Disclaimer : I do not own Hyouka. Please do not sue me
Calculating the Trajectory of a Rumor
Wednesday the 18th of December, Eight Days 'til Christmas
Houtarou never wants to do anything.
Let me repeat this again. Very slowly. Oreki Houtarou never... never... NEVER... wants to do anything.
Last night Houtarou called and asked me to meet up with him after the Classics Club meeting (which he wasn't attending) at a nice little cafe called The Peace Garden. Now I know this typically sounds like something friends would do. School activities are over, let's get a drink. A normal, rosy high school life fully of energy and vibrancy.
But this is Houtarou. The Oreki Houtarou.
This sort of event is a sign of the Mayan End Times. The Second Coming of Christ. Ragnarok. Armageddon.
What's more amazing is that that's not even the biggest news of the day.
I may be a self-proclaimed 'Database' but that sort of expertise doesn't come with easy. Being friendly with many people since kindergarten has left me with an intelligence network spanning from the hidden valleys in the Manninbashi mountains to the alleys of downtown Kamiyama.
And last night, my entire network lit up. I had twelve text messages, four emails, a couple of school gossip columnists call me. Never before had I had so many notifications flood in.
The message: Chitanda Eru and Oreki Houtarou were on a date.
I couldn't believe it.
The wind was blowing leafs into my face as I raced down the sidewalks, dodging pedestrians and dogs and bicycles and a few streetlight posts. I was eager to see Houtarou. I had so many questions that needed answers. I desperately needed the theories swirling in my head validated or rejected.
I burst through the doors of The Peach Garden. The waitress nearly fainted. Saw Houtarou.
Want answers now.
"Satoshi. Good afternoon," Houtarou greeted.
"Sit," he commanded. I sat.
"Um... drink?" The waitress had recovered and held a pen and notepad in a quaking palm.
"Coffee. Look, Houtar-"
"Tell me about you and Chitanda. Now!" Yes! Ibara has arrived in force, slamming both hands onto the counter.
"You're both here. That saves me the trouble," Houtarou said as he sipped his coffee.
Ibara looked as anxious as I was as she sat next to me across from Houtarou. We both were invited to this shindig hosted by none other than the man of the hour himself, Oreki Houtarou.
"Gah! Don't try to change the subject, Oreki," Ibara scolded. "I've heard from several reliable sources that Chi-chan was spotted on a date with you last night! They almost ran a news story with it on the local channel. The Manga Society is even thinking of publishing a dramatized retelling!"
"So! Explain!" Ibara was fuming and the waitress set down my coffee before asking what Ibara wanted. "The strongest stuff you've got!"
"Houtarou," I began for the tenth something time. "Care to tell us what happened?"
Houtarou sipped his coffee and gave a frown. "This is still too bitter," he said as he reached for some sugar and cream. "And I'm not dating Chitanda. I'm dating Fuyumi.
"That's weird. You usually drink it bla-wait. Wait... WAIT."
I looked to Ibara. Her mouth was gasped. I saw shock. I was in shock too. Then I saw anger flash briefly before a nervous grin. Then anger came back again.
"O. Re. Ki," she mouthed each syllable. "What do you mean 'I'm dating Fuyumi'?"
Houtarou sighed. "It means that I am currently in a relationship with her in which we are pursuing a romantic companionship with each other to ascertain whether we are compatible as lifelong partners." He took another sip and reached for more sugar. "Also I'm in love with her."
I gave a nervous laugh.
"You-Houtarou-why. When? How? Energy conservation? Hate rosy school-life?" Mentally, I was self-destructing.
"She's... but she's... She's such a snob!" Ibara screamed slamming both hands to the table again. The waitress nervously approached and begged us to quiet down. "How could you possibly prefer her over Chi-chan!?"
"Love changes people?" Houtarou shrugged before waving down a waitress. The table was out of sugar.
"B-but if you're with Irisu and you were spotted on a date with Chitanda then-," I gasped.
The key points of the information I had just received were the following. People believe Houtarou and Chitanda are dating. Houtarou and Chitanda are not dating. Chitanda cancelled club meetings. Houtarou is actually with Irisu, the Frozen Empress of Kamiyama, Most Beautiful and Elegant Ice-Witch of Winter, First of Her Name and Warden of Houtarou's Heart.
Even a 'Database' can figure this out.
"So the reason why Chi-chan cancelled the club meeting was because of you!" Ibara had stood out of her seat and pointed a finger at the villain.
"That's why you're both here early. Is Chitanda okay?" Oreki ignored Ibara as he dumped the packet of sugar.
"S-she said she wasn't feeling well..." Ibara sunk back down in her seat, exhausted and panting and in a daze.
"Oh." Houtarou yawned. "It's still too early."
"It's noon..." Ibara said staring at the cafe clock.
"Well," Houtarou said as he downed the last of his coffee. "I have a request for each of you."
I nodded in a trance. Houtarou could tell me to strip and dance on the table as I poured coffee down my underpants if he asked. This all had to be a dream.
"What is it?" Ibara asked softly, her eyes still fixated on the clock.
"Ibara, go see Chitanda. She's probably ill. Satoshi, head to the library and gather all the information you can on the history of the town. Focus on anything having to do with the Irisu family and the Chitanda clan," Oreki said finishing with a yawn as he began straightening his coat and making for the door.
"And what will you do be doing?" Ibara asked bringing her eyes back to Houtarou.
"Going to school," he replied dully. He fought back a yawn. "I have take Fuyumi out on an apology date. She's possessive."
It was a journey to reach the library.
Houtarou yawned. Ibara had set off for the Chitanda estate while Houtarou walked with me towards the school. Fortunately for me, I had recovered enough of my senses to recall what I originally wanted to ask Houtarou.
"So were you and Chitanda on a date last night?"
"No," he said.
Well that answers that.
Wait. "But what about the rumors?" I leaned in closer to Houtarou as he fixed his coat. "I heard you and Chitanda went on a romantic stroll around downtown Kamiyama. Then you two started making out before Chitanda ran off. They're calling it The Cinderella of Kamiyama."
"The Cinderella of Kamiyama?" Houtarou asked as he sneezed.
"You know that story where the princess has to get home before midnight? It's like that." I began laughing. "I figure most of the story was embellished for the sake of drama."
"More or less," Houtarou shrugged.
"Which part? Did you two really go on a romantic stroll around downtown Kamiyama?"
"Well did Chitanda run off at the end?"
"She walked away at a fast pace?" Houtarou replied.
"Oh," I laughed. "Well you two certainly didn't make out."
"It was just on the cheek."
"What." I stopped in the middle of a crosswalk. I stood standing there for a good while. The light had changed and cars were honking at me. I didn't care. I was still processing the information. Shock, confusion, horror. Houtarou had finished off to the other side and waited. He stood there watching as if it were nothing. What did he see on my face? Cars were now driving around me as I snapped back to reality.
"What?" Houtarou replied.
"You...Chitanda, she... you... her..."
Houtarou sighed. "It was just friendly."
"It certainly doesn't sound 'just friendly'!"
Houtarou shrugged. "Well, it was." I was not satisfied with his response. For years I've prided myself on my ability: hunting for information. A Database does not simply compile, it was also gather. Poach if necessary.
And this time, Houtarou was a prey I wasn't letting get away.
"Details!" I screamed catching the attention of everyone at the entrance of the school gate.
Oreki shrugged and left me at the gate. I screamed after him.
He was so much farther ahead of me.
I sighed and went for my locker to gather some stuff. I was on campus, so why not?
I opened my locker.
And there I spotted something: a folded sheet of paper.
I opened the folded sheet of paper and saw a composite note. Letters snipped from magazines and newspapers glued together into a message like the ones you find left behind at murder scenes by arrogant serial killers. I was nervous reading through it yet at the same felt felt... elated.
My heart wouldn't stop running.
CoME By tHe RiveR at NiGHtfall. aLoNe. i HAve s33n yOur futuRe-.
yOu Are the h-Ero! oF this sTOry.
I arrived at the Kamiyama River a few hours later.
"Database. Peter," came a feminine voice from behind me.
"Peter. Database," I smiled turning around.
It was hard to tell who Peter was. His voice was girlish yet sounded forcibly gruff. Kind of like those chain-smoking waitresses in American trucking diners but not quite. But still, as a Database I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
His clothing didn't help. The thickness of his clothing made it hard to tell what he looked like. The blackness of a streetlight aided Peter's camouflage. Peter wore a black hat, a black coat, a black cloak, a black scarf, and black shoes. The darkness covered every inch of skin. A pair of black sunglasses finished the ensemble. Only a glancing streetlight offered me any view of Peter's dark figure. Whoever this Peter person was, he definitely didn't want me to know who he really was. The guy was dressed like a shadow.
He reminded me of Batman.
"Wise to come alone, Database," Peter said as he produced a steel pipe from under his cloak.
"Hey, wait. Was I suppose to come armed?" Peter shook his head. Peter then sheathed the pipe beneath his cloak and fixed his scarf. His hands covered in black gloves.
The wind was breezy and my vision dim. "You have no idea who I am," Peter stated plainly.
I closed my eyes and scanned through my internal files. My mind began searching keywords, assembling relevant data, and condensing the information.
"Peter," I said. "That's probably not your name. Perhaps you chose the name for a symbolic reason. Saint Peter the gatekeeper to heaven? Peter the Great of Russia? Peter Pan the eternal child?"
Peter giggled. "No reason so grand. But I see your talent."
I felt ten times larger. "Really?"
"Do you know why I have summoned you?"
"Yes. You're going to help me guide me to solve this mystery!"
Peter took a step back. "Y-you know?"
"Who doesn't know?" I smirked. "I have to learn how the Energy Conserving Prince Oreki Houtarou got together with the Empress Irisu Fuyumi."
Peter brought a palm to his covered face. "No you idiot. Not that mystery."
"Th-then what is it?"
"This town is old and the families older. They will fight to keep the town in their image," Peter explained.
"What kind of mystery is that?"
"There are secrets of this town I'm seeking to uncover. Ones that could shake the entire foundation of the town itself."
I felt myself grow several inches taller. "What role am I to play in this?"
"Fortune favors you, Database," said Peter. "Your fame in knowledge and information gathering is renowned within our small town I hope we can establish a cordial relationship."
Peter took a step back away from me. He was being cautious. I should be too but I was caught up in all the excitement. In that pause I begun to think as my head cleared up and my mind starting to trickle in information from my vast reserves of information. The trivia I've accumulated were finally turning my rusty ol' gears. This was shady. This was dangerous.
And I loved it.
"Oreki Houtarou - he will be the key to all of this," Peter said softly. "The Bearer of the Star of Kamiyama."
And my heart shattered.
"So that's it..." I muttered.
It became clear to me. "So I'm not the hero at all..." I muttered. "You just want to use me."
"Such is the way of the world, Database," Peter shrugged. "But you are more than just a gossip."
I lowered my head. "It's disgusting to have live in his shadow. Unable to press forward because of fear. Unable to do anything because I'm too obsessed with being not obsessed." I turned away from Peter and walked along the riverbed. The river air became cooler as you neared the water. An effect of water's high heat capacity. A gentle night breeze some might call chilly. A winter darkness settled in.
I wanted to go home.
"A true Jack-of-all-Trades," Peter commented as he approached me from behind.
"I'm not even a Jack. Just a novice pretending to be a master," I said softly.
"Find courage," Peter said. "Find a flaming passion. Even a spark can vanquish a shadow."
Heh, that's true."So you want to forge an alliance with me?" I asked to the gentle blackness of the river. Tiny specks of light dotted the river surface; a reflection of the town lights and stars being played out on water.
"You don't have to make your decision now, but soon. The stars have been set in motion."
I looked up at the scattered bright dots in the sky. Ten to the twenty-third power number of stars exist in the universe to humanity's best approximation. Each star is its own system. Each with its own satellites of rock and metal floating the vacuum of space through dust and comets. Here I am, before all this majesty, worried about petty rumors and mysteries in a small backwater town. But why is it that the latter interested me so much more? "I'll think about it," I answered.
"Tell me, Database. Do you trust me?"
"Nope," I grinned to myself as I stared into the blackness of the river.
"Good call," Peter said as he pushed me. "Forgive me."
Peter had vanished by the time I got out of the river.
All that was left was another note with a white rabbit sticker.
"i wiLL cONTact y0u s00n.
fRoM peTER tHe BLACK raBBit"
I arrived home nearing midnight wet, cold and chilled to the bone. All I wanted was a hot shower and scour my intelligence networks to find out who the hell this Peter was.
That's when Houtarou gave me a call.
"I believe The Star of Kamiyama has been stolen."
Chapter Four Fin
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