Y2 Vol 6 English Chap 3

Chapter three: we have to try…

Last weekend, at the time of the special exam, was the last time, i suzune horikita, saw kushida-san. A week after that, i didn’t see her even once until after school on friday.

That wasn’t all. Wang-san and hasebe-san didn’t come to school either. Five days, from monday to friday. In the meantime, school went on without them. Careful meetings and preparatory research for the sports festival. Student council work. Studying regularly.

My knees shake and i feel like i’m about to fall over as i keep facing the waves as they come head on. But i can’t let myself fall here and now. I have declared that i will definitely bring her back, and i have no right to lament when i have not achieved anything.

I wanted to contact ayanokōji-kun several times, but i stopped myself each one of those times. There is a possibility that he will give me the answer that i am looking for. But at least in this case, it’s something i would have to solve on my own.

“this concludes homeroom. “

as soon as chabashira-sensei finished homeroom for the day and left the room, i quickly followed her.

“sensei, may i have a word with you? “ “i don’t mind, let’s walk and talk. “

the hallway is conspicuous at this time of day as many students leave their seats to use the restroom. Perhaps sensing my intentions, chabashira- sensei decided to take a walk and hear what i had to say.

“it’s been five days since kushida-san, wang-san, and hasebe-san have been absent from school. “

“ah, yes. Hasebe and wang called in sick, but they haven’t been seen at the hospital as a sick individual should be. As for kushida, she’s just saying she’ll be absent and hasn’t given us any details. “

they weren’t gone for lighthearted reasons by any means. Even so, that doesn’t negate penalties our class might start accumulating due to them not being present.

“are we in a state where we’ll start receiving severe penalties? “ i’m not sure i’ll get a specific answer, but i’ll ask once.

“don’t worry about that. The rules are made so that honor students, especially wang and kushida, are given a longer grace period. As for hasebe, as long as she isn’t a problem child, it’s not a big deal right now. These benefits only apply to students with no malicious track record or bad behavior in general. “

“in accordance with daily conduct, is that what you mean? “

“that’s what i mean. There are energetic students who like to exploit the rules, and there are students who clumsily hurt their hearts and clock out a week. It’s hard to tell the difference. If that’s the case, the only way to judge is to look at their attitude and performance in school so far. “

i feel my heart lighten from her consolidation.

“besides, the school isn’t evil either. They don’t want to force you students into class while something is already eating away at your consciousness. Anyway, the three students who are currently absent have never been late and have been diligent in their classes. They are fully qualified to be given a reprieve. “ chabashira-sensei tells me this in a soft tone.

She looked so different from her usual self that i wonder if there’s something behind it. It could be that she had changed after the special exam, which is something the class often speculates about.

“most importantly, we understand that the school is also conducting a rigorous upcoming special exam. “

so, the fact that rest is needed and they are already mentally strained means they’ve been given more leeway to skip school.

Checking that there is no one around, chabashira-sensei pauses before continuing.

“but the grace word is almost up. If they continue to be absent next week, the 100 class points you’ve earned in desperation will be mercilessly diminished. “

do something during this weekend, was the hidden message from sensei. But would i really be able to respond to that message? I wanted to ask sensei how i would go about doing such a thing, but my weakness was already starting to show little by little. That was something i wanted to avoid.

“thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful. “

“hold on, horikita. Do you still have something to say to me? “ “no, i don’t wish to trouble you anymore, sensei. “

“you won’t know if it’s troublesome until you ask me. We still have a little time left, wouldn’t it be a little easier if you tried talking to someone? “

i guess chabashira-sensei can see through my shallow mental state. It would be a lie to say that i wasn’t hesitant, but i decided to be brave and confess my thoughts.

“we got class points by expelling sakura-san. Was that the right thing to do? “

“do you regret your decision? “

“i thought it was the right decision at the time. Even so… I can honestly say that i’m shaken now. “

“i wish i could show you the answer, but i can’t help you with this

one. “

“i understand. As a teacher, you can’t give me an answer, can you? “ “you’re mistaken. It’s just that at this point, i can’t tell myself whether

you were right or not. It’s true that your decision was a bit dictatorial and self-serving, and some students may have seen it that way. You’re suffering from their judgment and you’re beginning to feel that you gave the wrong answer. “

that was painful to hear and i can’t say anything back.

“but does it really matter that much? No human being is perfect from the start. We make simple additions and multiplications wrong, we learn, and then we move on. I’m walking through life full of mistakes too. “

“mistakes, sensei… ? “

“that’s correct, back when i took the same special exam. I couldn’t answer the question before time ran out. In that respect, you gave an answer. I think you’re doing well. There is no one who can get 100 points without experience. At the time of the special exam, you were recognized as a leader and given authority. And you were ready to cut someone down to protect kushida. Now it’s time to make them admit that it was the right decision. “

sensei had just said something typical of a sensei. I was a little confused, as such things have rarely happened before.

“you don’t have to try to get a hundred points at this stage; you can either cut the oaa bottom line reasonably, or you can prioritize your

commitments. There are two choices, and you need to accept the inconvenience. “

“you’re right… “ i know she’s right. I know, and yet i’m still confused. “but… I also think that i may have been blind to my surroundings. I think that if i had listened more, i might have grasped a better, more correct answer. “

“it’s possible to lose sight of your surroundings. And later, when the fever subsides, you may wonder if you made the right decision. “

i’ve never had that experience. I was so frustrated that i unconsciously clenched my fists.

“you’ve always made decisions that were prestigious at best, or simple at worst, haven’t you? Of course, that’s normal. It’s just that we each have idiosyncrasies and this is the first time you’ve asked for a new option. “

“i suppose so… “

i was given strong advice, yet i still couldn’t find the right response. I must have looked pathetic, but chabashira-sensei treated me softly without being dismayed.

“you fought within the rules presented to you by the school, didn’t

you? “

“yes, but i broke my promise not to expel anyone except traitors. “ “you decided to protect kushida from the start, and you lied and made

that promise in order to consolidate the vote in favor? “

“no! I was really ready to do that at that time. That much is true. “

“in that case, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s important to keep your promises. However, even adults sometimes make mistakes in their promises. I know you changed your mind because you realized that leaving kushida wasn’t the right thing to do. You are free to despise or ignore those who think poorly of you now. Some will follow you, some won’t, and uniting a class of nearly forty students is no easy task, even for ryūen, ichinose, or sakayanagi. The other students may be loyal and devoted on the surface, but you never know what they’re thinking on the inside. “ chabashira-sensei said, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. “don’t be afraid to fail. I’m not an adult who can’t admit or forgive a child’s mistakes. “

“i haven’t failed yet. “

“that’s right. I’m willing to see the choices you make through to the

end. “

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After giving me a slightly troubled look, sensei looked me in the eye again. Her polite, stern but warm words almost make me choke up a little.

“you’ve changed, chabashira-sensei. “

i didn’t mean to say that, but it just came out. I suppose it’s what i honestly felt.

“is it that strange for me to act like a teacher now? Have i been treating you that coldly? “

“i’m a little surprised, but it’s not strange. “ “well, that’s good. “

chabashira-sensei probably thought she had talked too much, and she coughed and cleared her throat while changing the subject.

“what did ayanokōji say in regards to kushida? “

“ayanokōji-kun… ? Nothing specific about her. If i had to say, i think he’s observing what i do. “

“i see. So he thinks it’s something you should solve on your own,

huh? “

“it may be that he just can’t deal with my mere selfishness. “

“i don’t know. Ayanokōji was the one who took a drastic step with

kushida’s case. Even if you don’t trust him, i don’t think he’s one to leave you alone. “

“you’re selling ayanokōji-kun quite a bit, aren’t you? I remember you saying that ayanokōji-kun was the most defective product in our class. “

“why do you remember such an old statement? “ “i know for sure that he’s better than his oaa. “

“i see that your evaluation of him has increased considerably. “ “there are some difficulties with his personality, but those aren’t

limited to just ayanokōji-kun. I still don’t understand what you meant by him being defective. “

he is undoubtedly a brilliant man, more calm and collected than i am. I don’t see any reason for him to be ridiculed as a defective student.

“you don’t have to take every single thing i say seriously. You’ve spent more time with him than i have, right? “

“still, i’d like to hear your reason. “

“in that case, my assessment hasn’t changed since before. No, i believe that the credibility of that assessment has increased. “

chabashira-sensei still believes that ayanokōji-kun is defective, even after everything he’s done and shown us.

“but you’re not ready to dwell on that now. You have other problems that you need to solve as soon as possible. “

“you aren’t wrong… “

it was true that i was curious about him, but it could certainly be done later. I have to make sure that kushida-san, wang-san, and hasebe-san come back to school.

“do you think kushida will be able to take your hand if you offer it to

her? “

“it’s hard to envision such a thing. No matter how much i visit or wait,

she won’t open the door. “ “that’s harsh. “

she has countless opportunities to leave her dorm to get supplies when i’m in school, and hide out during the weekend.

It’s pointless to try to attack her in such a way where i attempt to ambush her. I tried to contact her on her cell phone, but it never picked up.

“she most likely understands that i’m on the other side of the door, pacing left and right, and it surely resonates with her somehow. “

“i suppose you have a point. That said, if you don’t make a move, things won’t progress and they’ll slowly get worse. “

“that’s right… “

“when you can’t do anything on your own, it’s a good idea to ask for help from another person. “

“the only classmate who would be willing to lend his strength to kushida-san’s persuasion is hirata-kun. He probably doesn’t have time for that right now either. “

hirata-kun is currently occupied with wang-san and shinohara-san. “sure, hirata would be a able to make large impact. Although i’m not

sure if he’ll have much effect on kushida. I don’t think it would be easy to open the doors if you took someone like that with you. A righteous, sensible, good person. “

somehow, i think i understand what sensei is trying to say. Hirata-kun would lie to make kushida-san feel better, and she knows that.

“i’m afraid i can’t think of anyone suitable at the moment, but it might not be a bad idea to look at someone other than your classmates. “

“when i try to confront kushida-san, i’m confronting her true feelings which relate to what happened in class. It’s quite a disadvantage to tell that to an outsider. “

“i suppose you’ll have to work on balancing the advantages and disadvantages. Even so, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not allowed to tell them. Some of us teachers, for example, know about kushida’s past, and some of us would probably let others know if we chose to. I believe that there are no such things as secrets. “

there is no such thing as a secret… ? Maybe… There is someone who can move kushida-san’s heart. No, even if they can’t move her heart, if there’s someone who can make a breakthrough, i think i need to visit…

“it’s time to go. Let me say one last thing, and it may be meddlesome, but let me say it. The most important thing is what you want to change kushida into. You need to think about that carefully. “

what do i want to change within kushida-san?

“thank you very much, sensei. Thanks to you, i feel more prepared. “ i still didn’t have an answer, but i had the energy to make an effort. “don’t worry about it. As a teacher… This is my job. “ with that,

chabashira-sensei returned to the staff room.

I continued to watch her from the stairs until i could no longer see her

back.

1

when i returned to my dorm after shopping at keyaki mall, i found

ibuki glaring at the entrance next to the elevator. I ignored her and pressed the elevator button, and she became angry as if she had been weaned.

“don’t ignore me! “ she yelled at me with such force that spit flew out onto my face.

I was ready to enter a long battle with ibuki-san, but what the hell was going on? It seems like she’s going to follow me into the elevator. I had no choice but to stop and watch as the elevator doors opened to welcome her.

“ignore you? What do you want from me? “

“this! What did you mean by this sentence? Tell me the answer. “ she thrusts the screen of her cell phone in front of me, glaring at me. A blinding light illuminates my eyeballs, but all i can see is white light.

“are you stupid? It’s too close to me, can you move back a little? “ “damn it! Come on! “

she moved back a little bit , but i could read what it said right away, just by skimming through some of it.

“that’s a well-written and impressive piece of writing. I’m sure it must have been written by an intelligent person. “

“don’t pat yourself on the back! I mean, what’s so intelligent about

this? “

“maybe if you read it out loud, you’d understand. “

“huh? If you drop out of school when i have nothing to do with it, then

of course you’ve lost to me. “

“don’t be such a dumbass. Where’s the intelligence in that? No, that’s enough, just tell me what it means! “

“you read it and didn’t get it? “

“not at all. I’ve been thinking about it all week and i didn’t get it. So what? “ she huffs, sniffs and crosses her arms.

I wasn’t expecting her not to understand my simple advice. No, i’d rather think it could be potentially effective.

“it’s not something that makes sense to ask about now. You didn’t seem to have a problem with what i said, seeing as i got no response. “

“what? Explain it to me in a clearer way. “

she really doesn’t understand things. I wonder if all she has are her athleticism and fighting sense.

“i wanted to give you some motivation to not be expelled. You aren’t well liked by your classmates and could have been in jeopardy if the question during the exam had anything to do with your expulsion. To get back at me, you’d try to stay in school even if you didn’t want to, wouldn’t you? “

“don’t tell me you’re worried about… Me? “ she pulled away, looking not surprised, but truly sickened.

“don’t take this the wrong way. It’s just that there’s a lot left for you to help with. Even if you were dismissed from the last special exam, ryūen-kun would gain 100 points, alongside abandoning you. If you’re going to leave anyway, it’s more profitable to have you disappear in the exam with a penalty attached to ryūen-kun. “

she didn’t look a millimeter convinced when i tried to explain. “i think it’s time for me to leave, if you don’t mind. “

with her silently and angrily making way toward me, i pressed the elevator button again. Then as i get inside, i notice that ibuki is not following me.

“you’re not joining? “

“i don’t want to get in the elevator with you. “

“don’t be silly, we’ve been inside together a few times by accident. “ “i don’t feel like riding it right now. “

“right. Then do what you want. “

pressing the close button, i head for the floor where kushida-san lives. From here, i must continue to persist until she opens the door for me. As the elevator ascends, i wonder if i will really be able to make a breakthrough.

If i don’t try something else, it won’t change. If that’s the case, then what i’m about to do is nothing but a waste of time. I arrived at my destination floor and the door opened.

Suddenly… I can’t move and i’m frozen in place. What’s changed up until now that had let me talk with kushida-san?

Time passed and the elevator closed. Before i could press the open button, the elevator started moving and began to move downstairs.

“ugh… “

i don’t think you can persuade kushida-san to come face to face with you in her current state. I think back to the warm words from chabashira- sensei.

The elevator came straight back to the first floor. When the doors opened, ibuki-san, who was looking down at her cell phone, took a step forward without noticing me. She looked up when she felt the presence of someone in the elevator, saw me, and let out a slight groan.

“why are you here?

I can’t say i expected any other reaction. “you’re not getting in? “

“i told you i’m not getting in! Are you harassing me? “

shaking my head, i reached out to press the close button again. Then i saw ibuki-san averting her gaze and felt something tugging in my mind. Just before i touched the close button, i pressed the open button and stared at her. She looks at me, suspicious that the elevator isn’t closing.

A breakthrough may be lying in an unexpected place. Maybe it’s time to put chabashira-sensei’s advice to use…

“what the hell? “

“i thought i’d ask you to help me with something. “ “huh? “

it’s a pretty big gamble, but it could be the ingredient to break the stalemate. An unseen breakthrough, and it might be a surprise ambush that takes us out of the stalemate we’re in right now. I know this is reckless, but for now, i’ll just have to try whatever it takes.

“get in. “

“how many times do i have to tell you i’m not getting in? “ “just get in. “

i pushed the close button, checking on ibuki, who got in, despite her irritation.

“there’s something i need your advice on. “

“excuse me? No no, i am definitely not helping you with anything. “ “at least hear me out… Maybe it’ll benefit you. “

“don’t get ahead of yourself. Just because you’re asking me about it, i know it’s bad news. “

while we were talking, the elevator reached the floor where kushida- san’s room was located. I stepped out first and looked back at ibuki-san, who was still in the elevator.

“get off. We don’t know who’s listening, so stay close. “ “i’m going home. I don’t know what that means. “

she presses the close button and tries to leave, but the elevator doors don’t close.

“it looks like the elevator wants you to get off too. “

“that’s because you’re blocking it from the outside by pushing the button! “

“do you have any special desires? Like, things that are important to

“what does that have to do with anything? “ “just answer the question. “

“no. “

“are you sure? “

“no, uh, i don’t know… I can’t think of anything at all, but maybe

strawberries? “

“that’s surprisingly cute and cuddly for you, ibuki-san. Enough, forget about what i just said. “

“then why the hell did you ask? “

as ibuki-san grew unsurprisingly unhappy, i decided to cut to the chase. I realized that it would be better for her if i quickly shared my story and moved on to the next part of the plan.

“i’m going to go see kushida-san now. “

“so? Why don’t you go see her on your own? “

she hit the close button repeatedly, but of course it didn’t work. “it doesn’t work that way. She hasn’t shown up once in this entire

week. I’ve been to her dormitory and she hasn’t shown any sign of coming out. I need you to get her out of her room. Do you understand? “

“what? Wait, why do i have to do that? “ “it’s another way of helping people. “

“if i don’t even help my class, why would i help your class? “

i’ve already calculated that there’s no way ibuki-san will accept my offer. But if there’s a benefit, it’s a different story. As the elevator is left open the whole time, the warning beeping starts.

“fine. Then i’ll give you compensation. “

“i don’t want it. If you think i’m money driven, you’re wrong. “ “i’m sure you aren’t. But i’m sure my success fee will be something

you strongly desire. “

“i don’t think there’s anything like that. “

ibuki’s mind is not easy to move. But if you confront her with certain things, her thoughts will change one hundred and eighty degrees.

“you can pre-register for up to five events of your choice for the sports festival. You are free to choose which events and which groups you want to participate in. The main purpose of this system is to be used to clear the required events, or to avoid strong opponents. On the other hand, it is also a system that allows you to fight against targeted opponents.

When i had explained that much, ibuki-san’s eyes, which had been unmotivated, lit up with color.

“since it’s you, you’re waiting without reservation to fight me, aren’t you? But unfortunately, i’m not going to decide until the last minute.

Depending on the situation, there’s a good chance that you’ll make a move

for the last slot. In other words, even if you aim and wait, your chance to fight won’t come for a long time. “

“so you’re saying that if i cooperate, you’ll fight me? “

“yes. I’ll fight you in one of the competitions of your choice. Of course, i won’t go easy on you because of your class, so you won’t be able to pick up any points. That is, if you’re okay with it. “

“ha. That’s interesting. But i’m not satisfied with just one. I’ll help you if you give me at least three competitions, so we will have a best-of-three. “

“three? That’s greedy… “

i make a pretense of thinking as the warning beep goes off again. “it’s non-negotiable. “

she has a point, i agree that it’s not clear who would be better out of one competition. On the other hand, if we play two or four rounds, there is always the possibility of a draw. It was expected from the beginning that the game would be decided by three rounds, but if you present the match at the beginning, you may be asking for five rounds.

If she’s willing to accept three rounds, then we’re right on schedule. “fine, i’ll face you for three rounds and join the competition. Is that

okay with you? “

“deal. No changing your mind later. “ with that, she stepped off the elevator. I took my hand off the button and the elevator began to slowly close its doors.

“of course. However… You’re going to have to help me out this time until we get this matter resolved. “

“just tell me clearly what the goal is. “

“kushida-san comes to school on monday. That’s it. “

“how hard can that be? I mean, what’s the point if kushida is absent?

Everyone gets sick at least once in a while. “

chabashira-sensei said that secrets shouldn’t matter when it comes to resolving kushida-san’s issue. The important thing is who i’m telling the secrets to.

I decided to follow that advice and tell the whole story. If ibuki is the kind of student who would blow up and tell everyone around her, it would be my fault for not yet realizing that. I need to find a way to break the ice now, even if it means pushing myself further.

I told ibuki-san everything about kushida-san, i left no secrets. Ibuki- san only knows what kind of life she’s been leading through shallow encounters. But i explained to her kushida-sans true nature, her way of thinking, and every detail of her current situation. While i was talking to her, ibuki-san was listening to me with a disinterested look on her face, looking in some random direction.

Normally, i would have been dissatisfied with such an attitude, but strangely enough, i felt saved by her method of listening. When i finished telling her the truth about why she was currently absent from school, ibuki-san let out a sigh of exasperation.

“whatever. “ without showing any strong interest in her true nature, she nonchalantly commented on the fact.

“you don’t seem surprised. Did you know anything about it? “

“nah, i just don’t believe in straight-up good guys. The same goes for hirata and ichinose. It’s a rule that people who pretend to be good people are always dark behind the scenes. “

“that’s an interesting way of thinking. “ she might have a surprisingly good point.

“so, in your mind, is ryūen-kun quite highly regarded? He’s not a good person on the surface but he’s not a good person behind the scenes either. “

“that’s why i hate him more. I also dislike guys who seem harmless like ayanokōji these days. People like that fucking piss me off. “

when you go that far, on the other hand, i wonder if there exists anyone that ibuki-san finds likable…

“well, i don’t hate the idea of exposing a person like that. I’d enjoy asking them how it feels to be exposed as a bad person. “

if she goes too far, i’ll have to stop her, but that kind of forcefulness is something i need to learn from.

“you want me to drag kushida out of her hiding place, right? “ “yes. “

seeming quite confident, ibuki-san walked lightly to the front of kushida-san’s room.

“are you going to do this all by yourself? “ “just shut up and watch. “

very well ibuki-san, let’s see what you do.

When she walked to the front of kushida-san’s room, ibuki-san suddenly held her stomach and kneeled down onto the floor.

“oh shit! Ouch ouch! “ she then let out a scream that echoed down the hallway.

I couldn’t understand what she was doing for a moment, and stared at the scene in amazement.

“this stomach-ache… I can’t! No way i can make it back in time… “ a stomach-ache? Don’t tell me this is the best you’ve come up with…

Aside from that clichéd idea, it’s devastatingly poorly acted.

To begin with, this is not the floor of ibuki’s room. Even if the floors were the same, it would definitely be faster to run to your own room.

“uh, excuse me? ! Can i use your toilet real quick? “ she rapidly hit the chime on kushida-san’s door and continued to do so for about ten seconds, but there was no sign of kushida-san opening up from inside.

It seems that asking ibuki-san for help was an obvious mistake, i was ready to lose my head from all the pointless noise she was making. She continued to keep acting for a few dozen seconds until she got up and turned to face me with a straight face.

“i thought she was home? “

“first of all, i’m pretty sure she’s in her room. “

“really? If she doesn’t get caught by that act, she’s quite a tough one, isn’t she? “

“yeah, i guess so. “ i said, motioning ibuki-san to follow me. I instruct her to follow me quietly and open the box with the built-in electric meter attached to kushida-san’s room. “you see a disk here, right? If the speed of this disk is slow, she’s probably not home. But if she’s at home and using the tv or computer, the rotation speed will increase. “ the disk was spinning slightly faster than normal. “now you know it’s more likely that she’s at home, right? “

“i didn’t know you knew about being a thief? “

“i learned a lot about it last weekend while i was waiting for her. Don’t abuse it. “

“of course i won’t” she answers while giving me a cold look. “can you think of any other way? If you don’t, then i suppose we

should give up now… “ “we’re doing it wrong. “

“what? “

“it’s a toss-up, but it’s okay, right? I’ll forcefully pull kushida out. “

i feel like i should inquire further, but i see her spirit and decide to leave it to her once more. I keep my distance, and then she steps to the door again.

“hey, kushida. I’ve heard a lot about you. I heard that you’ve been wearing a catsuit until now, and it was exposed in the exam? “

when i wondered what she was going to do, she started blabbering nonsense. For a moment, my brain thought i should stop her, but there was no point in doing so. Even if i stopped here, it would have already reached her ears.

“that’s gotta hurt… How does it feel to go from being the most popular person in the world to falling down so low? How does it feel to fall from the podium? “

the technique of stirring up agitation is much better than the deplorable acting she did earlier. Furthermore, kushida-san might turn exquisitely angry because she’s being told by an outsider, ibuki-san. But no sound came back. I guess rough treatment wasn’t enough…

Ibuki-san didn’t change her expression, nor did she try to stop her words.

“i heard the catsuit went hard… Can i see it? “ she slams her right toe against the door extremely hard. “i’m so stressed out because of horikita right now, i just want to see the suit. “

honestly, that was ibuki-san’s true intention, she didn’t want to save kushida-san in the slightest. I’m sure she’s on the other side of the door listening…

“maybe kicking in the door of someone’s room isn’t such a bad idea. I can kind of understand how ryūen feels. “

after a few such kicks, i heard a sound from inside the room. Despite this, as she was about to unleash more kicks, the door to the room suddenly unlocked.

“it’s annoying, so can you please stop, ibuki-san? “ kushida-san, in her pajamas, finally showed herself.

I honestly didn’t expect ibuki-san’s violent strategy to work… I’m a little shocked, wondering what all my efforts were for during the past week.

“there she is. See? I knew she was that type of person. “

maybe there were parts of kushida-san’s personality that ibuki-san could relate to…

“whatever you’re trying to do is pissing me off, can you stop? “ “are you more likable when you put on the catsuit or something? “

“i’ve never actually liked you, you know. I can see horikita-san over there, that was probably the reason you’re even here. “ her mental state seems to be calm, judging by the fact that she used “san”.

Since there was no point in hiding, i walked without hesitation to the front of kushida-san’s room.

“if you don’t mind, i’d like to come inside your room. I’m getting a little tired of waiting around all the time. “

“well, it’s no use trying to close it. “

she can’t close the door because ibuki-san has one foot firmly inserted in the gap between the doors. Kushida-san looked down at the foot for a few seconds before suddenly, without warning, stomping on it.

“shit! “ she continues to stomp forcefully, but ibuki-san doesn’t pull her foot back either.

“yeah… It’s not closing. “ kushida-san sighs. “that’s enough… ! “

i try to force the door open and step in, but she only retreats and greets us with a straight face.

“come on in, then. This may be the last time you’ll see me, so take your time. “ she says it with an implied tone, but i guess she’s been prepared to do something like that for a while. It was no small feat for kushida-san to annoy the class by maintaining the status quo indefinitely. She must have invited us in because she’s made up her mind about something. This is our last chance, i guess. I could tell at a glance that kushida-san’s room was being used in a clean and neat manner. I get the impression that she’s even more solid than i am in terms of her love of cleanliness.

“well, well, it’s pretty tidy. “ ibuki-san says, looking around the room with a hint of admiration and surprise.

Kushida-san saw this attitude and made a strange face.

“ibuki-san’s room looks like it’s in disarray, with her undressed clothes scattered all over the place. “

“wh-what? How do you know if you haven’t even seen it? “ it’s clear from ibuki-san’s reaction that it’s true.

“sit down. I’m not going to offer you anything to drink or snack on, but that’s okay, right? “

“yeah, no thanks. “

we looked at each other for a moment and then sat down. Kushida-san sat across from us, making it a two-on-one situation across the table.

“you’ve been making noise in front of my room for so long, what do you want? “

“you know what i want, don’t you? You’ve been out of school for the past week. “

“oh… “ with an absent-minded reply, kusida-san continued. “do you really think i’m going to go to school after what happened? I’m not really surprised, but you told this girl about me, didn’t you? Is that another way to get back at me? “

“no, it isn’t. She wouldn’t carelessly tell anyone else. “ “do you trust her? “

“no, i don’t. It’s just that she doesn’t have anyone to talk to. “

“hey! “ ibuki-san slammed her fist on the table and glared at me, but i ignored her. It is true after all…

“even if that’s the case, you’re not thinking about my feelings, are you? I’m hurt. “

“do you really have the right to say that? “

“even if i don’t, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t think about how i feel, horikita-san. “

the sharp exchange of words quickly brought up new tension.

“let’s move the conversation forward. I know i have been inadequate in some respects. But you were the one who initiated the hostility in the first place. Isn’t that right? “

we were just classmates, but she had always seen me as someone who should be expelled.

“i won’t deny that point. But i can’t help it, i couldn’t stand you… “ “i don’t know what i should have done. I look back on it now and i

can’t get a clear answer. “

“i know, i know. I’ve thought about the same thing a few times. And i’ve come to one conclusion. Maybe you should have voluntarily withdrawn from school for me, because i couldn’t stand your presence. “

“don’t be absurd. That’s not a solution, it’s just your angry feelings. “

“it’s complicated. But it’s the only argument i have. “

although she answered my questions, it was hardly a friendly dialogue.

I suppose they were just her true feelings.

At first, i was trying to listen to her, but then she started to slowly stop talking and the lifeless look in her eyes returned.

“i wonder if you’d be willing to help me and put all of this behind

you. “

“i knew that’s what you were getting at, but come on, don’t make me

laugh. “

“you’re good enough and worth it. “ “i know. “

she answers immediately, not even showing any pretense of modesty. “i’d have thought you were super self-conscious… “

to ibuki-san’s muttered response, kushida-san simply turns and stares at her.

“did you think so? Well it’s not very true. However, i wouldn’t expect someone with your competence to realize that. “

“do you think you’re all that? Why don’t we go at it here or something? “ ibuki-san said and clenched her fists.

“you’re even more of an idiot than i thought, ibuki-san. That’s not what competence means, okay? Why don’t you take a look at oaa? My ability in this school is my good grades, right? I think the difference between me and ibuki-san is more than physical aspects, don’t you? “ miffed, ibuki- san took out her phone and checked the oaa. She then compared it to her own overall strength, paled, and silently closed her phone.

“i want you to use your high ability for the good of the class. If you continue to be absent from school without permission, you will eventually lose your seat. “

“it’s already gone. As for you, you were prepared for the backlash and opposed my leaving the school, right? So the one who would be troubled if i’m useless is you. I can understand why you would want to desperately try to persuade me to come back. “

the situation in the class must have been palpable to kushida. “i’ve lost. There’s no reason to stay anymore. But the reason why i

stayed quiet at the end of that unanimous special exam was to damage you as much as possible.

If i continue to be absent from school, the school will punish the class that caused the truancy, right? And the blame for that punishment will go to you. “

indeed, if kushida-san continues to be absent, the class will be continuously damaged like a continuing poisoning. It was possible that the truancy strategy would eventually get clogged up with special exams, but kushida-san would be able to accomplish her revenge with flying colors.

“there’s no gain in it for you, why keep this up? “

“it’s too late, i have nothing to lose at this point. Isn’t it normal i give you a little roadblock? “

“how is it normal? Don’t get carried away just because your oaa numbers are above average. “ muttered ibuki-san from next to me.

“i invited you in just for the fun of it, but i guess i was right. You’re funny, ibuki-san. If it was just me and horikita-san, it would have been a boring conversation. I guess i was wrong when i said it was normal. What is normal to me must be abnormal to you. “

“so you admit that you have loose screws? “

“not in my eyes. To me, i do everything right and you do everything wrong. I can’t tolerate anything that doesn’t suit me. “

“that’s disgusting. “

“whether it’s disgusting or not is irrelevant, i can’t just change my way of thinking… I was born that way. “

kushida-san was acting more strange than usual, trying to keep a calm image as she let her dark thoughts spill. No… Maybe she found it amusing.

She was much more charming at the moment rather than when she was screaming and crying.

“i’ll continue to be an issue until the school does something to force me to change my ways. “

kushida-san declares that she will continue to hinder our class with determination. I can tell she isn’t lying, as she preaches to me in a matter-of- fact voice.

“what are you going to do? “

“what am i going to do? Nothing, i have no choice but to have a talk with you like this. “

“you’re inconsiderate, aren’t you? You’re very different from ayanokōji-kun. “

at the mention of ayanokōji-kun’s name, ibuki-san lifts her head up. “i thought i was taking advantage of him, but it seemed i was very

wrong. On the contrary, he was planning to use it against me the entire time. I think he was someone i shouldn’t have made enemies with. “

“ayanokōji-kun is very different. It’s clear that he can see things deep into the future. It’s only recently that i’ve been made aware of this. “

“then i suppose we’re in the same boat. “ “i suppose so. “

a bit of silence.

“you’re mostly an idiot too, horikita-san. It would have been so much easier if you had just cut me out. “

“maybe i am an idiot. Unfounded intuition, unfounded confidence.

That’s what you might take me for. However, there is no doubt that you are undeniably an excellent student. Although i can understand how my knowledge about past events the past and your desire to remove ayanokōji- kun have caused troubles, at least the reputation you have continued to contribute to the class for a year and a half remains unchanged. “

kushida-san has done well and she shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

“if annoying the class is really your top priority, you might be able to succeed in your revenge if you just keep taking time off. But, is that what you want? “

“what’s your point? “

“i’m asking if that’s enough to satisfy you. “

“i can be satisfied. I don’t want anything more than that right now. No matter how many words you try to convince me, it’s useless, i won’t ever agree with you. “

i could never persuade her. Hearing such words, i felt as if i couldn’t say anything anymore. Surely i want kushida-san to come to school as it would be beneficial for everyone, but i also want to prove that my choice was not a mistake.

Kushida-san, who is right in front of me, knows that better than anything else. In the end, it’s still for my sake. It’s hard to say that it’s the best choice for kushida-san to come back.

“maybe i was wrong about you. “ “what do you mean? “

“i thought i was here to ‘persuade’ you. But i didn’t. It was for myself and the class. I wasn’t able to take your feelings into account. “

“what? Now you’re going to pity me? “

“i just realized that taking you out of a school that you don’t want to go to is over-ambitious. “

“then i guess we’re done talking. If i drag my feet, horikita-san will automatically fall too. I’ll be happy if you suffer through school without me for a long time. “

“that’s fine with me. But at the same time, it means you’ll suffer too. “ “i’ll suffer? Why’s that? “

“because you still have a place to go back to and you’re going to lose

it. “

“you’ve become so selfish. There is no place to go back to. “

the more i think about her, the more one emotion comes to mind. “you keep driving me crazy, don’t you kushida-san… “

“what are you on about… ? “

“i try to lean on you, but you can never support me because you’re a

child. The point is, you’ve just made the wrong choice at every turn. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t tried to get rid of me, especially since i don’t tell secrets and don’t actually know anything of the past. The same goes for ayanokōji-kun. “

“even then, i just can’t stand you. “

“that’s what kids are. You can’t stand it, so you lash out. That’s the same as a child. “

ibuki-san, who was hit first by my words, bursts out laughing. This irritated kushida-san as she looked at ibuki-san with annoyance.

“we have to put up with such an act. You’re in high school, remember? All you have to do is walk to class and you’re not even doing that. Don’t just lie on the ground and waste your time forever, just get up and walk by yourself. “

“ha… You’re right, horikita-san. But i’m a poor, poor girl who’s hurting. If i go to school now, my classmates will smoke me out, and things won’t be the same as before. Isn’t it cruel to try to take me out of such a painful place when you’re not even close to me? “

“i’m not in a position to speak for others, but you’re not looking very good right now either. “

kushida-san was at a loss for words.

“the class already knows who i am. I can’t mend my ways any more. I can’t fix it anymore. That’s what you think right now, right? When you cried and screamed in class, you looked like a child. No, a toddler. I still feel like i’m dealing with that toddler right now. “

“don’t be stupid! “

she raises her hand and tries to slap my cheek before i calmly grab her hand and stop it in motion.

“you want to make fun of me, don’t you? You’re nothing more than a toddler, annoying me, annoying your classmates, and making it your top priority just for your own pleasure. “

“so i’m supposed to be the only one who has to suffer, put up with, and help you and the rest of the class? “

“don’t take this the wrong way. You’ve got solid power. Then use it for ‘your own good’. It doesn’t matter what’s around you. If you act for yourself, and you’ve risen to class a for yourself, that’s unquestionably your “achievement”. And you can use the privilege of class a to do whatever you want. If you want to do the same thing, this time go someplace where no one knows about your past. “

kushida-san glared at me but she didn’t say anything.

“you only have a year and a half of school left. It shouldn’t be that hard, should it? For the past year and a half, you’ve only been putting on a good front for your classmates. It’s easier than that. Or is that not even possible with your abilities? “

i could feel kushida-san’s hands trembling with anger as i clenched

them.

But i’ve come to another conclusion.

“this is the only time i will be visiting here. The rest is for you to think

about. If you’re still going to be my enemy after all i’ve told you, then i have no more treatment for you. You’ll remain a child for the rest of your life. “

“that means that while i’m standing still, horikita-san will continue to move forward… “

even if i didn’t explain everything to her, kushida-san could see where things stood now.

“you’re going to be expelled. I’ll be graduating from class a and fulfilling my own dreams. It’s a big difference. “

kushida-san contemplates a future in which i’ve won, and it’s something i know she despises. School life is only a small percentage of a long life.

“do you really think that from here, i have a chance to go back to school? “

“that’s up to you. You can decide whether you want to fight with your chin up high or wallow around in sadness and anger. “

although i could still feel the strength in her arm, it was slowly fading

away.

“i’ll at least listen to you. Tell me what strategy you have in mind,

horikita-san. “

after many twists and turns, we arrived at a situation where kushida- san was willing to listen.

But i can’t try to fix things to make her feel better. I have to convince her with a plan for her survival. I have several tentative answers, and i’ll reconstruct them here to arrive at the ideal answer.

“i’m not going to spend my school life carrying you, kushida-san. “ “no, i wouldn’t want that. But then, it’s impossible, right? My

classmates saw my true nature, and that fact can’t be changed no matter what, right? “

“that’s true. But in other words, there is a possibility that you can recover yourself for those who haven’t seen your true nature, right? “

kushida-san showed a slight gesture of consideration, but muttered, “i don’t know. “

“up until now, there were only a few people who knew the real me, like horikita-san and ayanokōji-kun. That’s why i didn’t hesitate to mend my ways yet, but now we’ve got more people in our class, right? Not only are there smart people, but there are also a lot of stupid and shitty students mixed in among them. “

kushida-san had a point. But before i could react, ibuki-san reacted. “you’re one to talk! “

ibuki-san overreacted when kushida-san brought in other students. “i’m not talking about you, so what does it matter? “ replied kushida-

san.

“if you can’t keep your mouth shut, ibuki-san, you can leave, okay? “ “oh, yeah. Then i’ll leave. It’s okay if you keep your promise, right? “

as she tries to stand up, i tell her what i need to tell her.

“no, you can’t. If you leave now, it’ll be considered abandonment and i’ll have the contract voided. “

“huh? What the fuck… Oh my god, then i’ll shut up and you can get on with it. “

“contract? What does that mean? “

“i’m only promising to fight her during the sports festival if she’ll help me get you to school. “

i quickly explained the reason for ibuki-san being willing to help. “so that’s what it was about, huh? I was wondering why it was ibuki-

san, but that explains it… “

“at least thanks to her, i was able to visit your room, so i need to thank

her. “

ibuki-san had a great deal of things to say, i could see it on her face.

Even so, she stayed quiet as instructed.

I admire her spirit, she’s willing to be patient in order to fight with me. “back to the topic at hand, can i take that to mean that it’s painful to

continue to play the role while your true nature is known? “

“yes, it is. You can do your best when you’re acting in a meaningful way, but you can’t do your best when you’re acting in a meaningless way, can you? “

up until now, if she expelled me or ayanokōji-kun, the meaning of continuing to act would live on. However, it was nearly impossible to expel the entire class. In junior high school, when kushida-san was in a similar situation, she brought the class down and ended it all.

She tried to do the same here, but it didn’t work out.

“if you don’t want that, then you don’t have to hang out with your classmates like you used to. “

“huh? “

that seemed to be a surprising response not only to the kushida-san in front of me, but also to ibuki-san, and both of them reacted similarly.

“even if you keep your mouth shut to some extent, there is no absolute guarantee. If that’s the case, it’s inevitable that the rest of the class will stand around with the assumption that kushida-san is a two-faced and troubled student. “

kushida-san would then lose half of her effectiveness.

She can study well and play sports, but she’s not top notch at either of them. Just another honor student. Even if she is superior to sakura-san in her natural abilities, she lacks charm in other areas.

“i’m not trusted by anyone. I don’t think everyone would be satisfied with me anymore. Don’t you? “

“it certainly wouldn’t be the same as it has been. But can i really say that i’ve completely lost faith in you? What do you think? Ibuki-san. “ i looked over to ibuki-san, who was staring at the wall not even letting me know that she acknowledged my statement. “ibuki-san, answer me. “

“you told me to shut up, didn’t you? “ “i’ll allow you to speak. “

“what the hell, first shut up, then speak, i’m not your student or anything. “

“you don’t want to compete? Then just tell me so… “

“oh, my god! “ while scratching her head, ibuki-san replied. “you’ve just been playing the good girl too long, that’s all. I don’t believe in the perfect good person, and i think you acted worse before. If i had to choose who to believe, the old you or the new you, i’d say the new you is more honest. “

she said what she thought quickly. I guess it sounded straightforward to kushida-san because she didn’t have any tricks or wisdom.

“hahaha, that’s an interesting answer. I mean, you have an unusual way of thinking, don’t you? But not everyone is as unusual as ibuki-san. If anything, normal people would hate her hair. “

“well, she’s certainly not normal, that’s for sure. “ “hey! “

“but everyone has two sides to them, big or small. Ibuki-san appreciated the part of your true heart that acts for yourself above all else. That’s why you’ll never change your true intentions. “

this talk of making her change her true intentions was wrong to begin

with.

“and if you don’t change the way you speak and your tone of voice to

the outside world like you have been doing, it will be difficult for those who haven’t seen your true nature to imagine what you really are. No matter how many words are used to explain it, a person cannot understand it until they experience it firsthand. “

“what do you mean? “

“for example, ichinose-san. She’s someone you could say is certainly more of a good person than kushida-san. But the truth is that she’s really a violent, foul-mouthed person who likes other people’s failures more than anything else. Would you believe her right away if she told you that? “

“that might be difficult. That girl seems like a really good person. “ “you’d have your doubts, though. “

“it’s not about ichinose-san, it’s about the existence of good people, right? “

“well, you’d certainly have to see it in person to know for sure. I couldn’t know for sure just by hearing about it from horikita-san. “

“isn’t that right? At least for the past year and a half, ichinose-san has been a good person. Even if someone were to make such a revelation, they wouldn’t believe it. Nevertheless, if all of her classmates were to say out loud that ichinose-san is that kind of person, we would naturally be suspicious.

But i guess the image is still not completely clear, is it? “

no matter who says that ichinose-san is ruthless and violent, i couldn’t believe it. Even if i was told repeatedly, i couldn’t believe it unless i saw it for myself.

“it’s true that you can’t understand something until you experience it.

In martial arts, there are times when you are warned that a technique is dangerous, but you don’t feel like it is at all. Then when you’re actually hit, you understand how amazing it is. “

“that’s exactly it, ibuki-san. “

but as long as there are still doubts, they won’t trust you completely. “that’s where your skills come in. You have to do the best you can

with the way you’re going. It’s a fact that your fallout control and communication skills are better than others. “

whether or not she would be able to gain their trust beyond that was unknown at this point.

“even if that’s fine for the other classes, what about our other classmates? Shinohara-san, wang-san, hasebe-san, would probably all resent me. I don’t know if i can unite with them.. “

“maybe not with all of them. But it can produce results if you use your abilities to the best. “

even if they just kept getting higher than average results, students who only got grades below kushida wouldn’t be able to complain easily.

“if the untrustworthy side of you comes out, i’ll help you. “

“do you think i would honestly believe such sweet words? I’m afraid you’ll betray me. “

“being doubtful is fine. I’ll accept your bitterness, but i’ve accepted you even after you betrayed me. “

for kushida-san, there is nothing to be afraid of, as she has already done it once before.

It was all up to her to decide whether to stand up again or not. After staying quiet for a while, kushida-san opened her eyes. Then she started mumbling something, but i couldn’t catch it. Eventually, she opened her eyes, as if she had come to a conclusion.

“all right. I’ll fight for a year and a half just for me, and contribute to the class. I won’t fight for horikita-san or for my classmates. That’s fine with you, right? “

“i’m not complaining at all. I just want you to respond with results. “ standing up, kushida-san holds out her left hand instead of her fist. “wasn’t it the other way around last time? “

kushida-san didn’t respond to the hand i offered all that time ago. “a left-handed handshake means hostility. “

“is that so? Which hand did i offer you before? “ “left hand. “

it seems that she remembered clearly, as kushida-san answered immediately. This time, it was her own left hand that was extended. I stood up and offered my left hand in response and we shook hands.

“it’s like a hostile commemoration, isn’t it? “ “don’t you think that’s more like us? “

“i suppose it might be. “

she squeezed my hand back forcefully, and i squeezed it back.

“yes. There’s one thing i’ve been wanting to do to you, horikita-san, if you don’t mind… “

“please go on. What is it? “

“it’s… “ she smiled and slowly extended her arms towards me.

Her hands came close to my face. And as soon as she gently touched both cheeks, i felt a sharp pain surge through me.

It was immediately after that i realized that the pain was caused by being pinched on the cheek as hard as i could.

“w-what are you doing… ? “

“i really hate you, horikita-san. “ she said and pinched my cheek even harder. “i’ve been on edge since we met today, and i’m still on edge now that we’re cooperating. I just thought it would be bad stress to think that this would go on all the way from monday. I need to let it dissipate like this for a bit. “ the force she put into it gained even more momentum and showed no signs of stopping.

“is that enough? “

“no, no, no. It’s not enough. “

i was willing to accept a little bit of this, but kushida-san was getting carried away and wouldn’t stop pulling on my cheeks.

If she’s not going to loosen up at all, i have no choice but to retaliate. I reached out with both arms and pinched her cheeks in the same way. “excuse me? “

“i wonder if you’ll let me go now? “

i assumed that she would stop once she felt the pain.

“come on kushida-san, time to wipe that frown off your face. “

without hesitating, i put all the strength i could into my fingertips and gripped back with the determination to tear her cheeks off

00012.jpeg

it’s a battle of wills and stubbornness when it comes to such a thing. “you guys can keep going until you’re both shreds, i’m leaving. “

ibuki-san, who was the only one that was still calm, said that and walked out of the room first.

The battle of wills continued for two or three minutes, when the pain started to paralyze us.

We both realized that we were making each other look incredibly stupid, and we both let go of each other’s face without a second thought.

When i saw kushida-san’s face turn bright red, i realized that i must be the same.

“come to school on monday. “

“you’re so persistent. Can you please just leave? “

half-heartedly pushed out of the way, i walked out of her room and into the hallway.

“ouch… “ stroking my aching cheek, i looked towards the elevator and saw ibuki-san getting in.

“were you waiting for me by any chance? “

i said and walked to her, ibuki-san stuck out her tongue and pressed the button for the elevator.

“maybe you have a talent for making people angry. “

even so, it was thanks to her that i got to meet kushida-san today. I’ll have to give her my all at the sports festival, just as she wanted.

2

i raised my heavy head then rolled myself out of bed. It wasn’t like i had a fever, but i had a mild headache that had been going on for a long time.

The reason was obvious. I had skipped five days of school with a feeling of guilt. I’ve never missed a day of school before, except when i was sick. Tormented by the guilt, i try to think of something else to wipe out the feeling, but i fail to get it out of my head. If i could just get rid of it by trying to forget about it, i wouldn’t have taken five days off.

I’ll have to do something for a change. I grabbed my cell phone and tapped on the photo folder, leaving several messages unread, and i accessed the earliest records i had taken. Scrolling through the photos, i looked at them nostalgically.

The first photo that made me stop was one taken just after i entered school, when i didn’t have anyone i could call friends yet.

It was the first and only two-shot i took with hirata-kun, who was smiling gently beside me while i was still unable to smile. I’m still not very good at smiling, but i think i’ve improved a lot since then.

“i miss this… “

school life in japan, where i didn’t know my right from my left.

Hirata-kun was the first person who helped me unwind when i was surrounded by tension. At that time, i was still unaware of my feelings of love. All i could think of was that he was good-looking, kind, and a wonderful person.

I didn’t realize it because i didn’t have the time to fall in love in china, where competition was so strong and the level of study so high. I don’t know when i realized that i was in love, but from the day i became aware of it, i knew i would never put it into words.

Hirata-kun is very popular and not someone i can reach.

If i conveyed my feelings to him by mistake, it would only embarrass him. So i kept it to myself and was content to just be by his side.

“and yet… “

i was so embarrassed and scared just thinking about it again, tears welled up in my eyes.

“how can i… “

everyone in my class knew that i liked hirata-kun. When i changed my seat, i’m sure they noticed that i was trying to be near him, right? I don’t know what i should act like when i go to school… After i came to this conclusion, i was struck by another guilty feeling. Sakura-san, who had shown both kindness and strictness to hasebe-san, left the school. Her feelings must have been immeasurably painful. And yet, i was so full of myself that i pushed the button in favor of expulsion, just wishing that those exams would end.

“it’s the worst… “

i hated myself for being such a jerk, and i was in so much pain. I’m such a burden… I was about to turn off the screen of my cell phone because i didn’t want to look at myself smiling awkwardly when i remembered the email i had received from ayanokōji-kun on monday night. I wonder how he

is feeling right now. Is he still able to go to school after having his precious friend expelled by his own hands?

If he is.. How is he doing it?

I’d like to meet him and talk to him in person, so i read through the email that he sent me.

[i want to talk to you in person. ]

“oh… “

ayanokōji-kun’s message was linked to mine, as if my feelings had become text. A phone number and room number are attached, just in case.

Is he going to give me advice?

There are a few people besides ayanokōji-kun who are worried about me. Are you okay? Do you want me to listen to you? Don’t force yourself, okay? While i was grateful for such kind words, i didn’t feel confident that any of them would lead to a solution.

However, ayanokōji-kun can be different…

I want you to listen to me. I want to hear what you have to say. “he wants me to come to… ? “

it was still 5:30 p. M.. It’s early for dinner but… I think it’s rude to visit him out of the blue. I paced back and forth in my room for a while, pondering, and time just flew by.

I made up my mind and resolved to visit ayanokōji-kun. I pick up the phone nervously. Five times, six times… I hear the tenth ring, and i’m wondering if i should hang up.

Ayanokōji-kun answered the call, and i panicked and shouted. “oh, um… This is wang, wang! Is this ayanokōji-kun? “ “you called me, didn’t you? “

ayanokōji-kun’s slightly echoed voice and the sound of the shower running faintly reached my ears.

“yes. I’ve been having trouble leaving my room for a long time. I feel like i can get out now, so i was wondering if i could talk to ayanokōji-kun for a minute… “

“now? “

“is this a bad time… ? I’m sorry for calling so suddenly. I’m not good at these things… “

maybe it’s just a bad time and i can’t do anything about it.

“i don’t think so, but can you give me a moment of your time? I’ll be ready in half an hour, no, twenty minutes. “

knowing how depressed i was, ayanokōji-kun said that to me. “oh, thank you very much! I’ll be there in 20 minutes! Excuse me! “

i was strangely nervous and hung up the phone immediately, unable to stand it.

“fuuu… I’m so thrilled. “

maybe the fact that i hadn’t talked to someone in a week had an effect on me. While i waited, i made myself presentable and after almost 20 minutes, i got ready and left the room. When i opened the front door, which now felt heavier than usual…

“oh, it’s there again. “

there was a plastic bag placed by my door. “they’ve come again today. “

inside are jellies, tea, and sandwiches.

I first noticed it on monday night when i quietly left my room to go to the convenience store.

At first i thought that someone had just put it there by mistake, but the plastic bag contained a small piece of paper with my room number written on it. It didn’t have the sender’s name on it though, so i didn’t know who it was.

“oh, there’s also a salad in there today but not quite my kind of salad… “

lots of protein, and a chicken caesar salad.

Still, it’s kind of nice to see that the selection changes a bit every day. “i wonder who is doing this. “

there’s nothing else in the plastic bag that could be a clue, and no receipt. Thanking them, i leave it at the door for now and take the stairs to the fourth floor where ayanokōji’s room is located. I feel strangely nervous on the floors where the boys’ room is located. With this in mind, i opened the door and entered the hallway, just as the door to a room opened. It looks exactly like ayanokōji-kun’s room. But the person who came out from inside…

For a moment i wondered who it was, but it was karuizawa-san. She didn’t have her usual nice ponytail, but her hair was smooth and straight.

And the two of them were dressed roughly.

Could it be that they were on a date in their room?

If that’s the case, i must have made a ridiculously annoying phone call… I almost felt depressed again, but i couldn’t run back home. My eyes met with karuizawa-san’s, who immediately took action to look around, as if other people were watching.

“speak of the devil, there she is. “ said karuizawa-san as she saw me walking up to ayanokōji-kuns door. “see you later, kiyotaka! “

nervously, i took a deep breath, and karuizawa-san also took two deep breaths. She might say something about hirata-kun.

“ba, bye! “

00013.jpeg

“eh, what? “

i brace myself, but she just says goodbye and walks past me without making eye contact.

I stop her as she leaves in a hurry. “um, karuizawa-san! “

“i’m sorry… For suddenly calling ayanokōji-kun, i’m sorry for disturbing you… “

“that’s not true, not at all. Really. “ “but… “

“you wanted to ask him for advice, didn’t you? You’re not going to call him now, right? It’s best to use your newfound courage. “

it seemed that my feelings had been conveyed over the phone after all.

Karuizawa-san stopped and came back a bit and smiled gently at me.

“don’t hesitate to ask him for advice, i guess. That guy seems to have a lot to say, but he’s not very good at talking. Even then, i think he can give you an answer. “

“yes. “

i’ve come this far, i’ve come this far. I have to put everything i’m thinking into it. I feel that karuizawa-san has helped me to create that kind of feeling.

“well then, i’ll be waiting for you next monday. “

she gave me an encouraging pep talk and she went straight to tapping the elevator’s up/down button in succession. But when she realized that the elevator wouldn’t be coming soon, she left by the emergency exit stairs.

“thank you, karuizawa-san. “

at least it didn’t look like she was unhappy with me.

I always had a strong impression that she was scary when she got angry, but today karuizawa-san seemed soft and kind… And now i don’t have time to think about anything else, so i hurried to ayanokōji-kun’s room.

I pressed the chime and the door opened in about 30 seconds.

Ayanokōji-kun was silent as he welcomed me in, so i immediately started to get impatient.

“oh, um, i was contacted by… And… Well, i just wanted to talk to you! “

3

mii-chan came to my room at almost the exact time i had planned. I really wanted to send kei back to her room a little earlier, but we were in the middle of something. I wanted to have a few more minutes to get ready, but i had to be careful not to change mii-chan’s mind.

“don’t hesitate to come in. “ “sorry to bother you… ! “

mii-chan couldn’t hide her nervousness, but there was no pretense of turning back. From the little i saw of her, i could tell that she was trying very hard to get up on her own. Unlike haruka and kushida, she didn’t want to stay where she was.

“do you want something to drink? “

“no, i’m fine. Thank you for your concern. “ she politely declined, and sat down on the carpet in a reserved manner.

I also sat down across from her and prepared to talk.

“the reason you’re here has something to do with the leaking of kushida’s secrets regarding yōsuke, right? “

mii-chan’s shoulders jerked at the mention of his name, then she nodded quietly.

“also, i’d like to know what’s going on in class. Shinohara-san, matsushita-san, hasebe-san… At least the ones who are hurting much more than i am. And also about ayanokōji-kun. “

i didn’t expect my name to be mentioned here, i suppose it isn’t surprising. From her perspective, it looks like i’ve cut off one of my friend groups with my bitter decision.

“aren’t you getting a lot of calls? “

“thankfully, there are a lot of people who are worried about me. But i just can’t see them. If i do, i’ll have to reply to them. “

she sees the messages and calls, but never checks them. Otherwise she’d be tempted to look at them.

“well then, i guess you’re right. It doesn’t have to be in order, but if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask. “

it’s not often that two people talk to each other alone like this. We don’t need to talk smoothly, but we can’t solve things if we are reserved. It’s better to find a way to get to know each other a little better.

“well, you know, i’d like to talk about the matter with kushida-san… Ah, but before that… Just to confirm, was it ayanokōji-kun who bought and placed various things in front of my room? “

mii-chan explains to me, as if to supplement my lack of understanding.

There was a person who delivered food to her once a day after she started taking a break from school. There was a piece of paper with only mii- chan’s room number written on it, but nothing to identify the sender.

For a moment, yōsuke came to mind, but there was no mention of him in the vicinity of kushida and haruka. Yōsuke treats his classmates equally, but if he were to offer it to mii-chan, he would have done the same for the other students, and he would have told me about it in the several times we had met.

“i’m sorry, but that’s not me, and i don’t think i have any idea what you’re talking about. “

“i see. That person also helped me a lot and… I wish i could thank them. “

“well, whoever it is, it means that there are students who care that mii- chan is absent. “

some of them message her, some of them call her, some of them bring her gifts. Or even if they don’t contact her, there will be plenty of students around her who are worried about her.

After nodding a bit happily, mii-chan popped a question. “ayanokōji-kun is still going to school, right? “

if she’s not in contact with the outside world, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t even know for sure that i’m attending. Of course, you wouldn’t expect someone who claims to consult with you to be sleeping away themselves.

“i went to school, this week was no different. “

“wasn’t it hard? No, it was hard, of course it was hard, but you didn’t think you’d hate going to school? “

“that’s a difficult question to answer isn’t it? I’ve never been one to lead my classmates on before, and i’m sure everyone was surprised by my actions in pushing my friend out of school. “

“yes. It was different from the ayanokōji-kun i knew. It was a bit… Scary. “

she is straightforward and honest, and frankly states what she feels.

There is no point in talking about the superiority or inferiority of friends and classmates here, or their priorities. Such things were explained in the special exam, and it’s not something to dig up now.

“it’s just that i was never good at letting my emotions out, and no one noticed that. I think the only reason i can go to school now without missing a day is because i think it’s uncool. “

“i’ve thought about that a bit too. I don’t like the idea that by taking a day off i’m illustrating what kushida-san said, that i’m hurting, and that people will know that. On monday morning, i changed into my uniform and went to the door. But i couldn’t take the next step, and after taking a day off, the door became more and more distant and heavy. It’s all my fault, though… “ then, as if remembering, mii-chan bowed her head. “i’m sorry i missed a week because of this. “

“you don’t need to say these things to me. It must have taken a reasonable amount of courage for you to come here. Besides, you haven’t completely given up on going to school, have you? “

“of course i haven’t! I really want to go to school right away. But still… I’m so embarrassed and ashamed… “

secret thoughts. I’m not sure how many students were aware of it, but if it was exposed in a more public way, it’s understandable that she would be deeply hurt.

“i can’t say that i can understand the position you’re in, or that i can replace you. But at least our classmates are worried about you. “

“yes… “

“and it’s also true that you’re causing trouble for the class right now. “ she gasped, stiffening as if i had pointed a gun to her head.

It’s easy to put up words that are pleasing to the ear, but they only have the effect of postponing the conclusion. The side may seem like a rough treatment from the outside, but it works to touch the heart.

“but fortunately, right now, kushida and haruka haven’t surfaced. But next week, we won’t know. What will happen if those two come to school and only you remains absent? Do you understand? “

imagining your own situation is something even elementary school students can do.

She nodded her head, her arms trembling slightly, as if fear was rising in her. If the stimulation was too strong, she wouldn’t take it easy, but

surprisingly, there was no sign of danger. She was small and timid, but i judged that her core was relatively strong and would not be easily broken.

“you can just come to school with an unsuspecting face. You don’t even have to tell yōsuke anything special. “

“but… I’m in the seat in front of hirata-kun, and i’m… Close to him. “ “oh, by the way, when we were changing seats, you were the first one

to grab the unpopular middle seat. Was that because you thought that yōsuke would take the seat behind you? “

“fuu.. ! “

because of her blatant attitude, i knew the answer without her having it directly put into words.

“that’s important. You’ve observed and understand yōsuke very well. “

“ugh, this is embarrassing… “ she hugged her knees and shook her face sideways. Apparently, shame is a stronger issue. “well, did hirata-kun say anything about me… Do you think he cares? “

she steps into the part that must have been bothering her all along. But her face was hidden behind her knees so that i couldn’t peek at her.

“of course, he cares about you. A lot more than he cares about kushida and haruka. “

“that’s because he still feels annoyed… Right? “

as the party in question, it was natural that yōsuke would be more concerned than about the other issues.

“it’s different from annoyance. That guy feels sorry for the opposite reason, that he caused you to stop going to school. “

“oh no… Hirata-kun didn’t do anything wrong! “

“i know. It’s just that you should know very well that he’s that kind of

guy. “

yōsuke can be happy for someone else’s happiness as if it were his

own. On the other hand, when someone is unhappy, he feels unhappy as if it were his own. That’s the kind of personality he has. Yōsuke is also suffering because of mii-chan’s own seclusion.

Understanding this is the most effective and important thing to do in order to overcome the current situation.

She looked up slowly and her eyes were a little red, but she didn’t show any tears as she lowered her knees.

“it’s not that i didn’t think about it. It’s just that i didn’t think that hirata-kun might be suffering because of me. But i put myself first and tried not to see it… “

apparently, i didn’t have to teach her from scratch, but just giving her a chance to reflect was enough. When looking at her as a sophomore in high school, it was safe to say that the student named mii-chan was almost complete.

“your expression is different from earlier. “

“thank you. I feel so much better after talking about everything. It’s thanks to you, ayanokōji-kun. “

“i didn’t do much. It’s just that i happened to be there when you were recovering. “

“that’s not true. I thought that if it was ayanokōji-kun, he might be able to solve the problem if i met him, that’s what i thought. “

she told me firmly and bowed deeply.

“i-i’ll definitely go to school on monday, without fail. “

“i know. But when you really have a cold, you should honestly take a day off. “

“no, i’ll go to school on monday, even if i have to crawl. “

i feel like she’s trying a little too much, but if she’s enthusiastic, that’s good enough for me.

“also, i’m worried about the person who’s been supplying me with food, because i’ve made them do a lot of shopping over the past five days, and i think the total amount is close to 10,000 points. “

if it’s just one person’s action, that could be a pretty hefty sum indeed.

As she was leaving, she kept thanking me repeatedly, so i ushered her to leave quickly.

“i guess it’s the result of my parents’ teachings. I understand if it’s a little too much. “

she’s too polite even for her classmates. Although, that can be considered one of mii-chan’s strengths. Now that i’ve solved one problem, i’d better finish what i left in my room. The number of students visiting my room has been increasing lately, so i can’t afford to be complacent.

I can’t afford to be distracted, as i’m sure that horikita, yōsuke or any other student could come and visit me at any time. Just as i had resumed my quick cleanup, the doorbell rang again.

I quickly looked at my cell phone, but there was no notification of any contact from kei or any of her friends.

An unannounced visitor. That’s extremely bothersome timing.

I’ll try to stay silent for a while. In some cases, i could have used the answering machine. But about 30 seconds later, the doorbell rang once again. It was dusk, and after turning off the lights in the room, i decided to slide the lid of the peephole and look through the hole into the hallway, killing any sign of my presence.

The person i least wanted to see was standing there, a freshman named amasawa ichika.

Thinking back, this had happened to me sometime ago. I remember that day, too, the timing of her was bad, and i didn’t want her to come inside.

Seeing that she was wearing her school uniform even though it was saturday, i wondered if she was visiting school. Should i view his visit as a mere appearance or as a deliberate act?

Considering what happened last time, i couldn’t help but wonder if it was intentional this time as well. She obviously knew i was in the room and came to visit me.

In the meantime, the doorbell rang for the third time. “hi, senpai~ i’ve come to visit you! “

as i was still looking for a response, amasawa called out to me in a sweet voice.

“i’m sorry, but i’m in the middle of something. Could you come by tomorrow? “

“that’s not going to happen. I’ve heard that my senpai is doing something bad with the girls, so i’ve come to investigate. If you don’t open the door, we’ll have a problem! “

a voice echoed through the hallway, trying to force the door open.

If i let her speeches go unchecked, the neighbors would eventually hear the commotion. I had no choice but to open the door and face amasawa.

“where did you hear that i was bringing girls in? “ “i’m the source of that information. “

“that’s a totally unreliable source. “

“that’s not true. You brought in karuizawa-senpai and wang-senpai today. “

it wasn’t just a hunch. She didn’t hesitate to mention the names of both of them. Even if she could have guessed kei at random, that would not be the case with mii-chan. She clearly knows my movements.

“oh, i’d like to reassure you that i didn’t plant any listening devices in your room, okay? The school seems to be doing a thorough inspection. “

it’s true that you can’t buy those kinds of nosy things through mail order. However, there is a way to obtain them, but only for amasawa.

“i wouldn’t be surprised if you had one or two in your possession from when you were connected to tsukishiro. “

she simply continued to smile at me, even after i pointed that fact out. “can i come in for now? I’m sorry to disturb you. “

before i could give her permission, amasawa walked into the room with the momentum of taking off her shoes. She then began scurrying around the room without reservation.

“what are you doing here? “

“huh? Ohhh, i’m just checking the room. “

i would like an answer as to why she needs to check the room.

Amasawa, who continues to rummage without hesitation, approaches the bed with her gaze.

“you’re probably wondering how i was able to guess about wang- senpai, right? Did i happen to see her come and go, or do i know her in some way? “

“do you always go into people’s rooms to brag about your own information network? “

quickly affirming without denying, amasawa touched the bed with her hand. While fixing the wrinkles in the sheet, she was searching for something with her fingertips in every corner.

I sat down on the carpet and observed amasawa, who would investigate until she was satisfied.

“senpai’s girlfriend has long hair, doesn’t she? That means you like girls with long hair, right? That’s why i’m growing mine out little by little. “

she continued to move her hands and eyes while talking about her hair, which i hadn’t even asked her about. I couldn’t force her to stop, so i had no choice but to watch her, when she suddenly stopped moving.

Then she picks up something from near the pillow of the bed with her index finger and thumb and lifts it up.

“what’s this? “

she holds up a strand of long, golden hair as if it were the head of a demon.

“it must be kei’s. She comes to visit often these days. “ “i’m sure she does, but why is it near the pillow? “

“i’m sure there are many possible cases, but do i have to list them one by one? “

“no, no. There’s no need for that~”

then she got down on all fours on her knees on the floor and started looking at the floor like a detective, searching for something.

I don’t know what she’s looking for, but i doubt she’ll be satisfied. “did they teach your generation how to ransack people’s rooms in the

white room? “

when i posed a question about the white room, amasawa stopped dead in her tracks.

“don’t you have any doubts, senpai? Those, who were sent to this school in order to get you expelled, could still be blending into everyday life without being noticed by my senpai? “

“at least you seem to have been branded as disqualified and unwanted by the white room. “

“i won’t deny that, but then what do you think about other potential candidates? “

“i’m not interested. “

“well, you’re right. If you’re still wary, you won’t act carelessly.

“i’d recommend that you leave me and yourself out of it and just enjoy your school life. “

“i agree with that. I think you should do the same… “

after a short pause, amasawa continued her search. With her back to me and her butt sticking out, her underwear was slightly visible through the short length of her uniform skirt.

It’s not like she didn’t notice, but she continued to crawl while pretending to act as if she didn’t care.

As she crawled under the bed, her underwear became even more exposed.

“you’re glued to my underwear, you’re so naughty, senpai. “

“i’m sorry, but i’m more wary of what you’ll do to me if i take my eyes off you than if i’m looking at your underwear. “

as i keep my eyes on amasawa, she pulls her face out of the bed and looks back at me, looking far too mature to be my kouhai, and crawls straight up to me.

“i think you’re getting out of control, don’t you? I think you’re confusing the means with the end. That person is more concerned with getting his senior expelled than he is with getting himself back into the white room. “

a murmur at close range, only a few centimeters between our lips. A sweet smell reaches my nostrils.

“they seem like quite the nuisance, don’t they? “

“for a senpai, yes it is. So i’ve been thinking about it lately. I’ve been thinking that it would be better if i told my senpai, who i really adore, and ask him to lead me away~”

“or maybe i’ll be the one to be led away. “ “fufufu~ that’s hilarious. “

i didn’t seem to find the topic of my kidnapping back to the white room all that amusing.

“what shall we do? Do you want to hear the name perhaps… ? “

as she got even closer, about an inch, amasawa waited for my response.

“i appreciate the suggestion. But i’ll refrain from asking. “

“is it because you’re not confident that you can win when you hear their name? “

“if their identity leaks out from an unexpected source, you’ll be the first one to be suspected. What will be the result of that? “

“they, of course, might point the finger at me. “

“there’s no need to make your school life uncomfortable just to find out what i am. “

i wouldn’t show any mercy if she stood in my way as an enemy, but amasawa doesn’t seem to be doing that at the moment.

“you’re very kind, senpai. “

besides, trusting her too much in a bad way is also a problem. If she was acting with some strategy, i couldn’t deny the possibility that this statement of amasawa’s was also a trap.

“now that you’ve rejected me, i’m going home. “

“did you come all the way to my room just to tell me that? Or did you mainly come to look for trash? “

“hmmm i wonder… “ laughing devilishly, amasawa quickly turned her attention to the burnable garbage bag that didn’t contain much in the kitchen as she tried to head for the door.

“i’ve visited your room a few times, but today you take out very little garbage, don’t you? I thought you were the type to fill the bag to the brim with garbage like this and then throw it away. “

“it’s just that there’s so much food waste from vegetables and fish that i’m not comfortable leaving it until next week. “

“in that case, would you like me to take out the trash on my way home? “

“i’m sorry, but it’s forbidden to take out the trash before eight o’clock at night. “

“i see you’re following the law. “

i hadn’t expected amasawa’s visit, but i had finally been tipped off as to her true motive for coming here.

“i see a little of the purpose for which you came here today. You’ve come to visit me to make your current proposal. The reason you were searching every inch of the room was because you were wary that someone else might be listening in. “

the fact that she pretended to ransack and find something private about me personally was all because she was on the lookout. Amasawa was wary that the white room students had already done what she feared.

“senpai, oh senpai. I’m sure senpai will be fine, but still, if i’m expelled from school, please consider that something unexpected is going to happen to you as well. “ on her way out, amasawa left the room with those words.

I checked my phone to see if there was anything unusual, and found that i had received a chat from akito.

That was good news for a start. As a member of the group, he might have succeeded in convincing haruka to come to school. The problem is that

the message was not sent in the group chat of the ayanokōji group. After staring at the screen for a while, a new text was sent to me.

The text itself was plain and simple:

[please keep a quiet eye on haruka for a while. ]

the text itself is plain, but the “quiet” part is emphasized.

She’ll go to school, but she doesn’t want to talk to me. If i talk to her carelessly, she might not go to school again. I guess that’s the reason. I have no objection at all if she comes back to school.

[all right. I’ll be very careful. ]

[thank you. I hope you can be friends again. ]

after a little while and after a few encouraging texts from akito, i ended the chat.

“another problem solved… “

however, this fix is not a true solution. It’s better to think of it as just a temporary revival of haruka.

The dizzying few hours were over, and i was feeling a greater fatigue than usual.

“i think i’ll go to bed early today. “

i’ll just have to make sure i remember to take out the trash, however.

4

monday came around again. Saturday was a big day, with mii-chan directly consulting me, and akito indirectly informing me of haruka’s intention to go to school.

Still, there was no guarantee that she would come to school, and it was up to her to decide whether she wanted to or not. As for kushida, i haven’t received a single call from horikita until this morning. Even if she did come to school, there was no telling how she and her classmates would react.

I arrived at school at the same time as usual, and sat down to wait for the three of them to arrive. After about a quarter of the class had arrived at school, i saw the surprised smiles of some of the girls.

Mii-chan walked into the classroom in a reserved manner. “oh, good morning… “

mii-chan, who had come to school prepared to be tormented, looked up fearfully. But her worries vanished into thin air, as the girls immediately welcomed her without mentioning the subject in any way.

“good morning, mii-chan. “ “oh, good morning, hirata-kun. “

and he also welcomes mii-chan back with a smile that hasn’t changed one bit. At this point, i don’t know if there is a way forward for mii-chan’s love life. However, even if it hasn’t started, it certainly hasn’t ended. It is conceivable that there will be a major turning point in their school life in the future.

After that, the girls never left mii-chan, who was still somewhat tense, and they started laughing about what had happened at school last week.

After most of the classmates had arrived at school, haruka showed up at the door. Akito accompanied her to her seat, following her to prevent her from running away, as if she might do so at any moment.

Keisei was a little hesitant, but he made up his mind and walked over to haruka and called out to her. I never thought i’d see the day when i’d be glad i wasn’t around those three people when we switched seats.

Haruka looked at me for a moment, but then quickly looked away and down at her cell phone.

Mii-chan and haruka both came to school. They have friends who support them when they are in pain. For mii-chan, it was many of the girls. For haruka, it was akito and keisei. Even though they aren’t that many, they can be called best friends.

For the moment, it seems that the class has avoided the negative impact we were all fearing.

But what about kushida?

With less than three minutes to go before morning homeroom, a stiff- faced horikita came to school alone. After a quick glance at kushida’s seat, she took her own seat and stared straight at the blackboard.

She was not in the lobby this morning, so i was hoping that she would be there, but i guess she was not. Shinohara and some of the other students must have thought the same thing when they saw horikita. Eventually, the bell rang and it was time for homeroom.

Chabashira-sensei appeared in the classroom, with all the seats filled except kushida’s.

“i see you two are feeling better. It looks like it was a long cold, but you’ll have to take better care of yourselves in the future. “

she scolded them lightly, but confirmed their attendance without strong censure.

“so today’s absence is kushida? I don’t think i’ve heard from her,

so… “

at that moment, i heard the sound of the classroom door being opened. And although she was slightly out of breath, she quickly adjusted

herself.

“i’m sorry, i’m late. “

with a calm voice, kushida made her way into the classroom.

“this is your first time being late, kushida. You’ve been absent for a long time, but is your body okay now? “

“yes. I’ll be more careful next time. “

she replied matter-of-factly, without any panic. Kushida sat down in her seat. She didn’t exchange a word with anyone, but kept her gaze fixed forward.

The classroom became tense at once, but since there was no room for private conversation, silence followed.

“i know a lot has happened, but it’s been a week since we’ve all been together. “

chabashira-sensei nodded in satisfaction, though she could still sense the unstable situation of the class.

“it’s almost time for the sports festival. I expect you to make great strides and perform well. “

after that, homeroom was over and the classroom was suddenly in an uproar. Needless to say, it was due to kushida’s arrival at school.

The students stared at her as if she were a ghost or something. Will she remain silent, or will he put on her usual smile? Or will she bare her fangs again? I quietly pulled out my chair and walked out of the classroom to head down the hallway.

Then i opened the door to the hallway. I didn’t want to accidentally expose my inner thoughts to the rest of the class.

I thought so, but…

“i’m watching you, don’t worry. “

i received such a message on my cell phone. In the corridor, where i only showed my face, chabashira-sensei spotted me and answered with a single nod. After confirming this, i decided to close the door without being noticed. As a teacher, she will do everything she can. I’m sure that’s what chabashira-sensei is following up on.

No one was able to make a move in a situation where anything could have happened.

When horikita was about to pull out her chair, kushida stood up to overtake her. With that one action, she seemed to be threatening to do something unnecessary.

The first thing she did was to go in front of mii-chan, who was also sitting near her. When mii-chan finally came back to class, she stiffened like a frog being stared at by a snake.

“i heard from horikita-san that you were absent because of me. “ “oh, yeah, um… “

“do you hate me now? “ “no, no, it’s not like that… “

“there’s no need for you to like me, wang-san. I can’t change the fact that i revealed your secret in front of everyone, and i don’t intend to get along with you either. I guess i don’t have to tell you this. “

i don’t intend to get along with you. The tone of voice was soft, but the strong words made mii-chan stiffen even more. The eyes of many of the students looking at them showed dissatisfaction, anxiety, and doubt.

Normally that would be painful enough, but it didn’t affect kushida in the slightest.

“i’m not going to ask you to understand how i felt at that time, but i had to do that. I’ll apologize for making you one of the targets. “

she said and bowed deeply. It seems more clerical than a sincere apology, but at least i don’t sense any malice.

“i’m sorry for causing trouble to shinohara-san, matsushita-san, and the others. It looks like you’ve made up for it. “

if you ask me, shinohara, matsushita and the rest of the group are very close. Maybe yōsuke, sudō and the others had been working during this weekend to make things right.

“do you think you can just apologize? “

shinohara’s words were a little harsh, but she was trying to restrain herself.

“i’m sorry, but if i don’t apologize, we can’t move on, can we? “ “what kind of apology is that? “

“i don’t know. But this is the real me. “

this isn’t the false mask that she’s been wearing. That fact alone must have made the whole class nervous.

“in the days to come, i intend to maintain some semblance of appearance as i have in the past, so i can gather information from other classes as the occasion demands. But if anyone in the class wants to interfere with that, that’s fine with me. “

no matter how much kushida tries to arrange things on the outside, if someone on the inside gets in the way of that, the relationship can’t be built.

“i’ll leave it up to you all to decide if you want to use the weapons i’ve built or not. “

if kushida was someone who valued her friends and feared being alone, isolating her would be a way to get back at her. But kushida was not passive, she was on the offensive.

“and i have no mercy for anyone who turns against me. It’s really only a small part of what i exposed in the special exam. I’m sure there are plenty of others who have facts they want to hide, right? “ she muttered nonchalantly, as if threatening the entire class rather than someone in particular.

“but i’ll promise you one thing. I won’t reveal any secrets you have unless you’re trying to trick me. This isn’t for the good of the class, this is for my own good, to graduate from class a. It’s my last line of defense so that i don’t lose my value as a person. “

as long as my classmates resent her, complain about her, and distrust her, depending on the situation, she could be the one to be cut down. So, in order to not let that happen, she will not reveal any more secrets. However, if you stab her in the back, you will not be tolerated. She promised to contribute to the class as soon as she learned how to protect herself.

Kikyou kushida’s abilities are among the top in our class. At least in academic and physical challenges, she would not be a drag.

“hey, hasebe-san, are you okay too? “

she directed her words at haruka, who hadn’t moved from her seat or even looked at her. Haruka didn’t respond and let her gaze drift out the window.

5

my daily life has begun to change drastically in the last week or so. Not once did the ayanokōji group get together, and that didn’t change, or even return, when haruka came to school. With the disappearance of the gathering that had been the norm, the way she spent her time at school was different.

During the ten-minute break, i was usually alone or talking with kei. Occasionally, i’d have a quick chat with classmates like sudō or matsushita, but the chances of talking with akito or keisei were noticeably reduced.

My life was strange at first, but little by little my body began to accept and adapt to it. Lunch break is a similar cycle, but when kei goes out to eat with her friends, i go to the library. It’s the same as before, my own personal repose time.

It’s just a shame that hiyori hasn’t been coming to the library lately and we haven’t been able to talk about books.

And the sequence of events remains the same even after school. Today, kei had told me in advance that she was going home to hang out with her friends, so i didn’t have any special plans.

I decided to go back to the dormitory as soon as possible, as staying behind would be a mental burden for haruka. However, something unexpected occurred.

“kiyopon, do you have some time now? “

haruka, who i thought would never come into contact with me, approached me as i went out into the hallway to leave.

Her voice was filled with a sense of urgency.

Perhaps the purpose of her coming to school after a week was to make contact in public.

Without looking back to check her expression, i answered that i did. “i’ll make time if i have to. “

i tried to give off the vibe that i had plans, so i could find her true reason for asking.

“then make time. Okay? “

she didn’t seem to shy away from asking me forcibly.

“i’ve already talked to horikita-san. I’ll wait for you at the cafe in the keyaki mall first. “ that’s all she said, and haruka left the classroom.

Shortly after, akito followed haruka and came towards me. “so she came to school to talk to me? “

“i don’t know… I’ve never heard of it either. So i don’t know what we’re going to talk about. But i don’t think i can take your side in this situation. “

akito apologized, but he would rather not take mine or haruka’s side. “that’s fine. “

after a brief conversation that didn’t raise any suspicions, akito and then keisei also left the classroom.

It seems that she’s gathered all the members of ayanokōji group, and even called horikita there as well.

Of course, it had to be about airi’s expulsion. Horikita came up to me as the three of them left.

“i tried to make sure it was just me she called out, but she wouldn’t listen to me saying that you definitely need to be there. “

she seemed concerned and tried to solve the problem alone, but this time, circumstances were what they were.

The two of us left the classroom together and headed to the café.

I decided to confirm what i had been wondering about before we got into the heavy stuff.

“it looks like you succeeded in bringing kushida back to school. I’m honestly impressed. “

“well, she’s officially back. But there are still many uncertainties. It’s not going to be the same as before. “

“still, you can’t ask for much more than that right now. “

although kushida’s tone of voice had changed drastically, she came back with an answer that was close to the best for the class. I’m sure that horikita’s advice helped her to come to that conclusion.

Fortunately, the leaks to the other classes have been minimal. Even if it does eventually become known, it is likely that by then some time will have passed and the severity will have faded away.

“how did you convince her? I don’t think you’ve been straightforward with just a good suggestion. “

even if the final landing point is today’s statement, there must have been many twists and turns to get there. I was more interested in that than the current situation, but horikita’s expression was complicated.

“i’m too mature to do something so childish as to bribe her or something. But i’ve done more than i’d like to say. “

from the way she avoided talking about specifics, she must have done something she really didn’t want to talk about. She didn’t seem likely to answer if i pursued it too deeply, so i had no choice but to give up.

“but considering the person i’m talking to, i might have made the right choice. “ she replied, lightly stroking her cheek with her left hand, as if remembering the details. “anyway, it took a week, but we managed to get the whole class together. “

“come to think of it, the girls’ troubles have calmed down as well. “ i had told yōsuke to rely on horikita, so she was definitely involved. “shinohara and the others’ case was initiated by hirata-kun, and we

gathered at keyaki mall on sunday. “ “you were also present? “

“i was. On top of that, we agreed to let bygones be bygones regarding the exposed secrets. Shinohara-san was protesting strongly for a while, but ike-kun appeased her, and that was a big thing. “ she replied with a bare face, like it didn’t mean much.

The way horikita was talking, it was clear that ike had played the role of boyfriend.

“so many different students are growing up without even knowing it. “ “you don’t seem happy about that. “

“i’m happy for them, you know. It’s just that it makes me look relatively pathetic. I get… Anxious about whether i’m growing or not. “

it is easy to evaluate others, but difficult to grade oneself. If you want to be lenient, you can be as lenient as you want, and if you want to be strict, you can be strict.

“i’m sure a third party will eventually give you an answer. “ “sure. “

she needs to focus on getting the class back on track first. Her own reputation will follow on its own after that.

“i heard that you were the one who helped wang-san, she was one i couldn’t reach. Thank you. “

“i was just giving her some advice. Even if i hadn’t done anything, someone would have rescued her eventually. “

“you helped me get back on my feet as soon as possible. I feel like i’ve been confronted with the fact that i can’t do anything on my own. “

she speaks in a rather light tone, even though she would normally be depressed.

“oh, that’s right. I’d like to ask you to give a message to the student council president, nagumo. “

“a message? You seem to be acting like a messenger these days. What

is it? “

out. “

“he said that he’s open to suggestions, otherwise to accept the offer.. “ “take the offer? “

“i don’t know, kiyotaka-kun. I was just instructed to tell you. “ “fine. I’ll go to the student council room later, and i’ll figure things

this sports festival. I still haven’t decided if i want to participate or not.

But now that the deadline is a week away, i guess i’ll just have to say yes.

I’m sure nagumo would mind if i don’t compete with him in some way sooner or later.

“now it’s just a matter of hasebe-san. I honestly can’t read too much into what she’s going to say. “

“judging from the way she’s been acting all day, i wouldn’t be surprised if some rude words came out of her mouth. “

“just don’t be caught off guard. “

mii-chan and kushida came to school after overcoming their assignments. But the waves would be different for haruka.

It is highly likely that she will now stand in the way as an obstacle. “while i was waiting to meet kushida-san, i also lightly felt miyake- kun and yukimura-kun a few times. “

i didn’t realize that she was paying attention not only to shinohara and the others, but to the ayanokōji group as well.

“hasebe-san was the one who had the hardest time with the special exam. Following you is inevitable. “

still, the expression on horikita’s face as she walked beside me didn’t clear up, probably because she hadn’t achieved much at all.

“the only time i’ve talked to her was when she showed up at my door, but she didn’t tell me anything. Miyake-kun told me to leave her alone, so i decided to give her a week. “

so that’s what happened today. I guess horikita didn’t expect haruka to come to school.

“either way, akito-kun was able to bring her to school today so i suppose something should work out. “

“i hope that’s the case, but… That might not be true. “

since the two of us were summoned in this way, it is normal to think that something is going on.

It’s not like she’s going to be working hard again from now on.

“i’m the one who nominated airi for expulsion at that moment, and i’m the one who pushed her into it. All you have to do is listen to what i have to say. “

“that’s not how it works. I was of the same opinion, so i’m equally responsible. No, it’s all because i made a promise that i failed to keep. I have to take it all in. “

she seems to have more room in your heart now than she did then, but i’d be worried about her getting too worked up.

“it’s important to take care of haruka, but you also need to shift your mind towards the sports festival. “

we’ve already spent a week trying to resolve our class issues. In the meantime, as long as we’re starting to focus on class a and our efforts to win, we can’t afford to miss the boat on this one either.

“right. Of course, we’re thinking hard about how we’re going to compete in the sports festival. I think we’ve got some ideas of what we’re going to do. “

while backing up kushida, shinohara, and the others, she seems to be on top of that as well.

“then let’s hear it. What’s the goal for the sports festival? “ i asked horikita about her goals in order to succeed.

“i’ll go for first places, naturally. No, i will definitely take first place, i have to. “

confidence peeked out from horikita’s profile as she stared ahead.

“there’s nothing wrong with setting high goals. We’ve got some strong students in our class, and we’re not going to lose to anyone else. So, do you have a strategy in mind? It includes a battle of all the grades, but the focus will basically be on fighting for overall points in the same grade. Sakayanagi and ryūen can come up with strategies that you wouldn’t expect. “

“the rule is that if you finish with less than five events, you forfeit all your points. If it’s ryūen-kun, he could feign an accident during the competition and try to injure you and get you to leave the competition. “

it’s not surprising that ryūen would try to use such a method, as he did last year when horikita was targeted. If it was sakayanagi, she would look at the participants of the competition and guide her classmates to the best possible outcome.

“against all odds, what moves are you going to use? “

“basically a straightforward one. Have sudō-kun and onodera-san ramp up the scoring, and then use students like kushida-san and myself to score points. We’ll just do what we need to do to win. “

“if we can win with that, though, we won’t have any trouble. There’s also the handicap of having thirty-eight people in the class. “

horikita nodded immediately. She had expected that response from the

start.

“that’s why i’ve decided to take one risk. I’m preparing for it now. “ “risk? “

“i was wondering if you could join me tomorrow after school to talk

about the specifics. “

“you mean you need my help? “

“no, i don’t. Just stay with me and listen to what i have to say. And finally, i just want you to give me an objective answer as to whether or not it’s worth the risk. “

“are you sure that’s all you want? “

“i don’t need you to keep spoiling me with solutions, it’s fine. “

she doesn’t need advice or suggestions because she already has some idea of what she wants. If that’s the case, i’ll just wait and see what horikita thinks of her strategy for the sports festival.

“alright. I’ll let you know tomorrow after school. “

when we eventually arrived at the café, the three members of ayanokōji group were seated and waiting for us.

Table.

There was no sign of chit-chat, and three drinks were placed on the

as long as you’re using a restaurant, it’s common courtesy to at least

order one drink. As soon as we arrived, haruka said and urged us to sit on the two empty seats. We individually chose our drinks at random and then started to take our seats.

“it seems like you wanted to talk to me a few times while i was resting, so i thought i’d ask you about it. “

haruka cut to the chase nonchalantly without looking at either horikita or myself

it seems like both of them wanted to ask questions, but right now horikita was on the stand.

“well, the problem has sort of been solved. You were out of the school, now you’re back. “

“you mean you were worried because you might lose your reputation in class. “

“of course, that’s not the only reason, there’s a good reason why you missed a week. Don’t you think? “

“i’m not feeling well. That’s what i told the school, so there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Miyake told me that there might be a penalty if i miss another week, so that’s why i came to school today. “

what’s wrong with that? Without showing any joy, anger, or sorrow, haruka answers calmly.

“indeed. But the reason you were absent wasn’t because you were just sick, right? “

“how can you be so sure it was? It could have just been purely physical. “ without denying it, haruka took a sip from her cup.

Whether the absence was due to health problems or not, that was just the preliminary stage of the problem.

No matter how horikita answered, haruka would never be satisfied. “i know you’re doubting me, but it’s true that i’ve been sick. It wasn’t

sickness. I just had a hard time mentally, i couldn’t sleep, and because i was so stressed and tired i just couldn’t find the strength to come to school. “

akito and keisei seemed to be listening calmly, but that was not the case. They understand that although they are suffering as well, their suffering

is far from haruka’s.

So thhe can only listen in silence.

“why don’t you stop playing with lame words and say what you want to say? “

rather than resorting to subterfuge, horikita takes a strong stance. That attitude usually has the opposite effect, but haruka is unfazed.

It’s as if she has kept his emotions bottled up deep inside. That’s the impression i get from her.

By her side, horikita felt the same thing, which is probably why she used excessive expressions.

“are you satisfied with the fact that you got more class points from the special exam? “ haruka coldly asked horikita.

“i’m not satisfied, no. There’s still over five hundred points separating us from class a. Besides, if possible, it would have been ideal to aim for class a without missing anyone, which was the goal. But there’s no point in talking about it now, is there? “

no one wants to drop out of school. Only appointed airi for a compelling reason.

I’ve already had that validation.

“my best friend was a victim of horikita-san’s selfish decision. Are you aware of that? “

for the first time today, the words that haruka wanted to say come spilling out.

It’s been more than a week since the special exam ended, and horikita has been fighting against her own judgment.

You don’t have to ask her that directly, but you can tell by watching her every day.

But such things have nothing to do with haruka.

She wont forgive her because she is working hard or if she gets results. “you’re a great leader. You don’t care what it takes to get your class to

win. “

“i’m not there yet. “

“you know i hate you and detest you, right? “ “of course, i know. “

“where’s your promise to cut off the students who were the traitors? “

“i’m afraid i didn’t look far enough ahead on that one. But since we can’t pretend that the special exam the other day didn’t happen, we’ll just have to make use of it next time. “

“there are some mistakes that can’t be forgiven. “ “i won’t deny that either. You’re right. “

“kiyopon… Do you think it was the right decision to leave kushida-san in the school? “

“i decided it was the right thing to do, so i left her, ready to face the backlash. I guess i’ll have to repeat myself. “

“ah, yes. “

horikita didn’t show any change in her composure, and her speech intensified slightly.

“i’m not going to make a lame apology. No matter how much you argue with me, the fact is that i changed my mind and decided that kushida- san should stay. It’s natural for you to hold a grudge, and you may suffer a painful reprisal someday. But i decided that the person who could be a more valuable asset to the class was kushida-san. I’m slowly becoming more and more convinced of that. “

00014.jpeg

“even if kushida-san was brilliant, there were others who were incompetent. It didn’t have to be… Her. “

there were other people to cut.

With horikita in front of her, who couldn’t come to such a conclusion, haruka continued.

“i don’t approve. No matter how many people recognize horikita-san in the future, i will never recognize her. “

saving her emotions as much as she can, haruka shows no signs of trying to forgive.

“i guess i’ll just have to try harder to get you to admit it. “ “i told you i won’t approve. “

“i’m responsible for sakura-san’s expulsion. I won’t deny it. I can’t deny it. But that doesn’t mean i should go about reprimanding it to everyone who’s affected. Are you now asking me to expel you from school or something to make you feel better? “

it’s not like that would bring airi back. The 100 class points she had sacrificed for the class would be wiped out by that act.

“or do you want me to get down on my knees? Would that make you feel better? “

bullheadedness. A competitive spirit. That’s what it looks like, but it’s not. Horikita is suffering. She’s suffering, but she’s facing haruka with an air of defiance.

As i sat next to her, i was able to peek into the true meaning of her wavering eyes.

“give me back airi. “

“i can’t meet your demands if you ask me to do something i can’t…

Do. “

“that’s all i want. I don’t care about class, i really don’t care. “

she grabbed a few strands of her own hair and tore them out as hard as

she could.

“i made the wrong decision back then. “

“if you were frustrated, maybe you should have fought. “ immediately after those almost provocative words were released, horikita followed up with more. “but it’s useless. Even if you had fought, there would have been nothing you could have done to resist. “

“that’s true. You’re right, there’s nothing i could have done. Kiyopon used airi’s feelings to push her into a corner without mercy. No normal person could have done something like that. “

this was the first time she looked at me with contempt.

But she didn’t seem to want to talk to me, so she turned her attention back to horikita.

“is kushida-san really going to act for the classe’s sake? She could betray us. “

“i’m sure i’ll regret it if kushida-san drags the class down in the future. “

indeed, kushida wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to be useful to the class.

If horikita made a mistake in steering the ship in the future, there might come a day when she would regret her choice to cut airi.

“but even if i were to go back in time with my current memories, i’m sure what i would do would not change much. I’d repeat my decision to bail out kushida-san and choose sakura-san as my victim. The only difference is that i won’t make anymore wild promises. “

she reiterates that she will not change her conclusion. “why not. Kiyopon… Did airi ever do to you… ? “

horikita would have answered even if i hadn’t said anything, but here i decided to speak my mind.

“it’s a matter of perspective. This incident has been a strong stimulus for the students whose names are in the lower ranks of the oaa. If we continue to stay low, i might be the next one to be expelled. I think it’s a plus just because i now have a strong sense of such danger. “

because that was also my role in naming airi.

“you sound like ryūen, cutting off people who aren’t good enough? “ “i suppose so. I don’t know what kind of policy ryūenis following

right now, but it’s true that it’s almost autocratic system. Up until now, the class policy has been too vague and lax. “

“it kind of reminds me of when i first started school. It’s just like when we were selfish and had no cohesion whatsoever. “

she may believe it’s simialr but it’s not the same thing.

“the situation is different from that time. Preventing damage that doesn’t need to be released is a necessity, but minimizing the damage that needs to be released is what we did this time. “

“but… ! “

here, for the first time, haruka raised her voice.

“it’s kushida, but horikita came to that conclusion because she felt that the effect she would get when she became an ally had the potential to be far, far greater than airi. And because i could see that future as well, i respected horikita’s opinion and decided to give her a helping hand. “

basically, there is no such thing as a definite future. We can only imagine and act to grasp the future we see. People are not all-powerful.

“airi is gone, but when i notice, the class is back to its usual routine. “ “i understand your frustration, but did you feel the same way about

yamauchi-kun? “

“that guy got what he deserved. This is a different case. “ “it’s the same. You’re just angry at your friends sacrifice. “ “what’s wrong with that? “

there was no clear goal to this discussion.

Strictly speaking, there is no solution other than for haruka to snap. “i can’t accept such a reality. I can’t accept it. “

and if haruka doesn’t break, then there’s a big problem waiting for

her.

“kushida-san may indeed have been a threat. Maybe she’s ostensibly

reformed now and is going to act for the good of the class from now on. But do you think i’m going to take that seriously and cooperate? “

“yeah… When you took a week off, i felt it was going to be a longer lasting problem than anyone else. “

horikita said that while kushida needed to be dealt with quickly, haruka was prepared for the long haul.

Having lost airi in the exam, haruka was not afraid now.

“but you came to school. If you just wanted to talk to us, you can do it even if you’re still not going to school. Isn’t that right? “

i was grateful for the faint hope that haruka had submitted herself to come to school.

However, the world is not so naive.

“i just came here because i don’t have an answer yet. “ “answer? “

“i came to school to look for the answer that i couldn’t see when i was locked in my room. “

akito and keisei heard those words, and their eyes fell down. “i’m looking for the answer to how i can get back at horikita and

kiyopon. “

haruka said coldly, the coldest she had ever said.

The words that escaped from her slightly dry lips were different in nature from any kind of threat or bluff.

“you’re serious, aren’t you? “

horikita was also reminded of the weight of those words.

“because that’s what i wanted to tell you today. I’m going to make sure you regret expelling airi. “

without even touching her own drink, haruka left her seat. Akito followed behind her.

It was not only horikita who looked away in dismay, but also keisei. “i don’t think horikita or haruka are wrong. It’s a sly way to put it, but

that’s what i really feel. At the end of the day, i’m fundamentally of the mindset that as long as i can save myself, that’s all that matters. “

as if keisei is ashamed of himself, he still comes to tell the truth without hiding it.

“it’s the same for everyone. It’s not strange that you want to save yourself. “

“that’s why i can’t understand what haruka is feeling right now. But that doesn’t mean i think i have the right to tell her to stop. Even if it’s to prevent trouble for the class. “

he tapped the table with his fist forcefully, and keisei also left his seat. “the group is already half destroyed. Still, i’ll be useful to the class as i

am. As long as i can’t play an active role in the sports festival, i’ll study harder and contribute to the class. If i don’t do that, there’s a… Virtually no chance that i’ll be cut. “

even though he is good at studying, keisei is lagging behind in terms of athleticism and social contribution.

When it comes to the number of friends he has, it’s clear that he’s at a particular disadvantage.

Written on March 5, 2022