(TL: This is half (page-wise) of the first chapter of the Forgetful Detective Series Volume 2. The Volume has 3 chapters. Again it is torturous to translate. I’ve been going at it too long to not release something. Help.)
You never know when you might hit a turning point in life. As life goes on, from time to time, you might catch a glimpse of what’s in store, but such visions are a complete hallucination. Take for instance my, Oyagiri Mamoru’s, life.
To be honest, when my employment was decided- what’s more, at the Oote Security Company I had been hoping for- I felt a joy great enough to completely forget the misery-numbing levels of job hunting that led up to it; when I knew nothing had even begun yet, I hadn’t accomplished anything, it’s true I felt that I had ‘risen above’ my past life.
My future to come was set in stone.
Here on out, there wouldn’t be any more seat changes or class changes or graduations: for the rest of my life, I would continue my job of ‘protecting something’, I got around to thinking. Well I’m sure that was the intent of my grandfather who gave me the name Mamoru, and my mother and father who gifted me this needlessly sturdy body, and I felt proud from the depths of my heart I could answer their expectations. But on the other hand, with my last choice in life gone and done with, I cut the rudder to my future, and as I thought how everything to come would be a one-way street, there was a stroke of loneliness I couldn’t wipe away.
(TL: Mamoru means to protect, his first name Oyagiri is literally an alternate reading of the word kindness- Shinsetsu)
But I was mistaken.
Life couldn’t be decided by the likes of employment.
It can change as much as it wants, wherever it likes- and foresight of the future is practically a mirage. No, if it were a mirage, then perhaps the real article might exist somewhere but- it’s uncertain any visions of the future even exist.
That’s why you can never tell the turning points of life. That’s nothing to feel let down by; humans are always changing, so you can always just wait in expectation to see what the future has waiting for you. No matter the year, the day, it’s the start of an adventure.
But the problem is, that turning point might be a downward turn. We must always tread with caution, wary of what might trip us up, or who might grasp at our ankles. If you think those accidents and incidents that flow past on the TV are ‘irrelevant to you’, you’re in for some pain… even if a greenhorn like me spouts some plausible-sounding moral lessons like that, it might not be the least bit persuasive. But please hear me out. These aren’t some flowery words I picked up from some billboard, they’re teachings of self-admonishment I learned from painful experience.
Please grasp my words as a stick before you fall over.
And maybe that’s precisely what will give me the qualifications to console myself, that I wasn’t a man who fell over for nothing.
To start off, I’d like to introduce the three people who brought an unforeseen turning point to the life of the man who felt as enlightened as a mountain hermit from mere employment. Rather than brought the turning point, it would be more accurate to say they were the three people who tripped up my life’s smooth sailing, but I’ll refrain from phrasing it like that.
First off, it’s not like they had any ill intent when they overturned my life, and secondly, they were customers. The customers are god… even if that’s saying too much, customers are customers. Not the targets I should be directing my resentment at.
Of course, it’s not like they were my customers- meaning they weren’t the subject of my security. They were customers to a certain art museum I had been stationed at. The precious visitors to a so-called modern art museum a man like me would never get involved with had he not been stationed there for work. Of course, strictly speaking, one of them was not a customer, but there’s no doubt he was a visitor.
The first person was a woman with white hair. While I couldn’t call her a regular, she would drop by the museum with relative frequency, appreciate every art piece from start to finish, and leave. Among the pieces, she seemed to have an attachment to a single article in my security area; her feet would stop before the painting for up to an hour as she gazed at it intently.
I grew curious whether she displayed such conduct in the other areas and asked a colleague, but apparently that painting was the only one she looked at for such a long time.
Then perhaps she dropped by the museum just to see that painting… as mentioned prior, I have absolutely no grounded knowledge in art, so I couldn’t tell what was so good about the painting she gazed at, but it didn’t feel so bad to watch someone deeply moved by my subject to guard.
It made me proud to know I was protecting something with value- it might be strange for me to feel triumphant over such a thing, but just as she gazed at the picture like that, there were times I became inclined to watch her picture watching back.
Truthfully so, her standing form made a pretty enough picture to warrant it.
But like that, I learned the tiresomeness that comes with standing and staring all too well- no matter how moved, how deep of a trance one might be in, staying standing, maintaining an unmoving stance expended considerable muscle. You’re hearing that from someone who stands there like that six hours every day- albeit with breaks- so there’s no doubt about it.
Take for say conceding your seat to the elderly on a train, you might occasionally find that the action contrarily enrages them. I’ve experienced it a number of times- well, not understanding a hatred of being treated as old was definitely a failure of my own imagination, and there’s no helping they chastise me for it. The standard I reaped from that example was the possibility ‘She might be dyeing her hair white’- Dyeing one’s hair an unnatural color comes from the train of thought of wanting one’s self to look younger; of course, there are plenty of exceptions, and it should be taken as case by case- and in that sense, I had no reason to hesitate to worry for that woman with beautiful all white hair.
It was a museum scrupulous about removing all barriers, so as long as she filled the paperwork, she could at least rent a chair, I called out to inform her of that… but even disregarding how that overstepped my position as a security guard, that was a mistaken action.
What had from my angle always looked like a diminutive back belonged to a woman of whom, forget old, looked no older than me. A woman in her mid-twenties. The intellectual eyes behind her glasses looked up at me dubiously.
Having lost the words I should say despite being the one who called out, I cursed my own folly. The situation was unanticipated but the place was a respectable museum, and if you told me it was appropriate to see it coming, I couldn’t disagree. In a place for those of original aesthetic sense that transcended the sense of values of an unsociable man like me, it shouldn’t be strange for there to be a woman who dyed her hair white instead of blonde for fashion’s sake. Rather than dyed or a wig, the white looked to be much too natural for that, but…
Thinking back, at least from what I can remember, she had never appeared in the museum wearing the same clothing twice. That was the first time I saw her in that turtleneck knit sweater, a stole draped over, and long skirt below. For such a fashionable lady, her white hair must be a facet of her style, though it’s not like I’m some detective from a novel, and if you wanted me to make a definitive deduction, that’s setting the bar way too high… whatever the case, calling out without ever confirming her face was idiotic and overeager of me.
What’s more, the face that turned to me- while belonging to a cute young lady- wasn’t looking at me for the better… as I panicked to smooth over my failure, I was practically a pickup artist flurried before a beauty. That being the case, starting out the conversation with I thought you were an old woman was difficult to imagine as virtuous under the circumstances.
“Y-you come here often. You must really like this painting.”
After mulling a moment, those words came to mouth… lines that sounded like they should come from someone concerned with the museum, but as truth would have it, I was an outsourced security guard.
“I come here… often? Do I?”
The white-haired woman tilted her head.
Hmm, she muttered as if it was someone else’s business. Her behavior almost made it seam like she was learning that for the first time from my mouth.
“? You do come here often, don’t you… and every time, you stand stock still in front of this painting as if it’s sucking your soul in.”
“Is that so.”
“When it’s a painting you must have seen countless times, but every time you seem just as emotionally moved as the first time you saw it, so I’m sure it must be a wonderful painting perfectly suited to your sensitivities.”
“Is that so…”
Her responses were half-baked.
Well, I was throwing in ambiguous terms like ‘I’m sure’ and ‘must have’, perhaps it went both ways. It was like I was confessing I didn’t understand the piece- as a matter of fact, the painting hung up was abstract, or rather, all I could see was a single canvas randomly smeared with blues, whites, greens and browns.
On the plate stuck to the wall beside it, the painter and the production date, the materials and the style, and in large letters, the title ‘Mother’ was written, but it completely eluded me what part of the painting was supposed to be a mother- so I could only call it an abstract with fragmented knowledge, but I couldn’t even determine if that was true.
“I see, so I’ve brought myself to this museum numerous times… and I always stand here and stare. Fufu. Well, I guess you could say that goes without saying.”
I couldn’t tell what was funny, but as the white-haired girl giggled, I returned a smile of social courtesy- my thoughts reached the lane of confusion. Do people with sharp aesthetic intuition hold an unconventional sense in daily conversation as well… or so I thought when,
“Around how long do I usually stand here?”
She asked something even stranger than before. Even if it wasn’t a major museum with an incessant stream of visitors, I couldn’t be away from my station too long, so now that I understood I wasn’t dealing with an old woman in need of consideration and my thoughts began to turn calmly, I wanted to get the conversation over and done with already, but her carefree attitude was enough for me to think I wanted to talk just a little longer- despite the peculiar contents of the conversation.
“Usually around an hour, I’d say… Forgetting time, as if you’ve lost yourself.”
“Forgetting time, as if I’ve lost myself.”
She repeated over the words I managed out. She gave a grin.
“Around an hour… is it? Fufufu, that sounds about right. Yes, I’m sure I spent at least that much time standing here today- this work has enough charm for it to shave away a whole hour of my today.”
“Y-you’re right, surely.”
My today was quite the odd way to phrase it, but whatever the case, but I felt a bit of relief that it didn’t end as, ‘I was looking at a painting my friend painted’- I’m repeating myself here, but it was a delight to know that what I was guarding was something of value. More so in a case like this where I couldn’t discern that value myself.
A security guard cannot choose the target of their protection, but guards are not a system, but human beings. Their emotion can’t be denied. If I was going to be working anyways, I’d rather have joy than anger as my motivation.
It’s just, when it came to value and price tags, the all-white-haired woman’s following statement was really quite straightforward, in that regard as if casting a straight stone… in an emotional tone as if appraising from the bottom of her heart,
“I mean, this work is two hundred million yen.”
Two hundred million: The average amount a modern Japanese salaryman makes over the course of his entire life, an amount you might win as the grand prize of a lottery, and if I had to spell it out, an undoubtedly large sum- of course, this was an art museum, so there’s no way the price tags were written on the plates that gave details for each piece, but when she brought up two hundred million yen, the way I looked at it changed.
That painting so incomprehensible to me suddenly seemed to emit a peculiar radiance. No, judging an artistic work by its monetary value and worth isn’t something that should come to pass… but she was the one who brought up a monetary evaluation.
“So it’ll go for two hundred million… this thing.”
“Yes, can’t you tell by looking?”
She stared at me in blank wonder. You’re guarding it without such rudimental knowledge? Or so I was caught up in such a delusion of persecution. Well, it really can’t be helped if you call me unlearned… I’ll have to do some serious soul-searching.
“Amazing isn’t it? Two hundred million yen. Just think of the things you could do with that money. I guess I’d save half of it, and run through the other half in one go? Quit worrying about finances and just buy up all the clothes I want.”
She said it in such a natural, absentminded tone I might just let it slip by, but she had said something considerably rude… no, I don’t really care, but I’m pretty sure the artist who painted it didn’t want it to be judged on price alone, right? Rather, what the woman spoke of was that very sum. Still, it’s a world without a fixed price tag, so it’s only natural an upfront appraisal might not become its actual price…
“Yes, I really do think the world of art is amazing… cost-performance-wise.”
“C-cost performance? You think?”
“Yes. No matter what material you use, there’s surely an upper limit to the cost price, right? And yet, there are times when they’re worth millions, billions even… and unlike with authors and cartoonists, you don’t even have to worry about the printing and binding fees that come afterward. More so, by subtracting the cost of mass production, its value rises even further—that’s a business model I’d like to take a lesson from.”
I lost my words in a different sense than before. Could business model be the most unbecoming word to voice in a museum? As long as the art museum I was stationed at didn’t offer free admission, there was no doubt it was a business… It’s all a matter of perspective. But the way she put it made it should almost as if she paid the entrance fee to come and see a wad of two hundred thousand yen—standing before two hundred million yen, spending an hour in a trance, she had far surpassed greedy into plain eccentric. By a considerable margin at that.
“My word, good sir. Have I ruined your mood? Fret not, I understand; I assure you. In order to preserve its value in being the only of its kind in the world, the cost this institution must pay to maintain it, it’s not as if I could ignore that.”
While I’m not sure exactly what way she took the confusion that apparently showed on my face, she followed through in a manner missing the mark—rather than missed the mark, it somewhat felt like she was playing the foo
As if by shifting the point in question, she managed to evade it entirely— that being the case, no matter how she was looking at it, I honestly felt a little happy she was properly recognizing the existence of a security guard like me, who occasionally received heartless words that he was tainting the scenery of an art museum.
“Still it really is nice, two hundred million yen. Two hundred million, that truly is wonderful. There’s no other replacement for two hundred million yen than two hundred million yen. And now that I’ve been able to see such a beautiful two hundred million yen, I get the feeling I can do my best today.”
“C-could you please stop repeating two hundred million yen… so umm, what exactly do you do for a living?”
I asked the question to change the topic, but it wasn’t a completely irrelevant theme. I mean to say, I abruptly arrived at the possibility this person might be an art dealer.
In that case, it would be understandable that her first criterion of evaluating artwork would be its price—inevitable even. Giving a severe and proper numerical estimate would be her business. Even if the woman with a spacy vibe to her didn’t give of the air of a competent art dealer, it was plenty possible her occupation was something similar. If I consider the way she frequents (so naturally even I can’t remember from when) the art museum as part of her job, then some things do fall into place.
But that was my complete misapprehension. It does seem my tempo gets thrown off when I’m around her—my deductions never hit the mark.
“I’m a detective.”
She said slickly as she held out a business card. The card read as follows.
‘Okitegami Detective Agency Chief 掟上 Kyouko’
“Kyouko-san… is it.”
I thought it might be impolite to suddenly call a girl by her first name, but I didn’t know how I was supposed to read the ‘掟上’ kanji in her surname, so it couldn’t be helped. But seemingly without that discourtesy harming her mood, “Yes, I’m Kyouko. Okitegami Kyouko,” she named herself- thanks to her introduction, it became clear ‘掟上’ was read as ‘Okitegami’. Thank god— no, perhaps she inferred I couldn’t read it, and quite intentionally gave the reading herself.
(TL: The Okitegami in the office name and her last name are spelt differently.)
When it came to her deductions, that would be a very detective-esque deduction for her to make—wait, detectives only deduce in novels, do they? The real detective occupation mainly consists of investigations and reports—whatever the case, she’s the Chief of all things.
“So she’s a bigshot.”
I ended up putting out the comment. Judging someone by their title was an act even ruder than judging artwork by its price, but no matter how I looked at it, the stiff title of Chief didn’t suite gentle-aired woman before my eyes.
“No way, I’m not particularly high up. It’s just my personal office. To be more precise, I’m chief, accountant, manager, deskwork, and grunt work.”
She—Kyouko-san said such a humbling thing, but being her own boss at her age was quite something in and of itself. Okitegami Detective Agency- Okitegami- just from her office name, it’s hard to think she’s owner in name alone.
“In the way we protect the best interests of our clients, you could say we’re in the same industry, Oyagiri-san. So if you’re ever in need of something, feel free to put in a word.”
Kyouko-san said with a deep bow of her white-haired head. From her attitude, it was apparent she was in charge of marketing as well. Her somewhat (if I must understate) noisy financial sense was understandable if that was the case. It’s just, I’m pretty sure detectives and security guards are probably quite different occupations… tying them down just with protection seemed considerably forced.
Huh? But I’m sure I hadn’t introduced myself yet… where did she get my name? Wait, no, I’m sure she just saw the nametag clipped to the breast pocket of my uniform. Was that also the keen sight of a detective… even so, my Oyagiri last name, just like her Okitegami, was by no means easy to get right the first time.
“Then if you’ll excuse me. I do apologize for taking up your time. I’ll be looking at this two hundred million y… this painting for a little while longer, but Oyagiri-san, do feel free to return to your work.”
“… Of course. I apologize for getting in your way.”
I had completely missed my opportunity to step back, so it was honestly a huge help when Kyouko-san came out with it herself. I got the impression she was upright or rather refreshing sort of person.
I gave a bow and returned to my station. Just as she had proclaimed, after gazing at the painting a while, she eventually took her leave.
That was my first close quarters encounter with her, of course, that alone wouldn’t be enough to form a turning point in my life, and I didn’t learn anything from it—at most, the moral lesson, ‘When you try talking to someone, properly see who they are first.’
Even if I put it to memory as a single trifling mistake I made on the job, I had plenty of other similar tales of failure to tell. I’m a human far too distant from perfect, I won’t deny my numerous slipups.
But in regards to Kyouko-san, there is another episode I’d like to add to that first step. Continuing on from there, Kyouko-san continued incessantly dropping by to see that two hundred million yen but, of course, I didn’t try talking to her again.
Even if that wasn’t the case, it was only good manners to keep quiet in a museum. As before, without me leaving my post, I simply watched the back of the white-haired woman gazing at the painting. That routine- excluding the changes in her fashionable garments- showed not the slightest sense of crumbling, until the day an aberration came about.
It was a sudden change- even if I say that, it’s not like Kyouko-san underwent a flashy visual change (for example her hair turning black, or her wearing clothing I had any recollection of), it wasn’t anything like that. It was a sense of unease I got precisely because I had always watched Kyouko-san pass through the museum- To put it simply, what I thought would continue for eternity, the routine I considered empyrean at that point, without any preface, suddenly crumbled away.
Kyouko-san passed by that painting without stopping to look. The painting she would always spend an hour before, she went by with barely a glance. Her feet barely slowed to look at it.
“… Please wait a second.”
I reflexively and unintentionally called her to a stop. Unlike the last time, I had no backing from my station; it was an action that completely exceeded my authority, one I had no excuse for. But being well aware of that, I had no choice but to call out to Kyouko-san.
By the way, Kyouko-san was in blue denim that day, a vest over her white shirt. In regards to that, she’s a person who looks good in anything she wears, but every time I meet her I have to reimagine just how giant of a closet she must have at her home. But I digress.
“You’re not going to look at that painting?”
Kyouko-san gave a hysteric reply. Her expression too verbosely spoke the words ‘who are you’- it did appear she had forgotten me. When it comes to uniformed security guards, they all end up looking the same, so it’s nothing unreasonable. But taking into account the sharp eyes I experienced the other days, it wouldn’t be strange if she at least remembered my face. Contrary to her intellectual air, perhaps her memory wasn’t actually that good.
Regardless, it’s not like I spoke to her with any ulterior motives, and I really couldn’t care much less for the color of impression I left in Kyouko-san’s recognition. The problem was the shade of impression that painting left on her- why was it that the painting she always appreciated without exception, today of all days, was passed without stopping?
I was so curious I couldn’t help myself. It was the idol she had been devoted to all the while- thought you could just call it two hundred million yen at this point- but without treading on a single step down, was it really possible for her to abruptly lose interest?
“I did see it… so what?”
Kyouko-san kept up her guard as she answered so. The gears weren’t meshing, or rather, what I wanted to say wasn’t getting across in the slightest. Thinking back, I get the feeling our previous conversation was also spotty at best…
“That you did… no I mean, aren’t you going to stare it like you usually do? You usually admire it for a much longer period of time. And yet.”
I’m practically sounding like a stalker, I reflected as I spoke. For me to approach as if to lecture her because her routine work collapsed, my actions were far from a security guard. It was almost as if she was a potential danger I’d marked down.
For a woman, it wouldn’t be strange for her to cower and flee, my attitude was the epitome of suspicious, and yet Kyouko-san showed no hesitation. More than that, she spoke with great intrigue.
The corners of her mouth rose. It was very much the smile of a ‘Great Detective encountering a fascinating mystery’- her gentle atmosphere inverted to an expression I might even call aggressive.
“That sounds interesting— could you give me the details?”
“E-even if you ask me the details… um, as I was saying… why did Kyouko-san who would usually take her sweet time looking at that painting suddenly ignore it today…”
When the other party had clearly forgotten that we’d talked before, it was hard to step in from my side. Therefore, I completely skipped over that part and gave just the main points. Albeit, at Kyouko-san’s bearing as if she had even forgotten she ‘usually looked at it’, I couldn’t help but feel something off-putting…
As we were talking, I started coming under the impression it was much stranger to be captivated by the same painting every time she dropped by, but it didn’t seem that was the point the person in question- Kyouko-san- was caught up on.
“Yes, yes, you might be wondering ‘why I ignored this painting today of all days’, but what’s on my mind is ‘why this painting deeply touched me to this day’ you see- we’ve talked before, have we?”
She suddenly pointed out.
When she jabbed at it, it made me feel insincere for trying to play dumb… it’s not like I have any confidence in my acting ability (More so, I have zero confidence in it), but I wonder how she saw through me.
“No, I mean, you just called me ‘Kyouko-san’ when I had yet to introduce myself.”
Crap. To a cliché extent, it was from my own boneheadedness. Whatever the case, this was a problem that sprung from her own deficiency in forgetting someone she had talked to before, so I did get the feeling she stirred up trouble just to solve on her own.
“Yes, we have. At the time, you spoke heatedly about this painting, making me find it all the more bizarre…”
“Heatedly, is it. Knowing me— it wasn’t the artistic technique, but the price of this work that I spoke so heatedly over, correct?”
Knowing me, she said making it sound like someone else’s business. She did seem to have a tendency to cast away her past self as a stranger.
I found it hard to say she was right. But she had repeated the paintings price so many times that day it would feel too insincere to say she was wrong- at the end of my hesitation, meaning at the end of my failure to think up a means to play it off, “You said it was two hundred million yen,” I answered idiotically honestly.
Well, it’s not like anything would start by haggling down the price to one hundred or fifty thousand, and inflating it would be just as pointless.
“Two hundred million yen. Hmm… this piece is?”
As she said that, Kyouko-san stood before the painting. Looking at her pose and position, it was the same ‘picturesque Kyouko-san’ as always, but when it wasn’t as if anything had changed, it was as if the nuance I could feel from her had taken on a complete shift. Eyes appreciating eyes—that they were not.
As if to bluntly interfere with its contents, to outspokenly force their way into the secret privet lives of another, they were like the eyes of a detective.
Wait… that’s wrong.
She’s not like a detective, she’s a detective.
“Fufu. Indeed, this is a wonderful painting the author must have put his soul into, but two hundred million is going a bit too far… three million… no if you want me to be realistic, I’d say it’s around two million.”
I was taken aback, to think the price would fall to one one-hundredth of its original value—for an investment, that’s great enough decline to hang yourself over.
Just what could have happened?
From what I could see, it’s not as if the canvas was damaged, or the colors were stripped, no damage visible to the eye had happened to the painting. Granted, different appraisers might come out with different prices, that was within the realm of possibility, but the one who said two hundred million was none other than Kyouko-san. I couldn’t understand… I could only think it was Kyouko-san who had undergone a change.
“No, nothing’s changed with me. I can guarantee that one— tastelessly little change if I do say so myself.”
When she said that brimming with confidence, I could only accept it. Rather, it was hard to refute.
“I’d like to confirm something, Oyagiri-san.”
Kyouko-san called my name. It’s not like she remembered it, I’m sure she saw the nametag on my chest.
“Is it true this painting hasn’t changed? It’s not the tiniest bit different from when I last saw it?”
“It’s… it’s the same.”
When she emphasized it so hard, I grew anxious. I couldn’t guarantee it wasn’t the slightest bit different. It’s just, even if I looked at the painting anew, I couldn’t spot anything different—as a guard, my job was to look out for suspicious individuals, and not to appreciate the pieces themselves (more so, I’m not supposed to pay attention to the art). But that being the case, as I kept to my station, the painting naturally entered my field of view, so I’m sure I would notice any blatant changes.
In that case, not the painting, did something change in its background? If you’ll let me drop my prudence, it’s possible for a so-called work of art’s value shoots up upon the death of its painter—that’s a case where the price rises, but I’m sure there are patterns where it can plummet. For example, it came to light it was actually painted my someone else… in that case, even if the painting itself didn’t change, it would be possible for its price to change.
But if any such news flowed in, before the price’s fluctuation came into question, an uproar would happen at the museum displaying it. No doubt such a ruckus would enter even the ear of an outsider security guard. If it became public the history of a painting they’d always displayed was wrong, the display would be put on hold, it might even become a scandal on the scale of the museum taking a temporary holiday.
“Yes, I see your point. But a difference in the background is a good train of thought. Art is only art with everything around it—”
“… Though they do say a creator and his work are different matters.”
“Ahaha. If you’re looking a t it for enjoyment, it’s perfectly fine to detach them, but if you want to look at it as fine art, the partition is difficult… an art piece can sometimes be seen as the main essence of the artist.”
Though that’s irrelevant right now, said Kyouko-san.
It’s irrelevant? But she was speaking with a strange sense of confidence, so perhaps Kyouko-san already had a rough idea of why the unchanging painting’s price changed. I wrung out my courage to ask.
“Well if I had to say, I do have an idea. I don’t have any evidence, and it’s just a notion that struck me without any basis.”
Kyouko-san said after all. And parting from the space before the painting, “Well then, I’ll be taking my leave,” she gave me a bow and walked off.
“H-hey, hey wait a minute.”
“? What is it?”
“You’re not going to tell me? Why the painting you told me was two hundred million yen is two million yen today?”
“I’m sure it’s true I once said this piece was worth two hundred million yen. But today it’s two million. Then it’s clear that a change of one hundred ninety-eight million yen must have occurred… but explaining that here would be somewhat uncouth. This is a place to speak of art and not mysteries. In the first place, today is my off-day.”
If you say I must, or so Kyouko-san held out her business card.
That was something that wasn’t the tiniest bit different from the last card I received, Okitegami Detective Agency Chief Okitegami Kyouko’s business card.
“Make a request. I don’t deduce for free.”
When all was said and done, in the end, the mystery of why a two hundred million yen painting suddenly faced a drop in price to two million went unsolved- or at least to me and the museum. Of course, I was curious, but I didn’t see it as the sort of overblown case or mystery to go as far as to pay money for a detective. Even if my knowledge on a detective’s market price was limited, I highly doubted it would be cheap. When she possessed such a wide array of clothing, I couldn’t think that Kyouko-san worked for a low enough value to be covered by my disposable income.
In the first place, two hundred million and two million were both no more than her personal estimates, and if I had to say, it was possible she was just making things up- it was practically she who built up the whole mystery. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it some new form of scam, but it seemed plausible that was her proactive business campaign as a detective; getting caught up in that and forced to pay a fortune didn’t sit very well with me.
There were ways to go about it, say drawing out the details on that painting from someone involved with the museum employing me, but I wouldn’t be able to avoid them reversing the question and asking why I wanted to know. Once asked, the fact I had a chat with a visitor on the job in derogation of my duties would inevitably come to light- something I’d definitely like to avoid if possible.
So when all was said and done, I held on to some hazy thoughts as I continued to work my unchanging job, with the unchanged painting in my field of vision. I spotted Kyouko-san’s figure a few times in the museum after that, but she would never rest her feet before that painting in question again.
Nor would I call out to her.
Naturally, she didn’t speak to me of her own accord either. Perhaps she had already forgotten me again. That’s why my only point of contact with her- the two business cards I had forgotten to take out of my uniform pocket- only returned to memory after the incident had occurred.
Whatever the case, I must now introduce the second of the three people who brought a turning point to my life—it would be an exaggeration to call him a gent; he was a young boy around ten.
For a child to grant me a moral lesson makes me feel like a disgrace of an adult, but he was a so-called prodigy, so it’s not particularly like it was a complex I was alone in feeling. It’s occasionally the case that someone with talent comes to despise those without it, and perhaps owing to that, the young boy took on an impertinent attitude with me from beginning to end. In that sense, I don’t hold a very good impression of him, but I have no choice but to recognize his talent.
His ‘artistic’ talent, that is.
I first came to recognize him shortly after I first spoke with Kyouko-san- after she told me the painting was worth around two hundred million, I suppose. As I recall, it was around the time the curator’s negotiated works came in, and there was a bit of a ruckus over how they were going to be exhibited. The new exhibit attracted attention, my surveillance area was even quieter than usual when the crop-cut boy appeared with his sketchbook. Of course, he was a visitor who paid the standard fee (child’s fare), so I had no complaints in that regard. A child had just as much right as an adult to enjoy the fine arts—however, what he took was a problematic action I couldn’t overlook as a security guard.
No, couldn’t understand would be more precise. But it was the sort of problem for which a single security guard tasked with a single area in the corner of the museum was supposed to make a decision on the spot. No food and drink, keep quiet in the building, don’t touch the art pieces, no photography.
Those rules were stipulated all throughout the building, and I had no hesitation to enforce them as a guard—as a guard, my eyes were shining. Especially in the present age, where the diffusion of cellphones has made photography a part of everyday life, cautioning the visitors who tried taking pictures without any ill intent could be called my main job.
But what about in that circumstance? Meaning when he took his position in front of a single picture, flipped open his sketchbook, and let the pencil in his hand begin to smoothly reproduce it—
The child started sketching much too boldly, as if to give me the feeling, ‘that’s just what you’re supposed to do here’—sure enough, it didn’t say anywhere in the building you couldn’t draw on the premises. If it was truly a good a museum, then it wouldn’t be strange for an inspired visitor to want to take up the brush… but that was strange. In the first place, the kid has come with his sketchbook and materials in hand from the start, brimming with the intent to draw.
In the first place, it wasn’t the timeslot for an elementary schooler to stop by. I don’t remember the specific day, but it was undoubtedly midday on a weekday. I looked around to see if it was the extracurricular activity of some elementary school, but there weren’t any other kids around who looked the part. No teacher taking command either.
That being the case, disciplining a child wasn’t part of my job—if he wanted to come to a museum instead of going to school, I could feel some extraordinary circumstance after all—now then, what was I to do? Painting a picture to duplicate it did somewhat seem like a blind spot of the photography ban, but thinking over it with a level head, it wasn’t something I should shut my eyes to.
Even so, it was the work of a child, it’s not like I didn’t consider overlooking it with warm eyes- at the time, neither Kyouko-san nor any other guests were around, it wasn’t as if he was causing any trouble to anyone, and more than that, seeing a child do his best to draw was in itself a pleasant scene. Hesitating whether I should look to my superior or employer for a decision, I decided to start by approaching him only for my smile to freeze.
That ‘copy’ laid out in his sketchbook was, how should I put it, a piece that made the word ‘copy’ sound forced… if I wanted to search my vocabulary for an appropriate word, ‘reproduction’ was more accurate. No, it was difficult to even call a reproduction. I mean the painting on the wall was done in paint, and even if it wasn’t clear what was being depicted, there was no doubt it was done in blues, whites and green… in contrast, the boy’s tool was a single pencil. It would be impossible to completely recreate it; but as if applying Indian ink painting, the boy used only shades of black to gray and reproduce the abstract (?) painting before his eyes… and I could say his attempt was largely successful.
This is just the opinion of an amateur, so perhaps an artist might hold my description in scorn but… it was such a precise level of reproduction I wondered if that was what would come out if a picture brimming with color was run through a monochrome copier. A copy machine is, well a machine, so it would be possible- when a human did that with their own craft, to be honest, it could be summed up in the word uncanny.
In the first place, I could sense a difference from if a copy machine scanned a single painting. This wasn’t a matter of my own sensibility, no matter how dense one might be, they would notice. I learned it for the first time guarding a museum, but paintings are never perfectly level. By slathering paint on a canvas, a rough surface will inevitably be formed; multiple layers alone will protrude certain parts, and if you went from dark to light, the flow was such from high to low—the strength of the brush stroke also made a difference.
A strong stroke and a light touch of the canvas would change the image and damage granted to the surface—both of which would change over the passage of tears. If you want a simple metaphor, an artist taking up a brush was engaging in a single genre of sculpting. You could say that was the large difference from producing digital graphics. It was in that sense as well that they were impossible to reproduce; that’s why no matter how advanced photographic technology becomes, humans will still bring their feet to a museum to see the real articles. A sense of reality that can’t be conveyed by a printing or monitor—or perhaps a sense of texture one can sense without touching exists.
With all that said, there it was on the boy’s sketchbook—I won’t tell you not to be surprised, rather please share in it with me. The young boy had reproduced that unevenness, brushstrokes included, with a single pencil.
That’s why, monochrome or not, in paint or in pencil… regardless of whether there was any difference in the finished product, it made me feel like I was seeing a complete reproduction. A tender young child who didn’t quite understand the rules of the museum, wanting to join the ranks of the artists, got in the mood to copy a painting—it has far exceeded that level.
Just what was he doing, that child?
In a sense, it was an act far more exorbitant than taking a picture—as if not just the image itself, he was stripping away its deepest contents. As a security guard charged with the area, or at least to me, it was difficult to overlook it—I mean, not so long ago, I had already heard from Kyouko-san that the painting was two hundred million yen. It was as if I was present at the scene of a two hundred million yen masterwork being snatched away: a heist so bold Arsene Lupin might direct it himself.
“Hey, kid, what are you doing?”
Perhaps I was too into it, as the voice came out deeper than expected—raising a cry of “Whoah!” the young boy dropped his sketchbook. He didn’t unhand his pencil, which may be because the way he held it was just wrong. Like an infant, his pencil was held up in a clenched fist; no, if he was able to produce such a work at such a speed with that grip, then labeling it as wrong was a decision entrenched in my own educational prejudice. If this child were to assert it was more proper to hold it like a sword, I doubt I would be able to refute it—and as things stood, it was because he held it like that, that it didn’t fall from his hand.
“W-what is it… wait? How long have you been there, old-timer?”
In his immersion, it seems he had completely failed to notice my existence as I approached. That high pre-pubescent voice and sharp manner confirmed to me he was as much a child as his appearances suggested.
I wasn’t yet at the right age to be called old, surely, but when I was around his age, perhaps I thought of anyone beyond twenty like that as well.
“Don’t talk to me so suddenly. You surprised me.”
“Oh yeah… sorry for that.”
I said as I retrieved the sketchbook the boy had dropped on the ground. This was yet another scene I had no experience in, and I had no idea how to interact with a child. The museum wasn’t the sort of place adults brought their children to; it was definitely not the sort of place children came to alone.
Therefore, while I was in a position where I needed to caution him, I reflexively ended up apologizing, but that did offer me slight relief. At his attitude fitting of a child his age, I was hit by the reality I wasn’t dealing with some form of apparition. It was only the next moment I would realize how hollowful that reality was—I can’t guarantee hollowful is a real word or not, but whatever the case, I took the opportunity to open up the sketchbook in my hands and take a glance over its contents.
I only looked like going through a flipbook, so it’s not as if I got a proper look at every page, but, but still, with that alone my chest was instantaneously, instinctively slammed with dread—with intuition rather than logic, I got to know of the young boy’s hard-to-describe artistic prowess.
Not just the picture he had just drawn, the numerous pencil sketches he had done to this point were more than enough to overwhelm the looker—I doubt all of them were copies but I got the feeling perhaps I wouldn’t get this much of an impact even if I looked at the real pieces he was mimicking. I felt an off-mark relief that his sketchbook didn’t bend when it hit the ground.
Returning the book, I looked over the boy. A shaved head, sun-tanned skin laid bare by his T-shirt and shorts, his knees were lightly skinned while his feet were in sandals. Looking at that alone, he looked like a healthy base-ball playing boy you’d find racing across the field—at the very least, his appearance didn’t give off an artist’s impression, and he didn’t have the nuance of a child prodigy you’d see on TV. Or could it be if you took away broadcast production value, those child prodigies were surprisingly something like this?
For such vague features as talent or nature, come to think of it, they would be stranger if they actually came out in one’s appearance…
“Something up, old timer? I’m a bit busy here.”
He calmly said to me. Forget shying back, his attitude could practically be called abusive. Well, it was a hefty demand to ask an elementary schooler (?) to speak politely… after all. For a boy who could draw such pictures, the main problem was how I was supposed to make him respect me in the first place.
“You’re causing trouble, drawing here. Could you put away your sketchbook and pencil?”
“Really? Where does it say I can’t?”
The boy sounded displeased. I never expected him to accept it and stand down so easily- it never is that simple- and things were proceeding as iffy as I thought.
“It’s not written, but you’ll bother the other guest so—”
The young boy looked around—as luck would have it, it was around noon on a weekday, and at present, there wasn’t another guest in sight. I wonder what he would have said if Kyouko-san was around.
“Then if someone else comes I’ll stop. That sound alright?”
Said he as he let the lead of his pencil dash across his sketchbook anew— I’d be troubled if I let the conversation end just like that. If I stood down just because I was dealing with a child, or perhaps a genius, I couldn’t call myself a security guard.
“It’s not much different from taking down notes on what you feel when looking at a painting, right? Is that also banned?”
When he put it that was, I couldn’t find the words to speak back.
Of course, if he went on to set up an easel, spread out a canvas, and take paintbrush and paint in hand, I would be able to restrict him by the reigns of common sense… with eccentricity on that level, whether it be clearly stipulated or not, it would be reasonably understandable.
But all he was using was a pencil and moderately sized portable sketchbook… if I started restricting that, then how much would I have to restrict? So if I witnessed a scene of any other kid- even adult- before a painting smoothly copying it out (I don’t have such experience, this is purely hypothetical), I’m sure I would have hesitated before ignoring it, or taken it as an event beyond my authority and consulted a superior.
The reason I moved on my own discretion was simply because his skills were prominent to an uncanny extent—he was too skillful for me to turn a blind eye. But how was I supposed to explain that? You’re too good at drawing, so you can’t draw here?
No, that was the exact train of logic I was following, but I also thought it was too unreasonable of a force to place on a child; not much different from asking the fast running kid to match pace with everyone else. You can’t just make the fastest kid lower himself to the standards of the curriculum.
Let’s see, for example, in a bookstore, you know it’s wrong to copy out the contents of a book on sale, right? It’s the same as that… no it’s not. A museum and shop are institutions with different natures—if I had to say, the proper comparison would be a library. In a library, it was actually recommended to copy out some of the text… which means in the end, I was in a situation where all I could say was ‘it’s just wrong’. At a loss, eventually,
“Anyways, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
I was forced into approaching from a different angle; the logical route of, quit drawing in a place like this and properly get yourself to school. Well, I had a vague understanding there was some circumstance to it, but even if that wasn’t the case I had a hard time believing a kid like this could fit into a normal school—
“I don’t have to go. You know the thing with compulsory education? The parents have a legal obligation to send their children to school; the children aren’t obligated to go.”
That was definitely how the law worked, but it was a childish argument. If that sophistry actually passed, I get the feeling we wouldn’t have so much trouble.
“Then where are those parents? Somewhere around? Did you come here together?”
“You’ve got eyes, don’cha? Keep it down.”
Even as he said that, the boy raced his pencil… the sketchbook was dyed a deep black as the two hundred million yen painting was reaching its completion. AS long as I had no means to stop it, I could only watch over the trace’s completion. It’s not like I could use force against a child. I mean, he wasn’t even half my size, so if I wanted to take away his pencil, it would be easy enough, but if such extreme protective measures developed into a problem of responsibility for the museum, that really would be putting the cart before the horse—I wouldn’t be protecting a thing.
“I can see just fine… then they’re not with you. What’s your name, kid?”
Determining it was a subject beyond my reach, I decided to get more details on the situation. The plan was to at least make a report to give to my employers. With a child of his skills, it was quite possible I just happened to be oblivious, and he was actually a famous name in the museum. In that case, this sort of questioning might be routine.
Without stopping his pencil hand, the young boy curtly responded.
“It’s Hakui Riku.”
As if disappointed by my reputation—almost as if he thought it was uncultured for someone to not know his name—he silently wrote out the kanji on the next page of his sketchbook. Hakui Riku (剝井陸).
In contrast to the brush strokes he penciled in, it was somewhat rough, crude handwriting, that took some effort to decipher, but…
“I see, so it’s Hakui-kun.”
“I said it because you asked me, but could you not call me so casually? It’s not a name I’m fond of. Neither Hakui nor Riku.”
He said in scornful routine, returning to his sketchbook’s sketch page—his actions showed he was upset I had thrown off his rhythm. But even if his movements were flustered as he put pencil to paper, his pencil mastery remained as precise as ever—as if he had two chains of command in his head.
If he didn’t like the name Hakui, then what was I supposed to call him… as I mulled over how to response, Hakui-kun spoke up.
“Hey old-timer. What about you? You asked for someone’s name, so you’ve got to give your own.”
I highly doubted Hakui was interested in my name, but, well, perhaps it was some revenge for getting in the way of his art… unlike Kyouko-san, it didn’t look like he had the sharp eyes to identify my name from my nametag. While artist and detective are two completely different occupations, wouldn’t he need an appraiser’s eye… no, barely knew anything about Hakui, so there was no helping it.
“My name is Oyagiri. Oyagiri Mamoru.”
“Oyagiri? What sort of name is that?”
“Exactly as it sounds. To cut your parents. It’s a name I like quite a bit.”
“You like cutting down parents… ah, no, so you write it as kindness? Hmm.”
(TL: The kanji for kindness is 親切, the first kanji being parent, the second being to cut. This does not have anything to do with cutting parents, it is because the kanji for parent has the meaning of intimate (親しい), and cut is used in a strange phrase that translates to ‘close enough to cut you’ (刃物をじかに当てるように). Not it a bad way. So it means close and intimate. Oyagiri’s name is spelled kindness, but read as the literal interpretation of parent (oya) cut (kiri))
Upon turning, he finally noticed my nametag; he gave a nod before flipping his sketchbook again—and underneath where he wrote ‘Hakui Riku’, he wrote ‘Oyagiri’ in the bad handwriting I’d come to expect. It did appear I had succeeded in giving the boy wonder an impact with my surname… though he ignored my commonplace given name of Mamoru.
And all-too-easily as if to say our business was finished, young Hakui returned to his ‘painting’. I also didn’t have anything more to say or ask him. Returning to my station, I would simply report the order of events on my radio. I would seek orders, and wait for someone who could make a proper decision to put out a proper order. Just as with Kyouko-san, the museum was visited by all sorts—I can’t say much, but perhaps that’s how a future artist would be raised. No, from how he seemed to think it was strange I didn’t know the name Hakui Riku, perhaps not just the museum, he was already a child known to the world of art. It sounds all profound to say art has nothing to do with age, but I heard Pablo Picasso was painting from six after all…
But there I suddenly grew curious and came to a stop—I had nothing more to say or ask, but there was something I wanted to know—one thing I wanted him to tell me. Kyouko-san had such a charm and radiance to her I couldn’t bring myself to ask… meaning, just what was that painting supposed to be?
That was the question. It had a title of ‘Mother’, but when it came to what part of the painting was a ‘Mother’, or what sort of meaning was put into that abstract (?) I hadn’t the slightest idea. Maybe that’s just how it’s supposed to work, you’re just supposed to understand what you see. It’s mistaken for an amateur to attempt interpretation.
Or so I thought, but because Kyouko-san had told me it was worth two hundred million the other day, all holds were off. It just didn’t sit right with me that such an incomprehensible scribble was worth two hundred million.
At the very least, I wanted to know what was being depicted, a vague yearning was there. I might be able to find out in no time if I looked into it, but it’s not like I wanted to know what an index had to say. I wanted someone who properly understood to tell me. That’s why I thought to ask my employer if the opportunity presented itself, but I somewhat understood that wouldn’t be anytime soon… and there I had Hakui-kun.
Normally, it wasn’t the sort of thing to ask a child (especially when it came to talks of money and two hundred million yen), but he went as far as capturing the texture to reproduce it… with his craft of copy, perhaps Hakui-kun could understand the painting to its very depth. That’s why, “Hey, do you know why this painting is titled ‘Mother’?” I asked—not expecting a response.
“What, you don’t get it?”
For argument’s sake, I tried to phrase it vaguely to draw out information, but an adult’s tact didn’t get through to a child and he returned the question.
“Nope. Can’t make heads or tails.”
I honestly admitted. Perhaps that was the right answer as, “That so,” Hakui-kun answered unsympathetically, flipping over two pages in his sketchbook… it looks like Hakui Riku and Oyagiri were all that was going on the previous page. It felt like a bit of a waste, but I’m sure he had his fixations… And on the brand new page he revealed, with a swish he swiftly penciled something in.
“Now look. Do you get it now?”
What he showed me was something I definitely could understand at one glance. A three-dimensionally shaded circle… on the sphere was something an amateur, no anyone could see and understand as the third planet in our solar system, meaning the earth.
In just a few seconds, he had freehanded the earth without any tools or references, making me once more recognize the artistic prowess of young Hakui, but… the earth?
I lifted my face from his sketchbook and looked at the painting ‘Mother’ on the wall. So does that mean ‘Mother’ was supposed to represent ‘Mother Earth’? The paints filling the canvas to the brim were code for our planet… no, even with that knowledge, looking at it once more, I really didn’t get the impression.
“So it’s an abstract after all.”
“I don’t know what you think abstract is supposed to mean, but this is a landscape painting.”
“What? A landscape?”
“Yeah. Well not strictly speaking, but a landscape’s a landscape. At least they painted the view.”
At that scale, I don’t think it could be called landscape, but the earth itself was definitely scenery if you wanted to call it that…. But the sketch in Hakui-kun’s book aside, the painting on display didn’t really…
“Wait… this is a closeup?”
By that time, Hakui-kun had returned to his work. I didn’t ask anymore, but once I had noticed, it became the sort of mystery where I felt ashamed I never noticed it before. Blue, white, green and brown. With various things mixed and marbled in, it was the sea, the clouds, the trees and earth… From a map of earth seen from space, a portion had been zoomed and cut out.
That’s why it wasn’t an abstract but a landscape.
No, from the artist’s point of view, I’m sure they had some deeper intent of artistic expression… purposely portraying the earth in such a way and tacking on the name ‘Mother’ was a way of thoughts I would never reach and not something I should speak so frivolously on.
But upon knowing that, looking at the painting with that knowledge, it felt far more refreshing than before as if I could finally appreciate it. While Kyouko-san who would stand before it only spoke about costs, it went without saying that what the painting depicted was self-evident to her.
Taking it to the extremes, there are some quizzes where a high-spec camera or microscope is used to take a closeup of some object before asking ‘What do you think it is’, but… I doubt the artist was able to look at the actual article, so I can see why Hakui-kun said it wasn’t strictly a landscape.
“Did the artist look at a satellite picture or something to paint it…”
“Might have just thought it up. No need to look at a picture to constrict the possibilities.”
Hakui-kun answered my murmur.
“It’s even possible that the painter was an astronaut.”
“I-is it really?”
“No way in hell. Don’t take it so seriously.”
When he was the one who brought it up, Hakui-kun angrily spat toxicity before slamming his sketchbook shut.
“Ah, sorry. Did I ruin your mood?”
My speech there was strange. In the first place, I had tried to stop his painting… when I was getting in his way from the start, there was no need for apologies. Of course, it did seem the likes of me was unable to hinder the creative urges of the boy wonder and, “I just finished drawing,” he said matter-of-factly.
I had wondered why he was so willing to tag along with my conversation around the end, but in that case, it was because he had found the leisure to… however, after only spending an hour there (oddly around the same times Kyouko-san would spend), was it possible to complete a copy?
“Wait… could you let me see it for a bit?”
As if to say he didn’t care if I saw it, but it was a real pain to open up the sketchbook he had just closed, he sluggishly opened to the pages before handing it to me.
As if hoisting it up, I lined it beside the real article. As expected of full color and monochrome, looking at it like that, there were some minute differences, and it was difficult to call a perfect copy—but, even so it held a reproduction value boasting a bizarre sense of precision.
Instead of impressed, I could only be awed by his overflowing wisdom, and if he could do so much, I could only question why he was here doing this. This is also just the arbitrary impression of an amateur, but isn’t copying supposed to be practice work for an artist? If he could already do this much, it was already time for him to move onto the next step, I held as my humble opinion. I arbitrarily looked through the other pages of the sketchbooks—the other works I had only got a quick flip through.
“Do all of these have originals?”
I tried asking.
“Yeah… originals or rather samples or… well, just call them models. I’ve been to museums all over.”
It sounded hard to explain. I also felt a frank atmosphere around him as if there was no use telling it to an amateur… sure enough, I doubted I could understand if he explained.
“You’re not going to draw your own painting? Um, I don’t mean a self-portrait…”
“I get it, I know that much. Of course, I’ll draw it someday but… My teacher told me I’m not on that level yet.”
No, there’s no way it’s his school teacher. I’m sure he means his art master or something like that… so even this impertinent kid is apprenticed to some predecessor. When I thought about it like that, it was a bit reassuring—but to say a young boy with such abilities wasn’t on that level yet, they must be a strict teacher.
“I think you’ve got some amazing talent.”
I found myself following through, or rather I said something almost like consolation… even if someone like me consoled him, it would only be a disgrace, but, “Well thanks for that,” or so Hakui-kun offered some slapdash gratitude—and, “Old-timer, what do you think talent is?” he continued on.
Thawasas something I had never thought of before, and if he didn’t ask me there, a question I would never think of henceforth… what is talent?
This might be an exceedingly commonplace answer, but it’s a gift from the heavens… realistically from one’s parents, or a gene from some ancestor perhaps? When it comes to me, my sturdy body is a sort of talent, and it even decided my employment. But that was an amateur’s opinion after all.
Hakui-kun spoke his ‘teacher’s opinion like gospel.
“According to teacher, having talent means you can put in a higher form of effort, it’s something like a qualification… because I’m a genius, I have to put in one hundred times more effort than everyone else. That’s why I don’t have the time to go to school.”
“Sorry for troubling you, old-timer. My effort here is over, so I’m not coming back. Lighten up a bit. If anything happens…”
As I couldn’t find the right words the say, the young boy took my hand. I thought he intended to shake it, but instead he started writing numbers on it in pencil. It was pencil on skin, so it was hard to say he wrote it properly (his handwriting was terrible for one thing), but he finished with a ten-digit number I could barely make out… no a phone number, eh.
“Just make a call to that number… well, you might be the one getting the call in the near future, mind you.”
“? … Is this your house’s number?”
“Yeah. My house, er I mean my guardian or… whatever, does it really matter?”
Apparently explanations had become a pain again and Hakui-kun cut off before snatching away the sketchbook that was still in my hands. He put away his pencil and left the space in front of the painting.
And just as he took his first step,
“… Old-timer, I don’t think we’ll meet again, so there’s something frank I want to ask you about this painting.”
He pointed at the painting on the wall as he spoke.
“Oh? Of course, go ahead… but I’m an amateur you know.”
“I want to hear an amateur’s opinion. I want a layman’s perspective, your simple thoughts… we talked about astronauts, right?”
“Yes, we did… but that was a joke, right?”
“Yeah, there’s no way this painter was an astronaut… but was it Gagarin? The one who said the earth was blue?”
“Let’s see… I think so. What about it?”
“I just think that quote is a good example, see apart from Gagarin, all sorts of astronauts have looked at the earth and they all say it, they go on and on about how it’s a beautiful planet. What do you think about that, old-timer?”
“What do I think… well, I’m sure that’s just how it’s got to be. I don’t think they were lying when they said it.”
I’m no astronaut, and I can’t say if it’s even remotely the same, but when I look at satellite images, I do get a similar impression. If the time comes when everyone can go to space, and everyone can see the whole earth as the astronauts of yore… once they learn the beauty of the earth, then environmental pollution and destruction might screech to a halt, or so the theory goes. I think there’s some sense to it.
But with a “Hmm,” Hakui-kun ignored my response that could only be called commonplace before unveiling his own view that ran in full opposition.
“I, you see… the first time I saw a satellite photo of the earth, my first impression was how filthy it was.”
He spat out the word.
“Speckled with all sorts of colors getting all jumbled up like mud, just how dirty can it be— why do all the astronauts call it beautiful, let alone blue? Why do they praise it like that, I don’t get it at all… if it were me, then the moment I see it, I’m sure I’ll throw up. The moment I first saw that, young me firmly decided he would never become an astronaut.”
A child was intentionally saying something edgy to tease an adult… his cynical tone was too close to sincere for me to interpret it that way. It’s not like he was hooked on the sense that his values ran contrary to the rest of the world… this child really couldn’t understand what the astronauts were saying. Just as I could barely understand what he was saying.
“That sensation is also the origin of my art style… I’m not doing everything in black pencil because it’s a rough sketch, I find colors disgusting. Go for monochrome over color… come to think of it, I think Gogh-san said the way we view scenery differs from person to person? I think I’m like that. In which case, that’s also a talent, I guess.”
If it’s about the various theories on Van Gogh’s sense of vision, he’s famous enough that even an outside like me’s heard them… more importantly, I was sure the young boy who added -san to Gogh was using a single pencil because it was just barely within the bounds of what was (maybe) permitted in the museum, but it seems he had a fundamental repugnance for color.
“There’s no way of telling if the landscape someone else sees matches up with what’s in your eyes—paintings c’n be copied over however many times you want, but you can’t share their field of vision. I think about it regularly, but you can sympathize with the astronauts so easily. What I’d give for that.”
I wonder how much effort a genius has to put in to catch up to the common man… saying only his last line in jest, the young artist left the museum.