It would be boasting of my city, but the library of the town we lived in was exceedingly rich in content. Our town being the size it was, it prided itself on the amount of books it had collected and, perhaps due to the librarian’s tastes or a penchant for the traditionalistic, its shelves were filled by sectarian works in place of best-sellers, giving the air of a museum instead of some local library.
I digress, but back when Oshino-san stayed in this town, I relied upon and borrowed books from here many times (as Oshino-san was not a resident, he could not procure a library card).
Although a fatal flaw existed in that it would close on Sundays, I always passed by this library when I was a child. While I had never sat myself down next to a wall to study, in terms of the necessary lessons of life, you could say I had learnt them all here.
All the things that my parents had not taught me.
I learnt them at this library.
All by myself.
More recently, this place was repeatedly used as Araragi-kun’s study, but even when it was Senjougahara-san’s turn to be Araragi-kun’s tutor, I would still come by here.
To be honest, by the time I was fifteen I had read most of the books collected here, but because I liked the atmosphere, the air of this establishment, I would come here even when I had no need to.
Not to mention that it was just the best place to study.
And while it might not be “my home”, it was one of the places where I would feel at ease.
Of course, I had not come here today “without need” — I came to do research.
“Good afternoon. I’ll be having a look around.”
Greeting the library worker I knew by sight, I started by picking out five books which had been reliable in the past, and sat myself down on a chair by the window that was more or less my designated seat.
The task of converting entire book catalogues into digital databases, currently being advanced by various libraries, had not yet taken place here, meaning I had to investigate each book one by one.
They were all of them books I had once read before, but not even my memory was perfect and, to begin with, my memory could not be relied upon in this case.
After all, I was able to take things inconvenient to myself and cut them away from my heart.
That was what I had done.
To phrase it like Araragi-kun’s mother, I would turn my eyes away from things as I pleased.
Even the events of Golden Week, all those things I had done had been completely forgotten by me, and even now, I could not recall them entirely — no, it was more likely because I did not want to recall them.
I pushed these painful memories and tearful stress away from myself.
I pushed them away — onto Black Hanekawa.
…That was why my memories, my knowledge, and even my thoughts could not be relied upon at all — still, if I wanted to do something about this, if I still wanted to continue my vain struggle, I had no choice but to go wall-to-wall like this.
Line by line, word by word,
without turning my eyes away,
I had no choice but to read, to burn it all into my eyes.
However, despite lingering until nearly the closing hour of the library — despite fishing through not just the first five, but in the end fifteen specialist works, there was not a single book that described the apparition, the abnormality called the Inflaming Tiger.
Having considered that it might have been my own mishearing, I took care to watch for similarly-named phantoms — for example, the Flaming Tiger, which seemed quite possible seeing as it caused the phenomenon of fire — but that was a miss (I did find the related Water Tiger, but that was basically just a Kappa, which was of even less relevance).
It had been done with the best of intentions, but ending up with results like these was truly pathetic.
I had been entirely under the impression that I would be able to simply refer to a large variety of references, as suitable for the topic, much as Oshino-san would do… but things did not go quite so smoothly.
In fact, was it really so impossible that there had actually been a proper description of the abnormality, and I simply overlooked it? The possibility that it had been written there, but I, not wanting to know, had turned my eyes away from it —
“…But if I start thinking like that, I just can’t trust anything, anymore.”
Me being the way I was, nothing about my state of affairs could be trusted in the first place. I was trying to do something about this — trying to help in the midst of such a situation.
If nothing could be trusted, then I could instead employ said untrustworthiness.
If the library was of no help, I could try searching on the Internet, but to be honest, I was reluctant to attempt that approach. The Internet was an excellent medium for gathering facts on what was occurring right now, but there were far too many mistakes to be found when searching for information from the past.
More to the point, it was weak in terms of tales of the abnormal.
That being said, I might be able to find some sort of clue, and seeing as I had no other plans, there was no point in maintaining a prejudice against digital information — it was an approach that Oshino-san, who disliked machinery, would be incapable of, after all.
As I was inside a library, I had turned my phone off, but perhaps I could try searching once I got back outside.
Having made a decision, I went to return all the books I had picked out. I did not know just how correct my own memories were, but this at least was a simple task, as though I had memorized the location of all the books in this library.
“Are you by yourself today, Tsubasa-chan?”
Along the way, another worker, not the one who had greeted me, said this. She had seen Araragi-kun and I together many times before, so that was probably what she had meant with the question. She seemed to be under the impression that Araragi-kun and I were a couple, and, well, Araragi-kun did not seem to notice, so I did not attempt to correct this.
“Yes, I’m by myself today.”
As noted previously, I had been here by myself many times before, but it would seem I had not been very noticeable then (to this person’s eyes, at least).
“Hmm. Well, it’s almost closing time, are you done looking?”
“Yes, I’m done.”
There had been no results, but I certainly was done in terms of searching.
The worker glanced at the books I carried which I was returning to the shelves, and said, “that looks heavy.”
“I suppose once digital books have spread, people won’t have to worry about that weight anymore. Well, if it came to that, I suppose even the necessity of libraries would be in question.”
“I don’t know about that. I think it’ll be fine for now, as long as digital books never go beyond being computer images. Books are books, weight and all… books aren’t flat, but three-dimensional. Even if digital books do spread, just like how a collector of figurines would never say that ‘it’s enough to have just the photos’, it’s the bindings that truly makes the books, I think.”
The thought of digitalizing books was ridiculous.
It would be better to consider books and digital books in the same way as one would consider books and films — not as a transition, not as a progression, but in fact as a new species.
“Well, I hope so.”
As though she did not want to become involved in a deep discussion with some high schooler, the worker laughed lightly, looked at the titles of the books I was carrying,
“Are you interested in ghosts?”
and asked me, sounding mystified.
Well, they certainly did not appear to be books a dainty high school girl would devote herself to reading, so perhaps it truly was mystifying. The more experienced workers were already aware of my (indiscriminate) tastes in reading, but the one before me was still a newcomer.
“Yes, somewhat — it’s for a school project.”
Of course, I could not explain everything, so I dodged the question with a vague, uninteresting response.
“In that case, there’s something in the New Books section on that. Have you read it yet?”
“No — not yet.”
Not that she mentioned it, I had not checked there.
“There’s probably no time to read it now, but you can take it out.”
“Yes, I think I’ll do that.”
Although I said this, my expectations were low.
It would simply be too convenient for information on the abnormality I seeked to be on the very last book which I was just about to overlook — then again, as the saying went, it did not hurt to try.
I borrowed the book recommended to me and left the library.
“…Hm? Wait a second. A… new book, huh.”
New book — new species.
When I put the borrowed book into my bag, it suddenly occurred to me — wait, no, it would be strange to say it occurred to me.
Gaen-san had said it at the very beginning, after all.
The abnormality that I would myself name —
“If there hasn’t been a single hint, even after this much searching… then what if, like Black Hanekawa, that tiger is a new species of abnormality — “