Hyouka:Volume 5 Prologue-3
3. Present: 1.2km
While there were tons of clubs, there were only so many new students. The race to recruit these incoming students reached peak ferocity every April. Last year, I didn’t really have any reason to join the other clubs so I ignored the whole thing, however this time around I ended up in the center of the maelstrom. Doing it, I experienced something for the first time; it was my first true bloodbath.
New students I had never seen before were being snatched away left and right in recruiting attempts, so issues began to crop up to some extent. While it was probably true that the new students who couldn’t turn down the incessant soliciting of a club they had no interest in had mostly themselves to blame, there were apparently certain clubs that had gathered massive amounts of members to pressure the first-years into joining. Using high-handed tactics like this was something that simply did not work, however. The reason behind the two-step process requiring students to submit both a provisional club entry form and an actual club entry form was to make sure the students joined of their own volition. If a student didn’t turn in the actual club entry form later, they were automatically dropped.
The deadline to turn it in was this weekend, so essentially, the deadline was today.
Before anything, there was something I wanted to confirm.
“Just because you don’t turn in the actual club entry form doesn’t mean you can’t join at a later date, right?”
“Of course. You can join or quit any Kamiyama High School club you want at any time. It’s completely up to you.”
After he said that, however, Satoshi continued with a slight grimace.
“The thing is though, a club’s budget is based on its member count at the end of the provisional club entry period, so any member changes after that point are really looked down upon. Anyways, more importantly…”
The problem wasn’t the bureaucracy.
In all reality, the second we learned that there was some kind of trouble yesterday, we should have tried to resolve it, though I suppose there wasn’t anything we could have done in the first place considering both Ōhinata and Chitanda had left by that point. Only one day had passed, and yet it already felt like it was too late. If this were to remain unresolved before everyone was separated over the weekend, Ōhinata’s resignation would almost certainly end up being a done deal, and changing her mind might be impossible.
There were no classes being held today after the Hoshigaya Cup ended. You had to attend homeroom for a small period, but after that, everyone could meet with their clubs.
In other words, though today was the only day we’d be able to pull Ōhinata aside, we had hardly the time nor the chance to get into contact with her.
“That said, I don’t know what specifically happened,” said Satoshi with a hushed voice. “It seems like yesterday after school, something made her extremely angry or depressed, but we have no idea what caused that, right?”
“Yeah, I was reading the entire time.”
“If that’s the case, then Chitanda had to have been the cause. Except now, it contradicts what Mayaka was told.”
The upward slope hadn’t yet become physically strenuous. Houses lined the left and right sides of the road and the hill gently continued forward. Someone nimbly caught up beside me as I continued my slow pace. He was probably a student from 2-B, the class that started after us, who had faith his legs would carry him to the end like this.
I whispered my question.
“What did Ibara say?”
Satoshi seemed to be disappointed in me at a quick glance.
“Come on, you didn’t hear?”
“She didn't tell me anything.”
“I wonder if she didn’t have any time. I wasn’t there either, so the details are a bit fuzzy.”
Satoshi’s eyes darted about, and then he awkwardly added, “If I remember correctly, Ōhinata said Chitanda was ‘like a Buddha,’ or something like that. I only remember it was something that wasn’t insinuating anything mean.”
I hadn’t heard anything at all about this. I didn’t know anything other than the fact that Ōhinata said she wasn’t going to join the club.
“Was this really yesterday?”
“The phrasing might have been off, but it happened yesterday without a doubt.”
Then Ōhinata had said both “I’m not going to join” and “Chitanda’s like Buddha”? If that was the case, then that would honestly have me assume that she was essentially saying, “I’m not going to join, but it’s not Chitanda’s fault.”
That would therefore mean I was the reason that Ōhinata decided to quit. Yet, I truly didn’t do anything yesterday. Of course, I would be lying if I said I didn’t remember nor hear anything. I talked a bit before entering the clubroom, and I did hear the occasional thing as I was reading, but that was all.
“I guess this isn’t going to be simple after all.”
However, then Satoshi murmured under his breath, “I wonder if that’s the case.”
“I think it’s simple,” he continued. “A new recruit joined. She changed her mind. She decided to quit. This was all that happened.”
Even as I continued to more or less run, Satoshi managed to follow alongside me while pushing his mountain bike. As expected from a cycling hobbyist, his walking was top-notch.
Satoshi let out a sigh and finally started to talk.
“Hey, Hōtarō. This might be a bit cruel, but if Ōhinata quits, I think we should just give up on her. I mean she’s certainly an interesting person, and Mayaka really seems to like her, but if she herself decided on this, I don’t think we have any right to dispute that.”
He looked at me and added.
“Although I thought you’d be the one to say that instead of me.”
That wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. In reality, when Mayaka came in yesterday feeling distressed, I didn’t really think what had happened was all too important.
I’m sure Ōhinata had her own circumstances. At Kamiyama High School, you were allowed to be in up to two clubs at the same time, so if there were three you wanted to join, it would be completely understandable if you dropped the Classics Club. In any case, her intentions were unclear. Possibly she found a sport she wanted to do, or perhaps she decided to start participating in General Committee activities. Maybe she just decided she needed to concentrate on her studies. There were any number of reasons why she might have decided to quit, and the Classics Club didn’t have a single reason to dispute that. It was unfortunate, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Those thoughts had certainly crossed my mind at one point.
I had changed my mind on the matter for a couple of reasons however, but I didn’t feel like explaining them to Satoshi one-by-one while I was running. After this, he gets to ride his bike the rest of the way, but I’m stuck on my legs. I would only tire myself out more if I tried to talk while running, so I wanted to limit my speech as much as possible.
Probably realizing that I wasn’t going to reply, Satoshi casually continued to speak.
“But you know how it goes. If you’ve decided on trying to dissuade her, I have no reason to stop you. So, do you plan on finding her and then begging her to not leave?”
I was immediately caught off guard.
“Yeah, lower your head like this and tell her, ‘I know you must have experienced much displeasure at our hands, but I implore you, bear with it just this once.’”
Satoshi said this while gesturing with his hands, and then continued with a puzzled face.
“You weren’t going to do that?”
I hadn’t even thought of that. I suppose it was an option, but in the end...
“Ōhinata up and said she had a reason as to why she was quitting, right? I wonder if we can truly bring this issue to a close without knowing that reason first.”
He responded with a groan.
“You’re actually going to try and resolve the issue, huh. I suppose begging’s not something you’d really do in the first place, although quickly apologizing and begging her by all means necessary is certainly the fastest way to go about this. It might even go over better than expected."
I wondered if that was how it'd really go. I had a hard time believing it. At the very least, I didn’t think that prostrating in front of her would completely settle the issue at hand.
In the first place, it wasn’t that I was doing this because I wanted to dissuade her from leaving. I’m not sure putting everything aside so I could beg her to sign the actual club entry form and then going on like I didn’t know her after was something I could even do. All that would do would be put off the hassle until later. Now, I like avoiding work, and I love being able to omit it even more, but what I don’t like is putting something off until later. If you see something that looks like a hassle but pretend it isn't there, having to deal with it later becomes even more of a hassle.
“I guess I’m probably not going to beg her.”
“How about persuade her upfront?”
“That’s also a pain. Besides, did you think I was even a smooth-talker in the first place?”
“I don’t. Rather than gently convincing someone, you’re more the type that settles a conversation with a single piece of sagely wisdom.”
He said this and then became quiet.
He stared at my face carefully.
“Earlier you said that resolving this issue wasn’t going to be simple. Are you really actually trying to figure out the exact reason why Ōhinata wants to leave?”
Calling it ‘figuring out’ was an exaggeration.
“I’m just trying to remember everything that happened up until now. As long as I just do that, I can spare myself the effort.”
Satoshi started thinking for a bit.
“Remember, huh? I see. In other words, you don’t think whatever made Ōhinata angry or sad was necessarily something that only happened yesterday after school. The cause, or rather the original, underlying problem, was something that happened at a different time.”
He was pretty sharp.
I knew for a fact that I didn’t do anything yesterday, and when it came to Chitanda, even if you didn’t take into consideration Ibara’s ‘Chitanda is like a Buddha’ account, the idea that Ōhinata would be so hurt and angry after talking to Chitanda made me feel like Ibara might have played it up a bit.
I felt bad saying it, but considering it was Ibara, I could understand that being the case. She seemed like the type of person that might shank you if you simply mentioned something that rubbed her the wrong way, no matter how trifling it was. When it came to Chitanda on the other hand, she would have simply tilted her head in confusion.
If I were to think about it like that, the cause might have been related in some part to something that had happened prior to yesterday. Possibly at some point, starting from when Ōhinata joined the club as a provisional member, unbearable thoughts had been slowly accumulating in her head. Perhaps yesterday, she had reached her limit.
“I said I wasn’t planning on stopping you, but… this is quite convoluted, isn’t it?”
“No matter how much you try to remember, Hōtarō, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have all the information necessary to crack this one.”
“I guess that’s true.”
It’s not like the Classics Club members were always together; even I didn’t go to the clubroom every day. There were likely tons of things I had neither seen nor heard. Had all of it started and ended while I was unaware it was even happening, just thinking would be useless.
That said, and I couldn’t tell any of this to Satoshi yet, I did have some ideas here and there. Ever since Ōhinata joined as a provisional member, there were a couple things that I thought seemed strange. Maybe if I focused my attention on those parts, something would become clear. I might be completely wrong, but at least it was somewhere to start. Besides, I had 20 kilometers. This course took far too long when simply running.
“If there’s anything I need to know, I’ll try asking you.”
Satoshi furrowed his eyebrows in suspicion.
“Asking me? Just to let you know, I’m going to be riding ahead of you now.”
“I know, but we're bound to pass each other again at some point, right? See you then.”
I smiled at him and continued.
“After all, Ibara and Chitanda will be coming from behind.”
For a second, Satoshi stared at me dumbfounded.
“You’re terrible! So that’s what you were planning. How could you? Think about all the blood and sweat the General Committee poured into setting up the Hoshigaya Cup.”
“Isn’t it the Marathon Event?”
Without a doubt, I needed to talk with Ibara and Chitanda.
On the other hand, I also had to come into contact with Ōhinata by the end of the day.
There was only one way I could achieve both of these.
In order to prevent congestion in the streets, each of the classes’ start times were staggered. I was in class 2-A. If I remembered correctly, Ibara was in 2-C and Chitanda was in the very last one, class 2-H. If I ran slowly, eventually Ibara would catch up, and if I went even more slowly than that, Chitanda would as well.
“Which class was Ōhinata in?”
“Class 1-B. No wonder you were going at such a slow pace. No, I’m relieved. Actually I’m really relieved. That’s right, there’s no way you’d seriously try to run all the way through to the end.”
Satoshi laughed as he said this. How rude. I properly ran the course last year, even if I stopped around halfway and ended up walking for 10km or so.
“Now that I know your evil scheme, I suppose it’s about time for me to get moving. Even lazing around has its limits.”
He straddled his mountain bike. I thought he was going to push the pedal and ride away, but he suddenly hesitated for a second. He turned back towards me.
“I’m only going to tell you this because we’re friends. Make sure you don’t take this all on yourself, Hōtarō. You’re the kind of person that doesn’t normally care about another person’s circumstances, so don’t forget that you aren’t responsible for anything, no matter what ends up happening with Ōhinata.”
It was a mean way to phrase it, but I understood what he was trying to say. He wanted to tell me that no matter what I thought or found out, in the end, it was Ōhinata’s decision. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. I guess it would be a good idea to keep that in mind.
“I’m going now. See you again somewhere on the course.”
Satoshi finally started to pedal away. Even though the slope was getting steeper and steeper, his mountain bike picked up speed without staggering. He didn’t even stand up to pedal. With his rear planted firmly on the saddle and his body arched forward, he pedaled further and further away.
With my small steps and sluggish running, I saw him off.
Though I said I was going to talk with Ibara and Chitanda, it wasn’t as simple as it sounded.
Even when each of them did catch up, I wouldn't be able to talk with them for very long. Especially Ibara didn’t seem like she’d slow her pace for me. In the time that I had for her to catch up to and then pass me, I could probably only ask her around two questions.
I didn’t have enough time to ask everything I wanted to. If I didn’t decide on what I wanted to ask before she caught up, I was going to ruin my chance.
In order to ask the correct questions, I needed to correctly understand the situation. Specifically, what I need to understand was just exactly what kind of person the Kamiyama High School first-year Tomoko Ōhinata was.
…So I tried to remember. After Chitanda left yesterday, Ibara asked the only remaining person, me, a question.
“So, what happened?”
When I didn’t answer, she said something else.
“You don’t know? Should’ve seen that coming. After all, you’re not one to pay attention to other people.”
A single, nonchalant comment.
It almost felt like she was a bit surprised, however.
It’s not like I didn’t know because I was reading my book after class yesterday. Rather, I just wasn’t very interested in anything Ōhinata had to say. It was probably due to things like this that Satoshi always liked to call me a “people-hater.” It wasn't like that was entirely the case, but it wasn’t very far off either. Perhaps from an outsider’s perspective it looked like I was becoming more and more distant from Ōhinata.
For the most part, I came to not really care at all about her personal life, about what made her happy and what had hurt her in the past. I was essentially ignoring her. I wondered if, even now, I could manage a full U-turn from that apathy. Could I do it during this 20km distance? The course took far too long when simply running, however I wondered if even that was enough time for me to try and understand someone.
I had to try and think about it, no matter what it took.
The slope became increasingly steeper, and at some point, the scenery to the left and right of the road had changed to that of a cedar forest.
Another person continued to pass me by as I dawdled forward.
I first met her in April. It was during the new-student recruitment week.
Translator's Notes and References
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