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第三章
Chapter 3
次の日。 The next day.
* * *
『山へ行ってください。そこに目立つ形をした石があります。その石を西に向かって約三メートル移動させてください。場所は、その朝比奈みくるが知っています。夜は真っ暗で危険ですから、明るいうちがいいと思います』
“Please scale the mountain. There you will encounter an oddly shaped rock. Move this rock approximately three meters to the west and leave it there. Asahina Mikuru knows what to do. Since it will be pitch dark after nightfall, it is advised that you go there before the sun sets.”
* * *
トイレの中で封を切った手紙の一枚目に書かれていたのはそんな文章だった。二枚目には昨日と同様、全然うまくない筆致でひょうたんみたいな絵が描いてあり、矢印でわざわざ〝石〟と|注 釈してある。 After tearing open yet another letter in the washroom, I was once again greeted with more strange instructions. Similar to yesterday’s letter, there were strange scribbles beneath it, and the word “rock” was circled, as if emphasizing that specific word.
決定、今日も帰宅部だ。 So I decided that today I would head straight back home.
「それはいいけどな……」 “Even though it’s fine with me…”
しかし何だろう、この漠然とした指令は。山に石だと? 何山のどこ石だ? 朝比奈さんが知っている山ってのは……。 But what in the world was this? Rocks atop mountains? What mountain? What rock? The only mountain I had heard from Asahina-san recently was…
かつん、と頭の中で小石が転がる。 I started to feel my head spin.
「ああそうか、宝探しとか言ってたな」 “That damned treasure hunt.”
朝比奈さん(みちる)によると、次の祝日に俺たちは宝探しに行くらしい。明後日だ。鶴屋家の持ち山という話だったな。それにしても、またもや鶴屋さんの登場か。あの人は二人の朝比奈さんのことなんかおくびにも出さず、ハルヒと俺を前にしてもただ笑っているだけだろうが、このままでは俺が情緒不安定になりそうだ。古泉にとっても困りもんだろうが、待てよ。 According to Asahina-san, we would spend our holidays treasure-hunting. And that would be the day after tomorrow. Tsuruya-san was said to have a mountain behind her house, and if that was so, she would still be involved. That girl bought the story of the two Asahina-sans without question, as she continued to smile before me and Haruhi. That’s what worries me the most. Even if it was a sticky matter for Koizumi, I could still ignore it for the time being, and that’s exactly what I did.
「てことは、そろそろハルヒも元気になるってわけか」 “So that means that Haruhi should be back to her usual self soon.”
俺は教室へ向かいながら予測する。宝の地図は鶴屋さんが持ってくることになっていて、実行に移すのが明後日ってことは、ハルヒがそれを手にするのは今日か明日に違いない。たぶん明日だ。昨夜、鶴屋さんはそれらしいことを臭わそうともしなかった。まだ蔵とやらからその地図を見つけてないと思われる。見つけてたらハルヒに渡すよう俺に押しつけただろうし。 I walked to the classroom as I predicted her reaction. The map was currently in Tsuruya-san’s possession, and two days later we would be on a treasure hunt. That means that Haruhi would probably obtain this map within two days time, most likely tomorrow. I hadn’t detected any sense of excitement in Tsuruya-san last evening. Does this mean that she hadn’t found the map yet? Or was she just keeping quiet? Knowing Tsuruya-san, she would be one to give me the map for safe keeping, and tell me to pass it to Haruhi, if she had already found it.
「よっ、ハルヒ」 “Hey, Haruhi.”
案の定だった。先に教室にいたハルヒは、長門の爪のアカを分けてもらったかのような低エネルギーモードで、物憂げな女子高生を演じていたが、 Just as I expected, she was already in the classroom, still as quiet as Nagato, like a normal high school student full of melancholy.
「シャミセンは?」 “How’s Shamisen?”
俺のほうを見ずに窓を息で曇らせた。 She didn’t even bother to look at me as she continued to stare outside the window. She didn’t look too happy.
「ああ、まあまあな具合になってきた」 “Oh, he’s still okay.”
「そう。よかったわね」 “Is that so? Well, that’s good I guess.”
息で白くなったガラスにへのへのもへじを描いている。 Her breath condensed on the window and made it cloudy. Using her index finger, she began tracing patterns on the window.
妙すぎる。俺とハルヒの間でこんなまともな会話がかわされるとは、長門が部室で本を読んでいない姿より珍しい。さすがに心配……いや不安になってくるぜ。どこかで〈神人〉とやらを暴れさせているんじゃないだろうな。 That’s weird. Being able to have a normal conversation like this with Haruhi is even more rare than seeing Nagato not reading in the club room. This makes me feel anxious, as if some unknown peril might be slowly creeping up on me. It couldn’t be the doing of some unknown aliens, could it?
「どうした? ここんとこ元気ねえじゃねえか」 “What’s the matter? You look down.”
ハルヒはフンと鼻を鳴らして、 Haruhi snorted in reply.
「何言ってんのよ。あたしはいつも通りにしてるわよ。ちょっと考え事をしてるだけで、あし……」 “What are you talking about? I’ve always been like this. It’s just that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Tomor…”
そこからさらに言いかけたのだが、ハルヒは不自然に言葉を切り俺に横目を使った。 Just as I was expecting her to go on, she abruptly shut her mouth and stared at me.
「あんたこそ、今日は部室に来るの?」 “You’re one to ask. Not coming to the club room again today?”
来ても来なくてもどうでもいいような顔をしている。俺にしてみりゃ好都合なことだったが。 Haruhi revealed a face that clearly said, 'It doesn’t matter whether you come or not.' I don’t care, though. To me, it's a great opportunity to chat with her.
「シャミセンがまだ寂しがるんだ。妹には任せておけないし、今日も看病だな」 “Shamisen’s easily bored. And since I can’t entrust him to my sister, I’ll have to take full responsibility of taking him to the vet again.”
「うん、それがいいと思うわ」 “Hmm, I think that’s great.”
おかしなことにハルヒの表情もまた好都合だと言っているような気がする。 Even more surprising was that even though Haruhi wore a scowl on her face, I could sense that she was in a pretty good mood.
「病気の時は人恋しくなるものだもん。ちゃんと全快するまでついててあげるのよ。あたしも元気なシャミセンと早く遊びたいもの」 “When you’re sick, it’s only natural to rely on someone. When he’s all better, be sure to take him out to play. I also wish to play with a fully recovered Shamisen soon.”
ハルヒ的にはシャミセンも団員の一人みたいなもんだろうからな。ただし世話は俺に任して気が向いたときだけ遊びに来るというあたりがこいつらしい。一週間くらい貸してやってもいいぜ。 To Haruhi, Shamisen might have very well have become a brigade member already. Asking me to take care of him and then bring him out when she feels like playing with him, that's Haruhi for you, all right. Still, I think it would be a good experience for both Shamisen and me to let him go over to her place for a week.
「考えとくわ」 “I’ll think about it.”
上の空でうなずいたハルヒは、また窓に息は吐きかけた。[#底本「また窓に息は吐きかけた」ママ] Looking up at the sky, Haruhi once again began blowing at the window pane.
* * *
* * *
早く放課後になれと念じるばかりの授業中ほど時間がのろくさく感じられることはない。 Since everyone wishes for lessons to end faster anyways, I didn’t feel how slow the flow of time really was.
だもので、俺はジリジリしながら教師から解答を指名されることのないよう無言の祈りを続けたり、漫然と板書を書き写したりしているうちに、ほとんど何一つ授業の内容を覚えないままの時を過ごし、よく考えたらいつものことで、ああこんなんだから成績がちっとも|上 昇しないんだなと認識を新たにしたものの、それもこれも放課後にすべきことが色々ありすぎるのが悪いのだ。そうに違いない。帰宅部の谷口が俺同様の成績であるのは、この際目をつぶっといてくれ。 All I did was silently pray under my breath that my teachers won't ask me to answer any questions, as I mechanically flipped the pages, not paying attention to what was going on. Thinking back about it, it was normal to showcase such behavior. Even though it wasn’t a good thing to do, and was probably the reason why my grades suffered so phenomenally, it was nevertheless typical. Feeling dread about the troublesome things I had to do after school, I consoled myself by thinking about how bad Taniguchi’s results were compared to mine. Hey, give me a break already.
役立たずな教科書どもを机の中に押し込み、おかげで軽々とした鞄を提げて教室を出ようとしたとき、掃除当番の谷口がホウキを肩にして声をかけてきた。 I placed my textbooks in my desk’s drawer, knowing that they would very well gather dust in my room anyway. My bag felt remarkably lighter, as I made my way out of the class room. Just then, Taniguchi, who was on class duty, patted my shoulder and said,
「キョンよぉ」 “Yo, Kyon.”
どこか虚ろな目をしている理由が解らないが、こいつにかまっているヒマはない。朝比奈さんが俺を待っているのだ。その心情を察するに、メロスの帰還を待ちわびるセリヌンティウスのごときものだろう。いますぐ駆けつけたい。 For some reason, Taniguchi looked at me with eyes that had seemed to have lost their light. I didn’t have the time to be fooling around with him. Asahina-san was waiting for me. If he understood what I was feeling, he would have let me go.
しかし谷口は、俺の行く手を遮るようにホウキを差し向け、 But Taniguchi stood there as if blocking the door, and pointed the broom he was holding towards me.
「いいよなぁ、お前はよー」 “How I admire you.”
恨めしい声で何やら絡む気配である。何がいいものか。お前に羨ましがられることなど、一ダースくらいしか思いつかないぞ。 There was an air of spite in his voice. I racked my brain as I thought of what could have possibly inspired his admiration. I couldn’t find anything.
「そんなにあるか。せいぜい三つくらいだ」と谷口は不機嫌そうに答え、はぁと溜息をつく。 “Is that so?” Taniguchi replied slowly, and sighed.
ハルヒの憂鬱が谷口にも伝染したのか、さては空気感染するようなヤバい病気なのかと半分疑っていると、 I wonder if Haruhi’s melancholy had affected Taniguchi, too. Maybe it was some kind of sickness that could be transferred via the air.
「ああ、谷口ね」 “Hey, Taniguchi.”
国木田がひょいと顔を覗かせ、手にしたチリトリを振りながら解答を寄せた。 Kunikida suddenly appeared and stared at Taniguchi’s face.
「最近、彼女と別れちゃったみたいだよ。それで落ち込んでいるのさ。無理もないけど」 “You look like someone who just got dumped by his girlfriend, looking very depressed lately. What’s the matter? Don’t tell me you two really did break up.”
Kunikida asked while busy operating the vacuum cleaner.
「それはそれは」 “Is that so, is that so…?”
と俺は半笑いで谷口の肩を叩いてやる。彼女というと、クリスマス前にできたという女子校のアレか。俺のイブの予定がハルヒ鍋だというとしみじみ気の毒がってくれたよなぁ、谷口。 I smiled as I patted Taniguchi’s back. Speaking of his girlfriend, I heard it was some girl from Kouyouen he got to know during Christmas. Unfortunately, I was busy eating Haruhi’s hot pot during Christmas, so too bad, Taniguchi.
「ははぁ、その様子ではお前、振られたな? そうかそうか」 “Seeing your face, it looks like you got dumped. I see, I see.”
「うっせえ」 “This can’t be.”
同情すべき友人はホウキを構える素振りだけして、力無く下ろした。 My friend, who had obviously been fishing for sympathy earlier on, put on another depressed face as the broom fell from his hands. It was painfully clear that he was still very sad.
「早く帰りやがれ。掃除の邪魔だ」 “You should get going, you’re disturbing my cleaning.”
国木田は苦笑を浮かべながら、 Kunikida forced out a sympathetic smile.
「言っちゃ悪いけど僕は時間の問題だったと思うよ、谷口。僕はキミの彼女さんに会ったことも見たこともないけど、キミの話を聞く限り、どうも相手は真剣じゃなかったみたいだね」 “Even if it hurts, I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time, Taniguchi. Pardon me for being honest, but even though I never once met your girlfriend, from your words I could tell that she wasn’t really serious from the start.”
「おめーに解ってたまるか。いいや解るな。解ってもらいたくねー」 “How could you know if the both of you have never met? Oh, forget it. It’s not like I was expecting you to understand anyway---”
「だいたいさぁ、付き合うきっかけからしておかしいよ。だって、」 “Truthfully speaking, don’t you think it’s a bit too weird to become lovers before the two of you even started off as friends?”
「あーあー! もう喋るな。マジで、忘れたいからよ」 “Bah, don’t mention this anymore. I really want to get over it as soon as possible.”
もうしばらく友人二人によるいかにも高校生らしい会話の一幕を眺めていたい気がしたが、何しろ俺は先を急ぐのだ。 I really wanted to stay, just to see how a typical high school drama unfolds in real life. Unfortunately for me, real life does not permit me to stay here any longer, and I needed to take my leave soon.
「まあそう思い詰めるな。お前ほどの男だ、いつか素晴らしい女に出くわすこともある。そうだな、干支が一回りする間くらいにはどっかから降ってくるだろうよ」 “Oh well, don’t think about it too much. A good lad like you will surely meet a fine lass one of these days. Until then, just be patient!”
俺はそう言うと、反撃の言葉を聞く前に廊下へ飛び出て、後ろを見ずに歩き出した。せめてもの情けというやつさ。谷口の失恋を笑いのネタもとにするほど俺は出来ていない人間ではないつもりだ。正直、多少はザマミロという気分でもあるが。何と言っても先に進んでいた友人が同じ序列に戻ってきたのは単純に喜ばしい。ともに頑張ろうじゃないか。 After making my statement, I hurried out of the classroom before Taniguchi could think of a reply. At least I tried to console him. I’m not that kind of guy that would make fun of someone who just got dumped. Truthfully speaking, I really sympathize with you, but at the same time, I’m relieved to see one of my good buddies once again come back to accompany me at the starting line. Let’s try harder in the future, okay?
「ん? しかし何でまたあいつは俺を羨ましそうにしてたんだ?」 But why did he admire me so?
下駄箱の蓋を開けているときに気づき、ついでに変な連想までしてしまった。もしや、谷口がネガになっているのと同様のプロセスで、ハルヒのダウナー現象も恋愛関係がベースにあるんじゃないだろうかという恐るべき思いつきである。俺はそんな自分の思いつきに戦慄し、次に笑けてきた。 As I opened my shoe locker, I suddenly thought of many things. If Taniguchi’s melancholy was due to love, could the same thing be said for Haruhi too? If Taniguchi was acting all melancholic because of the end of his love life, could Haruhi be acting the same due to her lack of one?
Thinking about this, I suddenly felt scared, before I laughed out loud to myself.
「んなわけないか」 “Impossible.”
ハルヒが恋煩いで懊悩するという本質的ミステイクシーンなど、俺が来年のドラフトでメジヤーリーグから一位指名されることよりも想像できない。されても嬉しくないから別にかまわないのだが、ハルヒが何を考えているのかは知りたくあるな。エアコン無しの教室でホッカイロを握りしめるのに鬱になっているとは思いがたいが……。 Thinking that Haruhi’s melancholy was due to love problems was just plain stupid. The possibility of that happening was roughly equal to me being selected to join the national baseball league. And even if it did happen, I wouldn’t be happy, just like the current situation. Even if it was totally unrelated to my current problems, I wanted to know what Haruhi was really thinking. It was hard to imagine a world without Haruhi, who was presumably sulking alone in the club room beside the heater right now.
「まあいい」 “Just forget it.”
俺は俺で今はそれどころではない。それにハルヒならすぐに元気化する。明後日には俺たちを宝探しに駆り出すくらいになると解っているのだから、解っている俺としては余計な気を回すこともないだろう。つつき方を間違えたあげく、SOS団全員の方向性までもが間違ってしまう事態はつくづく避けたい。無害な細菌に放射能を当てて致死性の病原体を生み出してしまうような事態は、いかに人類が科学の徒であろうとやっぱり起こさないほうがいいもんさ。分をわきまえないとな。 Now is not the time to be thinking of such things. I mean, it’s Haruhi we’re talking about. She’ll be okay in no time. If she knew about our treasure hunt, she’d be in high spirits instantly. Since I already knew what was going to happen, there was no need to worry anymore. Nor was there any need to try to find out any further. Because there was always the possibility of making a mistake, and endangering the entire SOS Brigade in the process. Just like a harmless germ, if exposed to laser radiation, it might very well mutate into some life-threatening organism. Even though I could learn a lot from this specific “germ”, the risks of it mutating were too high, and therefore I decided it was best to leave it alone. Was it the right choice to play it safe, or a foolish decision to forsake the opportunity to find out more? There’s only a blurry line between what’s right and what’s wrong.
「さて、まずは小さな未来を何とかするか」 “I’ll just do what I can for the future before me, before worrying about the distant future.”
人類の未来を不安がっていても始まらない。俺にとって、今はもう一人の朝比奈さんが一大|懸案事項だった。 Someone once said that the only thing certain about the future is the uncertainty it brings. But for me, there was something sure about the future, and that was that Asahina-san existed, and therefore so did the future.
After returning home briefly, I got on to my trusty bike, and pedaled all the way to Tsuruya-san’s mansion.
* * *
* * *
一度、自宅に帰った俺はすぐさまチャリに乗って一路、鶴屋|邸を目指した。 What I had in mind was to telephone Tsuruya-san’s house, and tell Asahina-san to come out and meet me. But since Tsuruya-san wasn’t home yet, things were a little tricky. I thought of asking one of Tsuruya-san’s maids to relay my message to Asahina-san, but after thinking that it would probably take a long time for me to get my message through, and an even longer time for them to relay it, I gave up upon the idea. Unable to decide, I finally telephoned the Tsuruya residence, and decided to just let the future play itself out.
その間にしたことは、鶴屋さんの家に電話して朝比奈さんを呼び出してもらったくらいである。しかして鶴屋さんはまだ帰宅していなかった。だから鶴屋家の居候となっている朝比奈さん(みちる)に取り次いでもらうには少しは時間がかかるかと思っていたのだが、電話に出た使用人みたいな人は鶴屋さんから言い含められていたらしく、自己|紹介などを省略して俺の名前を告げるだけで朝比奈さんへ取り次いでくれた。まったくこういうところも便利な鶴屋さんだ。打ち合わせを忘れていたのにこっちの思惑をすっきりと見通してくれている。将来は秘書にでもなればとてつもない有能さを存分に発揮するんじゃないか。 It was, as I expected, one of Tsuruya-san’s maids who picked up the phone. It seemed that Asahina-san was already expecting my call, as the maid didn’t ask any further question other than what my name was. Before I even said “Hello” to Asahina-san, she said, “I’ll go and meet you right away. Please wait for me,” as if totally understanding what I wanted to say. If she happened to become my secretary in the future, I’m sure she would display a great deal of potential.
その鶴屋さんと同様に愛すべきもう一人の先輩、朝比奈さんには「今から迎えに行きますから待っててください」と伝えて電話を置いた。言葉で説明するよりは実物を見せたほうが早い。俺のポケットの中には例の命令書と、万一のための懐中電灯が入っている。 Just like Tsuruya-san, Asahina-san was a respectable sempai. Instead of conveying everything through the phone, why shouldn't I just let Asahina-san read the message? That would save me a lot of time trying to explain to her the various symbols. Now why hadn’t I thought of that earlier?
何度も通ったことがあるせいで鶴屋さんの家まで自転車をこぐ両脚もスムーズだ。二月の寒さはこたえるが、雪が降っていないだけまだマシだろう。耳と鼻がカチカチに凍りそうな逆風の中、鶴屋さん家に到着した俺は呼び鈴を鳴らしてしばらく待った。 Within my pockets were the said letter and a flashlight, just in case something happened. Because I had been to Tsuruya-san’s house too many times for me to remember, I instinctively knew where to go. Even though it wasn’t snowing, knowing the cold February, it would probably snow any time soon. While my ears and nose were turning numb from the cold winter wind, I continued to pedal furiously, until I finally reached Tsuruya-san’s house.
通用門からひょこっと顔を出した朝比奈さんは、 Asahina-san’s face emerged cautiously from between the doors.
「キョンくん」 “Kyon-kun.”
俺を見るとホッとしたような笑顔を作り、ぴょこっと門から出てきた。さすがにセーラー服ではなく、パンツルックの上にもこもこしたコートを着込んでいる。 Asahina-san let out a relieved smile, as she stepped out from Tsuruya-san’s house. She wasn’t dressed in her sailor uniform like she was yesterday. Instead, she was dressed in long pants and a thick, furry jacket.
「鶴屋さんの服を借りてるの」 “I borrowed some clothes from Tsuruya-san.”
朝比奈さんは俺の目を気にするようにコートの襟をひっぱりながら、 As if noticing my blank stare, Asahina-san tightened her collar, and said:
「自分の部屋から衣服を持ち出すわけにはいきませんから」 “Because I can’t go back home to retrieve my own clothes.”
「部屋から自分の服がなくなった思い出がないからですか?」 “So you have no memory of losing clothes?”
自転車のスタンドを戻しつつそう訊くと、朝比奈さんはバツが悪そうな顔をした。 I asked stupidly while sitting on my bike. It was painfully obvious, but that was all I could think of at that moment.
Asahina-san didn’t look too good, as she said,
「それは、その、覚えてないんだけど……。いつも着る服はあったと思うんです。でも、なくなってても気づかなかったような気も……。いえ、そんなにたくさん服があるわけでもないんです。ええと、その」 “Erm… I can’t really remember if I lost any garments… Because I never once thought of going through them to search if any of them went missing… Even if I did lose some I doubt I would notice… But that’s not to say that I have too many outfits to choose from… umm…”
いえいえ気にしませんよ。俺だって箪笥の奥からパンツの一枚がなくなってても永遠に盗難届を出しに行くことはないでしょう。仮に紛失に気づいたとしても何かの拍子にどっかいっちまったんだろうと気にも留めないに違いない。 You need not worry too much. If it were me, I wouldn’t have noticed if a pair of my pants suddenly went missing and even if I did, I couldn’t go around blindly accusing people of stealing them. If that really did happen, all I would do was stay quiet. Not like I would really mind anyway.
俺は優しい目をして朝比奈さんを眺めた。借り物だろうが何だろうが激似合っているからコーションオールグリーンだ。 I gently looked at Asahina-san. It doesn’t matter whether those clothes are yours or not, anything would look great on you.
「そんなことないですよー」 “N-No… T-There’s no such thing…”
朝比奈さんは照れたように手を振った。 Asahina-san shook her hands in embarrassment.
「裾と袖があたしには長すぎますし、それから……」 “The sleeves are too long for me, and…”
胸元を押さえようとした朝比奈さんは、少し赤くなって手の動きを止めた。 Asahina-san reached for her chest, and gently laid her fingers on them. Her face blushed bright red, as her movements stopped.
「いえ、何でもありません」 “I-I-I-It’s okay… R-Really… Ahahahaha!”
俺はますます安らかな気分になる。手足が長くてスラリとしたスタイルを持つ鶴屋さんの服だ、朝比奈さんにあてがうには布地のゆとりが少ない部分があるということだろう。朝比奈さがどことなく窮屈そうにしているのはそのあたりに原因があると推察される。コートで上半身が隠されているのが残念だが、まあそのへんは後回しでいい。 After a moment of silence, my heart finally calmed down. Tsuruya-san may have had longer hands and feet, as well as a taller figure, but on Asahina-san, there were also places that were too tight. At one glance, anyone could see which part was too small for Asahina-san. I knew that beneath the jacket lay a hot figure. It was too bad that I couldn’t see it without the jacket. But then again, I was sure that I would be able to in the future.
俺は下駄箱に投げ込まれていた未来便を見せて、 I took out the letter I found in my shoe locker this morning.
「今日はこういうことをしないといけないみたいですが、心当たりはありますか」 “It seems that this time we have to do it no matter what. Do you know why?”
山に行って石を動かせ、というまるでRPGのお使いプレイみたいな指令である、しかもこの指令には理由が明記されておらず、達成したら何か役立ちアイテムがもらえるのかどうかも不明だから、ゲームなんだとしても出来のいい部類ではない。 Scale a mountain. Move a rock. This seemed like those RPGs, where the main character would be given a rather pointless mission, without any explanation why he had to do it. And there wasn’t any mentioning of what he would obtain should he follow the instructions given either. Worse, there wasn’t any guarantee that even if the hero did oblige, he would obtain something good.
「えっ……。あの山ですか? あたしが場所を知っているってことは、そうなんですよね。変な形の石……。あっ、あれのこと……?」 “Hmm… Is it that mountain? It’s the only mountain I know. Oddly-shaped rock? Rocks… Hmm… Ah, could it be…?”
朝比奈さんは風ではためく手紙をしげしげと読み込みながら眩きを漏らしていたが、やがて巣の場所を見失ったシマリスのように首を傾げ、 Asahina-san softly muttered to herself while she read the letter, which was gently caressed by the wind. She was thinking aloud, just like a little lost mouse who had forgotten the way back to his little hole.
「心当たりはあります。ここ、宝探しに行ったところだと思いますから。と言うか、あたしが知っている場所っていうんだったら、そこしかないわ。ううんと、でも、どうして?」 “I have a general idea of where we’re supposed to go. It should be the site of the treasure hunt. In other words, it’s the only place I know.”
I nodded. It made sense.
“But, what should we do?”
むろん俺には解らない。だが見当はつきそうだ。 Obviously, I had no clue. But I did have an idea.
「朝比奈さん、宝探しでは本当に何も出てこなかったんですよね?」 “Asahina-san, did we really not find anything?”
「え、ええ」 “Yes… I mean, no, we didn’t.”
早くも指先がかじかみ始めたか、朝比奈さんは手紙をおぼつかなく畳んでいる。俺はどことなく不自然な様子を感じつつ、 My hands were slowly turning numb from the cold. Asahina-san folded the letter, and I suddenly felt uneasy. What was this feeling?
「おかしくないですか? この指令はどう考えても宝探しがらみだと思うんですが」 “Doesn’t it seem strange? No matter how you look at it, this order has something to do with treasure hunting.”
「そ、それは」 “W-Well…”
朝比奈さんはうつむいて、 Asahina-san lowered her head.
「どうなんでしょう。ううん……」 “What does this mean? Hmm…”
考え込むような、すぐ喉元までこみ上げたセリフを出そうかどうか悩んでいるような表情で、ちらっと上目遣いを送ってきた。その目つきに腰砕けになりそうな俺に、朝比奈さんはプルプルと首を振った。 Not knowing whether ignorance is bliss or not knowing anything was not good, Asahina-san shook her head and looked at me.
「やっぱり解りません。そ、そうだわ、その場に行けば何か思い出すかも……」 “I still can’t seem to make out anything. I guess it's best that we head to the mountain. Maybe I’ll remember something there…”
「そうっすね」 “That makes sense.”
とりあえず行ってみるか。ハルヒには悪いが、先に宝探しのロケハンに行かせてもらうぜ。 Anyhow, we should first head there to have a look. Haruhi would undoubtedly be unhappy if she were to find out that I’d been there ahead of her, but I suppose that I could always pretend that I’d never been to the place before, should she ask.
明後日、俺が新鮮味にかける態度でいても許せよな。
俺は自転車にまたがり、朝比奈さんに後ろに乗るよう促した。控えめに横座りする朝比奈さんと腰に回されるおずおずとした腕に卒倒しそうになっている俺を、昨夜の記憶が冷静に戻した。 I got onto my bike, and persuaded Asahina-san to sit behind me. Afraid of falling off, Asahina-san wrapped her hands tightly around my waist. I suddenly recalled last night.
「どうかしたの?」 “What’s the matter?”
走り出す前に左右を確認しまくる俺に、朝比奈さんが不思議そうな声で訊く。 Asahina-san asked me softly, just as I was identifying left and right.
「いえ、何でも」 “Nah, it’s nothing.”
俺はそう答えただけで、力強くペダルを踏みしめた。 I replied simply, as I began pedaling. My mind, however, was silently thinking about something else.
ちょっとね、そこらで古泉か、あるいは古泉っぽい誰かが姿を隠しているんじゃないかと思っただけです。鶴屋さんの家を張っているのか、俺たちをつけ回しているのかは知らないけどな。 Was that guy last night Koizumi? Or was it merely someone who looked like him? I hadn’t really got a good glance at him, and it was dark too.
I shunned those thoughts from of my mind, and continued to head for the mountain.
* * *
* * *
鶴屋家の私有山は我が北高から東に水平移動した場所に位置している。山と言うよりは大型の丘という感じで、そんなに標高はない。思いっきりヒネった視点で観察すれば、忘れられた古墳に見えなくもないが、天然林に占められた山の表面を見上げてみれば、これが円墳であろうと休火山であろうと登る手間に違いはなく、ちなみに登山道みたいなものもない。あるのはクマでも上り下りに苦労しそうな急勾配の獣道だ。 Maybe it was due to Tsuruya-san’s mansion being too big, but I soon lost all sense of direction.
Tsuruya-san’s private mountain was located east of North High. Instead of being called a mountain, it should be called a hill, as it wasn’t really as high as a mountain above sea level. As I scanned the area around me, I was disappointed to not find any monuments left behind by some ancient civilization. Looking up high, all I could see were trees, trees, and more trees. Be it a mountain, a cliff, a dune, or a sleeping volcano, scaling it was no easy task. The same could be said for this hill. There were no specially-made paths for ascension. It would take equal amounts of time and energy to ascend or descend, or simply put, to go up and down the hill. Even a grizzly bear would feel tired climbing this steep hill.
「こっちです。うん、ここから登ったわ」 “It’s this place all right. Let’s start climbing.”
朝比奈ナビゲーションによって自転車を走らせて坂を上ったり田んぼのあぜ道を踏破したりしているうちに、すでに日が傾き始めていた。山の麓は水のかれた田んぼか菜っぱを生やした畑が広がるのみで、人の姿は皆無だった。 Following Asahina-san’s directions, I silently pushed my bike uphill, and scaled the hill. The sun was already beginning to set. As I looked down, vast vegetable fields came into view, but there wasn’t a single soul in sight.
「人の家の山に勝手に登っちゃっていいんですかね」 “Are you sure it’s all right to just climb someone else’s mountain? We’re technically trespassing on private property you know.”
俺がげんなりと山を見上げていると、朝比奈さんがクスっと小さな笑い声を上げて、 I said as I wearily made my way to the top of the hill. Asahina-san suddenly let out a soft laugh. “Tsuruya-san said it’s all right. Kyaa~ That’s what I heard her say a few days ago… Oh no, wait… That should be tomorrow… She should be telling you this tomorrow.”
「鶴屋さんはいいって言ってましたよ。あ、あたしがそう聞いたのは何日も前……いえ、時間的には明日のことで……、ええ、キョンくんも明日、言われると思います」
ようやく|状 況に慣れてきたのか、朝比奈さんは自分の過去を振り返る余裕が出てきたようだ。 I felt as if I had finally grasped the situation. It may seem like the past to Asahina-san, but to me it was the future. I only hoped that she would shed more light on what I should do.
それって俺には未来のことだが、どうせならもっと教えて欲しい。
「教えられることは、そのう、あまりないんです。やったことって宝探しと市内パトロール……ぐらいです」 “Erm… That’s all I can tell you for now… The treasure hunt and city patrol should happen pretty soon now…”
ハルヒ主催のクジ引き大会は? Then what about the lucky draw?
「あ、うん、それも」 “A-Ah... T-That…”
朝比奈さんは慌てた素振り。他に忘れてることがあるんじゃないですか? Asahina-san was immediately thrown into a state of panic, as she blushed furiously. Hmm, anything else?
「えと、えーと」 “W-Well… T-That…”
妙にそわそわしているが、俺には言えないことでもあるのかな。いわゆる禁則|事項ってやつで。 Was Asahina-san panicking because she was hiding something? Classified information?
「そ、そうです。禁則なの。うーん、多分、禁則事項だと」 “Y-Yes! That’s it, classified information… Well, at least classified for now.”
表情をうかがう限り、朝比奈さんからシリアスな雰囲気はしない。未来人の秘密主義には今さらツッコミを入れようとは思わないが、どうやらこの朝比奈さんも何かを知りつつ隠しているように思える。まったく何も知っていないのは現時刻にいる朝比奈さんだけか。ややこしいな。不等号で表すと、朝比奈さん(大)>……中略……>朝比奈さん(みちる)>朝比奈さん(小)くらいのポジションになるか。 From the look on her face, I couldn’t feel any sense of superiority at all. Even though I didn’t know if she knew about any big, cataclysmic secrets about the future, I was confident that she at least knew about some events from the recent future, events that she was concealing from me. So does that mean that the only one who knows absolutely nothing is Asahina-san (Mikuru)? Gah this is frustrating. If put in inequalities, it would probably be:
Asahina-san (Big) > Asahina-san (Michiru) > Asahina-san (Mikuru)
よほど俺が今にも溜息をつきそうな顔をしていたのだろう、朝比奈さんはまた不安そうに、 I sighed loudly. Upon hearing this, Asahina-san became even more anxious than before.
「あの、キョンくん……?」 “Erm… Kyon-kun…?”
ここで背を向けたら泣き出しそうな瞳であり、こんな目を向けられて平気でいられるほど俺は加虐趣味にあふれておらず、むしろ突発的な博愛主義に精神を支配されるばかりであって、たちどころに俺の顔面筋肉はシャミセンの腹の肉みたいに柔らかくなる。 Asahina-san said with her back faced to me. From her voice, I was sure that her eyes were filled with tears. If she stared at me with those pitiful eyes, I was sure that I couldn’t answer her question calmly. I admit that I had no evil intentions at that time, but even so, my mind was filled with immense feelings of love that had somehow exploded out from somewhere and were fast overfilling my soul. My face crumpled like Shamisen’s belly under her magical touch, as I forced myself to say:
「いえいえ。だいじょうぶです、すぐに俺にも理解できると思うんでね」 “Oh, it’s all right, there’s no need to worry. Even if you don’t say anything, I think I’ll understand everything in a few days time.”
この朝比奈さんの話では、八日前にタイムジャンプするように仕向けたのは八日後の俺である。その俺は全部|解っていて朝比奈さんを過去に飛ばした。それは今の俺の未来の姿なのだから、そいつに訊けば全部のカラクリが解る手はずで、つまり誰かに訊くまでもなくそのうち俺にも解るのだ。でないとおかしいだろ。 If what Asahina-san said was true, then I would know everything after eight days. To her it seemed like the past, but in reality it was my future. I could know everything that would happen within these 8 days if I were to ask Asahina-san, but then again, I would still know what would happen even if I didn’t ask her. All I needed to do was wait. Time will tell, or so they say. Now if time didn’t tell, wouldn’t that be stranger still?
「日が暮れる前にこの命令のほうをやっつけちまいましょう」 “Let’s finish what we’re here for before nightfall.”
俺は朝比奈さんの背に手を添えて言った。見上げてくる朝比奈さんは子犬の瞳でうなずき返し、 I said as I gently placed my arms around Asahina-san’s shoulders. Asahina-san looked at me with puppy-like eyes, and slowly nodded her head.
「あ、はい。あたしが案内するんですね。そんなに上まで登らなかったので、すぐです」 “Oh, okay. Let me lead the way. We need to go further up, before we start climbing.”
鬱蒼たる緑の山へ入っていく。本来なら俺が先導して危険な枝や根っこを残らず山刀でぶった切っておくところなのだが、真冬では蛇や虫も冬眠中だろうし、そう危なくはないと判断する。登っている途中で朝比奈さんが滑り落ちないように、後ろから見守る役を自任しよう。 So, the both of us hiked through the dense jungles. I had originally planned to take the lead, hacking away at the dangerous twigs and tree roots, but after taking into consideration that Asahina-san might slip and roll downhill anytime, I quickly changed my mind. Since it was still winter, all snakes of any sort would be busy hibernating, so I guess it wasn’t that dangerous after all. This way, even if Asahina-san were to slip, I would be able to catch her in my arms and protect her.
「はっ、ふうっ、あう」 “A-Ah… Oops…”
果たして朝比奈さんの山登り姿はかなり危なっかしい。ましてや道ならぬ道である。通常の登山道なら蛇行しながら進むものだが、見渡す限りそんな便利なものはない。緑を踏みしめ、ゴロゴロしている岩肌に手をかけてのクライミングだ。 No matter how you look at it, Asahina-san + steep mountain always equals danger. Add to the above equation that this was no ordinary mountain, and you get the picture. While scaling a mountain, one would usually zigzag along like a snake, but due to excessive stones and tree branches, things were more complicated than usual.
「あひゃっ!」
何度かずり落ちそうになる朝比奈さんを支えてあげるという役得に思わず笑みを浮かべつつ、俺たちはほぼ一直線に小型の山の中腹を目指した。よくよく観察してみると、今俺たちが辿っているルートは人の出入りがあることを示すように、ところどころが踏み固められていた。かといってまともな道でもなく、少し上等な獣道程度だが、それでもまったくの自然のままならこうして朝比奈さんが俺の前を行くことは不可能だったろう。 I lost count of how many times Asahina-san nearly slipped and fell. Even though I had to arch my back to protect her, a smile was always on my face whenever that happened. We were walking in a mountain unfit for humans, no doubt, but no matter where we went, there was always a “correct” path leading deeper into the mountains. By “path” I mean a route that wild beasts probably also found better to follow. But even so, I was happy. If this were a “normal” mountain, then there wouldn’t be any need for Asahina-san to walk in front of me, would there?
登ること十数分、俺の目の前に平坦な場所が現れた。 After a good ten minutes of walking, a small, even patch of land soon came into view.
「ここ、ふう、ここです。色んなとこを掘ったけど、石があったのはここ」 “Yes, this is the place. Even though it’s been dug like this, the stone’s still here.”
朝比奈さんが大きく息を吐きながら膝に手を当てていた。 Asahina-san panted, as she arched her back and placed her hands on her knees.
俺はその横に並んで立ち止まった。 I followed suit, standing beside Asahina-san.
「へえ」 “Huh?”
険しい斜面が続いていた山の中ほど、それほど大きなスペースでもないが平地になっている部分がある。にょきにょき生えていた樹木もそこだけはなく、ぽっかりとした半円形の場所である。横幅は十メートルもないだろう。そうだな、山を一部|削って造ったような、登山の休憩にはうってつけの空間だ。人工的なものかどうかは解らない。大昔の崖崩れの後みたいなものかな。雑草の生い茂り方から見ても、最近できたものとは思いにくい。自然の作品と見るのが妥当か。 There were various slopes on the mountain, but this was the first time I had come across flat land. There was thick overgrowth growing everywhere, save a small patch of land that was shaped like a semi-circle, no larger than 10 meters in diameter. The grass there was sparse, and from the looks of it, it was as if someone had shaved away a whole part of the mountain via a landslide long long ago. It didn’t seem like it had happened recently.
呼吸を整え終えた朝比奈さんが指を差した。 After our breathing returned to normal, I looked at the direction Asahina-san was pointing at.
「石っていうのは、それのことだと思います。絵にあったのとそっくりの……」 “If it’s a rock we’re talking about, I think it’s that one… It looks exactly the same as the one in the drawing…”
ひょうたん形の石。……石? “A gourd shaped rock.”
A… rock?
「石にしてはデカいな」 “Erm, isn’t that a little too big to be called a rock?
それに朝比奈さんのセリフには一部|誇張がある。絵とそっくりだとは到底言えないな。朝比奈さん(みちる)がガイドしてくれなかったら、俺は夜明けまで山中をウロウロ探し求めることになったろうぜ。 And aren’t you exaggerating too much? How is this any bit identical to the drawing? If it weren’t for Asahina-san, even if I searched till sunrise, I doubt I would have spotted it.
「そう言われたらひょうたんに見えなくもないですが……」 “Well, it does slightly resemble a gourd…”
石が転がっていたのは平地の手前部分だった。俺の目にはひょうたんよりも水面から突き出た海竜の背中あたりに見える。地面にめり込んでいるせいで、白っぽくはあっても周囲の落ち葉や草にまじっていたから素で発見するのは困難だった。 The rock was not evenly shaped. The side facing me was flat, so from my point of view, it resembled a turtle’s back more than a gourd. And due to the excessive overgrowth surrounding the rock, it was hard to make it out from its surroundings. It was no easy task spotting this rock, all right.
俺は手紙の内容を再|確認した。 I double-checked the orders on the letter.
「この石を西に三メートル移動すること、か」 “Shift this rock three meters to the west, eh?”
すでに暗くなり始めている。長居するのは危険だった。下りるときに足を踏み外して二人して転がり落ちるのは、たとえ規定事項でも拒否するぜ。 It had already begun to turn dark. If we stayed here any longer, things might turn dangerous. After all, who knew what lingered in these woods? Plus, if we were to slip as we made our way down, the both of us would inevitably be pulled down the mountain, so I knew I had to make pace.
俺は朝比奈さんに懐中電灯を渡すと、手元を照らすように頼んだ。さっそく石を持ち上げようとする。 I passed my flashlight to Asahina-san and asked her to help me illuminate my surroundings. Here’s to hoping that I can manage to lift this rock up.
「重いな、この野郎」 “Damn, this is heavy.”
しかも手をかけて判明したのだが、この石は三分の一くらいが地面に埋もれていた。こりゃもう石とは言えない。この漬け物石にしてはデカすぎる図体を表現するなら、岩だ。 That wasn’t all. Only after I had begun lifting the rock up did I realize that one third of it was still buried in the ground. This has officially broken the definitions of “rock”. It should be labeled as “boulder” instead.
やっとの思いで引き出して見る。なるほど。確かにひょうたんと言われればひょうたんに見えんこともない。横倒しになっていた石を縦にしてみると、まあそんな具合だ。 After much effort, I finally managed to hoist the rock out of the ground. Only then did I realize that it really did resemble a gourd. It was only because one third of it was buried in the ground that I failed to notice.
俺は石を抱え、たぶんこっちが西だろうと思える方角へ、えっちらおっちら歩き出した。三メートルか、だいたい通常歩幅で四歩くらいか? I once again lifted the rock, and headed to my west. Pulling with all my strength, I made four giant paces to my right. That should be around three meters.
「もうちょっと先でした」 “I think you’re slightly beyond three meters.”
朝比奈さんが指示する。そうか、この朝比奈さんは移動先にある石の状態を知っているんだ。 Asahina-san said as she pointed at the rock. From her point of view, she should have a better estimate of how far three meters was.
「そう、そこ。そこくらいです」 “That’s it. Just place it there.”
石を地面に下ろす。ドスンと地鳴りがして石が土にめり込んだ。さらに元通りに寝かしてやろうとしていると、 After following Asahina-san’s instructions, I placed the rock down on the ground, as it made a thundering noise, before sinking deeper into the ground. That should allow it to resume its original posture.
「その石、立ててありました」 “That rock… It’s standing…”
朝比奈さんが制止して、ハッとしたように目を大きく開いた。 Asahina-san said through surprised eyes.
「まるで……目印みたいに……」 “Just like… A symbol…”
俺は下ろしたばかりの石を見た。 I looked at the rock I had just moved.
目印。 A symbol.
こうして見ると不自然に目立つところにこの石はある。種類は何なのかは調べないと解らないが、この白っぽさは暗がりでも奇妙に目立つし、形も風変わりだ。白ひょうたん石、とか言って遺跡物だと紹介したら信じるやつが何人かはいそうだ。 From this angle, the strange rock was really obvious. What kind of rock it was, this I had no idea, all I knew was that it was snow-white. This snow-white stone, standing in the midst of pure darkness, was really a sight to behold. A white, gourd-shaped rock. If I were to spread the word, I’m sure many would think of it as some ancient ruin.
「朝比奈さん、ひょっとしてハルヒはこの石の下とかを掘らせたんですか?」 “Asahina-san, don’t tell me Haruhi plans to dig beneath this rock?”
「ええ。掘ったのはキョンくんと古泉くんでしたけど」 “Yes. The ones who will do the digging would be Kyon-kun and Koizumi-kun.”
で、何も出なかったと。本当にか? And we didn’t find anything? Honest?
「ほんとうです」 “Yes.”
朝比奈さんは目を伏せて、 Asahina-san said as she lowered her head, “There were no treasures or the sort…”
「宝物が見つかることはありませんでした……」
ふう、と大きく口で息をして、俺は汚れた両手を払い合わせた。 I sighed as I clapped my filthy hands together.
では今、俺がやってることは何なんだ----とは今は問うまい。昨日のイタズラの仕掛けと、それに引っかかった男性もそうだが、それらの行為の意味などこの朝比奈さんにも解っていない。確実に知っているのは朝比奈さん(大)なのだ。ならば彼女に訊いてやる。このまま文章による一方通行だけなんて、今度ばかりは認めないぜ。 Then, what was I doing now? Come to think of it, I had been following strange orders for two days in a row. Yesterday it was the prank, and to top it off, someone actually fell for it. Why we did that, even Asahina-san didn’t know. The only person who probably knew what was going on would be Asahina-san (Big). I have to remember to ask her why, should I meet her again. The next time something like this happens again, I’ll definitely not play along.
俺は自分が細工したばかりの石を眺め、もっと不自然なことに気づいた。長年横倒しになっていた石は、当然ながら半分ほどが土で汚れている。俺が掘り起こすまで裏面となっていたひようたん石の、今は背中部分だ。一見して誰かがどこかから持ってきたと解るだろう。 I once again looked at the rock. There was something not right about it. The rock had originally slanted towards its side, thus it was only natural that half of it be covered with dirt. Since I had just removed it from the ground, there was a huge, glaring portion that was dirty, while the other half of it was sparkling clean. It was painfully obvious that someone had just moved it not long ago.
「そっちの地面もだな」 “That crater is too obvious; anyone would realize it.”
石が元いた場所である。掘り返された地肌の、そこだけが黒い土で、しかもへこんでいる。 The “crater” was where the rock originally was. The soil there was a dark black, and curved inward. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
「あなたが来たときはどうなってました?」 “How was the crater like when you last visited the mountain?”
朝比奈さんは思い出す顔となって、 Asahina-san revealed an expression that appeared to be deep in thought.
「うーん、誰も何も言わなかったし、あたしは全然解りませんでした。涼宮さんも穴を掘ることしか考えてないみたいです……」 “Erm… Since no one said anything, I myself didn’t notice it. The only one who talked was Suzumiya-san, and all she did was talk about digging holes…”
ならば放っておいてもいいかもしれないが、一応、やるべきことはやっておこう。 If so, let’s just ignore the plot holes for the time being, and see what can we do to minimize the errors.
俺と朝比奈さんは手分けして朽ちた枯れ葉やら蔦やらをかき集めると、むき出しになった地肌にばらまいて踏みしめた。ついでにひょうたん石にこびり付いた土をこそげ落とす。充分とは言えない。なにしろ年季を感じさせる石の風化した部分と、地中で眠っていた箇所ではやっぱり違いがありすぎる。 Asahina-san and I searched for dry twigs, vines and leaves, before placing them atop the crater. After we had filled the crater, the both of us took turns stamping on it. The results were far from convincing, since it had taken the rock years of weathering to achieve such conditions, but it was better than nothing.
頑張ってみたものの、いよいよ空が暗くなってきたため、作業もキリのいいところで|終 了せざるを得ない。それに苦労の意味が解らない苦労もなかなか辛いものがあるね。 The sky was already rapidly darkening, and soon we had trouble seeing even if we squinted our eyes. I decided to call it a day.
「帰りましょう、朝比奈さん」 “Let’s head back home, Asahina-san.”
今度は俺が先を行く。懐中電灯を持ってきてよかった。街灯のない山の暗さは太古の人々が恐れて神聖視しただけのことはある威容を演出する。それに登るより下るほうが身体にも応えるというものだ。 This time, it was I who took the lead. I was grateful that I remembered to bring along a flashlight. The ancients once feared the darkness and worshiped the light like a divine entity. Now, thanks to modern day science, there was no longer the need to do so, as I carried the divine entity in my own hands.
つまずいて背中に抱きついてくる朝比奈さんを受け止めること数度、麓まで下りたときにはすっかり夜空になっていた。と、ほぼ同時に、 Compared to scaling the mountain, heading down was a breeze. There were many times Asahina-san missed her footing, and each time she stumbled, she would cling on to me for her dear life. Not that I’m complaining or anything.
By the time we had reached the foot of the mountain, it was truly nightfall. Both of us sighed simultaneously.
「あ」 “Ah,”
朝比奈さんが顎を反らして天を仰いだ。 Asahina-san said as she looked upwards towards the sky.
「雨だわ」 “It’s raining.”
ぽつぽつとした水滴がしとしとになるまで、五分と経たなかった。 Within five minutes, the small drizzle had already escalated into a downpour.
* * *
* * *
朝比奈さんを乗せた自転車は全力|疾走で復路を行く。帰りはほぼ下りなので漕いでる俺も楽である。行きの半分もかからなかっただろう、体力的には三分の一以下だ。 Riding my bike as fast as I could, with Asahina-san sitting behind me, I sped towards Tsuruya-san’s residence. At first, I was really grateful for such an opportunity to befall me. Riding down a slope on a bike in the rain, with a goddess behind me, what’s there not to be grateful about?
小雨に崇られながら鶴屋|邸に辿り着いた俺たちを、出迎えてくれた人がいた。 Barely halfway towards Tsuruya-san’s house, however, I felt as if I had only one third of my energy left. As I pedaled furiously in the rain, Tsuruya-san’s house finally came into sight. It was only then did I notice someone was already there awaiting us.
「やぁ! お帰りっ」 “Aha, welcome back nyoro~”
昨日と同じ和装の鶴屋さんがカサを片手に、元気に笑いながら門を開けてくれた。 Just like yesterday, Tsuruya-san was dressed in a long kimono, as she carried an umbrella above her head, smiling energetically as she opened the door, awaiting our return.
「どこにお出かけだったんだい? いやっ、いいよっ。ワケありみたいだしさっ、あたしは言わざる聞かざる鶴にゃんだからねっ! 見るけどっ。あれあれ、みく----じゃない、みちる! なーんか汚れてるけどっ。すぐさまお風呂入るかい?」 “Where have the both of you been? Ah forget it; it must be due to some reason that you can’t tell me, right? Don’t worry, I’m not such a busybody anyways. Why, Miku--- I mean, Michiru, you’re filthy all over! Let’s go take a bath, shall we?”
機関銃のように喋る鶴屋さんは、 Tsuruya-san said the above in a single breath.
「寒かっただろう! ささ、お風呂お風呂! 一緒に入ろうっ。キョンくんもどうだっ。背中ぐらい流してあげるよっ。檜風呂!」 “It’s cold outside, isn’t it? Come on in and have a bath first! That’s right, a bath! Kyon, would you like to join us too? I’ll scrub your back for you nyoro~”
感涙してもいい申し出だが、本気でないのは彼女の顔を見れば解る。ハルヒは冗談のようで本気なことを言い、鶴屋さんは本気のような顔で冗談を言うのだ。 Even though I was moved by the suggestion, I knew that Tsuruya-san was just pulling my leg. Haruhi loved to blurt out some serious suggestions while putting on a look that suggested she was just kidding. Tsuruya-san, on the other hand, loved to crack out jokes while putting on a straight face.
「俺は自宅で入りますよ。それより朝比奈----みちるさんを頼みます」 “I think I’ll head home. Well, please take care of Asahina Michiru for me.”
そのままきびすを返しかけた俺を、鶴屋さんが止めた。 As I turned to leave, Tsuruya-san caught hold of my sleeve.
「ちょい待ち」 “Wait just a second.”
カサを俺の上に差し掛けてから、半纏の| 懐 から丸めて紐で結んだ紙を出してきた。 Tsuruya-san said as she reached for her lap.
「これさ、ハルにゃんから頼まれてたものっ。キョンくんから渡しといてくんない?」 “Here is something I promised Haruhi. Would you please hand it over to her?”
どうしてもマジマジと見てしまう。古ぼけた厚手の和紙、所々虫の食った様子が、まさに古文書か埋蔵金の在処を記した地図かという感じである。 Tsuruya-san produced a thick sheet of curled up paper. Studying it carefully, I noticed that it was made out of ancient, Japanese paper, so old and worn out that it resembled a papyrus. There were mosquito bites all over it too. It didn’t take a genius to find out that this was the “treasure map” in question.
「何ですか、これ」 “What’s this?”
I asked, playing along.
「うん、宝の地図」 “Erm, it’s a treasure map.”
鶴屋さんはあっさり答え、ニカカと笑った。 Tsuruya-san replied, just as I expected.
「この前、蔵を漁ってたら昔の葛籠みたいな箱ん中から出てきたんだよねっ。せっかくだからハルにゃんにあげようと思って、そのまま忘れてたのさっ」 “It’s an ancient custom that all treasure maps be kept in rattan cages. I happened to stumble upon this one not long ago. I’ve wanted to pass it to Haruhi for quite some time now, but for some reason I keep forgetting to do so.”
そんなものをもらってもいいんでしょうか。宝ですよ、宝。 Is it okay to just give away a treasure map? I mean, it’s buried treasure, Tsuruya-san. TREASURE.
「いいよっ。わざわざ掘りに行くのもめんどいっ。なんか出てきたら一割ちょうだい! まー、埋めたのが何代も前のご先祖様ってことでね! 家に伝わる伝記によるとイタズラ好きなお爺ちゃんだったみたいでさっ、きっと孫引っかけだと思うのさ。掘っても何も出てこないか、しょうもないもんが出てくるに違いない!」 “It’s all right. I couldn’t be bothered to hike all the way up some old mountain just to spend half a day there digging. If there really is treasure buried there, all I want is one tenth of the entire lot. God knows how long that treasure has been buried! Based on ancient records, the treasure was left by one of my ancestors who particularly liked to play tricks. This might be a trick conceived by that devious old trickster to fool us descendants. After digging for half a day, only to not find anything, that sounds like a grand trick he would pull to fool stupid humans!”
どうやら前者みたいですよ。 It looks like we’re the “stupid humans” in question here.
“But look on the bright side. There’s a chance that something is really buried there.”
俺は出来るだけうやうやしく地図を押し頂いた。と言っても与えるほうの鶴屋さんがぞんざいに丸めた紙をむき出しで渡してくれるものだから、ありがたみはそれほどでもない。 I tried my best to put on a face that seemed as if I was honored, as I took the map from Tsuruya-san. It was something that Tsuruya-san had dug up especially for us, but somehow, I didn’t feel the least bit thrilled.
「ちぁーんとハルにゃんに渡すんだよっ。いいねっ!」 “Be sure to pass that to Haruhi, okay?”
鶴屋さんは片目を閉じて喜々とした笑顔を俺に向け、朝比奈さんはどこか強張った顔で俺と宝の地図とやらを順繰りに見ていたが、俺の視線に気づくと下を向いた。なんだろう。宝探しに本当に禁則|事項なことがあったのか? 理解不能な過去移動でブルーになるのは解るが、どうも宝探しにこの朝比奈さんのウィークポイントがありそうだな。 Tsuruya-san said as she winked at me, before laughing madly. Asahina-san had a stoic expression on her face, as she alternated her glance between the treasure map and me. Upon noticing that I was staring straight at her, she lowered her head.
What’s going on? I wanted to question out loudly. What was it with the treasure hunt? Why was Asahina-san sent back to the past? Did it have any connection with the treasure hunt? I’ll be damned if it doesn’t. It seemed to me that this treasure hunt was nothing but good news, both to me and Asahina-san.
「はい、キョンくん、カサ貸したげるっ。気をつけて帰るんだよっ。じゃ、またねっ!」 “Ah, Kyon, take this umbrella. Be sure to watch your step, okay? Bye bye!”
バイバーイと手を振る鶴屋さん、小さく片手をニギニギする朝比奈さんの姿が閉じた門の向こうに消えた。 Tsuruya-san said as she waved wildly, before disappearing together with Asahina-san into that huge mansion of hers.
カサと円筒形の和紙を手に、雨の中を立ちつくす俺だった。 All that was left was me, standing in the midst of the rain, with an umbrella above my head, along with a crumpled roll of parchment.
今からでも押し入って風呂をよばれようかとも思うくらい、何やらうら寂しい感覚に覆われる。これも鶴屋さん効果だろうか。賑やかな人の側から離れて一人になると途端に祭りが終わった気分になるというような……。一人人間カーニバルだな。 For some reason, I wanted to take a shower, no, a bath. I felt a sense of immense loneliness. Was it due to someone as cheerful as Tsuruya-san suddenly leaving my side? I felt as if a ceremony had ended… or something like that.
「寒いし、冷てえ」 “It’s cold out here.”
俺はもらったカサを肩にかけて自転車を押して歩き始めた。 I placed the umbrella on my shivering shoulders as I started to pedal back home.
ハルヒといい、朝比奈さんといい、それから長門はいいほうにだが、どうにも俺の調子を狂わせるなぁ。 Be it Haruhi, Asahina-san or even Nagato, each of them had the power to drive me nuts.
「あー、腹減った」 “Gah, I’m hungry.”
その帰り道、古泉は現れなかった。今なら話を聞いてやってもいい気分だったのに。 I didn’t meet Koizumi this time on my way back home. That’s too bad, because if I did, I would definitely do what he likes to do the most – talk.
* * *
* * *
その翌日、もう一人の朝比奈さんが掃除用具入れの中から登場して四日目の朝、昨日の雨雲は早々に東へ移動し、今日は一際冷え込む放射|冷却な快晴空模様だ。 The day the other Asahina-san showed up in the broom closet, the clouds were already beginning to move far north. Today, the weather was pretty pleasant. It wasn’t too cold, but it wasn't too hot either.
ハイキングコースみたいな山道を登校しているおかげで校門につく頃には身体も暖まるが、暖房ナッシングな教室について一時間目の半ば頃には汗をかいたぶん余計に寒く感じるから身体に悪い。 As usual, I climbed up the slope to school, and due to the nice weather, I felt thoroughly warm as I reached the gates of North High. Compared to the usual weather, where I would barely break a sweat after being cooped up in a heatless class room, today was much better.
校門を通って玄関に入り、下駄箱を開ける前に俺は一度深呼吸をした。俺|宛の未来指令があれで終わりとは思えないことから、今朝も入っているだろうと予想はしているのだが、いったい今度は何をせよと言ってくるのかと多少の躊躇があるわけで、しかし躊躇したところで|逡 巡以上の意味はなく、なぜならこれを開けないと俺は上履きを履けないからだ。 After walking past the school gates, and promptly the school doors, I arrived at my shoe locker. Before opening it, I drew a deep breath. I had a strange feeling of foreboding. I knew that my “orders” from the future would continue, and so I dreaded opening the shoe locker. I knew that once I opened it, a letter would be readily awaiting me, a letter that was delivered by God-knows-who, during God-knows-when. But there wasn’t a choice, was there? I needed to open the shoe locker to change my shoes, after all.
果たして今日も封筒は入っていた。 As I expected, there was a letter in there.
それも三通も。 Alongside two identical letters.
「マジか、朝比奈さん……」 “You can’t be serious, Asahina-san…”
しかもナンバリングされている。それぞれ封筒の表面に#3、#4、#6と手書き文字が小さく躍っているが、三、四、……六? Once again, the letters were typed out using clear font. On each of the letters were the numbers #3, #4 and #6, along with the letters “three”, “four” and… “six”?
「ひょっとして前の二通が#1と#2だったのか? てことは最初のが#0か」 “So does that mean the previous two were #1 and #2? And the first note was number zero?”
だが、どうして四からいきなり六に飛んでいるんだ。五はどこに行った? 書き間違いかな。 But why did the numbers skip to six right after four? Where was number five? Was it a typo?
まとめてポケットにねじ込みトイレに直行するのは、もはや日課と言っていい。 I stuffed all three letters into my pocket, and charged towards the washroom. I was beginning to get used to this routine already.
数字の小さい順番に封を切る。 Inside the washroom, I opened each and every one of those letters according to their numbers.
予鈴まで間がないので次々に目を通し、トイレを出るついでに鏡をのぞいた俺は、そこに変な顔をしている自分を見いだした。 There wasn’t much time to the bell, so I briefly read each of those letters, before heading out of the cubicle, and looking straight into the mirror. From my reflection, I could see the weird expression plastered on my face.
朝比奈さん(大)は俺たちに何をさせたいんだ? いや、この際だから見知らぬ男を病院送りにしたり、石を移動させたりする行為が何だとは言わない。だが、そのことによって何がどうなるのかは知りたいものだ。 What in the world was Asahina-san (Big) trying to say? No, before that, what purpose did sending an unknown man to the hospital and moving an unknown rock have? I greatly wanted to know what would happen next.
半端な疑念を抱きながら教室に入った俺を、今度は妙に落ち着きのない人物が待ち受けていた。 Wearing a mystified expression on my face, I entered the classroom, only to find a girl who couldn’t calm down waiting for me.
「キョン!」 “Kyon!”
俺の奇態なニックネームを大声で口にしながら駆けよってきたのは、昨日までメランコリーだったはずのハルヒだった。 The girl that ran towards me while shouting out my name would be Suzumiya Haruhi, who was up until yesterday still in a fit of melancholy.
「聞いたわよ、早く出しなさい」 “Hurry up and show it to me!”
はち切れんばかりの笑顔で差し出された| 掌 に載せるべきものとは何だろうと俺が思い出しにかかっていると、 For a moment, I wondered what to show Haruhi, who was flashing me her million-watt trademark smile.
「あんた、忘れてきたんじゃないでしょうね? 鶴屋さんから預かったものがあるでしょ? ほら、とってもいい感じのものよ」 “Don’t tell me you forgot all about it? That thing Tsuruya-san asked you to safeguard? How could you forget something so important?”
切り替えが早いにもほどというものがある。シックな雰囲気を撒き散らしていた昨日までのお前はどこへ消えた? もしかして、別人がなりすましてたんじゃねえだろうな。 The sudden change in Haruhi’s mood surprised me completely. There was absolutely no trace of melancholy left in her already. What happened to the melancholic, soft-spoken you that sat behind me yesterday? Don’t tell me that was an impostor I met yesterday?
「なにバカなこと言ってんの? あたしはいつだってあたしで、あたし以外のあたしなんてどこにもいないわよ」 “What are you mumbling about? I’m always like this. Where else in the world would you find someone like me?”
ハルヒは得意の眉を吊り上げる形の笑みで、 Haruhi said airily as she swept her hair upwards, smiling brightly at the same time.
「それより! 早くよこしなさいよ。もし忘れ物してきたっていうんなら、今からダッシュで取りに帰らせるからね!」 “Come on, stop fooling around. Let me have a look at that thing right now! If you’ve forgotten it, let’s hurry up and take a cab back home to retrieve it!”
そう、がなるな。見ろ、クラスのヒマ人どもの注目の的になってるだろうが。俺はあまり目立たない人生を目標にしているんだからな。 All right, all right, I get it. Just settle down for a moment. Everyone in class is starting to look at the both of us now. Geez, and here I was wishing for a normal school life.
「そんなつまんない目標、屋上から紙飛行機にでも乗せて飛ばすといいわ。目立つとか目立たないとかなんて目標とは無関係じゃないの。人生を語るのは大往生を遂げる三秒前になってからにしなさい」 “Such a boring goal should be placed onto a paper airplane and flown down from the school roof. An attractive lifestyle or even a socially-withdrawn hikkikomori would be better than your so-called ‘normal’, boring lifestyle. And if you’re going to talk about your life, please do that only three seconds before you die.”
三秒で語れる人生も嫌だが、仕方がなく……というわけでもないな、俺は鞄を開けて鶴屋さんから渡された粗く漉かれた和紙の円筒を取り出した----瞬間にそれは俺の手の内から消えた。かっさらっていった手の主が紙を丸めた紐を解きながら、俺にやや小声で、 I don’t think my life can be condensed into three seconds of speech, nor do I intend to live one that is able to. Sighing, I reached into my bag and withdrew the roll of parchment. Unsurprisingly, it vanished from my clutches two seconds later.
Unwinding the scroll at superhuman speed, Haruhi asked me,
「あんた、これもう見た?」 “Have you read it already?”
「いや、まだだ」 “No.”
「ほんと?」 “Really?”
「ああ、取り立てて見たいとも思わなかったんでな」 Yes. From the moment it reached my hands, there wasn’t any intention at all to open it.
「宝の地図なのに? あんた、そう聞いてワクワクしなかったわけ?」 “But it’s a treasure map, for crying out loud! Doesn’t the sound of buried treasure get you all excited?”
するもしないも、俺は宝なんざなかったとすでに聞いて知っているわけで、そうなると骨折り損のくたびれもうけという常套句がこれ以上当てはまる|状 況もなく、これでどうやってワクワクせよと言うのかこっちが聞きたい。てなもんで、俺は鶴屋さんに持たされた忌まわしいお土産を鞄に放り込んだまま見向きもしなかった。それより考えることは他にあったし、今もある。いっそのこと言われる前に宝探しの中止を進言しようかと思ったのだが、ハルヒは丸まった和紙を乱雑に広げながら、 What’s there to be excited about treasure that I know I won’t be able to find? All that awaits me atop that mountain is a backache, and if things are worse, a couple of bruises and sprains. What I wanted to hear was Haruhi’s reason for her excitement. All I had in mind while I pocketed Tsuruya-san’s “gift” was to hand it over to Haruhi. There wasn’t the least bit interest in digging up some ancient buried treasure. Truthfully speaking, I really wanted to tell Haruhi, ‘Hey, let’s just forget all about this treasure hunting business, okay?’, but alas, Haruhi was already busy studying the map.
「まったく、鶴屋さんにも困ったものだわ。あたしに直接くれたらよかったのに、キョンなんかに預けるなんてさ。朝一番にもらえるのはいいことだけど、放課後に驚かせてやろうと思ってたのに……」 “Humph, Tsuruya-san shouldn’t have done that. She should have handed it straight to me, instead of giving it to you for safekeeping. Even though it would mean that I would be able to get my hands on the map sooner, I would have preferred it if she gave it to me as a surprise…”
ぶつくさ漏らしつつも嬉しそうに、くるりと背を向けて自分の席に戻った。筆箱と教科書を文鎮代わりにして紙の端を押さえつつ、じいっと地図とやらに見入っている。 Haruhi said as she turned her back towards me and headed back to her seat. She then proceeded to take out her pencil case and textbooks to use them as paperweights, as she once again studied the map closely.
俺もあきらめて席に着き、そうしてようやく新たな疑問に抱かれた。 I too headed back towards my seat, a renewed sense of curiosity springing up within me.
「おい、ハルヒ」 “Hey, Haruhi.”
「何よ」 “What is it?”
目を上げずにハルヒは適当な返事。 Haruhi said as she flicked her eyes upwards.
「鶴屋さんがそれを俺に預けたって、それ、お前いつ知ったんだ?」 “How did you know that Tsuruya-san passed the map to me?”
「昨夜。鶴屋さんから電話があったのよ」 “Tsuruya-san phoned me yesterday.”
やはり目を上げないハルヒは、 Haruhi replied, this time not even bothering to look up at me.
「あんた、シャミセンを連れて散歩してたんだって? 鶴屋さんの家の前を通りがかったときにみっけて、それで押しつけといたからっ! って言ってたわよ。シャミセン、だいぶよくなってんのね。よかったわ」 “You took Shamisen for a walk, didn’t you? You passed by Tsuruya-san’s house as you took him for a walk, that’s how she passed the map to you. It seems that Shamisen is feeling better already, that’s good news!”
鶴屋さんのデマカセには舌を巻くしかねえな。このクソ寒い冬の夜、しかも雨の中を、さらに猫を連れて散歩するやつなんて聞いたこともないぞ。それで信じるハルヒもどうなのかと思うが。 It was probably Tsuruya-san who had thought of that lie. I’ve never heard of anybody bringing a cat out for a walk amidst this cold weather, and to top it off, it was raining last night. For you to believe such lousy lies, what are you thinking about, Haruhi?
俺が呆れの通過を表現する沈黙に包まれていることなど知ったことではないらしい、ハルヒは節分時のような煌めかしい目の色をして、 I pretended to look serious, and acted as if nothing even happened. Haruhi looked as if the school had announced that today was a holiday, as her eyes shone with excitement. “Look, Kyon, this must be where the treasure is buried! It says so right here!”
「見てみなさい、キョン。これは紛れもなく宝の地図だわ。ちゃんとそう書いてあるもん」
俺はハルヒの机に視線を落とした。 My gaze fell on the map, which was lying on Haruhi’s table.
即座に博物館行きを宣告したい一枚の和紙、そこには一筆書きのような絵と数行の文字、それから署名が入っていた。絵のほうはさすがに解る。あの山だ。昨日俺が登り、明日また登ることになるらしい鶴屋山である。墨で描いた簡単な筆致だが、山の稜線をうまいこと捉えてある。だが文字の方は読めなかった。にょろにょろした仮名書きらしいとは解るのだが、古文の教科書すら時々宇宙人語に見えるのに、俺に重要文化財みたいな書類が読めるはずがない。 The map was so old, it could probably be sold to a museum as an antique. There were numerous sentences written in black ink, before being signed with a large signature. I gave up trying to decipher the writings, as I looked at the drawings beneath it. There was a mountain, which was no doubt the one I had scaled yesterday, and probably would scale again tomorrow. The map was drawn using black ink, and was very simple, but it succeeded in describing the looks of the mountain perfectly. The words were probably written in ancient writing, but to me, it seemed more like an alien textbook than a map. I probably wouldn’t understand these rich pieces of literature anyway.
ハルヒが翻訳してくれた。 Haruhi probably did, however, as she translated it out loud to me:
「この山に珍しいものを埋めた。わたしの子孫で気の向いたものは掘ってみるといい」 “On this mountain, there is something very valuable, something that only my descendants may acquire. It is something that I am sure would make them happy. Whoever seeks the treasure, please dig here.”
そして末尾の署名を指でなぞり、 Beneath the text was signed: “15 Genroku, Tsuruya Fusauemon.”
「元禄十五年、鶴屋|房右衛門」
まったく、鶴屋さんの何代前の先祖か知らないが、余計なものを残してくれたよな。だいたい何で埋める必要があるんだ? これは鶴屋さんが言っていたとおり、世代を超えた遠大なイタズラで合ってるんじゃないだろうか。そうでなけりゃ元禄時代から今までの何百年かの間に鶴屋家の誰かがとっくに掘り出している。 I had no idea which ancestor this was to Tsuruya-san, but he sure did a lot of redundant stuff. What was so important that it required it to be buried in the ground? If it was really as Tsuruya-san said, wouldn’t this be a great prank that escalated over the centuries? It was already several hundred years since the Genroku period. Surely someone in the Tsuruya house must have already dug the treasure up by now?
「山のどこに埋めてあるんだ?」 “Where on Earth is the treasure buried?”
気乗りのしない声色できいた俺に、ハルヒは水墨画みたいな山の絵をつつきながら、 Haruhi said to the uninterested me as she traced her finger all over the map.
「それは書いてないわ。印もついてないしね、解るのはこの山のどっかってことだけよ。まあいいじゃないの」 “It isn’t stated anywhere in here, and there’s no ‘X’ sign either! Even though we know it’s a mountain, we still don’t know where to search!”
勢いのある視線が圧力となって俺の顔を襲った。 “Oh, forget it.”
「適当に掘ってたらそのうち掘る場所がなくなって最後には行き着くわ。ローラー作戦よ、ローラー作戦」 Haruhi looked at me, clearly stressed by the ordeal.
だからそれを誰がやるんだっていう話だよ。地元の人たちに呼びかけてボランティアでも組織するか。 “If we put our hearts into it, I’m sure we’ll manage to find it.”
「しないわよ、バカね」 Who do you mean by ‘we’? Are you going to rally the townsfolk?
ハルヒは地図をくるくると丸めて紐で結わえ、机の中に仕舞った。 “Of course not, stupid.” Haruhi said as she rolled the map back to its original state, before tying a knot and putting it safely on her desk.
「あたしたちだけでやるに決まってるじゃん! 分け前が減るのはあんただってイヤでしょ?」 “It’s just the few of us, of course! You’re in charge of distributing the tasks. Or are you not satisfied with that?”
分けて減るのであれば大いに嫌がるところだが、ないものをどうやって減らすのかと俺が内心で嘆息したとき、チャイムが鳴って担任岡部が入室してきた。 If I really had a choice, I would have chosen to not participate in this stupid event. I didn’t even know how many tasks there were, or who should I assign each task to. Just as my heart was sighing, the bell rang, as the homeroom teacher Okabe-sensei stepped into class.
「放課後、部室でミーティングだからね」 “Meet in the clubroom after class.”
俺の背中をシャーペンの先でつつき、ハルヒは俺のうなじに向かって言った。 Haruhi said as she poked my back with her mechanical pencil.
「それまでみんなには内緒にしときなさいよ。驚かせたいから。ついでにあんたも驚きなさい。今まさに初めて聞いたって感じで頼むわよ。ホントに、鶴屋さんたら、もう……」 “I want you to keep this a secret from everyone else. Let it be a surprise. When I announce my find, I want you to pretend to be shocked, too. If only Tsuruya-san had…”
以降のハルヒのブツブツ声は担任の張り上げた大声と、クラスメイトたちが一斉に起立する騒音が掻き消してくれた。 Haruhi’s voice began to grow louder, but her voice was drowned out by the sound of all the other students standing up and paying respect to the teacher.
* * *
* * *
さて、授業の内容を確実に脳細胞に留めるコツを俺から一つ伝授しよう。実は特別な集中力なんかいらないのである。ぼんやりとでもいいから教師の話が耳に入るようにして、後は黒板なり教科書なりをひたすら眺めるだけでいい。ノートをとっておいたほうがいいのは当たり前のことだが、そんなもんを毎時間|几帳面にやる気にもならないからコツも必要になるわけだ。 Someone please tell me how the heck do you pay attention in class! I’ll admit that I’m an easily distracted person, so if anyone has a way to memorize everything being said in class, please let me know. It doesn’t matter if it’s only half of what’s being taught, it’s always better than not knowing anything at all. I know that notes are the way to go, but even so, there must be some catch to being able to sit down quietly and take down notes. Anyone know the trick here?
解りやすく言うと、「特別授業に集中する必要はない。しかし授業以外のことも何一つ考えないようにする」これだけでいい。なんせ他になんにも考えていなければ、やることを失って退屈した脳ミソは目や耳から流れ込んでくる情報を頼んでもないのに勝手に覚え込んでくれるっていう寸法だ。 This is what someone once told me: “There’s no need to pay attention in class, all you have to do is not think about anything else unrelated to class,” or something of the sort. In other words, all I had to do was to not think of anything else. Since my ears would definitely be bored by then, they would have no choice but to listen to what the teacher had to say, and hence I would be able to understand what the teacher was trying to convey. It seems logical, right?
まあ、一度|試してみるといい。ただし俺にこのコツとやらを教えてくれたのはハルヒであり、これが涼宮ハルヒ流学習術であることは忘れないでいただきたい。ようは勉強しなくてもいいが勉強以外に頭を使うこともなーんもするなってわけだ。だが、そんな生活が楽しいわけがなく、実際にハルヒが何も考えていないことなんかあり得ないように思うので、ますます眉唾であって、つまり全然当てにならないってもんだが、言ってるハルヒが好成績を維持してのけている現実を突きつけられると一言もない。 Well, I guess it’s worth a shot. After all, the one who had passed down this sacred technique to me was none other than Haruhi herself and it was probably a technique from the long-lost Hiten-Haruhi-Ryu.
The catch was this: I was fine with not paying attention in class, but it was almost impossible to not think of anything else, and even if I did, would life be happy that way? I don’t think Haruhi would want to lead that kind of boring, mundane life. As I started to gradually doubt her words, I suddenly recalled that her results were top notch, a huge contrast with reality.
とは言え、現在の俺には無理な話でもあった。ここ最近のハルヒが微妙に鬱々としていたのがやや気がかりでもあったのだが、このたび古い和紙一枚でマジックポイントを全回復させてしまったのは歓迎すべき事態だ。おかげで気になることが一つ減った。 Trying not to think of anything else right now was plainly futile. Admittedly, I had one less problem to worry about now thanks to that scroll of old parchment. Haruhi’s melancholy had magically evaporated after receiving that old map, thus saving the world from huge blue giants was something that I did not need to worry about.
その代わり、朝比奈さん(大)からの未来指令は一気に三つ増え、こっちのほうは俺と八日後から来た朝比奈さんが実施しないと減ることがない。とっとと終わらせたくとも日時指定がされているので、たとえば今すぐ教室を飛び出して行っても作業短縮には繋がらず、かと言って決してノンビリできるような話でもなく………… What I did need to think about, though, were those three letters from Asahina-san (Big). It was something that concerned both Asahina-san (Future) and me, something that we needed to accomplish before the designated day. It wasn’t something that I could idle about, and even if I were to rush out of the classroom right now, it would be the first thing on my mind that I had to accomplish…
ま、こんなことを考えているせいで授業の中身をまるで吸収できやしないのだが、誰に言えるってわけでもないイイワケさ。 Gah, with such thoughts in mind, how can you blame me for not understanding what the teacher had to say?
* * *
* * *
放課後、俺はハルヒにせき立てられるように部室へ追いやられ、ほとんどカワウの追い込み漁にハメられた小魚のごとき心境だ。鶴屋さんのデマカセのおかげでシャミセンの病気|療養にこじつけた俺の早退理由的デマカセは使用不可となり、そのうえ本日の俺は本当に何の用もない。 After school, Haruhi forcefully dragged me into the club room, just like a fish being dragged away by a fisherman’s net.
Thanks to Tsuruya-san, I couldn’t use Shamisen as an excuse to skip club activities anymore. And since I had no other matters today, I was forced to follow her into the club room.
そう、下駄箱に入っていた秘密の未来指令は今日と明日がフリーであると明瞭に書いてあった。しないといけないことは明後日、及び明々後日との仰せである。三通まとめて今日に届けられた理由は簡単、今日を境にしばらく学校は連休に入るからだ。祝日に土日、中学生受験のための代休という四連休。 The orders from the future explicitly stated that I would be very free for today and for tomorrow. It was only the day after tomorrow, and the day after that, that I would be very busy. It was easy to see why. There were two days of holidays, followed by a Sunday, making it a consecutive three days without the need to go to school. And since there was an extra day that students didn’t need to come to school because of the entrance exams, it meant that I would have a long, four day holiday period.
それにしても未来人はよほど下駄箱をポスト代わりにするのが好きらしい。直で手渡しに来てくれても俺はいっこうにかまわないぞ。朝比奈さん(大)に問いつめたいことが今の俺には結構あるぜ。 Time travelers seemed to like using shoe lockers as mailboxes. Was there a problem with handing the letters directly to me? I had many questions to ask Asahina-san (Big), after all.
というようなことを授業中に考え、今もハルヒにせっつかれながら考えているうちに文芸部室前に至った。 I had thought of the above problems while I was in class, and I hadn’t thought of a solution even as I now gradually approached the literature club.
「ハーイ! お待たせ!」 “Yo! Sorry for the wait!”
むやみに上機嫌なかけ声とともにドアを開いたハルヒに引きずられるように俺も部室に入る。 With an energetic shout, Haruhi pushed open the doors to the club room, while dragging me by the collar. For some reason, I felt extremely nostalgic at that gesture, as if I hadn’t experienced it in a long, long time. Perhaps it was due to my three days absence from the club room. Even if it was only three days, I had started to miss this place like an old exile yearning for his homeland. Once I entered the club room, I felt like I was finally back home.
なんとなく久しぶりのような感覚を禁じ得ないのは、全員|勢揃いしている現場に居合わせるのが三日ぶりだったせいだろう。なんと、たったの三日で俺は|郷 愁を覚えずにいられなくなるほどこの部室に帰属意識を持っちまっているわけか。 Trying to shake off these weird feelings, I closed the doors that Haruhi had conveniently left open, and looked at each brigade member’s face.
少しだけ衝撃を受けながら俺はハルヒが開け放したままのドアを閉め、あらためて団員たちの顔ぶれを眺めた。 The first person I saw was the sailor-uniform clad first year, who was sitting in the corner reading a book, just like always.
隅のほうで立方体かと思うくらいの分厚い文庫本を広げているショートカットのセーラー服姿が最初に目に入った。長門はたゆまぬ無表情で俺とハルヒを一瞥し、すぐに活字の海に視線を投じる。余分なことを一切言わない小柄な有機アンドロイドは、他に余計な動作をすることもなく、いつものように地蔵|菩薩のような無言ぶりで部室の一角に位置を占めていた。 Nagato looked at Haruhi and me with her expressionless poker face, before turning back to her book. No extra gestures or “welcome back” speeches, this was the Nagato I had come to know, the goddess silently sitting in a corner of the club room reading a book.
「やあ、久方ぶりですね」 “Hey, long time no see.”
ジグソーパズルを分解していた古泉が意味ありげな微笑ととぼけたセリフとともに会釈して、 Sitting by the table and playing with a carom board all by himself was Koizumi, the one who always wore a smile, and whose words you never knew when to trust. “How’s Shamisen-One? If it’s possible, I would like to arrange for one of my friend’s relatives to see him. You see, my friend’s relative in question operates an animal clinic, and I’ve heard it’s a very good one.”
「シャミセン一号の調子はいかがです? よろしければ、いい動物病院を斡旋しますよ。僕の知人の親戚が経営しているところで、腕のよさで評判の病院をね」
お前の知り合いはそんなのばっかりか。 Like I’m going to buy that. It’s not like the first day I’ve met you anyway.
「こう見えても僕は顔が広いのですよ。色々とね」 “Hmm, it seems that you’ve got many friends in various fields, Koizumi.”
古泉はジグソーの欠片を指先で弾きつつ、 Koizumi gently flicked a carom piece with his finger. “That’s how legends are created, right? From the friends I’ve known, and from the friends my friends have known, the only friends I don’t have are…”
「ですから伝を辿っていけば大抵の人に突き当たるわけです。僕の知り合いの知り合いまでの間にいない人種は、」
ここで古泉は優雅に手を広げて芝居っ気たっぷりにタメを持たせ、 Koizumi gracefully retraced his hands and said elegantly, as if rehearsing for a play:
「まだ地上に存在しない職種の人くらいです」 “People who are not native to this world.”
宇宙人や未来人ともすでに知り合っているのに、これ以上交友関係を広げてどうしようってんだ。俺は異世界人なんかに会いたくはないぞ。絶対、ややこしいことになるからな。 Come off it. I’ve already known of aliens, time travelers and espers. With such a wide social circle, I really think I’m better off not knowing of any sliders, because the appearance of one would be sure to give me a headache.
古泉はフッと口先で笑って俺との会話を打ち切り、ハルヒに目を向けた。 Koizumi gave me a soft laugh, signaling the end of our conversation. Even Haruhi had begun to turn her head in our direction in amusement.
「今日はミーティングだとうかがっていましたが」 “I heard that there would be a meeting today.”
「ええ、そうよ。緊急特別ミーティング」 “Yes, you’re right. An emergency meeting, for that matter.”
ハルヒは鞄を団長机に放り投げるように置いて、どっかと腰を下ろした。 Haruhi said as she took her place by the Brigade Commander’s table.
「みくるちゃん、お茶ちょうだい」 “Mikuru-chan, tea.”
「はぁい」 “Okay.”
かわゆく返事をしてパタパタとヤカンに駆けていくメイド衣装のその人は、どこからどう見ても朝比奈さんだった。 With a pitter-patter, Asahina-san came running to Haruhi dressed in her cute maid uniform. It was Asahina-san, all right.
当然である。朝比奈さんがここにいて何の問題があろう。しかし……。 Wait, that’s strange. Shouldn’t it only be natural that I see Asahina-san here at the club room? Hmm…
「むう……」と俺は舌の中ほどで呻った。 “Erm…” I stuttered.
混乱しそうな頭に活を入れる必要がある。この人は、今現在、鶴屋さんの家で座敷わらし化している朝比奈さん(みちる)ではない。俺がよく知る今までの朝比奈さんで、ちょっと未来からやってきた朝比奈さんではないほうの朝比奈さんだ。 It seems that I need some time to reorganize the cluttered thoughts in my brain. The Asahina-san standing here is different from the current Asahina-san sitting in Tsuruya-san’s house. This is not the Asahina-san from further in the future, but rather the Asahina-san from the closer future.
こぽこぽと急須に湯を注いでいた朝比奈さんは、ふと俺を見上げて、
「あの、キョンくん……」 “Erm… Kyon-kun…”
心配そうな顔をする。三日前に登場した朝比奈さん(八日後)とまったく同じだ。当然ながら。何を言うのかと俺が身構えていると、 Asahina-san said while clumsily filling the kettle with hot water. She looked at me with a look of concern. It was exactly the same look that the other Asahina-san had given me three days ago. Wait, that’s to be expected since they’re one and the same. Oh, what am I saying? I pushed those thoughts out of my mind as I braced myself for what Asahina-san had to say.
「猫さん、具合よくないんですか? 冬休みに寒いところに行ったからかなぁ」 “How’s Shamisen? Was he sick because we brought him to a place too cold for him when it was already cold enough outside?”
「いや……」 “Well, no…”
俺は口ごもる。この朝比奈さんは本当に何も知ってない。自分が今日から……ええと五日後の夕方になって、そこから今日から三日前に時間移動するとは毛ほども思っていないわけで……なんかもう、ややこしいな。 I could finally confirm that this Asahina-san knew nothing about the future, or at least, until… Erm… The evening five days later. After that, she would probably have to face an entire set of ordeals.
How do you put it, it was already meant to be? Gah, this is annoying.
「シャミセンなら昨日治りました。今頃は俺の部屋を元気に転げ回ってることでしょう」 “Shamisen’s already okay. He’s been better since yesterday, seeing that he was already rolling around energetically by that time.”
「そうなの? よかったぁ」 “Is that so? That’s just great.”
朝比奈さんは華やいだ笑顔を作り、俺は今さらにして後ろめたさを覚えた。シャミセンの病気が嘘っぱちであることを朝比奈さん(みちる)のほうはもう知ってる。あっちの朝比奈さんは何も言わなかったが、今のこの朝比奈さんを心配させたり安堵させたりした原因そのものが大嘘だったことにはもうしわけないと頭を下げたい気分だ。 Asahina-san said as she revealed a beautiful smile. Seeing this made me even more uneasy. Shamisen’s illness was just a big fat lie, this I’m sure Asahina-san (Michiru) knew. But since she didn’t say anything, this Asahina-san probably had no clue it was just a lie. I felt as if I had betrayed her trust, and had a sudden sense to apologize to her immediately.
「また遊ばせてくださいね。猫さん、とても可愛いから」 “Let me play with him a little bit more. Shamisen’s just so cute.”
あなたより可愛いものなんか銀河中を五百光年さまよっても邂逅しないでしょうが、猫を口実に俺の家に来たいというのならいくらでも用意しますよ。外に出たシャミセンがよくつるんでいる裏の家の黒猫も連れてこさせますが。 There’s nothing cuter than you. Even if you were locked in some dark corner of the Milky Way for five hundred years, you would still be just as cute. But if you’re going to use Shamisen as an excuse to come visit my home, you’re more than welcome. Besides, Shamisen has been frequently bringing that black cat he calls his girlfriend back home lately. Maybe they were using visiting me as an excuse?
「ふふ。それ、いいですね……あっ!」 “Ah, well… That’s just fine… Ah!”
朝比奈さんは小さく飛び跳ね、 Asahina-san yelped as she suddenly jumped.
「お湯、こぼしちゃった」 “The tea spilled…”
急須が湯を溢れさせている。俺と猫話をするのに気を取られていたようだ。これもハルヒによるドジメイド化計画の一環かもしれない。テーブルをダスターで拭く朝比奈さんの慌てた仕草を、ハルヒは腕組みして満足そうに眺めていた。 Overflowed would be the word. Since she was too busy talking with me about Shamisen, Asahina-san hadn’t noticed that the kettle was already full. However, this seemed to suit Haruhi’s “clumsy maid” idea, as she looked at Asahina-san with her arms crossed, apparently glad at the sight of her cleaning up the spilled tea.
俺は古泉の隣のパイプ椅子を引き出して腰を落ち着け、ハルヒが例のブツを取り出して得意顔で宣言するのを待つことにした。 I pulled out one of those steel folding chairs, and took my seat by Koizumi’s side. Haruhi radiated an aura of superiority, but was oddly quiet, as if she had wanted to wait until we had all settled down before making her grand announcement.
「お待たせしました」 “Sorry for the wait.”
朝比奈さんが湯飲みを二つ、盆に載せてハルヒと俺に配ってくれる。これを一口飲む間くらいは待っててくれるだろうとは思っていたのが、しかるにハルヒのヤツ、なぜかなかなか立ち上がる気配がない。熱いお茶をほぼ一気飲みしておきながら、ニヤニヤしたまま団長机にふんぞり返り、パソコンの電源をつけたり置いてあった雑誌をパラパラめくったりしている。時折俺と目が合うと、瞬間的に真顔になったり、またニヤリとするという百面相をやっている。こりゃ何の前兆だ? Asahina-san said as she placed two steaming cups of tea onto the tray, before handing them to both me and Haruhi. I had a feeling that Haruhi would wait until I had finished drinking my tea before making her announcement, since she had no intention of standing up. After downing her steaming tea, Haruhi leaned back on her chair as she turned the computer on, and while waiting for the computer to boot, flipped some magazines on the table. Both of us locked eyes once in a while, and every time we did so, she would have a different expression on her face. She would sometimes seem strict and sometimes laugh evilly. Talk about having a hundred faces. Was this the dreaded calm before the storm?
古泉は素知らぬふりでパズルをのんびり組み立てているし、長門は最初から無反応だし、朝比奈さんは二|杯目のお茶の配膳にいそがしそうだしで、まあ完全に日常の風景ではあるが、今日ばかりはそれではおかしいのだ。いったいハルヒは何でまたこんな時間の無駄なんてことをしているのか。 Koizumi had an expression that suggested he knew nothing at all, as he reorganized the pieces on the carom board. Nagato had the same expression from the start – which is to say none at all. Asahina-san was busy preparing the second round of tea. Everything seemed like how it used to be, so normal, so… Perfect. That was what made it seem odd. What was it that made Haruhi decide to just let time pass like this? What about the treasure hunt?
答えは聞もなくあきらかとなった。 After a few minutes of fruitless thinking, I decided to not think about it, and let my mind wander wherever it liked.
* * *
まったりとした平和な時に|終 了を告げたのは、ハルヒの雄叫びでも帰宅を強制する放送でもなく、リズミカルなノックの音だった。 Not long afterwards, that brief moment of peace was broken. It wasn’t by Haruhi’s shouting, or by announcements forcing students to go home, but by a series of knocks on the front door. “Yes, here it is! Come in!”
「やっほーい! 来たよんっ。入っていいかーいっ」
聞き覚えのある声が高らかにそう言って、同時にハルヒが弾かれたように立ち上がった。 Haruhi yelled in response to the knockings, as she stood up from the chair at bullet speed.
「待ってたわ。どうぞどうぞ、どんどん入っちゃって!」 “I’ve been waiting for you! Please, do come in!”
珍しく団長自らドアを開いて招き入れたそのお客さんは、 It was rare to see the Brigade Commander open the door for anyone, especially for a guest.
「やあ、みくる以外のみんな! 久しぶりねい。ああっ、キョンくんは昨日会ったっけねっ? シャミいいなあシャミ、またつれて来ておくれよ!」 “Aha, it’s Mikuru-chan and the other Brigade members! Long time no see! Oh wait, Kyon, we just met yesterday! Shamisen’s such a playful little thing, next time be sure to bring him over to play!”
大声まきまき鶴屋さんが、今にもハルヒと肩を組んでラインダンスを踊らんばかりの笑顔でやって来た。またもや。 Tsuruya-san shouted loudly as she entered. Placing her arms around Haruhi’s shoulders, the both of them began to dance wildly. Here we go again.
「うん、そうだよっ。宝の地図っ。おーよそ三百年前くらいのお宝さっ。きっと元禄小判とかじゃないかな。だといいよねっ!」 “Hmm, that’s it. The map. It should be an ancient treasure around 300 years old, probably some old Genroku period coins. It would be great if we could find it!”
鶴屋さんはお茶請けのエビ煎餅をバリバリ食べながら、パイプ椅子の上であぐらをかいた。 Tsuruya-san announced loudly as she sat by the table and began chewing down the prawn crackers that were served on the table.
「その紙っきれ、家の蔵にあったんだけど、その蔵ってのがさ、何だかもー、いらんもんがゴロゴロしている昔ながらの物置なんだけど、五年ぶりかなっ? この前、整理してたらガラクタの下にあった葛籠ん中にあったのさ!」 “This old, worn out paper is one of my family heirlooms. The buried treasure in question could be anything at all. That day, after cleaning up the store room, I found this priceless piece of treasure buried under a bunch of worthless trash, rattan case still intact ~nyoro!”
来客用湯飲みで煎茶をガブガブと飲む鶴屋さんは、ピンと立てた人差し指でホワイトボードを示した。 After spitting out each and every one of those words at bullet-train speed, Tsuruya-san downed Asahina-san’s tea, stood up, and pointed at the whiteboard.
そこにはマグネットクリップで四方を留められた古風な地図が貼り付けになって、その横にハルヒが立って指し棒で肩を叩いている。嬉しそうに。 The old map was pinned down by its edges by four large magnets. Standing nearby the board was Haruhi, who was busy scratching her back with a cane and had a very pleased look on her face.
「その山、国有地にしろとか、いっそ譲渡しろとか言われてるんだけどさっ、こればっかはご先祖様の遺言で手放すわけにはいかないんだよね。ああっ! そっか、きっとお宝が埋まってたからだっ。そうだったのか、ご先祖様っ」 “This mountain used to be government property before it came into my family’s possession. We shouldn’t take my ancestor’s words lightly! Something must be buried there, right? Oh, great ancestor…”
なむなむー、と鶴屋さんは合掌して夕日を拝み、ハルヒは指し棒をバンバンとホワイトボードに打ち付けた。 Tsuruya-san clasped her hands together and bowed towards the setting sun. Haruhi took this opportunity to tap the whiteboard with her cane.
「というわけよ」 “That is it.”
どういうわけだ。今のところ鶴屋さんが先祖の遺品の来歴を説明しただけだぞ。 That is it? Right now, all I’ve heard is Tsuruya-san explaining the map’s history.
「だから、そのご先祖様が埋めてくれた宝をあたしたちが探しに行くってわけ。この話の流れだとそれ以外にないでしょ」 “And that’s all. Why her ancestor left this great treasure to her, and what it contains, are up to us to discover. I hereby forbid any one of you to reveal this matter to anyone outside the SOS Brigade, save Tsuruya-san.”
ハルヒは大口を開いて白い歯を見せ、 Haruhi said with her mouth opened wide, revealing a row of snow-white teeth.
「決行は明日よ。急がないと誰かに先を越されるかもしれないわ。明日の朝、午前九時にいつもの駅前に集合ね。山に行きましょう! 道具はあたしが用意して持ってくから、心配はいらないわ」 “Tomorrow we shall set out to search for buried treasure! If we continue dilly-dallying, someone else might just go and dig it all up, so tomorrow we meet at the usual spot at nine sharp! Let’s head for the mountains! And don’t worry, leave the equipment to me.”
言うまでもないことだが俺は驚きなどしなかった。昨夜、鶴屋さんからこの地図をもらったのはこの俺なんだし、宝探し宣言は三日前に朝比奈さんから聞いていて、今朝になってハルヒからも聞いた。これで驚けと言われて素直にそうするほど俺は演技力に自信がない。しょうがないので中身のほとんどない湯飲みを口に付けてごまかしたが、そんな必要もなかったかもしれん。 Needless to say, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Three days ago, I had heard of the entire treasure hunt from Asahina-san. Yesterday, Tsuruya-san gave me the map for safe keeping. This morning, I had again heard of the treasure hunt from Haruhi. I really have no faith that I’ll be able to pull off a shocked face. I guess it can’t be helped then. Placing the empty teacup by my lips, I pretended to continue drinking my already finished tea.
この場で驚いた顔をしているのはただ一人、 I guess there wasn’t a need for that, for the only person who was shocked…
「えっえっ。宝探しですか? 明日行くんですか? 山登り? あっ、だったらお弁当作らなきゃ」 “E-Eh, t-treasure hunting? T-Tomorrow? Up a h-hill? T-Then we’ll n-need bentos…”
朝比奈さんだけだ。 …was Asahina-san.
長門は文庫本を開いたままハルヒの持つ棒の先端を目で追いながら沈黙を保ち、 Nagato looked up at Haruhi with her book still placed open in her lap.
「それはそれは。考古学的、文化人類学的に興味深い資料となりそうですね。実に楽しみです」 “Hmm… We might make a great discovery that will further propel the reaches of archeology. I can’t wait!”
相変わらずハルヒの尻を支えるようなことを言って微笑しているのは古泉である。 As always, Koizumi was the first one to kiss Haruhi’s ass.
ハルヒが全員の驚愕を期待していたのなら大ハズレなリアクションだろうが、当のハルヒはサプライズがさほど得られなかったことも気にならない様子で、 If Haruhi wanted looks of extreme shock plastered on everyone’s face, she would have been sorely disappointed. Tell you the truth, I don’t think anyone was surprised, not even Asahina-san.
「そういうこと。もし見つかったらあたしたちで山分けしちゃっていいのよね? もちろん、これを提供してくれた鶴屋さんも頭数にいれるけどさ」 “That’s the spirit! If we really do find buried treasure, we’ll split everything up into equal portions! Of course, Tsuruya-san who has kindly provided us the map will receive a share of our treasure too.”
「いいよっ」 “That’s great!!”
鶴屋さんは過剰なまでに大らかな声を出し、 Tsuruya-san shouted energetically.
「出てきたのが金目のものだったらハルにゃんたちに九割くらいあげるっさ。あたしの曾々々々……何代前か忘れたけど、その房右衛門|爺さんが子孫を笑かすために残してた私物とかだったら、しかたないなあ、家で引き取るよっ。どのみち、あたしは穴掘りには参加できないからね! 明日はちょいと用事があってさーあ」 “If we do find gold or the sort, I suppose I could give you guys 90% of the entire loot. Since my great-great-great-great-great-...-grandfather Fusauemon lived during the Genroku period, the only thing that would be able to make his grand children happy even after a few hundred years would probably be gold. I’d like to make the best of his good intentions, but unfortunately, I have something to attend to tomorrow, so I’ll leave the treasure hunting to you guys.”
俺に変な目配せをしてくる。鶴屋さんは俺に向かって目を瞬かせた後、朝比奈さんに目を向けてニコリとした。約束通り、こっちの朝比奈さんには何も言ってないという意味のボディランゲージだろう。 For some reason, Tsuruya-san’s gaze seemed oddly weird to me at that moment. Just after she shifted her gaze from me, Asahina-san looked at me and laughed. It seemed that Tsuruya-san had kept her promise after all. The most she would do was probably communicate with Asahina-san via body language. There was no way she would tell Asahina-san the truth. I can’t go on suspecting Tsuruya-san like this.
疑ったりはしてませんよ、鶴屋さん。しかしですね。 However…
必要以上に関わらないようにしていると鶴屋さんは言い、古泉がなくてもよさそうな裏設定を教えてくれたりもした。だとしても----だとしたらだ、どうも彼女の行動は把握しにくい。草野球の助っ人や冬合宿のペンション提供はこっちから依頼したようなもんだが、わざわざ宝の地図なんていうエサをハルヒに与えるなんて、まるで俺たちと積極的な関わり合いを持とうとしているかのようだ。ひょっとして、ハルヒが希望しそうなアイテムを投げ込むだけ投げ込んで面白がっているだけなんだろうか。 For someone that was unrelated to the SOS Brigade, Tsuruya-san seemed oddly involved, be it the baseball tournament or the snow mountain. But that was only because we asked her to. This time, though, she had approached Haruhi willingly, as if wanting to keep close ties with us. There was no way of knowing what was going on in her head. Don’t tell me this is another scheme she cooked up just to make Haruhi happy. But come to think of it, why would she want to make Haruhi happy? Just for fun and laughter?
俺の疑念を余所に、鶴屋さんはエビ煎にかじりつき、楽しそうな顔をひたすらしている。 Let’s first cast my suspicions about Tsuruya-san, who was merrily chewing on the prawn crackers laid on the table while making a face that suggested she had successfully pulled a prank, aside.
そして、これまた不思議なことに古泉も似たような表情なのである。思えば鶴屋さんが何度も部室に出入りしていた過去の記憶をまさぐってみても、古泉が彼女に含みのある顔を見せたことはなかった。鶴屋さんには手を出すなってのが『機関』とかの上司から出た命令なんだとしたら、こんな身近にしょっちゅういるのはこいつとしては困りもんなんじゃねえのか。 The one who was making an even weirder expression was Koizumi. Come to think of it, Tsuruya-san had visited the club room quite often, but I had no memory of Koizumi meeting her there. Tsuruya-san’s wave of a hand could very well equal an order from the “Organization”. To be in such close quarters with someone of such high superiority must be troubling, Koizumi.
それとも……。 And…
俺は古泉の無害っぽい笑みに目をやって考えを巡らせた。こいつがあの夜に語った話がどこまで本当なのかは解らん。正しいのだとしたら『機関』と鶴屋家の間には不文律みたいな取り決めがある----と。しかしそれはあくまで『機関』と鶴屋家だ。古泉と鶴屋さんの間でのもんじゃない。この二人がそれぞれ二人とも、そんなもん知ったことかと考えている可能性だってある。それも互いに示し合わせたわけじゃなくてだ。 I slowly thought of my shadowy conversation with Koizumi that night before, as I stared right into his generic smile. Although I had no idea which parts of his conversation were genuine and which parts weren’t, I had a feeling that the house of Tsuruya and the “Organization” were closely tied. Heck, Tsuruya-san’s mansion may very well be the secret headquarters of Koizumi’s “Organization”. Tsuruya-san and Koizumi may not be working for the same faction, but they were definitely tied to each other, this I could tell. What their relationship was, and how superior Tsuruya-san was to Koizumi, this I had no clue.
鶴屋さんは古泉や長門、朝比奈さんの正体について詳しく知っているわけではなさそうで、この三人とハルヒが何か違うなと気づきつつ、詮索しようとしないのが鶴屋スタイルだ。俺は一昨日の夜、帰り際に鶴屋さんから聞かされた話を全面的に信用するし、オマケとして古泉のことだって少しは信用してやれる。『機関』と長門を秤にかけるような事態があったら、一度だけでも俺たちのほうを選ぶと言ったあの時の言葉をな。 Tsuruya-san appeared to have no idea of Koizumi, Nagato and Asahina-san’s true identities. Although she could tell that the three of them --- and Haruhi, for that matter --- were not ordinary humans, she apparently didn’t poke or pry for more information, at least not openly. I strongly believe what Tsuruya-san had said that day before at her mansion, and also bits of what Koizumi had said. “Leave the troublesome things to the Organization”, eh? It’s just like Nagato locking her synchronization abilities.
「……キョン、ちょっと! あんた聞いてんの?」 “… Kyon! Are you listening?!”
鋭利な声が耳を打ち、指し棒の先がまっすぐ俺に突きつけられていて、その延長線上にハルヒがいかめしい顔で立っていた。 A shrill cry pierced my ears, as I found myself staring into the sharp tip of a cane. Glancing up the cane, I found Haruhi’s angry face awaiting me.
「いい? 明日は動きやすい格好で来ること! 汚れても平気な服を着てきなさい。あんたと古泉くんは手ぶらでかまわないわ。とりあえずいる物はね……」 “Listen up, tomorrow be sure to dress plainly! All of you should wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. As for Kyon and Koizumi, the both of you can come empty handed. Here’s a list of the things we need.”
ハルヒは朝比奈さんを促して、水性ペンを持つように命じた。 Haruhi barked at Asahina-san to fetch a marker.
メイドで書記という変な組み合わせの属性を持つことになった朝比奈さんは、微笑ましいまでの子供っぽい字で言われるままの語句をホワイトボートに書き連ねていく。 Still dressed in her maid outfit, Asahina-san hurriedly fetched a marker and began writing down everything Haruhi had said with child-like enthusiasm.
「まずシャベルが二本ね。これはあたしが用意するわ。それからお弁当。みくるちゃん、お願いね。ゴザもいるわね。それから遭難したときのための方位磁石、ランタン、地図も用意しときましょ。この宝の地図じゃなくて、まともなヤツね。非常食としてお菓子もいっぱいあったほうがいいわ。発煙筒はどうしようかな」 “First we’ll need two steel shovels, but you can leave this to me. Next, we’ll need bentos. Mikuru-chan, you know what to do. Then we’ll require compasses, flashlights and a map. No, not the treasure map, but a real, accurate map of Japan. Oh, and if possible, please remember to prepare emergency canned food, and a flare launcher too.
どこの山に登るつもりだ。この高校があるところより低い頂上しかない山だぞ。おかしな現象が発生でもしない限り遭難などありえんし、しかも、もしそのおかしな現象が発生したりすると磁石や発煙筒なんぞ何の役にも立たないというのは年末に身に染みている。 Which mountain are you planning to climb? This isn’t even a mountain, it’s barely a hill. Unless we run into some strange phenomena again, like a sudden snowstorm, we should be all right. And if by chance we really did run into some strange phenomena, what use would compasses and flare launchers be of? The incident that happened during the end of last year suddenly came into mind.
長門の冷静な黒い瞳が、朝比奈さんの下手な字を見つめているのを確認して俺はそっと吐息を漏らした。 Nagato’s black pupils were fixed directly on Asahina-san’s neat writing. As I confirmed what was on the board, I couldn’t help but sigh.
一週間ほど先から来たあの朝比奈さん情報では、俺たちはつつがなく宝探しに行き、無事に戻って来たことになっている。それも探した甲斐なく帰りも手ぶらでだ。そこで重大な事件に出会っていれば朝比奈さんだって注意を喚起するようなことを伝えてくれただろう。 From what Asahina-san (Michiru) said, there was no need to bring any flare launchers or emergency canned food, since we would be back peacefully. Heck, there was no need to climb that darned mountain either, since we would come back empty-handed. However, Asahina-san had told me to take care, as something important would happen then. I wonder what it was.
登って弁当|喰って下山する。ただのピクニックだ、それは。肉体労働係を任命されることが決定している俺と古泉を除けばだが……。 Going up a hill, savoring Asahina-san’s bentos, and going down the hill sounds like a picnic to me. Oh and there would be an extra “workout” session for Koizumi and me too.
ここにきて長門が同期を封印した理由を再認識したように思う。確かに自分のすることやハルヒの言い出すことが解っているようなこの状態、正直言って全然|面白くない。聞かなきゃよかったよ、朝比奈さん。 I knew without a doubt that it would be boring. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t asked Asahina-san about it. But alas, I had to do it in order to maintain the delicate balance between the past and the future, since it was decided a long time ago that the SOS Brigade would have an activity this weekend.
まあ釣り合いが取れていると言えばそうなのかもしれない。SOS団が実行するこの週末の予定は解っている。しかして、朝比奈さん(大)から下された俺と朝比奈さん(みちる)がやるべき行勤の意味はさっぱり解らないという、損得|勘定すれば差し引きゼロ----って言っていいものかね。 Now going on that stupid treasure hunt just for the sake of maintaining the balance, this I can understand. What Asahina-san (Big)’s orders were for, however, this I could not fathom. I was sure that Asahina-san (Michiru) didn’t understand them either. Oh whatever. If put in terms of loss and gain, we would probably end up with a neutral zero anyway – the loss would balance out the gain.
なんか損ばかりしているようだと、俺の控えめな感情が眩いているんだが。 Wait a second. I think the loss outweighs the gain.
すっかり登山気分のハルヒが次々に持っていくものを増やし続けたために、書き記すスペースがホワイトボードから失われ、とうとうひざまずいたメイドな朝比奈さんがちっちゃな文字で下隅の方にシェルパとかテントとか書くことにもなったが、 Trying very hard to keep my emotions in check, I sat at the table without uttering a single word.
Haruhi, who was by now completely obsessed with mountains, was still busy adding items to the already massive list of equipment. The entire white board was so full that Asahina-san was having a hard time squeezing in the items Haruhi mentioned.
「ハルにゃん、天山山脈を徒歩で縦断するんじゃないんだからっ。山ったってちゃちいもんだしさっ、携帯の電波だって入るし、遭難しそうになったら連絡してくれたらいいよ! 捜索隊を派遣するからっ」 “Haruhi, we’re not planning to scale the Himalayas. The most we’d probably need is a GPS tracker. It would enable us to communicate with the outer world in terms of danger, and make rescue operations swifter by pin-pointing our exact location.”
鶴屋さんがケラケラ笑いながら注進してくれて、 Tsuruya-san laughed as she said, “I remember that I used to run around that mountain when I was young. It’s perfectly safe ~nyoro! There aren’t even grizzly bears there!”
「あたしが子供の頃に走り回って遊んでた山だよっ。クマもいない!」
ハルヒも笑い返した。 Haruhi flashed Tsuruya-san a smile as she replied: “Thanks a lot, Tsuruya-san. We’ll be counting on you should we run into any trouble.”
「ありがと。遭難したときは頼むわ」
もとより本気ではなかったのだろう、ハルヒは指し棒をくるんと回して、 So you weren’t serious about all that stuff after all?
Haruhi spun the cane in her hand as she said,
「みんな、いいわね。こう言ってくれている鶴屋さんのためにも、お宝を絶対テイクアウトするのよ。気合い入れて行きまっしょう!」 “Everyone, I think that’s all for the preparations. We should definitely work harder for Tsuruya-san’s sake, and unearth the great treasure her great-grand-ancestor left for us!”
なんだろう、俺は手ひどく安堵している自分に気づいて狼狽しそうになった。ハルヒがいつもの調子に戻って、あの輝く瞳を俺に見せつけている。ただそれだけで、すべての不安が吹っ飛んでいく気がして、そんな気がしたことによって安心したというか何というか……。 For some strange reason, I felt oddly calm. Perhaps it was due to Haruhi’s melancholy disappearing as she once again looked at me with those bright, sparkling eyes. I felt strangely at peace with myself, as if all feelings of anxiety had suddenly evaporated. But was that all? Why in the world would I feel so relaxed even though I knew I would go on a fruitless treasure hunt tomorrow?
まあ何だ、誰であろうと気が晴れることはいいことだ。理由が何だってさ。 Oh well, I can’t afford to put too much thought into it. As long as it makes me feel better, who cares what the reason is.
* * *
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一方的に宝探し計画をぶち上げた後、ハルヒが学校図書室から借り出してきた江戸時代の図鑑やら資料やら歴史小説を広げて、鶴屋さんの先祖(庄屋だか問屋だかだったらしい)が埋めて隠しそうな物を推理しようという、それは推理ではなくて単なるアテ物だろうと言いたくなるような展開が小一時間ほど続いて、今日の特別|緊急ミーティングは|終 了だ。 Haruhi must have decided on this treasure hunt long before the meeting, as she had borrowed an entire lot of books, brochures and even novels about the warring periods. According to Tsuruya-san, her ancestor was also filthy rich (I think he was the village chief or a famous salesman). Having nothing better to do, we all began speculating as to what the buried treasure could have been.
Actually, our “speculation” was no more than simple discussion and guess work, but before we knew it, an hour had already passed, and so today’s emergency meeting came to a close.
ちなみにハルヒは、 And since we’re on the topic of speculations, Haruhi’s speculations were “If it were really some old Genroku period coins, I would be bored beyond belief! Let’s all hope it’s something interesting!” and that kind of mumbo-jumbo.
「小判なんかつまんないわ。もっと面白グッズが出てきて欲しいものね」
などと言って無い物ねだりをしていたが、長門が文庫本を閉じるのを合図に、自分が眺めていた火縄銃の図鑑を閉じた。終業時刻がすぐそこまで迫っている。 When Nagato shut her book tight, all of us knew that it was time for today’s activities to come to a close. All of us brigade members, together with Tsuruya-san, then proceeded to make our way back home. As we walked down the hill, I tried valiantly to start a conversation with Tsuruya-san, but to no avail. Haruhi and Tsuruya-san were both walking up front, as they energetically discussed about the mountain. Shortly behind them was Asahina-san, followed by the silent Nagato, before ending with me and Koizumi at the back. I had wanted to ask Tsuruya-san about how Asahina-san (Michiru) was doing, but I didn’t want Haruhi to overhear it.
そこから全員で集団下校となった。坂を下っている最中、俺は何とかして鶴屋さんと二人で話せないかと機会をうかがっていたのが、なかなかチャンスが訪れない。最前列をハルヒと鶴屋さんが風を切って行進し、その後ろに朝比奈さんが続き、黙々歩きの長門と来て、最後尾は俺と古泉だ。俺としては朝比奈さん(みちる)がちゃんと鶴屋さん家で平和に生活できてんのかを訊きたかったが、ハルヒの耳に届くようなことがあってはならない。
まあいいか。どうせ後で電話することになる。あっちの朝比奈さんとは今後の予定を話し合わないとな。今朝の三通の手紙のうち、一つの指令はちょっとした準備が必要らしいのだ。事前に手に入れなくてはならない物がある。ますます無償のお使いロールプレイになってきた。 Ah, forget it. I’ll have to call Asahina-san later anyway. And since none of those three letters could be conveyed fully through speech, it was only logical that I pay her a visit, seeing that one of those letters required us to do a little preparation. Thinking about this, I felt as if acid had burned a large hole through my wallet. It always seemed that there was only cash flowing out; none ever flowed in.
にしても鶴屋さんには感心させられる。ハルヒや朝比奈さんとの掛け合いを見ていると、自宅に朝比奈さんのそっくりさんか双子の妹かドッペルゲンガーがいるなんて素振りは一切見せず、本当にそのままの鶴屋さんだ。何と頼りになる先輩だろう。 I was really impressed with Tsuruya-san. Her ability to strike up conversations with Haruhi and Asahina-san, while not spilling the beans about how an exact double was sitting right in her house, was just remarkable. I guess that’s to be expected of Tsuruya-san. So that’s what it’s like to be a sempai, huh.
As Nagato’s apartment loomed near, I knew that it was time to say goodbye, seeing that this was the regular spot where SOS Brigade members parted.
「また明日! 遅刻は罰金だからね」 “See you guys tomorrow! The last one to arrive will be punished!”
長門のマンションが見えてきたあたりで俺たちは三々五々に道を分かち合い、ハルヒの声に手を振ってから、あとは自分の家に帰るフリをするだけだった。 Waving furiously, Haruhi said her goodbyes, as each of us headed in our separate directions. Now all that was left was to fake going home.
* * *
いかにも帰り道をダラダラと歩いている高校生の姿を装いつつ、俺は全員の姿が見えなくなったのを見計らって携帯電話を取り出し、念のために細い路地の隙間に身体を潜めながらコールする先は鶴屋さんの邸宅である。 I walked until I was far beyond anyone’s sight before I took out my cell phone. Just to be safe, I hid in one of those dark alleys behind houses as I punched in Tsuruya-san’s residence number.
お手伝いさんみたいな人に名を告げると、そう待つことなく朝比奈さんに取り次いでくれた。 After notifying the maid of my name, Asahina-san was put on the line shortly after.
『はぁい。キョンくん? あたしです』 “Hello, Kyon-kun? It’s me.”
俺は離れの小部屋で小さく正座している朝比奈さんを思い浮かべながら、 I thought of Asahina-san’s figure as she sat alone in Tsuruya-san’s large residence.
「今日も入ってましたよ、例の手紙」 “I got more of those things again. You know, the letters?”
『ううーん、今度は何をすればいいんでしょうか……』 “Umm, yeah… What are we supposed to do this time…?”
語尾はほとんど吐息のようである。 From the way she ended her sentence, I could tell that she was very nervous.
「そのことで相談したいことがあるんですよ。今日明日はどうやら自由時間のようですが、明後日あたりからいそがしくなりそうな感じと言うか」 “Well, about that, I thought that maybe it would be better if you and I had a little chat about it, since it states that I’ll be free for today and tomorrow. I’m going to be really busy after that, though.”
『あ、はい。なんだか解るような……』 “Oh… It’s all right, I understand…”
それはまた、どうしてだろう。 So what do I do next?
『土日に市内パトロールをしたって言いましたよね。あたし、じっくり思い出そうってがんばってみたんです。そうしたら、あの時のキョンくん、ちょっと変だったような……』 “There’s another city-wide search on Saturday and Sunday. If memory serves me right, you were acting pretty strange then, Kyon-kun…”
これも聞かなかったほうがよかったかな。無理にでも変な振る舞いをやらないといけないってのは疲れそうだ。ただでさえ明日は疲れそうだってのに。 I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that. I’ll probably be really tired after tomorrow, so I don’t think I’ll have enough energy remaining to force myself to act weird.
「その話は後で聞きますよ。今からそっちに行きます。鶴屋さんはまだ帰ってないですよね。俺は今から向かうので、鶴屋さんのちょい後くらいに到着予定で」 “We’ll talk about this later. I’ll head over to your place right now. Tsuruya-san should be home any time now.”
空っ風に地団駄を踏まねばならない季節だ。俺は電話を切ると小走りで歩き出す。 After that, I hung up, as I quickened my pace to Tsuruya-san’s residence, ushered on by the piercing cold winter wind.
* * *
* * *
呼び鈴に出てきてくれたのは今日も鶴屋さんだった。俺とはほとんど頭か首差だったようで、着替えもまだのセーラー服姿である。 The person to answer the doorbell today was yet again Tsuruya-san. She was still clad in her sailor uniform, apparently not even bothered to change as she reached home.
「来ると思ったよっ」 “I had a feeling you would come.”
門を開けながら鶴屋さんは楽しげに言い、俺に手招きした。 Tsuruya-san said as she waved at me while opening the door, revealing a large grin on her face.
「で、どうなんだい? あのみちるちゃんは、いつまでウチの座敷わらしをやっててくれるんだい?」 “What are you planning to do? She can’t be staring at my house’s ceiling forever you know.”
そいつはちょっとまだ解りませんね。ですが、あと数日でいいはずですよ。 Well, I know it sounds weird, but please bear with it for a few more days. Asahina-san should be able to go back to where she came from after that.
「あたしだったらいつまでも置いときたいからいいよっ。いやぁもう可愛い可愛い! 同じ家にいると学校じゃ解らなかったみくる……じゃなかったね、あの娘の可愛さを新しく十二個くらい発見しちゃったさ! 抱いて眠りたいくらいだねっ」 “Oh don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with having her in my house. She’s just so cute! Compared to the Mikuru in school, she’s so much cuter! Don’t you think so? She’s so cute that I want to hug her as I sleep ~nyoro.”
まさかやってんじゃないでしょうね、そんな羨ましいことを。 Don’t tell me Tsuruya-san already did that. Oh, how I admire her!
「いんやっ。一緒なのはお風呂くらいさ。みちる、何か言おうとするたびに、これ言っていいのかなっ、て悩む顔するんだよ。それがまた大層可愛いんだけどっ。ちょっとかわいそうでもあるね。気にしなくていいのにさっ」 “That’s not all. Michiru’s so cute that you just want to bathe together with her. But whenever I say so, all she does is make a pained expression and say ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea…’ That just makes her even cuter than usual! Although you kinda sympathize with her afterwards. But I guess that’s nothing to worry about.”
鶴屋さんに導かれて俺は離れの小屋まで行く。想像通り、朝比奈さんは畳敷きの部屋で所在なげに正座して待っていた。紬みたいな和服の上に半纏という姿が新鮮で、 Tsuruya-san then brought me to the koya. Just like I expected, Asahina-san was inside. What I didn’t expect, though, was her wearing a woven kimono while kneeling down on the Tatami mats.
「あ、キョンくん……」 “Kyon-kun…”
俺が来たのを見て安堵の表情を浮かべるところも、またいいね。今にも三つ指ついてくれそうなシーンだ。 Upon seeing me, Asahina-san revealed a relieved expression. Now that’s a pretty cute expression too. As she got up and bowed towards me, I felt that there was nothing more beautiful than that scene in the entire world.
勇んで引き戸を閉めようとしたところで、俺の後ろにいた鶴屋さんの猫笑いにぶつかった。何か問いたげな目つきをしているが、確かに言うべきことがあるな。 As I tried my best to wrench my eyes away from that sight and close the door behind me, I suddenly heard Tsuruya-san’s evil monomaniacal laughter ring out from behind. From her looks, I knew that she had lots of questions to ask me. So…
「鶴屋さん、すみませんが俺と朝比奈----みちるさんと二人にしてもらえませんか。すぐにすみますんで」 “Tsuruya-san, I’m sorry, but could you give the two of us a moment, please? A little while will do.”
「ふふふううん?」 “Hmm…?”
鶴屋さんは俺の肩越しに朝比奈さんを覗き込み、 Tsuruya-san said as she peered over my shoulders at Asahina-san.
「二人っきりに? この狭い部屋でっ? いいけどねっ」 “The both of you? Alone? Together? In such a small space? Hohoho, I’m fine with that ~nyoro.”
朝比奈さんが顔を赤らめるのを面白そうに見やって、鶴屋さんは俺の肩をはたいた。 Upon hearing Tsuruya-san’s words, Asahina-san’s face blushed bright red. Apparently this was the effect Tsuruya-san was waiting for, as she patted my shoulders and said,
「じゃあ、あたしは着替えてくるよ。うふふふん? ごゆっくり~ん」 “Well then, I guess I’ll go and change then. Fufufu, have fun chatting ~nyoro.”
ステップを踏むような足取りで母屋へと去る鶴屋さんだった。それを見届けてから俺は小部屋に上がり込む。しゃちこばったような朝比奈さんが畳の目を数えるように顔を伏せているが、まあそう、固くなんないでくださいよ。困るじゃないか。 And with that, Tsuruya-san strode elegantly towards the main house, leaving the both of us behind. After I had confirmed that she had indeed left, I plopped down on the floor, my body feeling as stiff as the very mats I was sitting on. Come on now, relax.
余計な煩悩を脳内スプレーで吹き消して、通学|鞄に意識を集中させることにしよう。 Now isn't the time to think of that. For now, let’s just concentrate on what we came here for.
「電話でも言いましたが、これがその手紙です。今日届いたぶん」 “These are the letters I mentioned earlier on the phone. I just received them this morning.”
俺は朝比奈さんに二通の封筒を差し出した。#3と4だけを。#6は見せずにおく。この六通目は俺だけに宛てられたものらしいからだ。そしておそらく、この#6が最後の手紙なのだ。これ以上はないと見ていい。#5があるのだとしたら別だが、取り急ぎその二通の中身を紹介しよう。 I said as I took out the letters #3 and #4. I wouldn’t show her #6 for the time being, since I was the only recipient mentioned in the letter. I’m guessing that #6 is the last letter. There probably wouldn’t be any other letters in the future. Oh and as for #5, let’s just forget about that for the moment.
まず#3、 This is what #3 had to say:
『明後日、土曜日。南に向かい、夕方までに**町**丁目にある歩道橋に行ってください。歩道橋の手前にパンジーの植え込みがあります。そこに落ちている物を拾い、以下の住所に匿名で郵送してください。落ちているものとは、小型の記憶媒体です』 “Two days later (Saturday), please head to the footbridge on ** street in ** district before dusk and face south. You should see some common stock growing there. Please pick up the object beneath it and send it to the following address anonymously. Just so you know, that object is a mini transmitter.”
二枚目には、やたら遠くの住所が書いてあり、記憶媒体らしき物の絵が添えられてあった。この絵からはメモリースティックを連想させるが自信はない。なんにしろ上手いとは言えない絵なのでね。 There was a separate paper attached, and on it was an address far away. There was also a drawing of what appeared to be the transmitter in question. By looking at the drawing alone, I wondered exactly what kind of transmitter this was. It didn’t look like something a normal human would draw.
次の#4が、 Now for #4:
『川沿いの桜並木、あなたと朝比奈みくるがよく知っているベンチがありますね。日曜日。午前十時四十五分までにそこに行き、午前十時五十分までに川に亀を投げ込んでください。亀の種類はお任せします。小さいもののほうがいいでしょう』 “Near the stream with the cherry blossom trees, you should recall a very familiar bench. Go there before 10:45 AM on Sunday. Bring along a small turtle with you. Before 10:50 AM, throw the aforementioned turtle into the lake. The turtle’s species doesn’t matter, but smaller ones are preferred.”
これにも二枚目があった。可愛い顔をした亀が丸い吹き出しの中で「よろしくね」と俺に呼びかけているマンガタッチのイラストだ。 There was yet another paper attached with this letter too. This time, there was a picture of a cute little turtle blowing bubbles while waving towards me. On it were the words “Please take good care of me~”. The entire picture was done in a cartoonish style.
#3にも4にも共通しているのは、『P.S.必ず朝比奈みくるとともに。二人だけで』と追伸があることと、朝比奈さんにしか読めない記号の一行が最後を飾っているところだ。 There was another thing #3 and #4 had in common: Both of them shared a same postscript. P/S: Remember to bring Asahina Michiru with you, and make sure it’s only the two of you. Finally, there was the line of orders only Asahina-san could understand.
朝比奈さんは真剣な顔で手紙を読んでいたが、#4の二枚目を見終えてから溜息をついた。 Asahina-san studied both letters carefully. After finishing the second page of #4, she sighed.
「わかんないです。カメさんですかぁ……」 “I don’t understand… Why turtles?”
この寒気団押し寄せる真冬に、川へ亀を投げ込む行為に何の意味があるのか、解るほうがおかしいな。解るのは書かれているベンチってのが、去年の春に朝比奈さんから未来人告白を受けたやつだというくらいだ。 What the heck was throwing a turtle into a stream in such cold weather supposed to mean? Whoever understood that must not be normal. The only thing that I knew was the bench, the one that Asahina-san had confessed to me about being a time traveler.
「でも、やらないといけないです」 “But, we’ve got no choice…”
朝比奈さんはコードを指でなぞり、決然とした面を上げた。 Asahina-san said as she studied the contents carefully again, before raising her head in determination.
「今のあたしたちには解りませんが、これはきっと意味のあることなんです。そうじゃないと……」 “We don’t know what’s going on now, but there has to be a reason we’ve been asked to do this. If we don’t do it…”
ふと朝比奈さんの目元が悲しげに揺らいだ。 For a moment, I detected a glimpse of sadness in Asahina-san’s eyes.
そうじゃないと----に続く言葉なら容易に思いつく。そうだ、でないとここに朝比奈さんがいる意味がない。二人もいる意味は、もっとない。 I could guess what came after “If we don’t do it…” That’s right, if we don’t do it, what purpose would sending Asahina-san back in time serve?
思わずにじり寄って抱きしめたくなったが、やっぱり俺はそんなことをしない。鶴屋さんから釘を刺されていることもあるしさ。俺の心情的にも、おいたはダメだね。 I wanted to hug Asahina-san tightly and tell her everything was all right, but in the end I didn’t do it. One of the reasons was due to my conscience. Another was due to Tsuruya-san’s needle-like stares suddenly popping out in my mind.
「それより朝比奈さん」 “Erm, you know, Asahina-san…” I mumbled, trying to drive away all evil intent from my mind.
軌道修正を図る。
「土日は市内パトロールをするんでしたよね? だったら、その指令の時間とかぶるんじゃないですか?」 “There’s another city-wide search this Saturday and Sunday right? If so, how am I supposed to follow these orders?”
土曜は夕方までという曖昧さだが、日曜は午前十時四十五分という指定がある。SOS団の誰といてもおかしな具合になりそうだ。俺一人だけ姿をくらますわけにもいくまい。 Before dusk, huh. What a miserably fuzzy time. No one in the SOS Brigade was weird enough to mention such a time. How was I supposed to excuse myself?
「ひょっとしたら、俺は何か理由をつけて欠席したんですか?」 “So should I find an excuse not to go?”
「いいえ。キョンくんも来てました」 “No, Kyon-kun. You were present that day too.”
朝比奈さんは大切そうに手紙を封筒にしまいながら、 Asahina-san said as she folded away the very important letter.
「けど、クジで二手に分かれたんです。いつもみたいに。さっきも思い出してたんですけど……土曜の午前はあたしは涼宮さんと長門さん、キョンくんは古泉くんとで、午後はあたしと涼宮さんと古泉くん、キョンくんと長門さんで……」 “As usual, we were separated into two teams by drawing lots. I just remembered… Nagato-san, Suzumiya-san and I were paired together on Saturday morning and Kyon-kun with Koizumi-kun, while Suzumiya-san, Koizumi-kun and I were paired together during Saturday afternoon and Kyon-kun with Nagato-san…”
記憶を確認するように朝比奈さんは小さく頭をうなずかせ、 Asahina-san said as she nodded her head gently, as if confirming her memories.
「確かです。日曜の午前もあたしと涼宮さんと古泉くん、キョンくんは長門さんとでした。それで、日曜は午前だけで解散だったんです。……え、あれ?」 “During Sunday morning, Suzumiya-san, Koizumi-san and I were once again paired up, while Kyon-kun was again paired with Nagato-san. Since we each went our separate ways before noon, there wouldn’t be a second draw… Eh?”
言いながら気づいたらしい。たぶん俺も同じ思いを抱いている。 Asahina-san stopped abruptly through her speech, as if sharing the same thoughts as I did.
偶然にしてはけっこうな確率的低空飛行だよな。 It was too perfect to be called a coincidence. What was the possibility of that happening anyway?
俺と、この朝比奈さんが未来指令に従って動いている時間帯に限り、俺は必ず長門とペアを組んでいることになる。五人の人間がいてそのうち特定の二人がペアになり、それも三回中二回を実現する確率を求めよ。面倒なので俺はそんな計算をしないが、割に希少なんじゃないかと思うぜ。 If what Asahina-san said was true, then I would be paired together with Nagato twice. Since we had five members, two of us were destined to be paired together in a two-people group. I needed to be paired in one of those two-people groups at least twice in three tries. I’m not going to start calculating the probability of that happening, but even so, I knew that it was pretty low.
そして、長門は事情を知ってくれているのだ。クジの行方を操作することくらいなら、今の長門でもお茶の子だろう。頼めばそうしてくれる。これはその結果か。 Speaking of which, I was sure that Nagato knew a little about the situation. If it’s drawing lots, I’m sure it would be no big deal for Nagato. All I have to do is ask her while she places her order at the café.
「どうなんでしょう」 “So, what should we do?”
朝比奈さんは自信がなさそうだったが、 Asahina-san said as she revealed a face that severely lacked confidence.
「でも、あたしの覚えているとおりにならないと困りますよね? 長門さんが協力してくれたの?」 But if things don’t go according to what Asahina-san said, then I would be in a bigger mess than I was currently in now. Was it really okay to ask Nagato to help me? Or rather, was it really necessary? According to Asahina-san’s memories, a time traveler that came from one week into the future, I would be paired in a two-person group all three times. Would it be possible for things to turn up different than what she said? Or would everything happen naturally? Even if I just sat back and relaxed, would I still be paired together with Nagato in a two-person group? Or did that happen because I requested for it to happen?
思案に暮れる問題だな。朝比奈さんの記憶にある組み合わせは規定のものだ。なんたってわずか一週間後から来た未来人の情報で、そうなってないとおかしい。放っておいても俺は長門と組むことになるのか、それとも人為的なものなのか……。
だが悩むのもわずかだった。 Gah, what am I worrying about? Asahina-san probably had no way of knowing if my future self had requested help from Nagato before, so…
「長門に頼みましょう」と俺は言った。「インチキすんのは気が進まないですが、万が一違うことになったら大事だ。あいつなら解ってくれますよ」 “We’ll go ask Nagato for help.” I said. “Even though it’s not fair asking for her assistance while concealing something behind our backs, we have no choice. The slightest mistake may result in large consequences, so it’s better to be on the safe side. I’m sure Nagato understands.”
「あたしもそう思います」 “That’s what I had in mind too.”
朝比奈さんがいやにきっぱりと同意した。 Asahina-san said while agreeing readily.
「パトロールの時、キョンくんの様子がちょっと変だったのって、それだと思うんです。長門さんにクジの組み合わせを頼んでたからだと思うの」 “During the city-wide patrol, Kyon-kun, you had a weird expression on your face. I think I now know why. You must have been thinking about the drawing of the lots.”
いったい俺はどんな様子を見せればいいんだろう。ちょっと変ってどんなだ? What did “weird” refer to anyway? What expression should I wear then?
「それは……ええと、なんとなく変としか」 “Erm… You know… Weird as in… weird.”
歯切れの悪くなる朝比奈さんだった。具体的に変さが解るようなものならよかったんだがな。 Asahina-san's answer still left me in the dark, but I don’t blame her. How are you going to describe “What type of weird” anyway?
「ごめんなさい。うまく言えなくて」 “I’m sorry, I have no idea how to explain it to you…”
謝らなくてもいいですよ。特に重要なことでもないでしょうから。 There’s no need to apologize, Asahina-san. Besides, this is a pretty trivial matter.
「でも……、あ、そうだ。日曜、あたしと涼宮さんと古泉くんがデパートの本屋さんにいたとき、」 “But… Oh wait, I just remembered something. During the Sunday search, while Suzumiya-san, Koizumi-kun and I were at the book store…”
思い出すことがあったらしい、朝比奈さんは額を指で突っつきながら、 Whatever Asahina-san had to say seemed pretty important, as she placed her fingers on her forehead, trying her best to recall the incident.
「涼宮さんの電話にイタズラ電話が入ったの」 “Suzumiya-san received a prank call.”
誰からです。 Who called her?
「キョンくんから」 “Kyon-kun, you did.”
俺が? いまさらハルヒの携帯にわざわざイタ電をするって? I did? During desperate times like this, my future self still had the time to prank call Haruhi?
「うん、涼宮さんはそう言ってました。えっと、キョンくんから変な電話があったって。全然|面白くない冗談だわって、すぐに切っちゃいましたけど。十一時になったかどうかの頃だったかなぁ」 “Ah, Suzumiya-san said something like, ‘That Kyon, calling me all of a sudden just to tell me a lame joke!’ after she hung up at around 11 AM.”
こうしてまた一つ不可解な行動予定が付け加えられた。何か知らんが、俺は亀を川に投げ込んだ後、ハルヒに電話してつまらん冗談を言わねばならんらしい。 So I did another weird thing, eh. That is to say after I chucked a poor little turtle into the stream, I would prank call Haruhi and tell her some lousy joke.
「何て言ってたとか、ハルヒは言いませんでしたか?」 “What did the joke sound like? Did Haruhi say anything?”
「ええ、あたしには、そう何も。でも、そのあとお昼にみんなで集合したときに、キョンくん、涼宮さんに謝ってましたよ」 “She didn’t say anything about it, but as we gathered for lunch, you apologized to her about it, Kyon-kun.”
不可解以上に不条理になってきた。なんで俺があいつに謝ることがあるのだ。 So I go from performing weird acts to betraying my own moral code, eh? Why in the world would I apologize to Haruhi?
「つまらない冗談言ってすまん、って」 “Kyon-kun, you said, ‘I’m sorry for cracking such a lame joke.’”
不条理を超えた難解さである。俺がそんな素直にハルヒに頭を下げるのは……まあ、そんなにないことだぞ。 This is getting even weirder. Bowing my head, apologizing so sincerely to Haruhi… What could possibly make that happen?
詳しく聞こうにも、朝比奈さんもそれ以上のことは知らないのだとおっしゃる。俺とハルヒの会話は二言ほどで|終 了して、次の話題に移ったかららしい。 When I tried to press for further information, all Asahina-san did was shake her head. It appeared that Haruhi didn’t continue pressing the matter anymore, as we then proceeded to chat about other events.
知れば知るほど未来の俺は理解不能なことばかりしてくれているようで、推理できるんなら誰かやって欲しい。俺はあきらめた。 I give up. Knowing that I would commit such unthinkable acts in the future was bad enough, but not knowing why I had to do them was even worse. Can someone please piece together the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle and tell me what is going on?
「それより亀だな」 “Now about that turtle…”
俺は#4の封筒を摘みながら、 I said as I held letter #4.
「この時期、どんな亀でもそこらの道をひょこひょこ歩いてるはずはありませんから、どうにかして用意しないと」 “During a time like this, it’s practically impossible to find a turtle crawling around on the road or something. How are we supposed to find one?”
冬眠中の野生亀を掘り起こしてやるのも忍びない。だいいち穴掘りは明日の宝探しで充分だろう。まさか宝の代わりに亀を掘り当てるとか、そんなオチが待っているのか? I didn’t have the heart to dig up a hibernating turtle from beneath the ground. I would probably have enough digging to do tomorrow. Or did it so happen that we stumbled upon a hibernating turtle instead of buried treasure?
「いえ、宝物も亀も出てきませんでした」 “No. We didn’t find anything that day, be it treasure or turtles.”
そうでしたね。俺たちの宝探しはただの山登りで終わるという話でした。どっちにしろ縁起のよさそうな物が出てくるとは思えんな。 So that is to say our merry treasure hunt tomorrow would turn out to be nothing more than a hike, eh.
「しかたない。買ってきますよ」 “We have no other choice but to purchase one.”
近所のホームセンターにペットコーナーがあるのを思い出す。シャミセン用の缶詰をまとめ買いするのによく利用しているが、ゼニガメがのそのそしてた水槽があったはずだ。そいつで手を打とう。この帰り道にでも寄ってくか。ああ、でも日曜にSOS団集合場所に亀を持っていくわけにはいかないから、事前にこの朝比奈さんに預けて----と。 I suddenly recalled that there was a pet store in the local supermarket nearby. It was the same pet shop I would frequent to buy Shamisen’s food. I remember seeing turtles that were meant to be used for experiments being sold in there before. Why not purchase one on my way home? But wait, there was no way I could bring a turtle together with me while the SOS Brigade gathers, could I? Oh well, guess that can’t be helped. I’ll just have to leave it in Asahina-san’s care then.
やれやれ、予定が目白押しだ。この週末、のんびり羽を伸ばすことは無理らしいな。 Thinking of the many preparations I would have to do over this weekend, I suddenly felt as if my weekend had vanished into thin air.
* * *
その後、朝比奈さんと土日に落ち合う場所や時間を相談し、だいたいのことを決めたあたりで俺は腰を上げた。 After that, Asahina-san and I discussed where and when we should meet on Saturday and Sunday. After all of our basic preparations were complete, I slowly got up.
離れの戸口まで朝比奈さんが送ってくれ、扉を引くと普段着に衣替えした鶴屋さんが寒そうに待っていた。 Asahina-san walked me to the door, which, upon opening, revealed a plain-clothed Tsuruya-san standing outside in the cold waiting for us.
「やぁやぁっ。ずいぶんゆっくりだったね! ほんとにキョンくんっ、なんかしてたんじゃないだろうねえっ」 “Ara, ara, that little moment sure was long! Let’s not mince words, shall we? Spit it out, Kyon-kun, did you do anything in there?”
ニコニコ顔が逆に怪しい。この人、隙間から中を覗いてたんじゃないだろうな。よかったよ、おいたをしなくて。この気のいい女子|先輩にボコられるのは本意じゃないからさ。 Tsuruya-san said as she laughed madly. She couldn’t have peeped through the doors, could she? It’s a good thing she didn’t continue to press on any further. Hiding things from women is just not my specialty.
俺は適当な生返事をして、頬を朱に染めかける朝比奈さんの表情を網膜に焼き付けつつ、鶴屋家から退散した。 I pretended to smile as I quickly made my leave. Asahina-san’s beet red face continued to remain in my mind, even after the Tsuruya Residence had long disappeared from my sight.
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