Hyouka:Volume 3 Chapter 2-3

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2-3 Yet Another Storm

020 - ♦04

I had originally wanted to just keep a low profile.

I totally did not intend to get into an argument with anyone.

It all began when Kouchi-sempai said to President Yuasa as the flow of customers started to decrease, "Well, turns out it was a mistake to sell such plain stuff after all. Nobody's coming at all. But it's not too late for us to change this and turn it around. We should have an anime character poster outside. Since we're all so free anyway, it wouldn't take us a lot of time to draw one."

I didn't believe the reason there were so few customers was what she said. The anthology was selling pretty well. However, it was indeed true that the stall was far from lively no matter how positively I try to see things. I wasn't particularly against the idea of drawing an anime character poster in order to attract customers; at least it's better than dressing up in skimpy cosplay to attract the boys.

But what I couldn't stand was Kouchi-sempai trying to bring the president into all of this, seeing as how she was now being surrounded by Kouchi-sempai's followers. It looked as though she was being protested against. Though President Yuasa merely smiled calmly, I wondered how she must have felt.

"You may be right, but this was what we all decided on doing..."

"It may have been decided, but not by majority consent. To begin with, what's with this anthology anyway? A review of a hundred manga titles just sounds so tedious, who on earth is gonna read that? We should have made more parody mangas instead."

Come to think of it, someone had suggested everyone in the Manga Club could try making their own parody manga. Right now, there were a few of them lined up around the stalls. The reason why there were so few of them was mainly because they were either not confident about displaying their works in the Cultural Festival, or they did not want to end up making a loss. But to blame it on the presence of Zeamis was just absurd.

Upon being told that no one would bother reading the anthology that I worked so hard on, the atmosphere in the room became delicately tense. To begin with, Kouchi-sempai's group was entirely uncooperative in the making of Zeamis. Uncooperative as in shoving the work to other people. Even someone as lazy as Oreki still bothered to take time to write up the manuscript despite constantly complaining about how bothersome it was, but Kouchi-sempai's followers were simply slacking off. Even now, not a single one of them had offered to help sell it. There were quite a few people in the club who found such behaviour revolting.

The only reason such sentiments had not erupted was due to Kouchi-sempai, who had herself diligently worked on her own rather interesting column. She didn't even brag about the fact that she had it completed within the day.

Extending her arms from within her long Taoist priest robes, Kouchi-sempai crossed them and looked up as though preaching some truth.

"Even if we assume that there's no such thing as a boring manga, this would be like reading an interesting manga a hundred times over. Anyone would get bored doing that. There's simply no meaning to it, right?" she said, seeking approval from those around her. A chorus of barely audible agreement could be heard, muttered by her followers. If you want to be a Yes Men, you could at least be more assertive in your agreements.

But to say that it has no meaning, well...

Some of the members turned their gaze toward the sales booth where I was seated... While I was indeed the only one who disagreed with Kouchi-sempai, I would have preferred they not look at me like this.

Kouchi-sempai went on, "Besides, wouldn't it be better to use an anime character to capture attention? Why does this gloomy anthology of all things have to be the centrepiece? We ought to have something more flashy."

She then turned her gaze to the other members besides her own followers. Even as I sat silently at the sales booth, our eyes met.

I didn't know whether it was my imagination, but when Kouchi-sempai looked at me, the corners of her lips were raised.

Was she provoking me? Was that smile of hers just now a provocation?

Would Fuku-chan trust me? The thought flashed by in my head that he wouldn't. But it was true that all this time during the Cultural Festival, I had behaved myself within the Manga Club, as I still had to take care of the Classic Club's anthology.

But I was at my limit. I wondered why I ended up that way. Even I myself was surprised at how cold I sounded as I remained seated and said, "What exactly do you mean when you say it's all meaningless, sempai?"

Kouchi-sempai looked as though she had expected a response from me. Turning her back to President Yuasa, she smiled and said, "It is meaningless regardless of whether it's interesting or not. Surely you should understand the meaning of that, no?"

"I understand the meaning of your words, but I don't understand how you come to such a conclusion. I spent a lot of time working on this anthology, and so have the others.

"I'm not asking for recognition for our hard work, but if you're going to declare all that meaningless, then please at least elaborate on your reason for it."

On one side was Kouchi-sempai looking rather composed, while I on the other hand probably looked snappy. I would probably look like an idiot to an outsider.

With a sneering smile, Kouchi-sempai took a step towards me.

"Yeah, maybe I was mistaken in saying it was meaningless. Sorry about that, Ibara, I was trying to say it was too assertively harmful."

"Whichever it is, I would still like to hear why you think it is so."

"You see, I've been thinking,"

As though demonstrating to those around her, she waved her arms about.

"Not every manga ends up as a classic. Just because you like a title it doesn't make it a classic. Nine hundred ninety nine people out of a thousand could have decided it was crap. Yet, you would disregard such consensus and promote your own bias? That is what I call harmful."

For a while I hesitated at how to respond. A member who was standing beside me lashed out.

"How can you be so sure that is bias!?"

While I understood her sentiment, it was not the right moment for her to interject. Yet Kouchi-sempai merely gave her a glance and ignored her. She could have easily countered the accusation of whether the anthology was biased or not by giving a definition of what the word "bias" means. Still, she had not chosen to do that.

This means she did not intend for the argument to be ambiguous.

I took a gulp and said, "Let me get this straight. You're trying to say we were being subjective?"

"Yeah."

"So you find the viewpoint that 'Subjectively, any manga can be a classic, and so it is meaningless to call a manga bad' harmful?"

Kouchi-sempai nodded satisfactorily.

"Yup, that's what I meant."

"But–"

As I was about to respond, I noticed someone's hand moving. Before me, the pile of Zeamis copies were being removed by President Yuasa, which I didn't mind.

There was a decisive flaw in Kouchi-sempai's argument, yet I wonder if she has noticed it already? While feeling uneasy, I tried to maintain a calm voice and continued, "In that case, wouldn't it also be harmful to think that 'Subjectively, any manga can be rubbish, and so it is meaningless to call a manga good'?"

In that way, there was no way she could agree with that. But if she disagrees, then she would have to rephrase her argument. Despite being confronted with such a contradiction, Kouchi-sempai gave a profound smile and said, "Yeah."

"Wha–"

For a moment, I was lost for words. Even her followers murmured. It was as confusing as falling into nothingness. No one could understand what she was thinking when she made such a response.

Taking advantage of my wavering, Kouchi-sempai spoke cheerfully.

"But it's true, isn't it? Since even you thought so.

"Just because a manga is called boring doesn't mean the manga itself is boring. It simply means the person's tolerance antenna is set rather low for the title. So for those cowards who do not want to express themselves clearly would say 'This manga doesn't suit me' rather than just call it boring.

"So it's the same thing. Just because a manga is called interesting doesn't mean the work itself is interesting. It just means the person has a high tolerance for the interesting aspects of the title. Am I right?"

For some time, I've always found Kouchi-sempai to be rather reckless. Even though she has a lot of admirers as a core member of the Manga Club, I just found myself looking down on those people. Right now, I feel like I know why I felt that way. Kouchi Ayako-sempai was just such a person.

I can't lose to her... I just can't lose.

At first, I was merely lashing out at her for calling the anthology we had worked so hard on meaningless. But now it's become more than that, she was laughing at the basis of my beliefs itself. I wasn't the type to just simply laugh it away and suck it up. The urge to fight back welled up within me, I licked my lips and countered, "...So you're basically saying there are no mangas that are called classics or masterpieces? Other mediums like music, art and novels all have what you call classics and masterpieces. Are you saying that even those don't exist as well? Or are you saying this only applies to manga?"

I, along with many Manga Club members, do not believe that as an expression medium, there would exist flaws within mangas that cannot be rectified.

Not even Kouchi-sempai could say that just because a work is a manga, it cannot become a classic.

And indeed she said no such thing.

"I never said that there's no such thing as a classic or masterpiece manga."

"But isn't that what you were saying? That a work is rubbish no matter how you look at it?"

"Yeah, it is."

She withdrew her sneering smile and said, "But masterpieces do exist.

"After years of being scrutinized by critics and standing the test of time, only those works which contain the highest common factor remain. These are what we'd call 'masterpieces.' If not highest common factor, then the works which receive the most acceptance, which is basically the same thing.

"So I'll say this: it's just foolish for the Manga Club to do something like review manga, where we just go about deciding if this work is great or that work is crap. We're just saying what comes out of our heads. We should cut that out and just be content to enjoy what we read."

"Then,"

Before I could even think, I fired back, "Do you not recognize the existence of the geniuses that gave birth to such masterpieces? Do you not recognize that the works of such people are wonderful and deserve to be passed down the generations?"

"Don't be so long-winded, Ibara, of course I don't. That's why this is all part of your subjective opinion. I've already said that masterpieces are those that withstand the test of time."

"..."

Kouchi-sempai's gaze was sharper than a while ago. I too was probably glaring back at her. I felt myself breathing heavily.

I sensed that now was the time to pull out my trump card.

The treasures I have are something that would have to be shown to her if to repudiate her. If I didn't repudiate her, then I would have to repudiate my treasures. Though I was reluctant to do this, I had no choice. So I slowly said, "You're wrong."

"About what?"

"This has nothing to do with one's subjective opinion. You say such outrageous things only because you've never gone through what I've felt. There's a person whose manga is so terrific that I've yet to meet someone who doesn't think that way."

"Oh, now that's some boast you've got."

Kouchi-sempai spoke with a dark tone while dressed in her Jiangshi outfit. Without feeling daunted, I continued, "Based on what you said, even the manga that I drew would be on the same level as every other manga out there. But that is not true. What I'm saying is there's no way you could say that my manga could line up alongside this person's manga. That work is something which could never be eliminated over time.

"So tell me, sempai, have you read a manga called Ashes at Dusk, which was sold at the Cultural Festival last year?"

When I noticed, Kouchi-sempai had lost her usual calm demeanor. With an expression as though she was trying to strangle me, she replied briefly,

"...No,"

"In that case,"

If it doesn't work, then it can't be helped. If she does not recognize my treasure, then I'll just have to raise the white flag.

"I'll bring it tomorrow. If after reading it you still feel the same, then I'll have nothing to say."

Phew I sighed. In order for the truth to be spoken, such an outcome was inevitable. As a result, I sighed again, as this meant that I'd lost my chance to ask the Manga Club to help sell Hyouka.

It was then that I realized, and said, "What's going on here?"

The room was suddenly filled with people. A while ago there were only Manga Club members, and now the room was full of customers. Huh? Why? When did they come in? Could it be that they've been watching me argue all this time?

As I looked at the customers, they all avoided my gaze, and as though apologetic, began lining up to buy copies of Zeamis. Each stack contained ten copies. Already I saw two stacks of Zeamis copies being sold and President Yuasa bringing in a new stack to replace them.

Erm, I...

Taking a deep breath, I put on a smile and said, "Welcome."

The bystanders who were glancing at me quickly turned their backs around. Perhaps I had spoken in a rough tone, and maybe they thought I was dangerous?

If this was a manga, then veins would have popped up in my forehead already.


021 - ♥05

Now Featuring:

The Battle of the Maidens!

in Manga Theory Debate

(The Jiangshi vs The Hermaphrodite)


...I wonder what this poster could be about? It was written in very huge and trendy letters.

As I happened to be passing by, I had decided to drop by the Manga Studies Club and pay Mayaka-san a visit, but I ended up being distracted by this strange poster outside.

Is this Battle of the Maidens currently going on right now? As I was about to take a peek inside, a female student emerged from the door. I recognized that person; it was the president of the Manga Studies Club, Yuasa Naoko-san.

"Um, what is this?" I pointed to the poster and asked.

Yuasa-san gave a gentle smile as she proceeded to slowly tear the poster down, she then turned toward a bewildered me and replied, "Oh, we're just finished with that. We'll be holding another at 1pm tomorrow, so please do come visit again. The Manga Studies Club wishes you a good day today."

I see.

Umm.

...The Classics Club also wishes you a good day today.



022 - ♠06


The clock hand shows that it will be approaching five soon. The first day was coming to an end.

The Classics Club members who were scattered around the campus were now gathered back inside the Geology Room. Though Chitanda and Satoshi had popped by many times during the day, this was Ibara's first time showing her face back here since this morning.

As I had a lot of free time, I took the time to pack the extra copies of Hyouka into the boxes and kept them hidden from view. As the person in charge of running the stall, it wouldn't look nice if the customers were to see us struggling with our sales, after all.

"Well, what do you think? My sales appeal worked a bit, didn't it?" Satoshi asked.

As I'm not as optimistic as him, I replied indifferently, "Sort of."

"Eh, really?"

I nodded. Truth be told, as soon as Satoshi made his speech, a few customers did appear. As a sales pitch, it sounded kinda stupid. I don't know what kind of fun he had in that competition, but his effort sure helped give our sales a little push.

Satoshi made a victory pose.

"All right! We shall do our best tomorrow as well. We'll be participating in The Cooking Club's cooking tournament tomorrow morning."

Ibara asked nonchalantly to his merry expression, "The one where you need three people to form a team?"

"Huh?"

Satoshi's smile stiffened.

"Three people? Really?" He said as he frantically took out the pamphlet. It's no good for someone from the General Committee to be unaware of what the events are about, after all.

Meanwhile, Chitanda looked kind of depressed.

"I'm sorry, I... I didn't do my best..."

"Don't worry too much about it."

To be honest, I hadn't expected much from her. Rather than having no expectation from her abilities, it was more to do with having no expectation that we would receive special permission to make changes to an event that had already been decided. As she looked down toward the ground, she seemed to have thought of something and looked up.

"Oh, but, I did come across something curious though."

Something, curious?

I felt myself shuddering at the mention of that word. Whenever this lady utters "I'm really curious about it," it means that things cannot go back to the way they were. For someone with such a burning sense of curiosity, it is impossible not to satiate Chitanda in her search for the answers.

Every time she says "I'm really curious about it," she has given me... I mean, us, quite a lot of commotion... These memories began flashing in my head.

However, this was simply not the time of the day for her to do that. Once she got things started, it would be impossible to suppress her curiosity, but this did not mean that Chitanda would allow herself to run around in a rampage. She's not the sort to brashly go about in search of the answers under the banner of curiosity. Similarly, if there were other things that needed to be done, she would not prioritize her curiosity over those.

As though realizing how dangerous she could become, she turned her gaze towards the box containing the Hyouka copies.

"...Oh, nothing. It's not really curious," she said.

That was a relief.

Finally, there was Ibara, who seemed quite sullen. Though she's usually like that, even though she wouldn't admit it herself, she always seemed like she wanted to say what was on her mind, but then gave up doing so. Though she did not make any sound, her lips were moving as though muttering to herself. I couldn't help but notice that.

"Ibara, did something happen at the Manga Club?"

I decided to ask.

"Nothing."

She snapped back looking annoyed. Did I say something wrong? She didn't look rather angry as her face wasn't red.

"So, Houtarou, how many copies did we sell?"

Upon being asked, I leaned back in my chair and said, "Thirteen."

This was the best answer I could come up with. Had we printed twenty-four copies as we had intended, such a figure would have been impressive for a first day sale. At any rate, the real battle begins on the third day, Saturday.

Though I did not mention that, as I did not want to suffer from Ibara's sarcasm, and Satoshi would have given a buoyant face and go "Really?"

Two days left... It's not like we were trying to shore up all the support we could get. As if we could expect something explosive to happen anyway. Now was not the time for us to expect miracles.

As the chime rang, the first day of the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival came to an end.

[177 COPIES REMAINING]



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