Chapter 1: Close Encounter of the Third Kind
Going back two months from the present, it was June 24th, after school.
With Suizenji’s interest towards the spring’s Suizenji Theme, “spiritual phenomena,” showing no signs of letting up, Asaba was hard at work performing physical labor. Staggering under the weight of the load he was carrying with both hands, he finally made it to the clubroom building. He felt that temporarily placing the load down on the ground outside would be too much of a hassle, and thinking that Akiho was probably already in there, called out to her. “Akiho, if you’re in there, open up.”
He was right. The door to the clubroom that the Newspaper Club was unlawfully occupying opened up, and Sudou Akiho peeked out. Her eyes widened in surprise at the massive load that Asaba was carrying. “What’s that?”
Asaba entered the clubroom and dropped the load on the table. He sunk into a nearby folding chair and let out a sigh. “Man, that was so heavy.” The load was a mountain of yearbooks that he’d borrowed and brought from the library. Roughly 20 yearbooks were piled up about 50 centimeters high. Being made of high quality paper, they were quite heavy. “That’s not all of them. There are still two mountains left, about the same size as this one. Being in an old school is such a pain.”
Akiho responded with a bewildered expression, “Like I said earlier, what are you going to do with that?”
“Ah, you haven’t heard from the President yet?”
“The plan for the July edition. That ‘Terrifying! Spirit photos found in yearbooks!’ thing.”
“Huh? Wasn’t the next plan going to be that thing about the Ouija1 board?”
Asaba took out the oolong tea can that had been rolling around in his pocket the whole time, pulled opened the pop-top and said, “The ’Ask the Ouija board! The Predict the Exam Question Experiment!’ thing right? That’s been canned.”
Asaba was a little surprised when Akiho suddenly raised her voice. He thought to himself, “If this mere three-man Newspaper Club was to have its own different factions, Suizenji would be in the Conservative party and Akiho would be in the Reform party. Akiho, who’s aiming for a ‘serious newspaper,’ should have been happy to hear that any one of Suizenji’s plans fell apart.” With a mouthful of oolong tea, Asaba looked up at Akiho, wondering if she would continue.
Akiho looked away grumpily, and callously sat down on the folding chair that she had been using up until Asaba came. She had a laptop in front of her, and the cursor on the screen was flashing at the center of an unfinished article that she was working on, titled, “Adopt a Puppy.” Placing her hands on the keyboard, Akiho suddenly said, “But Asaba, didn’t you spend so much time investigating and researching? You mean all of that’s just going to go to waste?”
“Can’t help it. It’s not like the President canned it without any reason either. You know how sometimes the President or I stay overnight in the clubroom, right? If Kawaguchi were to catch wind of this exam question prediction thing, he’d get the wrong idea and say, ‘you guys wouldn’t be planning on sneaking into the faculty office at night, would you?’”
Speaking of which, Kawaguchi Taizou, 35 year old bachelor, “servant of science,” and Asaba and Akiho’s homeroom teacher, was naturally on extremely bad terms with Suizenji Kunihiro, member of class 3-2 and #12 on the attendance list and 175cm tall and in the 81st percentile and holder of an 11 second 100 meter dash and “seeker of truth.”
“Apparently, Kawaguchi briefly mentioned that at a morning faculty meeting. It looks like the President was also called into the faculty office and given a pretty stern warning by the homeroom teacher. It sounded like it was turning into something really troublesome, so he said we might as well figure out a new plan if exam questions were such a problem,” Asaba said.
“The President said that?”
Akiho furrowed her eyebrows slightly and said, “It’s kind of hard to believe that that guy, Suizenji Kunihiro, would just give up like that after being warned by a teacher.”
“Well, he’s a pretty hard guy to understand. He wasn’t frustrated or anything at all. To him, it was probably all the same thing, whether it was the Ouija board or this spirit photo thing, and he probably only thought of this whole incident as if there was poop on the road and he had to walk and jump over it.”
“On the contrary, I’m the one who’s frustrated,” Asaba thought.
Finishing off the rest of his oolong tea in one go, Asaba composed himself and stood up, “Alright then.” He grabbed a few volumes from the mountain of yearbooks, and dropped them on the table. “You know, I think this plan is also a pretty good one. Old photos are kind of creepy in and of themselves, and just by finding a good one and framing it properly, it should come out as a pretty convincing piece. It doesn’t really matter if it really is a spirit photo or not.”
“If you say so,” Akiho responded, returning to her “Adopt a Puppy” article.
“What do you mean by that?” Asaba returned, unable to understand what she was saying.
“I humbly submit only before he who has treated me so kindly,” Akiho typed in romaji2. She finally raised her face from the LCD screen, and glared at Asaba with watery eyes. “What’s with that laaaame, ‘It doesn’t really matter if it really is a spirit photo or not,’ nonsense. I already know. I see right through you. You always act like, ‘Oh, I can’t help it, I’m just following the President,’ but in reality you actually like those kinds of things. Telekinetic powers and ghosts and that kind of stuff.”
Speaking to Asaba, who was responsible for raising her two-month-old male crossbreed dog, she continued, “I’m not going to help out with that plan. Hmph, I don’t care. By the time you finish going through all those yearbooks you brought here, an entire Zodiac cycle3 will definitely have passed. And when you show that to the President, all he’s going to do is scream, ‘Whose arm is that!?’ once every two pages. *Sigh* and I thought you were a neutral authority in all of this. It looks like my only ally in this club is myself. *Sigh* the path of a reformist sure is harsh.”
At that moment, “STOP!!” He must have been eavesdropping from just outside the door. “Who are you to speak about reform!? Is your reform the kind that swings back and forth between joy and despair whenever the sports clubs win or lose!? Is it the kind where you search for an owner for a cat or a dog!? Answer, Correspondent Sudou!”
Suizenji came barging in, practically kicking the door down. He held a melon bread in his right hand,4 and a Tetra Pak® 5 of milk in his left6. The silver rims of the hipster glasses7 that he wore depending on his mood sparkled.
Dumbfounded by the President’s vigor, Asaba asked, “D-Did something good happen?”
Akiho glanced coldly at him and said, “So stupid.”
Suizenji chuckled and said, “Correspondent Sudou, it’s obvious that you still bear a grudge towards not being able to get rid of the words “Radio Wave” from the newspaper name. Certainly, it is appropriate that the crowning name of your petty reformative newspaper would be ‘The Sonohara Middle School Newspaper.’ BUT! The now formerly titled ‘Solar System Radio Wave Newspaper’ transmitted a variety of genres as massive as the solar system itself instantaneously like radio waves—“
Akiho kicked her chair and stood up. “I want to renovate the Newspaper Club! I don’t want to dissect the common sense of the world with radio waves, unlike someone here! In the first place, what are we going to do if we drive away readers because of the name!?”
Stuck between a rock and a hard place in the face of this suddenly resurrected argument, Asaba chuckled. “President, you’re still bothered by losing the ‘Solar System Radio Wave Newspaper?’”
“Heck yeah. Really bothered. Anyway, Correspondent Asaba.” Suizenji pointed at the yearbooks stacked up like a mountain on top of the table with his melon bread holding hand, like he was shooting a gun. “Would you mind telling me what that is?”
Asaba was at a loss for words. It was Suizenji that had ordered him to go and borrow these yearbooks from the library and bring them here in the first place. “Those are yearbooks. I borrowed them from the library.”
“Correspondent Asaba. Would you mind telling me why these are here?”
Akiho, who was standing nearby, also furrowed her eyebrows. Asaba was completely confused, and said, “Uhm. Weren’t we going to dig up a photo we can use from these?”
“Correspondent Asaba. What in the world is, ‘a photo we can use?’”
Asaba instinctively turned around and looked at Akiho, who made a face as if saying, ‘Don’t look at me, I have no idea either.’
The two of them responded at the same time. “President, wasn’t this your idea? ‘Spirit photos found in yearbooks.’ The new plan for the July edition.” “I heard it from Asaba. You cancelled the other plan, right?”
Suizenji let out a long sigh. Looking into the distance like he was gazing at a beautiful sunset, he muttered softly, “It’s cancelled.”
Asaba heard him.
But Akiho didn’t hear him. She responded, “Hah?”
“IT’S CANCELLED!!” Suizenji suddenly roared like Godzilla. Placing his hand on his forehead, he walked briskly across the clubroom shaking his head irately. “Answer! Answer me, the both of you!! Aaaaahhhh, Good Lord! You two are still caught up on that stupid spiritual phenomena thing!?”
Throwing open the window at the end of the clubroom, Suizenji looked up at the June 24th, after-school blue sky and screamed like he was firing an anti-aircraft missile. “YOU GUYS ARE SO BEHIND!!!!!!”
Closing the window softly with both hands, Suizenji turned his back to the light shining through the window. In a completely opposite and quiet tone of voice, he said, “Alright then, the two of you. Do you know what today, in other words, June 24th, is?
Asaba and Akiho looked at each other again. Akiho looked at Asaba with an expression that asked, “What’s with him? Did he eat something weird?” Asaba shook his head, silently saying, “I have no idea.”
Akiho eventually responded hesitantly, “Thursday?”
Asaba guessed, “Toilet paper day.”
“Wrong,” Suizenji solemnly answered. “June 24th is, throughout the world, UFO Day.”
1. Ouija board: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouija
2. Romaji: ローマ字. Roman alphabet characters, as opposed to kanji or hiragana.
3. Zodiac cycle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac
4. 馬手: < word used. The hand you hold the reins in when horse-riding (right hand).
5. Tetra Pak®: type of package
6. 弓手: <word used. The hand you hold a bow in (left hand).
7. 伊達メガネ: <word used. Definition would more accurately be “glasses that are worn for fashion, as opposed to for correcting vision.” But same idea.