The freshman Araragi-kun was much less of a delinquent than I am now. Upon inspection, the person I was before was a far more decent person than what I have become. Of course, at the time, I had not yet been assaulted by a certain vampire, so from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, I had been completely human.
Well then. Naoetsu High school—the place I commuted to every day, and the school that Ougi-chan has transferred to—was quite the decent private school. Classes were held on Saturdays and it couldn’t exactly be called a “commonplace high school”. The difficulty of the entrance exam also corresponded with the school’s high reputation. Someone like me flying past that hurdle might have been some kind of miracle. Perhaps miracle was an overstatement. I think a better assumption would be that I passed by mistake. However, without the time to even celebrate, I compensated for that miracle in full. Within a couple days of enrolling into Naoetsu High school, I found myself unable to follow along with the curriculum. From freshmen year, the main focus of class was already on college entrance exams, and this came to me as quite a shock. Considering my successful enrollment, which already tied my stomach into a knot, I believed that I had no choice but to cling on and try and keep up. That’s right, my determination never wavered until around the close of the first semester. Or should I say immediately following the term-end exams? Well, anyways, I lasted up until the school release time of July fifteenth.
July fifteenth. From that day on, I gave up on being a responsible student. I had lost confidence in my struggle to improve the poor areas which Hanekawa had pointed out to me. I had simply been left in the dust. Even if nothing had happened on that day, soon enough, I would have dropped out by myself.
Anyhow, both on July fifteenth two years ago and today, I have ignored yet another incomprehensible classroom lecture (I didn’t even try to keep up. I had left all my textbooks in school), and, in my exhausted mental state, limped back to the comfort zone I had stepped out of.
“It’s almost summer break, It’s almost summer break, It’s almost summer break.”
I recited this in my heart like an incantation. However, considering the amount of homework assigned to us over summer break, plunging into a lax state of mind wasn’t exactly the best course of action.
Somehow, I was able to drag myself through the first semester, but to think I would have to continue this struggle until graduation made me feel weak to the knees. Despite what I thought, at this point of time I was yet to overcome the trials of the first semester. I was unable to do so in the end.
Shadow. There were shadows that stood in my way in the hallway. Three of them. As I was in a state of mental exhaustion, I didn’t notice them until I was just inches away and almost bumped into them.
A voice called out, and I finally raised my lowered head. What I found there were three of my classmates.
“Can you spare some time?”
The person who spoke out was Arikure—Giwa Arikure. She was an ill-tempered girl, so I felt inclined to retort with an objection. To voice my honest opinion, she was the kind of person I had a hard time dealing with. Well, I doubt there were any male students who fancied her in the least.
Her hands were always stuffed in her pockets, but the reason for that was not to give off an aggressive air, but rather to protect her them. If she took her hands out of her pockets, you would have seen both of her hands thoroughly protected by a pair of gloves. I’ve heard that she wants to become a pianist. I have overheard from the talkative students that her “personality isn’t expressed in her music”, yet her musical performances seem to be splendid. Well, I haven’t heard them for myself, but even if they were only rumors, it didn’t seem to be a lie.
Anyhow, being stopped by this girl in my fatigued mental state, I was in for quite the tough situation.
“I have some pretty important business I have to attend to at home…”
“What do you think you’re doing? Brushing us aside?”
She said in a hostile tone. I wasn’t really brushing them aside. I’m sure my reply just got screwed up when it entered her head. That’s something that still remains the same today. Behind Arikure, (I think her nickname used to be “Anteater (Arikui)“) of the two girls who stood there, Kijikiri stood silently and stared dazedly into space. She was the kind of composed person who did everything at her own pace. She would remain in class after school for no apparent reason, and would also have random, abrupt periods of nonattendance. Hoka Kijikiri had an unnaturally whimsical lifestyle. It was as if she was living in an alternate world. That was why I was so astonished. If such a girl were to lend a hand to Arikure, I’m not so sure if the devil wasn’t playing tricks or not.
“You see, I really do have to to get home quickly today, you know? I have obligations. It’s one my greatest duties I need to attend to. My little sister in middle school has gotten herself dragged into quite the fight. Oh, it’s such a big fight that she’s gotten herself into that I just can’t help but worry.”
“What? When are you going to stop fooling around? Could you stop this?”
Arikure said with a threatening tone. Well, at that time, the name of the “fire sisters” was not yet widely known, so it just sounded like a blatant lie.
“Now, now, calm down guys.”
Toune, the remaining girl, soothed Arikure. However, the attitude of her voice made it more of a command than a coo.
“Araragi-kun, I’m sorry for bothering you while you’re so busy, but could you please return to the classroom with us? It won’t take much time. Think of it as doing us a favor.”
It won’t take much time. Her words proved false afterwards, but Jiku Toune seemed like she truly thought so. Her name earned her the nickname of “icing” (TN : 唐根軸 Tou -sugar, ne – root, Jiku – pivot = icing somehow). Not the icing of frozen water, but the icing that decorates the surface of a cake (which was actually quite confusing because there was a male student in the same class with the surname Higuma (氷熊 – ice bear)). She was bright, cheerful, and was constantly spreading smiles across the faces of her classmates. Both her nickname and given name implied a fondness of sweets, but in reality, her appetite exceeded the limits of a sweet tongue. She was a big eater. She seemed constantly wading in happiness, but she claimed that her happiest moments were when she was stuffing herself with food. As you can imagine, Toune was a frequent customer of all-you-can-eat buffets.
Well, having studied for a full semester, it’s natural that I am aware of at least a little information concerning my classmates. However, the three of them forming a circle of friends was news to me. Or rather, isn’t this the first time I’ve even seen them all in one place?
I wondered what course of events could have led up to this result. While I pondered this, Arikure, who was growing impatient, blurted something out” in an irritated tone.
“Are you coming or not? It makes no difference to me.”
“…I’ll go. I just have to go, right?”
If I had even slightly more prudence, I would have turned down their offer and taken my leave. The tense atmosphere that hovered around the girls was already evident. However, at this moment in time, I had yet to give up on my high school life. But why these three? I had thought it was unusual, but now that I think of it, it was a skillful choice of personnel. The unsociable, rude, and pushy Arikure deployed at the front lines, backed by the untouchable rear guard who couldn’t properly hold a conversation, then further solidified by the refreshing Toune; it was quite the formidable battle formation. At the same time, they also weren’t likely to start a fight.
This particular afternoon of my high school lifestyle was likely to come with major obstacles. Regardless of which choice I took, the outcome was fixed in place. Despite that, standing face to face to these girls, there was no choice but to follow along.
We returned to our classroom—class 3-1, the classroom on the fifth floor which faced the gymnasium. Two students stood before the classroom door, as if expecting our arrival. I had a moment of realization. Two students. A girl and a boy. The male was none of my concern. However, the female student beside him glared daggers at me. Her stabbing gaze pierced through my back as if she was only inches away from avenging her deceased parents.
She went by the name of Sodachi Oikura. Although she wishes to be addressed as “Euler”, a more common nickname for her was “how much”. Of course, this also originates from a play on words, but because her eyes were constantly seemed to be criticizing an unsuspecting victim, I thought it was a unexpectedly fitting nickname which had been bestowed upon her. Anyhow, I was on no terms with her to be addressing her by nicknames. Rather, in her mind, I might even be her worst enemy.
(TN : Oikura, her last name, can be pronounced to mean “how much”, and Euler is the mathematician mentioned in the first chapter. Pun explained, mission accomplished.)
Oikura was the class president. Currently, “class president” can only mean one person on the face of Earth (to me), but at the time, Hanekawa’s reputation was not as renown, so I addressed her
The lack of honorifics made it an awkward situation. (TN : Honorifics = -san after name)
“So why was I summoned here?”
“…hurry up and come in. Everyone’s waiting for you.”
Pronouncing her lines in a cold tone, she entered the classroom before me. The male student followed in after her. He was the vice-president—Tsuuma Shuui was his name. If solemnity took on a human form, it would probably end up with a personality like Tsuuma’s. Discipline coursed through his veins, and he was Naoetsu high school’s model freshman student of sorts. Even the look in his eyes was incredibly intense. I would like to point out that his character fit that of a “leader’s’” much more than Oikura’s did, but quoting his own words, he was, “more of a bureaucrat, and was more suited as a substitute than the office holder”.
I didn’t seriously consider the possibility of a “bureaucratic high schooler”, but within the time frame of one semester, he had dedicated himself within Oikura’s shadow, constantly supporting her leadership. I guess individuals with those kinds of talents exist after all. Incidentally, I have spotted him once in an arcade, demonstrating elegant, in-game movements on a console. I felt like I was experiencing a side of his personality I wasn’t supposed to see. From then on, I have thought about of him, someone I had poor affinity with, without the slightest trace of resentment. In addition, I have dodged encounters with Oikura in order to avoid becoming an annoyance to him. On the other hand, he doesn’t particularly think anything of me…
“You heard her, Araragi. Didn’t she tell you to enter? Come on and enter.”
I was prompted by Arikure. I shrugged and entered as told. Oikura had not answered my question, but she was the one who instructed the three girls to follow me after all. Then the reason why she didn’t run after me in person was because we don’t get along, and it would have elevated into a quarrel, or was it because she wanted to preserve the professional atmosphere? In that case, I could also accept her as the mastermind behind the ingenious selection of personnel. However, the fact that “everyone was waiting for me” still nagged at my mind. What was that even supposed to mean? Was I some kind of homesick hero, returning to his hometown after years of fighting crime? And who exactly does “everyone” refer to in the first place?
Entering the classroom, it took a single blink of an eye to satisfy my own curiosity. All the students of class 3-1 had assembled. There was not even a single absentee.