Hyouka:Volume 3 Chapter 3-1
3-1 The Morning Landscape
023 - ♦05
Ashes at Dusk was a 30-page manga containing three short stories. Despite its morbid-sounding title, it actually came from Rennyo's well-known verse: "We may have radiant faces in the morning, but by evening we may turn into white ashes."
The overarching theme across these short stories is its emphasis on the abstract impermanence of life. Taking place in a classically dim Showa-style backdrop, the story describes a rather sad story. That said, the manga doesn't indulge itself in the retro-feel, but actually focuses on the platonic love of high school girls as well, so it was also rich in entertainment.
As a Third Year Junior High student, I was lost for words when I saw and bought this on a whim while visiting the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival. Though there was nothing special about the theme, it just felt earnestly vivid to me.
A unique story that develops alongside its rich dialogue, it is supported by sensitive-looking artwork, which looked like something right out of a kabuki theatre. In certain pivotal points of the plot, the art would give a surreal effect. If I have to list a work, regardless of whether it is commercial or not, that leaves an impression on me, then it has to be Ashes at Dusk.
And thus, this was a manga that possesses a certain charm which words alone cannot describe. If I had to give criticism, then I would say the background art looked a bit amateurish, but even that is not enough to make it bad.
There were only two doujinshis that have taken my breath away completely, one was Ashes at Dusk, the other was Body Talk, a title I found in another doujinshi event unrelated to Kami High. I cherish these two works as my treasures. But if I have to pick one out of these two, I would have to go for Ashes at Dusk.
In order to counter Kouchi-sempai's argument that a work can be great to begin with, regardless of what the readers think, I would have to show her a glimpse of this title. Such was my faith in its ability to charm.
I was very glad when I found out I made it into Kamiyama High School. Besides being glad that I've entered high school, I was even more glad that I had entered a school where you could sell any sort of manga freely as though its a soft drink vending machine. That's why I entered the Manga Studies Club as soon as I started school.
Yet I found myself a bit disappointed afterwards.
There was no one in the club that knew anything about the author of Ashes at Dusk.
But as I still had fun with people discussing stuff that we like, I thought that my decision to join the Manga Club was correct.
...That's what I thought anyway.
On the morning of the second day of the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival, I arrived at school with a gloomy expression. I had no choice but to postpone what I intended to do. Prior to going to the attendance ceremony, I first headed towards the Manga Club.
I had intended to arrive early, but I found Kouchi-sempai had arrived even earlier. She was dressed in a classy tuxedo today. She's probably dressed as that Thai boxer. As she isn't particularly tall, yesterday's costume didn't really suit her. Was she trying to dress up as a different game character everyday, or does she simply want to cosplay in varying costumes? While I too am cosplaying as a different character than yesterday, I hadn't devoted as much time and money to my costume as she had to hers.
Kouchi-sempai looked towards me, or rather, the heart-shaped brooch on my chest.
"Going for old-fashioned again, I see?" she said. Today I wore a cardigan over my blouse, and high socks coupled with a flared skirt. The only part that one could really call cosplay was the brooch and the beret hat I was wearing.
"Are you gonna shoot out Jintan candies from that?"
"No, this is just for show."
"If you're going to cosplay as that character, you should at least put some effort into your hair."
Don't be ridiculous. It's already quite embarrassing for me to have such a gravity-defying hairdo, not to mention my hair isn't that long.
I need to get to the main topic right away.
"So, where's your Ashes at Dusk?"
It was Kouchi-sempai who started the conversation instead. I was surprised that she could remember the name of a title which she only heard once. I always thought her to be quite a quick-witted person, so it's not like she could really read my mind or anything.
As most of the members had not yet arrived, the Manga Club room was rather quiet. Everyone, including those members who weren't here yesterday, had known of my spat with Kouchi-sempai.
Even Kouchi-sempai, who had looked rather confident yesterday, now looked at me with a tense expression without even realizing it.
T-this is bad.
But I can't just run away now. Taking a deep breath filling my lungs as much as they could be, and while doing my best not to look abject, I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't bring it today."
"I must have taken it to my relatives' house by mistake during the summer holidays."
Yes, for the whole night and until early this morning, I was searching for my copy of Ashes at Dusk in my room.
I made sure to search everywhere I could think of. I looked about ten times or more within the bookshelves which contained my favourite books. I did the same for the other bookshelves, as well as opening up the boxes which contained my old mangas.
Yet I could not find my Ashes at Dusk anywhere. I do not remember lending it to anyone. It was not a book I would show Fuku-chan. And I was reading it repeatedly during the first semester...
So instead I brought Body Talk as a replacement. But I had already decided to bring Ashes at Dusk the day before, so this felt like a cop out. Bringing a book that could not satisfy my intention was just as good as not bringing it at all.
Yet I did not feel like I'd lost the book. As I remembered organizing my books during the summer holiday, and placing the old books in boxes to be sent to the storage warehouse in my grandparent's house. It must have been mixed up during that time. I'd probably find it if I looked there.
However, such a causal mix-up should not have happened, and I became slightly embarrassed because of it, as lately I've been making too many silly mistakes. Even if I reflect on them the deed has already been done. I wish I had not made such mistakes to begin with.
"Ehh??" A short disapproving sound was uttered. Looking around, I saw only President Yuasa with her calm expression; this meant it wasn't her. It must have been someone else.
"Hmm, so you don't have it."
Kouchi-sempai's expression eased. I, in contrast, bit my lips.
I felt like a carp on a chopping board right now. Victory has not yet been decided as we may still have arguments to put forward, but having said I would present evidence to support my argument, it couldn't be helped now that I did not bring it. Hearing Kouchi-sempai's followers snickering just gets on my nerves.
One of them said, "Ibara, weren't you talking big yesterday? And you think you can get away by saying you don't have it?"
Another followed, "That's right. Don't you have other ways of apologizing?"
They probably won't be satisfied unless I go down on my knees. I decided to ignore them, as this was a problem between me and Kouchi-sempai alone. If she were to ask me to go down on my knees, I'd gladly do so.
However, Kouchi-sempai, as though losing interest in me, simply waved her hands and said briefly, "Then, help me with drawing a poster."
"Draw a moe character... I'm going out for a bit now."
She said that and turned to leave the club room.
As I was being basked in the cold stares of her followers, who had been left behind, I turned to speak with President Yuasa.
"President, do you have tools for drawing a poster?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes, we do."
I nodded and looked at my watch. It's almost time to head to the Gymnasium. I pointed to my watch and said, "I'll start drawing once I come back."
If I'm going to draw something, it's better if I put my full effort into it rather than stop midway. I wonder what I should draw for this "moe character" order from the victor?
024 - ♣08
After attendance was taken, I quickly left the gymnasium.
It wasn't because there was something I wanted to see, since I am after all a member of the General Committee, which has the duty of ensuring the smooth running of the Cultural Festival. At the appointed time, I needed to attend the meeting in the Conference Room where the General Committee is based, in order to carry out any orders decided by the Committee executives. Besides security, there's also event organizing to take care of. Particularly the setting up and taking down of event equipment by the various clubs requires a lot of labour. By the way, if there's no work to be done one gets to be free for the day. Carrying a noble sense of duty within me, I knocked at the door of the Conference Room.
"Fukube reporting. I see I haven't got any work today, I guess I'll take my leave now."
A pity that I wasn't able to help out with the General Committee in the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival. Just as I was about to check out some strange event about to start at the Sci-Fi Studies Club, someone stopped me.
"Wait Fukube, you do have work."
President Tanabe was the only person inside, with a white board behind him covered by a timetable. Before long he turned to me and smiled bitterly.
"Hey, what's with the disappointed look you got there?"
"No, actually, this is me looking grateful that I get to contribute my efforts."
Actually, I had plans to be at The Cooking Club at 11:30 today, so I was only intending to work with the General Committee around those times that were convenient to me. Though I made a playful face, I wasn't exactly unhappy. Opening the door, I entered the room.
I rubbed my hands and asked, "Well, what is it? As long as it ends before 11:30, I'll jump into an inferno or leap into the ocean for you."
"It'll be over soon. There are bags containing visitor slippers in the staff room, you'll need to bring two of these bags to every building entrance. That's about it."
Indeed, this wouldn't take up a lot of time.
President Tanabe sure worked hard in making the pamphlet. Casually, I began to converse with him.
"Sempai, won't you go sightseeing during the festival?"
Facing the whiteboard with its timetable, he turned to me and spoke gently.
"There's a lot of menial stuff to take care of. Still, it requires me to move around the campus, so it's not like I don't get to see anything. Oh yeah, the movie shown by Class 2-F is pretty good, I hear."
Oh, this was quite some good news for us.
"But you're unable to join in any events yourself, aren't you?"
Tanabe-sempai smiled bitterly.
"I won't be able to attend to the General Committee if I do. Unlike you, it's not like I'm as talented or have many interests."
Do I look that talented or have many interests to other observers?
"Well, what is it? You got something interesting to tell me?"
Thinking about it, there is the issue of the Classics Club having 200 anthology copies, but Mayaka wouldn't be happy if I used that as a joke. The Rakugo Club performance at the Opening Ceremony was pretty interesting, but that's just my personal opinion. I've also heard of other stuff, but they aren't really that interesting when mentioned one by one.
Hmm. I didn't particularly find this intriguing, but if I had told him there was nothing interesting, the conversation would be too dull. So how about this one?
"We seem to have a phantom thief appearing at the Go Club."
"Some Go stones were stolen from the container, and the thief even left a message behind."
Now this was surprising. This actually piqued President Tanabe's interest.
"I see. The Go Club, huh?"
Just as I wass about to say that this could be some prank staged by the Go Club themselves, President Tanabe continued, "I heard from Okano that something similar has happened to the A Capella Club."
This time it was my turn to have my interest piqued. Something similar happening to the A Capella Club means that the possibility of this being an inside job by the Go Club has been ruled out.
"They seem to have had one drink bottle taken from the cooler box."
"Was there a message left behind?"
"I'm not sure if it's from the culprit, but they found a strange memo inside."
Now this looks pretty interesting. At the very least, my interest has now increased beyond the level when I first heard this from Tani-kun. We have a phantom thief lurking in the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival! This is actually quite a fun prank.
Hmm hmm, now how should I plan my schedule from here on.
...No wait, now's not the time for that yet.
"What's wrong, Fukube? You're grinning."
"Nope, no~thing really."
It's still too early to indulge in this yet. In order for a phantom thief incident to be established, the phantom thief would need to continue with his prank. If I end up scaring the thief prematurely, it'll just make me look foolish. My experience tells me that it is better to first play with the thief.
Furthermore, not many within the school are aware of this yet. Even I have only just heard about this. I wasn't really concerned with whether the thief intends to attract much interest or not, but right now, his flute is only vaguely audible.
Since I still had an event to attend, it wouldn't be too late even if I take some rest now and allow the thief to surprise me even further. So it was better for me to leave this aside for now.
All right, now where's my drawstring bag?
"I guess I'll get to work then."
"Sure, good luck."
Having encouraged me, President Tanabe turned back towards the timetable board.
025 - ♠07
"I'll do my best again today!" Upon saying that, Chitanda left the room.
Now to begin watching over the stall for the day again.
How should I say this? I never thought being in charge of a stall where people hardly ever come would be this boring. I liked being idle and carefree, but certainly not being bored. At any rate, one doesn't require a lot of effort to insert the small change into the coin box repeatedly. Even if I were to take time to go to the bathroom, no one would come. Still, while I had brought a paperback novel to kill time, it was not the right book. It is quite unbecoming for an energy saver like me to actually desire some action just because I'm feeling bored.
Anyway, I should line up the Hyouka copies. Ten copies per stack should be just about right.
As I finished lining them up, a customer arrived. It was a male student I didn't know. The badge on his collar indicated he was a second year.
Now this is quite a good omen. I'd better use my manners.
"Yeah, we are."
Hmm, maybe I should have said it longer, like "Yeah, we are, man." But that doesn't sound polite, does it? The second year sort of dangled towards the pile of Hyouka and looked at the cover.
"So this is the one that explains where Kanya Festival gets its name from?"
Wow, seems like Satoshi's microphone appeal was still having some influence. Or did he hear it from someone else? At any rate, I should be thankful.
As I nodded, the second year asked, "Can I stand and read?"
"I'm afraid you can't."
"Oh come on. It's only 200 yen, isn't it?"
"It may be only 200 yen, but please do buy one. We've got so many remaining, I feel like crying."
Not that I really would.
The second year laughed and took out his wallet and bought one copy. Upon thanking him and seeing him place his wallet back in his pocket, I noticed, "Sempai, your fly's open."
"What?! No way!"
He frantically placed his hand between his legs. Upon inspection, he lifted his head and groaned,
"Argh, can't be helped. It's broken!"
Looking closely, I saw black silk dangling from the opening. I see, now I get what he's saying,
"Your zipper's broken?"
"Yeah, and I've still got a whole day before I can even take time to fix this."
You have my sympathies. There's nothing I can do.
No wait, that's not true. I still have it with me, haven't I? Looking in the table drawer, I found it. It was the badge that I obtained earlier today. While I'm not interested in attending a fashion show, the badge does have a safety pin taped behind it, which was easily removed.
"There's only one, but try using this."
I handed the pin out to him. The second year looked grateful as though being blessed by the heavens.
"Whoa, thanks man. Amazing that you actually have one with you."
He proceeded to pin the hole shut... While it looked kind of strange, it should do for now.
The second year certainly looked glad as he muttered, "You're amazing, man, you just helped out big time."
"If you want to show your gratitude then you could buy another copy."
The second year smiled and waved his hand.
Though he seemed to have thought of something, and put his hand behind his trousers. Searching his back pocket, he took out a hand gun.
Staring into the muzzle, I asked, "Is this a robbery?"
"Don't be silly. It's a water gun."
The second year placed the gun on the table.
"You can have this as my thanks."
I looked at the water gun and then towards him.
"...Is this your hobby?"
Rolling up the Hyouka copy in his hand, he whacked my head with it.
"Course not. I'm with the Gardening Club. We're roasting sweet potatoes today."
I still didn't see what this had to do with anything.
The second year continued while looking pleased, "You see, we need fire in order to roast the potatoes. And if there's fire, we'll need some water to put it out. But it would be too boring to just use a bucket, right?"
Ahh, I see. So he's supposed to be a soldier or something... So there are clubs who actually do silly stuff. I looked at the hand gun.
"Don't you need this then?"
"I already have one. This is just a side-arm. My main one's a Kalashnikov."
Fabulous. So they're actually thinking of putting out a fire using a water gun? They should instead be more careful with handling the fire.
Anyway, what use do I have for a water gun for watching over the Classics Club stall? The same goes for the badge, I seemed to be receiving all sorts of useless stuff. Though I have no reason to refuse him.
"Thanks, man. See ya!"
The second year left the Geology Room looking elated.
I looked at the hand gun he left behind and merely muttered, "...A Glock 17?"
Having an AK as a main weapon and a Glock as a side-arm. Isn't this rather inconsistent?
[176 COPIES REMAINING]
026 - ♥06
I'll do my best again today!
I was thinking a lot last night. What Tanabe-san and Toogaito-san said were both correct. I haven't managed to expand our selling spots, nor have I managed to get the Wall Newspaper Club interested in us. However, it is still too early to give up and say nothing could be done.
I heard rumours that the movie made by Class 2-F was quite popular. A few of my friends had wanted to go and watch, but it seems for the entire first day the Audio Visual Room was packed during airing.
We the Classics Club were slightly involved in the making of that movie by Class 2-F. Upon solving the trouble encountered during the shooting of the movie, Fukube-san duly named it the "Empress Incident." I didn't exactly do much, though Oreki-san's advice seems to have helped them a lot. Thus for me personally, it was a joyous thing to hear that the movie was doing well.
I was acquainted with one of the students from Class 2-F, Irisu Fuyumi-san. Speaking of which, this "Empress Incident" also applies to her as well, since she was involved in overseeing the production of the movie.
If we could arrange for Hyouka to be sold alongside a popular movie, there's a chance our sales might increase.
Thus today, I embark on ensuring such a deal could be done.
I'll do my best.
The Audio Visual Room was currently airing the movie The Blind Spot of 10,000 People. The entrance to the room was left open, with a black curtain to block outside light from coming in. Looks like its another full house today, but I have no way of knowing as I could not peek into the dark room. Outside was a signboard as tall as myself which read "Now Showing - The Blind Spot of 10,000 People," with its airing times written on a paper taped below it.
There was a table beside the board which seemed to double as a reception counter. Though it's called a reception counter, as the movie is free, it's not going to collect any admission fee. Rather, they seem to be selling pamphlets for the movie. A girl was assigned to watch the counter, but as nobody seems to be coming while the movie was being shown, she's currently talking to someone else.
That someone else was none other than Irisu-san. It must be my lucky day, as I was prepared to look all over the campus for her. Upon waiting for them to finish their conversation, I spoke up.
"Good morning, Irisu-san,"
"Hmm? Oh, it's Chitanda."
Noticing my presence, she quickly ended her conversation with the counter girl. Walking some distance from the Audio Visual Room entrance, she beckoned me to come over beside the fire emergency exit.
Irisu Fuyumi-san is the daughter of the warden of Rengou Hospital, located right next to Kamiyama High School. She is just as tall as I am, though her figure is much more slender. Just to be safe, this doesn't mean I'm meaty compared to her. Her fine feature gives an impression of one who is very sharp, a resolute person who could solve any problem encountered. She was someone I admire somewhat.
Before I could say anything, Irisu-san pointed towards the Audio Visual Room.
"Thanks to you guys, our movie was a great success, as you can see. And to think we were in danger of not being able to complete the movie on time. You have my deep gratitude."
"Oh, no, there's no need to... Is Hongou-san all right?"
Hongou-san was originally the screenwriter for the movie, but I heard she collapsed due to stress.
"Oh, she's fine now. Would you like to see her?"
"I see... Oh no, not now."
Perhaps sensing my hesitation, Irisu-san lowered her voice.
"Do you need something from me?"
"Yes, rather than you, I have a request for Class 2-F."
I nodded deeply.
I'll need to get to the main point right away.
"Please help the Classics Club sell their anthology."
Irisu-san blinked her eyes twice, before quickly saying, "So you're asking us to sell your anthology where we're showing our movie, right?"
"Yes, that's the idea."
"All right. How many copies do you have?"
"Y-you're accepting our request?"
As I replied without thinking, Irisu-san raised her brow.
"Why do you look surprised?"
"Oh, no, umm..."
As I was used to being flatly refused right away yesterday, I was at a loss hearing that my request was granted so suddenly now... Besides, I've once again forgotten to explain the details.
"...Thank you so much!"
"You can thank me once we've sold the copies. So how many copies you have?"
Irisu-san placed her right hand on her hip and asked as though she might tear the wall down anytime.
"We've printed 200 copies..."
Irisu-san's small eyes widened for an instant.
"That's a lot."
"We ordered more copies than we were supposed to by mistake. That's why, we're hoping to sell as many as possible. I-I..."
Oh no. Just when I thought I had obtained Irisu-san's help, I became lost for words. I'm still in a conversation, so I gritted my teeth and went on, "I'm sorry. As for the price, we've set it at 200 yen per copy."
Irisu-san nodded gently.
"If you're willing to lower the price to 150 yen per copy, then I can take twenty copies from you."
"Eh? Lower the price?"
"Our pamphlet costs 50 yen each. Together with your anthology, that would make 200 yen per set. Though we'll need to make a few arrangements."
"Umm, but, don't you need to consult with the others from Class 2-F...?"
"Oh, I'll take care of that afterwards."
Incredible. If it's Irisu-san, she would accept any request with no questions asked. Besides, wouldn't it be bothersome for her to receive twenty copies from us? Since we had only intended to sell twenty-four copies over three days.
As though she could read the anxiety on my face, Irisu-san added nonchalantly, "We should be able to sell them all by today. If we do, we may be able to order another batch from you."
"Is that fine with you?"
...I felt my chest becoming tight again.
Irisu-san stretched out her right hand which she had rested on her hip. Was she trying to shake my hand? Taking out my hand, I placed it on top of hers.
"Rather than shake my hand, you should be showing me a sample copy instead."
A sample? I shook my head. Irisu-san gave a small sigh. Did I mess things up? She then softly spoke while I remained startled.
"...It's all right since it's me, but if you're really going to ask someone to sell your anthology for you, you should at least bring a sample with you. Or you won't be able to convince anyone."
I-I see. So that's how one gets things done.
"I understand. Thank you so much!"
It was then that I began thinking. Yesterday I hardly achieved anything. Maybe I spent so much time worrying about what to do next that my request would still get turned down. I've spent a lot of effort explaining my situation to both Tanabe-san and Toogaito-san, but if I had asked Irisu-san to come with me back then, I might not have had my requests turned down.
Yes, I must not make the same mistakes as yesterday. I must ensure my success rate is improved from now on.
Having made my mind, I decided to make another request to Irisu-san.
"W-what is it?"
Oh no, I ended up approaching too near to her. This was a bad habit which Oreki-san has often told me to be careful of. I took one step back.
"Irisu-san, you're good at having other people carry out your requests, right?"
"Please teach me how you do it!"
Irisu-san made a flustered, out-of-character yelp, though her ruffled state only lasted for a moment before she began chuckling.
"...Heh, I've been called a lot of things, but never 'good at having other people carry out requests' before," she muttered.
Leaning against the emergency exit, Irisu-san gazed at me and spoke slowly.
"Right. You do tend to be too direct in your approaches sometimes. I'll teach you two or three methods which you can remember."
"What do you know about role-playing?"
Irisu-san lowered her head and closed her eyes and began thinking. This was the first time I'd ever seen her taking time to think. My body went stiff from the anxiety,
"...Right... Well, let's put it this way," she muttered and opened her eyes. She then raised her clenched fist towards me. I instinctively leaned backwards as a result.
"There are two ways to get people to carry out your requests. First, there is one in which you're expected to repay the favour received."
She lifted her index finger.
"The second is where you do not repay any favour."
She then lifted her middle finger. Before long, she withdrew both fingers and placed her hand back on her hip.
"For requests where you're to repay the favour, it means the person you're asking does not trust you."
Maybe it had something to do with her calm way of speaking, but Irisu-san's serene voice seemed to have blocked out the noise generated by the Cultural Festival around us.
"For situations where you're dealing with strangers which you would not deal with again after you receive the favour, in nine out of ten cases, they would consider your request a rip-off. Even if they don't, they would try to minimize the effort they would put into handling your request. So in cases where you're expected to repay the favour, you mustn't just think about what you would expect them to do, but also take into consideration the time they have and the effort they're willing to make. You must also take into consideration that they may not be able to do what you request of them. If you're unwilling to do that, then they too will not be willing to take such a risk for your request.
"While you could use reverse psychology to make them think they're ripping you off instead, that would be too difficult for you. So for the moment being, you're more suited to the second type, where trust would be needed.
"In such a situation, you would need to provide them with mental satisfaction in order to carry out your request. It is easy to cut corners when only a physical reward is available, but not so for a mental reward. The best way to achieve that is to make them feel they're charismatic or popular, but you will find you would not have much opportunity to use those. The next would be faith and love, but these would require a lot of time to prepare beforehand. By the way, I myself have never relied on these two.
"If possible, you should take advantage of their sense of justice or duty, their professional spirit or their self-esteem, but its difficulty is above intermediate. Though once you get the hang of those, you should be able to apply them to many situations.
"On the other end of the spectrum would be to make them think they're feared or superior to you, but we'll not go into that today.
"For you, as a beginner, you should aim to have expectations of them.
"Listen up, it's basically to make them think that 'Only they could accomplish this request of yours.' To make them think they're your only hope, which is pretty easy to do. It would not be rare for them to even make some sacrifices for you, since you have expectations of them, even if you're just pretending to.
"In addition, do not make them think the problem is huge. Don't let them know that you're desperate for their help. There just aren't many people who would help others solve a major problem with no benefit to themselves. Instead, you should make it look like the problem is very trivial, that way it'll make them feel exceptional.
"Finally, if possible, make the request where no one else is around to someone of the opposite gender."
For a moment, my head went blurry.
I-I just heard something really amazing. I never even thought about these things before. In order to have a stranger do one's request, one must make them feel loved and trusted, as well as feel superior because you have expectations of them, alone in a place where nobody can see... It's going to be difficult for me to digest all of this at once.
I would need time to slowly understand all of this. At any rate, I would need to thank Irisu-san.
"Um, umm, I..."
Yet Irisu-san merely said, "Hurry up and bring the copies over."
And hurriedly returned to the Audio Visual Room.
I should at least bow deeply in gratitude to her.
Thank you very much! Irisu-san, I will not let your advice go to waste!
027 - ♠08
The paperback novel I brought turned out to be quite a bore.
Though I hadn't exactly wasted my money as I bought it for only 100 yen from a new second-hand bookstore, I still felt like i had been ripped off by them. I just couldn't force myself to continue reading on. Having said that, there's was nothing I could do but yawn. I should have brought a backup novel.
Hearing the A Capella Club singing yesterday sure was a good way to kill time. Wondering if they'd be singing again, I decided to stand up and open the windows... And I smelled a scent of burning leaves, as right below me were some people surrounding a stove. As there seemed to be some sort of armed sentries in that group, that must be the Gardening Club.
Sweet potatoes - just smelling their scent makes one feel famished. Whether its sweet potatoes or not, at the moment I felt like eating anything, since I overslept this morning and decided to skip breakfast. This was really my sis's fault for taking my alarm clock from my room without permission. As a result, I'm feeling a bit hungry. As it was only eleven, it was still too early for lunch.
As I continued to stare at the stove...
"Trick or Treat!"
Someone intruded while shouting in strange voices. They sounded like girls, but I have no idea who they are if I can't see their faces. Or rather, there was no way I could see their faces. There were two intruders, both carrying baskets covered in white cloth and wearing pumpkin masks over their heads... Pumpkins?
W-what on earth? Pumpkin Heads? Halloween costumes already?
As I continued to look bewildered, "Trick or Treat!"
They made the same greeting again while flailing their arms.
Were they trying to dance?
...I needed to calm down. All right, so they're in a Halloween mood. Does that mean I should throw beans at them? Or I should pour sweet tea at them?
No, wait, I remember now. I looked coldly at the dancing pumpkin heads and said, "If it's candy you want, I haven't got any, so get lost."
One of the pumpkin heads gasped.
"Yikes! How mean!"
"But you are welcome to buy our anthologies."
"Who the hell are you guys anyway!?"
It was then the two pumpkin heads walked forward in synchrony and showed me their baskets. As though trained for this, they both spoke at the same time.
"We're doing door-to-door sales for the Confectioneries Studies Club. Would you like some cookies, biscuits and cream puffs?"
"What if I said no?"
"...Trick or Treat!"
OK, I get it. I get it already, so stop dancing, you pushy saleswomen.
But this could be great timing,
"How much is one of your biscuits?"
"Heh heh, it's 100 yen per bag, master!"
They really don't have much consistency with their sales pitches. I took out one copy of Hyouka.
Whoa, they reverted to their normal voices.
"It's an anthology by the Classics Club. 200 yen per copy. I can swap two bags of your biscuits with this."
"Oh, don't say that, I want your biscuits, after all."
"That'll upset the balance between supply and demand~"
It's useless. I decided to take out my wallet.
"Wow! What's that? It's so cool!"
One of the pumpkin heads, who was looking around the room, suddenly raised her voice. In her hand was the Glock 17 pistol.
"Wow, cool! How come you have one of these? Could you be a collector?"
"Hey, you think it would be better for our sales if we carry this around?"
Really? I think you'd scare everybody instead.
Oh well, if they wanted it, "I'll give you that semi-auto along with the anthology for two bags of your biscuits."
"Really? You're giving it to us?"
I nodded. Holding the Glock in her hand, she began dancing again. After spinning one turn, she took out two bags of biscuits from her basket as well as a small yellow paper bag.
"Here's a sign of gratitude from the pumpkins."
Without answering my question, the two pumpkin heads took the glock and a copy of Hyouka and left. Those heads look rather large, will they be able to stand properly in those... Just hope they don't trip.
Opening the paper bag, I looked inside.
It's wheat flour. Looking at the description, it says "weak flour."
Once again I've obtained something I have no use for.
From a fountain pen to a badge, from a badge to a Glock, and now from a Glock to a bag of flour. This somehow feels like the story of the straw millionaire, yet somehow, the items I'm receiving don't seem to be rising in value. Come to think of it, weren't these people giving me these items simply because they have no use for them themselves?
Taking out 200 yen from my wallet, I placed them into the candy box which doubled as a register. Leaning back towards the windowside, I opened one of the bags of biscuits.
[171 COPIES REMAINING]
028 - ♣09
It's just past eleven. The Cooking Club's tournament will take place at half-past eleven.
This may sound like me bragging, but I do have some confidence when it comes to cooking. Though I have not taken into calculation about having three people as a team. I would have enjoyed it better if I could do this all on my own, but as we're not allowed to participate alone, I guess it can't be helped. Still, it's not as if I wouldn't enjoy myself, so I've invited Mayaka and Chitanda-san along as well. While it's also interesting to see Houtarou carry a knife, he probably wouldn't come even if I invited him.
Except... On one hand, Mayaka can really cook. I knew that, as she would occasionally bring her own boxed lunch. Though I don't know about Chitanda-san, so she's an unknown factor. When I told her about it, she readily agreed, "Understood. It's to promote our anthology, right?"
That was one of my concerns. Actually, I had two concerns. By the way, should they be called "concerns?" Wouldn't it be better if I describe them as "worries?" Hmm, I must do some research regarding the meanings of these words. Anyway, my other concern was whether Mayaka would make it on time after finishing her duties with the Manga Club.
Deciding to pay her a visit, I headed towards Preparation Room No. 1.
Whoa, there's quite a lot of people here. And Mayaka was saying how the Manga Club was quiet yesterday. It's basically packed today, it's like a carnival here. As I thought that, I noticed a poster pasted on the door:
|Speed Poster Drawing
Featuring two of our best artists! (The Esper vs The Panther)
...I had never heard of such an event before.
I decided to take a peek.
I let out a gasp.
Mayaka, dressed in a cardigan over her blouse and wearing a beret cap, was scribbling her pen across an A3 paper without even moving her eyes away. This was Mayaka in serious mode. I could even hear the pen being tapped on the paper as she drew. I could even see her cheeks reddening as though blood was rushing to her head. I had no idea what she was drawing as I couldn't see it from here.
Next to her, the girl in a tuxedo was just as amazing. Just when I thought there were still a lot of white areas in her drawing, as though receiving some divine inspiration, she began to boldly colour the drawing already.
Again, I had no idea what she was colouring, but within five minutes...
She handed her drawing to the girls waiting before her. At once, many people gathered and placed the drawing on a table for it to dry. It was then I saw what it was, a drawing of a female character from a popular monthly manga series. That is good. That's Mayaka's drawing, no doubt. So Mayaka does the drawing while the tuxedo girl does the colouring.
Two of the Manga Studies Club's best artists, huh? I see.
I chuckled and turned back.
If Mayaka ended up not attending the cooking tournament and it resulted in us losing by default as a result of this, I wouldn't have complained.
Translator's Notes and References
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