Hyouka:Volume 1 Chapter 2
2 - The Rebirth of the Traditional Classics Club
It's often said that life in high school is rose-coloured. As the year 2000 comes to an end, the arrival of the day that matches that description as defined by a Japanese dictionary isn't too far off.
However, that doesn't mean that all high school students would wish for such a rose-coloured life. Whether it's studying, sports or romance, there will always be some people who would prefer a grey-coloured life rather than all that; I know quite a few within my own reckoning. Still, it's quite a lonely way to live one's life.
Here I was striking up a conversation of such a topic with my old friend Fukube Satoshi in the classroom filled with the light of the sunset. As always, Satoshi would smile and say, "That's what I thought as well. By the way, I never knew you were so masochistic."
How unfortunately wrong he was. So I protested, "Are you saying my life is grey-coloured?"
"Did I say that? But Houtarou, whether it's studying, sports, or what was the other one? Romance? I don't think you've ever been forward-looking in any of those."
"I'm not exactly backward-looking either."
Satoshi's smile broadened.
"You're just 'saving energy' after all."
I gave my approval to that with a snort. It's fine as long as you understand that I don't exactly hate getting myself active. I simply dislike wasting energy on anything bothersome. My style is to save energy for the betterment of the planet. In other words, "If I don't have to do it, I won't. If I have to do it, make it quick."
As I utter my motto, Satoshi would shrug his shoulders as usual.
"Whether it's saving energy or cynicism, it's the same thing, isn't it? Have you ever heard of instrumentalism?"
"In short, it means that for a person like you who has no particular interest, just by observing the fact that you have not joined any club here in Kamiyama High, the Holy Land of high school club activities, makes you a grey-coloured person."
"What? Are you saying death from murder is no different from death from negligence?"
Satoshi answered without hesitation, "From a certain perspective, yeah. Though it's a different matter completely if you're trying to convince a dead person that his death is due to your negligence in order to exorcise his soul."
Cheeky bastard. I once again looked at the person before me. Fukube Satoshi, my old friend, worthy opponent and deadly rival, is rather short for a guy. Even as a high school student, he could be mistaken as a feminine-looking weakling, but he's totally different on the inside. It's quite difficult to explain just what that difference is ー anyway, he just feels different. Besides carrying a smile all the time, he's always seen with a drawstring bag, as well as his trademark cheekiness. He's also a member of the Handicraft Club, don't ask me why.
Arguing with him is just a waste of energy. I waved my hand to signify the end of this conversation.
"Yeah, whatever. Just go home already."
"Yeah, you're right. I haven't got any club activities today... maybe I'll go home."
As Satoshi stretched his waist, he suddenly realized something and looked at me.
"'Go home already'? That's rare hearing that from you."
"If it's going home, wouldn't you usually have done so before even uttering that sentence? Just what business would you have after school when you aren't affiliated with any clubs?"
I raised my eyebrow and took out a piece of paper from the inner right pocket of my uniform jacket. After quietly handing it to Satoshi, his eyes widened in amazement. No, he's overreacting. It's not like he's really surprised, though it's true that his eyes have widened. Satoshi is well-known for such exaggerated reactions after all.
"What?! How can this be?!"
"Satoshi, behave yourself."
"Isn't this a club application form? I'm surprised. Just what on earth has happened? For Houtarou to actually join a club..."
It was indeed a club application form. Upon seeing the club name that was written in, Satoshi raised his eyebrow.
"The Classics Club...?"
"You heard of it?"
"Of course, but, why the Classics Club? Have you suddenly found an interest in classic literature?"
Now how should I explain this? I scratched my head and took out another piece of paper from my inner left pocket. It was a letter with scribbled handwriting, which I handed over to Satoshi.
Satoshi promptly took the letter and started going through it, and as expected, began to laugh.
"Haha, Houtarou, now that sure is troublesome. A request from your sister, huh? No way you could refuse that."
Why was he looking so gleeful? On the other hand, I was very aware that I was showing a bitter expression. This airmail from India that arrived this morning was attempting to make adjustments to my lifestyle. Oreki Tomoe is constantly like that, sending letters to derail my life.
'Houtarou, safeguard the Classics Club, the youth of your big sis.'
When I had opened the envelope and read through that brief letter this morning, I became aware of its self-centered content. I had no obligation to safeguard my sister's memories, but...
"What was it that your sis is specialized in? Jujutsu?"
"Aikido and Taiho-jutsu. It can be pretty painful if one has the intent to hurt."
Yup, my sister, a university student proficient in both academics and martial arts, was not content with conquering Japan alone and had decided to go out and challenge the world as well. It would not be wise to incur her fury.
Then again, while I could attempt to resist with what little pride I had, it was also true that I had little reason to oppose her. Indeed my sister had hit the bullseye by pointing out that I didn't have anything better to do anyway. I decided that I might as well be an invisible club member rather than an unaffiliated student, and so without hesitation, "I submitted that application this morning."
"You know what this means, Houtarou?"
Satoshi said while glancing at my sister's letter. I sighed and said, "Yeah, there doesn't seem to be any benefit from this."
"... No, that's not what I meant."
Lifting his gaze from the letter, Satoshi said with a strangely cheerful tone. He tapped the letter with the back of his palm and said, "There are currently no members in the Classics Club, right? This means that you get to keep the club room for yourself. Isn't that great? A private base within school for your own use."
A private base?
"... That's an interesting way to look at this."
"Don't you like that?"
Such strange reasoning. Satoshi was basically saying I could have my own secret base in school. I could never have come up with such an idea. A private space, huh? It's not like I really desired such a thing and would have strived to work hard for it... But it's not so bad if it comes as a perk. I took back the letter from Satoshi and replied, "Guess it's not so bad. I might go have a look."
"Good. Opportunities are there for you to try out."
Opportunities there to try out, huh? Well, it's not like it didn't suit my personality at all, so I smiled bitterly and picked up my shoulder bag.
I was still faithful to my own motto.
From the opened windows, the shouts of the Athletics Team could be heard.
"... Fight! Fight! Fight!..."
I wouldn't want to get myself involved in such wasteful energy consumption. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that saving energy is the superior option, so I'm not dismissing those active people as fools at all. I headed towards the Classics Club room while hearing them continue with their chants.
I walked along the tiled corridor and up towards the third floor. Upon meeting the janitor, who was carrying a large ladder, I asked him where the Classics Club room was and was directed to the Geology Lecture Room on the fourth floor of the Special Purposes Block.
This school, Kamiyama High School, was neither copious in its number of students nor large in its campus area.
The total number of students was somewhere around a thousand. While the school provides curricula for university entrance exams like most high schools, it wasn't particularly noted for its academics. In other words, it's a normal high school. On the other hand, the school had an extraordinarily large number of clubs (such as the Water Paint Club or the A Capella Club, as well as the Classics Club), hence it was quite well known for having a lively annual Cultural Festival.
Within the campus grounds there are three large buildings. The General Block which houses the regular classrooms, the Special Purposes Block with its special purposes classrooms, and the Gymnasium. That's quite normal really. There's also the Martial Arts Dojo and the Sports Equipment Storage Room. The fourth floor of the Special Purposes Block, where the Classics Club room is located, is relatively remote.
While cursing at such a waste of energy, I walked across the connecting corridor and up the stairs towards the fourth floor, where I quickly found the Geology Room. Without hesitation, I proceeded to slide the door open, but found that it was locked. This was to be expected, as most special purposes rooms are normally locked. I took out the key which I borrowed beforehand in order to save energy and unlocked the door.
After turning the lock open, I slid the door open. Inside the empty Geology Room, the sunset could be seen from its westward-facing window.
Did I say empty? Nope, turns out it was not what I expected.
Within the sunset drenched Geology Room, which is the Classics Club room, there was already someone inside.
A student was standing beside the window looking towards me. It was a girl.
While "graceful" and "neat" weren't exactly the first words that came to my mind upon seeing her, there were no other words that I could think of to describe her properly. Her long black hair flowed past her shoulders, and her sailor uniform suited her very well. She was tall for a girl, probably taller than Satoshi. While it was clear she was a high school girl, her thin lips and forlorn figure reinforced this old-fashioned image of what a school girl would look like within my mind. In contrast, her pupils were big, and rather than graceful, they looked energetic.
She was a girl that I didn't recognize.
Yet upon seeing me, she smiled and said, "Hello. You must be Oreki-san of the Classics Club, right?"
"... Who're you?"
I asked candidly. Though I was never good at interacting with people, I didn't intend to treat someone I had just met for the first time coldly. While I didn't know who she was, for some reason, she seemed to know who I am.
"Don't you remember me? My name is Chitanda, Chitanda Eru."
Chitanda Eru. Even though she had given her name, I still have no clue. By the way, Chitanda is quite a rare surname, and so is her first name, Eru. It was not possible for me to forget such a name.
I looked once again at the girl called Chitanda. After making sure that I didn't know her, I replied, "I'm sorry, I don't think I remember who you are."
While maintaining her smile, she tilted her head, apparently confused.
"You're Oreki-san, right? Oreki Houtarou of Class 1-B?"
"I'm from Class 1-A."
So do you remember now? Was what she seemed to be hinting at... Was my memory really that bad?
Hang on. Since I'm from Class B and she's from Class A, was there any chance of us having met before?
Even within the same grade, it was not possible for students from different classes to interact with each other at all. The only chance they got to do so was via club activities or friends. I had no such links through either. Then it must have involved the entire student body, but the only event I could think of was the school's opening ceremony at the start of the semester. Besides, I don't think I had ever been introduced to anyone from outside my class then.
No, wait. I remember. That's it, there were chances for us to interact with other classes during lessons. If it involved the use of special equipment, then it's more feasible to teach more than one class at the same time. That must mean during PE or arts-related subjects. During middle school, there would also be vocational classes, but as this high school is a mainly academic school, that's out of the equation. And PE is gender-separated, so that leaves...
"Could it be that we had music lessons together?"
"Yes, that's it!"
Chitanda nodded her head greatly.
Despite figuring that out myself, I was still surprised. For the sake of my remaining pride, I must confess that I have only attended any of those optional arts lessons once ever since enrolling here. So it was of course impossible for me to remember any faces or names!
But on the other hand, this girl called Chitanda managed to remember me after seeing me just once, so here was living proof that it was not exactly impossible... Let me tell you this, she must have possessed a frightening level of observation and memory.
Still, it could also be that it's all coincidental. Different people could interpret different meanings from reading the same newspaper article, after all. I regained my senses and asked, "So, Chitanda-san. What brings you here to the Geology Room?"
She quickly replied, "I've joined the Classics Club, so I thought I should come to greet you."
Joined the Classics Club, in other words, a member.
At that moment I had wanted her to guess how I was feeling. If she's joining the club, it would mean the end of my private space as well as having to fulfill my obligation to my sister. I had no reason to join the Classics Club. I sighed within my heart... It was a futile effort. While thinking that, I asked, "Why are you in the Classics Club as well?"
I didn't want to join this club! I tried to convey this implied message within my question, but it seemed like she totally didn't get it.
"Well, I have personal reasons for joining."
She even evaded my question. Unexpectedly, this Chitanda Eru is quite suspicious.
"What about you, Oreki-san?"
Now that's tricky. How should I answer her? I don't think she'd understand that I came here due to an order from my sister. But as I began to think about it, I realized she didn't really need to know my reason.
Suddenly the door slid open and a loud voice boomed inwards, "Hey! What are you guys doing here?"
It was a teacher. Probably patrolling the campus after school time. With a firm body and tanned skin, he seems to be a PE teacher. Though he wasn't carrying a bamboo sword, it wouldn't look too far fetched to imagine him with one. While he's way past his prime, he still has that air of authority around him.
Chitanda shirked back for a bit upon getting yelled at so suddenly but soon reverted to her calming smile. She then went to greet the teacher.
"Good afternoon, Morishita-sensei."
She made a perfect salutation by the way she bowed her head with the right speed and angle. Seeing how she maintained her manners regardless of where she was, I couldn't help but feel envious of her. The teacher called Morishita was briefly stunned into silence by her courtesy but soon went back to talking loudly again.
"I saw the door unlocked so I came over to see what was going on. What are you doing entering the classroom without permission? What's your name and class?"
... Hmph, without permission, huh?
"I'm Oreki Houtarou of Class 1-B. By the way, Sensei, this is the Classics Club room, and I'm afraid you've interrupted our club activities,"
"The Classics Club...?"
Without hiding his suspicions, he continued, "I thought that had been abolished."
"Well, that was before today. It's been reactivated this morning. You can confirm with our supervising teacher, umm..."
"Yes, you can confirm with Ooide-sensei."
A suitable explanation at a suitable moment. Morishita quickly lowered his volume.
"Oh. I see. Well, continue with what you're doing."
"But you've only just seen us."
"And remember to return the key when you're done."
Morishita once again turned to gaze at us before shutting the door roughly. Chitanda once again cowered her body at the loud sound, but then gently whispered, "He's..."
"He's quite loud for a teacher."
Guess I have no more business here.
"Alright. Now that we're done with the introductions, shall we go home?"
"Huh? We're not having any activities today?"
"Well, I'm going home."
I picked up my shoulder bag, which doesn't have much stuff in it, and turned my back towards Chitanda.
"I'll count on you to lock the door. You don't want to get yelled at like that again, do you?"
I then proceeded to leave the Geology Room.
Or rather, I was about to leave, when I was stopped by Chitanda's discerning voice.
I turned around to look at Chitanda, who looked as though she had been told something quite unthinkable, and who said blankly, "I, I can't lock the door."
"Because I don't have the key."
Oh, yeah. The key's with me. There weren't that many spare keys available to be borrowed, it seems. So I took the key from my pocket and held it towards her.
"Here, you take care of... Sorry, I mean, please take care of this, Chitanda-san."
But Chitanda didn't respond. She simply stared at the key hanging from my finger, and before long she tilted her head and asked, "Oreki-san, why are you carrying that?"
Is she missing a few screws in her head?
"Well, I couldn't have come in without a key... Wait a minute, how the hell... sorry, how did you come into this room, Chitanda-san?"
"The door wasn't locked when I came in. I thought someone else had entered before me, so I didn't need a key to enter."
I see. Unless she had received a letter from a former member as I had, she wouldn't have known that there were no other members in the Classics Club.
"Is that so? When I came the door was locked."
Turns out it was a mistake for me to utter that so nonchalantly, as the expression in Chitanda's eyes changed instantly and her gaze became sharp. Was it me or have her pupils gotten larger? Indifferent to my startled expression, she slowly asked me, "When you said the door was locked, do you mean that door which you came through?"
While feeling confused at such a change in expression for such a graceful girl, I nodded. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Chitanda took one step towards me.
"So this means that I was locked inside, right?"
The clear batting sounds made by the Baseball Team could be heard from the outside. While I have no more business with this room, Chitanda seemed to want to talk for a bit longer. I sighed and relented, and placed my shoulder bag down on a table nearby.
Locked inside, was what Chitanda had said. Is that so? I thought for a bit. The key was with me, while Chitanda was inside the room. I have no memory of ever locking the door. Then the answer was simple.
"Wasn't it you who locked the door from the inside?"
Yet Chitanda shook her head and denied that unequivocally.
"I never did that."
"Well, the key's with me. Who else could have locked the door besides you?"
"Well, there are times when people forget whether they've locked the door or not,"
Yet Chitanda doesn't seem to be paying attention to my explanation, and suddenly pointed right behind me.
"By the way, is that your friend over there?"
I turned around and found the silhouette of a black uniform collar from behind the gap of the slightly ajar door. His gaze quickly met with mine. I remember seeing those brown eyes that look as though they're smiling, so I raised my voice and called out, "Satoshi! That's some sick hobby you've got, eavesdropping on other people's conversations!"
The door was opened, and as expected, the person that entered was Fukube Satoshi. Totally feeling unashamed, he said brazenly, "Well, sorry. I wasn't intending to eavesdrop."
"You may not be intending to, but you ended up doing so anyway."
"That may be so. But I just couldn't barge in when I saw the usually inactive Houtarou spending quality time alone with a girl in a special classroom during sunset. I don't want to end up getting kicked out."
What's he talking about?
"I thought you went home already."
"Yeah, I was about to, but then I saw you with this girl inside this room from downstairs. Guess I'm still inexperienced as a peeping tom."
I ignored Satoshi's comments about seeing us from the outside, as that's his usual way of joking. Yet for people who're not used to such light-hearted jokes, they might end up taking him seriously.
Seems like Chitanda too has been fooled.
"Eh, eh, I..."
Her calm expression from a while ago had disappeared, being replaced by a flustered look. She seems to be the type that wears her expressions on her face, as she appears to be saying "Look, I'm feeling flustered right now" with a nervous look. While it was fun to see her like that, I wasn't going to let it go on any longer.
Fortunately, in order to expose Satoshi's joke, all you needed to do was ask him, "Are you serious?"
"Of course not."
Phew. Chitanda breathed a sigh of relief. Such was Satoshi's motto: "Jokes are to be made on the spot, so too are misunderstandings to be dispelled right away."
"... Oreki-san, who might this be?"
After recovering from Satoshi's joke, Chitanda asked a bit wearily. Guess I should introduce Satoshi to her, or we won't get anywhere. I said briefly, "Oh him? That's Fukube Satoshi, a pseudo-human."
A most suitable introduction, which Satoshi seems to have taken in good humour as well.
"Haha, great introduction, Houtarou. Pleased to meet you. And you are?"
"Chitanda, Chitanda Eru."
Upon hearing the name of Chitanda, Satoshi gave an unexpected reaction. For once, he actually went speechless. For someone so talkative like Satoshi, it was rare to see him like that.
"Chi, Chitanda-san? That Chitanda?"
"Hmm? I don't know which Chitanda you may be referring to, but I believe I'm the only one with that name in this school."
"Then it must be that. I'm surprised."
Satoshi's surprise was genuine. And if he was surprised, then I should be too. I learned some time ago that this fellow has a way of finding out all sorts of amazing information. Yet what was it that made him so surprised? I couldn't even guess.
"Hey, Satoshi, what is it this time?"
"What is it, you say? I know you're not that well-informed, but are you telling me that you've never even heard of the Chitanda Clan?"
This time, Satoshi shook his head and sighed in an exaggerated way. Of course, this was one of Satoshi's ways of joking. Since I know he's extremely well-versed in all sorts of useless knowledge, I was not at all ashamed about being ignorant of one of them.
"What about Chitanda-san's family?"
Nodding satisfactorily, Satoshi began to explain.
"While there are quite a few old prestigious clans in Kamiyama Town, the most prominent are the four 'Exponential Clans'. The Juumonji (十文字) Clan that runs the Arekusu Shrine, the Sarusuberi (百日紅) Clan that operates the bookstores, the Chitanda (千反田) Clan with their large farmlands, and the Manninbashi (万人橋) Clan of the mountain. The first kanji character of their surnames is represented by an exponent of the number ten (十百千万), hence they're called the 'Exponential Clans". The only other clans to be on equal footing with those four are the Irisu Clan that runs the local hospital, and the Toogaito Clan with their dominance in the field of education."
Dumbfounded, I blinked suspiciously and asked, "Four Clans? Satoshi, are you serious?"
"How rude. Have I ever lied about stuff like this?"
If Satoshi says it's true, then it's most likely true. Yet, prestigious clans in this day and age? While Satoshi was still scowling, Chitanda came to his aid.
"Umm, I've heard of that story before. Though I'm not quite sure about my family being a famous clan."
"So it's all true?"
"But, this is the first time I've heard about the four 'Exponential Clans'."
As I stared at Satoshi, he merely shrugged his shoulders.
"I didn't say I was lying."
"But that was all made up anyway, wasn't it?"
"Well, I always wanted to be the one to get a legend started,"
As though wanting this topic to end, Satoshi clapped his hands together and said, "Anyway, Houtarou, what seems to be the trouble here?"
You sure are inquisitive. So in order to make a long story short, I briefly explained the details to him.
It was getting a bit dark, so Chitanda went to turn on the lights.
After hearing the story, Satoshi crossed his arms and started to groan.
"Hmm, it is a strange case."
"How so? It's just that Chitanda happened to forget that she locked the door, isn't it?"
"No, it is strange."
Satoshi uncrossed his arms and clapped his hands.
"Lately, schools have been very demanding on how their campuses are run. Kami High's management of its classrooms is particularly bothersome. In case you haven't noticed, none of the classrooms here can be locked from the inside. The reason is to prevent students from doing anything suspicious inside."
As Satoshi explained triumphantly, a suspicion was raised in my head. I know Satoshi can be particularly diligent in finding out such trivial knowledge, but isn't he learning a bit too much? Considering he's only been in this school for less than a month.
"How'd you know about this stuff?"
"Well, I was trying to hide in a classroom in order to experiment with something last week, but then I found out I couldn't lock the door from the inside."
"You know? I think the school designed its doors to prevent specifically the likes of you from 'doing anything suspicious'."
"Well, I guess so."
We both laughed. As a result of our dry laughter, Chitanda took a step backward. Noticing this, I cleared my throat and said, "Well, something must be wrong with the lock then. It's getting dark, so I'm going home."
I stood up from the table I was sitting on.
I felt someone grab my shoulder. I turned and saw Chitanda, who had somehow approached me from behind without me realizing.
"What is it now?"
"I'm curious about it."
Upon seeing Chitanda's close-up face, I winced.
"Why was I being locked inside? ... If I wasn't locked inside, then how did I manage to come inside in the first place?"
Chitanda's gaze had a sort of power that seemed like it wouldn't accept a foolish answer as a response. Feeling overwhelmed by this, I replied meekly, "So, what about it?"
"If it was a mistake by someone, then who is it? And how did they end up locking me in by mistake?"
"No, I think there's something wrong with the lock..."
"I'm really curious about it."
She said as she advanced forward, forcing me to move back.
At first I thought Chitanda to be a sort of graceful lady, but that was merely my first impression based on her appearance. I now realized that I was looking at her true self. Especially her large energetic looking eyes, which are in contrast to her overall appearance. Those eyes reflected her true nature. "I'm curious about it", that sentence alone had made this "Exponential Clan" lady the poster child for curiosity itself.
"Why has this happened? Oreki-san, and Fukube-san as well, will you help think about this?"
"Why do I have to..."
"Well, it looks interesting."
Interrupting me, Satoshi accepted her challenge right away. As expected from Satoshi, but, "Well, I'm going home. Not interested."
It goes without explanation, for me, it's a waste of energy. And if I don't have to do it, I'm out of it.
Yet, Satoshi, who ought to know my modus operandi very well, said, "Oh, come on, Houtarou, help us out. I'd do it if I could, but I can't come to any conclusions just based on my own database alone."
"This is stupid, I'm..."
As I was about to continue, Satoshi glanced sideways. Following his glance, I saw Chitanda.
With her mouth tightly shut, and her fists clutching her skirt, she glared upwards at me. I subconsciously took another step backwards away from her. If it's just comparing the intensity of personalities, she wouldn't lose to my sister. It was a warning from Satoshi: I think you're better off going along with her whims.
Glancing alternately between Chitanda and Satoshi, I nodded softly towards Satoshi and honestly took his advice. Otherwise, we might incur misfortune upon ourselves.
"... Yeah, I guess it is interesting. I'll think about it."
I had no choice but to say that in a deadpan tone. Yet that response was enough to get Chitanda to relax her glance.
"Oreki-san, have you thought of a solution already?"
"Hold it right there. Houtarou is the type that likes to think before he moves. Yet once he's put his thoughts together, he's capable of getting things done."
Stop being so talkative. Though moving before thinking is never good.
And so I began to think.
When Chitanda entered this room, the lock was opened. Yet when I arrived, it was clearly locked.
If Satoshi is to be believed, then there's no way Chitanda could have locked the door from the inside. However, rather than such an arbitrary reason, it could be that it was the result of an unconscious action. For example, the door was in a semi-locked state when Chitanda entered the room, and the spring within the lock must have somehow been triggered after she was inside and locked her in as a result.
After explaining this theory, Chitanda tilted her head while reserving her judgment, though Satoshi instantly raised his voice.
"That would be impossible. There is no way the locks in Kami High could have gone into a semi-locked condition based on its design. The key would not have come out in such a state."
No room for a middle ground, huh?
If that's the case, then that leaves the lock being locked knowingly by someone. So I asked, "Do you remember what time you entered this room?"
Chitanda thought for a while and said, "Right before you. About three minutes, I think."
Three minutes, that's too short. There wouldn't be time, as the Geology Room is the most remote place in Kami High.
... Now this is getting tricky. As I was starting to think all over again, Chitanda suddenly shouted, "Ah!"
"What is it, Chitanda-san?"
"I know. Think about it, who else has the key?"
Chitanda had a joyful look in her smile... For some reason, I had a bad feeling about this. As expected, our lady here turned towards me and said, "Oreki-san, of course. He has the key."
Just as predicted. Rather than concluding that it was a good deduction, she realized something and said, "Ah, but is this even possible? Isn't Oreki-san a trustworthy person?"
... Are you supposed to say such things in front of the person concerned? While I was speechless, Satoshi laughed and said, "Well, I don't know about Houtarou being trustworthy or not, but I don't think he's the sort of person that would have fun by locking you inside. He's got nothing to gain from it, after all."
Spot on there. You know me well - I wouldn't do anything that doesn't benefit me.
This means it wasn't me that locked the door.
Then... who was it?
I don't get this. So I proceeded to scratch my head.
I don't even have a clue. For some reason, I felt guilty as I asked, "This is no good. You got any clues?"
"Clue? What do you mean by that?"
What a straight counter-question.
"A clue is a clue."
Satoshi helped elaborate on my over-simplified explanation.
"Something that's different from the norm. Did you notice anything that feels different or strange, Chitanda-san?"
"Hmm, now that you mention..."
Is there something different? While I wasn't exactly expecting much, Chitanda was looking around the Geology Room before turning her gaze downward and said gently, "A while ago, I heard some sounds coming from beneath my feet."
So someone did lock the door? I had no idea.
No, what if, that's the case?
... I see. I've somehow come to an understanding. Satoshi noticed my expression and said, "Houtarou, you seemed to have realized something."
I silently picked up my shoulder bag.
"W, where are you going, Oreki-san?"
"We're going to witness the reenactment of the scene of the crime. If we're lucky, we might get to see it."
I sensed Chitanda frantically following me, and Satoshi is right behind her, no doubt.
It was already quite late as closing time was approaching. The Baseball Team could clearly be seen tidying up their equipment. Chitanda and Satoshi, whom I should have already left behind long ago, ended up accompanying me. Or rather, they were following me.
Chitanda walked beside me and asked, "Tell us already. How come you've figured out already?"
Satoshi too asked from behind, "She's right, you know. We're not supposed to have secrets between us."
Stop saying something so gross. Without turning my head, I said, "It's not exactly a secret. It's just that it's so simple that it doesn't require much explanation."
"It may be simple for you, Oreki-san. But I still can't understand."
Chitanda pouted... While it's bothersome to explain, evading her questions is also a waste of energy. I straightened my shoulder bag and wondered where I should start.
"Alright, how about if I say that you were locked inside by someone using a master key?"
As I said something that was a matter of fact to me, Chitanda's voice was raised in surprise. Looks like we'll have to start the explanations here.
"Ehh? How is that so?"
"The Geology Room is located far off in the campus. If someone were to lock you inside using the regular key, he would need to return it to the staff room before I could have borrowed it. Three minutes would be too short for anyone to attempt to do that."
"I see. So it must be another key, and since there's only one regular key, that would leave the master key, right?"
Exactly. And naturally, it's to be expected that the master key couldn't normally be used by students.
Furthermore, there is another piece of decisive information.
"Chitanda-san, you said you heard something coming from the floor below you, right?"
"If the sound comes from the floor of the fourth floor, what would you normally have thought of first?"
Satoshi, who looked quite relaxed, answered, "The sound comes from the ceiling of the third floor?"
"Right. And that's our master key user."
The only person who would work on fixing stuff on the classroom ceilings after lesson time would be...
"I'm amazed you managed to figure out that it's the janitor."
Chitanda said while nodding eagerly.
The person that we saw on the third floor was the janitor, who was carrying a large ladder. As he emerged from a classroom, he placed the ladder on the floor and took out a key from his pocket. And right before our eyes, he began to lock the doors of the third floor classrooms one by one. In other words, he first unlocked all the classroom doors, then proceeded to do whatever he was working on inside the classrooms. And when he was done, he would then come back to lock them all at once. If someone happens to enter the classrooms when the doors were unlocked, then that unlucky person would have ended up getting locked inside... Much like Chitanda here.
As to what the janitor was working on, I had no idea. By going through so many classrooms and carrying a large ladder with him, it could be that he's changing the light bulbs for the classrooms, or perhaps checking on the glow starters or fire alarms or something like that. At any rate, Chitanda's question has been largely solved.
And thus a case is closed.
"You see? Told you he'd get things done if he puts his thoughts together."
"You're right. I'm amazed."
I don't see myself as that amazing... After all, it was Satoshi that told me about the key management system, while it was Chitanda that noticed the sound coming from below. I was planning on playing dumb all along... Oh well, they can think whatever they like of me. At any rate, I was made to go through all that trouble, but upon looking at Chitanda and seeing such honest admiration reflected in her meaningful eyes, I ended up swallowing any complaints that I may have had.
"Well, anyway. Even though you were in an indoor environment, I still don't understand how you didn't hear the door being locked."
Yet Chitanda didn't take that as a criticism or sarcasm, and merely smiled.
"Well, I could explain that. I was... yes, I was looking at that building from the window."
She said and pointed towards a building by the road. It was the Martial Arts Dojo. It was a shabby looking wooden building, worn down after being exposed to the elements for so long. I decided to take a leaf out of Chitanda's book and voiced my honest opinion, "Seems like you're really mesmerized by that."
"No, it's just that I find this building to be quite mysterious."
I don't see how this building was mysterious, but Satoshi seemed to have understood something when he muttered, "Well, it does look particularly old."
"Yes, it is."
Is that so? It could be, though for her to have been distracted by such an old building, I had no idea whether she was being elegant or just carefree.
Before long, we came upon a red traffic light. Like us, there were other students heading home from school.
"By the way, we haven't properly greeted each other yet," Chitanda gently said.
"Yes, the Classics Club is going to commence its activities from now on, after all. Let us have fun together."
The Classics Club! I've totally forgotten about that! I was supposed to just go take a look at the club room, but it was all for naught as Chitanda had joined the club... But this is all in hindsight now. My application has already been submitted and subsequently filed on record. In this school, it was impossible to quit a club after joining it for one month.
As I lowered my head, Chitanda turned to smile at Satoshi.
"Are you joining the Classics Club as well, Fukube-san?"
Satoshi crossed his arms and looked as though he was thinking, but very soon replied, "Well, it sounds interesting. Alright, I'm in."
"It'll be a pleasure to get to know you, Fukube-san."
"No, the pleasure's all mine... Pleased to meet you as well, Houtarou."
I glanced mockingly at Satoshi, who decided to play dumb.
As the traffic light turned green, I started to walk. Sticking my hand in my pocket, I felt the letter inside. It was the letter from my sister. Indeed, ever since this letter from Oreki Tomoe had arrived, I had this feeling that something had been set in motion.
You happy now, sis? There are now three people within your youth that is the Classics Club. The traditional Classics Club has now been resurrected. This is also probably goodbye to my peaceful energy saving days. As for why...
"Ah yes, we still haven't decided on a president yet. What should we do?"
"You're right. Though Houtarou definitely doesn't seem to be the sort of person to be a club president."
These folks probably wouldn't put up with my energy-saving ways. If it were just Satoshi alone, I could still handle him somehow, but the main problem is...
Our eyes met. Chitanda Eru smiled with her big eyes.
The main problem is with this lady here. I just have a vague feeling about this.
Translator's Notes and References
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