Delta In The Darkness - Scene 1
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Author: Hiroshi Mori
Translator: Mr. Steak
Chapter 1: Nothing Occurs
“If we trace back the course of cause and effect with perfect diligence, we arrive at the instant of the universe’s birth. Everything originates from that one point, and to that one point all is connected. That is logic. However, there exists a single being independent of this ordered chain of events. Needless to say, that being is me.”
Horokusa Junpei frantically began the work of clearing away all the various objects cluttering the top of his sofa. He moved with a practiced speed reminiscent of a hamster digging itself a burrow energetically in the corner of its cage. Newspapers and magazines, direct-mail advertisements, invoices, a box of semi-constructed figurines, a camera, an empty cake box, tissue paper, and finally, having entirely disregarded the command to “get down”, the still sleeping Nelson, were all removed from the sofa.
“And what is that?” Odawara Shizue asked in a shrill voice.
“A dog,” Horokusa answered, cradling Nelson.
“I know that much,” she responded with a pout.
“Oh, could it be…” Horokusa said. “Was I not supposed to have pets in the apartment?”
“No, there isn’t any rule like that. As long as the other residents don’t complain, I have no problem with it. No, I don’t hate dogs…. What I had meant to ask was, just, is that also, well, something you use for your job…? I was only wondering, that’s all.”
“Ah, no, he’s not useful at all. Well, let’s see. I could probably use him as a paperweight, but I’ve never done so. To tell the truth he’s way heavier than he looks. Too heavy, in fact.” He walked all the way to the corner of the room and dropped Nelson. With only a reproachful glance up at Horokusa, Nelson reentered his usual sleep mode. Nelson, the always sleeping dog. “Oh, please make yourself at home, Miss. Take a seat. I must apologize for the mess…”
Odawara Shizue sat herself on the sofa cushions, which had just now been made visible. Then, she surveyed the walls, ceiling, windows, and floor, one after the other, gaze drifting with a stern expression, as if sure to find something she hated, if only she could snuff it out.
“Do you perform your work from here?”
“Yes, I do.” As Horokusa sat in his own chair, he spread his arms. It was a gesture without any particular meaning. “But having the customer visit me directly is… hmm… yeah, I’d say it happens about three times a year.” In truth, it had only happened twice in the three years since he’d started his business. Making such spur of the moment exaggerations was a regular occurrence in his line of work, but after the fact, Horokusa always ended up wishing he’d said the exaggerated figure with more conviction.
“How is that possible?”
“Oh, well basically, it’s way more common for people to consult me by phone.”
“You are a detective, right?”
“Yeah…” Horokusa nodded with a consciously sincere expression. “That’s correct. But, well, to be honest, sometimes even I forget what my job is supposed to be. Lately, I’ve mostly been the town’s handyman.”
Though saying that, he didn’t provide convenience on the level of a true handyman. On the contrary, the very act of coming here to request a job was plenty inconvenient on its own.
“As a detective, what sort of work do you do? Um, for example, investigating cases of adultery, and such? Ah, you must have taken secret photos as evidence before?”
Odawara Shizue took a quick glance at the camera Horokusa had just a moment ago moved to his desk. It was a piece of equipment he’d purchased from a sale hosted by his university when they were disposing of old property. As a retro style single-lens reflex, it naturally didn’t even have an auto-focus function, and as for its value, it was about the same as Nelson, only useful for its weight. The only difference was, this one had in fact been relegated to the role of a paperweight.
“Um, so what do you need?” Horokusa asked, steepling his hands and leaning forward in his chair.
“You have a flyer out front saying you offer in-home tutoring services, I believe?”
“Ah… Yes.” Horokusa gave a big nod, while thinking to himself… What, that’s it? “Er, for your daughter? Or is it for your son?”
“I see. Well I can introduce you to an ace student from a top-class school any time you like.”
“Could I ask for that to be as soon as possible?”
“Um…” Odawara Shizue smiled unnaturally. “Actually, the situation is a bit complicated. Private tutoring services generally involve the teacher visiting the student’s house, but, well, due to circumstances, rather than that arrangement, I think I would prefer the opposite, to have my son visit here for his lessons.”
“I see…. Er, so in other words, you want out-of-home tutoring.” Horokusa laughed at that, but Shizue did not. “No, that won’t be a problem. I don’t mind, but… why?”
“Right,” she replied with a grim expression. “To tell the truth, I want to keep this matter a secret from my husband. I don’t want him to know our son is using a private tutor…”
“Again though… Why?”
“Horokusa, do you know what my husband does for a living?”
“Oh, no I don’t, unfortunately.” Horokusa tilted his head curiously.
Odawara Shizue was the landlord of the very place the two of them were talking, that is to say, the apartment complex Horokusa rented from, Avarice Heights. Horokusa visited the bank every month to pay his rent by wire transfer, and the name of the recipient was always Odawara Shizue. Therefore, her name had long been familiar to him. But, of course, he had never spoken to her face to face like this.
Immediately neighboring Avarice Heights was a mansion occupying a huge plot of land, by the name of House Oumei Rokkaku. As the mansion’s design blended both western and eastern styles, it apparently had a great cultural value as well as monetary. Odawara Shizue was the only daughter of that mansion’s current owner and head of the Odawara family, Odawara Nagaharu. Her age was likely in the early forties, or at the very least ten years his elder, Horokusa thought based on the woman’s appearance in front of him. He forgot where he’d heard this exactly, but he’d known that Odawara Shizue had a high-school age daughter and a middle-school age son. However, as for the Odawara son-in-law, that is, Shizue’s husband, besides the fact that he’d married into the family Horokusa knew nothing at all. What does he do, Horokusa wondered.
Though Shizue’s explanation was sparse on details, Horokusa was able to grasp the general situation based on their brief exchange. Odawara Shizue was the manager of a preparatory school, at which her husband was employed as a math teacher. The Odawara family head and Shizue’s father, Odawara Nagaharu, was a well-known mathematician, and just recently retired from a position as professor in the esteemed N University science department. That much Horokusa had known earlier from rumors. So basically, that same Nagaharu had a son-in-law who just happened to be a math teacher himself. Except he’s only at a small private school, and whats more the school managed by his wife. It would be difficult to call him a successful mathematician.
Shizue’s husband, Odawara Masaya, had been teaching math to his highschool daughter and middleschool son. But the children hated it. The son in particular. As for the reasoning behind the hate, Shizue didn’t know. Horokusa didn’t inquire on that point further, but he figured, in this kind of situation, it’d be much stranger if the children were enthusiastic about it.
Anyway, the son had asked his mother directly if she could get him a private tutor. For the sake of her beloved son, and knowing her husband’s personality, she couldn’t tell him about it. It seemed Odawara Masaya was a very prideful and stubborn man. That was why she wanted to hire a private tutor in secret, and have her son come here.
The specifics were vague, but that was the gist of the situation. More than enough information to take on a job. And digging further wouldn’t yield anything useful anyway.
Apparently, Shizue had happened to see one of his scattered posters on a telephone pole by the front of Avarice Heights. The apartment complex that she herself owned. She’d immediately headed inside, and upon reaching his second floor door was shocked to see a sign reading “Horokusa Detective Agency”. According to Shizue.
Similar to House Oumei Rokkaku, Avarice Heights was also an antique two-story wooden building, but in terms of cultural value it was nowhere near the same. It consisted of at least twenty 2DK rooms all crammed together into the space. It was set up with a central hallway, and apartments lining the east and west sides. The hallway had such a unique vibe, you could even joke that the darkness and gloom was in line with certain niche tastes. The place was so deteriorated that it was just a matter of time until they tear it down, but it was in a really good spot close to the station, and the rent was extremely cheap, so there were generally never vacancies. The tenants were all either unmarried singles, or students.
Horokusa had just been getting home from the cafe.
“I had no idea there was a detective agency in my own apartment complex,” the aging woman standing at his door had said.
It was Sunday, 10am. For Horokusa, who had been up all night playing mahjong, that was still early morning.
Perhaps from smoking too much, his throat hurt.
Finally, Shizue’s explanation ended.
“Um, seriously, make sure you keep this a secret…” Shizue reinforced, looking Horokusa in the eye.
It’s not really that serious, he thought. It’s only a private tutor for your child.
Of course, on the surface Horokusa agreed to the job with an expression of complete sincerity.
Horokusa had seen many cases of women around her age who form values that are… shall we say, unique and full of originality (though often limited in scope), and proceed to work tooth and nail to protect those values. That’s why, no matter how trivial the problem threatening her, it is necessary to treat the matter with a level of urgency rivaling that of a global crisis of historical magnitude, as if one step away from calling for an international assembly. For any public-facing job, indeed for all business, that is a natural behavior.
Odawara Shizue was petite and quite pretty. The only heiress of a distinguished family, and on top of that, a businesswoman in her own right. But for some reason she couldn’t seem to calm down, as if uncomfortable with Horokusa’s room, or else, she felt sitting on the sofa was uncomfortable, but whichever it was, he could sense a feeling from her of being out-of-place. Perhaps she didn’t have much experience spending a lot of time in such a small, dirty space, Horokusa thought. That fancy-looking attire (which was all top-class brands) were probably her daily clothes. Or otherwise, she must have specifically changed into nice clothes before coming here. The distance from the front gate of her house, Oumei Rokkaku, to Avarice Heights was no more than 50 meters. It could very much be the case that these are the clothes she wears for an everyday walk. Horokusa was amazed. For normal people (that is to say, the average people Horokusa knew), this was a woman’s fashion sense limited to hotel parties commemorating someone’s ten year anniversary, or a classical music concert you splurge on once a year.
“I completely understand,” Horokusa said with a gentle nod. “Um, truth is, I’ve got a friend here in the room next to mine. He’s a second-year student in the medical department at N University, and currently searching for a job, luckily enough. If it’s alright with you, could we use his room instead? Your son will come around and my friend will keep watch over his studies, how does that sound?”
“Your neighbor… who is it?”
“Takanashi? Was there a resident with that name…?”
“It’s written with the characters for little bird playing.”
“Aah, yes…” Odawara Shizue nodded. “That must be… oh yes, Renmu?”
“Not Renmu either, it’s pronounced Nerina.” Horokusa nodded sympathetically. “The name’s weird, but the person’s just as weird. I swear you won’t be disappointed though…”
“Right. Well, N University is a great school, so I believe it.”
“You have my one hundred percent guarantee,” Horokusa said with a smile, all the while thinking that such a guarantee really doesn’t guarantee anything.
Translator and Editor Notes:
Now’s as good a time as any to reveal that “Avarice Heights” is actually a translation of the place’s name. The Japanese name is Akogi-Sou. My translation is literal; “Akogi” is literally is the word for the sin of avarice. And “Avarice Heights” just sounds so damn cool that I translated it lol. Also, I think it’s supposed to be ironic that the name implies opulence when it’s actually kinda run-down and shitty.
The name Oumei Rokkaku doesn’t seem to have much meaning. The “Oumei” evokes a very Japanese, springtime feeling. And “Rokkaku” literally means “six strokes”. Strokes as in, like… the number of strokes in a kanji. I don’t see this ever being relevant, but since this is a mystery novel, I’m trying to give you as many details as possible.
For the record, I don’t detect any meaning from the characters’ names so far either. I’ll let you know if something ever catches my eye there.
Comments on the plot:
First, the chapter-quote. I love this one. It’s so weird and vaguely badass. I get the impression that it’s the narrator/author talking to us, from outside the world of fiction? Like, he’s saying he’s separate from the karmic world because he’s the one writing it? In any case, the main theme I’m picking up from this one is a complete lack of free will. Everything is predetermined. It’s an interesting concept, especially after the prologue explicitly told us the ending of this story is predetermined. Also, the repetition of “needless to say” makes me think it’s the same person talking as the quote from the prologue. Curious… Verrry curious…
So, Horokusa. The first of our four main characters. I’m a big fan of how he’s been set up. First, the prologue directly calls him “the detective”, thus coloring our impression of him right from the get-go. But then in this scene we see aspects of him that seem more in line with a shrewd businessman than a detective. Lines like “consciously sincere expression” and all the times he says something that’s blatantly misleading, make me think… Is this guy actually just a conman? I love that we’re getting a so-called “detective” with that sort of vibe, haha.
We’ve also met Shizue, sort of. It’s her in particular that really makes me want to fanboy about Mori’s writing. Because her characterization comes across so well just from subtle things in her dialogue and the descriptions of her actions. We don’t have to be explicitly told that she’s quite stuck in her ways as a wealthy socialite, to pretty much know it.
Speaking of fanboying, there’s just so much in the descriptions here that gives me a really vivid picture of the scene. Like, I can already see this as an anime in my head. I’m probably gonna be ranting about how good the writing is a lot in these notes, but seriously. This entire section was one conversation where practically nothing happened, and there are pretty much not even any mysteries yet, but I was still entirely engaged the whole time. Like, even just the complex Odawara family dynamics are enough to keep me invested. It’s usually hard to get me interested when there’s no crazy magic or sci-fi shit going on, but these interpersonal dynamics are set up so well. I mean, we also know someone’s gonna get murdered later in the day, so that’s also a thing.
I have a very tiny nitpick and it’s this: The narrator talks about how “the very act of coming here to request a job was plenty inconvenient on its own”, even though just like 2 lines earlier it said that barely anybody actually does that. Everyone calls him by phone, which is much more convenient. Narrator, quit throwing shade when it’s undeserved! I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find things to make fun of Horokusa for, lol.
Best analogy of the section: the hamster one. Horokusa the hamster 😛
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