Hyouka:Volume 5 Chapter 5-3
3. Present: 18.9km; 1.1km Remaining
The scenery opened up before us.
As we finally passed through the narrow residential streets, we neared Arekusa Shrine’s rear approach. The street was wide and shops lined the left and right sides of the road. It normally bustled with activity on New Year’s and during the spring and autumn festivals, but at this moment, it was dead silent and only the shops’ banners retained their festive colors.
“So we get out here, huh.”
Ōhinata started to mutter this as if finally being convinced.
“Once you take that path through the shrine, you can connect back up with the original course. Feel better now?”
“Oh come on, it’s not like I doubted you or anything.”
I wonder about that.
The sun shone brightly as it approached midday. Our shadows took on a deep shade as they stretched along the asphalt. Summer was already just around the corner.
Ōhinata raised her arm and pointed towards a single shop. A large, old-fashioned umbrella and tatami-styled bench were set up in front of it.
“I want to eat some dango.”
“What’s up with that all of a sudden?”
“I’m tired, so I decided I wanted to eat some dango.”
After making this one-sided statement, she immediately started walking to the store. I followed behind her, flustered.
“Hold on a sec. We’re technically in the middle of class right now.”
It didn’t stop her in the slightest.
“You brought me this far off the course and now you want to start talking rules? We might as well break all of them at this point.”
“Do you even have money on you?”
Hearing this, she finally turned to look at me over her shoulder.
“You have some, right?”
She smiled as she said this.
“I could hear the coins clinking around in your pocket.”
Surely enough, I had brought some with me in case I wanted to buy a drink halfway through the course, but...
“I swear, you never stop once you get going. What if I don’t have enough?”
“Oh, I didn’t think about that. Do you have enough?”
I reached into my pocket and pulled them all out. In my palm, I counted ¥240 worth of ¥100 and ¥10 coins.
The shop Ōhinata had pointed out was very reasonably priced. Even though there were people here who would still probably buy it at a more expensive, touristy price, the traditional-looking sign on the wall said “¥80 for one stick”.
“...I guess I do.”
“Then it’s decided.”
Ōhinata lightly sprinted over to the shop and called out in front of it.
“Excuse me, three sticks of dango please.”
Was she planning on sucking me dry? Wait a second, why was I even treating her in the first place? The questions didn’t stop coming, but I supposed it was already too late to do anything at this point anyways considering she had already ordered. I guess I could act like a good upperclassman and treat her just this once. ¥80 though... Talk about a cheap favor.
The one working the shop was an old, sweet-looking lady. The two of us must’ve looked like we ditched class considering we were still in our gym clothes, but without bringing any attention to it, she simply said, “We have mitarashi and yomogi.”
“I think mitarashi is better.”
“It’d be annoying to deal with any questions if the bean paste got on our clothes.”
Thinking about it, that was a very good point. She really payed attention to the strangest things.
Before I fully realized what was going on, the two of us ended up sitting on a bench eating dango. Although I thought I preferred mitarashi because I didn’t like the strong, vegetation-like smell of mugwort, the yomogi’s fragrance ended up being really refreshing. The sweet taste sank into my bones.
“I feel alive again.”
As Ōhinata muttered this, I found myself nodding without realizing it. It had a certain kind of feeling to it. Even though this long-distance running event seemed to carelessly stretch on forever, it was almost like our fatigue itself was being fatigued as well.
Five balls of dango were stuck on her skewer. She ate two more and then looked up at the sky, taking a long, drawn-out breath.
“Ah, I feel so refreshed. I haven’t felt like this in forever.”
She then suddenly said something to me.
“Senpai, there’s something you haven’t been saying on purpose, isn’t there.”
“About the dango?”
“Of course not.”
Yeah, there’s no way it would be about the dango. There was certainly a very large gap present in our previous conversation. I hadn’t intended on saying anything about it, but Ōhinata brought it up herself.
“There was a certain ‘friend’ of mine that I wanted to conceal, and I was afraid that Chitanda might’ve known about this person and me. Why was that, then? Why, do you think, was I trying to conceal the existence of this ‘friend’?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“You’re so full of it. If you’re going to be kind and tell me a lie, at least make it a good one.”
Without saying anything, I stared at the dango in my hand.
I guess she saw through me. I did have a general idea as to what might’ve happened. It might even be more accurate to say that it was precisely because I figured out what I had that I was even able to put everything together in the first place.
I hadn’t intended on talking about any of it however. I thought it was something that she wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to know about. That said, it wasn’t like I was entirely certain that I knew the entire truth.
“Man, why did it have to come to this.”
As she muttered this, Ōhinata pulled another dango off with her teeth.
She then started to speak.
“I thought she was a good person. Just like you said, senpai, she... that girl transferred here in her third year. She was a really strange one. I didn’t know if she had trouble making friends or if she didn’t even care about having any in the first place, but she was really independent.
“I was her very first friend and probably her only friend in this entire city. She told me this herself, after all. The two of us made a promise that’d we’d never leave each other.”
“That’s a tough promise to keep.”
“I didn’t think so when I made it, apparently. I was pretty dumb.”
She beamed at me.
“I mean, I was in middle school after all. Kids in middle school are all pretty dumb, aren’t they.”
You’re one to talk considering you just graduated from it two months ago.
“We didn’t really talk that much while we were in school. It felt like a secret between the two of us. That’s why I don’t think anyone really knew about us being friends even though we were in the same grade. The second school got out, however, she’d show me all sorts of ways to have a good time. She took me to concerts, she taught me billiards, and we even started something like a little band. She was also the one who taught me about ‘MilleFleur’ jam, like the one we saw on your birthday. I told you I got this snow tan from when I went skiing, but it was the first time I ever tried it when she took me on a ski trip. It was really fun.”
“It wasn’t snowboarding?”
“I keep saying it was skiing, jeez.”
As someone who had embraced the energy-saving lifestyle, I didn’t really know a lot about the different ways one could mess around.
That said, there was something that I did understand about the whole thing. To have that kind of fun, you needed money.
Ōhinata had gone on a ski trip to Iwate. She had followed a band on tour from Sendai to Fukuoka. As I heard her mention these things, I always wondered what she was doing about the money.
My sister travelled the world on a whim, but the only reason she could do that was because she earned enough money to make that possible. Ōhinata wouldn’t have that ability most likely as a middle school student. I had originally thought that her family was simply wealthy enough for those kinds of expenses to be covered by her allowance, but judging by the complaints she accidentally talked about while in Blend, I ruled that out as being impossible.
“And then... I ran out of money.”
Only her mouth was still smiling.
“If I remember correctly, your family doesn’t let you work part-time, right?”
“That’s right. They’re pretty strict.”
“Even though they let you go on those trips?”
“Only because I was with someone else. Essentially, they don’t trust me.”
Ōhinata then muttered something else, almost sounding like she herself hadn’t thought of it up until this very moment.
“Even if they said it was okay for me to get a part-time, I’m not even sure I would have wanted to do it to support that kind of fun anyways...”
Ōhinata had previously said “it was really fun.” I couldn’t imagine that being a lie, however it also looked as if she couldn’t truly enjoy it from the bottom of her heart because of the wasteful spending that accompanied it.
“Even though I made it a point to say, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any money at the moment,’ I don’t think it quite got through to her. She was quite peculiar, you see, so she’d just tell me to take care of it somehow so we could continue doing stuff together. I couldn’t do anything about what didn’t exist however, and besides, I had exams coming up. While I was at a loss for what to do, she told me, ‘Just leave it to me.’ She told me, ‘It’s fine. We’re friends, aren’t we?’”
There were any number of ways to get your hands on some money, even for a middle school student. The only problem was how you would go about implementing them.
After talking to this point, Ōhinata started to fumble around with her words. She was likely still on the fence about if she should continue or not. It would probably be for the best if I helped her out.
“...When you have something you want to avoid talking about at all costs, it’s really difficult when you end up face-to-face with another thing that brings that very subject up.”
Ōhinata tilted her head to the side as if unsure about what to say.
“If that kind of thing remains out in the open, someone is bound to suddenly become curious regarding it. If you make a concerted effort to hide it, however, people are liable to become even more interested in why you did that.”
Take my birthday, for example. I was constantly distressed about how I might go about dealing with the lucky cat that pointed to the fact that Chitanda had come to my house once before. As long as it sat there on the table, I wasn’t sure when it’d be brought up in conversation. It was too unnatural for me to simply remove it, however, so I couldn’t do that either.
“By the time Chitanda arrived, something had disappeared unnaturally. I could pretty much guess what had happened because of that.”
“When we went to the coffee shop.”
Ōhinata probably did it subconsciously, which was also probably why she didn’t understand what I was getting at right away. When she did, however, her eyes opened wide and she stared at me unblinkingly.
“Oh, now that you mention it...! Senpai, you even noticed that?”
When we were at the coffee shop, Ōhinata had hid something.
The magazine Shinsou.
If I recall correctly, Satoshi had noticed the copy of Shinsou in the magazine rack and had asked Ōhinata if she could grab it for him. She had had a difficult time pulling it out. The rack was so crammed tight with various newspapers and magazines that she had to hold it down with one hand as she pulled the copy of Shinsou out.
Before Chitanda arrived, the conversation had turned to be about the weather report. I forget the details, but while we were leaving I went to go pull out the newspaper from the magazine rack to verify if what I had said initially about the weather was correct. At that point, the newspaper had easily slid out.
There was space where the copy of Shinsou had previously been.
Shinsou had disappeared from the magazine rack. Of course, it wasn’t left behind on the counter either. It wasn’t really that important where it had disappeared to; it was probably simply hidden somewhere. What was strange, however, was why it had disappeared in the first place. It wasn’t obvious at all. Someone had done it on purpose, and if it was on purpose, why would they do it?
“The Suitou Co. incident... In other words, it was because of the story involving the stolen money con featured in that copy of Shinsou. You casually took it with you when you went to go use the restrooms. To think it would be exposed by something like that though...”
Ōhinata let loose an unnatural sigh.
“Forget Chitanda-senpai, I should’ve been more wary of you, Oreki-senpai.”
“How rude. I treated you to dango, didn’t I?”
“They really are delicious.”
She ate another ball, and only one more yomogi remained.
“I’m such an idiot. There’s no way of knowing for sure that that just having the magazine in the rack would automatically steer the conversation that way.”
“What the hell was I doing? Maybe even I don’t know the answer to that...”
After muttering this to herself, she turned to face me and nodded slightly.
“It looks like you basically understand what happened, Oreki-senpai, so I’ll just say it. That girl’s uncle was part of a rich family. Even I wouldn’t be scared if Chitanda-senpai simply had a lot of connections. The fact was, however, that she belonged to an old family, so they would naturally have a lot of old connections to other houses as well, right? She could’ve one day simply said with a smile that she went over to that very house to exchange greetings, couldn’t she have?”
It was an undeniable possibility.
“That’s right. My ‘friend’ deceived her own uncle to get money.”
“A lot of money?”
“It was a lot of money.”
Ōhinata stared at the last remaining dango as she continued.
“I was so scared. Had the police... no, that’s not it. Even had they found out everything, the police would’ve only arrested her, not me. I had nothing to do with it. However, I was afraid of her. If it was in order to be with her ‘friend’, she would do anything. She could even casually laugh off committing a crime. And that ‘friend’ was me. I didn’t know what to do. I had completely misjudged the distance between us. That’s what I’ve always thought.”
Although the sun shone so fiercely above us, Ōhinata’s body shivered for a second.
“After she learned that I was coming to Kamiyama High School, she said so many things to me. Things like ‘Oh yeah? So that’s the kind of person you are?’ and ‘You’re just bursting at the seams with lies, aren’t you?’ She was barely a couple points short on her exam so she couldn’t get in. In the end, however, even though we were going to different schools, we once more promised that we would remain friends and then promptly graduated. After entering high school, I’ve came to realize something. I was so incredibly relieved.”
Her voice gradually became louder.
“But that’s a terrible story, isn’t it. Even though its shape is twisted in her head, she still thinks of me as her only ‘friend’. ...I don’t want to abandon her. If there was some kind of misunderstanding between the two of us, shouldn’t I try to remedy that? I can’t abandon her. I’m not allowed to abandon her. It would be wrong for me as a human being. That’s what I kept telling myself.
“And yet I’m so afraid of it all. I’m afraid of her crime being exposed and I’m afraid of my friendship with her being exposed. The second the idea of Chitanda-senpai coming up to me and saying “You’re friends with her, right?” entered my mind, I couldn’t bear to face her any longer.”
Ōhinata then faced the asphalt in front of us and started to scream like she wanted to crush her words into it.
“I’m... I’m such an idiot!”
The dango shop’s owner came out and handed us both tea. We graciously accepted it but there was nothing else we needed. We had been able to rest up completely during this stop in our journey, but we had to eventually reach the finish line.
I stood up and spoke to Ōhinata as she remained sitting.
“Chitanda would be really happy if you joined the club. Ibara and Satoshi as well.”
When she raised her head however, she showed me a faint smile as she lightly shook her head.
“I got all scared on my own and then went and blamed it on Chitanda-senpai, and I even ended up saying all those terrible things to her. How could I possibly face her after all that?”
“It was just a moment of anxiety. Things will go back to normal before you realize it. Chitanda doesn’t hold anything against you; in fact she might even be able to help.”
Even I knew that that was impossible at this point. I may have cleared up the misunderstanding between them, but that only proved that Chitanda was entirely unrelated to Ōhinata’s problem.
“I know you’ve been hurt, but you can’t take it out on us.” That was all I said.
And then, as expected, Ōhinata started to shake her head once more.
“I’ll go and apologize to Chitanda-senpai eventually, but I don’t think that I can bear being in the same place as her yet.”
“I see. I’ll be going ahead then.”
The second I turned to leave, she called out to me.
“Do you remember, senpai? Do you remember what I said to you in the front gardens when I decided to join the Classics Club amidst all the recruiting?”
I relaxed my shoulders as I responded.
I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell she was smiling regardless.
“You’re so full of it.”
How was she always able to tell? Was I really that easy to read?
“Seeing friends with each other makes me happier than anything else in the world. I mean it. So what I’m saying, senpai, is... these past two months... I think they really saved me.”
At this moment, maybe I should’ve turned around and said something else to her. “If you ever feel like it, feel free to stop by anytime.” In the end, however, I couldn’t. Her words came out much faster.
“The dango were good. ...Thank you very much.”
Translator's Notes and References
- A Japanese, ball-shaped sweet usually made from rice and flour, often sold in 3s on a stick.
- Originally the Japanese idiom, “If you end up eating poison, you might as well finish the plate.” (毒を食らわば皿まで)
- ¥240 ≈ $2.40
- Mitarashi dango is the more common rice-flour type dipped in a soy/sugar sauce, while yomogi is a steamed rice type flavored with mugwort.
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