Hyouka:Volume 2 Chapter 6
6 - "The Blind Spot of 10,000 People"
The next morning, after making sure I had the video cassette in my shoulder bag, I departed the house.
After making a promise to review the movie yesterday at the Hifumi tea house, Irisu handed over a video cassette she prepared beforehand and said, "We do not have much time left. I shall meet you at a place designated by you tomorrow at 1pm and hear your conclusion about this matter."
After considering my own house or the Cafe Pineapple Sandwich which I so frequent, I decided to meet her to at the Geology Room.
Right now, I was heading towards the Geology Room. It was nearly ten o'clock when I exited the residential streets and moved on to the main street. For the next fifteen minutes of passing through various cars and people, my mind was blank, save for a favourite folksong of mine which constantly played while I move my legs. I'd more or less forgotten about the details of the movie. It was inefficient to think in such a state.
At the end of the main street, a glimpse of Kamiyama High School could be seen. As I arrived there, a voice called behind me, "Hmm, Houtarou?"
Small town this was. I turned to find Satoshi, wearing his standard Kamiyama High School summer uniform and carrying a drawstring bag, getting off his mountain bike with a smile. I waved my hand in lieu of a greeting.
"You're heading to school as well today?"
He nodded and raised his brows.
"How rare for Houtarou to come to school of his own will during vacation. You have some business?"
"Am I not allowed to come to school if I don't have any?"
"Not at all. It's just that it's so out of character for you, something must be up."
I bit my tongue. I never thought about this, but it would seem my energy-saving behaviour was just as easy to read as Chitanda's curiosity-driven behaviour.
I had no reason to hide. No, I was thinking of letting them know, which was why I've chosen to meet at the Geology Room in the first place. So I said, "I'm on official imperial business from Irisu. She commanded me to designate a killer for Kaitou's death."
Whether it was on purpose or not, Satoshi went stiff for three whole seconds upon hearing that. For some reason, he then revealed a very cheerful face as he said with a raised voice, "Wow! Who would have thought? You were the last person in my mind who would accept such an errand."
"Oreki Houtarou's righteousness and compassion know no bounds."
"Nice quip there, Houtarou."
"I'm in a hurry."
Satoshi started walking alongside me as he pushed his mountain bike. As the road wasn't wide, I ended up leaning towards the side of the road.
"That's some change of heart from you. I wonder if it could have something to do with that? Want me to tell you what 'that' is?"
He prodded me, to which I remained silent.
"It's for Chitanda-san's sake, isn't it?"
He said something matter-of-factly. To begin with, it was a conclusion made in light of the results of the past few months. Nearly all the troublesome incidents which the Classics Club got entangled in were started by Chitanda. A pattern developed where she would coerce me to be deeply involved. Though there was one exception.
This was the second exception. I shook my head and said, "No, it isn't."
Though it was indeed Chitanda who brought the case forward, it was not due to her request that I came to school today.
Satoshi raised his brows at my unexpected response.
"It wasn't Chitanda-san? Then was it a whim? Or you're doing it out of charity... nah, can't be. While you didn't say it out, this is also in line with your motto 'If I don't have to do it, I won't. If I have to do it, make it quick.' right?"
Of course, that was my original intention. As a result of Satoshi being completely frank about it, I got even more displeased. I said bluntly, "Must I explain even that to you?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Not really. But I didn't want to pretend I wasn't interested in knowing why. Should I apologize?"
I smiled and let the matter rest.
We walked silently together for a brief while. As there was nothing else to say, Satoshi moved to get on his bike in an attempt to ride on ahead. While I found no need to stop him, I still called out to him.
Though I called him, I didn't have anything in particular to say. Realizing this, I tried to be frank about the predicament I was in.
"...Do you think, do you think there's some things that only you could do?"
It was an ambiguous question. He tilted his head and replied cautiously, "I'm not sure why you're asking, but... amongst every person that ever lived in this world past, present and future, I do think that there's one thing that only I could do."
Could he, even in such conditions?
"And that is?"
"Isn't it obvious? It's the 'passing on the genes of Fukube Satoshi'," he said and smiled. He didn't sound like he was joking. It was his way of poking fun at his own Average Joe inadequacies.
"My bad. Allow me to rephrase,"
I thought for a little while.
"Within Kamiyama High School, is there a talent in which you consider yourself to be second-to-none?"
He replied at once, "Nope."
I was at a loss for words at how fast and precise his answer was.
Satoshi said with a carefree tone, "I told you before, Fukube Satoshi possesses no talents whatsoever. Take my passion to become a Holmesian, for example: there's no way I can become one. I do not have what it takes to enter an endless maze of knowledge just to pursue it. If Mayaka were to take up an interest in Sherlock Holmes, I can guarantee you that she would overtake my knowledge in three months' time. I'm the sort that only takes a peek at the entrances and takes a pamphlet or two to read. I wouldn't call myself second-to-none on anything."
I never thought I would hear Satoshi say such things. Yet Satoshi said it calmly as though he were talking about the weather. As I remained speechless, he smiled mischievously.
"Now I get it, the reason why Houtarou wants to try and solve the movie mystery."
"Irisu-sempai has recognized your abilities as a 'detective', hasn't she? She must have said you were the only one who could solve this, and you ended up agreeing, right?"
Damn, was he a telepath or what? So I nodded.
"But this sure is some risky business, to lend your skills based on the words of 'the Empress' concerning your knowledge."
"But you aren't suspicious of it yourself."
"Maybe... Anyway, I'll be going ahead and setting up the video player."
Satoshi got on his mountain bike and proceeded to ride off. As he was about to step on his pedal, I noticed I had something I wanted to say. It would feel bad if I ended up not saying anything.
"I don't know what you'll think of it, but I think you're worth more than that. I think there'll come a day when you'll be one of the best Holmesians in Japan."
Satoshi blinked his eyes, but soon returned to his default smiling expression.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned to say to me, "Rather than a Holmesian, I'm just very fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, that's all. Besides..."
"...Besides, I now feel it was worth it for me to give that answer to you just now."
The movie was coming near to its climax.
The six members each took one key and went on separate ways. We awaited the tragedy that was to come, where Kaitou's mutilated body was to be discovered.
Using the dust-filled television in the Geology Room, I watched the still-nameless movie. The screen showed Kaitou's body being discovered.
Sitting some distance from me, Ibara said in admiration, "They've done quite a great job with that arm of Kaitou-sempai's. They made good use of the dim lighting to convince the audience that it's a real arm."
When she found out I had come to school for no particular reason, her reaction was one of surprise. When she heard my declaration to challenge the mystery left behind by Hongou, her eyes widened. Speaking of which, she came because she couldn't stand the thought of being left hanging by Irisu-sempai and decided to try to seek out the truth once and for all. She too could be quite a formidable person to deal with.
Satoshi added with a smile, "Now if only their acting was a bit better. In the end, it was the props division that performed the best."
And so I ended up watching the video, for the second time. While I'd heard that a crime scene must be visited at least a hundred times, I wasn't going to watch this thing that many times. Neither would Satoshi or Ibara, who merely came along just to watch the movie. And thank goodness for that.
As Katsuta ran towards the Left Stage, only to discover that the path was completely blocked, he was astounded and said,
The scene faded to black.
And the video ended.
Never tiring of menial tasks, Ibara stood up right away to rewind the video as well as turn off the TV.
To be honest, I had thought Chitanda would have come as well before I finished watching the video, as she does have amazing powers of observation and good memory. Though indeed she was unable to use her observation and memory to good analytical use, I was thinking of borrowing those talents of hers today.
However, she never came, so I asked Ibara, "Ibara, what's happened to Chitanda?"
Upon being asked, she gave a difficult expression. It was a smile mixed with some regret.
"Chi-chan's still sleeping."
"How come? She got a summer cold again?"
She paused for a bit,
"Now that's... rare..."
I nodded in agreement with Satoshi's excellent remark.
Trying to get back on topic, Satoshi shifted in his seat.
"Watching this again, I still don't see anything complicated about it. And it more or less shoots down any remaining bits of those three people's theories."
I agreed totally. After three days of revision, I realized that the mystery left behind by Hongou was not easy to solve, yet upon watching this video, I had only a light impression of it.
"It's hard to find something easy in something that's hard." I muttered alone.
Though having heard me, Ibara looked at me as though seeing a fool, puffed her chest out and said, "You're wrong, the mystery was filmed in too easy a manner."
"Really? How so?"
"Here's what I think: as a movie, it's filmed in quite a boring way that makes it hard to get the audience excited, which makes the mystery uninteresting. I thought if they put some effort into the acting and camerawork, they might have made this into a more interesting sealed room mystery."
Was that so? I didn't think one's impression of a literary work would change depending on its technical issues. Just as I was disagreeing, Satoshi suddenly smiled as though he'd found a soul mate.
"A wise observation. It's true that when I first watched this and discovered this was a sealed room mystery, it didn't feel like one at all. If only they could put more effort into their acting... But was the camerawork really that bad?"
"It was bad."
"How would you have filmed it then?"
"Me? Let's see... Take the first scene showing the Narakubo area, for example. If the cameraman had stood further away, then he'd be able to film the actors together with the ruins for better effect. Besides, hmm, though I didn't think of this at first, in the part where the rest of the members gathered after splitting up, Sugimura-sempai's face could be seen from the equipment room, right? I think it'd be easier for the audience to understand if that scene was shot from Sugimura-sempai's point-of-view looking down towards the lobby. Oh yes, and if that was done, we would be able to see Sugimura-sempai watch where the two members on the second floor went as well, and then switch the point-of-view to either one of those two. Besides..."
She went on and on. Ibara really does like watching detective movies, so it was just as appropriate that Satoshi motioned to stop her with a smile. If he hadn't done that, we probably wouldn't have heard the end of it from her.
I sighed and said, "We won't get anywhere if all we do is moan about how shoddily the movie was made,"
"True. In the end, the problem lies with the methods. How about we have a look at those? Maybe not all possibilities have been shot down. Though we may have a time limit, this should be fun."
As Satoshi finished, an intruder had arrived.
The door to the Geology Room was opened loudly by someone I didn't know. The mark on his collar indicated he was a first-year.
Moving his eyes away from me, he found the person he was looking for and shouted, "There you are, Fukube!"
Upon seeing him, a bitter expression appeared on Satoshi's face. Though I could hear him click his tongue, he quickly reverted to his smiling face.
"Why, if it isn't Yamauchi-kun? You here to join the Classics Club?"
The guy called Yamauchi disregarded Satoshi's wise-talk and moved towards him, grabbing him by the collar.
"H-hey! There's no need to be so violent!"
"Oh, don't give me this! I'm doing this for your sake! Omichi's serious! What're you gonna do if you end up repeating a year?"
The name Omichi rang a bell in my mind. He was the strict maths teacher. Now I see. I crossed my arms and smiled at Satoshi.
"Satoshi, you really should take your revision classes, you know? Weren't you saying you'd be busy studying for your exams?"
Yamauchi, whom I presumed to be one of Satoshi's friends, instantly grabbed him from his chair.
Even so, Satoshi didn't lose his composure as he pleaded, "That's the spirit, Houtarou! Keep it up and you'll be solving Hongou-sempai's mystery in no time!"
Seeing as he was unaware of the situation he was in, Yamauchi yelled, "The revision class is about to start, idiot! Hurry up and move along!"
"Noooooo~~!!! What about the sealed room? The sealed rooooom~~!!!"
Satoshi disappeared, leaving a trail of screams behind.
Sigh. Now how should I comment on this? If I have to put it in one sentence: Was he an idiot? ...Just as I was thinking that, he ran back here. Taking his notebook out from his drawstring bag, he shoved it towards me.
"Regrettably, things are out of my control. As it's come to this, I leave the rest in your hands... See ya!"
He ran off again. Well, good luck. Here's wishing Satoshi gets promoted to second year.
As soon as the storm-like event had passed, Ibara too stood up.
"Well, I should be going as well."
"What's with those eyes? Irisu-sempai didn't ask me to help you, after all... I'm on librarian duty at eleven. If I had known what you were doing today, I would have changed my shift in advance, so it's all your fault for deciding on such short notice," she said harshly as she picked up her bag and proceeded to leave the Geology Room.
Standing by the door, she turned and said in her usual apologetic way, "But... I'm sorry, Oreki."
I waved my hand to send her off.
I was now left alone in the classroom. I sighed, stretched my back, scratched my head, crossed my arms, and closed my eyes and I began thinking.
If I slowly recalled the movie I just re-watched, and the facts I deduced these past three days... I attempted to link them together. If it were me, I would...
...And finally I came to a conclusion.
As it was a hard to believe conclusion, I reviewed it myself many times over. Yet I could find no flaws with it. So it had to be this one.
I muttered, "This, is Hongou's true intention."
I glanced at my wristwatch. The time had gone way past twelve and was fast approaching one without me noticing it. I quickly took out a rice ball from my bag to fill my empty stomach.
After finishing that, I gulped down a can of green tea, which was simply nowhere near the glass of iced tea I had yesterday, when someone knocked at the door.
The one who entered was none other than "the Empress", Irisu Fuyumi, who was in her school uniform today. Whether she was in her casual wear or uniform, she never left any openings. I stood up out of courtesy and motioned her to sit in the seat before me. Upon her taking her seat, I too sat down.
Irisu skipped the formalities and went straight for the main topic.
"First, I would like to hear whether you have come to a conclusion or not."
I gulped a bit, and nodded in lieu of answering.
Irisu raised her brow just a little bit.
"...I see," she said while not particularly revealing much emotion, as expected of her.
"Then, let's hear it."
My lips were still wet from the can of green tea that now lies standing on the table.
I had already decided where to start, so I went straight for the answer at the end.
"The key to this mystery is needless to say a sealed room, the room where Kaitou... sorry, Kaitou-sempai died. No one is able to enter or leave that room."
Maybe it was my imagination, for I just saw Irisu loosen her mouth. Realizing it herself, she said as though trying to smooth things out, "Oh, you may speak as you normally would and dispense with the honourifics."
A most grateful permission. It was quite bothersome to have to consciously speak in a formal manner and add honourifics to everything.
I nodded and went straight for the core of the topic.
"...As I have discussed the composition of this sealed room just yesterday, I may be repeating some of what I've said, so please bear with me.
As the sealed room is in the Right Stage, and considering that the window was not filmed being opened from the outside without damaging it, the only way the killer could enter was via the door. But how? The movie did not reveal whether there was any physical trick used to open that door. Then we should surmise that the killer simply used the master key obtained from the theatre office. I think Satoshi calls this way of thinking Occam's razor.
"However, the killer was not able to enter the right corridor, which was the only way to get to the Right Stage. That is because Sugimura was constantly watching from above. If one was to obtain the master key and enter via the right corridor, then it could not have been one of the six people there.
"In that case, what does it all mean?"
I stopped there. I wouldn't say the following wasn't interesting, as I didn't think that myself. It's just a waste to be so plain about it, that's all.
"If the killer was not amongst the six, then there can only be one explanation... There was a seventh person present."
That was my conclusion.
Irisu looked at me with stern eyes, as though I'd just uttered some idle gossip.
"A seventh person? Like what Sawakiguchi suggested?"
"Under certain conditions, that is. It did sound quite ridiculous when I first thought about it, as it was Sawakiguchi that said Hongou was looking for a seventh actor. When I thought about that, I was certain that there was a seventh person present."
Without saying a word, Irisu urged me to go on. Even if she had any objections, she was probably waiting for me to finish first. That makes things easier for me.
"Yet you told me Hongou intends to give the audience a fair chance at solving the mystery. So I won't say that this was the work of some slasher that suddenly appears. By the way, I only just noticed this when re-watching the video, but a lot of strange things were observed. Fortunately, Satoshi had them all written down in this notebook; let me read it out to you.
"...Kounosu sees map, A light was turned on. Probably a hand torch...
"They went to the remaining room to look for Kaitou.
"...The corridor was dark and poorly illuminated. The torch was turned on...
"Did you notice something?"
Irisu replied instantly, "The torch?"
I licked my lips, as this was most important.
"As a result, it was never revealed who was using the torch. One should be able to figure out who it was in scenes right after the torch was turned on; for example, when the scene of the crime was discovered. Though there may have been time for the person to hide the torch, it would be too unreasonable for that to happen."
Irisu gave a suspicious look. As I knew she was not satisfied after thinking it through, I voiced out her reservations.
"I understand that you're thinking that's just the illumination. But first, let's leave that aside for now,"
I could not tell whether she was convinced or not. I continued anyway.
"One more thing, no offense to those who love making movies, but this movie was pretty boring, whether it was the acting or the camerawork. Yet here was a hint. I don't watch a lot of movies, but even I could tell it was a boring movie. Especially the camerawork; you may not realize it, but it's as though not much effort was being put into it. But what if there was actually a reason for that?
"What did I mean when I said no effort was put into the camerawork? To put it in the simplest terms, didn't you find the position of the cameraman awkward for most of the scenes? For the majority of the movie, the cameraman was basically following the six members... Now do you see what I'm getting at?"
Though her demeanor was still calm, I noticed Irisu's eyes slowly widening. As expected for "the Empress" to realize so quickly. Yet even Irisu Fuyumi would not be able to foresee this deduction. The seventh person that I suggested was...
"...Are you saying that the seventh person is actually the cameraman?"
I nodded. I realized I was getting cheeky about it.
"There were seven people in total. It was those seven that decided on and went to Narakubo. The screen only showed six people, while the seventh was the one holding the camera. The other six only spoke appropriately upon being told to look into the camera to give their thoughts, meaning they were conscious of the presence of a cameraman. Rather than call him the 'cameraman', we should call him 'the seventh person'.
"This seventh person was also the one turning the torch on and off. No matter how you see it, the way the torch was turned on and off just looked too deliberate. But if you think from the angle of someone carrying the torch, then it wasn't unnatural at all. The shoddy camerawork was due to him following everyone else around; it would make more sense if you consider the cameraman as a character."
As I went on, I realized Irisu was getting more and more interested.
"And then, this is the most important part, after everyone had split up, the camera was left in the lobby without anyone holding it. The scene then faded to black; in other words, the camera was momentarily turned off, before being turned on again by one of the members that returned to the lobby.
"Thus it was easy to guess how the crime was committed. The seventh person waited till everyone was scattered across the theatre, put down his camera, and took the master key from the theatre office. After killing Kaitou, he locked the door behind him and returned to the lobby to wait for everyone else to return.
"That sums up my deduction. If Hongou hasn't found a seventh actor yet, I suggest you hurry up and do so."
I finished everything in one go and proceeded to sip my can of green tea.
That was my deduction.
Irisu quietly evaluated my case before inquiring, "Two questions.
"First, if what you said is true, wouldn't it be too unnatural for nobody to interact and speak with him?"
I had already prepared an answer for that.
"Perhaps Hongou had intended for that. In other words, as the seventh person was totally ignored by the other six, there was no room for him to speak."
"Second, if that's true, then the characters themselves would have deduced it themselves, for the most suspicious person would be the one who left the lobby last and returned first. Furthermore, this seventh person did not circumvent the 'second sealed room' which you mentioned, as his movement should also be noticed by the other people. In that case, there would be no mystery to speak of."
I purposely smiled.
"Well, to quote from Sawakiguchi... Does it really matter whether it's a mystery?"
"The main purpose of this movie was to satisfy the movie-makers themselves rather than the audience. It is not something for the characters to worry about. As Nakajou had remarked before, it's fine as long as the audience considers it a mystery; it didn't matter whether the characters themselves thought otherwise... Think about it, wasn't this why no one was designated as the detective for this movie? Because the characters had already guessed who the killer was without even deducing."
A minute's silence ensued. Irisu remained quiet and looked down without glancing at me. Was she troubled by such a bold suggestion?
Yet I was hardly panicking, as this deduction was fine as it is. No matter how long Irisu evaluated it, the result was inevitable.
And finally, Irisu whispered, "Congratulations,"
She raised her head, and unlike her usual meagre expression, gave a very cheerful smile as she said, "Congratulations, Oreki Houtarou. You have solved Hongou's mystery. It was a surprising and bold deduction, but all the facts line up, so it has to be the truth. Thank you as well, as we are now able to complete the movie."
She stretched out her right hand.
And shook her hand.
It was a firm handshake. Irisu then patted my shoulder with her left hand.
"I was indeed right with my judgment. You have the skills, which no one else possessed that could never be replaced."
Irisu went on with her cheerful expression, "How about this? To commemorate your hard work, I'll let you set the title for the movie,"
A title, huh? I didn't think about that.
Yet, it was not bad to leave a name to commemorate the rare occasion of me believing in my abilities. I thought for a while and said what came to my mind.
"Alright, considering the contents... How about 'The Blind Spot of 10,000 People'?"
Irisu nodded many times.
"A fine title. It's decided then."
With the title of the unnamed movie decided, this bothersome business that has taken up four whole days of my summer vacation has finally been resolved. While I gained nothing material in return, I did not feel the least bit worse off.
The fact that I played the role of the "detective" gave me a sense of fulfillment.
Translator's Notes and References
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