Hyouka:Volume 2 Chapter 2
2 - "The Murder in the Abandoned Village of Furuoka"
Upon returning to the Geology Room after returning from the preview, Satoshi spoke.
"Irisu Fuyumi is pretty well-known, you know?"
"Really? So does she have three different faces on her head or something like that?"
"Well, I dunno about that, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did. I've mentioned this before, but Irisu belongs to one of the clans that rival the four Exponential Clans."
The Exponential Clans refer to the Juumonjis, Sarusuberis, Chitandas and Manninbashis, seemingly four of the most prominent old families in Kamiyama City. By the way, this rather weird term for them seems to have been coined by Satoshi himself, as I've only heard Satoshi use it.
Satoshi pointed to the streets outside the window.
"The Irisus run the Rengou Hospital over there."
The building that Satoshi was pointing at seemed to be Rengou Hospital, alright. It's a private general hospital with facilities on par with those run by the Japanese Red Cross. As it's only a five minute walk from Kamiyama High School, any students that get injured or sick would end up visiting them. I see, so that's why Irisu Fuyumi is famous.
Though I was starting to be convinced, Satoshi didn't stop there.
"But that's not the only thing Irisu Fuyumi is famous for. She has another nickname."
"So how about it, Houtarou? Wanna guess what it is?"
While I have no intention of attending a game show, I decided to think about it upon being asked. If it's Satoshi that's asking such a question, then Ibara-style nicknames like "Iri-chan" would be out of the question. Since she has that ice-cold aura of grace about her, something that would make her classmates shiver, then...
Satoshi smiled broadly.
"Amazing! You were actually very close. It's 'the Empress' to be precise. Just think about it, to be entrusted with solving something by 'the Empress', doesn't it sound awesome?"
The Empress, yet another very exaggerated nickname. For her to be honoured with such a name...
"Is she sadistic or what?"
Ibara, who was speaking to Chitanda for some reason, now turned around to interject, "That would be a dominatrix, not an empress."
She then turned her back to us again. I admire her ability to quip at will.
"I see. Then why is she called 'the Empress'?"
"Well, she's pretty and all that, plus she's good at making people do her bidding with a cool attitude. It always seemed like she could control the people around her with ease."
"Take the incident with the Student Council Committee meeting with her that I mentioned earlier as an example. Irisu-sempai managed to see through to the root of the problem between the three debating members, and directed them into taking turns listing their points, thus leading to a resolution as a result."
Sounds amazing. She was able to deduce a problem just from listening. She seemed to be the sort of commander-type person. Yet because of that, things have now developed in a way not to my liking. I had no intention of doing anything for anyone, but I've ended up doing an errand for her.
As I crossed my arms, Satoshi tapped his fingers on the table. Just as he had stopped his rhythmic tapping, I saw him grinning once again.
"Since we're talking about 'the Empress' and all that stuff, how about we assign a symbol for ourselves as well?"
For a short while, I was led on by Satoshi. Before long, he continued, "First, Mayaka would be 'Justice'."
"The Empress" and "Justice", huh? As a person of reason who hardly believed in any superstitions, even I knew he was referring to Tarot cards. Satoshi spoke in a voice which Ibara could hear, so I duly kept quiet to see how things would develop.
As expected, Ibara snapped back at us from across the classroom, "And why am I a guardian of justice anyway?"
Satoshi turned around to face her.
"Not a guardian of justice. You're confusing it with 'Judgment'. People of the 'Justice' types tend to be stern with themselves, right?"
He seemed to be blowing off steam. While I had absolutely no idea what meaning the card 'Justice' holds, Satoshi's description pretty much matched Ibara quite well. As I was thinking that, Ibara turned to glare at me.
"What's so funny!?"
"Hey! You should complain to Satoshi, not me."
"Even if Fuku-chan was talking about me, you weren't exactly listening, so you're not supposed to comment either!"
... What a way to justify things.
Her interest ignited, Ibara got up from her seat, and so too did Chitanda. The girls then walked towards us. Ibara leaned her flat chest towards Satoshi and asked, "So, what would Fuku-chan be then?"
How thoughtlessly rude for him to call someone a fool. Yet Chitanda didn't seem to have taken it badly. Just to be safe, Satoshi added, "I don't mean any disrespect, by the way. But I'm sure Chitanda-san gets what I'm saying."
Chitanda slowly opened her mouth.
"Yes, I do. Now that you mention it, I do match the description for 'the Fool', I don't think it's anything disparaging, but... Fukube-san, you do indeed suit the image of 'the Magician'."
Seems like they were talking about the hidden meaning behind each Tarot card. While Satoshi and Chitanda each understood what the other was saying concerning Tarot cards, I was completely out of the loop. While Ibara was also involved in the conversation, she probably didn't get it either.
"Then what about Oreki-san?"
Satoshi replied right away, "That would be easy, 'Strength'."
"? Why is that? I thought he would be more like 'the Star'..."
"No, he's definitely 'Strength', fits him to a tee."
He smiled as I slowly realized he was jesting with me. Chitanda tilted her head while trying to think, but still could not comprehend what he was saying. Neither me nor Ibara could find anything to say either.
"But why is that?"
"Well, no, 'the Star' would also suit him."
Satoshi somehow evaded her question. Chitanda now tilted her head from left to right, but fortunately, she didn't go "I'm really curious about it" this time. I leaned further back in my chair as I frowned.
"... Hmph. It's not like you're complimenting me, anyway."
"Oh, no, that's not the case at all!"
He smiled briefly again. An annoying fellow he was.
The subject then moved on to something else. While the day turned out to be quite unproductive, efficiency-wise, not much energy was expended anyway. I'm sure things will be the same tomorrow.
The following day.
The Classics Club gathered in full force at the club room - though we've only got four members in total. Its objective today was to kill time...... sorry, I mean, to review a murder mystery. To think that I would take time off this sacred summer vacation just to come to school, I've become rather active lately, or so I joked to myself. All in all, this was all Chitanda's fault...... To be truthful, I didn't want to come, but guessing my intentions, Satoshi called me and said if I didn't, our most gracious lady would personally come to my house herself to pick me up, in all her vigour as well.
For some reason, Chitanda seemed pretty pleased as she grinned, which was in contrast to me sighing besides her. On the other hand, Satoshi and Ibara began discussing today's agenda,
"Guess we would have to visit the scene of crime after all."
"But that's all the way in Furuoka Town. Are we seriously going there? Though it's approachable by bus, it's still quite a long train ride away."
"A detective does not do his work on foot, huh? That said, it's only twenty kilometres from here, should be just right if we go by bike."
"Rather than working on foot, this feels more like a standard police field investigation than detective work......"
Twenty kilometres? Gimme a break. I thought we were supposed to just listen to what the "detectives" of Class 2-F have to say.
But how exactly do we hear from them? We have hardly met anyone from Class 2-F, so it'd be awkward for lower classmen like us to suddenly go and ask them for their opinion. Besides, we have absolutely no idea who we should first listen to. As I was wondering what we should do, I noticed Chitanda was looking quite calm.
"Chitanda, is something going to happen today?"
Upon being asked, she nodded.
"Really? So what is it?"
"Irisu-san will be sending a representative to guide us to hear from the movie crew."
A representative? That means this has all been sorted out already. Come to think of it, this made sense.
"When did you sort this out with her anyway?"
Chitanda spoke as though revealing a secret,
"Actually...... I was using a browser."
"Stop saying things so strangely. Just say you communicated via the internet, it's not so strange nowadays, is it?"
"Just a moment there, Houtarou. Technically, she's using the world wide web, not the internet."
I ignored Satoshi's protests and continued,
"So, what did you do over the internet?"
"I was in a student-only chatroom on the Kamiyama High School website."
"You got the expression wrong, Chitanda-san. It's accessing the chatroom via the website."
Chitanda ignored Satoshi as well and went on,
"And I communicated with Irisu-san there. She said she may not be able to come herself, but she's arranged a place for us to meet with her classmates, and will send a guide to lead us to them."
Hmm, she was quite prepared for this. Though it may be somewhat bothersome, at least for an Empress, she wasn't simply sitting on her throne with her legs stretched out doing nothing.
Chitanda looked up at the clock above the blackboard. It was just past one.
"It is almost near the appointed time. She should be here any moment now."
As though right on cue, the door opened quietly.
The person that entered the Geology Room was a girl, who was shorter than Chitanda but taller than Ibara. In other words, she was of average height. Overall, she was of small stature. If there was anything special about her appearance, it would be her short hair, which reached to the back of her neck. While I'm no expert in fashion, at least I knew such a mature hairdo was quite rare for girls her age. Coupled with her thin lips, she gave me the impression of a polite person.
Upon entering, she gave us a deep bow.
"Is this the Classics Club room?"
Chitanda replied right away, "Yes, it is... Are you from Class 2-F?"
"Yes. My name is Eba Kurako. Pleased to meet you."
She bowed courteously once again, and deeply as well, despite the fact that we were her underclassmen. The girl called Eba then raised her head up to look at us and spoke in a business-like manner.
"Today, I have been entrusted by Irisu to guide you to meet a member of our class project's filming division... Shall I lead the way if you're ready?"
It's not like we have anything to prepare anyway. I stood up to indicate I could leave right away, and the others did the same. Eba nodded and said, "Then let us go."
We duly left the Geology Room at her words. While we were merely going to listen to people's opinions, I just had a bad feeling about this, as though we were merely going along with the flow.
The sound of the brass band blowing their instruments was heard on the corridor. As I was wondering why that melody sounded so familiar, I realized it was the theme song for Lupin III. Humming along with the tune, Satoshi approached my side as though amplifying the music and said to me, "She's like a butler, isn't she?"
Was he talking about Eba? Thinking about it, she sure did match the description.
The music faded a bit as we descended down the stairs. Eba then stopped and turned to face us.
"Feel free to ask any questions you'd like."
Speaking in a casual tone, Ibara was the first to ask the first question that came to her mind.
"Who will we be speaking to today?"
"His name is Nakajou Junya."
I looked at Satoshi to ask whether he knew this guy, to which he shook his head. Didn't sound like someone famous, I guess.
"What does he do?"
"He's the assistant director of the filming division, so he's most familiar with the scenes that have been shot."
Chitanda then asked, "When you say filming division, does that mean there are other divisions involved in making the movie as well?"
"The project is split between three divisions. The filming division was the one that went to Narakubo to film on location. The other two divisions are the props division and the marketing division."
"Then the actors would come from..."
"The filming division, as it's the biggest division with twelve people in total. This is followed by seven from the props division and five in the marketing division."
That's quite a lot of people. To be honest, I was in awe of them.
Chitanda then asked a natural question.
"What about you, Eba-sempai?"
As with before, Eba answered without delay.
"I was not a member of the project... as I wasn't particularly interested in it."
I grinned, as that was my preferred type of answer as well.
We then came to the connecting corridor linking the Special Block with the General Block. As its name suggests, the General Block contains regular classrooms. There was less activity related to the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival on this side. Unlike the Special Block, there were more empty classrooms.
Eba stopped right in front of one of those seemingly empty classrooms. Looking up at the plate, it indicated the classroom for 2-C. But Irisu should be from 2-F. Upon seeing our faces, Eba explained, "It would be better to discuss in a quieter classroom, as I was told. As Class 2-C have no exhibition whatsoever, no one will disturb you during your discussions."
She then opened the door.
It was a typical classroom. Symbolized by the usual desks, chairs, teaching podium and blackboard, there was nothing else.
Sitting at the front of the room was a guy with his arms crossed. He seemed to be of the muscular type with his hulky arms. He also had thick eyebrows and a stubbly chin, though it did seem like he had shaved somewhat... This should be the assistant director, Nakajou Junya. Upon seeing us, he stood up with composure and spoke with an unnecessarily loud voice.
"So you're the guys who're familiar with the mystery?"
So he said.
I felt tempted to reply that we were not exactly familiar with anything, as I wasn't particularly interested in making fun of people. As we kept silent, Eba spoke on our behalf.
"Yes. These are the capable people that Irisu managed to find. So do be respectful."
She then turned towards us and introduced Nakajou.
"This is Nakajou Junya."
Nakajou lifted his chin upwards. It seemed he was greeting us.
Chitanda stepped forward to introduce herself.
"I'm Chitanda Eru of the Classics Club."
She then introduced us one by one, with me the last one being named. Eba led us to sit opposite of Nakajou. As we all took our seats, Eba said, "I shall be taking my leave. I leave the matter in your hands now."
And left the classroom. She's not staying behind? So she really was playing the role of Irisu's "butler".
Being left behind, we now faced Nakajou. Let's start this then.
Nakajou crossed his arms as he slowly began, "Sorry to get you involved in all this. As this is a project started out of interest, it'd be a pity if we couldn't finish it. So we had to ask for some help."
I see, out of interest, huh?
"I'm sure you've heard everything from Irisu. Everything is as she said."
Pretty straightforward fellow. Before I was a bit worried about how a senior would take an underclassman criticising his theories, but seeing how Eba and Nakajou have conducted themselves, they're hardly bothersome to handle.
Sitting beside me, Satoshi stuck his hand inside his drawstring bag, and took out a leather-covered notebook and a fountain pen, and duly opened the notebook as though declaring himself the official scribe.
While it was fine for Nakajou to start right away, most of us didn't seem to have grasped our situation yet. Firstly, Ibara decided she had to start with some formal niceties.
"It must be terrible, Sempai, for the script to not be completed. I was surprised when I heard that."
Nakajou nodded in an exaggerated way.
"Exactly. We've come all this way. We never thought something like this could have happened."
"Is the filming tough?"
"We get through the acting parts with the occasional ad-lib, since we're having fun anyway. The tough part is actually the traveling, since it takes an hour to get there by train and bus, and we could only film there on Sundays. I still wonder why we selected that place for our location."
I noticed Ibara squinting her eyes.
"So why did you?"
"Hmm? The location? Well, someone suggested that the place was interesting to go have a look. It's true that we've shot some amazing scenery there that we won't find anywhere else, and that's good and all, but I still think it's too far."
So Irisu was right when she said she wasn't involved in the planning stages of the movie. If I had to vote on whether to head to a place where a round trip takes two hours, I'd definitely oppose it.
Probably realizing we were getting nowhere near the main topic, Satoshi lifted his gaze from his notebook and asked, "I heard the Narakubo area is an abandoned village. Is it reachable by bus?"
"Well, we traveled via minibus. It's a chartered bus rented from a hotel where a relative of mine works."
"So the place isn't restricted to outsiders?"
"We had to pull some strings in order to get in, as the place is still run by the mining company. We had people who knew someone from the company, though all he did was ask if we could enter the premises."
"You could only go there on Sundays?"
"While Narakubo's an abandoned village, the mining facilities are still operating. The noise generated by the mining would just get in the way of shooting. Not to mention cars would occasionally drive by at high speeds, so there's no guarantee of our safety, and all that stuff... Does this have something to do with your case?"
"Oh no, just curious. I learned something new."
Don't mind him, Nakajou-sempai, that's just the kind of person Satoshi is. I said in my mind.
Next was Chitanda.
"How is the scriptwriter, Hongou-san, doing now?
"Hongou? While I'm not sure of the details, I hear she's not feeling quite well. I can't really blame her, can I?"
Nakajou replied and raised his brow. Assuming Irisu was right, Hongou's probably been under so much pressure from everyone in Class 2-F that she fell ill because of it. It's probably hard for them to even contemplate blaming her or demanding an apology from her, which was what Nakajou was expressing in his demeanor.
Most likely not sensing such sentiments at all, Chitanda maintained her gentle disposition.
"Is Hongou-san a very delicate person?"
Nakajou moved his brows quickly and groaned deeply.
"I've never seen her that way, though. Rather than delicate mentally, she's more delicate on the physical side."
"So she has a tender physique?"
What kind of description is that? I instantly spoke without thinking.
"He means she's often getting sick."
"Exactly. She's taken leave from school many times now, and she couldn't even come to the filming location."
Nakajou showed some regret as he said that. Logically speaking, you don't really require the scriptwriter's presence in order to film something. If things don't go according to script, they could just adapt accordingly, and everyone would know what to do even without Hongou around... since the script would have already been written to begin with.
Being mindful of this, I asked, "Is Hongou-sempai's script being received badly by anyone in the class?"
Nakajou gave an indignant expression.
"No one thought that way. As I said, no one blamed her for what happened."
"So you mean what you said?"
"Don't be ridiculous. What are you trying to say? Everybody, including myself of course, recognizes Hongou's role and knows how important her involvement is."
Yet Hongou collapsed before she could complete her work. If that's the case, then it'd be like Chitanda put it, Hongou was probably a bit too delicate.
In order to change focus from the unpleasant atmosphere, Ibara cleared her throat and said, "By the way, Sempai,"
"While we know the script made no mention of who the killer is, what if it's actually a sort of filming trick, where someone has already been assigned the role without it being mentioned in the script?"
A bold suggestion. But if that's true, it'll make things much easier and our role as observers would be rendered obsolete. Nakajou crossed his arms once again as he tried to recall from his memory.
"I don't recall something like that... No, wait... Come to think of it, Kounosu was saying something like 'let's give it our all' or something like that..."
Anyone could have said "let's give it our all". Ibara must have beeen thinking the same thing, as her disappointment showed on her face for a brief moment, though she quickly suppressed it and asked, "Then, have you asked the actors themselves? About whether they've been assigned the role or not?"
"We did, and they all said they'd heard no such thing."
She bit her lips.
"Then what about the detective role?"
Come on, you can do this, Ibara. She then asked, "How about this then? Was it ever mentioned whether this filming trick is a physical one or a psychological one?"
Nakajou looked puzzled at that question.
"What's the difference?"
As I wondered what sort of reaction Ibara would give, our eyes met. She slowly shook her head with a mix of irritation and resignation on her face. If Nakajou wasn't there, she would probably have disregarded etiquette altogether and sighed loudly as well.
We then asked a series of questions, but in the end, it didn't seem like Nakajou held any vital information at all. Then again, if he did, there would not have been a problem to begin with. Besides, we were too ill-prepared and were unable to come up with questions that could turn attention to anything vital. As an energy-saver, this was a massive blunder for me. If I have to do something, make it quick. I ought to have started asking the right questions in the appropriate sequence.
Yet Nakajou spoke looking as though he was satisfied.
"Will that be all?"
Ibara replied with a smile, "If you mean whether we're done with our questions, yes, that will be all."
Why did I get the feeling her sarcasm was aimed at both sides?
As we've gotten our collection of information, Satoshi closed his fountain pen. Upon that signal, Chitanda asked calmly, "It's Nakajou-san, right? What do you think of what Hongou Mayu-san intended to do with her script?"
Realizing we'd entered the main topic, Nakajou gave a broad smile.
"Alright, be easy on me and hear me out."
"Please do begin."
I was wondering whether Nakajou should be feeling happy at such a time. As he licked his lips and started speaking, it turned out he could actually speak quite a lot.
"If you think about it, such a filming technique may cause some fuss, but I don't think the audience should pay much attention to it and just treat it as a plot device. After all, good drama should always have the detective identifying the killer before everyone else, forcing the killer to confess to how and why he did it. While I can't possibly take over what Hongou is doing, if you ask me, I thought she was rather weak when it came to writing an exciting story. We don't even know who the main character is.
It would be good if Kaitou were the one that died. You may not know this, but Kaitou is actually quite well-liked. The people from the props division said they were quite impressed by how dead he looked in that scene. As expected from a popular person to give such a performance. While it's not exactly a good idea to have the protagonist as the killer, it's not impossible either. So I think the killer is Yamanishi, since she also has many friends."
"Generally speaking, our classmates can be quite obsessive when it comes to some stuff. That includes writing a mystery story, where they would argue about how this part isn't exactly mystery, or how that part doesn't feel right. But the movie would only last for an hour. If they were to include every aspect of mystery fiction in it, we wouldn't be able to film them all in time. And I'm sure you've all noticed, you could hardly see any clear details on such a small screen. So I think this is more of a drama story. We could still stick with a title of 'The Murder in the Abandoned Village of Furuoka" or something like that, just to entice the audience to come watch it. I'm sure that's what Hongou would think as well."
How should I say this. I was in a daze for half of the time Nakajou was speaking. I'm not that much of a fan of detective fiction. I would usually buy paperback novels to read in my spare time, and there would be the occasional mystery genre amongst them, but that's about it. Besides, I find something strange about Nakajou declaring that the audience wouldn't care about such filming techniques.
...But thinking about it a bit more, just what sort of person would be coming to watch a movie produced by Class 2-F?
There would probably be people from the Detective Fiction Studies Club, no doubt, but how many of these people would have read detective fiction? This wasn't some baseless speculation, as there was once this silly questionnaire run by the Kami High Monthly which investigated the "Literacy of Kami High Students". Recalling how Satoshi was reading enthusiastically about it, I remember that the findings said that about 40% of the students have read at least one novel. And of those 40%, how many of them would have read detective fiction to know how to notice such a filming trick to begin with?
Thinking along such lines, Nakajou's theory may have some foundation after all.
Crossing his legs as well as his arms, Nakajou continued, "Yet, it just doesn't feel exciting not to show how the killer had killed Kaitou. And to think Irisu went out of her way to make this request of you guys... Since you guys are interested in mystery and all that, right? No offense guys, but I think I've found a way to spice up the movie, myself."
Like I said, you've got it all wrong. We're the Classics Club, not the Detective Fiction Studies Club... Anyway, if we end up not being able to solve this, then it would clear up the misunderstanding.
Nakajou started to become more passionate in his speech.
"The script contained a vital element - a sealed room. Kaitou died in a room with no other exits present. So the problem would be: how did the killer kill him?
"The answer is simple: The killer entered through the only entrance available to him."
Raising her brow, Ibara asked, "How?"
"Don't be so dense. He came in through the window, of course."
... The window?
I recalled the movie we saw yesterday. Only fragments of the movie still remained in my head. Though the scene which Nakajou mentioned was dramatic in itself, I couldn't even recall the layout of the scene of the crime.
Left with no other choice, I spoke.
"Satoshi, gimme the map."
Looking delighted, he saluted.
"Yessir! Hang on just a moment,"
And stuck his hand into his drawstring bag to take out a piece of paper - a rough drawing of the theatre map.
Based on the story, Kaitou would have died in the Right Stage area. The other characters would have entered via the corridor on the right hand side. I also remember someone running back to get the other master key to open the door. So from the perspective of the people in the right corridor, the Right Stage was a sealed room.
Afterwards, Katsuda tried to enter the Left Stage via the backstage, believing that the Right Stage was accessible from the left corridor via that way. Yet he found the way was boarded shut, if I remember correctly.
To begin with, it was strange for Nakajou to call this a sealed room.
It cannot be called a sealed room in the purest sense, as no one can enter or exit a sealed room to do any killing. While it was hard to see from the movie visual, things become clearer with the map. Was there not another exit besides the window?
I pointed to the door leading to the main hall and asked, "What about this entrance?"
Nakajou quickly replied, "Can't be opened."
"The door's tightly bolted with nails, so I don't think there's anything there."
I was dumbfounded. I then noticed Ibara looking distasteful, perhaps she was showing that expression to me. Hey, it's not my fault that no one told me anything about that entrance!
Irisu promised yesterday that Hongou's script would give the audience a fair chance at solving the mystery. Yet if I recall, the filming division was probably not informed about the filming of any vital clues. So they weren't told anything... As I felt exhausted, Satoshi smiled while promptly putting a cross over the entrance leading to the hall.
Anyway, with the hall entrance out of the question, that leaves just four exits for the sealed room. The doors and windows of the Right Stage and Left Stage. The doors for both rooms are blocked, so that leaves the windows.
"When you said window... which one were you referring to?"
Nakajou snorted at Ibara's question.
"This one, of course."
"The Right Stage window, right? But why is that?"
"It's a no-brainer, since the Left Stage window is blocked by a costume cabinet."
So that's why. Satoshi continued to smile as he crossed out the Left Stage window as well.
It's a waste of effort for us to continue at this pace. As an energy-saver, I dislike such meaningless waste of so much effort, so I put together everything and asked, "Sempai, there are too many unclear factors from the movie itself. Of course, this may have something to do with the quality of the screen itself. So could you please tell us if there are other rooms besides the two which we've discussed which are also inaccessible? It doesn't matter if they're sealed rooms or not."
"That so? Lemme think,"
Nakajou began to think a bit upon being asked.
"...Ah, yes, the inner control room on the left corridor could not be entered, as the doorknob was broken and we couldn't insert the key... And all the rooms facing North, that is, all the rooms besides the left corridor on the map, have their windows boarded up by wood in order to block out the snow during the winter, so they can't be removed."
"Are you sure that's all?"
"Yeah, that's all."
Nakajou asserted clearly.
While I was still suspicious, credibility was a valuable thing, after all, so I guess I'll have to trust him on this. It was at this moment when Chitanda, who had been quiet all this time, asked, "Does Hongou-san know about these facts as well? Since she didn't go with the filming crew..."
She's right, that is indeed important. If Hongou wrote her script based only on her knowledge of the map without knowing the conditions of the scene itself, she may end up intending one of those inaccessible routes as an exit.
Nakajou's reply quelled those worries straight away.
"Once Narakubo was chosen as the setting with Hongou as the writer, she went there once herself to have a look."
"When was that?"
"Hmm, she probably went in June... no, in the end of May."
"Sorry for interrupting you. Please do continue."
Nakajou nodded and resumed what he was saying, which was the main topic.
"In other words, the killer entered and exited via the window in the Right Stage. In which case, we would be able to shoot the scene where Kaitou's murder would take place while the door was locked. How about that?"
How about what?
You mean the part where the killer doesn't enter through the door but through the window?
"Oh, I see!"
Chitanda was the only one slapping her knees in realization.
I couldn't bring myself to sing a different tune to Nakajou, who was getting passionate. In such moments, I would count on Ibara to do that for me instead.
"But Nakajou-sempai, it wouldn't be a good mystery if that was the case."
While Nakajou didn't express any disappointment at being told off so directly like that, he lowered his voice considerably.
"You may see it like that and think there must be some other route. Besides... ah yes, you guys probably don't know Hongou well. She's not exactly a pro in mystery stories, so she may be employing some other wondrous technique instead."
Saying we don't really know Hongou was hardly a convincing way to persuade us. This... I was intending to just keep quiet and see what he had to say, but I couldn't help but be driven by the mood and said, "So, Sempai, is it possible to identify the killer then?"
"If Hongou-sempai were employing such a technique, is it possible to deduce who the killer is?"
Nakajou didn't seem to be prepared for such a question, as he crossed his arms and went into thinking. Feeling emboldened, Ibara went for the kill.
"Besides, after the scene where everyone else entered the scene of crime, didn't the camera show the window as well?"
"Yet if we see that scene, the window ought to have clearly shown traces of someone crawling through it. Based on your theory, this would be impossible."
Outside the window of the scene of crime...
Now I remember, there was a scene showing a thick layer of wild grass right up to a person's height outside the window. I see. If someone had crawled through the window, the grass would have shown signs of being cut and bent.
As Nakajou looked kind of confused, Ibara had to explain it further for him. Though Nakajou was unyielding.
"That wouldn't be a problem."
I took over Ibara's place upon hearing his rebuttal.
"How so? We thought it was pretty obvious."
"It may be that Hongou had mentioned it in her notebook but had forgotten to include it in the script."
"...If that's the case, then it's all over. What Ibara was saying is that no traces of the killer could be found, and you're saying this was due to Hongou's carelessness. Isn't that stretching it a bit too far?"
Yet he was surprisingly stubborn. He lifted his head as though thinking of something and raised his voice and said, "That's it, the grass!"
"...What about the grass?"
With his confidence back, he spoke with a bluster, "When you said the window could not be used, it was because the grass outside showed no traces of being cut or twisted, right?"
Ibara nodded cautiously.
"Then you must have been mistaken. As I said before, Hongou went to Narakubo in May. The grass was probably not yet fully grown then, so Hongou must have intended for the window to be usable when she saw it."
Oh Satoshi could be heard exclaiming in wonder. If there was anyone that Nakajou could get along with, it was probably Satoshi, as he'd probably say something like "That's the first sensible thing you've said all day". Ibara felt like responding, but couldn't find the words to. I laughed within my heart and thought, He's pretty good. To take into consideration the time of Hongou's visit to deduce that she may have intended for the killer to escape via the window, but then have the route end up being unusable during the time of filming.
He may be good, however...
Seeing as we remained silent and seemingly convinced, Nakajou pressed on.
"So, in our next filming, we'll just need to trim the grass and re-do the scene where the body was found. Now why didn't I realize this sooner? We can do this!"
From an outsider's perspective, Nakajou seemed to be soaring... I decided not to rebut him, as it would be a waste of energy.
Seeing that the conversation was over, Chitanda smiled to Nakajou and said, "Thank you for letting us hear your theory. We should be able to give Irisu-san a proper review of it."
Nakajou gave a satisfied nod. He looked so excited as though he was ready to write a script himself right away.
A few minutes later, we were in the Geology Room.
Grr... Ibara made an expression that doesn't need much description.
"Are we fine with that? Is that even going to work?"
It seemed that Nakajou's rebuttal had caught her unawares. It was hard to convince with that technique, or anything to suit that technique. That said, Nakajou's reasoning concerning the grass did make sense. For Ibara, this sealing off of the remaining hole in Nakajou's argument got her very frustrated.
"Well, physically it is possible,"
Satoshi too sounded unsatisfied as he whispered.
As for Chitanda,
She'd been gazing at me intermittently for some time now. As it was bothering me, I called out to her.
"What is it, Chitanda?"
Chitanda looked uncertain at first, but decided to say it.
"Oreki-san, do you think Hongou-san's true intention was what Nakajou-san described?"
"...Before I answer that, what do you think of it yourself?"
Upon returning that question to her, she seemed hesitant to speak. It was quite rare to see someone whose attitude and feelings are so easy to read. While her composure didn't dramatically collapse, her mouth and eyes were doing all the talking for her. And so I said to her, "You don't like it?"
"It's not that I don't like it! But... I find it unconvincing."
Isn't that another way of saying you don't like it?
Nakajou's attitude was, how should I put it, imposing. He was insistent in maintaining his own viewpoint and was unwilling to yield, as well as sealing off any chance for us to rebut it. No matter how passionate he may be, if his argument was unconvincing, then it was unconvincing. If we didn't feel that like we liked it, then we couldn't like it.
While I had no intention of imitating Nakajou, I still crossed my arms and said, "Well, it's not impossible. Though Nakajou's theory probably won't stand. Perhaps this would explain why we felt subconsciously that it was so out of place."
Instead of Chitanda, the first person to react to that was Ibara, as she snarled, "Theory won't stand? Aren't you contradicting yourself!?"
She pressed me for an answer. Was she that desperate to overturn Nakajou's theory?
I made a gesture to Satoshi. Without even asking, he understood what I meant right away and tossed the map over to me. I laid it flat open on the table so that the girls could see.
I then spoke in a regular tone.
"While Nakajou's theory is simple, upon seeing the movie you'll find that it's quite silly. The reason is simple, as physically it's difficult to execute. Ibara, if you had said it was physically impossible, he would not have been able to say anything."
Her sour look confirmed what I said.
On the other hand, Chitanda, who was now overflowing with interest, leaned forward toward me, causing me to withdraw my chair backwards a bit.
"So you mean it's impossible from other places?"
"I won't go so far as to say it's impossible... Do you remember what Ibara asked Nakajou? About whether Hongou ever mentioned employing any filming trick."
Chitanda nodded clearly.
"Yes, I remember. She asked 'Was it ever mentioned whether this filming trick is a physical one or a psychological one?'"
"Exactly. In other words, if this could all be solved physically, then there would be no need of any psychological trick."
Satoshi suddenly laughed upon hearing that.
"Hahaha, what a roundabout way to put it, Houtarou. As expected from the 'Designated Detective'!"
A mean fellow he was, despite him already knowing I had no wish to play such a role. Though it was indeed a roundabout way of saying it. I reflected upon that and said it directly this time, "In other words, if we stand in the killer's shoes, we'll realize there's no way we could use the window."
I pointed to the scene of crime on the map, or to be precise, the window.
"For anyone amongst the cast to enter via that window, they would have to do so from outside the theatre. However...
It's not possible for someone to sneak off in broad daylight after splitting off from the others in the theatre. You only need to see to understand, no matter who it was that headed towards the scene of crime, they would have to enter someone else's field of vision while doing so. Not to mention they would be making footsteps that could be heard. I wouldn't take such a risk."
Satoshi rubbed his chin.
"I see. If I had wanted to kill someone practically, I wouldn't expose myself in the presence of so many people, thus making Nakajou's proposal unworkable. It may work at night, but the scene was during the day. Physically it would be stretching it a bit too far."
"Well, that's the gist of it."
As I replied, Chitanda sighed.
"I understand now. I think the reason why Nakajou-san's theory couldn't work was because he confused the scene we saw in the movie with how he has imagined it, which he based his theory on. I find it strange that he would conclude the killer sneaked in via an alternate exit just because someone else might have been inside the room with Kaitou."
That said, someone was still looking very unsatisfied. It was none other than Ibara.
"It may be true that what Oreki said is right, but we don't know whether Hongou-sempai herself realizes this."
She had a point. If we could just ask Hongou, everything would be solved... But we couldn't do that, or we wouldn't be here trying to use our wits. Still, I couldn't leave that question unanswered.
"We have no way of knowing how much Hongou knows, but we could figure it out indirectly,"
It was at this moment a guest arrived at the Geology Room. It was our "Guide" Eba, who stood just outside the door with no intention of entering.
"So what is your conclusion?"
Satoshi answered with a sarcastic smile, "We came up with something,"
"In other words?"
"We have decided to reject Nakajou-sempai's proposal"
While Eba muttered "I see" without looking too bothered, Chitanda bowed her head deeply.
"Don't be. It wasn't your fault... Then I shall lead you to meet the second person tomorrow."
Tomorrow? We're doing this tomorrow as well? ...What about my summer vacation?
After asking what she wanted to ask and hearing what she wanted to hear, Eba promptly left. I called out to that back of hers, to which she stopped and turned around in puzzlement.
Her response somehow felt cold. I ignored that and asked, "I wonder if it's possible if we could have a look at the script? The actual screenplay used for the filming."
Eba looked at me as though evaluating something and said, "The script is what you have seen in the movie. Do you really need that?"
"Yes. Well... we need to understand how much attention Hongou-sempai has put into her script."
She gave a small nod and said it would be done.
Afterwards, though we continued talking about Nakajou, the topic gradually drifted away from the solving of the case itself. We ended up talking non-stop about our impressions of Nakajou and his eagerness, with the outcome of today's observation taking a backseat.
If you ask me what my impression of him was, I would say Irisu's quote "only those with the necessary skills can do the job required" fits him just right.
Translator's Notes and References
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