“Hoho. Then with that, the suspects were narrowed down to nineteen people. That’s exciting. In other words, you were able to deal with the situation systematically, right? Eheheh.”
While Ougi-chan spoke, she revealed a seemingly untroubled smile. As she appeared to fully enjoy our current situation, I decided splash some water to put a damper on her high spirits.
“It’s not that simple.”I remarked.
However, I corrected her rather than trying to calm her down.
“Though those who participated in the study session were definitely suspicious, in no way does that mean that those who didn’t were completely cleared of suspicion. Ultimately, it’s possible that the student who stole the answer sheet could have told a participant of the study session of its contents, and the test problems would have been leaked the same, right?”
“So, indirectly, huh? Hmm.”
Ougi-chan considered the possibility giddily. Like steam rising off of the hot stone my remarks I had been a waste.
(TN: There’s a pun here hard to explain in English. The Japanese idiom “splash water(水を差す)” means to “put a damper on”, and the expression “water on a hot stone(焼け石に水)” means a waste of effort.)
“Maybe that student thought it would have been fun to raise the class test average? Actually, doesn’t that seem more plausible?”
“Is that supposed to be fun?”
“Who knows? I didn’t do it, so there’s no way I’d know. Well, if I had to take a guess, it would be fun after all. It might feel like you’ve become some kind of god.”
“Playing god, huh? I don’t really buy that though.”
Hm? When Ougi-chan retorted with such a suitable answer to that question, I felt a bit uncomfortable. Well, she was Oshino’s niece after all, so I suppose she would be sensitive to topics related to gods, right? Having sorted through my thoughts, I redirected my attention back to the discussion.
“Anyhow, it’s possible for students who didn’t participate in the study session to interfere with it.”
“In that case, the suspect would be a student who both didn’t participate in the study session and received good grades, huh? Basically, someone who didn’t take part in the study session, but whose grades were elevated about the same amount as those who did. Well, excluding Araragi-senpai.”
“Kuh. Yeah, because it’s not like I had any interest in them anyways.”
I was constantly being glared at by Oikura, but I wasn’t particularly interested in her. Rather, it was just a single sided relationship of pure loathing.
“Please don’t sulk. I’ll always be here for you after all.”
Having said that, Ougi-chan wrapped both her arms around my neck. Before I knew it, they were coiled around the base of my neck like a scarf.
“I think you’re a bit too close…”
As someone currently in a relationship, I tried to offer my underclassman some candid advice, but…
“Excuse me, in the regions I have been raised, this degree of intimacy is considered natural. Well, please pretend it’s Gekzaka’s intimacy.” was what she said, and without a trace of shyness.
I don’t think Gekizaka’s intimacy was this aggressive though…
“More importantly, let’s continue the conversation. Among the nineteen students, who was the culprit?”
“No, didn’t I just mention that it wasn’t only limited to the nineteen? Besides, if the culprit wasn’t a participant, it’s not as if they received a high score for sure. Rather, to avoid arousing suspicion, they might even purposely do worse on the exam. If that’s true, then everyone in the classroom still remains a suspect.”
“Purposely doing worse on the test, huh? Would they really go that far? On such an important test, too.”
“Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. To put it simply, we have no idea. I’ll just tell you now, Ougi-chan. We never do find out who the culprit was.”
“In a way, this story has no real conclusion. But what it did have was disorder. What was gloomy only became depressing, and in the end neither Oikura nor Shuui nor Tetsujou had any idea what to do. Well, none of the class produced any results despite our exhaustion. And then—”
“Ah! I see!”
Both my shoulders were struck by impact. This is far from simply touchiness. This is harassment. I was going to discuss the story’s conclusion beforehand, but because my pessimism grew with every word I spoke, I decided I would stop but—Ougi-chan seems to have grasped the idea anyways.
“I’ve figured out how to escape this classroom, Araragi-senpai. Basically, if we resolve the case from two years ago, we’ll be able to leave this classroom.”
“…? What does that mean?”
“Oikura said ‘Until the culprit is identified, no one is permitted to leave this classroom’, right? On the contrary, that means that if we identify that culprit, we should be able to escape from this classroom, right?”
Is that… what it means? If this was indeed the reproduction of class 3-1 then that would be… right…right?
In reality, the innumerable arguments (though that might sound impressive, in reality, it was just squabbling and bickering) held after school, none of which resulted in any useful information, carried on until school was released. However, the clock in this classroom stopped the moment just before school had ended.
With both the windows and doors locked, no one could go home.
“At that time, students of class 3-1’s regrets probably took on this form in the available space of the school. If I had to say, it would be the ghost of the class meeting.”
“The ghost of the class meeting… you’re saying that I’ve been caught by that kind of outrageous existence? Why would I…”
“Let’s see. It might be because, unexpectedly, Araragi-senpai is the one who has fretted over it the most. Because that day, your life completely changed.”
“From that day on, you avoided thinking about this incident. You shirked away from it. Although you haven’t forgotten about it for a single moment, neither have you truly thought about it. But it finally has come, you know? The day to confront the past. The time to unravel the mystery.”
I do not know why Ougi-chan can be so sure of herself. I can think of innumerable other possible reasons for the supernatural phenomenon occurring around us.
Ougi-chan spread a broad grin across her face as if she was inviting me to join her.
“Even though I won’t be much help, I’ll try to help think to the best of my ability, so please, continue. First, list some details about the nineteen suspects. As long as you keep talking, I’m sure one thing or another will expose the most suspicious of them all.”
“Aah… okay, but I’ll skip over the students I have already introduced though.”