CHAPTER 5: PART 1
“Could you please gather the others?”
When I got out of the tent, Hirata’s meeting had already started to take place. It was not long before the whole class gathered together.
“Men are not to be trusted. It is absolutely impossible to stay in the same place with them!”
“But there seems to be a bit of a problem for guys and girl to live apart now, don’t you think?… The exam is almost over. Because we are friends, we must believe in each other and cooperate.”
“That may be right. But we cannot stay in a place with underwear thieves!”
Karuizawa is swinging her head to the side dismissing this idea as absolutely impossible.
Well, if the victim says so, then Hirata cannot say anything more.
Adding to this, Shinohara brings a branch of a tree and pulls out a line, in a patronizing manner.
“We believe that the culprit is a boy. So, we draw a line here and divide the area between girls and boys. Boys entering our area is absolutely prohibited.”
Shinohara finally proposed to officially divide our common living space.
“What’s this?! You treat us like criminals, without proper proof. Didn’t we let you check our baggage and also do a physical examination?”
“You may not have necessarily hidden it into your bag, right? Men are perverts. Anyway, please do not enter the girls’ territory until we find the culprit. So go over there.”
After saying that, they demanded the boys move the tents. As expected, the boys did not seem satisfied with this and booing ensued.
“If you do not believe us, then move your tent away or whatever. We will not move our tent and we will not help you move yours either.”
“Ah! I see, then fine. You cannot stand the burden of getting caught, while pretending to help.”
“And do not use the shower anymore, ok? It is not a joke to let a man who might have been a perverted thief use it.”
It seems that the unity that we had so far has completely broken down.
“Heck. Can you even stamp your tent?”
Feeling that the situation became rather dangerous, Shinohara asked Hirata for help.
“Hey Hirata, could you please help us? For Karuizawa’s sake?”
“Ok, I’ll help you. It may take some time, is that okay?”
“Thank you, Hirata! Good for us, Karuizawa!”
“Yup. Only Hirata is to be trusted.”
Being a little bit happy and a little bit embarrassed, she made Karuizawa’s cheeks blush.
“Hmm… Although, Hirata could be the culprit.”
“What?! Hirata is not the culprit! What a stupid thing to say! Get lost!”
“Don’t make a fool of yourself Karuizawa. Just because he is your boyfriend does not mean that he cannot be the culprit!”
Naturally the boys’ complaints were rising, but in this situation their words weren’t taken into consideration. Everyone except Hirata was suspected to be the thief, so it couldn’t be helped. The discussion where Karuizawa and Shinohara seized the initiative was rapidly approaching the conclusion.
“Wait a minute. Can I raise my objection against all of you? Especially to you, Karuizawa?”
In the midst of such a cold atmosphere Horikita calmly but also firmly faced Karuizawa.
“What is it Horikita? Do you have any objections against our present plan?”
“I do not mind dividing the living area between men and women. As long as the culprit hasn’t been found, it is prudent to keep ourselves at a distance from the boys, since there is a high possibility that the culprit is a guy. However, I do not trust Hirata, I mean I cannot rule out the possibility that he is the thief and I’m not convinced as to why he must be excluded from the rules and let him enter the girls’ area.”
“Hirata would never do such thing. Can you understand that, at least?”
“That’s your own personal belief. Do not force the same idea on me as well.”
Karuizawa was clearly not satisfied with Horikita’s attitude and took a step closer to her.
“Hirata is definitely not the criminal. You don’t even have friends, let alone a boyfriend, so you may not understand.”
“Do not make me say the same thing over and over again. You cannot convince me about him.” Horikita did not bend even when she was provoked.
“Well, then let me ask you something. I guess there are not any other boys that can be trusted except Hirata. Or are there?”
“I won’t speak without thinking. Simply put, you can increase the number by another one. If you do that then we’ll have two guys. It’s very effective when guys want to watch each other’s backs.”
“This is not a joke! Did I steal your underwear? No! You’ve been humiliated by a guy. Do you even understand? Do you know what is going to happen if you pull the culprit in?”
“Don’t you think this is happening because of your insufficient crisis management? While we were wasting time, maybe they were making up their reason of how they did not know the underwear were being stolen?”
“Oh! What crisis management?! They let us search their bags! What’s insufficient in this!”
“It does not matter if your underwear is stolen. It happens often in everyday life, people fall victims of robbery. However, here it seems that there is a guy that has a grudge against you.”
In other words Horikita considered the possibility that the culprit did not steal the underwear with an ulterior motive, but rather it was an act of randomness against Karuizawa specifically.
Maybe there was someone who was trying to get rid of their old grudge against Karuizawa and who deliberately decided to humiliate her. I can imagine the culprit following such a route. But is it appropriate for Horikita to express that idea against Karuizawa in public? She is smart, but she has difficulty in interpersonal relationships and this is exactly Horikita’s weak point. If Karuizawa is stirred up in front of a large crowd, then she will get even more hurt and irritated. And this rage will not only be headed towards the boys, but to Horikita too.
Karuizawa was on the verge of bursting out with rage when Hirata barged in and stood beside her gallantly.
“Karuizawa. It would be of great help for me if you chose to save another boy. Can we do that?”
She followed up to his mediation.
“Bu.. But.. How can I trust anyone else apart from you, Hirata?”
“Well, then choose me!” Ike slowly raised his hand.
To think that he was fighting with Shinohara just a little while ago…
“Wait! If it’s about physical work. It’s me!” Sudou was waving his hand.
“Wait! It’s me who has shown the most skillfulness, here!” Yamauchi also continued.
No matter how many times we had disputes with the girls, we couldn’t help but wanting to be close to them.
“Stop joking! This is serious! We are not trying to find a way to bring a pervert here. It’s no wonder that one of you is the thief. Or Horikita, do you think these guys are good enough?”
“Well, this is what I believe. These 3 people are completely unreliable, considering their daily behavior. So I thought this over carefully and I intend to choose the person who does not give me the impression of a thief.”
“Who is it? Someone other than Hirata, then?”
I look towards the boys. Is there a guy who can feel at ease when compared to Hirata?
Who could it be?…
“It’s you Ayanokouji!”
…What? Why me? How is it me?… Unintentionally, my mouth hung open, unable to speak a word.
“Hahaha! Do not make me laugh! If you think about it, isn’t he the only friend you have? You can’t trust such a quiet, sullen looking guy?”
Not that it matters to me, but my existence in this school seems to be something between “that guy” and “sulky fellow”. Is this the pitiful fate of a man who could not build satisfactory interpersonal relationships in the first semester?
“I think that Ayanokouji could be the culprit. In the morning he was acting a bit weird sneaking around, wasn’t he?”
When I found the stolen underwear in Ike’s bag, I had no choice but to talk nonsense in order to get out of this situation. Well, it is a fact that I had Karuizawa’s underwear in my hands at that time, which made me look rather suspicious.
“It might be possible… Certainly, he was in front of the bonfire yesterday until late night, Ayanokouji-kun…“
It seemed like the girls’ scepticism had become evident when they chose me as their next target. Suspicious persons began to pop out among the boys. Ike and Yamauchi were in complete ignorance. Regardless of us being silent or clarifying things out, we stayed silent since it was a disadvantageable situation. No matter how much the girls doubted, Hirata was holding the evidence and it wasn’t ruled out that we could turn to be the culprit against our will.
However, to be suspected as a culprit wasn’t a good feeling, regardless of false accusation.
“Ayanokouji-kun really is the underwear thief, right? He makes no excuses. He fixedly stared at Karuizawa-san with an eye of a pervert before.”
A suspicious voice could be heard among the girls. I couldn’t recall looking at her in such a manner, but what can you do if my brain decided to forget it for my convenience. False accusations happen in such a way.
“Um… Ah, I think Ayanokouji-kun doesn’t do such things…”
Because all the girls showed doubt with all their might, I thought no one would take my side, but words of protection came from unexpected person. Arching her back from behind, Sakura defended me in a hesitant way. I didn’t expect such an action from a girl who’s bad at getting attention from others more than anyone.
“Huh? What are you saying, why would you say such a thing?” Karuizawa turned her head in a displeasure to Sakura, who was siding with a potential culprit. From the viewpoint of a girl full of high spirits, timid Sakura is a reasonable target. It’s easier to confront her than Horikita. She changed her prey in an instant and as in predation attacked with words:
“Huh, why? How do you get that Ayanokouji isn’t the culprit?“
“That’s… That… It’s because he isn’t a person who… would do that…”
Being strongly pushed, she desperately squeezed out her voice in fear.
“Huh? I don’t get it. That isn’t an answer.” After folding her hands, Karuizawa laughed ruthlessly at Sakura’s continuous mysterious support.
“Eh? Does Sakura-san like plain, ordinary Ayanokouji-kun maybe?”
Rather than just making fun of her, Karuizawa said this with proper reason. It would be fine if such a statement without basis was turned aside without hesitation, but Sakura took it straightforwardly.
Startled in surprise, Sakura’s cheeks turned red and became restless.
“Wow. What’s this elementary-schooler like blunt response. It’s so obvious.”
The other girls joined Karuizawa in laughter.
“That’s…! Ah, um… Uuum…!”
“Ha, isn’t it good? There is no other person who likes him that much. What can you tell us here? Hey hey, I can even help you out.”
As if she couldn’t handle the atmosphere of having too many eyes on her, Sakura ran off into the woods. Kushida left us behind running after her. She had a good observation that being alone in the woods might be dangerous.
“What was that? I was just teasing her a bit. That’s why she can’t make any friends.”
Watching over Karuizawa’s public execution from beginning until the end without saying anything, Horikita let a sigh while combing her hair as if she was watching something uninteresting.
“I wonder if it’s okay to continue with the discussion soon. It’s a waste of time to watch charade after all.”
“You know, Horikita-san. Such speech comes off as if you’re being annoyed.”
As if losing interest in runaway Sakura, Karuizawa once again targeted Horikita.
“Hey, Horikita-san. Why do you treat me coldly? Did something happen?”
“Something? There is something.”
“Well, isn’t Hirata-kun cool? He’s also smart. And he’s even nice to someone like you, I think every ordinary girl falls for him.”
While giggling, Karuizawa took Hirata’s arm and pulled him with pride.
“I’ll tell you, Ayanokouji-kun is… Well. His physical appearance is good compared to the other guys, but isn’t everything else awful? I was wondering if you’re jealous of me. These are my thoughts.”
“You’re very naïve, Karuizawa-san.”
“Aah— So bad, it’s shameful to be jealous!”
I often hear that collective behavior carves a person’s role, personality and psychological state. Things that could not be seen in school life seemed to come to the surface one after another. Especially for Horikita who was always by herself, being picked by the girls in her class awfully bad, and yet she would let things go past as something out of her concern. Since this was a community life, both parties couldn’t help but be affected inevitably.
“Surely Ayanokouji-kun have many parts that aren’t being praised.”
Oi… I thought she would back me up, but it was the opposite.
“However, can Hirata-kun trust him is another question. It was essential for you to pressure Hirata-kun without reason. In reality, there is no factor to trust Ayanokouji. Besides, I’m absolutely not going to get across personal affection. As a result of extinguished past, he became the guy you can trust the most in the class. Or is there a guy you can say is better than him? If there is I want you to tell me.”
Saying this, Karuizawa glanced at boys in evaluation and let a sigh.
“… Well it looks there’s no one significant among guys. They’re always in the background.”
I had no choice but to agree with that point. The girls’ perception is too harsh.
“Oh well, isn’t that great? I have doubts, however. I’ll put up with it if Hirata-kun is okay.”
It looked like I was the one chosen from Karuizawa and the girls in the end, but I wasn’t satisfied. Of course, I didn’t reveal such a thing. There would only be another dispute.
As the talk was coming to an end, dispersement began and simultaneously with it the class’ solidarity collapsed.
“I understand what everyone wants to say, but… I disagree with suspecting a classmate without basis. There is no person in our class who would do awful things.” Said Hirata as he couldn’t stay silent about this deterioration.
“You’re too kind. Are you saying someone else stole it?”
“I don’t know that… But, I don’t want to suspect a classmate.”
The guys as well were thinking of the culprit feeling bad about being suspected by the girls all the time.
“Hey… Maybe —— Is it Ibuki?”
One person murmured while secretly looking at Ibuki who sat at the end of the campbase.
In that moment, a spearhead of doubt turned toward Ibuki as if a group set an eye on one prey.
“Ibuki-chan from C class, right. It wouldn’t be ridiculous if she pretends to be D class’ hindrance… Using tricks to make us look suspicious.”
“Stop with the nonsense, guys. You are without a doubt the most suspicious.”
Shinohara is very suspicious of the boys. She was keeping her distance from the boys, gesturing with her hand for them to back off.
“Until we figured out who’s the culprit, we surely can’t trust guys. Right, Karuizawa-san.”
“Right. The culprit is surely someone from the guys.”
Because of this incident, it had been decided to continue with our activities with the guys and girls being separated individually in the end.