Hyouka:Volume 1 Chapter 7
7 - The Truth of the Historic Classics Club
In the evening after a lengthy debate, I leisurely pedaled my bike in the farmlands drenched by the orange sunset, and struggled to listen to Satoshi's soft voice.
"To be honest I'm quite surprised, Houtarou. Indeed I'm surprised by what you said there. If you're right, then our Kanya Festival owes its existence to the expense of one person's high school life. However, I'm even more surprised that you're able to deduce all that."
"You're doubting my ability?"
I replied jokingly, yet for once Satoshi didn't smile when he answered, "You've been solving riddles ever since enrolling at Kami High. During our first meeting with Chitanda-san, or the case of the popular book that nobody reads, as well as the one with the Wall Newspaper Club president."
"They just happened by chance."
"Yet the results mean that didn't matter. Yet the problem is why would someone like you who finds solving riddles to be bothersome end up solving them? The answer is simple when you think about it. You're doing it for Chitanda-san."
I turned my head, and wondered whether that was true.
"Doing it for Chitanda" wasn't exactly right, I think I would accept it if the reason was worded as "it's all Chitanda's fault". I remember Satoshi saying something this aptly as well before, that I wouldn't take action unless someone asks me to do so. While she didn't ask me directly, it's true that I ended up doing something bothersome for her, but...
Yeah, today's different.
"You can be good at drawing attention to yourself as well, you know? Today, the job of solving the riddle was supposed to be done equally between the four of us. You could have chosen to run away saying you didn't get any of it, and none of us would have said anything. Yet why did you still seek out the answer yourself under the pretext of going to the bathroom?"
The sun continued to set, and I could feel the breeze of the wind. I moved my eyes away from Satoshi's gaze and looked forward.
"Wasn't it because you were doing it for Chitanda-san?"
Satoshi's question was quite right. Normally, I wouldn't have bothered to solve such a puzzle. I guess I was extremely active today.
Yes... that has to be it.
Why did I act as I did today? I think I more or less understood the reason, and it had almost nothing to do with Chitanda. However, understanding something myself was different from getting someone else to understand it as well. Without refining my knowledge and vocabulary base, I was not able to convey my thoughts to others, not even to a telepath like Satoshi.
No, rather than that, I think it's because I've known Satoshi for so long that explaining becomes difficult. Since my actions and motives today were a departure from my usual modus operandi.
Still, I had no obligation to explain myself to him. I could have said it had nothing to do with him. Yet I felt like answering Satoshi, as well as organizing my thoughts for my own sake. So after a long silence, I gave my answer after choosing my words.
"... I guess, I'm just tired of having a grey-coloured life."
"Ever since meeting Chitanda, my energy efficiency levels have fallen to their lowest levels. She would prepare making essay anthologies as a club president, take exams as a student, and seek out her past as a human being. That's quite tiring for me. You and Ibara are the same, spending time on all sorts of worthless endeavors."
"Well... I guess."
"But you know, sometimes I do think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence."
I stopped speaking right there, as I realized I could have phrased that in a better way. Yet I couldn't think of anything better than that, and so I continued, "Whenever I look at you guys, I can't bring myself to calm down. I want to stay calm, yet I don't find anything interesting in that."
"So at the very least, I wanted to, how'd you put it, solve the riddle. I wanted to have a taste of your way of life."
I shut my mouth after that. Amidst the sound of the pedals and the breeze, Satoshi said nothing. Satoshi was normally talkative, yet there were times when he couldn't say anything, and I was quite mindful of that, as I wanted him to say something. I'll just think of an excuse later, for now, I couldn't stand this silence any longer.
"Well, say something,"
I could sense Satoshi smiling even though I couldn't see it as he spoke at last.
"I think you're actually envious of those with a rose-coloured life."
I replied without thinking, "Maybe."
Staring at the ceiling in my own room, it was white as usual.
I ruminated on what Satoshi said earlier.
Even I liked hearing fun stuff, which includes silly jokes and popular music. Even though I got spun around by Chitanda, it was still a good way to kill time.
However, with all due respect to all comedic acts out there, what if I become obsessed with these things regardless of time and effort... Would it have been much more entertaining for me? Would it have been worthwhile despite being detrimental to my energy efficiency?
For example, Chitanda's pursuit of her past.
And more importantly, how the "Hero" Sekitani Jun ended up protecting the Kanya Festival 33 years ago, according to my deductions.
My vision just couldn't focus on a single spot. It's as I thought, whenever I think about this, I just couldn't remain calm. I turned my eyes from the ceiling to the floor I'm lying on and saw the letter that my sis sent me lying there.
My gaze was drawn to one of the lines written in it.
I'm sure I'll look back ten years from now and view every day I'm out here without regret.
Ten years later, for a mere human like me, is just a hazy future after all. I would be 25 by then. Looking back at myself ten years before, I wonder if I'll look back and ponder about the things I did and could have done. Perhaps Sekitani Jun, as a 25 year old, would also be looking back on when he was 15 with some regret as well.
Suddenly the phone rang.
No, it's not like I've never heard a phone ring before. It's just that I was so immersed in my thoughts that it felt sudden. I left my anxiety behind as my mind returned to reality, and got up and headed downstairs to answer the phone.
"... Hello, this is Oreki."
I felt my spine tingling in nervousness. It was a familiar voice, one that could mess up my lifestyle, and get me involved in all sorts of meta-level trouble. It was a call from Oreki Tomoe, wandering somewhere in Western Asia and hiding in the Japanese Consulate from the pursuit of Mossad agents. As it was an international call, it was hard to listen to, but there was no mistake that it was her.
Without fail, I gave my honest response upon hearing the voice that I hadn't heard for so long.
"So you're still alive?"
"How rude, you think I'd get killed by one or two bandits?"
So she actually did go through that? Can't say I'm surprised.
Probably mindful of how expensive the call would get, my sis spoke quickly.
"I arrived at Pristina yesterday. That's in Yugoslavia, by the way. Finances and health are both in good condition and my plans are going along fine. I'll write to you once I get to Sarajevo. If I travel leisurely, I'll get there within two weeks. This ends my report. So how goes things over there?"
My sis sounded happy as usual. Though she's emotionally unstable in that she can get very angry, or cry like there's no tomorrow, or be extremely joyful, generally she's usually just happy.
I flicked the telephone cord with my finger and replied, "Nothing unusual in the Far East Command."
"I see, then..."
My sis was about to hang up. Though I wouldn't have minded if she just hung up, I still spoke.
"We're publishing an anthology, 'Hyouka'..."
"... Huh? What?"
"We looked up Sekitani Jun."
My sis still spoke in a swift manner, "Sekitani Jun? What a nostalgic name. Hmm, never thought that story would still be passed down. Is 'Kanya Festival' still a taboo term?"
I did not get what she meant by that.
"What do you mean?"
"That's a tragedy. I don't like that."
Taboo? Tragedy? Don't like that?
What's she talking about? What's she trying to say?
"Hang on a moment, we're talking about Sekitani Jun, right?"
"Of course. The 'kind hero'. You get it, don't you?"
It was a pointless conversation. Even though we're talking about the same subject, we can't seem to connect.
As for why, I instinctively realized that I could have been mistaken. Perhaps the deduction that I made at the Chitanda residence was mistaken or lacking in some details. Yet I was not feeling impatient, since my sis would know what happened at Kamiyama High School 33 years ago.
"Sis, what do you know about Sekitani Jun?"
I decided to ask her seriously.
All I got was a simple answer.
"I don't have time for that! Bye!"
Click. Beep, beep.
I took the receiver away from my ear and looked at it like an idiot.
... Why this...
I slammed the receiver on the phone, causing it to shake with a loud noise. My irritation was now doubled, thanks to my sis.
I no longer remembered what my sis said exactly, as the conversation happened so quickly there was no time for me to verify it. Still, the part where she replied negatively concerning the incident was fresh in my mind.
I went back to my bed and took out everything the Classics Club had collected concerning the incident from my bag. 'Hyouka', the 'Unity and Salutation', the 'Kami High Monthly' and the 'Kamiyama High School: Walking Together for 50 Years'... I also placed the letter my sis sent from Istanbul alongside those as I once again read that line that got my attention.
I'm sure I'll look back ten years from now and view every day I'm out here without regret.
Ten years from now, huh? As Sekitani Jun was president 33 years ago, if he's still alive he would be about 50 by now. Would he still look back at his high school life without regret?
I think he would. The "hero" that sacrificed himself for the passion of his comrades and forsook his choice to continue his high school education would have no regrets for making such a decision. Ever since my deduction at the Chitanda residence, that was what I thought.
But was that really true?
It was just a Cultural Festival, yet it led to the school coming after him and changed his life. If life in high school is rose-coloured, then would such an intensely rose-coloured life that gets interrupted still be called rosy?
The grey-coloured part in me told me this wasn't so. Sacrificing oneself so that his comrades would be forgiven, would a hero endure something like that? That thought surfaced in my mind. Though I still resisted such a thought, I could not ignore the fact that my sis had called the incident a tragedy.
I needed to revise this once again. I took out all the copies that mentioned that incident.
And so, I began to inquire whether Sekitani Jun's life was really rose-coloured 33 years ago.
The following day, I headed to school dressed in my casual wear. In order to confirm something, I called Chitanda, Ibara and Satoshi out as well. All I said to them was simply this, "There's something else I needed to add to yesterday's deduction before this can be fully concluded. I'll be waiting at the Geology Room."
And so the three of them came. Ibara was bound to treat my bringing up a supposedly resolved problem with sarcasm, and while Satoshi was smiling, the look of surprise at me deviating from my usual behaviour could still be seen. As for Chitanda, she spoke upon seeing me.
"Oreki-san, I feel like there's still something that I need to know."
I felt the same way as well. As I nodded, I placed my hand on her shoulder.
"It's fine. I think we should be able to sort this out by today. Just hang on a bit longer."
"What do you mean by adding to yesterday's deduction, Oreki?"
"Adding means taking the final step in order to complete something that is still incomplete."
"I don't get it, are you saying we've been looking into this the wrong way or heading into the wrong conclusion?"
"Just hear me out."
As I took out my notes, I glanced at it myself rather than showing it to the rest.
"... 'Hyouka' was meant to be written as something more important. It was not meant to chronicle the life of Sekitani Jun or made as a heroic tale, that's what the preface says anyway."
That was the part that Satoshi covered yesterday. As expected, he spoke up.
"Isn't that the part we discussed yesterday?"
"Yeah, but perhaps we may have been misled."
"What do you mean?"
"This passage here, 'As a sacrifice of the conflict, even Sempai's smile would end up along the flow of time into eternity.' The 'sacrifice' here does not mean giving up voluntarily, rather, it means 'sacrifice' as an offering."
Ibara raised her eyebrow.
"But wouldn't they have used 'victim' instead of 'sacrifice' then?"
'Victim' huh? Though I didn't need to do much explaining, as Chitanda covered for me.
"No, 'sacrifice' can also be involuntarily. It used to mean just that in the past."
As expected from an honours student, that was quick. And I was just about to get a dictionary.
Satoshi commented with a sigh, "... I get what you're trying to say about a different meaning to that word, but isn't that obvious? Besides, there's no way we could find out which meaning is true without asking the author first."
Of course, the difference in meaning was not purely a linguistic problem. As language was never as precise as math, it was natural that words would have more than one meaning. So it's not possible to conclude that a word means something else completely.
Yet there was a way to solve this. I nodded confidently to Satoshi and said, "Well, then we'll just have to ask the author."
"... Who is it?"
"The one who wrote this foreword, of course. Kooriyama Youko-san was a first year student 33 years ago. She should be around 48 or 49 now."
Chitanda's eyes widened.
"So did you find her?"
I brusquely shook my head.
"I don't have to. Since she's very close by anyway."
Ibara raised her head. As expected, she was the first to figure it out.
"Oh! I see!"
"What do you mean?"
"What have you figured out?"
Ibara looked at me, and I nodded softly to urge her to explain.
"... It's Itoikawa-sensei the Head Librarian, isn't it? Itoikawa Youko-sensei, her maiden name was Kooriyama. Am I right?"
As Ibara was a librarian herself, she naturally knew the full name of Itoikawa, that's why she was quick to realize.
"Exactly. If you merely heard the name 'Ibara Satoshi' without seeing how it's spelled, then you have no way of guessing whether Satoshi has adopted Ibara's name. But since we know Itoikawa's given name is spelled 'Youko', as well as the fact her age matches, then figuring out her maiden name becomes elementary."
Crossing her arms, Ibara began spouting her cynical sarcasm.
"You really are weird. Even I couldn't realize such a thing despite being in contact with Sensei all the time, yet you managed to do that. Maybe you should get Chi-chan to have a look inside your head."
As I said before, I got lucky with a flash of inspiration. I also do not want to be lobotomized by Chitanda.
Meanwhile, Chitanda's face was slowly getting redder.
"T, then, if we hear from Itoikawa-sensei..."
"Then we'll know what happened 33 years ago. Why that was not a heroic tale, why the cover was designed that way, why the anthology was titled 'Hyouka'... We'll get all the answers concerning your uncle."
"But, do you have any proof that it's really Itoikawa-sensei? Wouldn't it be awkward if it turns out to be someone else?"
We won't be mistaken. I took a look at my wristwatch and reckoned it was about time.
"Actually, I did make sure of that. I found out she was club president in her second year. I made an appointment to speak with her about it. It should be about time now, let's head to the library."
As I turned to leave, I could hear Ibara mutter, "You sure are enthusiastic."
I guess I am.
During summer vacation, the library would have its window blinds down to protect the books from exposure to intense sunlight. In this moderate air-conditioned indoor environment, the library was still packed with students preparing for the Kanya Festival or third years preparing for their university entrance exams. Itoikawa could be seen writing something while sitting behind the counter, wearing a pair of glasses which we did not see last time as she wrote. She had a rather small figure, and wrinkles were visible on her face, proof that it's been nearly 31 years since she graduated from high school.
She turned and noticed us as we called out to her. Lifting her face, she smiled.
"Ah, the Classics Club,"
She looked around the library and said, "It's a bit crowded here, shall we head to the Librarian Office?"
And led us to an office behind the counter.
The Librarian Office was a cozy office big enough for one person to work in, though the air-conditioner was considerably smaller in here. As the blinds weren't down, Itoikawa went ahead and lowered them as she gestured for us to take a seat on the guest sofa. A soft fragrance could be smelled, as it came from a flower pot placed on the only table in the room. It was a very ordinary and easy to miss flower, and was probably not meant for the guests but for herself to admire.
Though the sofa was large, it was still not big enough for the four of us. So Itoikawa had to take out a folding chair and place it beside the sofa. But why was it me that ended up on the folding chair while the other three got the sofa? Itoikawa sat on her own revolving chair. Placing her elbows on the table, she faced us and said, "Well, what is it that you wish to speak to me about?"
She asked gently. As she was asking everyone from the Classics Club, it was natural that I would have to speak on behalf of the club. I tried to shrug off this urge to cross my arms and legs in a situation which I was not used to, and courteously replied, "Yes, there's something we would like to inquire from you. But first, we'd like to confirm something. Is your maiden name Kooriyama?"
"Then that means this was written by you, right?"
I took out the copy from my pocket and handed to her. Itoikawa moved her eyes across the piece of paper and smiled gently,
"Yes, that's me. But I'm surprised that this managed to get preserved."
She then seemed to lower her gaze to me.
"I think I know what it is that you wanted to discuss with me. To have students from the Classics Club inquire about my maiden name, I had an idea what was going on... you wish to know about the movement 33 years ago, right?"
Bingo, so she does know.
However, in contrast to the expectation shown on our expressions, Itoikawa merely sighed.
"But, why would you ask about such a distant event now? It would have been better to forget about it."
"Well, this is mainly thanks to Chitanda here viewing all sorts of curious events like a beast, or I would not have noticed this event to begin with."
"Sorry, I meant like a feast."
Itoikawa and Satoshi both smiled, while Ibara gave an exasperated look. Chitanda protested softly, though I ignored her. Itoikawa smiled softly at Chitanda and asked, "And why were you interested in that movement back then?"
I noticed Chitanda gripping her fists on her knees. She was probably nervous as she answered briefly, "Sekitani Jun was my uncle."
Itoikawa let out a gasp.
"Oh, I see, Sekitani Jun... Such a nostalgic name. How is he?"
"I have no idea, as he was reported missing in India."
She gasped again, "Oh." Though she didn't seem to have wavered. Perhaps living for 50 years meant she'd seen it all?
"I see. And I had always wished to meet him once again."
"So do I. I just wanted to see him one more time."
Was Sekitani Jun a person that was worth meeting once again? I couldn't help but wonder perhaps I should meet him as well.
As though filled with emotions, Chitanda spoke slowly.
"Itoikawa-sensei, please tell me, what exactly happened 33 years ago? Why was the incident my uncle was involved in not a heroic tale? Why is the Classics Club anthology titled 'Hyouka'? ... Are Oreki-san's deductions correct?"
Itoikawa asked me, "What do you mean by that?"
Satoshi answered, "Sensei, Oreki has managed to deduce what could have happened 33 years ago using the limited information we have gathered. So perhaps you should hear it from him."
Seems like I have to repeat what I had said yesterday. No, though I had intended to do so anyway, I had not yet realized that it could just be speculation for someone who had gone through the incident herself. Though I was confident of my deductions, there was a small thought that I might have gotten it wrong. I licked my lips and began my explanation using the same 5W1H method as yesterday.
"First, the main character for this incident..."
"... And so, we concluded that the dropping out occurred in October."
Once I got it all out, I was surprised by how well I managed to organize my thoughts. As I spoke without referring to any notes, time seemed to pass by even faster.
All the time while I spoke, Itoikawa remained silent. She spoke to Ibara at once as I finished.
"Ibara-san, do you have the notes that you speak of?"
"I got them."
Satoshi opened his drawstring bag and took out a stack of notes which was folded in quarters, and handed them over to Itoikawa. She took a quick glance at them and looked up.
"You managed to form a deduction just from all these?"
"Yes, Oreki-san did."
That's not exactly right.
"I merely pooled their theories together, that's all."
Sigh. Itoikawa breathed out a sigh and placed the notes on the table as she crossed her legs.
"It wasn't wrong?"
Ibara asked, to which she shook her head.
"No, it is just as Oreki-kun said. Everything is true. It feels uncanny, as though you stood alongside me as I watched the whole thing unfold back then."
I let out a breath.
I was indeed relieved that I got it all right.
"Well, what else do you wish to ask from me? I might even give you a passing mark if my answers match your speculation."
"Well, I don't know about me, but Houtarou seemed to feel something else was missing."
Yeah, something was missing.
There was something that I wanted to ask: Did Sekitani Jun forsake his rose-coloured high school life on his own? I worded my question as follows, "I have only one question. Did Sekitani Jun wish to become a shield for the entire student body?"
Itoikawa's gentle expression suddenly froze at hearing that question. She merely looked at me.
And stared silently.
I waited for her to speak, so too did Chitanda, Ibara and Satoshi. They were probably wondering what that question was all about as they waited.
... The silence didn't last long. Itoikawa moved her mouth as though murmuring something, and said reproachfully, "You really saw through me... Then I shall tell you about it. I think it's best I start from the beginning all the way to the end. Though it was a long time ago, I still remember it clearly."
And so, the former Kooriyama Youko spoke about the "Struggle in June" 33 years ago.
"Though the Cultural Festival is just as active as it was then, it feels more quiet than it used to be. Back then everyone viewed the Kami High Cultural Festival as their ultimate objective in life. It was a time when people would actively discard the old and welcome the new, and some say it was from this overflowing energy that the Kami High Cultural Festival came into being.
"Just before I enrolled in this school, there was a feeling that a riot would break out. Nothing good would come out of having a commotion go out of control, right? Yet compared to the violent school incidents in recent years, the movements back then seemed rather orderly. Though for the teachers of that time, it was still considered unacceptable."
The recollection that I heard seemed to concern some Modern Japanese History. I think neither those people overflowing with energy in that time nor people born in the same period as me could ever fathom the existence of the other group.
"In April that year, the Principal suddenly had an outburst during a staff meeting. I believe it was recorded in one of your notes here, 'We must not allow ourselves to be complacent and become a mere backwater school.' Nowadays people would just view Principal Eida's words as merely laying expectation on the students to do well. Yet back then, it was perceived as a veiled message to crack down on the Cultural Festival.
"When the timetable for the Cultural Festival was announced, there was a great uproar. The usual five day schedule was drastically reduced to only two days, and they were moved from weekdays to just two days in the weekend, as though they were being discarded from the regular school calendar altogether. Everyone felt like a bucket of cold water was poured over them and found the decision hard to stomach.
"Since that announcement, I could feel the atmosphere at school becoming tense, as though something was about to happen.
"First, all sorts of dirty language was being posted on the school's notice boards. Then there were the public speeches, which is where everyone could come on stage to say whatever they want, where everyone was getting increasingly passionate and received applause. Then the movement began in earnest when it was proposed to pool the resources of the arts-related clubs together.
"However, though the resistance was expected, nobody seemed to be prepared for the school's strong response to forcefully carry out the cutting down of the Cultural Festival. In order to carry out the movement, one must be prepared to accept the consequences. Though everyone was good at talking the talk, pathetically, no one volunteered to come out and become the leader of the club alliance."
Itoikawa shifted in her seat, which created a squeaking sound in her chair as she continued, "So it was decided to draw lots in order to choose the leader, and your uncle, Sekitani Jun, ended up with the short end of the stick. The actual operation of the movement was handled by other people, yet their names would never appear in public.
"The movement steadily gathered steam, and eventually led to the school relenting their plans to shorten the festival. As written in your notes, the festival went on as usual."
Though she described it plainly without any emotion, I could still feel the atmosphere of 33 years ago, whether it was the passion of the movement or the cowardice of the representatives, they were all in the past now. Itoikawa then went on, "But we overdid it. During the movement, I took part in boycotting lessons. Everyone was on the grounds shouting slogans. The construction of a campfire brought the atmosphere to a climax, and then one night it happened.
"The flames in the campfire went out of control. We don't know if someone did it on purpose, but the Martial Arts Dojo was set on fire. Though the fire was eventually put out, the considerably old dojo was badly damaged by the water sprayed from the fire engines."
Chitanda and Ibara's expressions went stiff, I guess so did mine. Even we could tell this sounded bad, as indirectly, it meant this damage of school property could not be ignored.
"Such a criminal act was way out of the ordinary, and could not be overlooked. Fortunately, the school did not wish to make things any worse and so decided not to involve the police. Though no one could argue against the school finding someone to take responsibility once the Cultural Festival was over... Since everyone would be saying they didn't know anything once the festival ended.
"And so, while the cause of the fire was unknown, the one that ended up taking the blame was none other than Sekitani-san, the official leader of the movement.
"Back then, it was much easier to expel a student. Credit to him, Sekitani-san remained calm to the very end. Though I believe your question was whether he wished to become a shield for everyone, right?"
Itoikawa merely smiled and looked at me.
"I think you already know the answer yourself."
After finishing her long story, Itoikawa stood up to pour some hot water from a flask into her coffee mug before drinking it.
We said nothing. Perhaps we couldn't find anything to say. I could only see Chitanda's lips move a bit, as though muttering "how awful", or "how cruel", though I have no idea which it was.
"Well, that's all I have to say. Do you have anything else you wish to ask?"
As she returned to her revolving chair, Itoikawa spoke in her usual tone. This was indeed just a story from the past for her.
Ibara finally broke the silence and said, "Then, I'd like to ask about the cover illustration that was drawn back then..."
Itoikawa nodded silently.
I was reminded of the cover of 'Hyouka', the one with the dog and hare chasing each other, while a number of hares formed a circle and watched them. The dog probably represented the teaching staff while the hares the students. And the hare that led the dog around in circles was probably Sekitani Jun.
After Itoikawa came gave us the answer that I had just guessed, I asked her, "Of all the buildings in Kami High, the Martial Arts Dojo is by far the oldest, so does that mean it's been rebuilt before?"
I noticed how ancient the dojo was when Chitanda showed it to me back in April, though I gave no thought to that afterwards.
"Yes, that's right. Since public school buildings are rarely renovated unless they reach their sell-by date. When all the other buildings were renovated ten years ago, only the dojo was left untouched since that was renovated before by itself."
Satoshi then said meekly, "Umm, Sensei, I noticed you never referred to the festival as the Kanya Festival,"
As the topic was changed altogether, Itoikawa ended up smiling faintly.
"Why do you even ask? Surely you must have figured it out by now?"
I see. I remember my sis mentioning in our phone call that the term was considered taboo within the Classics Club. Though it was a bit late, I finally understood why that was taboo.
"It's because Sekitani Jun did not wish to become a hero, right? That's why you refrained from calling the festival the Kanya Festival."
"Fuku-chan, what does he mean by that?"
Though Satoshi smiled while answering, this smile was different from usual in that he wasn't smiling for fun.
"'Kanya' isn't an abbreviation of 'Kamiyama', but rather it's an alternative kanji pronunciation of 'Sekitani'. I managed to find that out at last a while ago. It's probably an alternate name for 'Sekitani Festival', in order to fool the teaching staff while honouring their hero."
... Chitanda then asked, "Sensei, do you know the reason why my uncle used the title 'Hyouka' for the anthology?"
However, Itoikawa gently shook her head.
"That name was probably thought up by Sekitani-san on a whim while he had a feeling he was about to be expelled. He said it meant something that he could not do in his current state at that time. But otherwise, I don't know what it means myself."
... She doesn't know?
Does she really not know? Or Chitanda, Ibara and Satoshi, for that matter?
Though I rarely get angry, even now I was getting exasperated. Right now all I was feeling was a sense of irritation, as no one seemed to get the message that Sekitani Jun had left behind. I was annoyed that no one managed to get such a trivial message.
Without realizing, I began to speak up, "Don't you guys get it? Just what have you guys been listening to? I'll just come out and say it, it's nothing but a silly pun."
"Sekitani Jun wanted to relay a message to us, the descendants of the Classics Club, and he placed that within the title of the anthology. Chitanda, you're good at English, right?"
Chitanda went flustered at suddenly being called out.
"Yeah. This is actually a secret message. No, more like a play on words..."
Itoikawa didn't seem to make any responses while looking at us. I wondered if she could have realized, no she must have realized. Yet for some reason she's not telling us anything. While I didn't understand completely, I tried putting myself in her shoes and noticed this could be something that could not be spoken out loud. Perhaps this was also one of the traditions of the Classics Club?
"Have you figured something out, Oreki-san?"
"Oreki, stop making us guess anymore. Do you really get it?"
"Tell us already, Houtarou."
How many times has it been that I've been pressed for an answer by these guys? I sighed as I prepared to give my explanation. Though this time I felt like this had nothing to do with luck or having any flash of inspiration. I just felt like conveying Sekitani's regret within his pun to someone.
And so I spoke, "What do you think 'Hyouka' means?"
Chitanda answered, "That's the title of the Classics Club anthology."
"I'm asking about the meaning of the word itself."
Satoshi followed, "It's the Japanese word for 'ice', right? So 'ice candy'?"
"Try 'ice cream'."
Ibara spoke, "Ice cream? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Try rearranging the syllables."
Ah, dammit. Why do I always have to go through so much explanation? For once get what I'm trying to say!
"'Ice cream' itself means nothing. That's why I said it's a play on words."
Satoshi's expression first read "I dunno" before his face went pale as though all the blood had been drawn from it. Next was Ibara, who muttered "Ah, that!" with an annoyed expression.
Finally, Chitanda seemed like she still didn't get it. Being an honours student, I hear she's good at English as well. However, it doesn't seem like she's grasped the language's functions completely. I wasn't in the mood to tease her further.
I took the copy of the foreword of 'Hyouka Volume Two' and wrote on it with a ballpen I brought.
"This is the message your uncle left behind."
Chitanda nodded while still looking perplexed.
When she finally understood, her eyes widened instantly. "Oh!" She gasped and went silent.
Everyone's gazes were focused on her.
Chitanda's eyes were moistening. It was then that I realized that her months of requesting my help had finally come to fruition.
"... I remember," she whispered, "I remember now. I asked my uncle back then why the anthology was called 'Hyouka'. He merely said, yes, he told me to be strong.
"It was a message for me to live on whenever I should feel weak, or when I encounter times when I could not scream..."
She turned her gaze towards me.
"Oreki-san, I remember now. I was crying because I was afraid of the thought of living while being dead inside... Thank goodness, now I can send my uncle off properly..."
A smile appeared on her face. Noticing that her eyes were getting wet, she moved to wipe them with her hands. She then turned to look again at the note I was holding. On it was the true meaning of the word that I had written:
Translator's Notes and References
- TL: Hyouka was published in 2000, before Kosovo declared independence
- TL: Again this part is all liberal translations of things having to do with Japanese words
- TL: Pun changed to make sense in English (beast and feast are not the original words because if the original words were kept, it wouldn't be a pun anymore in English)
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