Satsukawa: "That's enough, Teramoto. I think I have a picture of what's going on in this school now."
That was kind of interesting, I have seen better, but I have also seen worse. I give it a bonus point for being grounded on historical facts, albeit I am not quite sure that Teramoto did her homework until the very end. I think I have spotted at least two weak points, but which story doesn't have at least one?
Anyway even if I was amused, the same cannot be said of the teachers on my side. The whole time they frowned, the shook their heads, they grimaced. It was another funny side show.
Teramoto might be a good narrator and a decent actress, I bet her fantasies work pretty well with the right setting and against impressionable girls, but in this place, and with these people? She cannot possibly hope they will consider this something different from an elaborated sham or the ravings of a lunatic.
Maybe precisely because this story is too preposterous for a person in her right mind to seriously think others will buy it, one might even start thinking that it must be true, else Teramoto, who doesn't really seem insane, would come up with something more believable. But that can only be a passing thought, only a brief dip in the fantasy world before rationality brings the mind back to planet earth. Who can believe in demons and spirits in this world and age? Such things only survive as myths, traditions, folklore, and nothing else. Only a very minority of maniacs and fanatics think of them as anything more than that.
Now that I think about it, Teramoto mentioned something like that at the very beginning of her monologue, and I believe she implied that it is a serious problem. Not bad, I think I might be onto something here.
Satsukawa: "Frankly speaking, I'm really appalled by these revelations, but it's not my job to judge you for that."
Wakamatsu: "It might not be your job, Satsukawa-san, but it is mine. To think that such foolishness has been going on in this school for two years... I have no words to express my dismay."
Nagaoka: "I feel the same. This is pure folly."
Satsukawa addresses the first year students again.
Satsukawa: "Is what Teramoto just told us the same thing that you heard from her a week ago?"
Maeda: "Yes, more or less. It's the same story. After that I asked a few senpai if that was the same thing they listened to, and they confirmed it."
The other girls nod.
Satsukawa: "Beside the twelve of you and Teramoto, who else was there?"
Maeda: "There were four members from the occultism club, three of them are here."
Satsukawa: "The other one is?"
Teramoto: "Michiko Sakurai, but all the other members of the occultism club are equally involved."
That means Kagami Hibari was not with them.
Satsukawa: "Then the remaining person that is here is?"
Teramoto: "Just a second year student that we brought there in a previous gathering."
Satsukawa: "Very well. So, how was Hitomi Gotsuji involved in this?"
Teramoto: "She wasn't."
Satsukawa: "She was found dead inside that place, how am I supposed to believe that she wasn't involved?"
I see we finally dropped the euphemisms.
Teramoto: "I have no idea why she was there. As you've heard, we gathered right the day before, we usually wait a week or so before gathering again."
Satsukawa: "I'll ask this again to be completely certain. There were exactly seventeen persons the last day you 'gathered', the twelve first year students that are here, the four members of the occultism club also present, and Michiko Sakurai. No one else?"
Maeda: "No one else."
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, after the long explanation, what else did you do?"
Teramoto: "We performed the ritual to strengthen the magic circle. I won't bore you with the details, but basically the twelve chosen are invited to seat around the circle and join hands. At the same time I stand in the middle and recite the incantation, the others are only required to concentrate and to repeat certain words as I command."
Satsukawa: "Is that all?"
Teramoto: "No, after that I usually give a demonstration. Most of the times that entail communing with the souls of the lost students, or the demon himself."
Satsukawa: "How does that work?"
Teramoto: "There are several systems to achieve the same result. I use a Ouija board."
Please, tell me I am supposed to laugh. This whole secret cult stuff is nothing but a series of teenage girls' occult pastimes taken to an extreme.
Satsukawa: "A... Ouija board?"
Teramoto: Yes, a Ouija board. Do I need to explain what a Ouija board is?"
Satsukawa: "No... I know what it is... Is that thing where you place your hands on that thing..."
Teramoto: "The planchette."
Satsukawa: "The planchette, uh? That's how they're called..."
Teramoto: "I usually choose three random girls among the guests and only the four of us touch the planchette, while the others just watch."
Satsukawa: "I am not an expert on the subject, but I thought it was a well established fact that the planchette moves because of involuntary movements of the hands of the participants."
Teramoto: "I know of that theory, but don't you think it's implausible? How can involuntary random movements make the planchette move to form complex sentences and words?"
Teramoto's eyes are sparking again. I think she finds pleasure in dismissing popular theories against the occult as much as I like doing the opposite. This is very promising.
Satsukawa: "You move it yourself, Teramoto, don't you?"
Teramoto: "Do I? Is that what people that witnessed me think, I wonder?"
And against Satsukawa's expectations, all the first year students shake their heads at the same time.
Endo: "I don't really think so."
Uzuhara: "She couldn't possibly do that, right? Right?"
Maeda: "Well... if there's a trick, it must be something else..."
Nagaoka: "Enough! Ouija boards are nothing but garbage! I'm ashamed of you for even taking this seriously!"
This pathetic man managed to shut everyone's mouth, but he didn't change their minds. Only an idiot can think a problem is solved just because he can no longer see it.
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, I want to return to this point again. Are you absolutely sure that Hitomi Gotsuji wasn't involved in any way?"
Teramoto: "Absolutely. Of course, if what you're asking is if I brought her to the shed, then the answer is yes, but that was long time ago. I don't know what kind of rumors you've heard about me, but the truth is that every single girl that participated to my rituals did so by her own free will. Normally it's only after the first gathering that they realize it's a serious matter. Those who wish to know more are welcomed in my circle, but for the most part they prefer to never be called again, and we understand and respect their decisions. Hitomi Gotsuji was one of those persons. I've never even talked to her after that."
It might be actually true that Teramoto doesn't make people participate to her rituals against their wills, this is consistent with what Takamiya told me. And it is probably also true that the victim decided to stay away from her circle after the first experience, Oda seemed to be sure about that. But did she really remained completely uninvolved ever after? What if she learned something that could destroy from its foundations everything that Teramoto built? Normally this would be impossible if she never had any contact with them, but there is someone that is certainly involved and that the victim certainly knew very well. Someone who certainly is not good at hiding secrets.
Satsukawa takes a deep breath.
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, let's be serious. After all that emerged so far, are you still trying to claim that you haven't done anything wrong?"
Teramoto: "Did I really do something wrong? If you think so, by all means, let me know where I'm at fault."
I, love, this, girl.
Oh, the outraged eyes of Nagaoka and Wakamatsu, the incredulous half-open mouth of Satsukawa, and my excited, ecstatic grin!
She is but a girl, a high school student, and she is facing two institutions at the same time, the school and the law enforcement. She is most likely to get suspended or even expelled from one side, and she might be condemned to spend her youth inside a cell or even to death from the other. And yet, look at her, she just sits there and answers to Satsukawa's questions as if she was bored, without even an ounce of fear!
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, rumors of your deeds have reached our ears already. Through the story of that demon and the display of your alleged spiritual powers, you've created a network of several people that do whatever you wish. That grants you power, and we know that you're using it to keep the school under your control."
Teramoto: "I see. Certainly such rumors exist, but it isn't something to be surprised about. People always fear what they don't understand, and that's particularly true in regard of those that practice the occult arts. I'm not a fool, I'm aware of how most people react to what I teach and claim. I understand that for most of them I'm a strange girl that deals with strange things, and the fact that I act on secrecy makes them even more suspicious. Considering that, I'm actually more surprised that they aren't saying that I sacrifice goats to the devil or that I turn people into toads. Those who say that I control the whole school just because I'm the leader of a secret group and because I deal with the occult, aren't any different from those conspiracy theorists that claim the Illuminati are ruling the world behind the scenes. No, that doesn't really surprises me. What really does, is that the police buys whatever rumor they heard without checking the facts first."
Wakamatsu: "Teramoto! Mind your words!"
Teramoto: "Forgive me, I probably shouldn't have said that. At any rate, I'm sure that none that knows me personally would say those things about me. Whatever rumor you might have heard, it was certainly from someone that isn't close to me."
In other words, none of those that are under her control would say something against her. Quite the obvious statement!
Satsukawa: "We witnessed the proof of those rumors just a while ago. Why was Endo afraid to mention your name?"
Teramoto: "I think that's a very good example. Why was she afraid? As Maeda said, I never told anyone that it was wrong to talk to the police, and certainly I never said they shouldn't tell that it was I that brought them to the abandoned shed. Didn't I just tell it was me by my own accord? Why would I give any orders to don't say what I have no problem stating myself? There are evidently unnecessary concerns regarding me, no doubt the result of the baseless rumors you've heard."
Satsukawa: "Come on now, who are you trying to fool? I was there when you were asked if you were involved with the abandoned shed the first time, I remember your answer back then."
Teramoto: "Oh, that... I guess I did something wrong in the end."
Satsukawa: "So you finally admit it?"
Teramoto: "I am in no way any more guilty than everyone else, though, nobody wanted to say they've been inside that place. You already understand the reasons. In the first place it would have been difficult to explain the situation, your reaction was quite foreseeable. Secondly, considering what happened, everyone was too scared to talk. Whether they were among the people that think I'm the devil incarnate, or among those who understand how dangerous the demon is, they feared that by talking they'd be next."
Satsukawa: "What about you, Teramoto? Why did you lie?"
Teramoto: "That was wrong, I admit it, but I didn't break any school rule in the end."
Nagaoka: "Stop messing around, Teramoto! You took possession of one of this school facilities without asking permission, and that's clearly a violation of the rules! If it really wasn't your intention to break the system, you would've..."
Teramoto: "Filled the proper form and submitted it to the student council? Is that what you're trying to tell me, Nagaoka-sensei?"
No way! She couldn't possibly... Oh... nevermind... she did!
Teramoto just took a document from her pocket and now she is showing it to everyone, including Nagaoka whose face turned completely red. I am not sure if it is from rage or embarrassment; probably both.
Teramoto: "This document proves that back when I decided to use the abandoned shed, I properly submitted a formal request for it to be assigned to the occultism club. You can see that it was signed by Kuon Kubota, therefore from my side there's absolutely no fault. I've always been under the assumption that I was granted the use of the abandoned shed through official and regular means. However, after the tragedy happened, I realized that I was mistaken. Kubota came to me and begged me to don't say anything about his mishandle. As it turned out, he forgot to process the document and my request as his duties demanded from him. He promised me that if I gave him just a few days, he would fix everything. I was obviously a fool to believe him."
Satsukawa: "Teramoto... that can't be... We know that several clubs asked the same thing to Kubota. That means they didn't know the shed was already assigned to yours, and that can only means you always kept this fact hidden."
Teramoto: "Is that so? That's the first time I hear about that. If I had realized this earlier, I would have talked to Kubota, and I would've made him fix his error."
So it is all Kubota's fault! And the funny thing is that given his character, this is actually entirely possible.
Nagaoka: "Forget about that! Why didn't you say anything to Nakamura! She's the one who's supposed to follow your club activities! How is it possible that she didn't know that the shed was assigned to the occultism club?!"
Nakamura: "That's right! You never told me anything!"
Teramoto: "Well, this is another reason that caused quite a bit of confusion in me. When I realized that nobody knew that the abandoned shed belonged to the occultism club, I was shocked, and I didn't quite know what I was supposed to. If I talked, I would've also needed to tell that I did in fact informed Nakamura-sensei."
Teramoto: "I didn't want to say this, but at this point I have no choice. The truth is that Nakamura-sensei has never been interested in my club's activities, and we've barely seen her at all for the past years. I know that I've properly informed Nakamura-sensei, and all the members of the club who were present that day can testify that I'm telling the truth. However, since she was never interested in the club to begin with, I can only conclude that she forgot."
Speechless, Nakamura lowers her eyes and doesn't even debate.
What Teramoto said must be true, she never really bothered checking the club, and the problem is that Nagaoka and Wakamatsu know that. After all, there is no way all of this would have happened if she really did her job and followed Teramoto closely. In the end they cannot deny what Teramoto is saying, because it is plausible. Nakamura herself is probably thinking that it might have really gone that way, she might have actually forgotten.
Teramoto, like a great strategist, used all the weaknesses of her enemies against them. They thought they were going against a single defenseless girl, they found that they are against all of her circle, and that is a lot of students. Because they will confirm everything that she said, and while a teacher's word is worth more than that of a single student, it is a different matter when it is a hundred of them.
Teramoto is like a serpent facing a tiger several magnitudes bigger than her. The tiger might be strong, but she fears the serpent's poisonous bite. And as the tiger crouches, the serpent rises above triumphant.
So much for the school representatives, they lost on every ground. There is no doubt they will still come up with something to discipline Teramoto, but not as much as they wish for. If they punished her harshly without a valid excuse, they could get in trouble with the parents of the many students that will surely vouch for her.
Oosugi: "Excuse me, missy, there's something that isn't quite clear to me, maybe you can clarify my doubts."
Well well, looks like the cavalry has finally arrived!
Oosugi is an inquisitor, interrogating suspects is what he does best. He is still little more than a beastly caveman, but even a pig can climb a tree if properly trained. He has years of experience on his back and he knows how to do his job. Without a doubt he was asked to be here to supervise the new guy, and to fill the gaps that he might leave, which is what he is doing right now.
Teramoto: "That's why I'm here."
Oosugi: "So tell me, are you saying that Gotsuji was killed by your demon? Because going by your previous deposition, it seems that that's what you implied."
Teramoto: "I'm certain of it, Gotsuji wasn't supposed to be there, and she wasn't supposed to enter. I don't even know how she could manage it, unless the demon himself opened the door. But since he's bound by my spell, he couldn't possibly physically harm her, so the only explanation is that he possessed a human that was with Gotsuji at that time."
Clever. In other words no matter who the culprit turns out to be, she can still claim that the demon did it, and nobody will be able to prove her wrong.
Oosugi: "That would mean that this second person didn't go there with the intention to kill the victim. Is that what you're saying?"
Teramoto: "That's what I think."
Oosugi: "Then I don't really see why he would carry a sword. That would be strange, don't you agree, missy?"
Oosugi: "See, this is the part that bothers me. Did the demon made the sword materialize out of thin air or something?"
Typical of Oosugi. He isn't fazed one bit by the story Teramoto told us. He is used to listen to the lies of criminals almost every day, I wouldn't be surprised if he heard even stranger stuff. But Oosugi doesn't care, he just carves his way through the sea of lies until he reaches the parts that really matter to him. In this case he is aiming straight to the murder weapon.
Teramoto: "That sword is cursed."