“…were they identified? Ah, I mean the coinciding questions, not the culprit.”
“Well, we had taken the test around a week ago. So, the participants of the study session were starting to forget about it, and it wasn’t really the most reliable check.”
It was a particularly worthless portion of an already fruitless class meeting, and one that yielded no results. Those of us who hadn’t even participated in the study session were feeling especially fed up with the situation at that point.
Ougi-chan nodded in agreement.
“That said, the results of the study session definitely became apparent, right? Because they studied so much… Um, is that correct?”
“Well, yeah. If I were to be specific, I think the test questions that were worth more best exhibited the study session’s achievements—especially the three more difficult ones. The results of the inspection showed that the majority of the study session’s participants did well on those questions, while those who didn’t participate mostly got them wrong. I think they were questions on limits, probability distribution, and indefinite integrals.”
“…you guys learned about things like limits, probability distribution, and indefinite integrals as freshmen? Aren’t those all taught in Math level 3 or C or something?” (TN: Japanese math standards—you just need to know it’s hard)
“Well, you just transferred here, so this might not be common knowledge to you, but that’s just how absurd Naoetsu High School’s curriculum was. From freshman year, our only aim was the exams, which were made to suit Naoetsu High’s distinctive standards—not to speak of the midterms which even contained college-level math problems. Of course, the same sort of problems were mentioned in class at least once or twice, so someone who could solve them occasionally showed up.”
“Like you, Araragi-senpai?”
It had started to sound like I was bragging. I had no intention of boasting about anything associated with that math test… but I hadn’t dedicated much time to studying for it, and it was becoming difficult to stay humble. Though, when I think about it like that, it almost seems like I cheated, and a feeling of guilt starts to bud.
“Bearing those three questions in mind, it really did seem like the exam questions were covered in the study session… However, we weren’t able to determine exactly who had taken them out.”
Strictly speaking, no matter how many suspects were investigated, if the person in question denied their involvement, there was no evidence to prove them guilty. Deny. And then remain silent. That was, of course, because no one wanted to say anything that would unintentionally arouse suspicion. Around this time, the class meeting slowed to a crawl, and the incompetent chairman was unable to propel it back into motion.
“The 19 people who participated in the study session collectively taught each other the parts that they didn’t know or were likely to show up on the exam, so there was no distinctive ‘tutor’ with their respective ‘students’. But if I had to, then I’d say there were six people who assumed the roles of leadership in the study session.”
“Yeah. The organizer, Oikura; her supporting character, Shuui; the proactive Gekizaka; Shuzawa, a natural teacher; and the former student body president, Higuma. These six individuals were the ones who generally took on the role of teaching others in the class. In other words, the ones who could achieve high exam scores even without taking part in the study session. For that reason, they were also considered suspicious.”
What these six individuals had in common were academic success and inherently caring personalities. Even Oikura, an imposing character with a heart that pumped scorn through her veins, had no reason other than kindness to organize the session. Granted, part of the reason might also have been her craving to stand in the spotlight, and even her kind-hearted treatment of the other five students probably only operated under that condition. But for that goodwill to become the basis for distrust, I’m sure was unbearable.
“After that, they started to provide evidence—which evidently was all false—in order to cover for each other. Challenging them was another one of my jobs as the chairman. I knew they only meant well in covering for their friends, so it wasn’t a very pleasant job either.”
“Lies derived from goodwill are even more wicked than truths spoken out of spite, right?”
“Right, exactly. But, well, even if the questions were actually covered in the study session, it seems like plenty of them didn’t appear on the test… on the other hand, many of the simpler questions on the exam weren’t studied in the session. From this perspective, it really seemed possible it was just a coincidence.”
“Coincidence… huh. Well, that is one way to settle it. However, you guys settled on a different solution.”
She whispered into my ear, a wide grin spreading across her face. Noticing her countenance, I began to wonder who was telling who the story here. It almost seemed to me that instead of discussing what I remembered, I was just enjoying the sound of Ougi-chan’s voice.
No, that’s not true…. This is my story—and this is my classroom. The room we were confined to just before school got out that day—a place where various memories had been imprisoned and sealed.
“I see, I see. So that was how it was. It was an unsightly quarrel—a continuous dispute. And, standing amidst the unproductive exchanges, Araragi-senpai, the inadequate chairman, had completely lost all interest in these creatures called “humans”. After witnessing the well-meaning lies, the blaming of others, and the dismissal of suspicion firsthand, you lost all hope in the human race. Then, after you lost sight of both virtue and kindness, you arrived at the conclusion that you had ‘no use for friends’. Seeing your classmates grow weak as the discussion unfolded traumatized you—right?”
“… not really.”
Ougi-chan raised her voice in surprise at my denial. But as the niece of the man who always seemed to see through everything, I’m not sure just how confident Ougi-chan was in her hypothesis to begin with.
“Rather, it should have been like that. During the course of the class meeting, I should have lost all hope in the human race. But back then, somewhere in my heart, I still had faith in the innate goodness of humans and the belief that righteousness would prevail in the end. It was a painful experience, though.”
It was painful. As an 18-year-old, calling it painful while recalling my 16-year-old memories didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps I should rephrase it as “immature”?
“—in fact, I even remember feeling a bit happy.”
“It was the covering up for each other, the attempts at ending the nonsensical conference even one moment sooner which led them to suggest that they themselves might be the culprit. And this was despite the fact that Oikura had organized the meeting without any bad intentions. Well, you still might not understand what I’m saying. You might even think I’m just trying to straighten up.”
(TN: I was a bit confused here as well. Araragi is describing how he felt happy at Oikura’s failures and sufferings. ‘straighten up’ as in pretending as if he hadn’t despaired over anything.)
I paused for a moment. I hesitated to put these feelings into words. But I had to say it. Otherwise, I would just be lying.
“There was a general feeling that we were following the right lines of logic during the discussion. I’m sure there was. In fact, I think everyone felt that way. Marizumi, Yuba, and even Kijikiri did.”
As for whether Senjougahara was outside of that influence—I haven’t discussed it with her, but I wonder how she really felt about it. I don’t know.
“So, Ougi-chan, what I despaired over wasn’t the discussion itself, but its conclusion. I’m sure no one could have imagined it would end in such a way. While pursuing righteousness, we made a crucial mistake. At that moment, I lost sight of my own sense of justice.”
Lost sight—I should have refused to participate the second I was invited to the meeting. I shouldn’t have given in to Oikura’s authority and assumed the position of chairman. No matter how I look at it, I should have shaken Arikure off and gone home.”
“Conclusion? But the meeting concluded without identifying the culprit, didn’t it? Well, it would be nice if the meeting had ended so anticlimactically, but then there would have been nothing to despair over, right?”
“Yeah. That’s right. We didn’t know who the culprit was. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t identify the culprit.”
“That was the source of my despair. Even without knowing the culprit, we decided on a culprit. That’s what I had despaired over.”
I have no use for friends—it was to the point that I made such a statement.
It was isolation.
“I see—I see, I see. Alright then, Araragi-senpai.”
Ougi-chan said. As if gently caressing a cat—as if she was strangling my neck.
“I would like to hear what followed, if you would. School was going to end soon, wasn’t it? The discussion had carried on for over two hours and everyone’s patience was reaching its limit, right? At that point, exactly what kind of outcome did you and your classmates decide on? What conclusions did you guys arrive at?”
“I’m so curiooous. I wonder what Happeeened. Twisting and turning and one way or another overcoming hardships and drilling past unnecessary confusion… it would have been so niiiiiice if everyone had just taken that happy eeending~”
It was definitely not a happy ending. So, exactly what route had we taken, and what ending did we get?