“Strange, isn’t it?”
“It is strange.”
“It’s quite intriguing.”
“In other words, it’s bewitching.”
I beg to differ.
Ougi-chan mumbled along with an uninterested expression as she pointed at the picture scrawled on a notebook spread across my desk. I recall facing Gaen-san in a similar way in August. However, we had used a tablet instead of a notebook for that meeting. It isn’t rare for a high school student to carry a tablet, but somehow, this outdated method suited Oshino’s niece.
Scrawled on the notebook was a structural map of Naoetsu High school’s buildings. To someone like me, who had no knowledge of drawing, it was quite a splendid sight. It was quality work worthy of being displayed at the gateway of the school.
“Strange isn’t it?” Ougi-chan repeated, pointing at a spot on the drawing.
While listening to Ougi-chan speak, I half studied the diagram, and half stared at her—stared at her eyes. Those pitch black eyes that seemed to suck me in.
Which reminds me, Gaen-san had once called herself “Meme Oshino’s younger sister”. At that time, I had pondered why she called herself the younger sister instead of the older; but I’m sure that there is a basis for everything she has introduced herself as. Come to think of it, there was not a single foolhardy aspect about Gaen-san.
Simply said, I was curious as to why the niece of the specialist who left in June would transfer schools at this time. Kanbaru would probably call it “a twist of fate”, but as someone who has been involved with Hachikuji…
“Um, are you listening to me? Araragi-senpai.”
Having my inattentiveness pointed out, I hurried to regain my composure.
“Oh, Ougi-chan, why don’t you take a seat? It’ll be tiring to stand up through your entire explanation. The students that sit around here eat around the sport’s ground, so we shouldn’t have to worry about them until the chime sounds.”
I wanted to shake off the guilt of taking a seat while my underclassman stood in between rows, but Ougi-chan politely declined. In the end, Kanbaru never took a seat, and Ougi-chan rejected the idea in an impressive manner.
“No, unfortunately, I like to obsess over hygiene, so I would rather not sit in a chair which someone I don’t know has already dirtied.”
“…is that so?”
Obsession with hygiene, huh. Then she would never be able to live the ruins of the demolished cram school like her uncle did.
“I would be willing to sit in Araragi-senpai’s lap though.”
“Please stop that.”
“Oh, you just thought of something dirty, didn’t you?”
She said as she clapped her hands together in a happy manner. Her behavior may have seemed just like any other freshman, but her strange personality still shone through.
“You were the one to bring up such indecent ideas. I’ll have your keep standing as punishment.”
“So, what was it? What was so interesting?”
“Even rolling chopsticks are a source of great entertainment—is what they say of children of my age, but… Uhm, you know, I’m a transfer student, right? Due to certain family conditions, I have transferred from school to school to the point that I don’t even remember all of them.”
“Huh… must have been rough. It seems like Kanbaru had also traveled from place to place when she was still in elementary school…”
On the other hand, Kanbaru has already headed for home. Upon quickly introducing Ougi-chan to me, she hurriedly ran off to somewhere else. Despite appearances, she had quite a lot of things to attend to—or did she not want to pry into the contents of our conversation?
“Transferring between schools must be tough. Your surroundings are constantly changing—in addition to the unfamiliar landscape, it must be overwhelming.”
“Yup. Well even then, I have already gotten accustomed to such things. What do you think is the first thing I have to do before I transferring?”
“Hmm… greet the teachers?”
“There have been times when I haven’t done that.”
“So you just don’t greet them?”
“What I make are— these kind of diagrams.”
Ougi-chan flipped through the pages of the notebook. The notebook seemed brand new, but it was already overflowing with diagrams of the various school buildings. Naoetsu High School was depicted in a pretty exhaustive manner. Not only did it contain structural diagrams, three-dimensional drawings also covered the notebook’s pages. I wonder how this individual drew this overhead view of the school.
Hm? It’s as if they drew it from a helicopter.
“These drawings help me grasp a better understanding of the school that I plan to transfer to. I’d have to call it a habit of mine. Do you think I’m strange?”
“No. Not really.”
To be honest, I thought that it was quite an odd habit to indulge in, but I could only name around two people I recognized that have experienced anything similar to transferring between schools, so I was in no position to tell that to her face. Rather, I would honestly be surprised if anyone other than those two people would ever do such a thing.
Since this was the niece of that hypocrite, Oshino, I drew a clear line that I should never cross, and stepped around her carefully. However, as I became familiar with her eccentricities, I became slightly closer to her.
“I really like stories of murder mysteries that take place in mansions. What really caught my attention were the rough sketches of the building structure that the detectives made in the beginning of the story. As a result, out of my own interest, I sketch something similar every time I transferred to a new school. Of course, it’s not as if I am expecting to conduct a murder investigation.”
She said it with a smile, but somehow the perplexing situation sapped away the carefree tone it should have held. If she had declared it was preparation for the possibility of a murder crime scene, I would have believed her without a doubt.
“Hmm… can you show it to me again?”
“Eh? Are you talking about my panties?”
“No, the notebook…”
A Kanbaru-esque remark. Seeing that Ougi-chan has been influenced by Kanbaru’s perverted personality, she must have become quite intimate with Kanbaru (however, that remark proves that her panties haven’t been removed in advance). This makes me wonder exactly how a student who just transferred in came to such good terms with Kanbaru. Well, Kanbaru tends to get along with just about anyone…
I flipped through the notebook, and scanned it from cover to cover. Reading it, I realized there were innumerable facilities I had never visited in the three years I had commuted to and from this school. It made me realize how halfheartedly I had been spending my time as a student.
“All things considered, this was drawn skillfully, Ougi-chan. Map reading isn’t one of my strong points, and often, it takes me a while to comprehend them. However, holding onto this notebook, I get the feeling I’m actually taking walk through the campus.”
“Thank you for the praise. Then I assume you know what I am saying is unusual?”
I still did not know. I didn’t intend to flatter her, but this was the result of carelessly praising her diagrams. Reluctantly, I worked out a comment to utter.
“We have, uh, too many school buildings. Given the number of students enrolled in this school, we can even reduce the number of school facilities quite a lot and still have no problems with space.”
“Completely wrong. What are you, an idiot?”
Sharp words stabbed at me in a polite tone. For a moment, I thought I had incurred her anger, but her smiling expression suggested otherwise. What a peculiar choice of words. Maybe it was the result of transferring from place to place? Her words were terribly rude, but maybe this was the norm in other places.
“That’s just the result of declining birth rates. These buildings were definitely needed at one point in time. The reason why there are a lot of vacant classrooms is simply because, compared to before, the number of students has decreased. Well, what I found strange was this—”
Ougi-chan took the notebook back, opened it to a certain page, and pointed to a certain part—it was the detail she had tried to show me before. Even then, I didn’t find anything particularly unusual about it.
“The arrangement of the rooms is strange.”
Ougi-chan had given up on waiting for the fool—none other than me—to answer, and began explaining.
“A better word for it would be ‘unnatural’. Take a look at the floor right above and below this one please.”
Ougi-chan furthered her explanation while flipping between pages.
“Space is used efficiently, and rooms are all placed in a natural fashion. Then the fact that there is no room right in the middle of the floor is strange, isn’t it?”
With that in mind, I took another glance at the diagram, but I still didn’t get it.
“However, isn’t there a room placed in the same location on the third floor? The audiovisual room.”
“That’s an error on the diagram. I had drawn the diagram according to the actual building, however, in reality, the audiovisual room isn’t this wide. If compared with the other room’s, it’s approximately 1.5 times as long as the other rooms.”
If you eyed the respective lengths, it seemed just about right. The audiovisual room which I have entered countless times throughout my high school career wasn’t this large. This wasn’t an error small enough to ignore. However, Ougi-chan wasn’t in possession of the construction tools used to put the finishing touches on the drawing. She must have just overlooked a room or got her units wrong, and the audiovisual room got longer as a result.
“Could it be? Araragi-senpai is doubting my abilities? I’m hurt, Araragi-senpai.”
“We’re not close enough for you to be hurt by such doubt.”
“No, no, I can sincerely say such things —about the fool who has deceived me.”
Without hesitating in the slightest, she called me a fool again. She cursed at me the same way Senjougahara had when she despised me, but did so with a smile. At this point I can’t even tell whether she’s being serious or not. I’m suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance.
“I don’t make mistakes. If it’s an error on my part, I’ll use my arm in place of a ruler and measure the room’s dimensions another time while naked.” (EN: Rule 34 heheh.)
“That’s an incredibly careless promise you just made there…”
Regardless of how much confidence I held in myself, I would never make such a promise.
The smiling girl who boasted her confidence in her observation prowess began to speak again.
“In a fictional mystery story, when reality and the map don’t match up like this, a secret room is usually hidden there.”
“What should we do, Araragi-senpai? You never know—the room might be holding piles of gold and silver and clusters of precious stones.”
“Why in the world would there be treasure hidden in the school? Even in the event that I found it, it wouldn’t be mine to take.”
“You have no dreams～ this is why students preparing for examinations should loosen up a bit more.”
“Hypothetically, if this wasn’t a mistake from when the diagram was made, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that it was a mistake made during the construction of the school building? And in that case, this would just be a dead space buried in concrete or some other material used in construction.”
I have no memory of a concrete wall neighboring the Audiovisual room, though my memory of it seems a bit hazy. One only needs to remember the location of his classrooms if he wishes to survive high school.
“That’s another possibility. Of course, that’s the optimal outcome. Wait no, I wouldn’t mind if it was made of precious stones either. However, that’s not the point.”
She uttered it in a joyful, indiscreet tone.
“In case it is a phenomenon caused by some kind of oddity, I would like to make an investigation before anyone is harmed.”
To be honest, I thought this was a large leap in logic. Indeed, the diagram contradicting with reality was quite curious, however, it was not likely related to the existence of an oddity. I would sooner believe that a hidden room was constructed there. Well, maybe an oddity of the sort existed in mythological stories.
In the first place, Shinobu would have long noticed if an oddity was inhabiting a space inside of a school building. Oshino would have also detected it during spring break. At times like these, Oshino would surely say something along the lines of “Don’t keep thinking that everything strange that occurs around you is caused by an oddity.”
Even then, I couldn’t just discard Ougi-chan’s opinion because she was Oshino’s niece—also because I had never heard of this “dead space” from the other two students who have investigated all over campus—Tsubasa Hanekawa and Hitagi Senjougahara.
Whether it was a dead space or a phenomenon caused by an oddity, Ougi-chan had noticed an abnormality that neither the Tsubasa Hanekawa who knew everything nor the Hitagi Senjougahara who ran about the school when her life was on the line had noticed.
The fact—no, the possibility that was offered up to me still peaked my curiosity.
“Even if an oddity were to be inhabiting the area, it doesn’t have to be one that causes harm to others. On the other hand, there’s no harm in investigating just in case.”
I chose my words carefully, pronouncing my lines stiffly. I didn’t want her to think I was just thoughtlessly running along with her suggestions. While Kanbaru was absent, I wanted to keep up appearances.
“That makes me happy. I thought you would definitely say that. Then, please come find me after school. Coming to a senior classroom makes me nervous.”
Unlike Kanbaru, she’s actually capable of being cute. She was actually acting pretty inconsiderate, calling a senior student over for something that I didn’t have time for, but I didn’t notice at the time.
“I understand, I just have to meet you there right? I won’t be able to stay very long though. Otherwise, I’m afraid that I’ll might be killed over a misunderstanding of playing around with an underclassman after school.” (TN: killed by Senjougahara, his girlfriend)
“Of course, it will not take much of your time. Only about fifteen minutes. If there’s nothing there, it won’t even take ten minutes.”
Around fifteen minutes, huh. That said, Ougi-chan seemed pretty cheerful herself. Seeing her happy appearance, I thought the talk of diagrams and the oddities may just have been an excuse to make another friend in a school she had just transferred to—of course, that was not the case.
The investigation was far from just fifteen minutes—we are still at it right now.