Chapter 1: Close Encounter of the Third Kind
Asaba and Akiho finally understood. Suizenji Themes changed with the season. The winter of telekinetic powers had passed, the spring of spiritual phenomena had gone by as well, and the day when the target of Suizenji’s interest was completely updated had come around once again without any warning.
Asaba’s shoulders drooped disappointedly. Akiho returned to “Adopt a Puppy.” Cycling through the different characters of “Shibaken1” with the spacebar2, she said, “I see. It’s that time of year already.”
Asaba simply said, “Man, it was so heavy…”
“Starting tomorrow I’ll come wearing summer clothes.”
Again, Asaba simply said, “Man, it was so heavy…”
Suddenly reverting back to a casual tone of voice, Suizenji said, “Hey you two, what are you guys doing acting so laid back? Show a bit of excitement here.”
“Fat chance,” Asaba and Akiho thought at the same time. The damage to Asaba was particularly severe. Casting a quick glance at the mountain of yearbooks on the table, Asaba felt like his body would sink into ground when he thought of having to go and return all of those yearbooks again.
“So in other words, you’re going to stop chasing ghosts, and you’re going to go chase UFOs?” Akiho asked.
“Yeah,” Suizenji nodded, crinkling his eyes, and laughed with an amazingly handsome face. Year after year, more than a few new female students get deceived by that smile and turn valuable stationery into love letters, then carry out the worst mistake you can make by stuffing them into Suizenji’s shoe locker.
Confirming one more time, Akiho asked, “Um, why exactly is June 24th UFO day?”
“Correspondent Sudou! You call yourself a correspondent of the Sonohara Radio Wave Newspaper?! Can you hold your head high with pride and claim that you’re giving your best as a journalist when you don’t even know that simple fact?!”
“Normal people don’t know that!”
“Then I’ll give you a hint. The time: Tuesday, June 24th, 1947. The place: North America, Washington State, Mount Rainier, approximately 9500 feet elevation.”
Asaba, who was still slowly recovering from the blow he was dealt earlier, reacted to the hint. “Huh? Hmm, where have I heard that before? Mount Rainier. I remember hearing that name. If I recall correctly, it was in some children’s book about UFOs I read a long time ago,” he contemplated.
“Um, the Kenneth Arnold incident3.” Asaba suddenly remembered that name and answered. The name was extremely familiar, and felt like an old, faceless and forgotten friend’s nickname. He was somewhat touched that that old name remained tucked away in the corner of his mind after all this time.
“As expected of Correspondent Asaba!” Suizenji walked towards the corkboard hanging on the wall, and stuck a round red sticker in the column under “Asaba” on the “Great Finds Chart.”
Turning around, Suizenji continued, “Flying in his light aircraft, Kenneth Arnold witnessed ‘nine unidentified flying objects soaring in the air over Mount Rainier like saucers skipping on water.’ Among all of the officially reported incidents, this was the very first UFO sighting, and from that point on, June 24th came to be known worldwide as UFO day.” Suizenji nodded contently.
However, Asaba was still reluctant to abandon the “spirit photos found in yearbooks” idea, and asked, “But what about next edition’s plan then? Do we have some kind of plan?”
“It goes without saying. Collecting data for this next project will take an excruciatingly long time. It will require thorough preparation.”
“Correspondent Sudou, I entrust the entire July edition of the newspaper to you. Write as many serious articles as your heart so desires. We shall be preparing for top secret data gathering during that period.”
Asaba and Akiho simultaneously let out a dumbfounded, “Haah?”
“Y-You can’t just suddenly push all of that onto me!” Akiho exclaimed.
“U-Um, by ‘we,’ do you mean me and you, President?” Asaba asked.
“I’m worried about your physical endurance, Correspondent Asaba. Don’t bother with a bullworker4 or any kind of power drink5, just start training your body from here on out.”
Asaba felt a shiver down his spine. The sound of “top secret data gathering” was somewhat disturbing. He felt like he might be dragged to some outrageous place and forced to do something insane.
“When you say ‘top secret data gathering,’ where—“
“Hm? Just behind the mountains here.”
Asaba’s anxiety was slightly relieved upon hearing that. Unaware that letting his guard down here would lead to his entire summer being devoured, he continued to ask, “But why behind the mountains here?”
Suizenji laughed defiantly, and declared extremely matter-of-factly, “When it comes to UFOs, look behind the mountains.”
This all took place June 24th, after school, with summer approaching.
The winter of telekinetic powers had passed, the spring of spiritual phenomena had gone by as well, and Asaba Naoyuki’s summer of UFOs had arrived.
1. Shibaken / Shibainu. An awesome breed of dog.
2. When typing in Japanese, you can cycle through character formations of words (different kanji used) using the spacebar, sort of like homophones in English. In this case: 芝健、芝賢、芝件、芝研, are all wrong characters to denote ‘Shibaken’ as a breed of dog.
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullworker Bowflexin’
5. Original word is 養命酒 (Youmeishu). If you try one tell me how it is.