“The majority of Class 3-1 were members of the go-home club… so around how many students actually participated in club activities?”
“Hm… why are you curious about that?”
“Well, you never know what could end up being our next lead to blowing the culprit’s cover. While you say that few students participated in club activities, you listed three active club members in a row at the end of the introductions, so I got a bit curious. I’d like to find out more about some of the different clubs.”
Blowing the culprit’s cover off, huh. While I was a bit curious as to why she had made a slightly violent choice of words, I answered her question. I have already mentioned the students who attended the study session: Koudou of the volleyball club, Haga of the track and field club, Hishigata of the softball club, Fudou of the swim club, and Madomura of the light music club—these five individuals. Indeed, when lined up in alphabetical order, three of them just happened to be right next to each other. But even then, five students out of nineteen is a small ratio after all.
“Ho? So I want to know the club members among the students who didn’t attend the study session. If I remember correctly, you mentioned that Suisen Toishima was part of the flower arrangement club, right? And that the peacemaker who rivaled Sodachi Oikura, Komichi Tetsujou, was a member of the softball club, right?”
“Yeah… the same softball club that Hishigata was a member of.”
“I see. Then, were there any other members of the softball club?”
“There were none. I’m not sure what exactly you’re hoping for but… all the clubs were pretty much the same, but the softball club was especially troubled over the scarcity of club members. I’m positive that Tetsujou had invited Hishigata to join the club. Among the students who didn’t attend the study session, there was also Shinaniwa, who was, like Haga, a member of the track and field club. And then Fuyunami, a member of the volleyball club.”
“Fuyunami—his name came up once before. Ah. He was Koudou-senpai’s childhood friend, right? Ho? Fellow childhood friends having the same interests? Doesn’t that sound kind of romantic?”
“I think the boys’ and girls’ volleyball clubs are technically different clubs though…”
Well, that’s just a wild guess, or rather, a notion, but as a faithful member of the go-home club since middle school, there’s no way for me to know the facts.
“You see, Fuyunami—Sakaatsu Fuyunami joined the volleyball club in hope of growing taller. I mean, they exist you know? Urban legends that tell of club members growing taller in response to the desire for height advantages… I think it’s all gibberish though.”
“Haha. So that’s why Araragi-senpai has always been so loyal to the go-home club.”
“Leave me alone. Hm. But, well, Fuyunami certainly was around the same height as I was… Well, initially, he might have thought of me as a fellow companion and was drawn towards me—It was around that time that I heard about Koudou’s insecurities. However, he eventually realized that even hanging out with someone of similar height didn’t solve his problems and drifted away from me at quite the impressive speed. Then, he had started getting along with Higuma, who was fairly well built in comparison.”
“Huh. How should I say it? It seems like Mrs. Childhood Friend wasn’t the only insecure one, huh? That’s not very romantic.”
“And then we have Mizaki, a member of the art club… ah, that’s right, I almost forgot about Yuba, who was a baseball club member.”
“Mizaki. Yuba. This is the first time their names came up, right?”
“Yeah. Mizaki’s first name was Meibi, and thus, she was nicknamed ‘maybe’.”
“‘maybe’, huh… somehow, Class 3-1’s naming sense seems kind of peculiar. That reminds me—what were you nicknamed?”
“I didn’t have things like nicknames.”
“Did I just touch a sore spot?”
Ougi-chan turned her head down in apology. If I had known she would make such a face, I would have preferred her to continue verbally abusing me with a smile on her face.
“Mizaki was a free-spirited artist, and so he felt out of place in a classroom. In that way, he was an existence very close to mine. Of course, he also didn’t attend the study session.”
(TN: ‘existence close to mine’—he’s talking about feeling out of place in a classroom)
“But he had a nickname.”
“Well, yeah. During breaks, girls would request drawings from him. Well, at the very least, he probably wasn’t hated…”
Which reminds me, Oikura may have modeled for him once. Now that I think of it, that may have been an unexpected accomplishment for him as an artist.
“Who was Yuba? It seems like Araragi-senpai had almost forgotten about him though. Is it that he didn’t leave much of an impression?”
“No, that’s not it. Rather, Yuba left quite the deep impression. He was a member of the baseball club but had never once shown up to practice. That’s why it was so difficult to recall—Shokunori Yuba’s name, I mean.
“So, a ghost member. Perhaps this ghost classroom has some kind of connection to him?”
“Nah, I don’t really think so…”
I agree that we should consider every possibility, but tying a “ghost member” with a supernatural phenomenon is still a bit far-fetched.
(TN: Note that in ‘supernatural phenomenon [怪異現象]’, the first two characters [怪異] can also mean ‘ghost’ or ‘apparition’.)
“Then what did you mean by his ‘deep impression’?”
“Did you hear from Oshino or Kanbaru that I tended to skip school some way or another?”
“Hmm. Well, somewhat.”
For some reason, Ougi-chan began to play dumb at my prompting, but at least she wasn’t acting like a know-it-all.
“Within one semester, Yuba had already skipped more classes than I had in a year. He arrived late and left early. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t show up for the classes he didn’t like. Kijikiri also tended to be absent, but for different reasons… Yeah. I think the only student with even more absences than Yuba was probably the hospital commuting Senjougahara.”
“Why do I feel like he gives the same impression that you do? A defective human being, I mean.”
“That wasn’t really it… It’s just, he was an intimidating person. His behavior made him hard to associate with… and he had a shaven head to compliment the dangerous glint in his eyes.”
Ah. Well, it’s possible his lack of hair was due to his enrollment in the baseball club—despite being a ghost member.
“How scary. I’ll make sure not to get mixed up him from now on.”
“There’s no need to worry. Yuba has already withdrawn from school.”
“Oh? He did?”
“Right after this class meeting took place. Perhaps he had fallen into despair like I did. The friendship, classes, unity—maybe he had started to get sick of it all of it.”
I wonder where he is and what he’s doing now.
At that time, I had no words for him, but now, I definitely have a couple of words I can give him.
“By the way, Yuba’s score for the math test in question was zero points.”
“Zero? Wait, how is that even possible. Shouldn’t it be even harder to get nothing correct?”
“He handed in a blank sheet. Maybe he was trying to express some kind of personal intentions. Perhaps that seemingly rebellious attitude of his became the reason for the suspicion surrounding him. If he wanted to make a fool out of himself, he could distribute the answer document and take a zero. I’m sure someone has thought of that before.”
“I don’t really think so though. I guess there are a lot of various ways of thinking in the world. But do you really think the chance to distribute it was there for such an intimidating person?”
“There was. He was feared, but strangely, he wasn’t isolated. By the way, he was referred to as ‘hand support’. That was because whenever he made an appearance in school, he always supported his head with a fist, and his intrepid attitude reflected that posture. He acted accordingly in the course of the class meeting as well.”
“Araragi-senpai doesn’t have a nickname when even that kind of guy gets one? Yet again another episode overflowing with intense, tearjerking emotions.”
“… I guess that’s it for the club members. The remaining students are all members of the go-home club. Not very many, right? Ah, just as a reference, Waritori was one of them. She didn’t participate in any club activities, but after school, she commuted to a genuine Kendo dojo for training. ‘Combat oriented Kendo’—or something.”
Although I call it “combat oriented kendo” I’m not too well informed past its name. Well, I’m sure it was something similar to the karate dojo that my little sister, Karen Araragi, trained at.
“Shitsue Waritori. Sometimes she even attended classes in a Kendo uniform, so I had thought she was a kendo club member. There was a sort of social wall between her and the other girls. Of course, she didn’t swing around a bamboo or wooden sword on school campus, but if there was a trespasser, you can count on her to pick up a broom and assault them. Rather than violent, she could attack without a second thought. Rather than violent, she was just easy to provoke. She came after Hishigata in terms of belligerence.”
“She really had no mental constraints, huh. Hey, weren’t there too many mentally insecure people in your class?”
“It’s called ‘combat oriented’ Kendo, so I doubt there was much ‘mental constraint’. Besides, two years ago, we were freshmen students, and that also applies to Koudou, Fuyunami, and Waritori as well. Which means it was natural that both girls and boys were mentally insecure.”
Oikura was too. Of course, I was just the same.
Insecure, immature, and still half-done.
I suppose if we had taken notice of that two years before, I would be experiencing something different two years later.
“Now, now Araragi-senpai. It’s because of those sequence of events that you were able to meet Shinobu-san and Hanekawa-san. You were also able to realize your special bond with Senjougahara, didn’t you? ‘Inscrutable are the ways of heaven’, right?”
(TN: Inscrutable are the ways of heaven [人間万事塞翁が馬] – a Japanese saying that means fortune is unpredictable and changeable.)
“Well, that is true.”
A true description of human life in a single phrase.
“Well, anyways, this has really helped me understand the class. Thank you very much. Sorry for cutting you off in the middle. Thanks to this, I’ve really been able to get a grasp on the situation. Then, let’s continue. The likely suspects were listed on the blackboard, and then what happened to the class meeting?”
Ougi-chan carried on the conversation so naturally that I had subconsciously let all of her remarks slide—just like the way she had smoothly said that she was finally able to “get a grasp on the situation”.
“… Just when the nineteen names were listed on the blackboard, Biwa Arikure raised an objection—that the culprit wasn’t particularly limited to the nineteen names on the board—”