Hyouka:Volume 3 Chapter 5-3

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5-3 The Curtain Closes

063 - ♣20



The special, three-day long festive atmosphere is quickly coming to an end. And it was time for me and the General Committee to prepare for the Closing Ceremony.

The phantom thief "Juumoji" had magnificently achieved his final objective and made the Classics Club lose its proofread manuscript. The result was announced by the Wall Newspaper Club, while the details were spread via word of mouth. With the last target being taken down, the "Juumoji" Incident has come to an end. And as though the final event of the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival has ended, everyone realized the Cultural Festival too is coming to an end.

As the Closing Ceremony approaches, I walked towards Mayaka, dressed in a track suit. I never did asked why she was wearing such a track suit for nearly the whole day today. Come to think of it, Houtarou got a bruise on his eyebrow for correctly guessing something. But I'm not as good as he is, and I was unable to ask her properly.

Yet, as though completely forgetting about the Manga Study Club, Mayaka was mad at something else entirely,

"I don't believe this! How did he manage to bring fire in? Did he threw matches? But we didn't find any......"

She was like that for a while now. She must have thought acting as guards was just a marketing ploy to sell our Hyouka anthologies, but we never thought "Juumoji" would actually appear, so she was pretty shocked. All I could do was casually shrug my shoulders to tell her I wouldn't know the answer to her question either. After all, I much prefer seeing Mayaka look so worked up than dejected.

We walked down the stairs to the first floor.

"Hey, Fukube,"

Someone called me, it was Tani-kun.

I made an abjected smile as befitting of a loser. As I really have lost, so it was not a hard expression to make. Though it was not Tani-kun that I had lost to.

"Hey, Tani-kun. As you see, we got had. You were at the Geology Room, right?"

"Of course,"

Yet, Tani-kun spoke with less confidence than before. That's to be expected. I went on to ask,

"So, Tani-kun, did you manage to find out who 'Juumoji' was?"

Tani-kun's face scowled for an instance. He probably felt a sense of humiliation. Yet he quickly went back to his relaxed demeanor, and said in a graceful manner,

"Nope, I haven't,"

"I see,"

"Well, there were too little clues. With so little information, one could never come to any conclusion no matter how much they would think about it,"

There were indeed too little clues.

"Then, what about you? Did you figure out something?"

He smiled while asking with serious eyes, I smiled bitterly and shook my head. Tani-kun quickly show a sign of relief,

"I see, I see. Even you couldn't solve it. And I had expected something of you,"

"Sorry to let you down."

"Don't worry about it. Well, it was a fun Cultural Festival. I'll have to repay you for the Cooking Club clue you gave me someday,"

Come to think of it, I did tell him something like that, but it was quite some time ago.

We waved at each other and walked our separate paths. Mayaka then asked,

"Your friend?"

...... Hmm, I wonder?

"Not exactly a friend,"

"Then what?"

"Hmm, let's see, you could say he's just a classmate,"

I gave it some thought,

"He's bad in Languages, I think,"

"So he flunked his tests often?"

"Not really. How should I say it, it's the way he uses his words that's weird,"

Mayaka raised her eyebrows, indicating that I was saying something strange again. I smiled and explained,

"He uses the word 'expect' a bit too lightly,"

"...... What's wrong with that? It's not like it's a taboo word,"

"Uh uh,"

I raised my right index finger and waved it two, three times,

"This is a really complex subject. I'll explain to you once the Cultural Festival is over,"

"Um, Fuku-chan,"

"One should not use the word 'expect' when one is confident of himself,"

I interrupted Mayaka before she could continue, which was kind of rare. Mayaka shut her mouth and held back whatever it was she had wanted to say.

Looking down the decorated corridor, I smiled. I was pretty good at smiling, to the point of not knowing how to make a serious face.

"Dictionaries usually have a preset definition for a word. I myself am not really a person that quotes from dictionaries. So, Mayaka, while I wouldn't know how a dictionary would define this word, but for me, 'Expect' is only something you say when you've given up,"

"......"

I really hoped she would have said something in response, or I'm just talking to myself,

"One only expects when one is depleted of time, resources or energy. The reason Nelson said 'England expects that every man will do his duty' to his men was because even Nelson himself wasn't so sure if he could defeat France. One only expects when one has run out of all other options.

"Tani-kun doesn't really expect anything from me, as he thought he was able to figure something out by himself. It's concerning how young people these days misuse their words, there should be a reform of the Japanese Language education. You only use the word 'expect' in occasions like......"

As expected of Mayaka. Just when I thought she was merely listening, she spoke with her usual annoyed tone,

"Like how Oreki beat you in figuring something out?"

Bravo. I clapped my hands,

"...... Wow, how'd you know? I didn't even tell anybody about it,"

"If it's Fuku-chan, I could tell just by looking,"

Was I really the type to show stuff on my face?

Approaching the gymnasium, the corridor was still full of smiling students from Kami High. Everyone either felt fully satisfied, or wanted to spend as much fun as they could in these three days. Dwarfed by such laughter, we could hardly hear each other speak. And so I pretended not to hear Mayaka's reply.

"...... Fuku-chan, did you want to beat Oreki that much?"

Yet I was unable to ignore that. No, that's not it, that's not what I had intended, but......

"Well, it's complicated for guys. You wouldn't understand even if I explained it to you,"

Glancing sideways at me, Mayaka muttered something without making any sound. I managed to make out "That's not true" by her lip movements. It's just that Mayaka rarely makes such a quiet expression, and I've not seen her like that before.

So in response, I cheerfully placed my hands behind my head and said,

"I should have realized from the start now that I think about it. I was careless. He's the sort that would finish things off neatly without making any unnecessary movements for not even a moment,"

Mayaka tilted her head to signal she doesn't understand what I was saying. Entering the connecting passageway, we got closer to the gymnasium where the Closing Ceremony will be held. With a voice that the Kami High Students around us could hear, I spoke clearly. After all, this was something I felt no shame in saying as I was very sure of it,

"I can't come to any conclusions just based on my own database alone."

Mayaka smiled bitterly in response.



064 - ♥15



In the end, Irisu-san was able to sell all 30 copies of Hyouka that I gave to her, that's 15% of the total amount of copies. I never thought we would be able to sell them off via this method, so I was at a lost at how to thank her.

Handing me a small nylon bag containing the proceedings, Irisu-san said softly,

"If I could, I had wanted to sell them at the full price,"

"No, that's more than enough,"

Those 30 copies were sold at a 50 yen discount, still 150 yen is worth more than nothing. It's better to sell these 30 copies at a discount than discard them completely, after all.

While I haven't heard the exact figures from Oreki-san, but I hear that he's sold quite a lot of copies in the Geology Room. I was able to feel some relief at last after such a long anxious Cultural Festival. After that...... yes, all that's left is to investigate the person known as "Juumoji-san". I'll do this. There's nothing that can stop me.

After giving my awkward thanks, I was about to return when Irisu-san stopped me.

"Yes?"

"Hmm...... I think I'd better say this to you now.

It is rare for Irisu-san to be so hesitant with her words. I wonder if it's something important? I stood up straight and replied,

"Yes, what is it?"

She spoke as though carefully choosing her words,

"My advice...... I heard you using it on the school radio broadcast."

Oh, the school radio broadcast. Anyone in school would have heard that broadcast. Even though I knew that already, when being told of that fact, it still felt a little embarrassing.

Still, it was thanks to Irisu-san that my radio interview went smoothly. That's right, I must thank her properly for this,

"It's thanks to Irisu-san that I was able to do this properly, I......"

"It's about that,"

Irisu-san interrupted me with a forceful tone,

"I was too naive. I never thought you would reenact what I had advised.

"I knew what your intention was when you agreed to appear on that radio programme. You probably brought a memo along with you when you went, right? So I'm going to tell you clearly, you're not suited for this sort of thing."

"......"

Without realizing, I nodded gently.

Once she began, Irisu-san showed no sign of stopping,

"Unless I'm mistaken, I always knew you are the type to not want to rely on the help of others.

"Yet, I don't think you should go on manipulating expectations of other people like that. With the way way you spoke and demeanor you put on, it makes you sound very dependent. While it's a very effective way to give someone the illusion that they're reliable. Yet it's risky for you to go on like that, not just in the long term, but in the short term as well,"

She gave a very serious advice.

She was right. I realized I was very uncomfortable with myself after that radio broadcast. During that time, or rather, during these three days, I wondered if I was being too dependent on other people.

Maybe I was too conscious of my relationship with Oreki-san. Anxiously aware that I was constantly making him do the explanation on things I don't understand, without even trying to figure it out myself.

However.

To rely on this many people, and to get some deal out of them was, how should I say this? ...... Yes, to quote from Oreki-san, this goes against my personal creed.

I think it's problematic to rely on someone else to solve one's own problems. While it is true that the Classics Club was unable to sell all the anthologies on its own, but I'm not used to such a solution. I was unable to distinguish between 'expectation' and 'reliance'. Could my fatigue last night be related to such anxieties?

With some trepidation, I asked,

"Did I really sound that dependent?"

Irusu-san raised her hand to the side of her face, and lifted her little finger.

"...... Girlfriend?"

"No, I mean you sounded as dependent as the tip of my finger,"

Irisu-san continued,

"If you keep on with such an act, sooner or later pretending can turn into your reality. It's true that you've never negotiated like that before...... but in that case, you should have placed your expectations on people who could do the task. What I'm trying to say is, you should quit with such unskilled maneuvering and just say what you want to say. While going straight to the point is often your weakness, on the other hand, it could also be your greatest weapon...... You understand what I mean?"

Yes, I do. Irisu-san was worried about me.

Though with apologies to her, she may be worrying too much. So I gave her a reassuring smile andsaid,

"Yes, I was thinking the same thing...... I just felt I wasn't suited for such a thing. Umm, in other words...... I'm tired of it."

Irisu-san smiled gently in response.



065 - ♦12



After the Closing Ceremony had ended, the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival officially comes to an end. Though normal lessons won't resume right away, as before that, all students are required to clean up the school before leaving.

Borrowing something from Oreki, I took this moment to head to the First Preparation Room. I didn't feel like heading to the Manga Club, and I wasn't thinking of defeating Kouchi-sempai now of all times. Still, I had wanted to at least show her Ashes at Dusk. My position in the Manga Club and its policy during the Cultural Festival notwithstanding, I simply wanted to show it to her as a fellow manga lover.

As luck would have it, Kouchi-sempai was outside the classroom speaking with President Yuasa. I called her out from some distance,

"Sempai,"

They both turned around,

"...... Oh, Ibara,"

Kouchi-sempai sighed, and asked with her usual upright demeanor,

"Yes, what is it?"

"I know it's a little late, but, here......"

I presented the Ashes at Dusk copy to her,

"I've brought it, the manga that I believe would become a classic one day,"

Kouchi-sempai's gaze sharpened as though it would shoot through my chest. She looked at the copy of Ashes at Dusk with quite some bitterness before sighing deeply,

"Let's go somewhere else,"



The place she took me was the same place I spoke with President Yuasa, the roof of the connecting corridor. Leaning on the handrail, Kouchi-sempai glanced down at the courtyard below. I stood a few paces from her and watched her back. In the background, we could hear the sound of people cleaning things up, tearing down their makeshift stalls. The breeze blowing in the late afternoon felt a little chilly.

I continued to stand behind her as she stared at the courtyard. From this angle, her figure looked rather small. She spoke while still facing her back to me,

"...... So you really brought it with you?"

"Yes. Though it's not exactly mine,"

I realized my lips were getting dry, and licked them before continuing,

"Sempai, you knew about this manga, didn't you?"

"Yuasa told you, didn't she? She can be pretty nosey sometimes,"

"She said you were friends with the author of this manga,"

Though I could not see as she was facing her back to me, I could feel as though she was smiling gently,

"Friend, huh? I wonder how Haruna's doing now. I did ask for her number, just in case. I haven't spoken to her for so long now,"

"Have you read this manga?"

There was no reply.

My knees were trembling, but not because it was cold. While I was used to brow beating Fuku-chan, I had never pressed a question on someone else like this before...... I was scared, so much my heart was beating faster and my legs trembled.

Though as there was only the two of us, no one would notice how scared I was. I tightened my fists further,

"...... I, understand what you're trying to say. Whether a manga is interesting or not is purely subjective, I also understand that it's up to every individual to decide whether a manga suits oneself or not.

"But, I still think this is incorrect. Wouldn't that be a bit too futile?"

Sempai's voice was extremely calm,

"Well, for Ashes at Dusk, it's on the serious side, you know. If my preference was comedy, I wouldn't bother reading it. Isn't that the case?"

"No, it isn't. One would stop reading only after one has started. So I'm sure that this manga has that ability to make you understand once you read it,"

"Only to those who'd understand the difference."

"Kouchi-sempai!"

Sempai continued to face her back towards me without turning around. Slowly putting her hand in her breast pocket, she took something out. It sounded like a pen as I could hear her removing the cap. She then began to scribble something on the handrail.

"...... I was joking,"

"Eh?"

I thought I had heard wrong, yet Kouchi-sempai repeated herself,

"I was only joking. Of course I'd understand. You really think I'd seriously say everyone's work is worth the same subjectively? You sure can't take a joke, silly girl."

"......"

I slowly relaxed the grip I had on my fists. Ayako doesn't really mean what she said, Those words of President Yuasa echoed in my head.

I could feel the cold breeze blowing through my track suit.

Under such a breeze, I could barely hear Kouchi-sempai clearing her throat,

"It just couldn't leave me be,"

"......?"

"I did read it, but only half way before stopping. Though I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. But I still won't read it, do you know why?"

I shook my head.

I couldn't see her expression from behind, but I could hear her laughing softly,

"You said I'd understand it I read it, right? Yeah, I did understand. A lot. But, I couldn't bring myself to admit it.

"What about you? What if a friend who has never read any manga before decided to write one herself and comes up with something like that...... you'd normally think it'd be ridiculous, right?"

"......"

What about you?

I couldn't understand why she would never read a manga written by her friend.

...... No, was that really what I think?"

What if Chi-chan suddenly decided to draw a manga?

And what if she ended up creating a masterpiece like Ashes at Dusk?

Would I be able to read it smiling?

Kouchi-sempai stopped her scribbling. Her words have been unusually calm,

"So I hid it away in a box and stored it way inside. To the point where I could not see it and tell myself such a masterpiece doesn't exist. But it just couldn't let me be. Who would have thought a copy sold in last year's Kanya Festival would end up reappearing in the hands of a first year? And during Kanya Festival to boot.

"...... It must be fate,"

Sempai said while putting the cap back on her pen. As though leaping, she pushed herself away from the handrail. Waving her hand, she headed towards the school building. Without looking at me, she said,

"I'm sorry that you went through the trouble of showing me this, but I won't read it. Since it's not yours, you'll have to return it to its owner. Because, you know?

"If I read it, I'll have to call her. And I'd have to say 'I read it, it was amazing! I look forward to your next piece!' That's not something I'd want to say, you know?"

I wasn't able to stop Kouchi-sempai from leaving. Walking lightly as though nothing had happened, she disappeared from my sight. All this time, she never saw me in the face.

It was then I noticed the doodle that she had scribbled on the handrail. It was a semi-deformed character, an anthropomorphic cat. He wasn't wearing anything in particular except for a pair of baggy boots...... I realized I had seen this character before, and I whispered,

"This is...... from Body Talk,"

I see.

So that's why.

Both of my treasured mangas Ashes at Dusk and Body Talk were amazing. But if I had to choose one out of those two, I would have to pick Ashes at Dusk after some agonizing.

And I realized Kouchi-sempai would also come to the same conclusion.

I......


In comparison to Ashes at Dusk and Body Talk, I was reminded of how boring my own manga was, and suddenly I felt myself tearing up......



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