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The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda

Author:Riku Onda [Onda, Riku]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
Published: 2019-01-15T00:00:00+00:00


7

PORTRAIT OF A GHOST

The Young Master from the stationery shop

I

Rumour had it that the hanging scroll in the window case of the soba noodle restaurant was a portrait of a ghost. Nobody knew when this story first began, but anyone familiar with the neighbourhood was aware of it.

Schoolchildren who walked past the shop on the way to school were aware of it because older students routinely repeated the story to the younger ones. And in summer, when it was the custom to tell scary ghost stories, children would come by on purpose during the long summer holiday to stare at the scroll in delighted terror.

The restaurant, which was situated on a corner in the middle of the shopping district, was much like any other noodle shop in the area. All that set it apart was the modest hanging scroll and bamboo vase in the window case at the shop front, where usually customers might expect to see a display of plastic models of dishes on the menu. This could have been interpreted as a sign of refinement were it not for the fact that the window case was only dusted twice a year, meaning that the scroll had turned a dusty, grimy colour that made it barely indistinguishable from the wall, and the petals of the artificial bellflower in the vase set in front of the scroll were quite faded. In consequence, the majority of customers who passed through the restaurant door barely gave the window display a second look.

Occasionally it occurred to regular customers to enquire about the origins of this scroll; however, the proprietor, who was gruff at the best of times, would simply reply with an air of weariness that he had been ordered by his father never to remove it, and there the conversation would end. Those customers who were curious enough to persist over the years in asking, however, succeeded in learning that the proprietor’s grandfather had acquired the scroll on his travels and subsequently experienced such a run of good fortune that he had come to believe the scroll brought luck. He had therefore given strict instructions for it to be kept permanently on display in the family business, and the current proprietor was simply obeying this injunction inherited from his father.

“Hard to believe a creepy thing like that could be lucky,” the regulars whispered behind his back.

“But the restaurant does well.”

“True, the noodles are good, and the other food.”

“It’s often the case that so-called lucky objects are actually quite bizarre.”

“Ever seen Ebisu’s face close up? For a god of good fortune he looks downright sinister, if you ask me.”

“Maybe the scroll’s got historical value.”

“How can it? There’s no signature, for one thing.” The speaker shook his head. Commonly known in the neighbourhood as the Young Master from the stationery shop despite being well into his mid-forties, he fancied himself as something of a calligraphy expert.

He had happened to be present once when the scroll was taken out for dusting and had had an opportunity to examine it.



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