Hyouka:Volume 3 Chapter 5-4
5-4 Behind the Stage
060 - ♠17
Noon. The third day of the Kamiyama High School Cultural Festival.
The bicycle parking lot.
There's only four hours until the Closing Ceremony...... We don't really have a lot of time.
I'm feeling hungry, but I'm gonna have to hold it in. Though I may have my boxed lunch here, but it just wouldn't feel right.
The school radio broadcast should begin anytime now. Would Chitanda be able to perform as expected? If she was the same as the previous two days, then it'll be game over by the time the programme starts, as she'll probably right off the bat say "Please buy the Classics Club anthologies!"
Besides us, there was no one else around. There were no walls, just the lonely sight of an elongated roof covering the parked bicycles, a far cry from the lively atmosphere of the Cultural Festival. I put down the shoulder bag I was holding, as it was quite heavy, and instantly felt a relief on my shoulders.
"What's that for?"
He asked, I replied in a nonchalant manner,
"In short, I didn't come all this way just for nothing,"
"It's not a bribe, is it?"
"Well, not quite, but close enough,"
I smiled bitterly.
"I'll get straight to the point. You must be 'Juumoji', right?"
Unexpectedly, "Juumoji" smiled at my suggestion,
"Surely that's just a wild guess?"
"Chances of making a correct wild guess would have been less than one in a thousand. It's not that simple."
"As I don't really have that much free time, so I'll at least hear what you've got to say,"
As he said that, he leaned against a nearby pole. I took out a greeting card from my pocket,
"In a hurry huh? Well, so am I. I'll make this as short as possible.
"First, this is the card that's left in the scene of crime. Why would the culprit use the word 'lost' to describe items being taken? To be precise, what was the difference between 'lost' and 'stolen'?"
He showed some interest, though his expression remained unmoved.
"There wouldn't be much difference whether the A Capella Club had things stolen or lost. Yet along the way, something was not merely stolen, but completely destroyed. And that was a major hint. You have stolen everything from that, but why is that?"
While the "Juumoji" Incident was foretold in Ashes at Dusk, but the connection is still very weak. There must be some other meaning.
"The odd one out would be [KU]. You had skipped [KU] and didn't steal anything from that.
"Of course, had you followed the greeting card's procedure, then you wouldn't have 'stolen' from [KU], but make it 'lose' something.
"The question now would be, why would you not have [KU] lose anything? By skipping one character, you would have destroyed the meaning behind the word 'Juumoji' (ten characters). While Satoshi said it's because the Global Act Club was so heavily guarded that you've opted to avoid it, I do not believe that is the case. If we follow 'Juumoji's' modus operandum, it just wouldn't feel natural. It would feel totally random for you to just skip one character and then target [SA] as the final target," (TL Note [SA] comes after [KU] in the Gojuuon)
I took a brief pause. As my throat was getting dry from the low moisture,
"To abandon the aesthetics of keeping within ten characters would be too unnatural, no matter how I think about it, it doesn't make sense for you to skip [KU]. But what if you had not abandoned that aesthetic, what if you had stuck to the natural order of things? In other words, what if 'Juumoji' had actually worked according to plan?
"...... What if you had also made [KU] lose something?
"Based on the message on these greeting cards, your message would have been: '[KU] had already lost something to begin with, so there was nothing to take from it'. What if that were true?"
I took a glimpse at his expression, which remained unchanged. Was he prepared for me to turn him in, or did I guess incorrectly? No, there was no sign of weakness from him. Then I'll have to go on,
"How about this? 'The owner of [KU] has lost something beginning with [KU] to begin with. - Juumoji' Indicating that it was not 'Juumoji' that had taken from [KU],"
Silence. Expecting that he would make no response, I went on,
"This is actually an accusation. Telling the victim that they have lost something on their own. In other words, the 'Juumoji' Incident actually contains a hidden message. A message intended for the owner of [KU],"
For the first time, 'Juumoji' replied,
"That would have been a very elaborate hidden message, there's no way it could be relayed,"
"You're right. Normally it would have been impossible,"
"Then we're not going where if it was impossible to begin with."
But that is not true,
"It would be a different story altogether if the owner of [KU] has a way of interpreting the message. You would send the message, and [KU] would decipher it. It would not be impossible then,"
"But it's not just if, as you have already created such a method, which I believe can be found in the plot of Ashes at Dusk,"
He had been able to remain calm until now, yet his eyes widened upon hearing the title Ashes at Dusk, as though saying "How did you know such a title?" He would have lost had he uttered that loud. Calming myself, even if he had not reacted as expected, I decided to continue in my usual tone,
"The Kudryavka Sequence is inspired by Agatha Christie's best known work, from which the 'Juumoji' Incident is born. Using The Kudryavka Sequence as a benchmark, the hidden message would be solved and the owner of [KU] would be......"
I looked up at him,
"Kugayama Muneyoshi ([KU]GAYAMA陸山), President of the Student Council, and illustrator of Ashes at Dusk. Am I right?"
Concealing his unease, he placed his hand under his chin and began thinking. As though pondering his next time, slowly he began speaking,
"'Juumoji' only targets clubs, yet you say [KU] is a person's name? It doesn't make sense,"
A swift response.
"The name 'Juumoji' merely hints that there would be ten targets, no where does it say that he would only target clubs,"
"Now that's stretching it,"
"Not really. As the culprit, you have already provided a list of targets to begin with.
"Why would the culprit leave behind not just a greeting card, but a copy of the Kanya Festival Guide? The clue can be found in Christie's The A.B.C. Murders, the guide is actually a list of the targets. By leaving a page open when leaving behind each copy of the Kanya Festival Guide, you had wanted to give people a fair chance of guessing. I'm guessing The Kudryavka Sequence would also be something like that had it been published. The opened page contains not only a list of participating clubs and comments,"
In other words, it's this page:
Light Music Club Though we're more of a band, this time we'll be registering as the Light Music Club. All day in the Martial Arts Dojo.
"The list of targets can all be found in page 33. This explains seemingly random choices like how The Cooking Club ([O] RYOURI KENKYUUKAI) was targeted over the Occult Studies Club ([O]KARUTO KENKYUUKAI), or the Gardening Club ([E]NGEI BU) over the Film Studies Club ([E]IGA KENKYUUKAI). Rather than a declaration of crime, this Kanya Festival Guide is more like an advanced notice,"
"Furthermore, on page 33, there are no clubs that begin with [KU], yet there is a person's name, that of President Kugayama,"
I made a deep breath before going on,
"Let's take a brief detour. By this point, we can guess as to what sort of person 'Juumoji' is, and which club he belongs to. It would be too random for all the targeted clubs to fall so neatly into the same page. The only people capable of manipulating the order of how the clubs are displayed would be the General Committee, the greeting cards would be by the same people as well,
"By the way, concerning The Cooking Club. I had confirmed with their president that they had prepared a ladle before the tournament. For an item to be prepared before a tournament to go missing, the suspect must be involved with the tournament preparation somehow. Satoshi probably had so much fun that he probably didn't work much, but I'm guessing the General Committee had a hand in helping out with the tournament preparation, right?"
He could do nothing but smile bitterly. In which case, it makes my explanation much simpler,
"Well, there are like twenty people or more in the General Committee. So this would not be enough to pinpoint the culprit,
"On the other hand, I also know that Anjou Haruna, the author of Ashes at Dusk, and President Kugayama, whom she worked with, would also know about The Kudryavka Sequence. In other words, Kugayama should be able to decipher the message hidden in the 'Juumoji' Incident,
"Then what about the culprit, 'Juumoji'? Who is this person that was mimicking the plot of The Kudrayvka Sequence in an attempt to relay a message to Kugayama?
"We have a ten character rule starting with [A], and an accusation that 'something has already been lost to begin with'
"Now this is a bold speculation, but what if the message was Kugayama had lost the manuscript for The Kudryavka Sequence? Something which Anjou Haruna, who had left Kami High, had left behind. Perhaps the culprit could not forgive Kugayama, who had wasted the preview that 'Ajimu Takuha' had written, and thus instigated the 'Juumoji' Incident.
"In other words, the culprit's message would be: 'Kugayama ([KU]GAYAMA) has lost The Kudryavka Sequence ([KU]DORIYAFUKA NO JUNBAN) '.
"Finally, the afterword of Ashes at Dusk was written by neither Anjou nor Kugayama, but by a third person in charge of the background drawings. So 'Juumoji' is none other this third member of 'Ajimu Takuha',"
From the shoulder bag on the ground, I took out a copy of Ashes at Dusk. I showed him the cover, which clearly shows the author's name "AJIMU TAKUHA".
" 'Ajimu Takuha' is a rare pen name. I heard it's named after some town in Kyushu. This may be a bit stretching it, but what if this pen name was a composite of the names of the three creators of Ashes at Dusk? For example, if Tarou ([TA]ROU) and Jirou ([JI]ROU) had formed a unit, its name would be 'Taji' ([TA][JI]),
"We have Anjou Haruna ([A]NJOU [HA]RUNA),
"We also have Kugayama Muneyoshi ([KU]GAYAMA [MU]NEYOSHI),
"From 'Ajimu Takuha' ([A][JI][MU] [TA][KU][HA]), we can deduce the third person's name by taking off the initial characters of the other two. That would leave [JI] and [TA],
"The culprit would be amongst the second years that have participated in last year's Cultural Festival, who is a member of the General Committee, whose names contains the characters [TA] and [JI], who is close to Kugayama, and who is familiar with drawing manga. There can only be one person who fits the above description,"
I spoke in a calm tone that surprises even myself,
"It would be you, Tanabe Jirou-sempai. ([TA]NABE [JI]ROU)"
"That's amazing. I would never have thought anyone else besides Mune and Anjou-san would be able to decipher such a message,"
Tanabe clapped his hands. I meekly accepted his applause, as I didn't expect to be praised for this. Leaving that aside, I began to speak more frankly,
"What I don't understand is why you would go through such lengths just to convey a message? Surely you could have just told him directly,"
As I said that, I began to guess what his answer would be. And as expected, Tanabe smiled bitterly,
"I would have told him already if I could. And besides...... you must have vaguely guessed it yourself, as to why I would use such a method,"
While he flatters me too much, it's true that I've vaguely guessed the reason,
"This Cultural Festival is exactly one year since you've published Ashes at Dusk, so could this act be your way of expressing your sentiment to Anjou Haruna's departure?"
"Heh, sentiment, huh? That could be true, and since it's the Cultural Festival, it could be a desire to pull a prank as well. It's boring being stuck in the conference room all day, you know. So I decided to have some fun,"
Sentiment and fun. For him to carry out the "Juumoji" Incident just for these reasons, Tanabe's values sure contrast largely with my own energy-conserving ones.
Speaking in a faint voice that was hard to hear, he added,
"...... But the most important reason, was because I was unable to tell him so,"
I knew nothing about Tanabe or Kugayama. There's no reason for me to know what had happened between these two. And to be honest, I'm not interested. So I cleared my throat.
From here on is the main dish.
I slightly lowered my voice,
"Well then, now comes the negotiation.
"Besides accepting your applause, there's something else that I would like you to help out with,"
"Hmm, and what would that be?"
Even faced with a deal that concerns whether I could turn him in, Tanabe didn't look the least bit anxious. The biggest reaction I've seen from him so far was when I uttered the title for The Kudryavka Sequence. He sure has some guts.
"Oh, it's simple really,"
I took out the items from the shoulder bag,
"...... I'd like you to buy these,"
The items were of course the Hyouka anthologies.
This was my plan to expand sales: Expose "Juumoji's" identity, and then have him buy the Hyouka copies, in bulk. Compared to trying to appeal ourselves through tournaments, this was way more efficient.
"The anthology Hyouka, 30 copies in total,"
"What are you...... some gangster?"
"What're you talking about?"
"After finding out that I'm 'Juumoji', you're now asking me to buy these anthologies from you,"
I find it troubling to be described as some shady character, so I smiled bitterly and said,
"Oh, no, of course not. I won't go so far as to extort money from you personally. That's not what I was thinking,"
"...... I don't get it. Then what do you intend to do with those anthologies if you're not selling them?"
"I did say I was going to sell them, however, the ones buying would be,"
I took a deep breath,
"The General Committee,"
Tanabe's face went pale. It would be bothersome if he were to raise a commotion, so I continued,
"It's not ridiculous at all.
"I saw it, on the Kamiyama High School home page. You guys are putting merchandise from the Cultural Festival on sale there, aren't you? And since these anthologies are related to the Cultural Festival, it wouldn't be out of place, would they? You can simply buy them in the General Committee's name and then put them up on the site for sale,"
Tanabe was at a lost for words. He went into thought for a while before saying,
"...... These anthologies, they're not really that popular, are they?"
"In other words, you'll agree to put them on sale if they're popular enough?"
So he's unable to make such an easy commitment, or something like that. Tanabe began choosing his words carefully,
"If they're popular. To begin with, we had a lot of trouble trying to sell most of the items on the site. We would have asked you already if we had wanted to put those anthologies on the site for sale. That's how these sites work anyway...... So you're gonna need a very good reason for us to accept such an offer,"
"But Hyouka will be popular,"
"Thanks to the 'Juumoji' Incident, of course. You need to complete the sequence all the way to [KO] or your message wouldn't be conveyed, right? In that case, how about having fun together with others for the finale?
"Me and Fukube Satoshi will be able to provide support for your final target. You won't find insiders willing to assist you in other targets.
"The final target, the Classics Club, will be packed with people. Regardless of whether the anthology itself is popular or not, it's sure to sell like hot cakes anyway. So not only do you have a reason for putting them on the site for sale, you get to complete what you have started. How about that?"
Now how will it go?
If Tanabe were to lash out, then my plan would have failed. Not only would we not be able to sell all the Hyouka copies, I would have created a grudge with Tanabe. It's a risky move, but in order to achieve the impossible task of selling 200 copies of anthologies, this was a risk worth taking. Not to mention we have to sell as many copies as possible, though we weren't able to keep things simple......
I held my breath and waited for Tanabe's judgement. Oh man, I'm getting nervous.
Why're you not saying anything, Tanabe? You wouldn't have anything to lose in such a deal.
...... Or was he concerned about being blackmailed into such a deal? No, it can't be, but my heart is getting noisy by the second.
And then Tanabe......
Made a relaxed expression and said,
"I see, it does sound like a good deal. It is as you say, we can't leave the 'Juumoji' Incident incomplete like that. And it's time the web store needs some restocking, so I'd say we have common interests,"
If I could, I would breath many sighs of relief. After breathing a sigh, which turned out to be a deep one, as I didn't realize I had held my breath for that long. Looks like my plan had worked.
Tanabe returned to his relaxed demeanor. Smiling gently, he asked,
"...... So, how do you plan on assisting 'Juumoji' on his final target?"
Actually, this idea came from a recent news about a power outage in Fukui Prefecture,
"The Classics Club would prepare a 'Proofread Manuscript' ([KO]URYOU GENKOU 校了原稿). I'll convince Chitanda...... our president about it, and will put a guard around it so no one could get near,"
Looks like Tanabe wasn't too concerned about following the exact plot of The Kudryavka Sequence, and was really enjoying what I was suggesting,
"Then what happens next?"
"I'd like you to obtain two items, from the Chemistry Club and the Confectionery Studies Club respectively. I saw it on the Kanya Festival Guide, the Chemistry Club seems to be doing some demonstration on the power of sodium. I'd like you to try and get some of that sodium. The Confectionery Studies Club consists of two people selling biscuits around the school. They have a Glock 17 water pistol with them, try and ask them to lend it to you,"
Tanabe widened his eyes,
"...... You sure think of some dangerous stuff,"
I smiled vaguely,
"It's a festival, and it's also the finale, so let's go with a bang.
"I'll try and place the sodium between the pages of the proofread manuscript. And then wait for my signal, since it wound't be fun if the 'Juumoji' Incident ended before the Hyouka copies had sold out after all. So wait for my signal before you fire the water pistol. If you conceal your hands with a Hyouka copy and stand behind Satoshi, it would be unlikely you'd be caught,"
"And what if the pages catch fire?"
"I'll use as little sodium as possible. What's most important is that a spark is made, even if just for a moment. Just enough for a small hole to burn through the manuscript so that everyone could see,"
Placing his hand on his chin, Tanabe smiled,
"Hmm...... This would require some effort. I know some people from the Chemistry Club, so that wouldn't be a problem. As for the Confectionery Studies Club, if I can't them, I'll use the one I borrowed from the Gardening Club...... And what about the greeting card?"
"Place it between one of the Hyouka copies, and then drop it at the first chance you get. Or place it in the desk drawer if that's impossible. There'll be many people by then, so it shouldn't be a problem,"
"No, it's better if you just prepare it before hand. Try to keep the procedures during the crime as simple as possible,"
I see, you have a point. Guess I'll take it.
"Then I suppose you'll be needing this copy of 'Hyouka' for that purpose,"
"You're a shrewd one,"
"We're the ones in trouble here, after all,"
Tanabe smiled bitterly and handed 200 yen over.
"I'll give the signal by making eye contact with you,"
"Understood...... By the way, what's your name?"
Oh dear me, where're my manners? I purposely cleared my throat and announced,
"Oreki Houtarou, of Class 1-B,"
As we parted ways, Tanabe spoke as though it were nothing,
"You said that the 'Juumoji' Incident was an elaborate hidden message for Kugayama, right?"
Carrying the shoulder bag, I turned around and said,
"And you said that the message was Kugayama had lost The Kudryavka Sequence,"
"Was I wrong?"
Yet his voice was soft. I could only imagine as to what Tanabe had wanted to convey to Kugayama.
Tanabe's voice went softer. I could not understand what he was thinking then,
"No, you guessed wrongly, but I don't blame you for that. The only other person who would get the message would be Anjou-san,"
"Not both Kugayama and Anjou?"
"Mune, Kugayama wouldn't get the message,"
What's going on? I was starting to get confused,
"But Anjou Haruna has......"
"She's transferred, so she probably didn't come today,"
"Then, your target was?"
As though enjoying the reversal of roles, Tanabe smiled bitterly,
"It's Kugayama, as you've guessed. Though the message was different.
"The original message was supposed to be 'Kugayama, The Kudryavka Sequence is slipping away from you', in other words,
"'Kugayama, do you not intend to draw Anjou-san's story?'"
"A plead, huh?"
"Not even that,"
Tanabe's smile remained, but it was one of jaded realization,
"Kugayama never felt like drawing manga.
"You've read it, right? I knew Anjou-san was a genius, but I never knew Mune could draw this well. Artistic sense is not something you could describe in words, but if you've seen his works, then you could have said that he's got some artistic sense,
"Yet he doesn't seem interested in it. The manuscript for The Kudryavka Seqence does exist. I have a copy, and Mune should have a copy as well. It was a great story. If Mune had the will to draw it, it will be a work that would surpass even Ashes at Dusk. Yet for Mune, drawing manga for a year seems to be merely a fun detour for him,"
That would be......
The image of the Ashes at Dusk manga I received from my sis flashed in my head. It was a great manga, the drawings were amazing. And yet to call such drawings a fun detour.
As though reading my thoughts, Tanabe said,
"It's a waste, right? You'd feel pity for it, right?
"It's ridiculous. For him to have skills which I could never have even if I spend years working on it, Mune completely has no intention of drawing. I would do anything just for him to say yes. And so I waited. From an unskilled amateur like me, Mune was a star of hope. So I couldn't bear watching him like this. He's a smart guy, even without Anjou-san's manuscript, he would have come up with another classic,"
Even though he was still smiling, his words were nothing but sadness. I could feel it from beneath his words,
"It is from such a despairingly wide gap that expectations were born. Yet if such expectations were unanswered, one would be left with disappointment. For the past year, I had believed that Mune would draw once again, and once again, I had expectations of Mune,"
I now get it, what Tanabe intended to convey to Kugayama.
Tanabe stopped speaking and stared at the ground. If expectations were born from such a despairingly wide gap, then as someone who has no idea how wide that gap is, I have no way of knowing how bad that expectation was. Neither would I know admiration or have stars in my eyes.
...... Would there come a day when I would find myself in such a "sequence"?
However, even now, I understood the meaning behind Tanabe's actions.
And so I spoke,
"So, what you really wanted to convey in the 'Juumoji' Incident...... a question that you were unable to ask directly, 'Kugayama, have you read The Kudryavka Sequence yet?'"
Tanabe slowly raised his head,
"You really are something,"
"And your answer is?"
"Yeah, it's as you say.
"Mune has never gone to read the manuscript that Anjou-san had spent her entire energy writing. The hidden message was never deciphered, and he never did receive the message,"
So, has your expectation turned into disappointment?
Even I had the sense to not utter such a question. Without saying anything, I turned around.
Turning my head one more time, I saw Tanabe still standing there.
The school radio began broadcasting,
"...... Anyway, we've now come to the final day of the Kanya Festival. The topic of the day is of course the 'Juumoji' Incident......"
[88 COPIES REMAINING]
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