Hyouka:Volume 5 Chapter 4-3
3. Present: 14.5km; 5.5km Remaining
A few Kamiyama High School students passed me as I hid in the darkness of the enclosed bus stop. While some of them looked as if they had just left the start line on the school grounds, others looked as if they had expended the last of their energy on the vicious uphill and downhill sections as they gasped for air. There were even some that looked like they gave up on the Hoshigaya Cup as they casually lumbered along.
Truthfully, I wanted to be able to look down at the ground and think in peace. If I were to do that, however, I would almost certainly miss Chitanda when she eventually walked by.
I planted myself on the weathered bench and raised my chin as I thought.
I was convinced that the reason Ōhinata had decided to quit was hidden somewhere in the 40 or so days between the New Recruit Festival and yesterday. If I kept that suspicion in the forefront of my mind and retraced my memories then, I could certainly remember various incidents that suddenly started to seem strange. The answer she gave to the question concerning Ibara and Satoshi seemed to back up that possibility.
But what about Chitanda? Judging by her appearance yesterday, she seemed to have an idea as to why Ōhinata had decided to quit. Perhaps she thought that the reason was the result of a gradual accumulation over that 40 or so day period. Or perhaps she thought that the entire reason was due to that small period of time yesterday after school.
If the reason took place somewhere within that 40 or so day span, then that meant this:
Chitanda was convinced that she was the one who drove Ōhinata into a corner. It might have not been inspired by any sort of clear hostility or ill-will, but Chitanda was at least aware of the situation to the point where she had immediately assumed something like, “Because I did what I did to that extent, Ōhinata is going to quit the club.” As a fact, she thought she did something to drive Ōhinata away.
If the reason took place sometime within the short amount of time after school yesterday, then that meant this:
While I was absorbed by the thrill of reading about the incredible life of a master spy, Chitanda had made Ōhinata decidedly and undeniably angry. For example, she might have done something like squeezing lemon juice over her chicken karaage without warning nor mercy. Ōhinata became furious, saying something like, “I can’t bear being around a person like you any longer!” and then stormed off to quit the club. Essentially, it was something along the lines of an explosion of repressed feelings.
Which was it, I wonder?
Without a doubt, something had been festering inside of Ōhinata for the previous 40 or so days. Only that would explain why Ōhinata had criticized Chitanda in such a roundabout manner saying “she resembled a bodhisattva on the outside.”
But in that case, did that mean Chitanda was actually a yakṣa? Had she actually continued to pressure Ōhinata mentally enough to the point where she would quit?
It gradually became clearer and cleared as to what I should have focused on.
Waiting was difficult. I wasn’t the Ōhinata of yesterday, but hanging midair was truly exhausting.
This might go without saying, but the worst part was the possibility of accidentally missing Chitanda when I might not be paying attention. If that happened, I would end up remaining at the bus stop, waiting for someone who would never come, continuing to wait, continue waiting even longer in vain, and finally after being found, cold and starving one winter morning, eventually inspiring a theatre production entitled Waiting for Chitanda. At any rate, I could no longer even try to predict the distance between the two us.
I played with a certain idea.
If I didn’t return to Kamiyama High School from here, the Hoshigaya Cup wouldn’t end. However, running was still a pain. Or perhaps more precisely, I was exhausted. On the other hand, I was in a bus stop. Busses were certainly a method of transportation.
In that case I would really prefer it if a bus could come and take me to the high school. It would be fine; I had some loose change in my pocket after all. I had prepared it to use in a vending machine just in case I happened to get really thirsty along the way. What a splendid idea, no? If you aren’t good at mental calculation, you should use a calculator. If you aren’t good at English, you should use translation software. If you aren’t good at running, you should consider using an alternate form of suitable transportation. I had known this from the very get-go. Might this very thing be considered the manifestation of the strength one requires to go on living? I’ve truly learned some great things today.
As I was engrossed in these thoughts of mine, Chitanda passed by.
For a moment, I wasn’t entirely convinced by what I saw. A part of it had to do with the fact that I still wasn’t used to seeing her in the white short-sleeved shirt and crimson short tights that made up the gym uniform ensemble, but her long, tied-up hair also left me with a somewhat different impression than usual. I had seen her hair put up before, for example, when we visited the shrine right after New-Year’s Day. She did it to match it with her traditional clothing. Yet this was probably the first time I’ve seen her tie it up high like this. It was because I was so familiar with her usual demeanor that I almost missed Chitanda as she ran past me, her lips slightly open.
I stood up and broke out into a run. My moment of confusion caused me to react late, so I made an effort to hurry.
The difficult mountain pass was directly up ahead, but I couldn’t see any signs of fatigue in Chitanda’s running gait. Her arms were pressed to her sides as her waist shook up and down, her feet kicked off the asphalt, and her body seemed perfectly in rhythm with the white lines that pulled the road along as she ran.
The road continued in a straight line between the dense forests and the approaching, freshly-planted fields. It was possible that the road was repaved in recent years as the asphalt was a thick black, looking as if it were brand-new. I had thought there was still some time left before it reached noon, but I squinted as I looked up at the dazzling sun already sitting high in the sky. As I measured the distance between Chitanda and myself, I continued to run.
I considered suddenly rushing to catch up with her. While it was true that one was unlikely to be paying attention to others while he/she was running, there were also a lot of classmates in front of and behind us. It also felt weird to shadow her like this. I wanted to run as fast as I could while at the same time catching up with her in a natural manner.
Keeping in line with this desire, I slowly closed the gap. I didn’t need to be close enough to physically reach out to her, simply close enough for my voice to reach her.
Even then, however, it was still far.
My voice struck in my throat. My legs felt heavy. Even the pain in my leg joints seemed to relapse. My breathing suddenly became more violent.
“This is bad.”
The mutter barely left my mouth.
I didn’t feel like catching up.
I didn’t feel like catching up because I simply didn't want to. The second I did, I would have to hammer her over the head with my reasoning and deductions. As this thought crossed my mind, my legs instantly began to feel explicitly dull. Yeah, that must have been the reason. Even then, I couldn’t give up.
Were there 50 meters between us? Or were 100? Perhaps there were even more than that. I remained at a fixed interval behind Chitanda; I could neither shorten nor even extend that distance. I couldn’t afford to continue like this, running as I watched her ponytail sway from left to right.
I clenched my teeth. I decided I would go either now or never.
At around the same time, something unbelievable happened.
Chitanda twisted the upper-half of her body as she ran and looked back.
Our eyes met.
There was no choice but to go. I increased my pace. Although she had turned to look behind her, Chitanda most likely had no idea that I was there. Her eyes widened, and she quickly faced forward once more. No matter how you looked at it, it was dangerous to run while looking behind you. While Chitanda naturally took the Hoshigaya Cup seriously as a part of the school’s physical education and didn’t slow down as a result, she also didn’t make any special effort to shake me off.
If I at least had the resolve to catch up with her, I’d be able to do it. Amidst the end-of-May breeze, I ran alongside Chitanda.
She never once broke her rhythm. I saw her looking at me from out of the corner of her eye, and started talking behind a mask of composure.
“Sorry. I was thinking about calling out to you, but…”
Even though I considered how weird shadowing her would be, it ended up turning out that way anyways. Although she didn’t appear to be very interested in my excuses, I could see her tense features unravel slightly as a hint of doubt crept across her face. Perhaps in an effort to save her breath, she kept her question brief.
“Why’re you here?”
She probably realized I was supposed to be far up ahead by this point. I got to the point without a moment’s hesitation.
“I want to talk about Ōhinata.”
“To that end, I want to hear your side of the story.”
At that moment, Chitanda’s breathing became somewhat shallow. Her speed didn’t change in the slightest. As the two of us continued to run, some tens of centimeters apart, I waited for her response.
Finally, Chitanda replied with a pained look in her eyes.
“It was my fault.”
“What happened yesterday, right?”
“That’s between me and Ōhinata.”
In the short amount of time it took for her to catch her breath, she continued.
“I’m sorry you went out of your way, but I can’t bother you with this.”
Although her eyes glistened with moisture, possibly due to being too dry, Chitanda looked straight ahead regardless, not saying any more. I had predicted she would try to pile all of the responsibility onto herself like this, but I now understood that she was even refusing to simply stop and tell me her side of the story.
Even then, I didn’t want to give up without first revealing my trump card, so I asked once more.
“I want you to tell me what happened yesterday. Ōhinata might be misunderstanding something.”
“I appreciate the thought. I really do. But…”
Chitanda turned her head slightly and showed me a soft smile.
“This isn’t anyone else’s fault.”
Had I not been running, I would have most likely sighed then. She was so utterly convinced that that was the case. Even though there was something I knew and wanted to tell her…
I wanted to grab her shoulder to get her to stand still, but was no way I could've done that. Putting as much strength as I could behind my voice and praying that it would be enough to reach Chitanda, I spoke.
I tried to reason with that profile of hers.
“That’s not what it was. Ōhinata wasn’t angry at you for peeking at her phone. That wasn’t the case at all.”
For the first time, Chitanda’s infallibly rhythmic breathing began to crumble apart.
The course ran alongside the edge of the forest, but it looked less like a forest and more like some sort of grove surrounding the local shrine. The street in front of Mizunashi Shrine led to the riverside as well.
There were no traces of anyone else being in the shrine grounds. I couldn’t tell exactly what kind it was, but I could hear the sound of a bird chirping in the distance. There was a water spout, the kind that didn’t pour into any sort of basin, so Chitanda stood there collecting the water running from its diagonally cut bamboo nozzle using the shrine ladle and then brought it to her mouth.
“I’m quite skilled at running long distances.”
Chitanda continued, her gym clothes impeccably aligned on her body.
“I was thinking I would try to go through the entire course without walking once.”
“The water here is really cold and delicious. You should have some.”
Because she moved aside as she said that, I washed my hands and then took some as well. The crisp water looked cold enough to sparkle, so I figured it would hurt my stomach if I drank it all in one go. I took only a little into my mouth and let it slowly trickle down my throat from there.
When looking beyond the shrine's tori, you could see the line of Kamiyama High School students running the course. None of them looked through this tori and up the stone stairs to notice us standing here, however. Chitanda suggested that we enter Mizunashi Shrine because “it wasn’t the kind of story you could tell while running on the roadside. Certainly enough, this place was very quiet, and it probably made it easier to calmly tell a story.
Chitanda’s head drooped slightly, and she stood gripping her left arm with her right hand. Watching me as I slowly drank the water, she asked me a question in a collected voice.
“You saw, right? What I did…”
“No, I didn’t. That’s why I want you to tell me everything.”
“You didn’t… see?”
Even as she muttered this, Chitanda didn’t urge me to go on. I washed my hands once more beneath the stream of water. The cold sensation felt good.
“I could only see your back. That, and I also heard you say ‘Yes.’ I could pretty much guess what happened though.”
“Did I really say something like that?”
“I guess you did it subconsciously after all.”
I showed her a wry smile.
When I parsed through my memories of yesterday, I remembered a single voice saying the word “Yes.” I had thought that it was somewhat sudden, but because Chitanda didn’t really say anything about it, I assumed it wasn’t a big deal and forgot about it accordingly.
However, when that single word brought me back into reality from the book I was reading, Chitanda and I were the only ones in the Earth Science lecture room. Thinking perhaps that Chitanda had been trying to call for me, I then replied with the typical response, “What’s wrong?”
What was that all about, then? Hypothetically, even had I mistook the sound of the wind for her voice, she should have reacted instantly when I called out to her. And yet, the first time I called she didn’t even turn around, and the second time I called she only briefly turned in her seat.
I should’ve realized the meaning behind it then and there. Essentially, Chitanda hadn’t directed a single word at me. As for why…
It wasn’t like she didn’t like me enough to suddenly start talking to me or anything.
“That ‘Yes’ was the was the sound you make when you answer a phone.”
“Is… that so?”
“Was I right about you answering a phone?”
“Yes, I certainly was answering a phone. I don’t really remember, however, if I said “Yes” or “Hello” at that time.”
It wasn’t an impossible story. People don’t often say those kinds of formalities consciously. Hypothetically, had I heard her say “Hello?” instead, I would have most likely known she was on the phone.
“Even when I called you, all you did was briefly turn around without saying anything.”
“I remember that. But I mean…”
“You couldn’t listen to me because you were on the phone.”
Of course, Chitanda wasn’t the one who made the call, she simply received it. If that weren’t the case, she probably wouldn’t have only started with a simple “Yes.”
Chitanda didn’t own a cellphone, however. I didn’t know if there was a reason behind it, but she didn’t have one regardless. Whose was it, then?
It may have been left behind by one of the students who had a class in the Earth Sciences lecture room that day. It was possible that it suddenly started to ring after classes had ended.
Upon further consideration, however, that seemed unlikely.
“If that phone was left behind by someone in a place that was difficult to see, I’d expect that the only way you would notice it would be if it made enough noise upon receiving a call or message. Yet, I didn’t hear a single thing.”
Ringing or beeping out loud was one thing, but even someone like me who didn’t have a phone knew that they made a dull “bzzz” sound when they vibrated against a hard surface. If a sound like that had reached my desk, I would have realized it after being pulled away from my book. After all, that’s’ exactly what happened when I heard the small “Yes.”
That meant that there was either no sound, or that the sound was so quiet it couldn’t reach me. Why was that?
“If the phone was Ōhinata’s, everything would make sense.”
“Ōhinata-san’s phone was silent?”
“No way, that’s not it. Try and remember; where was Ōhinata’s cellphone?”
Chitanda quickly responded.
“It was on top of the desk. Ōhinata-san put it there after she sat down.”
Thinking back on it now, something similar happened when we had all the Kagoshima artisan sweets laying around. Ōhinata placed her phone on the desk that time as well. I didn’t her remember doing anything like that when she was in her casual clothes, so maybe it’s solely a sailor uniform custom.
“And then yesterday, you had a textbook and notes on top of your desk. If you put a cellphone on a soft surface like those, the vibrating sound would have been quieter and I wouldn’t have been able to hear it.”
If you were visiting someone else’s house and the phone started to ring, what would you do if there was no one around to answer it. Simply ignoring it and waiting for it to stop ringing was certainly one option. However, the other option was to instead pick up the phone and inform the other party that “no one in the house is currently available.” In actuality, when we went to Blend earlier as trial customers, Chitanda ended up arriving late precisely because she had stopped to answer the phone at someone else’s house. When she realized that the cellphone was vibrating yesterday, she probably answered in order to pass on any messages.
It didn’t end happily with her good intentions, however.
“When you answered the phone yesterday, Ōhinata was missing, of course. It’s not like she left to go home, however. She probably just wandered off to go to the bathroom or something. That’s why she quickly returned. And that’s when she saw you using her phone.”
Chitanda slightly nodded.
Yesterday, after hearing that single “Yes,” the strong wind blowing around the classroom had started to make me chilly, so I went to close windows. The reason the wind was circulating so much could probably be attributed to the fact that the Earth Sciences lecture room door was open. When Ibara came later, however, I distinctly remembered that she had opened the door to get in.
This meant that someone had to have closed that door at some point.
That someone was probably Ōhinata. She had probably only briefly left, returned, and then finally left for her house. She closed the door behind her at that point, saw Ibara, and then told her she was going to quit.
“Ōhinata’s cellphone started to vibrate on top of my dictionary.”
Chitanda began to speak.
“Ōhinata-san went to go wash her hands so she wasn’t around. I thought it might be bad if I went ahead and answered on my own, but what if it happened to be really important… Anyways, I picked it up. I think I pressed a strange button and it suddenly stopped vibrating. I don’t really remember myself, but if I did say ‘yes,’ then I must’ve thought it connected. However, I couldn’t hear any voices coming from the other end.
“Because it wasn’t mine and I didn’t know how to handle it, I tried placing it in the palm of my hand and seeing if I could manage to hear something. At any rate, I was desperately thinking of how I could avoid breaking it… I remember you calling out to me. Thinking about it, actually, I should’ve asked you for help.”
If she thought that the call went through, I guess it couldn’t have been helped.
“You placed it into the palm of your hand, and after that, the person on the other end didn’t say anything.”
I fear Chitanda may have never used a cellphone before.
I’ve seen Satoshi use his phone numerous times in the past, so even I could hazard a guess as to how to use one. Ōhinata’s didn’t vibrate because it received a call. It most likely simply received a text. Chitanda probably didn’t press any strange buttons either. The phone vibrated for a predetermined number of seconds and then stopped by itself. Or perhaps it really was an incoming call, but the predetermined ringing length had expired, sending the call to voicemail. At any rate, Chitanda had held the cellphone in her palm and no call ended up going through.
Ōhinata had no way of knowing that, however.
“Ōhinata-san returned to the classroom. I had never seen her look at me with those kinds of eyes before, so I couldn’t even speak… She grabbed the phone from my hand and said, “Goodbye,” in a cold voice that it sounded like she was going to disappear forever, and then she immediately left. I’m stupid, aren’t I? It was then when I finally realized how much I messed up.”
“It was just a cellphone.”
“To me it was just a phone, but…”
Chitanda forced a bitter smile.
“All of us have something we treasure.”
Her voice was almost a whisper.
“Because I don’t have one myself, it was impossible for me to know just how much Ōhinata-san treasured her cellphone. Now I do know. To people who have one, its importance must be akin to something like that of a diary. No, perhaps even more so. If your friend peeked at your diary without telling you, wouldn’t that already be reason enough to cut ties with them? Everyone has secrets, and I thought that I knew that… It only makes sense that Ōhinata-san is angry at me.”
I could see where she was coming from. Certainly enough, things like that happened every now and then.
“What are you going to do now, then?”
“I planned on going to apologize to her once we returned to the school. After all, I couldn’t do even that yesterday.”
From Chitanda’s perspective, this was probably the obvious answer. If she tried her hardest to sincerely apologize, Ōhinata might be able to forgive her. That was if the cellphone was the only problem, however.
What happened yesterday wasn’t everything that had happened between them. Ōhinata most likely got angry when she saw Chitanda touching her phone. It might’ve even been the final straw, but it certainly wasn’t the whole problem. I responded.
“You should probably give up on that. It’s useless.”
Chitanda gave a slight nod.
“Oreki-san, you said it wasn’t because of the phone, didn’t you? If that’s true, then it probably will be useless after all. But if that’s the case, then…”
She became quiet and started to think for a little bit.
For someone often slow on the uptake, Chitanda always seemed to be sensitive during times like these. She suddenly lifted her head to look at me and started speaking, her voice dipped in loneliness.
“I’ve probably hurt her without realizing it, haven’t I?”
Things somehow ended up turning out like this.
Yesterday, before entering the clubroom, Ōhinata had been doing something quite peculiar. She had been hanging from a doorframe, looking as if she wanted to do something. In all reality, it probably wasn’t the case that she wanted to do something at all. The Earth Sciences lecture room door had been open, so it was possible to see inside. Knowing that Chitanda was the only one inside, Ōhinata hesitated. Just like when I hesitated while chasing after Chitanda earlier.
When I would be called to the Student Guidance Room, as I would stand in front of the door, not knowing why I was called there in the first place, I would slap my cheeks to find the resolution to walk in. Whenever I received a letter from my sister and assumed that it would just be something unsavory again, I would look up to the heavens and sigh before I cut the seal. These rituals of mine that I used to strengthen my resolve were probably just like her “hanging.”
In other words, Ōhinata headed towards the classroom yesterday with the resolution of one prepared to settle a battle once-and-for-all. She had planned from the start to resolve things with Chitanda. This could also possibly explain why she looked so disappointed when I showed up.
Chitanda brought both her hands in front of her and gazed downwards with melancholic eyes. She then muttered something, almost as if sighing.
“I won’t ask you to believe me.”
“That whatever I did to her wasn’t my intent. That, although it appears that I wasn’t a good upperclassman to Ōhinata, I didn’t wish for that to happen. That I don’t know what it was that I did wrong. I won’t ask you to believe me when I say these things.”
How could she say that this late in the game? I had no idea what spawned it. Sometimes, the things Chitanda said made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
“It’s too late for that now.”
“Yes, I know.”
“If you had truly thought that you did something to wrong her, there’s no way that you’d do something like stop in the middle of the marathon. You wouldn’t do it purposefully, not on a tiring day like this one.”
Chitanda’s head came up in surprise. I was the one to turn away this time.
This was, above all, a gamble. Had Chitanda done it on purpose? Did she truly put on a beaming exterior while secretly harming Ōhinata, forcing her to quit the club?
None of the evidence denied it.
Had this been the me of one year ago, I probably would have come to that conclusion. With my subjectivity out of the picture, a lot of information seemed to be pointing to the possibility that Chitanda had indeed pressured Ōhinata. There wasn’t anything that could decisively deny that.
But this past year had happened. Even if it wasn’t everything about her, hell, even if it was nothing more than the utter smallest of fragments, I had come to know Chitanda. I had heard about the story of her uncle. I had been taken to the movie video preview. I had gone to stay over at the hot-springs inn. I had sold the anthologies at the culture festival. I had had the pointless discussion after school. I had been trapped inside the shed. I had held an umbrella up for a doll.
That’s why I denied it.
Even though Chitanda might’ve seemed different from other people because of the extraordinary tranquility surrounding her, I didn’t feel like she would have chased away a new recruit.
It was a gamble born from an extremely irrational premise full of “I didn’t feel likes,” and what I ended betting on looked something like this: “Ōhinata felt pressured by Chitanda in the 40 or so days that she had spent with us, but not only did Chitanda not intend for that to be the case, she couldn’t even think of anything aside from a simple misunderstanding that might have caused Ōhinata to become angry with her.” And somehow, it looked like I won.
Mizunashi Shrine lay surrounded by giant cedars. The birds around us cried ceaselessly. I glanced at Chitanda out of the corner of my eye, and as she stood there bathed in the spotted sunlight filtered by the branches above, I thought she looked somewhat like a lost child who had finally been found.
Unfortunately, however, I had no time to spare. Chitanda’s group was the last of the second-years to start. I needed know everything before Ōhinata caught up.
“So what kinds of things did you talk about yesterday?”
Chitanda looked like she wanted to say something, but she eventually responded with a resolute nod.
“I understand. I’ll tell you everything that happened.”
Immediately after she said that, however, I heard her mutter something else under her breath.
“But no matter how I look at it, it was your normal, everyday after-school conversation…”
Translator's Notes and References
- Karaage is a method of deep-frying something without coating it with anything other than a small layer of flour.
- The large, wooden (and often red) arches that are commonly found lining paths leading into shrines.
|Back to Hyouka Volume 5 Chapter 4 - 2. Past: Approximately 19 Hours and 30 Minutes Ago||Return to Main Page||Forward to Hyouka Volume 5 Chapter 4 - 4. Present: 14.6km; 5.4km Remaining|