“Wait a minute. I feel like you guys are just assuming that the suspects are limited to those nineteen. It’s not, right? Just now, Hayamachi, who didn’t participate in the study session, said that she wanted to go home because it was completely unrelated to her, though.”
I don’t think she went as far to say that. Perhaps she wanted nothing to do with Arikure, but Hayamachi herself made no objections. However, having been absent from the study session, Arikure, who had finally escaped suspicion, had become a target of it herself. Maybe she felt satisfaction as long as she was able to raise an objection?
Well, it sure didn’t seem that way.
“Even if they didn’t participate in the study session, we should also include students with high test scores in the list of suspects.”
is what she insisted. In that case, Arikure with sixty-five points would be out of range (Hayamachi with a test score of 92 points would be within range). Naturally, there’s also the possibility the culprit purposely received a low score to avoid suspicion (even in an extreme case like Yuba’s), so it was a weak argument.
“… Then, well, let’s write the names of students who received a score of… over ninety points for now.”
I reluctantly suggested. Well, it was a good compromise. If a student who declares that “the low-scoring students are also suspicious” appears next, then I’ll just end up writing everyone’s’ names on the board—I’d just be writing up an attendance record.
The names of the students who didn’t participate and achieved scores above ninety are listed below. Because only a few students stood up, there was no need to bother Gekizaka. I noted them down myself.
①Koyomi Araragi (100)
②Okitada Kouma (97)
③Hitagi Senjougahara (98)
④Seiko Hayamachi (92)
⑤Miawa Mebe (95)
…now that I look at it, including me, there are quite a lot of suspicious people in this class. However, the one who stood out the most was Mebe. That’s because I couldn’t exactly associate good grades with her character. My (even I think it’s strange) specialization in math was known, Kouma attended cram school, and Senjougahara and Hayamachi were famous for their academic excellence. In contrast, Mebe stood out. However, it wasn’t as if Mebe constantly kept her grades below average. Perhaps, she had her good times as well?
The examination results were usually posted outside the classroom, so everyone knew each other’s test scores. However, when just a portion of them was shown under these special conditions, something seemed off. Even Arikure made a face that expressed her surprise. She hadn’t exactly planned to make her look suspicious on purpose.
The person in question, Mebe, also
“Eh? No, wait, what?”
She had said with a bewildered look on her face. Under her classmates’ suspicion, not to mention the doubtful gazes faced towards her, it might have seemed like the natural reaction. It may have also seemed like she was hiding something. I’m sure it was a problem of perspective.
“What? What? I dunno, you know?”
“Can you stop trying to make such a half-assed attempt to determine the culprit?”
Oikura said as if she was pinning the blame on me. It was as bright as day that she was covering for one of the few friends she had, but no one said a word about it. Indeed, it was as she said. The fact that Mebe achieved a score of ninety-five was insufficient proof to determine the culprit.
“…it’s more like.”
A hand was raised into the air. It was Ukitobi’s, who was sitting in the seat behind Hayamachi’s.
“Um… I have the lowest score among all the girls in our class so you might hear it as an excuse, but I think the math test was fairly difficult this time. Suppose even if you knew the answer key, could you really solve it?”
For a second, I didn’t quite understand what Ukitobi was saying. She herself, looked like she wasn’t quite sure what she was saying.
“What are you saying? If you had the answer key, of course you could solve the problems. You just have to rotely memorize it.”
Is what Arikure had said, but it seems like while she was speaking, Ukitobi noticed what she had failed to mention. That’s right. If the culprit’s motive was to influence the study session, they wouldn’t use a conspicuous method like having students memorize the answer key. Secondly, if it was a small scale group of three students, doing something along those lines would definitely be reported to the school by someone in a large session of nineteen people. In more common terms, tattling. For instance, even if there was a collaboration with accomplices, there were only a small number of them. But if they did succeed, the great majority of the participants of the study session would unconsciously have the contents of the exam imprinted into their memories.
However, even then, the average test scores were too high. With an exception of Igami, all of them achieves scores above eighty points. Even if the contents were vaguely distributed, that’s a bit too…
“Ah, well, if I were to go as a far to stir up that much suspicion, we’d see no end to it though…”
Ukitobi said in an attempt to gloss over the silence that her earlier remark had produced. Kyuusu Ukitobi. Indeed, she had achieved a test score of fifty-seven. Among the girls, actually, among the guys as well, with Yuba as an exception, she had received the lowest score. However, during the course of the class meeting, you could say only her remark was the only bright one throughout the entire session.
Up until then, I hadn’t really thought much of her. Perhaps she was the kind of person with bad grades but was clever in her own way—a common character setting in a manga, but this was my first time seeing one in real life, so I ended up staring at her.
“So- sorry, Araragi-kun. I didn’t mean to.”
I ended up being apologized to. When I had tried to express some concern, it seems like she thought I was criticizing her. It’s a sad misunderstanding, but there’s no way to clear it up for now.
“I mean like, why are we still theorizing about whether or not the cheating happened in the first place?”
Daino said. Just when everyone had fallen silent, it felt like she was taking the chance to display her specialty in speaking.
“To be honest, it’s rather unpleasant to those of us who have tried our hardest. The average score of the students who participated in the study session was at least twenty points above those who didn’t. Moreover, the average score of those of us who didn’t participate was also lowered by a certain someone.”
That certain someone was, naturally, Yuba. Upon ridiculing the scary faced individual, the already low temperature of the classroom dropped even further. However, Yuba didn’t particularly express any concern at all. He simply sat there with a fist to his cheek like he always did, barely even giving Daino a glance.
“I’m sure Araragi-kun made up for the part of the average that Yuba-kun lowered.”
Oikura said, sarcasm loaded into her voice. Why I was being told off with sarcasm was a mystery to me. What a harsh conditions I’ve gotten caught up in.
“But, it’s as you say, Daino-san. Being doubted for something you haven’t done really is unpleasant. For that reason, we must dispel our doubts about others first.”
Which seemed like an answer when it didn’t answer anything. While agreeing with the other party, she drilled on without yielding her own opinion. This way, the weaker argument would collapse, and as if it was only natural, Daino went silent. Reluctantly.
…Though I didn’t know it at the time, it seemed like this class meeting wasn’t even adjourned in response to an order from the school, but was organized by Oikura in every possible way. It seems like having seen the exam results, felt the discomfort, calculated the averages, compared them, created an analysis, felt further discomfort—and before being suspected, she had attempted to clear up her own doubts.
It seemed like, to her, a life with any doubt was something she could not allow. And for that reason, she had gotten all the class members entangled in this case. She was truly an outrageous person. And two years from then, though I still cannot agree with her course of actions, I’ll have to give it to her for that unyielding pride of hers. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t know how to repay her at all. However, because things turned out this way, I don’t think this is enough to recompense her after all.
“If we revealed our doubts, there would be no end to it… you say that, but I can’t even believe that the study session was even held in the first place.”
The one who proposed such an erratic suggestion was the student in charge of day duty, Marizumi. She was a largely built young lady wearing a hand-me-down uniform hanging loosely on her frame. She wasn’t particularly fixated on fashion trends. Her hairstyle, too, was a disheveled mess which seemed to have been barraged violently by a pair of scissors. An oddball to her roots, her remark seemed to slightly float around her and silenced the classroom in a different way than Ukitobi’s did.
“There’s nothing that is known for sure in this world, right? So it’s completely possible that the study session didn’t even take place at all. How can we say for sure that these nineteen individuals aren’t conspiring together and lying to us?”
“Please stop screwing around, Marizumi-san.”
“I’m not. I’m dead serious.”
Marizumi wasn’t even fazed by Oikura’s glare. Well, Marizumi Hyoui was again another student who could face Oikura without backing down, but in a turn of events, the class had built up tension instead. Because they were going to get dragged into this quarrel.
“… Araragi, say something already. Aren’t you the chairman!?”
“Uuuum… It’s true that we should consider all different possibilities, but the suggestion that the study session didn’t even take place is a bit too absurd of an idea after all…”
“It’s logically impossible.”
For a moment, I didn’t register what Marizumi had said, and I faltered. It seems like she had abbreviated a Sherlock Holmes quote, but if you abbreviate it to that extent, the meaning will change, you know?
(TN: I think the author is referring to this quote “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” -Sherlock Holmes, but I’m not too sure. Just send me a message if I’m wrong.”)
And to that disoriented chairman, an irritated Oikura said
“What are you even doing? As fellow oddballs, open up to each other already.”
Stop being so unrealistic, stupid ‘How much’. (TN: Oikura’s nickname)
However, in response to Oikura’s nonsensical comments, Murakami proceeded to follow up with
“Please don’t put me on the same level as Araragi.”
She objected with a serious expression.
It was a heavy blow to receive.
A meeting where my isolated and helpless conditions were further depreciated into an isolated and godless one.
(TN: The raws say that his “孤立無援 – koritsumuen”, meaning isolated and helpless condition, turned into a “孤立無縁 – koritsumuen”, which means he’s isolated and that not even Buddha could save him. It’s a pun, and the two statements are pronounced the same way.)
In the midst of the silence, a single hand rose into the air. If you have something to say, silently raise your hand up. As the chairman of the meeting, I called out her name.
“Sunahama-san, is there something you would like to say?”
“…I was thinking that expressly debating about it would be a pain, but, for now, I’ll just leave some proof that the study session actually took place.”
Sunahama—Ruise Sunahama said, irritated. Originally, she looked like she wanted to say that none of this was any of her responsibility. Her original attitude was to just entrust it to the chairman, and I thought we had an unsaid agreement at some point in time, but because I knew I would just be shot down before even asking about it, I simply said: “what is it?”
“…what I mean to say is that on the day of the math exam, I was in charge of day duty… and uum, so, I arrived at school earlier than usual and had to prepare the classroom, right? Then, I remember quite clearly that the guys who had participated in the study session—”
Here, she glanced at Oikura, who was sitting on her right-hand side, in annoyance.
“—left the room they used in a mess and had gone home, and cleaning it all up was seriously a pain, you know? And the other person in charge of day duty, Nagagutsu didn’t even come. In the end, I had people who came to school early like Whip and Jou and Fukkii help me out. We lined the desks back up, wiped the blackboard, and threw out the trash. Like, you guys, at least clean up your snacks and then leave!”
As one would expect, even Oikura fell silent in embarrassment. I feel like the majority of the students probably hurried to leave right after school was released…
Sunahama was fundamentally a girl who paid close attention to details, and in some way or another, these were the type of things she just couldn’t leave alone. Though she didn’t have an obsession with hygiene, she was definitely the devil when it came to cleanliness. Having the guts to leave the classroom in a mess the day before she was in charge of day duty, the participants of the study session really had no sense of self-preservation… Well, if we only have Sunahama’s word for it, then it could also be another lie, and would probably have been pinned down by Marizumi. However, if Mebe, Tetsujou, (“Jou” was Tetsujou’s nickname) and Fukuishi (“Fukki” was referring to her) all testified for the same thing, she couldn’t take back her over exaggerated statement back even if she wanted to. As the class’s mediator, Tetsujou’s word would be particularly trustworthy.
However, the three students that Sunahama had mentioned—basically Miawa Mebe, Komichi Tetsujou, and Tenko Fukuishi—didn’t seem very assertive in agreeing to what Sunahama had said. Consequently, Sunahama had seemed to feel a bit unsatisfied with their negative responses. But at least they didn’t deny anything that Sunahama had said though. In fear of the study session’s organizer, Oikura, the two of the girls had eventually given in. Tetsujou and Fukuishi were fine with that, but what about Mebe? Mebe wasn’t afraid of Oikura. In fact, they had built up a friendly, open-hearted relationship over the past term, so she should have been a precious friend but…?
“…Fukuishi-san. There’s nothing else you would like to add?”
Just in case, I confirmed with Fukuishi. I chose not to ask Mebe directly to avoid conflict, but Fukuishi just nodded weakly after all. Because she was an introverted character in the first place, it was hard for her to speak out under these conditions, so even a nod should probably be seen as a great effort. After all, when her name was registered as “Fukuseki” instead of “Fukuishi”, she was called that for a full two months after enrolling because she had been too timid to even say anything about it.
(TN: the second character in Fukuseki [服石] can also be pronounced ‘ishi [石]’)
Should I also verbally confirm it with Tetsujou? Or should I just get it over with Mebe? But it was because we had that disagreement concerning Mebe that I delayed confronting her. And I might as well just try not to say anything unnecessary too. In that case, I’d rather stick with the more silent one after all.
While I was lost in thought,
“Then, as for the study session—Well, I participated, so I know for sure that it happened from firsthand experience.”
Without even raising his hand, Higuma decided to cut in. Had the individual with experience as the student body president of his middle school finally decided to make a move? I guess he couldn’t stand watching my spiritless attempt at progress any longer. That’s fine. I would even appreciate it if you would switch spots with me.
“If someone had—whether it was directly or indirectly—spilled the contents of answer key during the study session, the problem is, you’d think someone would notice, right? Then there should be some kind of disturbance, right?”
“We don’t know that for sure.”
Waritori said. Both Waritori and Higuma had graduated from the same middle school, so she had said it in a relatively gentle way.
“They might have done it in a very naturally.”
“If it was just one or two students, then they could probably pull it off, but were talking about what—nineteen people? I think someone must have been acting unnaturally. Doesn’t just casually slipping something into our subconscious seem a bit impossible? There’s no way to fool such a large group of people.”
As a former student council president who had to deal with large crowds of people, it was a distinctive opinion to share. With that remark, the argument hit a wall. Because if that was the case, then it would seem that the crime wasn’t even committed to begin with.
Well, I’m totally fine with that. Maybe Higuma even made the remark with this outcome in mind. Perhaps he wanted to say that this was the conclusion of the class meeting.
However, Oikura would not allow that. She intended to see this “investigation” to the end.
“Well then, from here, let’s inspect the contents of the test problems. Let’s have the participants of the study session testify for us just how much the questions and those that showed up on the test coincided.”
And then determine the culprit.
Until we identified that person, no one would leave the room.