Oosugi: "I see, it's cursed. But... how do you know? Did you happen to see that sword with your own eyes perhaps?"
Teramoto: "Not only I, many people did."
Oosugi: "Aaah, maybe I'm starting to understand. So you've seen that sword before, it was already inside the shed. Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
Teramoto: "Naturally. You could have asked the same to anyone who was brought there."
Oosugi: "Then the only thing I still don't understand is why that sword was there. How did it end up inside a P.E. shed?"
Teramoto: "Obviously, I brought it there."
Whoa, Teramoto! Are you sure about that? I suppose you thought you couldn't deny what you have already told to so many people, but this is pretty dangerous. I don't think you understand the risk you are exposing yourself to.
Oosugi: "So that sword is yours."
Teramoto: "Do not misunderstand me, I've brought the wakizashi inside the shed where it would be safe, but it was inside this school to begin with."
Oosugi: "Where did you find it?"
Teramoto: "Below the ground, sealed inside a box. But the seal that it was meant to contain its curse was badly damaged and it was not longer working. That's how I was able to perceive it, and sensing the danger it posed, with the help of my club members, I unearthed it, I sealed it again, and I brought it where it could be of no harm."
Oosugi: "It appears you obtained the opposite effect, missy."
Not only ancient Babylonian statuettes, now even cursed swords? There is just no way I can buy her story, but even supposing it is true, that still doesn't save her. A sword is still a weapon, no matter if she believes it is cursed or whatever, she was supposed to inform the authorities about the finding. This is a blatant infraction.
Moreover Oosugi doesn't care about trivial details. Teramoto brought the sword inside the shed, to him that means the murder weapon belonged to her. It doesn't really matter if she stole it, found it, or anything. And this is all that matters to Oosugi, to him this is already a victory. He is very superficial, but in the end I can't completely blame him. Evidences and facts are all that he is required to find. There is little point in wasting time trying to judge or understand. All that he needs to do, is to provide elements that can be used in a courtroom. The rest is up to the prosecutors.
Oosugi will not press it further since this is an informal meeting, but I am sure he already has his eyes set on Teramoto.
Satsukawa: "Teramoto, do you understand the gravity of the situation you find yourself in?"
Teramoto: "... I understand..."
Satsukawa: "Shouldn't you tell us the whole truth then?"
No, it would be actually worse for her if she told us the whole truth, and she is smart enough to know that.
Teramoto: "I'm already telling the truth, and no matter what you say, I know what I've done and what I didn't!"
Satsukawa: "The facts are all against you, Teramoto."
Teramoto: "Are they? What could you possibly have against me, when I didn't do anything wrong!"
Satsukawa: "Both the place where the murder happened and the murder weapon were under your responsibility. I'm afraid to say that you don't find yourself in a good position."
Teramoto: "And what of it?! Can you prove that I was there at the time of the crime? There are people that can testify I wasn't! And what about the fact that I had been there just the day before? There are hundreds of students that can tell you how unlikely it is that I would go there two days in a row. And the murder weapon? Is there any proof that I used it to kill Gotsuji? I've been at the crime scene? Yes, but so did everyone else! I knew that there was a sword inside the shed? True, but so did many others! If you really have substantial proofs against me, I'd like to know which they are!"
Satsukawa: "What about the fact that only you knew how to open the door of that shed?"
Teramoto: "Didn't I already tell you? It was probably the demon..."
Nagaoka: "Stop with that nonsense, Teramoto! There's no such demon!"
Teramoto: "Then if you don't acknowledge his existence and the fact that I've bound him to my will, on which grounds you claim that only I can open that door?"
Nagaoka: "You... You obviously used some kind of trick!"
Teramoto: "Fine by me, if that's what you want to believe! But if you think so, then you also need to acknowledge that anyone could have used some kind of trick to open that door! If not, explain! What is this trick that only I can perform?!"
Teramoto: "Satsukawa-san, perhaps you have an explanation."
Teramoto: "Perhaps you also have an explanation as to why so many students believe the demon exist, in spite of the fact we live in a world that refuses to acknowledge the supernatural. Perhaps you can explain why even the skeptical Maeda has doubts. Perhaps, Satsukawa-san, you can explain what was the sound you've heard coming from a shed where no one, according to you, was present!"
A reckless all out attack, and Satsukawa was left completely speechless. How does she know?
So it wasn't just my impression, someone was watching us back then. Teramoto herself? Or maybe it was simply one of the basket club members; they already knew we were there. Kagami Hibari perhaps? At any rate Teramoto must have come to know what happened, and she must know what caused that sound. This is more likely one of her tricks, one of those 'demonstrations' she uses to impress the guests she occasionally brings there.
The problem now is that Teramoto managed to confuse even Satsukawa, throwing back on his face an event he is still bothered by. But I think her attack is even more insidious. She probably knows that Satsukawa didn't tell anyone about that strange sound he heard. Now even if he tried to argue back, he would have to explain the story to the others, and what exactly would he tell them? He would just become another pawn in Teramoto's hands.
This confrontation has come into an impasse. They made their point, and Teramoto played her cards pretty well, there is nothing more to say. She decided to attack rather than escape or to simply defend, and I think her strategy paid in the end. She will not come out of this unscathed, but she avoided a major crisis.
Erika: "Well? Wasn't it a well played match?"
Everyone's eyes are now focused on me, and it feels absolutely great.
Nagaoka: "A well played match?!"
The hilarious outraged reaction of Nagaoka makes me giggle. I send a confident glance to Satsukawa who is sitting next to me. He thinks for a while and then he nods.
All right, this is finally my turn!
Erika: "Let's be honest, you must admit that the girl has guts. To be in her position and to fight all of us with such strength and fervor! She really is something. No wonder she's the most famous student of the whole school."
Oosugi grunts and shakes his head, but the raised corners of his mouth tell me that he is amused in the end.
Teramoto is staring at me with circumspection. She must know I can't possibly be on her side. Rumors spread fast in this school and she must have already heard a lot of stories about me.
Nagaoka: "That's nothing to be proud about! It's absolutely irresponsible to praise this girl for her defiance!"
Erika: "I see, that's definitely true from your perspective, Nagaoka-san, but what about the perspective of the students? Just look at Teramoto's friends sitting next to her. What do you see in their eyes? Don't you see how proud they are of their leader? Don't you see how they look at her with admiration? Have you ever been looked at in the same way when you were a student? Or... at any given moment of your life?"
Wakamatsu raises her hand to stop him and shakes her head. She is probably reminding him that he would just make a fool of himself by arguing with me. Nagaoka grits his teeth in frustration, but in the end he looks away and crosses his arms.
In the meantime Teramoto regained her confidence. She is smiling at me with an even more arrogant attitude than before. She must have already figured out that my words of praise are actually a trap. Thanking me or declaring to agree with what I said would mean to openly admit her defiance, and she must play the part of the good student that is just defending herself from false accusations.
Teramoto: "I've heard about you. You must be the woman that claims to be the great detective Erika Furudo."
Unsurprisingly Teramoto's first move is another attack, a cautious strike, that doesn't expose her too much. She is good, but she lacks in subtleness. Her strategies are way too easy to read.
Erika: "That's right, I'm Erika Furudo. Pleased to meet you, Maaya Teramoto. I hope we'll become good friends. *giggle* *giggle*"
Teramoto: "I suppose it is your turn to interrogate me. Is there anything you wish to ask? I'm prepared and willing to answer any question."
Erika: "Oh, I'm sure you are, Teramoto, you're such a good girl! And I was so enthralled by the story you told us a while ago. Did you ever consider becoming a writer?"
Teramoto frowns and adjusts her glasses with her middle finger. A sign of nervousness?
Teramoto: "I will probably write several books in the future, essays about my view of the occult arts and the spiritual world, of course."
Erika: "And they say young people today lack in ambition!"
Teramoto: "I'm a very ambitious person, and I have no fear to show it. I think it's a good quality."
Erika: "Sure it is, as long as it doesn't make you cross the line. Where did you draw your line, Teramoto?"
Teramoto: "I'm... I'm very self-conscious of the rules of society, I'd never break them."
Erika: "Good to hear that. What about morality?"
Teramoto: "... Which morality?"
Erika: "Yours, Teramoto. Do you have any?"
Teramoto: "Ha ha..."
A nervous laughter? She seems to be lost for words and I think I see anger in her eyes.
Erika: "What's the matter, Teramoto? Are my questions troubling you?"
Teramoto: "I'm not quite sure I understand what you're trying to demonstrate."
Erika: "Let's talk about your... literally fantastic story."
Erika: "I really liked the part of the ancient Babylonian statuette. Relics from lost civilizations add an exotic and mystic flavor to the plot, but I think you should have fleshed out its description. For example what kind of material was it made of?"
Teramoto: "... I don't know the particulars... The spirits didn't tell me."
Erika: "It survived the passing of thousand of years, it couldn't certainly be made of a weak material don't you think?"
Erika: "I think you should say it was made of bronze. If you said it was made of clay you'd sound pretty stupid. In the first place clay is fired at extremely high temperature to produce the final result. Stone is also a very bad idea. Bronze works on the other hand. It was pretty common at that time and if you stretch it a little you can say that the arson reached a temperature high enough to melt it. Yes, bronze! That sounds good enough. What do you think?"
Erika: "But there's a more difficult problem. It's an awful plot hole... Hmmm... that's really a nasty one... I'm not sure it can be fixed..."
Teramoto: "Wait a moment! What are you talking about?!"
Erika: "Ah, let me check one thing first, just to be sure. If I consider the description you've made about the american aerial strike, the number of victims and the extent of the damage, I can only think of one historical event that can match with all that. That would be Operation Meetinghouse, right?"
Teramoto: "Oh, so you figured that out. Of course that's the one I was referring to. Anyone with a decent knowledge of contemporary history of Japan could tell."
Erika: "Well... isn't that a very big problem, Teramoto?"
Teramoto: "What problem?! I can't see any!"
Erika: "Really? And yet you said it yourself, war is merciless and cruel!"
Teramoto: "What does that have to do with anything?!"
Erika: "Come on, Teramoto, don't play dumb now! If you wanted to maximize the effectiveness of an air strike against an entire enemy city, when would you strike?"
Teramoto: "How does that even matter?! They... uh... ah..."
Erika: "Operation Meetinghouse started after sunset, of course. Incendiary bombs were dropped on Tokyo for the whole night. Do you understand now?"
Erika: "Why were there students inside a school that late at night? Ah, this is really troublesome!"
For the first time I see worry on the faces of Teramoto's friends. They have never heard of this before, and now they are all looking at their leader, anxiously expecting her to come up with a good answer.
Teramoto: "Is that... such a strange thing that students would stay the night over at school? We do it all the time for the cultural festival... or for other special occasions..."
Erika: "Hmmm... that was a bit late for the cultural festival, but I see your point. Maybe it was a sport club staying over for a special training, or something... That's a bit far-fetched but I guess that will have to do. It's just that from the way you told the story before, you seemed to imply hundreds of students were burned alive! It was such a dramatic thing to imagine, but I guess we'll have to settle with a few dozens. What a pity!"
Erika: "But historical inconsistencies aren't the only issue. If there's one thing that I hate about badly conceived novels is when the characters inexplicably do not take the most obvious and logical actions to solve a problem. It becomes ridiculously evident that they just need to take the hard path because else there wouldn't be a compelling story to tell. The worse case is when the author introduces a plot device to solve an otherwise unsolvable situation, and then simply forgets or pretends it never existed in a later part when the related problem could be instantly fixed through the same mean. I hate that, it's really disappointing! Don't you agree?"
Teramoto: "This has nothing to do with me!"
Erika: "It has all to do with you! I mean, you have bound that demon to your will! And you have a Ouija board! Why don't you just ask him who was the killer? He certainly must have witnessed the crime! Oh wait, you claim he did it himself... but through a human! Then you just need to ask him which was that human! Problem solved!"
Teramoto: "Do you expect a demon to always tell the truth?! He only tells me what he wants!"
Erika: "Then what about the souls of the students? You said that they told you things against the demon's will. You can ask them!"
Teramoto: "That won't work anymore! After the demon realized that I could hear them, he prevented further contacts! Now they can only talk to me when he wishes so!"
Erika: "And this is the extent of your powers? How disappointing! In the end you can only learn what the demon wants. I was under the impression that demon obeyed you."
Teramoto: "There are things that I can force him to do, and things that I cannot. I cannot make him tell me everything that he knows..."
Erika: "Things you can... things you cannot... That's a bit vague. It really smells like something you don't want to specify so you can turn it however you want depending on the situation."
Teramoto: "I don't think you would listen to my detailed explanations..."
Erika: "Anyway I think I've already seen through the plot twist you're preparing. Maybe you should make it a little less obvious."
Teramoto: "What the hell are you talking about?!"
Erika: "In the first place, aren't shinto priests supposed to exorcise demons? Why are you binding one and bending him to your will?"
Teromoto: "For your info, I'm not a shinto priest. And beside, this demon is too strong and dangerous to be exorcised!"
Erika: "Well that's another part of your story that I don't quite like. The demon is too weak to leave the school grounds, but he's too strong to be permanently bound. He's too weak to kill a person by himself, but he's too strong to be exorcised. You should make up your mind!"
Teramoto: "Everything is relative! I'm too strong to be tied by a single wool thread, and I'm too weak to break an iron chain! There's nothing strange about that!"
Erika: "But I'm digressing. What really caught my attention is the fact that you said from the very beginning that the demon needs to absorb spiritual power in order to regain his original strength."
Teramoto: "Yes, are you seeing another problem with that?"
Erika: "And aren't your gatherings meant to draw spiritual power from the many female students of this school?"
Teramoto: "That's in order to strengthen the magic circle!"
Erika: "Well, that sounds like an obvious a lie. A magic circle that requires to periodically absorb spiritual power? And from hundreds of students? Why don't you just admit that you're planning a plot twist? At the end you will reveal that all of this time you actually fed the demon with the souls of the unknowing guests you brought there!"
Teramoto: "Ha ha ha! That's absolutely ridiculous! What the hell are you..."
Even if Teramoto laughs it off, the first year students are seriously concerned, and they're looking at each other with terrified expressions.
Erika: "When the story reaches the climax, It is revealed that the leader the good guys have been following, is actually an emissary of the very evil they tried to fight! They've been manipulated into doing the opposite of what they tried to achieve all along! It's perfect! It's a classic!"
Teramoto: "Stop talking as if everything I said was nothing but fiction! The demon exists, it's a serious danger! This is reality, not a novel!"
Erika: "Ah, ha ha ha! Of course, this is reality! How could I miss that? My bad! My bad!"