There is nothing better in life than being home alone. No disturbances, no disruptions, just the melodic hum of the electric heater and soft buzz of the television. These little moments of joy are what make the slog of school life all worth it. Today, I devote myself to my ultimate dream - doing as little as possible. I take a moment, praying a silent wish to whatever gods there may be that these halcyon days never end.
I yawn, stretching out on the lounger like an alley cat slowly waking from a soft summer slumber. My hands leisurely reach around on the floor below, searching idly for the bowl of leftover snacks my sister had brought me hours earlier. I connect and haphazardly stuff a selection of miniature salted pretzels into my mouth.
I glance at the clock hanging just behind the television, which has been silently playing a variety of subtitled out-of-copyright movies for the last eight hours. 4:17. My family will be away for at least another two hours. I might even be able to finish another film and have a quick nap at this rate. Recharge my batteries before Monday rolls around and I am thrust into the pace of Chitanda and the others.
Perhaps I was overly optimistic, but I began to dream idly about my evening activities, savouring the stillness of the house once again. Then, I hear it.
Well, so ends my lethargy. A storm comes to end my halcyon days.
I wait for a few moments, but the obnoxious ringing from the home phone continues. I leisurely uncurl from my fortress of blankets and make my way over to the peace breaker.
"Oreki Houtarou" I say in a monotonous tone, picking up the phone lazily and leaning against the nearby desk. My own name seems an appropriate enough salutation.
"Oreki-san! Thank goodness! I thought you might not be at home." A quick but soft voice replies. No greeting then? Not that I need one. I know exactly who is on the other side of the line.
"Hello Chitanda" I said flatly. I knew that my dreams of a quiet evening at home were officially over.
"Good evening Oreki-san." Chitanda Eru, sole heir to the Chitanda family estate and President of the Classic Literature Club, politely speaks into my ear.
There was an extended silence. My eyebrow twitches. This girl…
"Well, if you didn't call me for a reason…" I begin, hoping silently to myself that I can somehow get back to my original evening plans.
"Ah, wait!" I can almost hear Chitanda flush. "I need to speak to you about an important matter!"
I sigh. I begin to tug my hair absentmindedly preparing, perhaps, to only half-listen to whatever elaboration Chitanda should offer.
"Okay" I state non-committedly. My eyes flicker to the window. It is a cool November afternoon. The sun has just begun to dip across the rooftops of the neighborhood, painting tiles and windows with soft pinks and oranges. Children cycle past, no doubt returning home quickly to avoid missing curfew.
"It something about which I am really very curious! I can't stop thinking about it!"
Sudden violet flashes in my vision. Now it was my turn to flush. Chitanda had spoken the magic words and I begin to feel that tugging sensation that always accompanies them. The subtle peace of my lazy afternoon already seems like a distant memory. Somehow, even when communicated over electronic vibrations, those words still carry that pull which makes Chitanda unignorably magnetic.
I sigh. "What are you curious about now Chitanda." I'm not really curious about it myself but knowing that I can't simply ignore her now, as much as I wish I could.
"Well.." I hear the shuffling of feet against the pavement. "I am unable to explain it properly over the phone. It is something I need to show you, I think."
What was the point in calling then!?
"Okay, well, show me Monday." I say quickly, sensing a possible escape. "If you'll excuse me then..." I begin to put down the phone.
"Wait," a hurried voice replies, "that may not be preferable."
What is this girl talking about now?
"What do mean not preferable?!" I'm already worn down by this endlessly curious girl after such a short conversation.
A pause. "Well, I thought that this mystery simply couldn't wait." Impatient as ever Chitanda. "So I thought I would bring my curiosities to your doorstep."
I blanch. Hoping beyond hope that she was speaking figuratively. A feeling passes over me and I walk slowly to my front door. With a sigh, I unlock the chain and turn the handle. It doesn't take much deductive reasoning to deceiver her words.
I push and the door swings open. In front of me stands one Eru Chitanda. Her raven hair is tied by a white ribbon into a long river of a ponytail and she is wearing her usual conservative attire: a long, frilled skirt and a white blouse covered with a soft pewter cardigan.
"Hello Chitanda." I say wearily, still dangling the phone next to one ear and holding the door open for her to step inside.
She beams at me, hanging up her own phone and putting it into her purse. She gives a long and overly low formal bow.
"Good evening Oreki-san."
"I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, Oreki-san."
We were sat in my room, away from the mess of blankets and food that had made up my fortress of solitude in the living room. Chitanda had prepared some tea. The girl seemed to know her way around my kitchen, reaching into draws and cupboards to gather the necessary implements like she had done it a million times before. When I asked her about it, she just smiled at me and said it was a 'women's initiation'. Whatever that means.
I was sat on the floor, leaning my back against my bed whilst Chitanda sits neatly on folded knees next to me. I hadn't responded to her curiosity just yet, and she was moving closer and closer towards me, eyes getting bigger and bigger until they seemed to be the only thing that filled my vision.
"Oreki-sannnn…" she whined impatiently, eyes imploring me to speak.
I turn my head away from her, close my eyes and begin to tug on my fringe in my usual fashion. 'How am I going to get out of this one' is the only thought going through my head as I open my eyes and casually take another sip of tea.
"Well" I begin, "can I first just confirm that I have the story correct?"
She nods eagerly.
"So over the last few months, you have been taking out books from the local library. However, each time you take out a book, some other person has had it on loan just before you." I look over at her to confirm that I have I got the facts correct so far. She is sits perfectly still, staring at me like a daruma doll. Seeing this as confirmation enough, I continue.
"That person is always the same. Someone with the initials," I pause, and open a couple of the books splayed around us and examine the library check out cards handwritten in the front of the book, "T.O.M."
I examine the card briefly, pretending that I am taking a real interest in her case.
I'm not Holmes dammit, I don't take on cases.
That said, I resume my consolidation.
"From what you told me, it seems like at first you thought it was a mere coincidence, but now that it has happened more than a dozen times, you think it must be something more. And you want me to help you figure out if there is a deeper meaning to all this. By deducing who this T.O.M character is, right?"
I put the card down and look sideways at the dark-haired inquisitor sitting next to me.
"Is that about the full of it?"
"Hmm hmm" Chitanda hums, nodding her head excitingly, "Isn't it quite the mystery?"
I sigh, looking away from her and taking another swig of the warm liquid in my cup.
"The only mystery to me is why the library still uses the handwritten checkout system. Haven't they started making these things electronic yet?"
"Oreki-san! I feel like you aren't taking this seriously at all!" She exclaims, seemingly horrified that I am not as totally invested in this ostensibly unexplainable mystery as she. I feel the warmth of her thigh against mine as she scoots closer and closer next to me. Too close. She leans over slightly, her hand grazing over my arm as she points to the neat writing on the worn library card. I blush and coil back, putting space between us once more. She doesn't seem fazed at all.
"T.O.M" she mutters under her breath, picking up the card with both hands and holding it directly in front of her eye line, entranced. She suddenly turns to look at me, eyes ablaze. "What could it mean? Is it a name or a code perhaps, or maybe a group of people going under one alias… But why? And why always the same books as me? Please Oreki-san, think about it carefully! I have to know!"
I think I would really like to go back watching re-runs now please. She looks up at me again, eyes pleading, body moving closer and closer into me as I shift uncomfortably away.
"Fine, fine" I relent, sighing and breaking eye contact. I slowly stand, "I'll consider it. Though, I don't have any answers right now."
She literally jumps for joy, springing from the floor upwards at an accelerated rate and clapping her hands together.
"Thank you Oreki-san! I am sure that together we can find the meaning behind this mysterious book stalker."
If anything, you are the stalker Chitanda. You took the books second and now want to track down the guy who took them out first.
"Yeah, okay," I begin gathering the books and putting them in her bag, "we can talk more about this on Monday."
She nods and smiles at me, no doubt thinking about what anthology of Hyouka we can include this mystery in.
"If you are free, perhaps we can investigate the scene of the crime after-school. I can ask if Mayaka and Futabe-san are free too! We can make it an official Classics Club mystery." She becomes excited at the thought. I knew it.
"Well, I suppose I'm not doing anything tomorrow anyway," I say dejectedly, knowing that I have been well and truly defeated once again by the pale enchantress. I look down at my watch. It is almost 6 o'clock. I gather the cups from the floor and turn to Chitanda.
"You should probably be heading home – your parents might get worried if you come back too late."
Chitanda nods, "Yes, of course! Thank you very much for your hospitality and for once again listening to my curiosities."
I blush slightly at the compliment and make a weak smile in her direction. We both head downstairs. I put the mugs into the empty sink, intending to wash them after seeing Chitanda off. Walking over to the door, I unlock it as she taps her outdoor shoes onto her petite feet. I lean against the open door as she walks through it, giving me a whole-hearted smile which I return with a small single wave.
"See you Monday." I say, moving to close the door.
"Yes, I am already looking forward to it!" She smiles back at me.
I make a grunting sound in response and close the door.
I fall back against the door and slide down it, exhausted from the tornado of energy that is Eru Chitanda. I take a moment, closing my eyes and breathing in deeply.
Peace and quiet at last.
A/N: So, it begins! I haven't written a story in FOREVER! I have still loved reading and reviewing after all this time, so I thought I would add my two-cents to this awesome fandom! My plan is to write quite quickly so that you guys get relatively swift updates. This might take a toll on the writing style, however I've found that writing quickly actually trims a lot of the fat off my story which is something I prefer when reading it. Let's just get straight to the action, I always think, though you need moments of reprieve I suppose :P
About the story – it takes place after episode 22 and I think it will be roughly 7 chapters longs, though we shall see. It is rated T for now, though if there is a demand and it fits the story I might up the rating for all you fellow pervs out there ;)
I unashamedly stole the title of this work from Tite Kubo. Don't judge.
Apologies for any mistakes – I do appreciate feedback so please review if you have time.