Tōfuku-ji is Kujō Michiie1. He wanted the temple to be as large as Tōdai-ji in Nara, and as grand as Kofuku-ji, so he took a letter from each temple and gave it the name Tōfuku-ji. It has been hit by fires numerous times, but has been restored as such. You could say that it’s a temple loved by the people.”
While we listened to Holmes-san’s exposition, we clasped our hands at the main hall’s beautiful golden statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha, gazed at the unryuuzu on the ceiling, then headed to what was described as the biggest highlight of Tōfuku-ji, the Tsutenkyo Bridge.
“Man, I can’t wait to see the Tsutenbashi Bridge!”
Akihito-san said excitedly as he held a pamphlet in his hand.
“It’s called the Tsutenkyo Bridge2. Make sure you get that right when you introduce it on television.”
Holmes-san pointed out sharply.
Since it was right in the middle of the red maple leaves season, there was quite a large crowd.
To be honest, I didn’t have much expectations as I stepped onto the bridge.
The Tsutenkyo Bridge, which was built on top of a gorge, was higher than I thought it would be. It was a wooden bridge with a nice aesthetic, and was like an aerial observation path in the middle of the red leaves.
The walkway was surrounded with bright red maple leaves.
It was a brilliant, vivid red. I was unable to say a word as I witnessed such a beautiful sight.
There were also red maple leaves flowing down the river a short distance below, and that scene looked just like a miracle.
Red maple leaves flowing down a river.
Oh right, I just remembered.
This temple was a special place for Izumi-san and Holmes-san.
Here, Izumi-san was moved by the beauty of the red maple leaves flowing down the river.
“Unheard of even in the legendary age of the awesome gods: Tatsuta River…” she recited the first half of the poem by Ariwara no Narihara, but forgot the rest of the words.
“…in scarlet and the water flowing under it.” At that moment, Holmes-san smoothly finished the poem.
Yeah, anyone would fall in love after that.
The act of someone like Holmes-san reciting that poem in such a wonderful place would pierce through my heart as well.
“Unheard of even in the legendary age of the awesome gods: Tatsuta River in scarlet and the water flowing under it…”
I mumbled as I looked down on the river that had been dyed red by the leaves.
“Ariwara no Narihara, right?” Holmes-san’s voice came from behind me.
My shoulders jerked upwards.
It wasn’t about Ariwara no Narihara, but that was the poem that began Holmes-san’s and Izumi-san’s romance.
I accidentally recited it while I was thinking about that moment, and it was heard by Holmes-san.
Since Holmes-san is so sharp, he must have realized that I was thinking of Izumi-san, right?
What should I do? That might have made him uncomfortable.
“U-Umm, sorry. I just happened to think of that.”
I shrugged and replied honestly, but Holmes-san just laughed.
“It’s alright. Thank you for being considerate to me.”
…I see, to Holmes-san, it was something that happened quite a long time ago.
Perhaps I didn’t need to be so sensitive.
“On the topic of Ariwara no Narihara, he wrote another poem that I like better.”
I made a silly noise, surprised by the normal response that didn’t seem to have much thought behind it.
“‘I have learnt of this from you. Is this what people of the world call love?’3”
Even I could comprehend a simple poem like this. Umm, it means…
—I’ve learnt about this feeling because of you. Is this what people call love?
That is a heart-throbbing poem about love.
“You like this poem, Holmes-san?”
Perplexed by that unexpected choice, I looked at Holmes-san. He nodded lightly.
“Yes, I aspire for what is described in the poem. I hope to have that feeling some day… but perhaps that is impossible.”
With his right hand on the handrail, Holmes-san stared off into the distance and muttered, as if talking to himself.
His eyes were sorrowful. Pain stabbed through my heart as I saw that lonely figure.
Somehow, I understood.
Holmes-san’s feelings towards Izumi-san were probably all clear.
However, the shock of being betrayed remained as a kind of trauma within him.
For someone adept at reading people like Holmes-san, it must have been a huge shock for him to have his girlfriend stolen away by another man.
With that shock, jealousy and frustration, he mentioned that he was even thinking of going to a mountain in Kurama to be a monk.
His self-esteem must have really been shattered from that.
And now— Holmes-san at present might reject the very idea of being in love.
“…I think I understand.”
“I… I was also broken by that problem with Katsumi, and I think I’m still wounded by that incident. I feel like I’ve become a coward, afraid to move on to the next love.”
With Holmes-san’s words, I finally managed to understand myself.
Even if my heart beats wildly, I hesitate to go on to the next step, all due to the work of this stopper.
Because I’m scared of being hurt again.
“…It’d be good for both of us to properly recover from our wounds.”
We quietly looked at each other, with Holmes-san opening his eyes wide in surprise.
“…Yer right,” he softly replied.
The sorrowful undertones in his voice caused pain to run through my heart.
Like this, we wordlessly gazed at the bright red maple leaves flowing down the river.
—I was moved to tears, probably because the maple leaves were just too beautiful.
“Oh, Aoi-chan, were you moved by the maple leaves? There are tears in your eyes.
Akihito-san commented blithely as he walked over, so I hurriedly wiped my eyes with the back of my hand.
“Y-Yes, I was moved by this scenery… If my friends come to Kyoto in autumn, I’ll tell them that they definitely need to go to Tōfuku-ji.”
I spoke from my heart. Akihito-san folded his arms and said, “Wow” in admiration.
“…‘If your friends come to Kyoto in autumn, tell them that they definitely need to go to Tōfuku-ji.’ That sounds good, can I use that?”
“Eh? Yes, go ahead.”
I nodded, and Akihito-san immediately whipped out his smartphone from his pocket and began taking a memo.
It seems that he’ll be using those words in his next shoot.
After all is said and done, he’s certainly a zealous person.
I can tell that he’s betting on this job.
After enjoying the view from Tsutenkyo Bridge for some time, we looked at the stone garden at the hojo, then left Tōfuku-ji.
The house of Akihito-san’s relative turned out to be only a few minutes’ walk from Tōfuku-ji.
“Come to think of it, I haven’t been to my aunt’s house since I was a kid.”
Akihito-san mused thoughtfully as we walked.
“What kind of house is it?”
“It’s a Western-style room.”
“Like Holmes-san’s house?”
“It isn’t such an amazing house, but just a normal, snug house. It’s just around that corner.”
We turned the corner, and I was lost for words when I saw the Western-style building.
Indeed, in terms of size, it was just a “snug” Western-style house. However, its walls had so many vines coiled around them that you almost couldn’t see the walls at all, and you definitely couldn’t call that “normal”.
“Um, Akihito-san, it’s that house, right?”
“Ah, yeah, probably. Holmes’ car is there.”
Surely enough, the Yagashira family Jaguar was parked there.
“What do you mean, probably? Isn’t it your aunt’s house?”
I curiously asked, and Akihito-san pulled a face.
“I mean, there weren’t that many vines back then. I’m seriously shocked. The kids nearby definitely call it a haunted house.”
“Doesn’t it look so wonderfully tasteful, though? Since the walls are covered in vines, they won’t be hit directly by the sun’s rays, so there’s the effect of damping the temperature increase in summer.”
Holmes-san said as he retrieved the house key from his inner pocket.
It was the key that Akihito-san’s aunt had entrusted to him earlier.
“Um, are the gas and water in this house still working?”
“Yes, it was lived in until ten days ago. There are still items in the house, and you can use the gas and water until the end of the month.”
Holmes-san unlocked the door and opened it.
The entranceway that opened up before us was pitch dark, so I couldn’t tell what it was like inside.
Holmes-san immediately reached for the breaker near the ceiling and raised it, switching on the lights in the entranceway. As the area instantly lit up, I was stunned by three antique dolls arranged in a row on top of the shoe cupboard.
“Ahh, that startled me.”
“Y-Yeah, me too. Are those dolls?”
“…What do we have here? These are Jumeau bisque dolls4.”
They had golden hair, blue eyes, and bright red dresses on their porcelain bodies.
Holmes-san put on his black gloves at once. From his energetic voice, I could tell that he was excited.
“That’s the name of a famous manufacturer in France. I was surprised that they were casually left in the entranceway, but it seems that they were treated carefully, and they’re in excellent condition.”
He took a notebook out of his pocket and quickly started making a memo, probably about the amount of money they would be worth. I took a peek and noticed that “Bisque dolls with red dresses at the entranceway, 1.5 million yen” was written on the notebook, causing me to open my mouth in surprise.
“O-One point five million yen?”
“Yes, since it was probably manufactured in the late 1850s.”
“H-Hey, so that means the other two are also worth 1.5 million each?”
Akihito-san gleefully leant forward and asked, but Holmes-san shook his head.
“No, the other two are replicas, so they’ll fetch about 30 thousand in total.”
“What? So this one just happened to be a treasure, huh.”
“You could say that, but I think that a lot more treasures might be sleeping in this house than you imagine.”
Holmes-san’s eyes gleamed scintillatingly as he stared into the interior of the house from the entranceway.
The house was packed with antiquated items.
There were many paintings on the walls, and there was a porcelain vase on top of an antique chest.
There was even a chandelier.
Since the house no longer had an owner, it seemed like the residence of all the antiques.
“I’ll appraise everything from top to bottom, so please help me out by arranging the rooms.”
Holmes-san instructed in a strong voice, and both of us replied, “Right!” in unison.
But when we got to the rooms, we found that they had many items, but were already neatly arranged.
I suppose I just need to do what I’m good at, or dusting the objects?
First, I opened the living room window for ventilation, and I noticed a vegetable garden outside. It wasn’t large by any means, but was at a pleasant size.
Wow, a garden! That’s nice. We lived in a mansion back in Saitama, but our house here has a parking area in front of our entranceway, so we don’t have a garden. With the amount of vines coiled around the outer walls, it seems tough to maintain, but it’s wonderful for a Western-style house of this size to have a garden. It might be small, but it gives off the feeling of having your own castle.
If I get married some day and have this kind of house… as my delusions expanded, Holmes-san’s figure appeared in my head, causing me to shake my head wildly.
At that moment, Akihito-san called out, “Hey, Holmes.”
“You said to clean the living room, but it’s clean enough already.”
“If that’s the case, then please weed the garden.”
“H-Huh? Why do we have to weed the garden?”
“I got the owner’s permission beforehand, and I was thinking of throwing a barbecue party at the garden tonight.”
Holmes-san grinned with his notebook in hand, and the two of us went, “Wow,” in admiration.
“Seriously, a barbecue! Heck yeah! Leave the garden to me!”
Akihito-san leapt around excitedly like a monkey and darted out of the entranceway.
I didn’t expect an adult like Akihito-san to frolic around like that.
Well, I suppose he does always act like that.
“There’s all sorts of equipment in the car trunk, so you can start the preparations once you’re done with the garden.”
Akihito-san obediently answered.
For some reason, I found that to be adorable, and laughed.
“Aoi-san, could you help me with my appraisal? There seems to be a lot more treasures than I thought.”
Holmes-san pulled out a binder with report papers filed in between, and swiftly handed it to me.
“Sorry, but please help me fill these in.”
“Yes, understood.” With a pen in my hand, I nodded.
“Let us start, then.” Still wearing the gloves, Holmes-san reached out to touch the antique lamp on top of the chest.
“This is a work of a French manufacturer called Muller. It has layers of glass placed on top of one another to form a gradation, and the design of the bronze pedestal is wonderful, too.”
Holmes-san enthusiastically said as I carefully studied the lily-shaped antique lamp.
“It’s really beautiful.”
As usual, I displayed my limited vocabulary, but those were my honest thoughts.
It was like a lamp that would be in a quaint hotel in France.
“Could you write ‘Antique lamp, Muller, 30 thousand’?”
S-So it’s worth thirty thousand. I’d gotten used to figures like that, but it still surprised me every time.
“The lamp next to it has a great design, but it’s a modern product and has no value as an antique. Perhaps Akihito-san’s uncle wasn’t trying to collect valuable antiques, but simply wanted to collect objects that drew his fancy. That’s a fantastic thing to do, I think.”
This might have been brought on by the talk we had at the Buddhist temple earlier, but there are all sorts of things in this world such as social status, rankings and trends where objects are considered good due to their price. However, not caring about all these things and collecting items that you’re genuinely interested in is certainly wonderful.
“Kura basically has a lot of oriental artworks, so appraising Western antiques feels fresh, doesn’t it?”
“That’s true. As for me, being influenced by Owner, I definitely can’t say that I’m an expert in Western antiques.”
“Yes, especially for Western paintings. Those are really difficult.”
Holmes-san replied as he held a small object in his hand.
“Even you have area of weakness, huh.”
“Of course. I find that it’s easier to spot counterfeits for three-dimensional objects like jars and tea bowls, because it’s easier to see the lines that they give off. Even for two-dimensional objects, I’ve seen many pieces of Japanese art and calligraphy, so I can still sniff out the odor of forgeries, most of the time.
“However, I don’t have much experience with Western paintings, so they’re my Archilles’ heel… If Enshou had prepared a Western painting back then, I’m not sure if I would have been able to notice it.”
Holmes-san revealed, as if talking to himself.
I’d heard about Enshou, the genius forger that Holmes-san and Akihito-san had met at Nanzen-ji.
He’ll probably challenge Holmes-san against some day.
“I’ll have to study a lot more.”
Holmes-san continued quietly, but I couldn’t say anything.
He spoke with a calm tone, but there was an intensity behind his words. I could tell that he didn’t want to lose to that forger no matter what.
“…By the way, Aoi-chan.”
“Do I look like a sheltered boy?”
Holmes-san asked with a straight face. Confused by the question that had come out of the blue, I squeaked, “Huh?”
Apparently having heard our conversation while cutting the grass in the garden, Akihito-san burst out laughing.
“No, sorry about that, it’s nothing. The next item is a figurine from Copenhagen.”
I wonder what that was all about?
“So, Holmes, you’re still fixated on what the deputy abbot said back then, huh?”
A rectangular portable cooking stove had been placed in the well-ordered garden, and the crackling sounds of charcoal flame could be heard.
The autumn sky had already turned dark, and the lamp that Holmes-san had brought over was lighting up the garden.
I was sitting in a camping chair and receiving some juice slightly excitedly, while Akihito-san was laughing joyfully and pointing at Holmes-san with an opened can of beer in his hand.
“Could you stop pointing at others?”
Without any change in his expression, Holmes-san took some meat out of a storage container and carefully placed it on the mesh.
Holmes-san had brought over five storage containers. They contained Wagyu beef, Iberico pork, herb-infused chicken, vegetables, and…
“I also made onigiri, if you’d like to try some.”
Upon seeing his perfect figure, with his container in his hand and a grin on his face, my face stiffened.
“Holmes, you actually have quite a great deal of woman power, huh.”
Akihito-san said calmly. I agree with him whole-heartedly.
“I’m not a woman, though.”
“Yeah, you’re a sheltered boy, right?”
As Akihito-san guffawed, a rare grimace openly showed on Holmes-san’s face.
Seeing a grimace on his face was rare, but he seemed to have one relatively often whenever he was with Akihito-san.
“By the way, what’s with the phrase ‘sheltered boy’?”
“Oh, you were listening, Aoi-chan?” Akihito-san leant forward more than necessary.
“At Nanzen-ji, this guy tried to chase after the escaping forger, but he was told by the deputy abbot that ‘a sheltered boy like you ain’t catchin’ him’. I can still remember his unwilling face from back then.”
Akihito-san hooted with laughter. In response, Holmes-san drew an annoyed breath.
“Yes, I was certainly unwilling to accept his words. I’m always surrounded by my vainglorious grandfather and my father, who is a nice person but goes by his own pace. I have to take care of them, manage the shop and the house, and sometimes work as a cook, driver, porter, bodyguard, translator, errand boy… I ain’t a sheltered boy, really.”
As the meat sizzled on the stove and started to blacken, Akihito-san and I went pale.
“W-Well, the deputy abbot didn’t know you’d gone through such hardship.”
I held my hand out to pacify him.
“No, he does know. Compared to Enshou, I’m indeed like a rich kid with a sheltered upbringing. I’m just frustrated that he could see that.”
He must have thought about all sorts of things after that encounter.
There was no doubt that Holmes-san had won this round, but it was more of a shaky victory than we would have expected.
“I wonder what kind of life Enshou led before this?”
“…I wonder about that too. The first time I saw him, his lips were tilted upward on the left. That means that he’s the type to have unstable feelings, and violent undulations of his emotions. However, he properly looked me in the eye without faltering when talking with me, so I understand that he’s a confident person.
“Moreover, he has a tendency to copy. He must have always worried about what others thought about him. With that, I believe he used his talents to do all sorts of things to get through his disadvantaged childhood.”
Holmes-san smoothly continued.
“It’s hard to think that a normal person suddenly turned to forgery, so he must have had someone close to him… his father, perhaps, who was an artist. With that influence, Akihito-san was inducted into the arts. He then found his talent and was recommended to be a forger by his father. But then for him to think of joining the priesthood after reaching the peak of forgery, he must have lost his family, or cut his ties with them…”
Holmes-san said as much, but we were lost for words.
As expected, he was too amazing.
“…What’s the matter?”
He looked at us curiously.
“Nothing, I was just thinking that you are indeed ‘Holmes’.”
Akihito-san replied in a dumbfounded state, while I added, “Indeed,” and laughed.
Afterwards, we stuffed our faces with onigiri, enjoyed the delectably grilled meat and casually chatted as we stood around the fire, noisily passing the time.
We spent time like this until 10:50pm.
After cleaning up, we gathered in front of the television.
Akihito-san’s program would start at 10:55pm.
I sat while hugging my knees as I watched the commercial on the screen, my heart pounding.
Although I had nothing to do with it, I was extremely excited.
It was my first time watching an acquaintance appearing on television, after all.
“I-I’m feeling kind of nervous about this.”
“I-Idiot, I’m the one who’s supposed to be nervous.”
Akihito-san’s voice betrayed his tension as he turned to look at me. His body was trembling.
Holmes-san stifled a laugh.
“But it’s not the first time you’re appearing on television, right, Akihito-san?”
“It’s not the first time, but I’ve only ever made brief appearances, and it’s the first time I’m the main face of a show.”
At that moment, the screen cut to a scene of red maple leaves as music played in the background.
“…Classic jazz BGM, huh. That’s wonderful.”
“R-Right?” Akihito-san replied proudly, but nodded awkwardly, probably still feeling nervous.
As the familiar-sounding music played, the camera slowly shifted from the beautifully colored maple leaves to the sanmon of Nanzen-ji.
In front of a gate was Akihito-san in a dark grey kimono. It looked chic, boosted his handsomeness, and on top of that, made him look like less of a playboy.
“W-Wow, Akihito-san’s in a kimono! It suits you.”
I exclaimed, causing Akihito-san to give an embarrassed smile.
“W-Well, it’s the opening episode, after all.”
“…Nanzen-ji. It is the highest-ranking Zen temple in all of Japan. When I stood in front of the gate, I was completely blown away by the atmosphere which can’t be described by words. Also, being here in autumn is exceptional. Take a look at the beautiful maple leaves!”
Akihito-san asserted with an elegant grin as he looked up at the maple leaves.
Next, they went to the upper floor of the sanmon, and the scenery of the city of Kyoto draped in red maple leaves was shown on the screen.
It was a really beautiful scenery, and even as a novice, I could tell that camera work was superb.
“Now, as you know, this sanmon is the same as the gate in a kabuki performance where Ishikawa Goemon says, ‘What an amazing view!’, but it was actually only built after Ishikawa Goemon’s death. The fact that it was depicted in theaters as such shows that people in Kyoto felt a strong romance towards the scenery that can be seen from this sanmon,” Akihito-san enthusiastically said as he gazed as the scenery.
“And this is the Waterway Pavilion, which is an unparalleled achievement constructed in the Meiji era…”
He then expounded on the beauty of the Waterway Pavilion. Finally…
“Nanzen-ji was known to be a temple plagued with yokai. The emperor at the time was troubled by those apparitions, so he requested the Zen priest Mukan Fumon of Tōfuku-ji to deal with them.
“The Zen priest came to Nanzen-ji, and made the yokai disappear by performing what he normally did everyday in Tōfuku-ji: meditation. According to him, yokai could not win against virtue, and it seemed that was the case. Next time, I would like to show you around Tōfuku-ji.”
With Akihito-san’s grinning figure on the screen, the camera zoomed out, and the program drew to a close as the music ended.
The scenery shown on the video was so beautiful that I was deeply moved…
Akihito-san was really amazing, making me want to go there.
…Come to think of it, that was an exact imitation of Holmes-san, right?
As the program cut to another commercial, our eyes met.
“…Akihito-san, you were imitating Holmes-san there, right?”
“Akihito-san, if you pretend to be like me to that extent, it’ll become really tough for you in the future.”
Holmes-san followed, causing Akihito-san to go bright red and stand up vigorously.
“T-There’s nothing tough about it! That’s just an actor’s performance to fit the program!”
“An actor’s performance, huh… That was quite well said.”
Holmes-san replied with a meaningful laugh.
“In that case, Holmes-san should be on the show. He doesn’t lose to Akihito-san in terms of handsomeness, after all.”
“No, I don’t have any interest working in television. Since that uproar regarding my grandfather, I felt that I wasn’t suited for that, and anyway, I’m not the type to appear in public.”
I see, so he came into contact with television through Owner, then immediately felt that he wasn’t suited for it.
“Ah, I’m so nervous that I want to go to the toilet. Gonna take a dump.”
Akihito-san stretched his body as he escaped from the living room.
…Take a dump, he said. And he’s supposed to be a handsome actor, too.
A short while after Akihito-san left for the toilet, the lights went out, cloaking the room in darkness.
It wasn’t just dark. Thanks to the occluding effect of the curtains, it was pitch black in the room.
“It seems that there was a blackout.”
Holmes-san calmly spoke in the total darkness.
“B-Blackout? Were we using that much electricity?”
“I wonder about that. It’s a good thing we have a lantern from the barbecue.”
Holmes-san picked up a dry cell powered lantern lamp from the floor and switched it on.
At the next moment…
A piercing cry… no, Akihito-san’s scream resounded from the hallway.
Then, the door to the living room slammed open.
Akihito-san dashed into the room, his eyes wide open.
“You’re overreacting. It’s just a blackout,” Holmes-san sighed in exasperation.
“But it isn’t unreasonable to be surprised when you go to the toilet in an empty house and it suddenly goes dark.”
“N-No, that’s not it! After going out of the toilet, I saw some dolls walking towards me from the end of the hallway. They were giggling, too!”
I was a little creeped out after hearing Akihito-san squeeze those words out of his throat.
Holmes-san and I looked at each other.
“When you’re feeling scared, a willow leaf can look like a ghost. When the blackout happened, you were struck with terror, and probably just imagined the dolls walking towards you.”
“N-No, that’s not it! It’s completely different from seeing a willow leaf as a ghost! If you don’t believe me, come take a look!”
“No, I think I’ll take a look when I want to go to the toilet.”
“I’m seriously curious about what that was, though.”
“As I said, I’ll look at it later.”
“No, please look at it now, Holmes-san, or Holmes the Zen priest!”
Akihito-san kneeled on the floor and clasped his hands together at the disagreeable Holmes-san.
“I’m not a Zen priest, just a sheltered boy.”
He replied with a mischievous grin.
As usual, the “wicked, mean Kyoto guy” inside him was out in full force whenever he conversed with Akihito-san.
But, with that kind of talk…
“U-Umm… that made me want to go to the toilet…”
It was really embarrassing, but it was scary to go alone like this.
Filled with shame, I looked down.
“I see. I’ll go take a look outside, so you stay here, Akihito-san.”
Holmes-san stood up with the lantern in his hand.
“Hey, you’ll be taking the lantern with you?”
“Of course. I’ll also be checking the breaker, so just wait here.”
“It’ll be fine, Akihito-san. There’s nothing to be afraid of, is there?”
Holmes-san tapped Akihito-san’s back twice.
Having been encouraged and made fun of at the same time, a complicated expression rose to Akihito-san’s face, and I laughed without thinking upon seeing that.
“Shall we go then, Aoi-san?”
“Y-Yes,” I replied, and went out of the living room together with Holmes-san. I was slightly relieved to see that the hallway was slightly brighter than the living room due to the moonlight seeping in through the window.
“There’s nothing unusual about the breaker. It must be a problem with the power cables.”
Holmes-san said as he checked the breaker above the entranceway.
I turned to look down the hallway, and shivered as I caught sight of a doll.
“H-Holmes-san, there’s a doll over there!”
So whatever Akihito-san was talking about was actually real!
Holmes-san walked over and wordlessly grabbed the doll. It was in the shape of a man, with a face like that of Fukusuke5.
“Ah, this is a karakuri doll6.”
“Yes, so it isn’t weird for it to move. There’s nothing to be afraid of, so go ahead and relieve yourself. I’ll be waiting here, so it’s all fine,” he said with a gentle smile.
It certainly wasn’t unnatural for a karakuri doll to move, but why did it start moving in the first place?
That thought briefly appeared in my head, but I decided not to think about it for now.
“I-I’ll be going, then. Excuse me,” I bowed and was about to enter the toilet next to the wash basin.
“Here. It’s scary when it’s dark, after all,” Holmes-san said as he passed me the lantern.
With the lantern in my hand, I went into the toilet and relieved myself, although I wasn’t completely at ease. I then washed my hands at the wash basin outside.
“—Sorry, and thank you.”
“Let’s go back, then.”
Holmes-san accepted the lantern, when…
Akihito-san’s scream rang out once again.
Did something happen again?
“Holmes-san…” My body stiffened.
“Seriously, this person… he might actually be suited to a career in suspense dramas.”
Holmes-san said exasperatedly, slightly mitigating my fear and causing me to relax a little.
“Akihito-san, what’s the matter?”
Holmes-san opened the door to the living room, revealing the figure of Akihito-san clinging onto a soft toy.
“Really, what’s the matter?”
“I-It appeared! The white shadow of a woman! It suddenly appeared, and disappeared just like that!”
Akihito-san shouted, seemingly about to burst into tears.
“Ehh? Did something like that really appear?”
“Yes, it was a white shadow! And it appeared after the two of you left!”
I was feeling that something was off, when I heard the sound of heavy footsteps from the second floor, followed by Akihito-san’s scream, causing me to jump up in fright.
W-Why are there footsteps from the second floor, when there should be no one there?
This place has become a haunted house!
I was starting to feel afraid, when…
“You don’t have to be afraid. Everything’s fine.”
Holmes-san immediately whispered into my ear, causing my heart to skip a beat.
—Wait, what? Something seems weird.
“S-Something feels weird.”
I spoke up, causing the other two men to look at me in surprise.
“I, I know it’s weird! It’s crawling with the evil spirits of rivers and mountains, isn’t it!”
Akihito-san replied, his voice cracking.
“No, that’s not it. The blackout happened when Akihito-san was on the way to the toilet, and the karakuri dolls started moving when he re-entered the hallway… and when Holmes-san and I were in the hallway, the white shadow appeared in the living room…”
It was as if someone was trying to scare Akihito-san, while not showing me anything frightening at all.
“I don’t think this is a supernatural phenomenon.”
“If it’s not supernatural, then what is it!”
Akihito-san raised his voice again. He had completely lost his composure.
The only one who can do that is… that person.
I swallowed and turned around to stare at Holmes-san.
“…The perpetrator of these strange phenomena is you, right, Holmes-san?”
I asked with a strong tone.
The living room was then struck with a sudden silence.
It was a silence that lasted for quite a long time.
The one to break it was Akihito-san.
“W-What are you talking about, Aoi-chan? Holmes-san couldn’t have started these psychic phenomena, right?”
“Y-Yes, I don’t know how he did it, but it would only be possible if Holmes-san did it.”
I stared firmly at Holmes-san, who had a composed expression, but I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
He’d received the key from the owner beforehand, so he could have come here earlier…
And above all, the psychic phenomena that transpired were done so that I would not see them.
Because he probably didn’t want me to be frightened…
“But why did he do such a thing?”
Yes, that’s the thing. Why would he do that?
At that moment, Holmes-san chuckled and clapped.
“Well done, Aoi-san. It seems that I failed at the last moment. Or rather, since a girl is here, I can’t be as callous as I want to be, causing me to slip up.”
As I thought, those supernatural phenomena were caused by Holmes-san.
“W-What? Seriously, Holmes? But why did you do that? Do you really hate me that much?” Akihito-san asked.
I felt quite sorry for him when I caught sight of his tearful face.
“No, definitely not. If I really hated you and wanted to harass you, I wouldn’t have used such a troublesome method. I would have concocted a simpler, harsher and more black-hearted plan. Also, this might have been my handiwork, but I wasn’t the one who planned it.”
He replied smoothly, and even managed to sneak in some vicious words.
Putting that aside, did Holmes-san say that he didn’t plan it?
“Eh? So you’re saying there’s a mastermind?”
“Yes, that is correct. I was requested to do this by someone.”
…Requested by someone?
At that moment, I had a realization.
Yes, Holmes-san had a phone call that day in Kura.
That person even said that he would call back later…
“Is the mastermind Akihito-san’s manager?”
I asked quietly, and Holmes-san nodded.
“—Yes, exactly. He said this to me that day…
“‘Akihito-san did a wonderful job that day, but he seemed to be imitating someone else, and didn’t bring out his personality. That performance he did might fit the program, but if the viewers believe that Akihito-san is a person of good conduct, it will be continually tougher for him to fit that character in the future.
“‘Hence, I want to show Akihito-san’s true personality to the viewers. I want to show them that while Kajiwara Akihito introduces the city of Kyoto in such a refined way, he is actually another kind of person. Please assist me with that.’”
As Holmes-san told us the truth, I swallowed my breath.
“Eh? So that means…”
“It can’t be, right?”
Akihito-san and I looked around the room.
“Yes, as you’ve realized, this is a prank for television. By the way, I believe this footage will be used in the year-end special episode. Ah, the faces of us normal people will be blurred out, so there’s no problem.”
Holmes-san explained as if it wasn’t a big deal at all, while Akihito-san and I had our mouths agape.
“W-What? So that means my pathetic side will be exposed to everyone?”
Akihito-san asked, alarmed. Holmes-san nodded in response.
“Yes. That scream you made was quite something, so perhaps you’ll get new roles in the future.”
“Does this mean that the staff are waiting somewhere?”
I looked around the room again.
“No, since Akihito-san is still a fledgling actor, they couldn’t spend so much money on him, so they set up hidden cameras beforehand. All that was left was for me to maneuver some things here and there.”
Akihito-san looked a little miffed upon hearing that “they couldn’t spend so much money on him”, but plunked himself onto the sofa, apparently relieved.
“Man, I’m seriously relieved. Especially now that I know what’s going on.”
“Yes. I actually set up a mechanism to drop the dolls from the ceiling and prepared other things like a child’s scream, but since you already know, it’ll end here.
“It could have gone better, but you did give some good reactions, so I believe your manager will be satisfied. You have a great partner there.”
Holmes-san displayed a gentle smile.
“W-Well, I suppose.”
Gong! Gong! At that moment, the tolling of a bell resounded, causing me to jump up in shock.
“Hey, Holmes, stop the mechanisms already!”
We exclaimed in annoyance, but Holmes-san shook his head.
“No, that’s not something that I did.”
Akihito-san and I squeaked in unison.
“This is the ‘Midnight Sending Bell’ of Tōfuku-ji,” Holmes-san replied with a light smile.
“Midnight Sending Bell?”
“Yes, the bell is struck eighteen times at about 11:45pm every night in Tōfuku-ji.”
“S-So late at night?”
“Yes, this has been a tradition of the temple since it was founded. The abbot at that time, Enni, was also the abbot of Kennin-ji7, so he would move there once he completed his business in Tōfuku-ji.
“Whenever, that happened, Tōfuku-ji would send off Enni with the ‘Sending Bell’, and Kennin-ji would welcome him with the ‘Welcoming Bell’. It has been about 750 years… and that tradition still lives on in Tōfuku-ji.”
The tolling of the bell continued.
I can’t believe the bell would ring so late at night, even though it wasn’t New Year’s Eve.
And every night, too… although I suppose it is a local tradition that has survived for 750 years. The city of Kyoto that has protected that tradition is also amazing, and I hope that they can continue protecting it in the future.
I felt a warmth in my chest knowing that we were directly experiencing a local tradition.
“Now that my mission is complete, let us wish for Akihito-san’s future success! Cheers!”
In the faint light of the lantern, Holmes-san filled glasses with wine and juice.
“Yeah, let’s have a toast.”
The three of us raised our glasses.
“To Akihito-san’s success… cheers!”
As the bell tolled, we clinked our glasses.
The Sending Bell that sounded from Tōfuku-ji in the direction of Kennin-ji was like a signal for Akihito-san to move to another world.
The bell stopped exactly at the eighteenth toll. We looked at each other and giggled.
“Man, it was seriously quite scary, wasn’t it, Aoi-chan?”
Akihito-san took a swig of wine from his glass, and I replied, “Yes,” with a nod.
“I was quite shocked when I heard the footsteps on the second floor. When I found out about the truth, I thought that there were staff on the second floor.”
As we conversed clamorously, Holmes-san muttered, “Ah,” and looked up.
“Actually, I didn’t prepare any footstep sounds for the second floor.”
“Perhaps I angered some beings that are not altogether human when I tried to artificially create supernatural phenomena.”
“Well, the original abbot of Tōfuku-ji, Mukan Fumon, did say that ‘yokai cannot win against virtue’, so if we hold those words in our heart, there shouldn’t be any problem.”
Holmes-san placed a hand on his chest and grinned. Akihito-san and I looked at each other and screamed, “Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”
That was certainly a long, memorable night in autumn.
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- A Japanese regent in the 13th century, who ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1238.
- Tsutenkyo is written as 通天橋, which can also be read as Tsutenbashi. On that topic, 通天橋 means “Bridge to the heavens” when translated literally.
- I couldn’t find an English translation, so I tried my best to translate the classical Japanese poem.
- Dolls made out of biscuit porcelain, characterized by their realistic, skin-like matte finish. They look quite creepy, which might explain Aoi and Akihito’s shock.
- A traditional Japanese character known for his big head and large ears, said to bring good luck.
- Traditional Japanese mechanized dolls. Karakuri is something like clockwork, but doesn’t use much metal and focuses more on reflecting the living appearance of humans.
- A Zen Buddhist temple in Higashiyama-ku which claims to be the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, and is one of the Kyoto Gozan, or the five most important temples in Kyoto.