Original Research

Honestly, Shotaro had no idea anything was amiss for a while. He found out abruptly: He visited the Saheiji of the Wind Wikipedia article to check the release date for the next movie, found a typo, and tried to edit it only to be confronted with a message that his IP address had been banned.

He wasn’t entirely sure what an IP address was, but that still didn’t sound right.

The first thing he did was close Internet Explorer and open it back up. When that didn’t solve the problem he restarted the computer. When that didn’t solve the problem, he went to the person he always went to for computer advice: Akiko.

Leaning over his shoulder, she took one look at the IP’s talk page before coming to a conclusion. “It says you were vandalizing pages.”

“Well, I wasn’t! I haven’t edited anything in months!”

“Let’s see.” Akiko clicked the link to the IP’s contributions. “Pumpkins, Halloween, customs, localities, rivers, Nile River...”

“What do any of those things have to do with each other?”

“This is a typical example of a Wiki Walk. I think I can guess what happened.” She clicked on the contribution at the top of the list, the most recent one: “Language isolate.”

“The heck is a language isolate?”

Akiko shrugged. She skimmed the introduction text. “It looks like it’s a language without any relation to any other language. Like Ainu, Basque, whatever Burushaski is...” She pulled back, set one hand on each of Shotaro’s temples, and pushed his face up against the screen. “After you read this edit there’s no way you won’t know why you’re IP banned.”

“Let go!” Shotaro squirmed out of her grasp. But he did settle in to read. Partway through the article, the dry, encyclopedic tone gave way to a frenzied writing style that he knew well. The article, in the state it had been in as of this particular edit, claimed that there was no such thing as a language isolate, and proceeded to map the relations of every suspected language isolate to some other living language. Some of them took surprisingly complex detours through extinct language families.

There were no in-line citations. The only citation given at the end of the article was to The Bookshelves of the Planet.

Shotaro groaned. “Damn it, Philip!”

Philip chose that moment to come wandering out of the garage. He had his nose practically glued to his Stag Phone and he was frowning. “Shotaro, Aki-chan, I have a problem. I’m unable to access the edit pages for—”

“Wikipedia articles?” Shotaro finished grumpily. “Yeah, me either! You got us banned!”

Philip looked up in surprise. “Yes, and I’ve been trying to find a way around it! At first I was successful in spoofing my IP address, but that one was quickly banned as well. Most of the proxy IP servers I’ve found are pre-emptively banned for some reason. I don’t know what to do!” he finished in a truly pathetic whine.

Akiko moved over to Philip. From the angle he was sitting at, Shotaro could see her casually grab one of her green house slippers off the counter as she went by it. “Philip,” she said sweetly. “Did you ever think to read Wikipedia’s guidelines?”

He waved his hand dismissively. “I received messages about them while I was editing, but they would only have gotten in the way. The information I added isn’t available outside of the bookshelves.”

Akiko slapped him upside the head.

As Philip whined, Shotaro found himself almost impressed with his partner. This was the first time he’d seen him interested in sharing the information inside his head with the outside world, aside from looking things up for cases. “Ah, so my partner has learned altruism...” he mused. He adjusted the hat on his head and smirked. “All thanks to my influence, no doubt.”

Akiko shot Shotaro a withering look. “Don’t you start. This problem affects me, too.”

“At least you don’t live here,” Shotaro shot back. “Hey, wait, you shouldn’t be slacking off on the internet during the day anyway!”

“I’m the chief.” Akiko beamed. “I can do whatever I want while I’m at work.”

Philip leaned against the kitchen table and continued to complain. “This is completely ridiculous. I thought the point of a website like this was to accumulate information. And where data is missing, I am the most complete and unbiased source possible.”

“I don’t know about unbiased,” Akiko muttered.

“Whatever,” said Shotaro. “Now thanks to you I can’t fix this typo I found.”

“The importance of that pales in comparison.” Scowling, Philip turned and headed for the door, the tail of his vest trailing behind him.

Shotaro finally got to his feet so he could rush after his partner. “Where do you think you’re going, huh?!” He grabbed Philip’s arm none too gently.

Philip sighed. “To find a wi-fi hotspot.”

“No! No more Wikipedia! Jeez!”

The look Philip gave him was one that clearly read, Are you kidding me?

“You’ll just get banned again,” Akiko pointed out. “So why bother? Just make your own website to put the information on.”

Philip’s eyes lit up. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Aki-chan—”

“I’m a genius, right? Obviously~!”

Philip shrugged away from Shotaro’s grasp and returned, wordlessly, to the garage.

The week it launched, hoshinohonda.na drew the attention of linguists worldwide, as Philip had chosen to focus on the subject of language isolates for his debut.

This was not necessarily a good thing.

“Shotaro, Aki-chan,” Philip said, brows furrowed, as he stared blankly at his phone screen. “What is a ‘crank’?”

Shotaro had been about to take a sip of his coffee. He cringed so hard that he stained his tie with the drink. He’d been hoping Philip would lose interest in this project, as he had with every other in the past, and fail to notice any of the public discussion about it.

Akiko looked up from the filing cabinet she was flipping through. “A crank is, like, a hack. A crazy person who thinks they’ve revolutionized the field of economics with their dumb theories that don’t work. ...or, you know, any other field.” She scowled. It sounded like she’d had her fair share of dealing with people like that.

The scowl on Philip’s face was tinted with disbelief. “They think I’m crazy?”

Shotaro sighed. He set his coffee down and stepped over to the kitchen table. Plopping down beside Philip, he considered his words carefully. “That library in your brain is pretty incredible, partner. Most people haven’t encountered anything like it.”

“So, unfortunately, they probably just think you’re making it up,” Akiko said gently. She shut the filing cabinet a little more roughly than necessary and went over so she could ruffle Philip’s hair. “But, hey, you’ll get just as much traffic either way. You should consider monetizing.”

Neither of their reassurances could wipe the frown off of Philip’s face. Absentmindedly, he continued to scroll through the comments section on the blog post he was reading about his site. “Ah... what’s this?”

“Hm?” Akiko tilted her head. Shotaro leaned over to read over his shoulder, and instantly turned red.

How dare you call my partner crazy?! began the profanity-laden diatribe in response to some piece of criticism. He’s the smartest guy I know and he’s not making any of this stuff up! It continued in that vein for... quite some time. The commenter, who was obviously Shotaro, had ranted for so long he’d run afowl of the comment system’s character limit.

“D-don’t read that!” Shotaro exclaimed. He grabbed the Stag Phone out of Philip’s hands.

“Ooh, Shotaro, that was such an impassioned defense,” Akiko teased him. “I think you’re more upset than Philip is.”

It was true that Shotaro was angry about the way people were talking about Philip online. Venting his rage in comments was surprisingly helpful in letting him keep his cool, hard-boiled demeanor—or some approximation, anyway—IRL.

Philip stared blankly for a second. Then he started to laugh.

Sure, it was better to see him laughing than disappointed, but the reason for his laughter just made Shotaro shout in frustration.

Another week passed, and Shotaro idly checked up on Philip’s site.

It hadn’t been updated since its launch.

He poked his head into the garage. “Hey, Philip—”

The whiteboards were covered in diagrams and writing about chairs. All sorts of different chairs, of all different shapes and sizes. Philip continued coloring in a picture he’d drawn as he responded, “Yes, Shotaro?”

Stepping into the garage, Shotaro pondered how best to ask about it. “It’s just... I noticed you haven’t updated your site for a while. All that criticism didn’t get to you, did it?”

Philip turned toward him. He blinked in confusion. “No, I just haven’t had time.”

“Haven’t had time?”

Philip gestured around himself at the wealth of information on chairs. “Before I can begin writing about a subject I must thoroughly document it. I did try taking notes electronically, but it was frustratingly inadequate. Manually writing these things down allows me to better process the topic.”

“Oh.” Shotaro followed Philip’s line of sight to what looked like a lovingly detailed description of chairs... in Arabic. He shook his head, sighed, and clapped Philip on the shoulder. “Well, good luck.”

“Were you concerned?” A smile played at Philip’s lips.

Shotaro’s cheeks burned and his chest fluttered. He had no response.