Hyouka:Volume 1 Chapter 3
3 - The Activities of the Prestigious Classics Club
Now that I think about it, what does the Classics Club do anyway? The only students that do know what it does are no longer with the school, and I couldn't be bothered to ask the teachers about it. I could ask my sister about it, but unfortunately she's in Beirut. Still, while it's rare to have a club that does not know what it does, there are plenty of clubs whose existence can only be classified as a mystery, so it's not something worth fretting about.
It has been a month since the resurrection of the Classics Club. The club room - the Geology Room - was no longer a private space, but it was still a relaxing spot. It was a place where I could kill some time after school whenever I'm feeling bored. Satoshi might be inside. Or Chitanda might be inside. Or both of them might be inside. Or not. It doesn't really matter either way. We could choose to converse, or we could also choose to keep quiet. Satoshi was the sort that could calmly endure silence to begin with, while our lady Chitanda was the sort of graceful lady befitting of her image, as long as she doesn't let her curiosity explode. Therefore, while unintentional, this club appears more like a leisure club than a school club.
Thus I do not get weary even amidst their company, since I was never apprehensive of other people to begin with, though Satoshi does sometimes mistake that I am.
Today was a drizzly day, and I was inside with Chitanda. I was leaning back on a chair by the window, reading a cheap paperback while Chitanda sat at the front of the room reading a thick book for some reason. One would say this was a sluggish afternoon after school.
Looking at the clock, I noticed only 30 minutes had passed. The time that was spent unconsciously was still short. Although you could say I was feeling quite relaxed, that isn't exactly correct. Rather, it was because I was feeling nervous and stressful that I had to enter into a state of relaxation. I'm really just consciously trying to extend my energy saving mode for as long as possible, that's all.
The silence was only broken by the sound of pages turning and the raindrops outside.
I'm getting sleepy now. I think I'll go home as soon as the rain stops.
Thud The sound of a book closing was heard, as Chitanda, who sat in front with her back facing towards me, sighed and said,
While she wasn't looking at me, it was clear she was speaking to me rather than to herself. Though I had no idea how to respond to her sudden comment. Anyway, I'll try asking.
"What? The crops in your family farmland?"
"Those have two crops."
Chitanda answered as though reading it out and turned around,
"And they're semi-annual. So it's hardly barren."
"As expected of a lady of a farmland owner."
"No, there's no need to praise me..."
The sound of rain, followed by silence.
"No, that's not what I was saying."
"You were saying something about 'barren'."
"Yes, that. It's barren."
Chitanda looked firmly at me, and then raised her right arm as though showing the whole room,
"All this time spent after lessons. We don't seem to have any purpose or do anything productive at all."
Of course, this was merely a way to kill time, not to produce anything. I closed my paperback and looked up towards her,
"Well, I'm all ears. Is there something you want the Classics Club to do?"
It was kind of a mean question, as not many people are aware what they themselves would want to do when asked directly. By the way, I'm at least aware that I desire nothing.
However, Chitanda replied without hesitation,
"Yes, there is."
That's surprising. To answer yes right away. As I was about to ask what was it she was interested in doing, she explained, "Though that's for personal reasons."
In that case, there was no need to ask further.
Chitanda then continued,
"But we're talking about the Classics Club. So we should be doing something club related. We can't just sit around and do nothing."
"Very well, but we aren't even sure what the club's purpose is."
"No, there is a purpose."
Whether she's speaking with the authority of a club president or the aura of a prestigious clan member, Chitanda declared, "We will publish an essay anthology this October in the Cultural Festival."
The Cultural Festival?
I had visited the Kamiyama High Cultural Festival before, so I was familiar with it. To put it briefly, it was the essence of youth culture around this area. And according to Satoshi, the Kami High Cultural Festival's Nodate tea ceremony is highly recommended for anyone interested in learning the art, while its break dancing contest is a hotbed for future professionals. Quite a number of arts-related clubs of various qualities would participate. During her three years in high school, I remember seeing my sister carrying a boxload of essay anthologies to school.
So to speak, that was the crystallization of the rose-coloured high school life. As to how I feel about all this, I guess it's better for me not to say anything about it. Let's just say that I hardly felt anything at all, not even once.
However, an essay anthology, huh? I gave some thought to Chitanda's proposal, and asked a question that naturally came to mind, "Chitanda, making an anthology is just an end result, and not the whole purpose of the club itself, isn't it?"
Chitanda shook her head and replied,
"No, if the purpose of the club is the making of the anthology, then by creating the result we could achieve its purpose."
"Like I said, if the result is the purpose itself, then all we have to do is aim for the result, right?"
Hmm, I raised my eyebrows. I think I get what she's trying to say, but isn't that tautology?
Anyway, an anthology just sounds bothersome. While I could not say for sure that anthologies, or anything else that requires me to write something on my own, are bothersome, it would be better if I don't have to do it. Whether it's the purpose or the activity itself, either requires me to come up with something. Unnecessary activities cost effort, which is a waste of energy.
"Let's not do an anthology. It's too labour-intensive. Besides... right, three authors is a bit too much."
Yet Chitanda was steadfast with her proposal,
"No, it has to be an anthology."
"If you really want to publish something, we can set up an exhibition booth or something like that."
"Kami High's Cultural Festival traditionally forbids exhibition booths. So, no, it has to be an anthology."
"Our club budget specifically refers to 'Anthology Publication', it would be troublesome if we don't publish one."
Chitanda took out a piece of neatly folded paper from her chest pocket and showed it to me. Indeed, for this year's Classics Club annual budget, the tiny amount of money that was allocated was specifically set for the purpose of "Anthology Publication".
"Even so, Ooide-sensei has requested that we publish it, as it's become a tradition for over 30 years for the Classics Club to publish an anthology each year, and he was not going to watch it come to an end."
As a rule of thumb, reasonable people tend to be smart. Yet it doesn't mean unreasonable people are dumb. Chitanda was definitely not dumb, yet she was clearly being unreasonable. To begin with, she appealed to the sentimental side rather than the financial side, and decided the club's activity based on tradition. Still, I realized it was inefficient to try to argue against something done in the name of tradition, so I smiled bitterly and relented,
"Okay, okay. We'll publish an anthology."
So ends unceremoniously my purposeless carefree days. At least I'm still in good health, I guess.
The rain is still falling outside. Since it's still not time to go home yet, I decided to ask, "So, how are you going to publish this anthology?"
"How? What do you mean?"
"What kind of essays were written every year?"
While it's not likely, I was already resigned to writing academic-like essays along the titles of "Review of 'The Eight Dog Chronicles'", "'Tales of Moonlight and Rain' - With regards to the Emperor's role in 'Shiramine'", or "'The Great Mirror' - Concerning observations of social changes in the novel, as well as counter-argument to last year's essay". Just to be safe, I should include an appendix as well. Though I was prepared to accept that I would probably not produce anything up to the standards of past essays. At any rate, as to just what kind of format this so-called tradition adopts for its essays, I have no idea.
However, the answer I received was in the negative.
"Hmm, I'm not sure. I wonder what should we write?"
It was to be expected. As she was president, it was easy to forget that she too was only in the club for about a month or so.
"I'm sure we could find out if we can find the back issues."
"They should be around. You know where they are?"
"In the clubroom?"
I suddenly feel pathetic for going along with her pace. I promptly pointed my finger towards the floor for her to see.
"... Oh! This is the club room."
"Though it hardly feels like a club room..."
She's right though.
This Geology Room had nothing else inside it besides standard teaching equipment. All we could see were a blackboard, tables and chairs, as well as cleaning equipment. A typical looking classroom, all in all. There didn't seem to be anywhere books could be stored.
"The back issues don't seem to be stored here."
"So it seems."
"Well then... shall we head to the library?"
That sounded appropriate, so I nodded. Chitanda picked up her handbag and stood up.
Without waiting for my reply, she opened the door and walked out. She's quite proactive for an elegant lady. Oh well, the library is just along the path to the school entrance, which isn't too far from here.
No, wait. Today's Friday, which means today's librarian on duty is...
"Well, if it isn't Oreki? It's been a while, though I've hardly missed you."
Upon entering the library, I was instantly greeted with sarcasm. As expected, the person sitting behind the counter was none other than Ibara Mayaka.
Ibara and I go back a long way, as we've been in the same class for nine years since primary school. Her baby-face features have been in place since childhood, and have only grown-up a bit after becoming a high-school student. You may find her child-like features and short stature cute, but do not be fooled by her appearance, for she carries a hidden weapon with her at all times. If you let your guard down, you would be greeted by her colourful blend of sarcastic wit. I was even told to stay away from her based on stories of guys who were fooled by her pretty looks, only to be sunk instantly. Not to mention as a result of her never admitting her mistakes, most people would mistake her for being a callous person.
Though I personally don't really believe such assessments of her.
I made the most unpleasant expression I could make and replied,
"Hey, I came just to see you."
"This is a sacred ground for cultivation, it's not made for the likes of you to visit."
Ibara sat cross-legged on her chair behind the counter. Since all a librarian ever does is to handle the lending and borrowing of books from the library, there doesn't seem to be much else for her to do. While one of her main responsibilities was to take the box containing the returned books back to their respective shelves, the Return Box was still filled with a whole pile of books. Ibara was not the type to slack off, so she's probably attempting to do them all in one go. In her hand was a large book, which she's no doubt reading to kill time.
The library was quite crowded at this time. There were about ten four-person tables, and each of them was occupied by one or two students reading. There were probably people who were indeed reading for leisure, though I'd also understand if there were people killing time while waiting for the rain to stop. I then noticed one of the boys looking up at us. I recognized him at once, since it's Fukube Satoshi of all people.
Satoshi met my gaze and stood up with his usual smile,
"Hey, Houtarou, didn't expect to see you here."
Ibara looked at us with a sullen face and said,
"Still good buddies as ever, aren't you? As expected from the Best Couple of Kaburaya Junior High."
I knew it was pointless to argue back at her, but still I said, "Oh, shut up."
Ibara merely replied flatly, "My, you're quite a crybaby for a gloomy person."
... A crybaby, huh?
She then turned towards Satoshi with a composed expression,
"Fuku-chan, you know how my feelings are, so you should know I was joking, right?"
"Ahh, don't worry about that, Mayaka. No offence taken."
"What? You're just gonna let her use joking as an excuse to let her off the hook again?"
Satoshi glared at me, and then turned his gaze away. I smiled bitterly, as I knew Ibara has been pursuing him for some time. I have no idea when she started doing so, though Satoshi has been dodging her advances ever since.
Satoshi pretended to cough in an attempt to change the subject.
"Anyway, what business does the Classics Club have in the library?"
Ah, yes, I didn't come to the library just to see Ibara. I urged Chitanda to say something. As though suffering from stage fright, our lady said nervously to Ibara, "Uh, umm, hi there. May I inquire something of you?"
"Sure, how may I help you?"
"I'd like to ask if there are any essay anthologies here in the library."
"Yup, they're at those shelves right over there."
"Do they have those for the Classics Club?"
Ibara tilted her head and wondered,
"The Classics Club? ...Hmm, I'm sorry, don't think I'm sure of that. Should I look for them for you?"
Just as Chitanda was about to express her gratitude, Satoshi stopped her,
"You won't find any. I've occasionally looked up on those shelves, so I should know. Mayaka, where else could they be found if they're not on the shelves?"
"Hmm, if they're not in the open shelves, then they must be in the archives."
"The archives, huh?"
Satoshi thought for a while before asking,
"Chitanda-san, why're you looking for essay anthologies anyway?"
"We're going to publish one for the Cultural Festival, so we were wondering if we can have a look at the back issues for reference."
"Oh, so they're for the Kanya Festival, huh? Didn't know you were knowledgeable on such stuff, Houtarou."
Knowledgeable? Rather, I was obliged to work on it. Besides, Chitanda probably doesn't even need me to be knowledgeable.
Wait, what festival again?
"Satoshi, what did you just call the Cultural Festival?"
"The Kanya Festival. Haven't you heard of it before? It's the nickname for the Kami High Cultural Festival."
A nickname, huh? Something like the Sophia Festival for Sophia University, or the Mita Festival for Keio University? Then again, like the story about the four "Exponential Clans", I find it hard to believe.
"Sounds suspicious. Is that true?"
"Of course it's true, though it's an unofficial nickname. I heard all my seniors in the Handicraft Club call it the Kanya Festival. Is it the same in the Manga Studies Club, Mayaka?"
So Ibara's in the Manga Studies Club, huh? While it does suit her image, it still feels unbecoming for her.
"Yup, everyone there calls it the Kanya Festival. Even the festival committee calls it that."
"Kanya? How do you spell that in kanji?"
Satoshi placed his hand on his chin and said,
"Dunno. Everybody just calls it that."
It seems like it's true that 'Kanya Festival' is a nickname. However, I just couldn't think of any word that matches with the spelling of 'Kanya'. Oh well, seeking out the etymology of such a silly name is probably a profession in itself. As I was thinking of that, Satoshi added,
"Perhaps it's abbreviated from 'Kamiyama', turning it into 'Kanyama', and in turn evolving into 'Kanya'."
As expected for an expert of trivial knowledge.
As we were going off topic, Ibara firmly pulled us back,
"Anyhow, anthologies, is it? We'll probably find them if we look up the archives, though the Head Librarian's in a meeting right now, so we can't go in without her permission. She'll probably be back in half an hour, you wanna wait?"
Half an hour, huh? Not even Chitanda was in a hurry to want to see them at once, so she looked at me and whispered, "What do we do now?" I was fine with whatever decision, but I noticed it's still raining heavily outside. The weather report did say the rain will stop sometime in the afternoon and we'd have a starry night tonight, but as the rain showed no signs of stopping right now, we had no choice but to wait.
"Guess we'll wait."
"Even though you could go back?"
I decided to return to my paperback novel and resume at the page where I was reading. Satoshi tugged at Ibara's sleeve and said, "Mayaka, why don't you tell Houtarou about the story you were telling me earlier?"
Ibara lifted her eyebrows and thought for a while before nodding.
"Okay. Oreki, do you ever feel like exercising your brain once in a while?"
But neither has Ibara.
"What story are you talking about?"
Satoshi answered Chitanda's question with his usual smile on his face,
"The one about the popular book which no one ever reads."
"As you know, my shift is every Friday after school, and I've discovered lately that the same book has been returned during this time every week. This is the fifth week in a row now. Don't you find it strange?"
Ibara began to speak while I was busy looking for a desk where I could sit down and read my book. Unfortunately, there just weren't any available seats in such a crowded place. So I had no choice but to sit on top of the table that Satoshi had occupied.
As the table was close to the counter, we could hear Chitanda and Ibara's voices from here.
"Is it a popular book?"
"Does this look like one?"
Ibara showed us the thick book she was holding.
"Oh, such a beautiful book..."
Chitanda gasped in awe, and then turned her gaze towards me. Our lady's delighted expression was as though I'd just bought a splendidly bound book for her. The book was bound in a leather cover decorated with finely detailed patterns. Its darkish blue colour emitted an aura of solemnity about it. The title of the book was "Kamiyama High School: Walking Together for 50 Years". Besides being thick, it was also quite a large book in its length and width.
"May I have a look inside?"
Upon taking out my paperback novel from my shoulder bag, I started searching for the page where I last read. Yet my vision of the novel was quickly replaced by that of high quality pages. It was Chitanda, who upon opening the aforementioned book - "Kamiyama High School: Walking Together for 50 Years" - placed it on top of my novel in order to show it to me. While I wasn't exactly interested, I didn't ignore it either, and had a quick look at its contents. It's got nothing else on it besides a description of the school's history, and goes as such:
Events in Japan and the World:
- May 15th: Return of Sovereignty of Okinawa. Establishment of Okinawa Prefecture.
- September 29th: Signing of the Joint Communique of Japan and China. Normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
- Sudden rise in land and commodities prices this year.
Events in Kamiyama High School
◯ June 7th: First victory for the Kamiyama High School Archery Club in the Prefectural Newcomers Tournament.
◯ July 1st: Cancellation of 1st Year Field Trip due to typhoon.
◻ October 10th-14th: Cultural Festival.
◻ October 30th: Sports Festival.
◻ November 16th-19th: 2nd Year Field Trip - Sasebo, Nagasaki.
◻ January 23rd-24th: 1st Year Skiing Course.
◯ February 2nd: Memorial service for 1st Year student Ooide Naoto, who died in car accident.
It was full of such details. It would take a particular set of skills to actually read through all that. I wouldn't go so far as to borrow the book once a week in order to read it all, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone actually did that just for its contents.
"Houtarou, you were just thinking 'I wouldn't be surprised if someone actually borrowed that once a week', weren't you?"
Stop reading my mind, you damn telepath.
Seeing as I didn't rebuke her, Ibara puffed up her particularly small chest and said,
"It's not that simple. You rarely come here to borrow books, so you wouldn't know. Listen carefully, the longest period one can borrow a book is two weeks. So there was no need for someone to borrow a book and return it just a week later."
"And yet this book was returned here every week."
... I see. This is indeed a strange occurrence.
"Is there a way to find out who has borrowed that book?"
"Of course. There's a list detailing the borrowing records behind the cover. Have a look."
Chitanda promptly turned to the cover and saw the list,
The list contained the names of the borrowers as well as the dates that they had borrowed the book. We could indeed tell that they had borrowed the book once every week. But that was not the reason Chitanda had gasped, as her finger pointed out the list of names to me.
The borrower this week was Machida Kyouko of Class 2-D. Last week, it was Sawakiguchi Misaki of Class 2-F. Two weeks ago, Yamaguchi Ryouko, Class 2-E. Three weeks ago, Shima Saori, Class 2-E. And four weeks ago, Suzuki Yoshie, Class 2-D.
"In other words, it's borrowed by a different person every week?"
"That's not all."
Chitanda showed me the dates. As I looked carefully, the latest date was today. And the previous borrowed date was exactly seven days ago.
"The book was lent out on Fridays."
"Exactly. The book was borrowed and returned on the same day. This Machida Kyouko borrowed the book earlier today, only to return it later. It's the same for the other borrowers for five consecutive weeks. We can also tell the times that they borrowed the book; it was always during lunch time on a Friday. To borrow a book during lunch time and then return it after school, where would they even find the time to read it?"
"So? You curious?"
Upon returning the book to Ibara, Chitanda nodded her head gently,
"Yes... I'm very curious."
She spoke in a firmer tone than usual. Much like last time, her pupils looked as though they'd gotten larger, revealing a strong interest within them.
"Why is it?"
Thanks to Ibara's mystery, our lady's flame of curiosity had been ignited. Satoshi was no use as a water source to douse this fire, as he'd probably play dumb and say "I wouldn't know anything about it." I decided to return to reading my novel.
But I was naive, for I never expected the spear to be pointed right at me. Once again, Chitanda placed the thick book "Kamiyama High School: Walking Together for 50 Years" on top of my novel and said,
"So what do you think, Oreki-san?"
Rather than his usual gentle smile, Satoshi was now smiling teasingly at me. I instantly realized what had happened. He'd succeeded in ensnaring me in his trap. Curse him and his evil plans.
"Let's think about this together."
"Shall we, Oreki-san?"
Why? Why me? While I was fine with Chitanda's vigorous curiosity, and while I might admit that Satoshi may have some positive qualities about him, even if it's as a joke, why should I be obliged to play his games and put up with her?
Still, it was true that things have developed to a point where talking my way out of it would have been bothersome. So I had no choice but to reply as such, "... Yeah, I guess it is interesting. I'll think about it."
Ibara stood beside Satoshi and asked, "Fuku-chan, is Oreki actually smart?"
"Not at all. He's usually not reliable, but occasionally he can be up to the task."
Why you, getting all cheeky.
And so I began to think.
For a book to be borrowed and returned on the same day for five consecutive weeks by completely different people, the possibility of a coincidence could not be ruled out, but I wasn't going to believe that it was all due to some God of Coincidence. Besides, Chitanda wouldn't have accepted that as an explanation. Getting her to accept things was more important than the truth.
So throwing out the theory that it was a coincidence was a no-brainer. It was also clear that the book was not borrowed for the purpose of reading it, as there wouldn't be time to read it between it being borrowed during lunch time and it being returned after lessons. If you think about it, it would have been more logical for one to either take it home to read, or just read the book in the library after school. For the latter case, there would have been no need to borrow the book out of the library at all. Thus this book was not borrowed for its original intended purpose.
"... So if the book was not borrowed to be read, then what was it being borrowed for?"
Chitanda answered, "It's heavy, so maybe it's used to compress pickled vegetables?"
Satoshi answered, "Maybe it's used as a shield or something?"
Ibara answered, "It's thick, so it's probably used as a pillow."
I should never have asked you guys.
I decided to switch the focus.
Why was the book being borrowed by a different person every week? Besides being a coincidence, which was already ruled out, there were two points for consideration. First, the girls don't seem to have anything in common, though it's clear that they were using it during Friday afternoons for some sort of ritual, and took turns to borrow it.
As to what ritual, maybe fortune telling? Something like "Your lucky item this month is School History. If you borrow it every Friday afternoon and return it on the same day, you shall meet the man of your dreams"?
... Nah, sounds too silly.
That leaves the second point, that the girls do have something in common.
A look at their names reveal that they're clearly all girls. But just that alone is not enough to establish a common trait. Within Kami High, if five people were randomly picked, there was a high possibility that they could all be girls, but it was already common for people of the same gender to gather together in a co-ed environment anyway.
Their other common trait would be that they're all second years, but their classes are different.
Now that I think about it...
"What is it? Did you think of something?"
... I may have thought of something, but my thoughts were blown apart by Satoshi's interruption. Now where was I?
Anyway, I'll start from where my thoughts first started to connect,
"There must be a sign or something. For example... maybe they were secretly communicating with each other, where returning the book facing upwards meant 'yes' and facing downwards meant 'no'."
"What were they communicating for?"
"It's just an example. Anything could do."
Chitanda began to tilt her head and started thinking. Yes, that's it, you just slowly digest all this.
Though the one who rebutted me wasn't Chitanda, it was Ibara.
"That would be impossible, look."
Ibara pointed to the Return Box. There were loads of books stacked up inside. I see, there was no way of telling whether that book was returned facing upwards or downwards. The only person who would know which way the book was facing would be the one opening the box, and that would be the Librarian on duty.
Darn. Any careless ideas would end up as easy prey for Ibara to shoot down.
I couldn't think of anything. They might have a spare key to open the box, but I have no way of knowing. Now if only there was some hint. I looked at the well-decorated bound hardback in Ibara's hands and wondered where I could find any declaration of surrender within the book.
This was when Chitanda suddenly entered into my vision. She stretched her body over the counter and just stared at the book that Ibara was holding tightly in front of her chest.
Ibara was dumbstruck at such a reaction. I knew how she felt.
"What is it, Chitanda? Did you find some hidden symbols on the cover or something?"
Chitanda remained motionless and said,
"... This book... seems to have some sort of scent."
"Really? Ibara, can I borrow that? ... I don't smell anything."
"No, I'm sure of it."
"The book itself wouldn't have any odour. Perhaps it's the ink, or that of the library?"
Chitanda shook her head at Satoshi's suggestion.
Both Ibara and Satoshi also took turns to smell the book, but couldn't detect any scent, and both raised their eyebrows and tilted their heads in puzzlement.
"I can't really tell what the scent was, but it was strong, like paint thinner."
"Stop saying something so dangerous."
"It was? ... I couldn't really tell."
Neither could I, but I had a feeling that Chitanda was right. Our lady had been adamant about it, after all. And I never would have thought that she would say it was paint thinner.
If we assume that it is, then... Hmm.
... I may be getting into something here.
But it's bothersome to explain it all.
As I was wondering what to do next, Satoshi had already read my thoughts and said, "Houtarou, your face tells me you've figured something out."
"Eh? Oreki actually has?"
Noticing Ibara turning towards me looking completely skeptical, I nodded and replied honestly,
"Sort of. While I'm not entirely sure... Chitanda, do you feel like getting some exercise? I'd like you to go somewhere for me."
Chitanda was probably the sort who would dash out at once upon telling her where to go, but Satoshi stopped her while smiling.
"Don't be fooled by him, Chitanda-san. You don't wanna end up doing errands for Houtarou now, do you? Or you'll end up doing exactly what he wants. So where is it you were thinking of?"
How reprehensible. Satoshi does tend to say too much whenever Ibara's around. Still, as he wasn't exactly off the mark, I was hardly displeased. It was true that I wouldn't get things done if I don't have someone else do it for me.
"Very well, I'll go along as well. As we didn't have PE lessons due to the rain, I still have some residual energy left inside of me."
Chitanda was bound to come along as I said that. And then...
"Hmm, guess I'll tag along too. I'll be a little shocked if Oreki actually manages to solve this... Fuku-chan, mind filling in my shift for me?"
Ibara exited from the counter upon saying that. Satoshi looked dumbfounded as he replied, "Uh, okay," and kept silent while walking behind the counter. It's been a while since I've seen him this sad.
After being satisfied with the results we'd obtained, we returned to the library.
"How did it go?"
"Fuku-chan, Oreki's a bit strange."
"Of course he is, didn't you know?"
"How did he manage to figure all that out..."
She seemed troubled as she kept muttering "How come". It's as though she sees me as a victor in a sparkling aura, though I would not have been able to sparkle without some luck.
"I'm truly surprised by Oreki-san. I am very curious as to what is inside his head."
An image of Chitanda doing a lobotomy over my head in the basement of a (Gothic) mansion during a stormy night came flashing across my mind. Just imagining it gave me the chills. While I wouldn't say it out loud, Chitanda's ability to smell out such a faint scent when no one else could was a bigger mystery for me.
"If it's Oreki-san, then he could..."
? Then I could what? Please don't tell me I could be used as the ingredients of some cybernetic organism.
Upon swapping places with Ibara at the counter, Satoshi asked, "So, let's hear the explanation. Houtarou, just where did you guys go?"
Placing my elbows on the counter, I replied, "The Arts Preparation Room."
"The Arts Room? At the opposite end of the campus?"
"That's why I didn't want to go myself."
"What did you find there?"
I repeated what I had explained to Chitanda and Ibara previously,
"This book was used between the fifth and sixth periods every Friday, probably over these two periods altogether. First, no girl would have any use for such a huge book during lunch break, reading it is also out of the question. And thus, this book was used during lessons which involves different classes from the same year."
My thoughts had previously come to this point before being blown off by Satoshi's interruption. It was the same reason that Chitanda remembered my name after seeing me just once. And where was it that she had seen me?
"It must be either during PE or Arts. No matter how you see it, nobody would have much use for a book during PE. Have a look at the book's cover. Something seems to be accumulated on it; do you notice a nice hue of colour? These five girls were using the book for their lessons, and they decided to take turns borrowing it every week."
Satoshi interrupted and said, "But I don't understand why they would do it once a week, I mean, you could borrow up to two..."
"Stop saying the same stuff as Ibara. You two must really be getting along well to say the same stuff. Satoshi, would you keep a book that you have no intention of reading? It would of course be more efficient to return it to the library instead of lugging it home."
"... I see. And what did you show them there?"
"Surely you should have guessed by now. Paintings, drawn by the students of Classes 2-D, 2-E and 2-F, who held their Arts lessons together."
Over there were various paintings of different styles of similar objects. They were portraits of their own classmates, sitting beside a table decorated with a flower. And in each girls' hand was none other than the elegantly bound hardback, "Kamiyama High School: Walking Together for 50 Years". It was a quite detailed drawing, and artistically speaking it was rather bewitching.
"Amazing, Houtarou. Then, what was the scent that Chitanda-san smelled?"
"The smell of paint, of course. She figured it out as well, since the Arts Room was filled with painting equipment, after all."
Satoshi began clapping without reservation.
"Wow, that was fantastic. Thanks to you, I've managed to kill some quality time here."
Chitanda smiled gently in approval.
"Yes, it was fun. It felt as though time has flown by quickly."
"I'm not sure how much time has passed to begin with... but I can't believe Oreki actually managed to solve that!"
While they all looked amazed, it was different for me. Ibara was the one who thought the whole thing was strange to begin with, Chitanda was the one who decided to investigate out of curiosity, and Satoshi merely wanted to enjoy the ride; they were all different from me. As they were having a catharsis, I began to wonder if I would have a similar reaction by embracing the Kanya Festival.
How should I put this... Oh well, whatever.
The rain seemed to be getting weaker. Guess it's time to go home.
As I was about to pick up my shoulder bag, Chitanda stopped me.
"Ah, we can't go without waiting."
"What? Is there something else?"
I noticed Satoshi and Ibara staring at me coldly. Did I do something wrong?
"Oreki, just what did you come here for to begin with?"
To solve the mystery of the popular book that no one ever reads...
No, wait. That's it! The anthology. Satoshi laughed.
"Now come on guys. Houtarou will occasionally have a few screws loose."
"Occasionally? Fuku-chan, you're being too kind."
Argh, I've just acted stupidly in front of you two.
Ibara looked as though she was about to go on when a voice came from behind the counter.
"Ibara-san, thanks for the good work. You may go home now."
"Ah, yes of course. Are you leaving as well, Itoikawa-sensei?"
It was a teacher, and though I'd never seen her before, I knew she was the Head Librarian. For a woman nearing the end of middle-age, she was quite short in stature. A glance at her name tag revealed her full name - Itoikawa Youko.
Upon the arrival of the Head Librarian, Satoshi immediately got down to business.
"Sensei, I'm Fukube Satoshi of the Classics Club. We're planning on publishing an essay anthology and would like to see the back issues for reference, but we can't seem to find them in the open shelves. So we're wondering if we may please search the archives for them?"
"The Classics Club? ... Essay anthology?"
Itoikawa seemed surprised as she raised her voice. She probably thought that the Classics Club had been abolished or something.
"You're with the Classics Club? I see... I'm sorry, but the library does not hold any anthologies that I know of."
"Eeh, then what about the archives?"
"There aren't any there either."
"Maybe something has been overlooked..."
"I don't think that's possible."
Strangely, she answered quite firmly. I see no reason for the Head Librarian to hide anything from us. Perhaps the archives have been overhauled recently?
Upon receiving a negative answer, Satoshi had no choice but to give up.
"Is that so? I understand... What do we do now, Chitanda-san?"
"... This is indeed troubling."
Chitanda looked at me with a depressed look. Even if you give me that look, there's nothing I can do besides shrugging my shoulders.
"I'm sure we'll find them eventually. Let's go home." I said, and as I picked up my shoulder bag, Ibara said coldly, "You sure are quite laid back, looking all relaxed after solving a problem."
Just because I've solved a problem doesn't mean I'm all relaxed. Ibara, your accusation is way off the mark. Though that's what my mind was saying, it was pointless to say it out loud, so I shrugged my shoulders.
"Yes, you're right. Let's go home... We did get something worthwhile."
Chitanda said something totally incomprehensible.
Anyway, our business was done here. This time, I hung my bag over my shoulder and walked out to find the rain had stopped, and rays of sunlight were shining through the clouds. As I turned and looked around, I could hear Chitanda whispering the same thing again,
"That's right, if it's Oreki-san, then he could..."
Translator's notes and references
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