The Doll That Took A Detour: Chapter 5: The Handmade Chocolate Incident; Subchapter 316 min read
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Hyouka Volume 4: The Doll That Took A Detour
Chapter 5: The Handmade Chocolate Incident
Judgement day had arrived. Many people may have wished for something to hinder it’s arrival, but time doesn’t stop. The calendar proves that. Traveling at the speed of light is impossible, so no one can stop it.
That is why today is February 14th. On the calendar for this year that I got from the neighborhood shrine, the day’s event was of course written “St. Valentine’s Day”. After waking up in the morning, a decorated box had been left in front of my room. Wondering what kind of joke my useless sister was playing on me, I opened the lid to find a chocolate bar and a scribbled note. I looked at the note…
“I present to you one chocolate bar. From Oreki Tomoe, with great and tender pity.”
Out-front-kick. I punted the box into my room and went to school.
There was no change from the usual at Kamiyama High School. Because students were allowed to wear their cold-weather clothes, the pathway to the school was bustling with winter coats and sweaters. Entering the school, the inside of the buildings weren’t filled with the smell of sweets.
A very peaceful beginning to the fated day.
During lunch, contemplating whether I should buy walnut bread as I faced the student store, I forced my way through the crowds of students. I had escaped the mob, managing to safely secure a loaf of bread, when I suddenly noticed something. Amongst the throng of students was Chitanda, who also appeared to be buying something. Setting aside her looks and personality as a young lady from a wealthy family, for some reason seeing her tossed about in the crowd was amusing. Chitanda seemed to have noticed me as well, and pushing through the swarm of school uniforms, finally emerged and called out to me.
Adjusting her scarf, in her hand Chitanda had only a drink box. In the mood to wonder about her affairs, I asked,
“Chitanda, is that all you have for lunch?”
At being questioned, Chitanda cast down her eyes in a slightly bashful manner.
“No, I have a proper lunch box prepared. Um, recently, I have been devoted to this.”
Extending her hand to show me what she’d bought, it appeared to be some kind of weird green tea milk. Putting aside the strange combination, I wondered if she couldn’t get green tea because of her weakness to caffeine. Well, I guess that’s what’s called the placebo effect. I kept quiet.
Standing in front of the congestion surrounding the student store was annoying, so we started walking. My classroom and Chitanda’s classroom were next to each other.
In the tedium of walking, we talked about Ibara.
“What happened with Ibara’s chocolates in the end?”
Smiling and even looking a little proud, Chitanda answered.
“We decided to use Cote D’or. I thought using Nestle would be good enough.”
We walked silently for a bit. Seeing as no elaboration was forthcoming, I asked,
“What are you talking about?”
“…Ah, sorry. We decided on a Belgian brand. Though I was okay with using a Swiss brand.”
Then she said,
“It was really hard. We bought a lot of chocolate from the store and had to taste them all with just the two of us. Although I think that it was a pretty rare experience, there was just so much! Chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate… To be honest, I want to avoid chocolate for a while.”
She giggled. Imagining her and Ibara facing each other in the Geology Lecture Room, with all the chocolate lined up on the desk and sinking their teeth into them one after the other, I laughed as well. I’m sure the mountains of chocolate stretching up to the ceiling lowered in no time.
“With eating that much chocolate, you guys didn’t get pimples?”
“I’m okay. Mayaka-san got one on her cheek, but she hid it with a band aid.”
And then Chitanda said, with a far-off, dreamy look,
“Mayaka-san made the heart mold all by herself. I didn’t know she could work with her hands like that. And adding a small carving…Although the Cupid is facing the opposite way, it’s still really cute. Unfortunately the wooden frame wasn’t very compatible with chocolate, so I was afraid the texture might be bad.”
“Because of her time spent with the Manga Society Club, it seems she’d be able to make smooth cuts. I didn’t know a chisel could be used like that.”
“Mayaka-san’s concentration was really amazing. Putting all of her heart into it, doing that sort of thing…Isn’t it wonderful?”
Speaking of putting her heart into it, I’ve seen Ibara’s strength and ability to concentrate somewhere before. I would say Chitanda’s ability to get engrossed with things is comparable to Ibara’s ability to dedicate herself to things. Incidentally, Satoshi gets invested with several fun things at once, while I of course am not interested in most things. Not to mention this time it’s round two for Ibara and her chocolate. I wonder if she’s even more eager.
“And, has she handed the chocolate over?”
I asked, and Chitanda shook her head. She knit her brows slightly.
“There it’s a little unfortunate. I thought that Mayaka-san was going to give them herself but…She was going to give them to him in the club room, but she absolutely has to go to the Manga Society Club.”
“So, now what?”
“She’s going to call Fukube-san to the clubroom and plans to leave the chocolate there for him. Having it after school is nothing to fuss over so long as the Valentine’s ritual of it being February 14th is met. I thought there would be another way, but…”
Hmmm. Chitanda looked regretful over this conclusion of the business, but it seemed like the only other way it could be done was if Ibara abruptly tossed over the chocolate like it was nothing. Satoshi would probably prefer it that way.
And then Chitanda, suddenly remembering something, looked back at me. With a serious expression, she stood before me.
“Ah, right, Oreki-san. Today is Valentine’s Day but…”
She gently bowed her head. Raising her face, Chitanda’s expression regained it’s brightness.
“In my family, we don’t give year-end and mid-year gifts to people we are close to. That’s why, I apologize for failing to pay you my compliments with Valentine’s chocolates.”
…Is that so?
I’d never imagined Valentine’s chocolates as being on the same level as year-end gifts until now. Overhearing our conversation, some passing second-years fought back their laughter as they quickly overtook us. I wondered if I should kick their asses.
After school, while packing my shoulder bag with textbooks and other things, Satoshi came to see me. His ever-present drawstring bag was bursting with something rectangular, and I wondered what he had in there. Swinging it around, Satoshi asked,
“What are you going to do now, Houtarou?”
I decided to not go to the Geology Lecture Room as it would be foolish to do so. I was going to say that I planned on quickly heading home, but I suddenly looked out the window and saw the sleet that had begun a little while ago was slowly gaining momentum. Although my coat and shoes were waterproof and I’d brought an umbrella, still….
“I’ll wait around for the sleet to stop or until it turns to snow.”
I thought for a bit. The heating was turned off, so it was cold in here. And I wondered if a guy waiting on the weather, killing time alone in the classroom after school on Valentine’s Day would be a bother to others in the classroom. Just thinking about it made my head spin. And I’d said this before, but going to the club room would be ridiculous.
“Hm. I guess I’ll go to the library.”
Then, Satoshi who was just waiting nodded. He took out a book from his drawstring bag and handed it to me. A duodecimo-sized hardcover, and judging from the title it was the kind of thing that was popular ages ago. If my memory wasn’t wrong, it was something like, ‘The men and women live ordinary lives. But a small sense of discomfort soon turns into an irreparable catastrophe. The shadow of death sweeps over the city!’ It wad that kind of story. I’m not into horror.
“You like to dabble in weird things, huh. Even though you recommend it, I don’t feel like reading it.”
“I didn’t tell you to read it. Sorry, but I was thinking you could return it for me. The due date for that is really close.”
Instead of answering, I thrust the book along with a loose leaf into my bag. Without stopping my preparations to leave, I asked,
“Are you going to the club room?”
I received ‘Ah, yeah’, as his absent-minded answer. I thought this lack of care was odd, and said,
“Seems that Ibara isn’t going.”
He probably wasn’t expecting me to know that. Satoshi made a surprised face.
“Wow, word sure travels fast…Chitanda-san, right?”
“Seems that she can’t leave the Manga Club.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Chitanda was disappointed, while Ibara…”
Interrupting my words, Satoshi began to rattle on.
“There seems to some trouble in the Manga Club at the moment. It became obvious after the Cultural Festival and now they’ve divided into two factions, the Impressionists and the Realists, and are fighting over leadership. If it gets worse, I guess it’s unavoidable to have a situation where the Manga Society Club gets divided. In number, the ratio of the Impressionists to the Realists is 3:1. I can’t help but think that’s somewhat sad. Mayaka’s the leader of the Realists, so that’s pretty much what today is all about.”
I felt the rudeness of the forced conversation change, but even so I asked about the situation despite not really caring for it.
“Impressionists, you say?”
“Realists. Well, you could also refer to them as the character-oriented group and the story-oriented group. It seems that they’re arguing as fiercely as a sword battle. If it were possible, I’d join as well.”
He spoke quite happily. Rather than the events of February 14th, that scandal seemed far more interesting to him. Well, anyways,
“Those two faction names, you just made them up.”
Satoshi shrugged annoyingly.
“It’s like ‘the admiration for the prophet hasn’t yet stopped’, right?”
While saying that, he twirled his completely empty drawstring bag. Needing to stop talking to Satoshi, with my bag slung over my shoulder and my trench coat hanging on my arm, I left the classroom. Satoshi followed me out. Because the connecting corridor to the special building and the library are in opposite directions, we parted ways in front of the classroom.
“Then, I’ll see you later Oreki-kun.”
Satoshi’s tone was histrionic, and I retorted as jokingly as possible.
“For what? Seriously.”
He was decided. Of course, he was the other party of the return match.
Surprisingly, the library wasn’t crowded. With the bad weather after school, I was expecting more people to be here.
For the time being, I went to go return Satoshi’s book, and set my shoulder bag on the nearest seat. Thinking I’d kill some time by skimming through a book, I searched the bookshelf for something suitable, grabbing a collection of photographs of historic South American sites. Though there were also ones for Europe and Central Asia, I still chose South America, perhaps in homage of the land where chocolate originated.
To start with were the Mayan pyramids. With the Guiana Highlands covered in greenery, the several silly indentations drilled into it made up a strange spectacle. Turning the page, next was a strange plant with a human face-sized fruit attached to the trunk. The caption said “Theobroma Cacao. Theobroma means ‘the food of the gods.” I couldn’t write that, whatever language it was.
While looking at the photos, I unexpectedly noticed how aware I was of the specialness of this day. But, if I were to worry about Valentine’s, then it would be a lie to not worry about Christmas as well. I can’t even remember having thought about anything in addition to this on the 24th of the month before last. If I were to think back on whether there was anything impressive about Saint Valentine’s Day, besides my humble interest in Ibara’s return game, receiving a chocolate present first thing in the morning seems like a big thing. It’s thanks to that that I became aware and wondered if today was the fourteenth.
Although I’d already said this before quite clearly, that didn’t mean that my expectation of receiving chocolate was higher than it was last year.
Yes, let’s say, for example, on the basis of me being here right now looking at the sewer traces of Machu Picchu, that someone came in with a flustered face. That assumed someone is a female student, of course. And then she says, “Here, please accept this!” and holds out a heart-shaped chocolate. At that time, what would I be thinking?
Well naturally, I would be happy about it.
But I expect that that happiness would be the same kind I would get when unexpectedly discovering a fragment of myself. Like winning by chance a city-wide art contest with a rushed, last-minute drawing, there would be essentially no difference between the two feelings. If I were to express it in words, it would be, “Though I don’t know if I’m good enough, I thank you for giving me this award.”
Whether or not this would result in my feeling happy over the development of a so-called ‘love’, I can’t help but be doubtful.
I believe in energy conservation. “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to, I’ll do it quickly.” That belief mainly lets me be lazy. But aside from that, it also give me a bit of insight into human relations.
Being in the Classics Club lets me feel at ease, and for Satoshi, Chitanda, and Ibara as well, because we don’t make trouble for each other. For example, even though Chitanda constantly disturbs my peace with her curiosity, and it appears that I wholeheartedly don’t want to be involved with her, she never goes so far as to pull me along by force. In fact, during last year’s ‘Hyouka’ incident and with the ‘Empress’ incident as well, Chitanda didn’t say she wanted my cooperation by any means necessary. Her ability to influence others is strong, but that doesn’t mean she’ll do anything to have her way. If that were the case, and she said things like, “Of course you must do it,” or “It’s your responsibility”, or if she pestered me by begging in tears, I might have left the Classics Club right then and there.
But, how do you handle a love affair with that attitude? Will they expect that kind of style or will they force their own on the subject of the love affair?
…It’s common belief for organisms to leave behind their own genes, namely through creating offspring. Love is just the sublimated desire to breed. Speaking from that point of view, I might still be incomplete in terms of being an organism. Well, even though this is only tentative and I too am a human being, I don’t need to go out with somebody just because of biological needs. That’s why I won’t worry myself about being an incomplete organism.
If I were to speak of desire, it would be enough for me to say that I desire the chocolate. I like spicy things but I’m fine with sweet things too.
While looking at the bright orange color of a poisonous frog in the jungle, I pondered on that.
“I finally found you, Oreki-san.”
A voice suddenly appeared out of the blue, and I turned my head. Close enough to surprise me was Chitanda’s face. My gaze collided squarely with her big eyes, and I looked away.
In the dry air of winter, my throat ached. I gave a dry cough.
“…‘I finally found you,’ did you need something?”
Chitanda quickly glanced around the scarcely occupied library, then murmured,
“I thought that if Oreki-san was here, then Fukube-san might be as well.”
So she was here for Satoshi.
“We’re not joined at the hip.”
“I know that, but…Do you know where Fukube-san is?”
As I was about to answer her question, I realized something weird. Satoshi had headed towards the Geology Lecture Room. If he went that way, Chitanda surely would have seen him.
“He’s not there, huh?”
She gave a small nod.
“Because he seemed to be a little late, I went to check up on him. I thought he wouldn’t have forgotten because of his relationship with Mayaka-san, but I wondered if something happened.”
Hmmm. I looked at my watch. Though I don’t remember the exact time, Satoshi had said that he was heading to the clubroom when he parted with me. Thirty minutes hadn’t even passed yet. The time was now a little before five o’clock. With the day almost coming to an end, I certainly understood why Chitanda was so fidgety.
But this is Fukube Satoshi. Although it should be a crime to make people wait, he’s probably been loitering about on his way there for the past half-hour.
Turning the page of the photo-book, with the vista of Mexico City before me, I answered,
“Satoshi’s just being careless of the time. Well, since he said he was going to go to the clubroom, try to wait a little longer.”
“The exact time was never decided on, so I can’t really say that he’s late. I understand. I’ll wait a bit then.”
Though her last word seemed to carry an anxious feeling, Chitanda did as she said and left, her black hair swaying behind her. That Satoshi, he just couldn’t let things progress smoothly. Thinking it was about time for me to go home, I looked out the window, but saw that the sleet had yet to let up. I reluctantly sat back down and proceeded to turn another page.