“The reason for today’s meeting is to reveal the perpetrator behind this incident.”
Oikura started speaking before I could even take my seat. On the other hand, the three girls, who had all fallen in step behind Shuui, were already sitting in their respective seats. I, however, was still standing in amazement at this rare occasion that all of my classmates were still in the classroom after school has been released. Completely ignoring me, Oikura continued to speak.
“Until we identify the culprit, or the culprit decides to come forward, no one is allowed to leave this room.”
The harsh tone of her voice echoed across the room. As someone she despised, it was a tone I was considerably familiar with. Her unwillingness to compromise or search for a common ground only darkened the classroom’s current atmosphere. It represented the word ‘negative’ perfectly.
“Only authorized people are permitted entry during this meeting. Please turn off all cell phones as to cut off communication with the outside—Araragi, what are you doing? Please close the door. Can’t you even close a door?”
Oikura said, finally glancing in my direction. Just when I thought to settle down in a chair, I was scolded for leaving the door open. I didn’t think that an open door was something to fuss over, but it might have been her method of showing everyone that she wouldn’t allow anyone to leave this room.
On that note, all the windows had also been shut. During summertime, it would be torture to seal up a classroom without air conditioning, but… did she create this uncomfortable environment intentionally? Perhaps she thought that the perpetrator would confess if she did this? What were they looking for in the first place? Why organize a full-blown trial? All of this sounded like something from a mystery novel. In the first place, were these the kinds of things that should even be discussed after school?
I took a glance at Senjougahara’s seat located six seats behind Fukadou’s. The fragile beauty of our class sat there. I’ve never had the courage to strike up a conversation with her. She looked like the frail daughter of a noble from a faraway country from some kind of hospital love story. In reality, she often didn’t come to school, and it felt like her attendance didn’t even cover half of a semester. It must be a serious matter if even she made an appearance. Of course, it wouldn’t be strange for the frail Senjougahara to suffer from a heatstroke if she was confined to this room…
“President Oikura, What is this business of ‘identifying the culprit’ anyway?”
“Shut up. Do me a favor and close your mouth. I’m going to explain right now.”
She got pissed. And spoke with a harsh tone. A tone that even a girl who had her weight revealed to the world would probably never have use. I shut my mouth as I was told, but I don’t remember doing anything that deserved hatred to that extent. Her hostility towards me was irrational as always.
Considering the vice president’s hardships, I closed my mouth without a word but
“Hey now, don’t just decide everything on your own, Oikura. Why should you be the one in charge?”
A jeering voice flew towards the teacher’s lectern. The owner of that voice, Okitada Kouma, sat at the front of the class. Kouma crossed his legs under his desk in annoyance, and grumbled an objection at Oikura.
“You’re as much of a suspect as the rest of us are. Actually, aren’t you the most suspicious of us all? It’s just that no one had enough guts to say it.”
The tension in the classroom built up in a split second. Kouma had quite the beautiful voice, so normally, even if his words were sharp, he didn’t leave a bad impression. However, this time, even his beautiful voice couldn’t deceive anyone’s ears—or rather, it just couldn’t cover for his rude words. I had no idea what was going on, but maybe we were discussing a sensitive topic for him? Perhaps he voiced the class’s opinion correctly? Besides Kouma, I could only name a couple of other students that could speak out like that in our class. Naturally, I was not one of them. Even more so because I had no clue about what was going on… but it seemed like I was the only one who was unaware. Did she already give a brief explanation on what we would be discussing while I was still being escorted to the classroom? If so, I give up… I might as well act deaf.
“I know, I know, Kouma-kun. Thank you for offering your honest advice as the person in charge of day duty.”
While she used no honorifics with my name, she added a ‘-kun’ to Kouma’s. Actually, as far as I know, I was the only male student in our class that she had ever addressed without honorifics. Maybe she was trying to emphasize the difference between me and the rest of the class. Well, I have no reason to tell her to stop treating me differently.
“I’m just temporarily taking charge for as long as it takes to start up this meeting. I’ll step down in a moment… But just because I’m giving the details of our current situation make me the most plausible suspect? I understand you’re itching to run off to cram school right now, but I beg you to shut your mouth for the time being.”
Despite cursing under his breath, Kouma still shut up. It seemed that he felt uneasy about missing his after-school lessons. He was a freak who was taking multiple university exams as a safety net in case of failure. For him to be present here meant certain failure in one of those exams. He was just one more student who stuck out like a sore thumb in this class, and the disrespectful attitude was just his way of expressing his frustration at that. Maybe that was why he could speak up to her with such an attitude. Even so, the president had no intention of submitting to him… attending cram school as a freshman wasn’t anything bad at all (rather, it was something to be praised for as a student of Naoetsu High School), but whether it was some kind complex depended on who you asked…
(TN : complex like the complex from ‘brother complex. basically something overly obsessed over. My friend has a superiority complex.)
“Thanks to Araragi and Kouma-kun, the conversation veered way off track, but since there are people who still don’t completely grasp the situation, allow me to explain again.”
Oikura nonchalantly shifted the blame upon us, and began her explanation of our current situation. That said, it was a very simple, easy to understand explanation.
“This happened last Wednesday. Does everyone remember the group of students which were gathering members for a study session in this classroom?”
No. I don’t. Well, actually, I don’t really care. Did they? So, something like that was happening somewhere I couldn’t care less about …what’d she say it was? A study session? I think last Wednesday was the day before the term’s finals exams… Ah, I see. Test preparations, huh.
“Students who took part in the study session, please raise your hands.”
With that, around half of the students raised their hands. Everyone lowered their hands before I could finish counting, but at least fifteen of them had held up their hands. Seemed like quite the study session.
On the contrary, that also means that, including me, around half of the students present didn’t participate in this study session. For instance, the guy who just lodged a complaint at Oikura, Kouma, didn’t raise his hand.
Oikura had her hand down but—
“Yes, naturally, I also participated.”
Were the words that rolled off her tongue. What’s with the “naturally”? Was it just impossible that the session could have been managed by someone else? Was it just too much for her to raise her hand like the rest of us? It was an unpleasant feeling. It also felt like she was silently accusing those of us who didn’t attend. Like, “you guys have no friends”. Well, in my case, it was kind of true, but still…
“For those who were absent from the study session, I’m going to tell you right now—it was mainly focused on math.”
The study session was optional in the first place. Don’t make it sound like we were supposed to be there.
Ah, now that I think of it, the examinations on that Thursday were on the subjects math and physical education. One hour for physical examinations and two hours for math. So that’s why the study session revolved around math. Well, the idea of everyone gathering to study for a sweaty physical examination wasn’t very appealing in the first place.
“We took turns teaching each other, learning from each other, and raising each other’s understanding of the subject. It was truly a wonderful study session, and I take pride in being able to have held such a meeting.”
Oikura voiced it as if it was one of her own personal achievements. Well, in reality, I’m sure it probably was her own achievement. In terms of popularity, Oikura was at a large loss. However, despite this, she had managed to win the election as class president, and, naturally, there were reasons why she had been elected.
“But, something got in the way of our joyous meeting. As a result, all of us have gathered together today. It is in times like these that we should come together as a class to deal with problems hand in hand. I think this is one of our obligations as students of Naoetsu High School.”
A timid hand went up. It belonged to the student sitting next to Kouma. Hayamachi, who sat just opposite of the teacher’s lectern, voiced her opinion.
“I’m not too bright so I might be wrong but… if this has to do with the study session, can’t the students that participated just deal with it? In my case, I didn’t even know there was a study group until now…”
I found myself a fellow sympathizer. Though, Hayamachi—Seiko Hayamachi probably didn’t think of me as anything more than a classmate.
“Hayamachi-san. First of all, please take back your remark that you ‘aren’t so bright’. Some of our other classmates would find that remark quite sarcastic.”
Oikura said in return. Speaking of why others would judge at her remark, Hayamachi looked quite the prodigy. She did her nails, covered her face with a thick layer of makeup, dyed her hair brown, and still attended Naoetsu High School. So, naturally, a heavy murmur of gossip constantly revolved around her. Well, if I had to say, she was more of a hard worker than a prodigy… and to Oikura, she was on equal terms with Kouma in terms of unpleasantness.
Even then, she couldn’t even compare to me. I wasn’t just repulsive; In the eyes of President Oikura, I was an eyesore she couldn’t bear to even look at.
“I’m just saying that I’m not too smart. It’s true, isn’t it?”
Oikura, ignoring Hayamachi, who had no intention of taking back her words and was sitting there twirling a lock of hair around her finger, began to speak again.
“The problem involves the results of the math exam. Those who participated in the study session generally received high scores, which is a very good thing. However, this is where the problem arose. Actually, to be honest, rather than a problem, it was a suspicion. A suspicion arose.”
Oikura glared at me as I responded with those words. I guess the lower life forms like me with barely any ability of conscious thought weren’t even permitted to mumble in response. Tetsujou sent a pitying look in my direction. Komichi Tetsujou. Softball team. If Oikura was the director of the class, then Tetsujou was the manager and the peacemaker. In her own right, she fretted over the discord between Oikura and I. But, in our current situation, she couldn’t speak out, so she remained more silent than usual. Sparing me some sympathy was probably the most she could do… However, I’m sorry to say this but, that look of pity was a pointless waste of energy. Well, it was a far more desirable outcome than an abrupt war of words starting between the two. Despite calling it a war of words, between the keen, sharp-tongued Oikura and the lisping Tetsujou, it could barely be called a contest.
“Put simply, suspicion of cheating. Compared to the students who were absent from the study session, the test scores of those who participated was way too high.”
“Those who took part in the study session did, on average, around twenty points better in the exam than those who did not. If this number was around ten points, it could have passed it off as the accomplishments of the study group. However, when this number rose to twenty points, it could no longer be overlooked. There is no doubt that there was some kind of academic dishonesty involved in this exam.”
In other words, this “criminal identification” had to do with the identification of the students who cheated on the test. No, but, in that case…
“Can that be called cheatin’? Ain’t Cheatin’ when someone is peekin’ at someone durin’ the test?”
The voice came from the girl sitting one seat behind Tetsujou, Mebe—Miawa Mebe. She was from Kansai, and often went by the nickname of “Whippy (ホイップ)”. “Awa (泡)” from her last name really had nothing to do with whipped cream, but she got along with Toune, so her last name had somehow warped into something related to sweets. It was because she was so good-natured that she was able to build a friendly relationship with Oikura. (In my eyes, that in itself was a miracle. I would love to beg for her sagely guidance, but I’ve never talked to her even once before.) That was why she was able to bluntly interrupt.
(TN : Kansai is a region of Japan. Their dialect could be compared to the Southern dialects of America. Howdy ho.)
Sure enough, Oikura softened up into a gentle creature. On that note, I wonder if Mebe went to the study session. When the hands were raised earlier, I wasn’t paying that much attention, so I’m not so sure…
“In reality, it is expected that there would be this kind of academic dishonesty. Someone—”
Intense hostility radiated from the way she pronounced ‘someone’. It was hostility that rivaling even the burning hatred she held towards me.
“Someone took the exam questions from the staff room and shamelessly shared its contents during the study session. That’s the real reason why the majority of the students who were in the study group received higher grades.”
“Hm? Why’d they do that?”
Mebe tilted her head to the side.
“If someone stole summa’ those exam questions, uhm, wunnit’ be smarter for em’ tuh hog em’ all for em’selves? Even then, that person was sharin’ it tuh everyone in the study session.”
“I can think of several reasons they would want to do that. It would make it more difficult to identify them if everyone’s scores were boosted. Or maybe this person took pleasure in letting his or her crimes be known.”
Perhaps Oikura thought that listing all the possible reasons would be a pain, but to cite a couple examples the two reasons she listed here were ‘to blend in’ and ‘the pleasure of being known’. Or maybe she was putting off thinking about it for later.
“Anyhow, it is unforgivable for someone to defile both the dignity of our study session and to interfere with the sacredness of our term-end examinations. And if you did not attend the study session, please don’t think you have nothing to do with this. This is a problem for the entirety of class 3-1, of which is made up of all of us as a whole. I know I have said this before.”
Bang! A hand struck down on the teacher’s lectern. Then, for some reason, Oikura Sodachi glared daggers at me while she spoke. Like a declaration of war.
“Until we identify the perpetrator, or if this person decides to come forward themselves, no one will leave this classroom. With that in mind—”