Y2 Vol 6 English Chap 2

Chapter two: the inevitable path

Again, this class stands in front of several difficulties at the same time.

It is not acceptable for a leader to simply stand by and watch as the situation deteriorates everywhere.

Theres nothing wrong with wanting to do everything yourself, but if youre not good enough, then youre just idealistic. No, even if you have the skills to solve problems, you may not be able to do it alone. What we need now is to rely on our colleagues, to work together and to choose the right path. From the weekend until today, i haven't made any concrete moves to help. After watching the day's news on my phone, i decided to leave the school a little later than the other students who were out playing after school.

A man who had been waiting for the opportune moment came hurrying after me. I knew that if we were too impatient to find a solution, he would eventually come to me.

Kiyotaka-kun. I was wondering if we could meet somewhere this evening... ? I need to talk to you about something. He was a little concerned about his surroundings, so he whispered to me that he wanted to talk.

Im going to meet kei in the evening. Cant we do it now?

I didnt really have any such plans, but i lied to see what his reaction would be.

Thats...

Of course, he won't say yes. As a club member, yosuke does not have free time immediately after school. Students will want to participate as much as possible now, as club activities will be temporarily suspended once the sports festival approaches.

Its alright, i can talk to kei about it, we can meet up later. Ah, thank you, kiyotaka-kun.

Just to be clear, you need to talk to me, right?

I knew it, but i dared to ask back. Yosuke nodded his head without hesitation.

Yes. I think we should act quickly.

Right. Anyway, if youd like to come to my room, i'll make arrangements for the evening.

Reply.

Yosukes cheeks relaxed and he smiled like a child at the pleasant

if its possible, it would be nice if karuizawa-san could be there too,

but im not sure if she would be okay with that...

Kei too? Im sure shell be happy to be there, but wont she get in the way?

I have a few things i need to work out and i need her help as well.

There is a big difference between the presence of kei, who has a network of information about girls, and the absence of kei. What yosuke is trying to do, without me needing to ask, is all about kushida, shinohara, and haruka.

Can we then go to... About half past 7? No problem. Ill be there without delay.

With a happy look in his eyes, yosuke walked off briskly to his club activities.

If someone has a major problem, the chain of asking for help eventually moves up to me.

Tha's problem number two in my class.

Of course, this is an unavoidable aspect. It is inevitable that yosuke will have to face this kind of situation, as i have been the one to give him a hand when he has been in trouble.

Its not easy to destroy what youve built, but its the inevitable path. Either way, ill call kei and tell her to come to my room around

7.30pm.

1

It was 5:30 pm when i got home and i was patiently waiting for yosuke to come. I got a notification on my mobile phone.

[can i come and hang out with you now? ]

A message from kei, my girlfriend, with a cute little cat stamp. My meeting with yosuke is at 7.30pm, which is very soon. [why dont we have some food while were at it? ]

before i can reply, a postscript comes. It seems that she wants to have dinner with me. In response to keis text, i sent a short message saying that i was ready.

If thats the case, ill have to make something.

I could serve yesterdays leftovers, but if i want to make something quick that kei likes, ill go with...

I open the fridge, stare at the contents and think about it, when the doorbell rings.

When i opened the front door, i saw kei smiling at me.

I was a little surprised, but i didnt panic and invited her in. Now that our relationship is public knowledge, its great that i dont have to worry about when to let her in.

Youre early.

As she takes off her shoes, kei goes into the room with a familiar movement.

I texted you before i got in the elevator.

She said that she was going to come and visit me anyway, but that her plans were secondary to my own.

Once the cooking is finished, kei sits down on the floor by the table. Because ive been in kiyotakas room so much lately, ive become so

used to it, its like my own room.

Im glad to hear it. On the other hand, i havent been invited to your room.

Oh, yeah? Thats a bit embarrassing and... Well, maybe one day when i feel like it!

She didnt give me a straightforward yes, but when youre in a girls room, theres bound to be circumstances. Lets not pursue the matter too deeply.

So, what do people say about our relationship, kei?

The girls? I think they've been surprisingly easy to accept. I mean... Nevermind.

She tried to say something, but it was unclear. I was a bit curious, so i pressed the matter.

What is it?

Well, you know. There is a so-called status attached to hirata yosuke.

A lot of girls question why i would let go of such a thing.

I see. It means they dont understand why she went to the trouble of switching to a guy with no status.

Its certainly not surprising that they would be so open about the comparison between yosuke and i.

In a way, keis been affected by it. She was supposed to be the one who broke up with yosuke, but it may be thought that she was the one who was dumped.

If the man you switch to is more or less irrelevant, you can't blame them for their suspicions.

But that's only part of the story. Kiyotakas reputation has been an

anagonobori recently.

The expression youre looking for is unaginobori. Anago is wrong.

(tl note: unaginobori is a japanese idiom referring to something rising rapidly, like eels do. Anagonobori is wrong because anago refers to conger eels. )

i wondered if she did it on purpose, but then kei smiled at me. I know that much, as expected.

You must have an excellent tutor.

Thank you for everything, sensei. And thanks to my secret private lessons, my grades are going up.

Gradually, keis academic performance improved and at the beginning of september, her OAA showed that her academic performance had risen to a 48; a c.

It means that she has finally reached the average level of knowledge as a student.

After a few minutes of idle chatter, i sat up and headed back to the fridge.

Im going to make an omelette, would you like one?

When i asked her without looking back, kei immediately made a happy

noise.

Eat, eat! Please make the ketchup a bit thicker, chef.

Its not the first time ive served kei a home-cooked meal like this.

After we started going out, we had regular opportunities to have meals in my room. So far, kei has shown little inclination to cook on her own, but thats alright. If she wants to cook, she can do so, and it doesnt matter if shes a man or a woman. I dont mind cooking, and kei is happy to eat.

Kei likes to talk and talk and talk, but im not the best at making conversation, so she tries to liven things up a bit. I think we have a good balance.

I get the eggs, ketchup, chicken, and butter out of the fridge, get some salad oil from the shelf, and im ready to go. I took out the frozen rice and started to defrost it in the microwave. In the meantime, i prepared the onions. I wanted to add some carrots, but unfortunately, i didnt have any in stock.

As i put the onions on the cutting board and picked up the knife, i felt a presence behind me. Kei came up to me, snuggling against my back.

What are you doing?

As it is somewhat dangerous, i stopped moving and asked only with words.

Im just watching~

kei answered, but since her profile is stuck on my back, it shouldn't be possible to see whats going on.

You can ignore me. Ill stay put. Right, got it.

I did as i was told and continued with my work. On the cutting board, i cut the onions into 5 mm cubes. While i was cutting the onions, kei stayed close to my back, never leaving me. This time, i put down the knife and reached for the bowl to crack the eggs, but at that moment, kei wrapped her arms around my waist and hugged me.

What are you doing this time? Hmm? Im just watching.

It doesnt look to me like youre just watching very closely, does it?

Its more like sabotage.

She didn't seem to mind, although i did prod her that i was losing some efficiency.

Oh, im so happy. Is there anything else that makes you happy?

She murmured briefly, and her arms tightened even more in a hug. She looked rather satisfied.

Thats cheap happiness. Isn't there any other kind of happiness thats more amazing? Buying what you want, watching the tv you've always wanted.

Its not enough to make me happy.

That was a random remark, but you actually have that.

No, i dont. Even if i did, i wouldnt want it. The happiness i have now is enough for me.

If youre happy with this, i cant say anything more. May i resume cooking?

It is very inconvenient to continue in this position. Huh? What should i do?

She looked at me and smiled, glancing at me and looking into my eyes. Id like some kind of reward for being so quiet?

Theres chocolate in the fridge.

Buh. Thats not what i meant. Theres something off about that. Its not that i dont like it. Ill be waiting quietly.

Satisfied, kei pulled away and sat down on the bed.

Well, now i can concentrate on making omelettes for a while.

Kei waits for the food to be ready, alternating between her mobile phone and the tv, and then the two of us sit around the table for a slightly earlier dinner than usual.

By the way, about shinohara-san...

I didn't ask her to talk about it, but she did and started talking about the matter with no prompt.

Im sorry about that, but that revelation really got to her and she wouldn't talk to me.

Thats fine, i didnt think she would...

People have different tastes and preferences when it comes to good and bad looks, but generally speaking, those who are considered to be better than others make condescending remarks about those who are considered to be inferior. Its not an uncommon occurrence, it happens all over the world.

More often than not, theres no malice in it, theyre just saying what they think.

Do you and the others hate shinohara?

I dont dislike her at all. Shinohara-san is a funny girl, shes popular for making people happy.

I see. So thats why she was unconsciously attracted to ike.

I think so... We were laughing and talking about things that would hurt if anyone heard. She murmurs regretfully, as if she is sorry. Are you going to hate me for being so mean to her?

I wont deny that others say bad things about others. Its harder to find someone who doesnt speak ill of others at all, to varying degrees.

I dont like the senior members of the club because they are too heavy- handed. I hate bossy teachers. It is good to have a place to complain about one or two such things. If you want to talk about appearance or your academic performance, you can do that too.

That being said, we have to avoid bad gossip getting into the ears of the person concerned.

I know...

It must have been a shock to find out that the exception, kushida, was the one who leaked it. Telling someone is always a risk.

The leaked story from kushida that they had been joking about her looks naturally hurt shinohara deeply.

And thats not all. Shinohara's friends who didnt have a good impression of her, her boyfriend ike, and ikes friends, naturally dont think well of kei and her friends.

This time, shinohara may go around prominently speaking ill of kei, matsushita and mori.

Once the negative cycle has started, it takes a lot of effort to stop it. "so, you didnt just feel bad, did you? Whats going on? "

ive had some light explanations from matsushita, but i have to hear it from kei too.

I misunderstood several times... But i tried to solve it through discussions about what i hurt. Ive tried to talk it out, but theres nothing i can do about it at the moment.

Unapproachable.

Thats it... But i guess its my fault in the end?

It seems that kei and her friends have tried to repair their broken relationship with shinohara in their own way.

So, how do you think we can make up for this? Youre asking me?

Its not a surprise. Youre sure to come up with a good plan.

Kei also has the same problem as yosuke, although so far no breakthrough has been found.

Im thinking about it. Give me some more time. Ill tell her that for now and postpone my answer.

Listen, i know this is going to sound a little crazy, but can i ask you something?

As i listened, she looked up at me with a curious look on her face and asked.

Didnt kiyotaka expel sakura-san based on oaa in the special exam?

If... When our eyes met, kei choked on her words. Its alright. Its nothing.

If youd finished last in the oaa. Youre wondering what id have done?

Keis eyes widened in an obvious way.

As with ike, there are similar grades but the difference in friends is overwhelming. I wouldnt have expelled you.

What if i didnt have any friends? What if i was in the lowest caste of girls?

I started to feel uneasy and the words came out in rapid succession. That argument is pointless. If we use that assumption, then the person

called karuizawa kei is a completely different person. If that were the case, then you and i would not have developed into the relationship we have now.

Thats... I see. Maybe... If i wasnt dating you, would i have been expelled?

Although she understood that it was a meaningless discussion, she couldnt help but ask.

I suppose you would if youd had the ability you placed yourself in. Oh...

I can understand how it might hurt your feelings, but its not you.

Thats not who you are. You were bullied and hurt, and in order to turn things around in high school, you established yourself as an independent girl. You used yosuke to meet and date me. Thats what you are, karuizawa kei.

When i answered that much, keis lips pursed in obvious frustration. Ill protect you, no matter what happens. Thats the right thing to do. I see.

I want it to be me who declares that i will protect karuizawa kei no matter what the situation is.

I learnt that there is no need for logic.

I laid her head down on my lap and shifted to patting her head to put her in a good mood. After a few minutes of watching her curl up on my lap like a cat, kei opened her mouth, still in the same position.

Hey, kiyotaka. I dont think it's wrong that you cut sakura-san. There is nothing wrong with that. But was it really right for horikita-san to leave kushida-san in the class? Shes definitely an obstacle, isnt she?

She is the one who has caused the rift in the class. Kei feels that the disadvantages of her not dropping out of school are significant. Its nothing unusual, its a natural reaction.

We all have questions. But its not easy to speak up when time is running out. And in the end, you think its better to save yourself. It was around the two days off after the exams that the enthusiasm began to wane. Some of us wonder if weve done the right thing, some of us are glad we weren't expelled. Others are terrified that they might be next.

What does kushida have that airi lacks? Do you know what it is? What? Study and sport? Kushida-sans pretty good at everything. For superficial reasons, yes. But thats not the point.

What do you mean?

Its a possibility that she will become an important piece in horikitas awakening as a leader. She could be a partner to horikita, not yosuke or kei.

Kushida-san will... ?

I dont think horikita herself fully understands. She just trusted her instincts in a tight situation with no time to spare.

Thats what she has and sakura-san doesnt.

The perspective that only kushida has, the thought that only kushida has, the remarks that only kushida has. These are elements that can be used with or without popularity. And thats what drives horikita.

Although she is convinced of a certain point, kei herself is not convinced.

Is that a natural reaction? This is an indeterminate future.

Its just a theory that assumes horikita was right in making that choice.

She knows that she will be resented by haruka and those close to her. But the results wont come in a day or two. Well just have to wait and see.

But arent you more hated by hasebe-san than she is? Yeah.

It was difficult to get unanimity in that situation when time was running out. No matter how many times horikita mentioned others, it was almost impossible to make them unanimous. And the negative class points were an unacceptable reality. If that happened, there would be no way for me to help.

It would be easy if we could say what the result is, what the conclusion is, what the answer is. But the reality is that you cant.

You mean horikita-san?

Suppose there is a hurdle in front of you that is so high that you may or may not be able to jump over it. If you try and fail, you might not jump over it, you might fall over it, you might scrape your leg, or if youre unlucky, you might break a bone.

You can imagine the hurdles that stand in the way of your ability. What do you think you need to do to make sure you get over that

hurdle?

Ummm... Lots of practice before you jump? What if i dont practice?

The only way to do that is to do it on the spot, right? That seems to be the only way anyways...

Its the same thing. Horikita couldn't stop running and tried to jump over the hurdle in front of her.

So horikita-san failed the challenge and fell down?

No, youve just leapt and hit a hurdle. How bad is my injury, will i fall? Will i be okay or will i be seriously injured? That is yet to be determined.

It was easy to avoid the hurdle. All you had to do was not fly and take short diversions. This is where im tempted to watch horikita, though.

Once again i found myself wondering how i could have imagined this when i first started at the school.

Thats how it is. But im still not convinced by horikita-sans decision. She broke her promise. And she even said she would protect kushida-san.

It is true that there is an aspect of intimidation, but it is also true that until now, discipline in horikitas class has been too lax.

By throwing a stone here, we know that our personal safety is not guaranteed. Of course, their trust in horikita will have been strongly shaken, but this can be made up for in the special exams ahead, provided they continue to pursue their goal of getting closer to class a.

By the time we were finished talking, it was around 7pm.

I cleaned up the plates and went to the kitchen to wash them while i was at it.

Hey, hey. Come and have a chat with me over here. I'm going to do the washing up now, then ill see. What? Then itll be half past seven.

She complained because that would be the time when yosuke arrived.

I listened to her and started to wash the dishes. She was quiet for a while, but gradually lost patience and started demanding again.

Hey hey, come here. Come on.. Come here? Can you come here?

As she said this, she patted the bed with the palm of her hand three or four times.

Its no use...

I would have liked to have washed the dishes before yosuke came to my room, but i gave up on that.

As i sat down on the designated spot, kei happily poked me on my right cheek with her index finger.

Youre so soft and smooth for a boy. What do you do? Its just lotion.

Considering the strain on teenage skin, i believe that further care is necessary than the bare minimum.

Hmmm...

Although she was convinced, she didn't really care, she just wanted to touch me and wouldn't stop poking me on the cheek.

I grabbed keis hand and pulled her to me and took her lips.

I thought she would be surprised, but she seemed to have been waiting for it and laughed nervously.

Ive been waiting for you to make a move since i came to your room today.

So thats it.

I have to say im still a bit naive in that area. Our lips met again and again in near silence. The repeated kisses tasted like an omelette, a rather unusual experience.

Love...

I gently held kei in my arms and was met with a quiet silence. It was a pleasant moment, not an awkward one.

For how many minutes did we just hug each other?

As if to break the silence, the chime of the door rang. Suddenly jolted back to reality, kei hurriedly distanced herself in a moment of sudden embarrassment. There is no hurry, the door is locked, but well... I know the feeling. After allowing kei some time to settle down, we both greeted yosuke. Yosuke, who was still in uniform, came to visit me in my room.

I went to keyaki mall with my senpais after school.

Thats what yosuke reports when he realizes ive been focusing on the uniform.

Come in, come in, come in. Yosuke smiled happily at kei, who acted as if it were her own room.

I knew that he was happy to see keis cheerfulness and purity now because he had watched over her more than anyone else since she started school.

Pardon the intrusion.

After carefully arranging his shoes, he came into the room and sat down as i served him tea.

Thank you.

So what do you want to talk about?

I encouraged him to talk to me, as it is no use holding them back for too long. Of course, the content is all very predictable.

Yes. Its about our class. Im sure youre well aware of this, but i thought it might be dangerous to go into the sports festival like this. The girls, in particular, may find it difficult to work together.

Im sure kei-san knows more about this than i do, yosuke said, looking at her.

"i was talking to kiyotaka-kun earlier about what happened with shinohara-san. To be honest, no ones really focused on the sports festival at the moment. "

because theyre just starting to reform their relationship as friends.

So i was wondering if you had any good ideas. I need your help, kiyotaka.

The same kei who came to me for help earlier also gives me that look. If so, dont hesitate to talk to me.

Yosuke, did you ask anyone else for this advice before me?

What? No, this is the first time ive asked anyone. I didnt want to talk about it inadvertently, because i didnt want people to know that i was trying to fix it.

It would be nice if they were willing to help him, but if they knew that he was trying to befriend them, they might be wary of him. There is a danger that people will think that there is an ulterior motive behind the kind words.

And why did you ask me?

I thought id like some direction.

So, from now on, the first person to talk to is me, but not the leader of the class, horikita?

But i think horikita-san has her hands full with kushida-sans case right now. To bring up the issue of other classmates here and now is...

If i had been dealing with kushida, would you have approached horikita?

I dont know about that... I might have ended up speaking to kiyotaka-kun about it anyways.

He imagined what it would be like, and then he admitted it honestly. Horikita-san is doing a great job. But i knew that kiyotaka-kun would

be able to see the big picture and make the right decisions. I just think you can give me the right answer, thats all.

I told you that at the last special exam. You cant always rely on me.

Even if youre unsure, you have to go through this process of talking to horikita first.

But...

Its a burden. You dont always get a solution. Thats why we dont rely on any one person. Do you really think that makes horikita a leader in the true sense of the word? How about a leader like ryuen, sakayanagi or ichinose? Dont you think they would be the first to raise concerns, even in the midst of dealing with other issues?

The important thing is to rely on each other and to be relied on. Horikita and the class are about to grow through success and failure.

Failure is an experience. Everyone has started out with a problem. Of course horikita isnt at a high stage yet, but its only due to a huge lack of experience.

I get that, but...

The process of discussing and searching for different solutions should not be omitted before deciding on a solution.

"id like you to bring it up with me only after she answers first, even though she has her hands full with kushida.

I see what you mean, kiyotaka-kun. "

taking it seriously and nodding a few times, yosuke processed the meaning of the words in his mind.

"its important to gain experience in failure, but this isnt the same as a test score. I dont think its just because you got a bad score that you should try harder next time. Its an important thing that deals with the students mind. If a cracked relationship is broken by an immature decision, thats a problem that cant be undone. "

this area is quintessential to yosuke. He didnt bring up the subject just for the sake of getting an easy answer.

"its the right decision. But i think youre reading into it a little too much. Its probably true that there are cracks in the friendship between classmates. And its certainly true that frictions and quarrels between friends, or bad language, can lead to irreversible problems. "

if it escalates from bad language to harassment, ignoring, and bullying, it can create the worst case scenario.

But thats really the worst case.

"kei-san, is your feud with shinohara in a truly dangerous state? " "hmmm... When you put it that way, well, its an extension of the fight,

isnt it? Its hard for me to say anything bad about it because im in the position of the assailant. Im not harassing her or anything, and i dont think too many girls even hold negative feelings about shinohara-san.

By taking it too seriously, she was stirring up unnecessary anxiety.

That was my view.

"besides, youre not going to let horikita solve this alone, are you? " "of course not. If theres anything i can do, ill do it. "

"good then. Ive calculated that if the two of us work together with horikita at the center, we can get through most things. "

however, these words alone wouldn't be enough to completely remove his anxiety, so ill add something important. "of course, there will be things that cant be solved even if you cooperate with horikita. In that case, ill lend a hand. "

if the backup was perfect, both yosuke and kei would be able to act without hesitation, and they looked convinced, but yosuke still had something on his mind, and his expression wasnt completely clear. We exchanged information for a while, and when 8:00 p. M. Approached, i urged them to leave.

"if you dont mind, id like to talk to you alone for a bit. " on his way out, yosuke, who felt he couldn't leave it like that, cut me off.

"okay. Ill go home first then. " said kei as she put her shoes on and waved goodbye.

After the door closes, yosuke looks back again.

Kiyotaka-kun. Tomorrow, i'll bring your story to horikita-san.

However, do you have a clear path in mind for us at this point? "

"honestly, yosuke, i dont have any ideas for an immediate solution to the haruka and kushida matters. Im hoping that you guys can discuss it and lead us to the upper hand. "

"so youre saying thats not the case regarding... Mii-chan? "

"in a manner of speaking. It will take time, but we have a chance. If youre in a hurry, there's always the possibility of forcing rough treatment. "

"rough treatment? If theres anything we can do, i think we should do

it. "

yosuke reacts to the mention of the girl who likes him with the same

attitude as the others.

"i told you its a rough treatment. I don't recommend it. " "what kind of method is that? "

"that would be for yosuke to go see mii-chan and respond to her feelings. "

yosuke reacts in a way that i never thought he would.

"actually, i like you too, mii-chan. I want you to go out with me. If we can get that kind of conversation going, shell come to school tomorrow, right? "

i was a little reluctant to suggest it, but it was the only solution i could come up with right now.

"if this wasnt yosuke, i wouldnt be talking about this kind of plan either. But i thought it might be possible for you, since youve been asked by kei to lie about your relationship with her. "

indeed. Yosuke muttered, but his expression did not brighten. "the reason why kei-san and i ostensibly agreed to go out is because neither of us had any romantic feelings in between. Its not the same as pretending to respond to mii-chans feelings and going out with her. Ill only hurt her deeply later. "

"i dont mean to endorse this idea, but, youre right, its not the same.

We dont know at what stage mii-chan fell in love with you, but we cant deny the existence of other students, including anyone else, who had romantic feelings for you right from the start of school. In other words, at the cost of protecting you from bullying by going out with kei, there might have been girls who were hurt because they were indirectly rejected because of that lie. "

"thats... "

if kei and yosuke were seriously dating, it would be a legitimate reason. But since they werent, there wasnt much difference in what they were doing, even though the circumstances were different.

"what if mii-chan came crying and clinging to you right now and told you that she cant go to school anymore unless you go out with her? Would you be able to say no to her? "

yosuke choked at my words. He probably wouldnt be able to make such a choice.

"if you cant say no, there are two choices you can make. You can either tell her that you dont like her and go out with her, or you can lie and say that you liked her too and go out with her. "

if true love can grow in the midst of all this, it can be brought to the best possible end.

"i still dont think thats what i should do. "

i can understand what hes saying here, but its the emotional side still getting in the way.

"its just a rough, forced solution. Itll take time, but were at the stage where were planting the seeds. "

"i understand. Ill see what i can do. Then again, kiyotaka-kun is really strong. You dont seem to be dragging up the fact that sakura-san dropped out of school in the slightest. "

there was no sign of sadness or anger from the quietly speaking yosuke.

"i still have the feeling of that time in my... Hands. " he looks down at his outstretched hands and stares at the palms of them. "its the sensation of my fingertips touching the tablet and pressing my approval. I cant forget it. "

yosuke, who works day and night for his classmates, doesnt show much weakness. But hes struggling to put the blame for airis expulsion on the same level as me.

"i know what you were thinking at that time. There was no way you would have agreed to expel airi, who had done no harm in the exam. But still, you persevered. You could have said at the last minute that you didnt agree with it, but you restrained yourself from saying it. "

if he complained about the situation and made them face it, our classmates would regain their composure. A broader perspective, narrowed by the pressure of time running out, would have made unanimity impossible.

"our class must move up to class a. Thats the most important thing, i told myself. "

you know it in your head, but you cant convince yourself of it. I guess thats about it.

"we have three students that are absent. I wonder how long this will continue. Seeing the reality that students with lower grades are being cut, it really did induce some fear within the students. The cheerful class we had last week is still like a lie, isnt it? "

even though theyre working towards a solution, theyre probably still suffering and answering to themselves about the same thing over and over again.

"im well aware that youre not happy with the choices horikita and i have made. But we have to accept that. We just have to understand how good our class is right now and bite the bullet. Thats why horikita needs a lot of support. Sometimes you choose the right path, and sometimes you choose the wrong path. And there will be times when you choose an uncertain path. "

even if he told them, not everything could be digested in yosukes

mind.

"i-i-i should have chosen to r-run out of time... And... Yosuke's shoulders shake slightly as he can no longer hold it in.

Its not like yosuke wants to think about sacrificing someone else. But the fact that he was able to make a decision in that situation is a definite sign of growth.

"am i getting stronger, or have i broken down? If it happens again, im afraid i wont know what decisions ill make. "

i couldnt see his face because he was looking down, but he rubbed his eyes once with his sleeve before raising his head.

"im sorry for being so weak, even though im sure you're in more pain, kiyotaka-kun. "

"its okay. Both horikita and i were saved by yosuke many times in the special exam. Its going to be a much tougher battle from now on. I hope you will continue to lend your strength to the class. " yosuke nodded. He would still be heartbroken, but he still smiled slightly.

Yosuke reached for the front door, but stopped himself. Thank you for everything today. "

"do you hold a grudge against me for expelling airi? "

unlike the other students, yosuke didnt show it outwardly, but it wouldnt be surprising if he did.

If you only look at that point, yes, i do. But i believe in you. " he thought to himself as he put it into words, but then added more as if he wasnt convinced. No. I want to believe in you. "

if it was a kind of delusional belief, yosukes thoughts would be dangerous. However, there is definitely a will behind his eyes. A firm demand that im worthy to be believed in, and i wouldnt ever betray him .

"well then, good night. "

i suppose i could have removed some of yosuke's burden, but on the contrary, i might have given him a new one. It would be convenient if i could take this opportunity to thoroughly drain the negative emotions out of him.

Im not sure how much of an effect this will have, but im sure well have to follow through step by step.

2

the next day, the three empty seats were still there.

Of course, the chaos in the classroom still hadnt calmed down. The first prerequisite for a fundamental solution was for the three of them to come to school.

"hey. Wanna go to the bathroom with me? "

sudo called out to me while i was sitting at my desk touching my phone, waiting for my next class. An unusual invitation. He said he was going to the restroom, but his face was serious. The fact that he wanted to use the restroom was just an excuse, and he had a purpose beyond that.

Its the same as yosuke and kei, he wants my opinion on something. "ah. I guess so. "

there was no reason to refuse, so i left my seat and discreetly left the classroom in the flow of the two of us going to the bathroom. Thanks to my convenient seating place, it wasnt much of an issue. However, one student soon followed us.

"sudo-kun. Id like to talk to you for a minute, if thats okay. "

she seemed to have some business with sudo and was trying to time his appearance in the hallway.

"what is it, onodera? "

onodera stopped talking when she saw me standing next to sudo. "ah, youre with ayanokoji-kun. Well i needed to tell you about

something so...

It seems like my presence was an unwelcome one. However, since it was sudo who asked me out during the break, i had no choice but to stay.

"we're both going to the bathroom. Cant this wait? "

"well, i dont know. " she looks a little lost, as if she doesnt want me to hear what he has to say.

Can i wait here? I want to talk to you as soon as possible, if thats okay with you... "

onodera decided that if we were going to the bathroom, she would just wait for us, but this time sudo looks embarrassed. If he had something to discuss with me, it wouldnt take more than a minute or two.

"well, ill ask you now. Ayanokoji can keep waiting. "

just when i was ready to talk later, i was confused by sudo's unexpected response.

Onodera looked somewhat resistant, but she scratched the back of her head lightly and cut to the chase.

"the individual rewards for this sports festival are evaluated by gender, right? Im thinking that sudo-kun will naturally go for the first place among men, is that correct? "

"of course. This sports festival is the biggest chance for me to shine. " he answers confidently, which makes sense.

Onodera nodded in satisfaction at his powerful reply.

"actually, i have a lot riding on this sports festival. Being first among the girls is a step towards class a. Its not often that i get a chance to compete in something im good at. "

she is an accomplished swimmer, but she also showed her sprinter side at last years sports festival. Her oaa physical ability is also near perfect, and she is a student with an extraordinary talent for sports in general.

Onodera is expected to be good enough to adapt and win in a variety of competitions.

"i think you might be able to get first place. Im seriously rooting for

you. "

"thanks. But even if you can win some individual competitions, theres

no guarantee that youll get first place in everything, right? " "why not, if i keep winning first place... "

sudo's idea of thinking that only taking first place would be enough wasnt wrong, but in reality, they might end up losing in unexpected ways.

"its because of the high score of the team competition, right? "

i supplemented, and onodera gave me another hard look, but nodded in agreement. Onodera seemed to be harboring a kind of distrust towards me.

The other day at the unanimous special exam, i cut off my own group of friends. No wonder some of the students reacted this way.

"well, thats for sure. If theres a guy who takes first place in every team competition, he might be bad. But even so, its not so easy to form a team, is it? If the teams are unbalanced, we could end up slipping and losing. I dont like the idea of having five or six people in a team fight.

If everyone was on the same level as him, sudo would be satisfied. However, in reality, there are students who are dragging their feet. As a result, it is quite possible that they will lose the competition because of it.

Thats what the struggle in a group competition is all about.

"yeah. Im not thinking about a large number of people either. But... What if we can participate in a competition with two people who are sure to win? Moreover, there are some competitions that can be participated in only by pairs of men and women, right? "

at this point, sudo also starts to guess the purpose of why onodera was talking to him about.

"sudo-kun and i will have no trouble cooperating with each other. If were going to team up, id like to choose the best partner possible, dont you think? "

its a class take-away, and it wont be a detriment to trying to get first place in the gender division.

"so youre saying im the best partner for you... I guess i am. " "thats what i mean. Unless, of course, you have an objection to it,

sudo-kun. The class is in a bit of a bad mood right now, isnt it? Sakura-san has been expelled, hasebe-san and wang-san are also absent. " she turned her gaze to me for a moment, but then quickly turned it back to sudo. "thats why we have to lead the class. "

sudo didn't feel bad about the invitation based on the recognition of his abilities, but he wasnt very crisp.

"am i not strong enough? "

"no, thats not it. Im not gonna deny that you have game. "

even though he had absolute faith in her physical abilities, there seemed to be something else that bothered him.

"you dont want to be paired with anyone other than horikita-san? " "w-what? No no, thats not true... He looked uncomfortable at

onoderas point.

Pairing up with a partner you like. Its true that this may be very important to sudo in addition to his ability. As long as he cant participate in swimming competitions, there wont be much difference between horikita and onodera.

"you know, theres koenji. I hate to admit it, but hes better than me. "

"that may be true about your ability. But i dont trust koenji-kun. I hate him more than anything. "

onodera clearly rejects koenji. Her appeal to sudo is genuine, but how will sudo respond?

"what are you going to do... If i say no? "

"if theres anyone else in the class who has the ability and seems trustworthy, its... Well, only hirata-kun, but im not going to ask him to be a pair, you know? I dont want to be misunderstood in any way.

Being paired with yosuke, who was immensely popular with the girls, would be more than just one or two teases.

"so, if sudo-kun says no, then its like you're going to go as far as you can on your own? " she doesn't threaten him in the slightest, but simply states the facts.

The first place of the school year is in jeopardy, but i can imagine her earning a solid amount of points.

The decision between onodera and horikita upset sudo, but when he saw onoderas determination, he immediately regained his composure. It was because he realized that he had been trying to refuse onoderas invitation for some silly reason.

Im down for it. Lets pair up, and win this thing, yeah? " "really? "

"for sure. Lets use our power to carry this class. "

with that, sudo immediately extended his arm and asked onodera to shake his hand. After staring at it, onodera also responded to the handshake strongly.

"i like your style, sudo-kun. Lets definitely take first place in the male and female categories together. "

satisfied with the conclusion of the contract, onodera heads back to the classroom.

"it turned out kind of unexpectedly, but its okay, right? "

"i think so. Im sure you wanted to team up with horikita, but its better to work with onodera and show 100% of your strength than to have a bad distraction.

"thats...

There were only about five minutes left, but i headed to the bathroom as originally planned

"hey, by the way. I wanted to talk about kanji, shinohara, and the related stuff...

"is it related to the revelations of kushida? "

"honestly, i dont think it's a good idea, their relationship is so awkward now. "

"wouldnt it be more interesting if the two of them broke up? "

"i hope thats a joke. Im really hoping that the two of them can work it

out. "

i asked him as a test, but he seemed to be genuinely worried.

"but unfortunately, i dont have much of a relationship with them.

Theres nothing i can do for you. "

"can you at least give me some advice? "

"we cant solve the problem without talking about it. Whether what kushida said is true or false is a separate issue at this point, and you may need to expose each other's feelings. "

"isnt that a bad idea? It could make things even worse than they already are. "

"thats right. Thats why we need someone who can control the situation. You have to be able to listen to both sides of the conversation and calm the flow of the conversation thats about to get disrupted. "

"oh, i cant do that, can i? "

"then youll have to ask someone who can do that. "

i wont give an answer here, but let sudo think about it.

"if thats true, this kind of role would be done by kushida, right.. ? "

"correct, but thats not available now. If we cant rely on kushida, then well have to use another student. "

the answer is so simple that it doesnt even take him a second to guess

it

"so, hirata? Sudo has an immediate idea.

Although sudo doesnt get along with yosuke, this isnt the situation to

be talking about that.

"alright then, ill go ask for his help. "

sudo and yosuke have a distant relationship, but that may change after this incident.

"thanks, ayanokoji. "

"i didnt do anything. You just thought about it and came up with the answer on your own. "

thats how it seems to be these days.

3

same day

each class, or rather all the grades, are in full swing for the sports festival. As was the case last year, some of the events were already known, so the students made time to start practicing as if they were the real thing, using the ground and the gym during lunch break. They would want to spend as much time as possible practicing, especially for team competitions where more than two people compete.

The gymnasium i came to scout was filled with the sound of many energetic voices. It seemed that the gym was carefully equipped so that all the students, from the first year to the third year, had a certain amount of free space and could practice fairly. Today's second-year students seemed to be playing volleyball and table tennis.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the large number of participants in one of the classes, as well as the unusually high level of enthusiasm. They were raising their voices and actively discussing the tips and tricks of the game.

"you can see how serious class a is. " "yeah. "

i was here with yosuke, and we calmly analyzed the students and said

so.

"purely class-based sports competitions arent class as strong suit,

you know. "

"yeah. For better or worse, there are a lot of students with average physical abilities, and only a few of them can get top prizes. "

because they know that they are at a disadvantage in terms of overall strength, they are working together to raise their abilities as quickly as possible. Hes planning to practice and aim for competitions where he can earn points for his experience.

I cant confirm her appearance, but i'm pretty sure it's first and foremost sakayanagis instructions.

There are also students from ichinoses class and ryuens class, but they still seem to be in limbo. I was hoping that one or two of them would show up, but even if they did, they would just be standing in a corner, unable to do anything under the circumstances.

"were not out of the unanimous special exam yet. Its not going to be easy to try to practice under those circumstances, is it? "

"youre right, theres still a lot of uncertainty. But its not necessarily all doom and gloom. "

i tell yosuke that sudo and onodera have teamed up to become the number one male and female sophomores. The few pieces of good news made his cheeks relax, if only a little.

"if we keep getting first place in both the single and pair competitions, we should be able to get enough top places. "

"those two have a good chance of winning, dont they? "

there was a great deal of hope, but it still took more than just the two of them to win the class. A system that can temporarily cooperate with them is urgently needed, even if its full of joints.

"speaking of which, sudo-kun asked me to meet him after school today, before club activities. Could it be that kiyotaka-kun is involved behind the scenes? "

"i didnt do anything. Im sure sudo thought about it himself and decided to ask for help. "

"its probably something related to shinohara-san, right? " "sudo probably thought that she couldnt leave it like that. " "but what about mii-chan? "

"i think ill take care of that one. " "kiyotaka-kun?

If i tell him that im going to leave it alone or leave it to the right people, yosuke will have a hard time accepting the situation. The reason why hes still sticking to mii-chan in this mess is probably because the element that he feels is 'his fault' is stronger than the other students. Of course, its not yosukes fault at all.

While i remained quiet, i decided that mii-chan was the one who could use a little push. The inability to use yosuke as a key is one of the reasons for this.

Written on March 2, 2022