Hyouka:Volume 2 Chapter 7
7 - Do Not End the Show
For the next three days, I didn't do much besides recollecting what I've done.
As entrusting three fools was inappropriate since they could not produce any results, in the end, it was an outsider like me that accomplished what they couldn't. Though it was true that as an observer, I was able to glean facts from each of their statements, I was the one that had solved it; Irisu's words had prompted me to believe that. This made me realize I had abilities which I could speak of. As a result, I was now immersed in a sense of satisfaction as though intoxicated by too many whiskey bonbons.
To put it in an unassuming way, it was a refreshing feeling.
Ever having Hongou's mystery solved on Friday, the script was prepared by Saturday night (according to some first years who'd seen him, the substitute screenwriter who had to write the rest of the script on such short notice was worked till he looked half dead, though I had no way of finding out). And so Class 2-F's filming was finalized by Sunday evening. It was an epic turnaround from a seemingly desperate situation. I received a phone call on Sunday night from Irisu giving me her gratitude, to which I offered her my heartfelt congratulations.
And so came Monday, three days after the solving of the mystery, when the Kamiyama High School summer vacation came to an end.
As the Classics Club did not meet up during that weekend, until today I was not able to inform Chitanda of what had happened so far. After lessons had ended, as I was running a bit late due to some other errands, I rushed towards the club room. I wasn't interested in showing off my achievements, but I just thought it would be better to let her know as I climbed up the steps of the Special Block. I don't deny my footsteps felt rather light as I walked.
Upon arriving at the doorstep of the Geology Room, I sensed a strange atmosphere. The classroom looked dark, as though the curtains had been drawn. I silently opened the door and noticed the TV was taken out and was playing the movie "The Blind Spot of 10,000 People". Chitanda, Ibara and Satoshi were all watching the TV with their backs toward me.
Though by the time I entered, the movie had already gone into the credits, the names of the cast and crew in a gothic font flowed upwards on a dark background. As filming was only done yesterday along with the editing, this credit roll was probably prepared in advance.
Ibara stood up to stop the video and noticed me.
Chitanda and Satoshi both turned around. Satoshi pointed to the TV.
"Hey, Houtarou. We saw it."
"Yup. Eba-sempai came just now to give this to us. So this ending was solved by Houtarou, huh?"
As Satoshi was always showing such a smiling face, I had no way of finding out what he really thought of the movie.
Still, I asked, "So how was it?"
"Not bad. Or rather, it was interesting. To think it was the cameraman of all people."
Pushing the rewind button on the tape player, Ibara said in a criticizing tone, "You'd already thought of that back then, hadn't you? You really hide too many things in your mind."
"I hadn't thought of it when I was with you guys. I'm not that mischievous as to toy around with people until they panic," I said as I placed my shoulder bag on the table and stretched my waist.
Truth be told, this felt like an anticlimax, as these guys were not as surprised as I thought they would be. As I was feeling quite satisfied with how surprising the conclusion was, I was kind of expecting them to look astonished with it. I should have expected nothing less from these fools; it was perhaps good that Satoshi and Ibara were hardly naïve.
Then, what about the naïve Chitanda?
Our eyes met. Chitanda then turned her head to face me.
"I was surprised."
An honest opinion.
She then turned her head back and looked into the distance as she said cautiously, "Besides, I..."
She then noticed something and smiled.
"Umm, maybe later."
A peculiar reaction. Now how should I put this? I couldn't tell whether she was appraising or criticizing.
Clapping his hands, Satoshi said, "Anyway, you did well, Houtarou. 'The Empress' is satisfied, the movie is completed. The audience will also be glad about such a surprising development. The day is fast approaching when Kami High's name spreads far and wide due to the detective Oreki Houtarou. We should raise a toast for this occasion."
And he promptly took out four bottles of Yakult from his drawstring bag. He's got all sorts of ridiculous items in that bag. Ibara stood up to put a leash on Satoshi's celebratory mood with a bitter voice.
"Now's not the time to be concerned about other classes' problems, Fuku-chan. Ever since that movie preview, we've not made any progress with 'Hyouka'. I'm gonna to check on your page progress starting today, since you did ask me to help you with your manuscript progress, after all."
Satoshi's smile froze. He placed two bottles of Yakult before Ibara. As if that was going to dissuade her. As expected, Ibara proceeded to get things started by opening the curtains. And so Class 2-F's movie was finally put aside as the Classics Club resumed its activity of compiling its anthology.
As sunset approached, the umpteenth meeting regarding the anthology "Hyouka" came to an end. As I gathered the written notes which were scattered around, Satoshi and Chitanda left the Geology Room. Leaving the rare sight of just me and Ibara behind.
Moving the TV back to where it was, Ibara turned to say something she had just thought of.
"Oh yeah, Oreki. Can I ask you something?"
"If it's the manuscript, don't we not need those until next week?"
Ibara shook her head.
"I'm talking about the movie. What was the title again? Something about 10,000 people."
As it was quite embarrassing for me to utter a title which I myself had thought of, I urged Ibara to continue.
"What about it?"
"You came up with the solution, right?"
What was she trying to say? She seemed to be cautious with her words.
"All of it?" she asked.
As I'd not seen the full version, I gave an ambiguous answer with some vigour.
Upon answering, she gave me a sharp look. She then spoke in a strong tone that was different from before.
"In that case, what did you think about Haba-sempai's theory, then? Regardless of whether the trick he mentioned was interesting or not, it was totally not shown in the movie."
She didn't seem convinced. So I asked her, "What about Haba's theory?"
"Aren't you ignoring the intent?"
She murmured and placed her hands on her waist.
"Never once did the movie show any use for a rope."
Rope... The item that Hongou requested Haba to prepare. She even emphasized its importance. Come to think of it, it was mentioned before.
As I was at a loss at how to respond, Ibara went on.
"Having the cameraman as the seventh person is interesting, as you could feel the intensity of all the characters looking straight into the camera. But, that would leave no room for the rope to make its appearance."
No, that's not it. I countered, with my voice raised a bit.
"The use of a rope is probably confined to specific tricks. Maybe the cameraman would use it to hang himself in the end, wouldn't he?"
Ibara looked at me with exasperated eyes.
"What're you talking about, Oreki? If that's the case, why would Hongou emphasize its use? If they were to shoot such a scene using something as robust as a rope, then they wouldn't need to worry about its safety. Since Hongou-sempai specifically asked for a rope strong enough to support a person... I think something's missing here."
The last sentence probably contained some of Ibara's concerns, but I hadn't noticed it. When she said I had missed something, I didn't think of it that way. It was probably just something trivial...
But why had I forgotten such details?
"Well, anyway, I thought your deduction was interesting. But seeing as how strict you were in dismissing the theories of those three people, I was thinking maybe you had thought of something which they had all missed," Ibara said as she covered the TV with a plastic cover and proceeded to pack up her bag. As she said she'd be returning the key, I decided to leave the room ahead of her.
With Ibara's words still ringing in my head, I descended down the steps of the Special Block. My deduction should have taken into consideration all of the facts. While some of the details like the acting and dialogue may be off a bit, overall, it should reflect Hongou's true intention. Yet I'd somehow forgotten something. Or rather, because it did not match my deduction, I had unconsciously ignored it. It can't be, I was not the sort to twist the facts just to get to a right answer... Or at least that's what I wanted to think.
Looking at my feet alone, I realized I was now on the third floor. Just as I thought I was going to walk down to the second floor while still immersed in my thoughts, a voice called out to me.
I turned to find nobody. It sounded like Satoshi... No, I wasn't imagining things, I clearly heard him. I waited for a bit, and indeed my name was called out once again.
"Over here, Houtarou,"
A hand emerged from the men's room and beckoned me to come over. If this were night time, it would make a fitting horror scene. I smiled bitterly and walked over there, where Satoshi was waiting.
"What is it, Satoshi? I'm not interested in taking a pee with you."
Very quickly, the smile disappeared from his face as he said quite seriously, "I do not have such interests. This place just happens to be convenient."
"Convenient for what? This place stinks."
"I was just thinking of cleaning up this place... Anyway, it's because no girls can come in here."
Ah, I see. Then it must be that.
"So, what is it you don't want the girls to know? You have some porn collection you want to show me?"
Though I was joking, Satoshi didn't smile.
"You sure know how to put things. If that's what you want, I could prepare something that could get us involved with the police. Anyway, just hear me out."
"In other words, it's something Ibara and Chitanda can't know?"
"Something like that. They would just wonder what we were talking about if we discussed it openly."
Satoshi then lowered his voice.
"Houtarou, that movie, did you really figure out Hongou-sempai's intention?"
Even he was telling me this. Though he meant well, I realized I was making a bitter expression.
Hearing that, Satoshi turned his eyes away from mine.
"I see... Is that really her intention?"
Was he trying to make me feel uneasy? Not sure of what to say, Satoshi didn't continue while avoiding my gaze. So I prodded him.
"Is my guess wrong?"
"Well, sort of."
He nodded ambiguously. He then said with all his heart, "Houtarou, this is bad. You've got Hongou-sempai's intention wrong. While I could not figure out how it's wrong, I can tell you it's not that."
...Quite a blunt opinion. Rather than being shocked or unhappy, I was more dumbfounded. If Satoshi wasn't joking then he must be serious, and right now he was dead serious.
Even then I regained my composure and replied, "What basis do you have for saying that?"
"While I'm not too sure myself, can I say something flimsy?"
"If there's some fatal contradiction in my deduction, you think I wouldn't have noticed it?"
Satoshi shook his head clearly.
"There's no contradiction at all. But that's not what I'm looking at. I really meant it when I said your deduction was well-crafted. But that's not what Hongou-sempai had intended."
"In other words?"
He cleared his throat.
"Houtarou, think about Hongou-sempai's understanding of detective fiction. Starting from a blank slate, what has she been reading in order to prep herself for the script?"
Puzzled at what that had to do with all this, I answered, "Sherlock Holmes."
"Exactly. Now listen, Hongou-sempai's experience with detective fiction is only limited to Sherlock Holmes. Though she said she'd stick to the Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction, she would not have read Ronald Knox's works yet. Besides, the trick that you proposed to Irisu-sempai is a type of literary trick. You hear? A literary trick."
Well, I follow you loud and clear.
"It's a trick made to fool the audience, right? By hiding the seventh person from the view of the camera, it may be considered a literary trick as well."
"Right. Now, I'm going to join the dots here,"
As though speaking very solemnly, Satoshi took a deep breath and said in one go, "Such a literary trick did not exist in Conan Doyle's time."
"With a few exceptions, such a trick of coming out from behind the stages did not appear until at least Agatha Christie's time, in other words, way into the 20th Century. I may not know Hongou-sempai well, but I'm quite certain she's not read any of Christie's work!"
At first, I had no idea what Satoshi was trying to say. Upon digesting the meaning of what he'd just said, I began to waver a bit.
Hongou's understanding of detective fiction was still confined to the 19th Century, the gas-lamp filled streets of London where Sherlock Holmes resided. It was probably so. And Satoshi said such a literary trick did not exist in such times.
For a short while, I stood there like an idiot ruminating on what I'd just heard. I could not reject what Satoshi had observed. Upon receiving a strike from an angle which I did not expect, my mind seemed as though it had stopped working.
Satoshi looked at me in such a state and said sympathetically, "Personally, I would give that movie an A grade. I particularly liked the part where the cameraman emerged into the light. But if you were to say that was Hongou-sempai's intention, then my objection is not completely without merit."
I somehow spoke.
"We have no idea how much Hongou-sempai read. So we can't say that she did not come across such literary tricks outside of Sherlock Holmes, right?"
It was a stubborn response. Satoshi patted me on my shoulder and said briefly, "...Well, if that's what you think, then it's fine with me as well."
After Ibara's and Satoshi's combo attack, the damage I suffered was quite substantial. I didn't think I was that fragile. But it's not like I was well prepared; normally I would have taken it more easily, but now I was not able to find anything to counter their objections. So it was not unreasonable for me to start doubting whether my deduction was actually wrong. Though of course I wished for it to be right.
Which was why, as I came down the last flight of stairs and saw Chitanda loitering there, my heart skipped a beat. She was clearly waiting for me, yet she lowered her eyes upon seeing me.
"Umm, Oreki-san... I have something to tell you."
Et tu, Chitanda?
As she looked rather apologetic about it, taking into consideration what had just transpired, I had an idea what she was trying to say and sighed in half resignation.
"Something you couldn't say in front of Satoshi and Ibara?"
Chitanda widened her large eyes and looked surprised at me. She then nodded gently.
She led us quietly towards the school gate. Just as I wondered why we couldn't do this in a café, she told me the usual place we went would be too far, while the ones nearby would be frequented by Kami High students. But wouldn't we be surrounded by them as well while we're walking and talking? It's still broad daylight now. I decided to start the conversation.
"You wanted to talk to me about the movie?"
"Something that troubles you?"
"...It would seem so."
Her reply was soft.
Was this how it felt to await a verdict?
Being impatient, I said, "There's no need to hold back. Satoshi and Ibara too thought that that wasn't Hongou's true intention. I... I'm also beginning to think so as well."
Chitanda lifted up her downcast and serious look.
I continued without looking at her, "So what about you?"
"...I, too do not think it is correct."
"Can you tell me why?"
Silence, then Chitanda nodded.
What should I do when she answers? I didn't know as well. The filming's already finished, and any revision would have to wait till after the festivals. When thinking logically, it was a pointless and inefficient action... It seemed some speck of self-respect still remained within me.
"Won't you tell me?"
The traffic light before us turned red, stopping the flow of people, and many Kami High students waited along the traffic crossing as a result. Chitanda was probably hesitant to speak in such a situation as she remained silent. As she turned to look at me, I could see the sorrow within those gentle eyes of hers. It was now that I could notice Chitanda's elegance hidden within her large eyes.
As the signal changed, the wave of people began to move, and Chitanda began to speak slowly.
"Oreki-san, do you understand what it was that bothered me?"
Why'd she have to go in circles? I decided to answer curtly.
"What the ending for Class 2-F's movie was? We already did that."
Yet surprisingly, Chitanda shook her head.
The long hair behind her back flowed to and fro as she did.
"No. For me, it didn't really matter how the movie ended. So I thought Oreki-san's proposal was wonderful."
"I was feeling curious as to what Hongou-san was intending to do."
Saying that, Chitanda glanced at me. I was probably looking like an idiot right now. If she was concerned about Hongou, then it's the same thing as being concerned about the movie's ending.
Sensing my thoughts, Chitanda emphasized, "No matter how we think about it, this whole matter seemed strange. Was it really true that Hongou collapsed due to mental stress? ...It might be, but then, why didn't she entrust it to someone else? Like Eba-san, for example."
She tilted her head. Somehow her meaning was not properly conveyed.
"Aren't you mixing up the subject and object here?"
"Oh... I'm sorry. I mean, why didn't Irisu-san ask one of Hongou-san's close friends, like Eba-san, for example, about whether she had any literary tricks prepared for the story?"
That's a presumptuous question. Since Hongou would need some time to be alone in order to rest, it would be better not to stress her further with stuff concerning the script.
Yet Chitanda went on before I could say anything.
"Hongou-san should have possessed the entire script. Even if she had collapsed, I do not think that she would not at least convey the essence of her ending, in other words, the literary trick, to Irisu-san. But she never did.
"At first, I would have thought that Hongou-san had pushed herself to work so hard till she fell ill. Yet from her classmates, it seemed she was compelled by them to write the script rather than doing it of her own will. It felt as though she was too timid when it would have been better to just refuse them.
"In the end, was it because she lacked the confidence? Was it because she felt so embarrassed at not being able to finish the job that she couldn't bring herself to meet everyone? But surely someone would have visited her and learned the truth?
"...But that is not right. I may not be familiar with mystery stories, but I feel that the people involved in the project weren't used to them themselves. Besides, they all seem like nice people... I do not believe they would have criticized her harshly had she not been able to produce a script."
I don't know about them being "nice people", though their opinions were all over the place.
As though speaking to herself, Chitanda went on further.
"Then, what was it that drove Hongou-san to the wall? We just can't tell no matter how we look at it. I've been curious all this time with this peculiarity."
She slowed down her pace and looked straight at me.
"If Oreki-san's deduction was the truth, then Hongou-san should have already told Irisu-san about it. The same would be true if one of the others' deductions was the right one.
"I think I want to understand Hongou-san's feelings about having to give up on something halfway through, about being frustrated at not being able to continue what she started... But that movie we saw did not answer those questions. So I think that was what has been bothering me."
I murmured. All this time that I, Nakajou, Haba and Sawakiguchi were trying to figure out the truth of the case, Chitanda was trying to figure out Hongou.
Indeed, that's it. Take Eba, who called Hongou a good friend, for example. If they had wanted to know whether any literary trick was used, all they needed to do was ask Hongou. But what if Hongou were to get seriously stressed out by being asked? ...Yet the way Eba described Hongou being her good friend was too carefree. When Chitanda asked her what kind of person Hongou was, she seemed rather annoyed and wondered what we could ever learn from her telling us this. But this was her good friend that was seriously ill, was that the way to answer a question concerning her?
Perhaps I was treating this script as a mere literary exercise. From the setting, the characters, the murder, the literary trick, the detective, the killer...
All of these should have reflected the mind of Hongou, someone whom I've not even met. Yet I never realized it at all.
...Some "detective" role I've been given!
Thinking that, I sighed deeply.
Wondering if she was mistaken, Chitanda said frantically, "Oh, but, this wasn't meant as a criticism of you, Oreki-san. I was surprised by that resolution scene as well. While Hongou-san would probably not have thought up such a scene, I thought it was a wonderful improvement."
I smiled bitterly.
As this means I've practically been hired as a substitute screenwriter more or less.
That night, I was thinking in my room. Lying on my bed, I stared at the white ceiling.
Somehow it seemed I was mistaken. Though the shock of learning that has since faded.
Compared to Nakajou, Haba and Sawakiguchi, my failure wasn't too bad. I broke a smile. Some special person I am, huh? Irisu sure knows how to flatter. I felt stupid at believing my own hype. In the end, I was only chosen because my story was better than the other three.
I realized where my thoughts were going... Have I really failed?
Of course, it became clear that my proposal did not match Hongou's true intention. But how did Irisu, or even Class 2-F, view this? From their point of view, it would have been the successful completion of a project, a movie, that was in danger of being abandoned. From that perspective, I was successful. The movie "The Blind Spot of 10,000 People" was a movie that even the annoying Ibara had to acknowledge.
To put it further, it could be argued that my deduction would still be a success, regardless of how it was received. In other words, I do have the skills, which no one else possesses, to make this a success.
Even then, would those words have any meaning? The words that Irisu spoke at the tea house Hifumi: "Everyone ought to recognize their own talents." The words which she spoke as though they were the truth of this world and had an effect on me, did they have any meaning at all?
After she told me that, I lost all reckoning of things besides myself. That feeling turned me upside down, and gave me an inflated image of myself. I imagined the scenario where Nakajou's proposal was adopted, where Haba's proposal was adopted, where Sawakiguchi's proposal was adopted. And I vainly thought how good it felt that mine was adopted.
Yet all these illusions had now disappeared.
At the moment when I wondered what I would gain from this, I had completely forgotten about that person. The next thing that appeared in my mind was the fact that I was not doing it to please Chitanda. I was merely thinking this naturally... In that case, I should give this case a closer look, since I had nothing to lose after all.
Yet, where did I go wrong? Did Irisu know that I'd gotten it wrong?
And then there's the matter which Chitanda was curious about. Why didn't Hongou tell them the true plot? Or could it be that she couldn't? Furthermore, why didn't Irisu inquire about it from Eba?
Lying before me was the data, the stack of papers in my bag which I had forgotten.
...Yet, my thoughts just wouldn't connect. I had no idea whether the flash of inspiration was due to luck or talent, so I decided not to dwell on it any further. I turned around on my bed, shifting my field of vision from the ceiling to the walls of my room.
And my eyes fell upon a strange sight.
I got off my bed and walked towards the bookshelf. While this room was now my room, my sis left some of her stuff in here from back when it was her room. In the corner of that bookshelf was one of her books. As it was full of these strange books, I hadn't taken much notice of it before.
The title of the book was "The Mystery of Tarots". I had no idea my sis was a Kabbalist.
Under the moonlit and streetlamp filled night, I opened the book in amusement. The page I was turning to was of course the chapter covering "The Empress", of which the contents filled up ten pages. I read the first line of it:
III. The Empress
Motherly. Fertility. Sensuality.
Hmm, reading these alone, Irisu sure doesn't match any of these attributes. No matter how I see it, "the Hermit" would have been a better match for her. To begin with, Irisu's "Empress" nickname had nothing to do with Tarot cards. Satoshi was the one that mentioned Tarots.
Come to think of it, he had matched each member of the Classics Club with a specific Tarot card. If I remember correctly, Ibara should be...
Equality. Justice. Impartiality.
Well, no mistake about that. Satoshi's explanation that "People of the 'Justice' types tend to be stern with themselves" seemed to be spoken specifically with Ibara in mind.
A change in mood wasn't so bad, so I looked up at "The Magician" for Satoshi and "The Fool" for Chitanda.
I. The Magician
Initiative. Creativity. Focusing.
No Number. The Fool
Adventurism. Curiosity. Impulsive.
Haha, I see. It was just as the definition had put it. I laughed. Though would a Tarot expert also define "The Fool" as someone who "loves to roam", and "The Magician" as someone who's "sociable"?
Now what about me? Let's see, "Strength", was it?
Inner strength. Determination. Kinship.
What is this?
It totally doesn't match. While I might not be aware of my own personality, even I could tell that this was completely off the mark. Satoshi ought to have known from my motto: "If I don't have to do it, I won't. If I have to do it, make it quick."
So why did Satoshi choose this card for me then?
Now that I think about it, Satoshi said he meant it as a joke. If it's Satoshi's joke... then there must be some other meaning which I've not gotten.
...I must have too much free time. Or it was simply me not wanting to admit failure. Yet looking at "The Mystery of Tarots", I suddenly understood what Satoshi's joke meant. As there was one line in the annotations below:
"Strength - Illustration of a ferocious lion being subdued (controlled) by a gentle woman"
In other words, Satoshi was saying I've always been controlled by women. From my sis, to Chitanda, and now Irisu.
W-Why you, Satoshi, getting all cocky. There's no way I could be controlled by them! At any rate, this was me we're talking about.
I returned to my senses.
Thinking deeper, "Strength" could be right.
Anyway, it's not like it's got any deep meaning. Compared to "Justice", "the Magician" and "the Fool", "Strength" has a different method of interpretation altogether. The interpretation for my card was based not on the card's reading, but on the illustration instead. As expected from a Satoshi-like joke, which had no basis whatsoever.
Well, it was a good distraction, as I felt a sense of satisfaction that I've forgotten about Hongou's case. Guess you could call that energy saving as well, I thought as I headed back to sit on the bed.
I quickly got up.
It was purely a coincidence.
The next day, I met the person that I wanted to meet. And I met her at the most convenient time, in other words, after school.
That person was of course, Irisu Fuyumi. Upon seeing me, a smile appeared on her face as she greeted me.
"Oh, it's Oreki-kun. Thank you for all that you did before. Have you seen the movie yet?"
Unable to hide the stiffness in my expression, I said, "No, not yet."
"I see. I thought it was a good movie. It's something that could not have been done without your help, so you should give it a look... Oh yes, we'll be having a party to celebrate the completion of the movie this Saturday, and I think you'll be invited as well."
I shook my head, as the show's not over yet.
Sensing something strange with my attitude, Irisu raised her brows a bit, though her tone remained the same.
"I see. It's your choice, after all. Now then,"
As she turned to walk away, I stopped her.
I then said to the Empress who turned back around, "We need to talk."
We met at Hifumi, the same tea house as the other day.
As Irisu wasn't treating today, I decided to pick some Yunnan tea after some careful consideration of the menu. I thought this tea house was only limited to Japanese tea, but it turns out it also serves Chinese tea, red tea and coffee. Irisu was again having green tea like last time.
After waiting for our drinks to arrive, Irisu spoke first.
"You said we needed to talk?"
I was at a loss at where to start. Though the first place to start naturally was here.
"Sempai, in this tea house, you said that I possess a certain skill, that I was special, right?"
"...May I ask what skill that is?"
Irisu smiled softly,
"You want to be told what it is? Why, the skill of deduction, of course."
So that's her answer, huh?
Feeling neither angry nor indignant, I refuted her answer in an incredibly calm way,
"I'm no expert in detective fiction. Though I'm familiar with this line: 'You're no detective, but you'd make a fine detective writer.' It was spoken by the culprit upon the conclusion of a fantastical deduction."
Irisu remained silent and sipped her tea. I could feel Irisu had discarded her courteous appearance and had reverted to her true self. So I repeated what I said.
"I'm not a detective, but I make a fine detective writer, huh?"
The sound of a teacup being placed loudly on the table was heard.
Indeed, upon being told this, she said in a nonchalant manner, "Where did you get your hint from?"
So she was responsible for it, huh? Irisu Fuyumi had so very easily shattered my wish which I did not really hope would be shattered.
Rather than being surprised, I replied calmly, "Sherlock Holmes."
"Hongou-sempai seemed to have studied detective fiction via Sherlock Holmes. Chitanda borrowed some of her paperbacks the other day, but due to her getting drunk off those whiskey bonbons, I had completely forgotten about the matter. Only recently have I gone through them."
Irisu smiled. It was a different type of smile from before, more like a smirk.
"And what have you discovered from that?"
I took out a note from my chest pocket. It was a list from two of the six volumes of Sherlock Holmes short stories (strictly speaking, there are only five volumes, though this is the Nobara translated version we're talking about), namely "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes", with each title grouped under "Concentric Circles" or "Crosses".
- The Man with the Twisted Lip
- The Adventure of the Blanched Sailor
- The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
- A Case of Identity
- The Five Orange Pips
- The Adventure of the Speckled Band
- The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
- The Adventure of the Three Gables
- The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
Irisu occasionally looked at me with sharp eyes.
"At first, I thought this was merely Hongou sorting out which ideas to use for her story, but I was mistaken. I asked Satoshi, who told me that 'Red-Headed League' and 'Three Garridebs' had the same literary technique, but when I then asked why 'Three Garridebs' was marked with concentric circles while 'Red-Headed League' was marked with a triangle, he was left dumbfounded."
Irisu urged me to continue with her gaze alone.
"I inquired for further details from Satoshi... Irisu-sempai, would you be bothered if you were spoiled on any of the stories of Sherlock Holmes?"
"No, not at all."
"Is that so? But if you do not wish to be spoiled, then please tell me at once, so I can figure out a way to ask you to cover your eyes or ears."
I said that simply as a precaution.
Though it's not like I'm really spoiling anything important.
"First, the concentric circles.
"'Man with Twisted Lip' - Holmes was tasked to find the whereabouts of a man who seemed to have completely vanished. The client was the man's wife.
"'Blanched Sailor' - Holmes tasked by a man to investigate the whereabouts of his friend who had seemingly been quarantined by his family. Though in the end it turns out all was well and the friend didn't need to be quarantined after all.
"'Three Garridebs' - Basically a retelling of 'Red-Headed League', though it was memorable for a scene where the usually calm and reserved Holmes showed signs of distress over Watson getting injured. By the way, Watson was only slightly wounded."
I sipped my Yunnan tea, though the taste was rather bland.
"Now, let's move on to the crosses. As there are more of these here, I'll just pick three to talk about.
"'Five Orange Pips' - A young man seeks the help of Holmes after witnessing many strange deaths around him. Yet Holmes was unable to prevent his death.
"'Speckled Band' - A woman asks Holmes to investigate the strange death of her sister. The killer was none other than her stepfather, who was seeking to obtain the girls' inheritance.
"'Three Gables' - A woman whose son had recently died asks Holmes for advice when she was approached to sell her house and everything in it. The root of the story revolves around the dead man's desire for revenge over the woman who had dumped him."
I stopped and waited for Irisu's reaction.
Irisu waved her front bangs and said, "I see."
"Upon hearing the summaries of these stories, I have a vague idea of what kind of stories Hongou preferred. It was hard to tell that she did not have any prior experience with detective stories from such preferences. Satoshi expressed disbelief upon being told that she put a cross over 'Speckled Band' while marking a circle for 'Blanched Sailor'."
I took a sip.
"Now here's my explanation: perhaps Hongou prefers happy endings over tragic endings. She didn't seem to like any ending where anyone died."
Irisu didn't respond.
Probably a sign of admittance.
"It we think along those lines, then many questions can be answered. Firstly, little fake blood was required. And then there's the results of the questionnaire."
"The results of the questionnaire?"
From my shoulder bag, I took out the notebook which I borrowed from Sawakiguchi, and then opened it and pointed towards the relevant page.
|No. 32 - How many victims should there be?|
- 1 person -- 6
Upon one glance at the note, and it was only a momentary glance, Irisu said with a sharp look, "...How did you get this?"
"I borrowed it a while ago. Anyway, take a look at this question.
"This was merely asking how many victims there would be, but what does this 'invalid vote' mean? In other questions, if someone was undecided and abstained, it would be marked as 'abstain'. Besides, someone had even voted to have 'about 100' dead, which was more than the number of actors. In that case, what's with this 'invalid vote' then?"
As though amused, Irisu picked up where I left off.
"The vote probably voted for no victims as there was not enough fake blood, and was declared invalid as a result?"
I looked seriously at Irisu, who looked back at me calmly.
I said in a low voice, my conclusion, which was, "Hongou's script contains no victims whatsoever."
Irisu raised her upper lip slightly, or so I thought.
Irisu sure was a calm person, as she sipped her green tea without looking the slightest bit shaken. How could she remain so calm? Could it be she could read my thoughts?
Quietly, she placed her teacup down.
"If you understand that much, then that saves me from having to explain further. It is as you say, Hongou's script has no victims. She said she was unable to think of any mystery that involves death. That's the sort of girl she is."
I continued, "Nevertheless, your classmates did not think of that and continued with their ad-libs in the movie. Even though Hongou did not join in for the shooting of the movie, she would have been informed by Nakajou. Above all, the script never once mentioned Kaitou being dead. He merely suffered a serious injury and collapsed to the point of not being able to respond, which was what we saw in the movie.
"Ibara praised the work put into the fake severed arm, meaning that part was included in the original script.
"And yet Kaitou was suddenly killed off. Without Hongou knowing, the story had turned from a brutal assault into one of murder."
Yet I felt no satisfaction, and my words slowly became frantic.
"This is purely my speculation without any basis whatsoever. Yet, I must say it regardless.
"Hongou did not tell her classmates that the movie had made a serious flaw which deviated from the script. She couldn't bring herself to tell them to abandon the film which they had shot, nor tell the props division to throw away the prop which they had worked so hard to make, since she's a timid and serious person, after all. I think even Hongou herself realized afterwards how illogical it was to have a mystery where no one dies.
"And this is where you come in, Irisu-sempai."
Irisu looked at me without any expression, or rather, she was smiling softly.
I was hardly feeling excited, yet my voice was slightly raised as I said, "This would make it Hongou's fault, as it meant she would have to abandon her script and make drastic changes. And so you arranged for her to 'get sick', thus making the script 'incomplete'. This would lessen the damage considerably. You gathered your classmates, and started a deduction competition."
And I concluded, "And so, you held what was basically a scenario contest. By telling them the script was incomplete, anyone would want to try completing it. That way, you get to preserve Hongou's dignity while they do the deducing. Upon seeing that your classmates were not up to the task, you decided to bring us into this as well. Nobody, including myself, had realized we were actually creating something on our own. You merely arbitrated and decided, based on a reference point, on which was the best story.
"Am I right in saying that my creation was used as a measurement to fill in the gaps left by Hongou so that she would not be hurt?"
"From the beginning, I never once said you were wrong."
"So it's true then!?"
I leaned forward slightly.
"That when you said that I possess certain skills, it was all for Hongou's sake? That's some alternate plan you thought up."
"You persuaded me in this tea house, using a story about a sports club, right? You told me that those with abilities who weren't conscious of it were a pain to watch for those without. Right now I can tell you this: Surely you're joking, Irisu-sempai. So what about one being self-conscious? So what about them being a pain to watch? I don't think someone with a nickname like 'The Empress' can be so sentimental about these things at all.
"You merely wanted the results, that's all."
When Satoshi said he didn't have what it takes to be a Holmesian, I told him that was not so. So who was right? It didn't really matter. If he could, then good for him. If he couldn't, no harm done either. That's all.
Whether it's passion, confidence, self-righteousness or talent, these things mean nothing from an objective point of view. By praising my talents, Irisu was merely making me dance to her tune. It was effective, as I ended up creating a work that satisfied her.
"When you said everyone ought to recognize their own talents, was that a lie!?"
...Despite my strongly worded question, Irisu didn't move one bit. She looked neither timid nor ashamed.
During the moment of silence, without withdrawing, I quietly thought to myself.
She really does suit her nickname of "the Empress". Recalling what Satoshi had told me, she was good at manipulating those around her. And only an Empress could do so without feeling any sense of shame. She was beautiful.
Devoid of any emotion, Irisu replied sternly, "It was not spoken from the bottom of my heart. But it is up to you to decide whether that counts as a lie."
She then met my gaze.
...I realized I was smiling.
I then spoke from the bottom of my heart.
"Hearing you say that, I now feel very relieved."
Translator's notes and references
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