Y2 Vol 6 English Chap 4

Chapter Four: Agreement

I came to hear the rest of yesterday’s story at a karaoke bar in the Keyaki Mall. Indeed, this is one of the best places to have a private conversation except for the dormitory. When I stepped into the room, there was no one in sight except for me and Horikita.

“If we’re just going to talk, we don’t have to come all the way to the karaoke bar, do we?”

Since we have a history of going into each other’s rooms, we have no problem talking to each other in one of our rooms.

In other words, the fact that she chose this location means that there are going to be other people joining us. I don’t go too deep and just leave it to Horikita’s initiative.

“We have a little time before our scheduled time, so... do you want to sing something?” She takes the microphone that was on the table and holds it out to me.

“No, I’ll pass. Why don’t you sing, Horikita? I’ll at least give you a hand to go with it.”

“No.”

Immediate denial. You encourage people to do things you don’t want to

do...

“I’m studying.” Saying so, she silently took out her notebook and took

out her own reference book and began to study.

At school, tablets and other equipment are now used in many of the classes, but I guess independent study is still easier to learn by directly opening a book and notebook.

The room is quite quiet when no songs are playing. The strange atmosphere was caused by the odd and bizarre exchange, but I decided to sit quietly on the sofa and wait for the time to come.

It was after 5:10 p.m.

Horikita, who had been checking the time on her cell phone every few minutes since before 5:00, looked up with a sigh.

“I’m sorry. This may turn out to be a longer game than I thought.”

I didn’t ask who she was meeting with, but I can assume that they were confirmed to come late, although the meeting time was 5:00. The lack of communication suggests that there are compelling reasons for the delay, that the person is a bit loose, or that the person is late on purpose.

I thought of various students and repeatedly checked them off, then waited for about 15 minutes.

The door to the room, which had not moved an inch for a while, was slowly opened by an outsider. The person who appeared there was... someone I had not expected. The first year D class student, Katsuragi Kōhei.

At first glance, he seemed to be a stickler for punctuality, but I was surprised.

“Sorry I’m late.”

“No, I don’t mind. You must have gone through a lot of trouble yourself, Katsuragi.”

“Somewhat...”

Muttering this, Katsuragi urged the figure lurking behind him to enter the room. Another person appears.

“Yo, Suzune, I appreciate that you want to have a date with me, but it looks like you have a lot of extra people.”

It was Ryūen Kakeru, the man who pulled Katsuragi, once the leader of Class A, out of his own class.

“Even if I met with you alone, it would be difficult to have a constructive conversation.”

Despite his wry smile, Ryūen shows no sign of relaxing his keen observation of Horikita.

With the Kushida incident settled and the distractions removed, Horikita has regained her conventional composure, and since there has been little direct interaction since moving up to second grade, it is not surprising that he senses a change in Horikita even at this stage.

“I wonder if you were intentionally late and trying to take mental advantage?”

“I wonder, I wonder.”

Even before they came together, they have already begun to explore each other, to check each other, to fight each other.

I can only assume that Ryūen’s side has not yet been told the reason why they were summoned here.

“You have something to tell us... let’s hear the details.”

“Can you have a seat? I wouldn’t bother to call you out if it was something that would take a minute or two.”

Ryūen gave me a quick glance, but sat down proudly on the sofa, grabbed the charging tablet and began to operate it, completing his order in a familiar manner, and then tossing it messily onto the table. Horikita, seeing this, reaches for the tablet and picks it up.

“Katsuragi-kun, what will you be having?” “Can I have some oolong tea, please?”

After listening to his wishes and completing the order on the tablet, she carefully returned it to the charging position.

“I’ll tell you why I called you here...”

She was about to start, but Ryūen stopped her with a hand, as if to discourage her from starting.

“Before that, I wanted to ask you something. How does it feel to get class points for cutting off someone who is slowing you down? Does it feel good?”

He asks in a matter-of-fact way what might be damaging to us. It would also be a way of trying to gain the upper hand in a situation where he doesn’t even know what we are going to say yet. I have no doubt that Ryūen is using his underlings to get to the bottom of the situation.

It was a trick based on the assumption that the internal affairs problem had not been cleared up, but Horikita beside him was unmoved.

“It’s certainly true that the issue didn’t erupt. But too bad, it won’t turn out the way you want it to. Most of the big problems have already been resolved.”

That’s a lie. At least the wave regarding the Kushida issue has subsided, but it is uncertain when the bomb will explode.

“You’re pretty brazen for a liar, aren’t you?”

In the sense of playing coy, Ryūen also asserts that it is a lie, but Horikita does not care.

“If you think I’m lying, do what you want. You’re not the kind of person who easily believes anything I say in the first place, isn’t that right?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I trust you more than you think, huh?” “It’s not funny, whether you mean it or whether you’re joking.” Horikita dodges provocation.

her.

Katsuragi slowly crosses his arms, looking at Horikita as if analyzing

“What was the matter with you? I thought you were going to expel

someone.”

“Aren’t you worried about not having your friends around? Because you’re probably the only one who made the wrong choice.”

Three out of four classes protected their classmates.

He tries to create the impression that it was only Horikita who committed the atrocious, negligent mistake.

“It’s too bad we were the only ones who chose the right answer, because we did get a step ahead in the Class A competition.”

“That’s enough for the moment.”

As Katsuragi restrained Ryūen, there was a light knock at the door of the room. The waiter showed up and brought out the oolong tea and orange juice that Katsuragi had ordered. The drinks were placed in front of Ryūen. Horikita and Katsuragi’s gazes were caught by the discomfort of the combination. Incidentally, so did I. Ryūen and orange juice... don’t match each other.

What is the meaning of this call? While everyone was poking around in their minds, Katsuragi encouraged Horikita to start the conversation.

Horikita nodded, then began to speak, looking at Ryūen and Katsuragi respectively.

“In order to defeat Sakayanagi’s class, I propose a cooperative relationship at the next sports festival.”

Katsuragi reacts with a slight shoulder reaction, indicating surprise.

Immediately after, he returned to his usual demeanor and asked a question.

“What do you mean by... cooperative relationship?”

Cooperation, however, can vary greatly depending on how it is perceived.

It is only natural that he would want to hear the details, but he had no intention of denying the proposal carelessly. Ryūen, on the other hand, was not surprised, nor did he seem impressed. He was just observing with a smirk on his face.

“This special test has aspects of both competition among all students and by grade. I’m trying to make the most of a system that allows you to score equally if you win a group competition played by multiple people.”

“Why our class? Do you mind if I ask why?”

The class leader, Ryūen, is all ears, and isn’t making a move to interrupt at all.

“First of all, it goes without saying that Class A is out of the question.

It’s not worth it if we’re giving points to the target class that we should be catching up with. The two choices that remain are Ichinose’s class or Ryūen- kun and Katsuragi-kun’s class. I would say that Ichinose-san is the most trustworthy, but it’s hard to say that many of her students have excellent physical abilities.

“So you’re saying you chose us by process of elimination.”

“If it were a simple process of elimination, I wouldn’t have teamed up with any class in the first place. The one person I don’t trust more than Sakayanagi is you, Ryūen-kun.”

It would certainly not be an easy partner to team up with. As if sympathizing, Katsuragi also nodded deeply.

“Indeed. Even I, who has become a member of the class, think so.

There is no one I am more afraid to entrust my back to. Then why did you take such a big risk to propose a cooperative relationship?”

“Of course it’s about winning; we can’t win without stopping Class A’s solo run.”

“But what’s the point if those expectations are subverted? This man will go to any lengths because that is the type of person he is. I know this because I’ve been there myself. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

He expresses harsh opinions about his classmates to the extent that he does not seem to be the chief strategist of Ryūen’s class. If we join forces improperly, we will be swallowed up by Ryūen’s class, rather than beating Class A.

He warns us of the dangers.

“In today’s discussion, I wasn’t going to cut to the chase straight away. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t trust someone who is late nonchalantly. However, I changed my mind when I saw Katsuragi-kun apologizing for being late. At least I can trust you.”

“You are very naive. Don’t you think this attitude of mine is also a ploy by Ryūen?”

“If I can’t seem to see past the trustworthiness, then sooner or later I’m just going to get swallowed up.”

This is probably the best bet for Horikita here.

If you put Ryūen and Katsuragi side by side, Katsuragi would appear to be a relatively sensible and good person.

But if Ryūen has already come here with a plan in mind, Katsuragi has no choice but to accept it.

“You look a little different from before, Horikita. You’re growing up.”

Katsuragi senses a change in Horikita, a growth, and is once again ready to resume the conversation.

“I understand your side of the story. Let me give you my personal view from here.”

Daring to add ‘personal,’ he states that Ryūen’s intentions and thoughts are not taken into account at all.

“I had also envisioned a plan to join forces with your class this time and take down Class A.”

“You want this too?”

“Yes. Your class has talented players beyond our grade level, such as Sudō and Kœenji, who are at the top of the physical ability and athletic depth in the four classes of the second year. There is no need to worry about them being dragged down by their peers. You’re not someone we can trust unconditionally, but we’re also not a class you can easily betray, which isn’t a bad factor either.”

Next to Katsuragi, Ryūen’s eyes turn to me, but his mouth remains closed.

Until now, Ryūen has always taken the lead in dialogue, as no one else was available to conduct negotiations. However, with the addition of Katsuragi, the need for this has diminished and the option to wait and see has been created. This is a very big positive factor.

It is eerie not knowing what Ryūen will think and what he will propose and when.

While it is easy to talk to Katsuragi, Horikita is probably becoming more aware of such concerns.

But it is a path that cannot be avoided if discussions are to be brought up regularly over the next 18 months.

“But in practice, it was 50/50 whether Ryūen would approach with a proposal for cooperation.”

It has been more than a week since the details of the sports festival were announced. If they were to move on the basis of cooperation, it would not be surprising if such talk had already reached the ears of Horikita. In other words, the other half of Katsuragi’s priority was not to join hands.

“When it comes to co-operation, we will naturally have to secure first and second place in our class. When that happens, inevitably the overall strength of the class is what decides the winner. If we just look at simple probabilities, we are willing to accept the possibility that Horikita’s class will come first and ours will come second.”

Outsmarting Sakayanagi and Ichinose classes by cooperating with each other is in effect creating a Horikita class versus Ryūen class scenario.

That is why Katsuragi answered that it was 50-50; because he could foresee it.

Even with the talkative Katsuragi, it doesn’t mean he’ll give his approval to a co-operative relationship in two words. Negotiations with Ryūen can only begin if the hurdles in front of us are overcome.

What will Horikita do?

“So our class is seen as a threat to you.”

“Of course, things are very different from a year ago. Unlike a year ago, when you were being ridiculed as a bunch of defectives, you are now in Class B. And that’s after once dropping to zero class points. Most recently, in addition to Kōenji’s solo victory in the deserted island test, you made the harsh choice to cut off one of your classmates in the unanimous special test and earned 100 points. There is no doubt that you are undeniably strong opponents.”

“It’s not my achievement, but I don’t feel bad that you rate me that way. But if we don’t co-operate and we go to the sports festival separately, the worst case scenario is that Sakayanagi-san’s class will win first place. The important thing is to defeat Sakayanagi-san’s class. Am I wrong?”

“Indeed. That is also true. Ryūen, what do you think?”

Here, for the first time, Katsuragi asked Ryūen for his opinion.

“If you want my help, you’ll give me something in return, yeah?”

“I wonder if you’ve misunderstood something. It is true that I was the one who suggested the idea, but that doesn’t mean I have to pay for it.

Rather, you should understand that you are in a position where you can enter into a cooperative relationship with the class of first-place candidates.”

“Don’t make me laugh. I’m in a position where I could win without your help, but if you ask me to help you, I have no choice but to lend you a hand? If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

“Do you know how to get home? Go out that door, turn left and you’ll be heading the right way.”

Without needing to consider any kind of concession, Horikita urges Ryūen and Katsuragi to leave.

This attitude is the essence of bargaining, but at the same time, there is an atmosphere from Horikita that she is not betting everything on this

strategy. In other words, negotiations will break down when Ryūen leaves the table. The proposal to defeat Sakayanagi together will stand.

The position is then reversed if Ryūen again says it is willing to join forces.

“You’ve got some balls for a bluff.”

“What are you saying? As Katsuragi-kun said, our class is a reasonably competent class in the sports festival. Do you think you can beat Sudō-kun

and Kōenji-kun in a head-to-head competition?”

“Maybe if we faced it head-on and honestly you’d pull ahead. But there are so many ways to go about it, you know? You haven’t forgotten what happened last year, have you?”

The very trick of staging an accident, which we fear is exactly what will happen.

It is clear that the statement reeks of this.

“This year there will be a guest of honor, and the rules of the sports festival, by their very nature, will be closely monitored. Let’s see how sneaky you can be this time.”

“There are plenty of blind spots. And it isn’t only limited to during competitions.”

This means places that are unsupervised, such as changing rooms and toilets.

Undiscouraged, Horikita slammed the notebook shut.

“Ayanokōji-kun. Thank you for accompanying me today. It seems that this case is too risky for me to question your judgment. I think I’ll call it a night here.”

“If you’re okay with that, then there’s no problem.”

That’s where Horikita left it and started to put the notebook away. Ryūen saw this and made no response, but Katsuragi made a move.

“Ryūen. Apparently, Horikita is even more different than we imagined so far. If we don’t get to the negotiating table properly, it’s us who will be cut off.”

Having calmly analyzed the situation, Katsuragi turns his gaze once again to Horikita.

“You didn’t approach me because you prioritized the disadvantages of joining forces, did you?”

“We never suggested it. But if Horikita had talked to us, the situation would have changed. Besides, I had a feeling that it would exceed my expectations.”

The updated data they attained has resulted in a slight increase in Horikita’s class’ evaluation.

In other words, the class was re-evaluated to one that was suitable for cooperation.

“I’m bluffing, but that’s all fake from my point of view. It’s natural to try to spin things to your advantage. I’ve become a bit more articulate, but the only reason it seems to be working is because Ayanokōji is by my side.”

After she said so, Ryūen picked up a glass filled to the brim with orange juice in front of him, and without hesitation, aimed it at me and splashed all of its contents. I immediately evaded the attack by sidestepping from my seated position and avoided being hit. A large yellow stain spreads and fragrances the place where I had been sitting until just before.

“You’ve noticed how crazy this guy is, haven’t you? I wonder if you could have dodged that one?”

“I don’t think... I could have.”

“Yeah. A normal person would be soaking wet before they could even react. Most people can’t avoid it, but this one just looks at you like he’s a normal person.”

“It’s a hell of a reflex, sure, but... what does that have to do with this discussion?”

“Don’t you get it? Ayanokōji is your potential spearhead. It’s no wonder you’ve got a big mouth when you’re showing off her gun to an unarmed opponent.

“Did you go out of your way to ask for orange juice to try that? Give me a break.”

I also thought it was odd, but he’s the guy who does the most outrageous things.

It was right to remain conscious of the untouched drink.

“Why did you dodge? If you had taken it all from the front, we could have silenced his retort.”

“Don’t say anything nonsensical. I don’t want to be covered in juice.” It smells awful, it’s sticky and it doesn’t come off. It is a hassle to deal

with.

If this had been oolong tea, I could have perhaps been tolerant.

Orange juice is probably one of the best drinks to spray on someone for

harassment.

“If you want to negotiate straight, first remove Ayanokōji from the room. Then we can talk.”

Offer to continue negotiations on condition that I am removed from the scene.

“That sounds like something you’d say. But I’m going to have to decline. He’s my classmate. He has the right to be present and I asked him to be present. I don’t see what’s wrong with using the weapons you have to negotiate.”

“You’ve really got some nerve. Above all, you’re also coming up with ideas that you haven’t had before.”

Another thought was that Horikita has obtained information about Ryūen and I without our knowledge. Ryūen also sensed this.

The extent is unknown, but it would not be surprising if she heard about the rooftop incident involving Kei.

Horikita told me that she does not need to help and only needs me to be present from the beginning. I can’t complain because she is just using me while keeping her promise.

“My class, which is in an advantageous position, is offering to enter into a cooperation. If that doesn’t convince you, then you can pretend that this whole thing never really happened.”

Ryūen will never cooperate with Sakayanagi. Even if they approached Ichinose, it is unclear how much helpful power they would be able to obtain. A wrong decision here will inevitably have an impact on the future for

Ryūen. It is even possible, although unlikely, that a Horikita-Sakayanagi coalition could be formed.

This is because it is not a bad outcome if Horikita’s class comes first and Sakayanagi’s class comes second in the results.

But allowing this to happen would make it more difficult to pursue Sakayanagi.

“Depending on the discussion, I would be willing to join forces with your class. Now, may I hear your response, take it or leave it?”

The next response was left to the leader, Ryūen, rather than Katsuragi. After a few seconds of silence, Ryūen makes a decision.

“Fine, I’ll take you up on that offer.” He replied, but Ryūen’s words did not stop there. “But I will put a condition. Because the relationship between us should be stronger and more equal. If either my class or yours, in no particular order, achieves the goal of first or second place, there will be a

100-point difference in class points earned. To make up the difference, the one who takes first place will compensate the other with private points, which will be awarded by March 1, before graduation. Add that commitment.”

He is trying to do the same thing as last year’s uninhabited island test when Ryūen signed a contract with Kasturagi for private points.

If one side gets more class points, the difference should be made up with private points.

Ryūen must be aware that he is at a disadvantage. He knows this and is trying to emphasize it to get an added advantage, but Horikita also notices this.

“Surely those terms themselves are equal. But I refuse. It is a serious competition as to who will take first or second place. We will only settle it after a fair fight.”

If they were equal, with or without conditions, there would be no conditions as long as they were judged to have a good chance of winning.

“Kuku. I’m not going to let you suck me dry so easily, am I? But that doesn’t make it any better for us.”

“It is difficult to extract consensus from Horikita. I think we’re about to tie our hands on a firm deal.”

Katsuragi shows a flexible attitude toward Ryūen, who is not yet ready to formally sign a contract.

“That’s not enough. If you’re going to ask me to help you, you’re going to have to show me more sincerity.”

“Sincerity? Isn’t it the same for me? If the strategy brings us to the top of the table and brings Sakasakayanagi’s Class A to the bottom, it will be minus 150 points. There is plenty of room to consider this strategy of tying hands. But, we’re taking a risk here, too.”

As if to rebut, Horikita continues.

“The doubt that has been swirling around me all along. It’s whether or not I can trust you guys. If you focus your main forces on team competitions in order to form strong team, it is inevitable that the individual competitions will be neglected.”

It is quite possible that Ryūen will instruct his class to betray and cut corners in the competition, or even not show up for the promised competition in the first place.

It is doubtful that all the competitions will be monitored, as Horikita and other leaders will be at the mercy of the competitions on the day of the event.

They cannot bring in cell phones or other devices, so they cannot coordinate from afar.

“Trusting you, who is untrustworthy. Taking that risk is the maximum concession and cooperation we can offer. We will not concede a single millimeter more.”

This is all a bit of an earful for Ryūen.

Even if there is an attractive competitive force in the class, Ryūen cannot be trusted, and that is the basic premise of the project.

Horikita accepts that, so she tells them to shut up and cooperate.

“It’s a good argument. I didn’t trust you the way you did. I guess we’ll just have to accept it here.”

“I never wanted you to trust me.”

While laughing it off, Ryūen still relaxed his shoulders, as if he was convinced by Horikita’s words.

“Can you really trust me?”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I’ll take your word for it, a handy phrase invented by our forefathers.”

It is difficult to be in your element if you form a coalition with doubt.

In some cases, they will turn their attention more to their backs than to fighting their enemies.

“I don’t approve of everything you say, but one thing is for sure, it’s not a good idea to keep letting the Sakayanagi class take the lead.”

To Ryūen’s remark, both Katsuragi and Horikita agreed, nodding their heads without hesitation.

To let Class A win. That is an act that cannot be tolerated any longer, no matter what.

“Even though we have a direct confrontation with them coming up at the end of the school year, we won’t be able to overturn the class points with just one of those.”

In the meantime, they want to capture it within range. The idea seems believable.

“I’ve had you listen to me in silence, but it’s time for me to hear your opinion, Ayanokōji-kun.”

Horikita’s idea, its risk.

“Objectively, do you accept this strategy or not?”

“C-ooperation in interest is not a bad story. There will be some objections, but everyone understands that the target to defeat is Sakayanagi. I’m sure Yōsuke and Kei will follow up on this.”

Horikita is once again confident in her idea. But Ryūen waits for her. “I’d like to make a contract, but it’s not ready yet.”

“Still? Do you think you can extract any more concessions?”

“Let me check one last thing. Was it you, Suzune, who brought up this proposal? Or was it Ayanokōji who was observing the situation with a clear face? Which is it?”

Cooperation with the Ryūen class. He strongly inquires which one is the initiator of this idea.

“If it was not initiated by Ayanokōji-kun, would you accept this talk? There seems to be a relationship between you and Ayanokōji-kun that you can’t let anyone else hear about.”

So Horikita says with implication.

“I know firsthand that we recognize each other’s abilities as enemies.

And that I’m out of place.”

“Did I say one word about that? I’m just asking you to answer which is which.”

Ryūen, somewhat irritated, hurried his words to Horikita in the form of a glare.

“It’s me. I only asked Ayanokōji-kun to be present this time, and I didn’t even let him hear about it until we talked about it here.”

If he knew I was leading the charge, Ryūen might refuse.

When Horikita, embracing this resolve, speaks honestly, Ryūen laughs. “I see. I’m relieved to hear that. If that’s the case, I’ll accept your

proposal.”

That was the deciding factor, and Ryūen formally accepted to join forces.

“Why?”

“Why? I don’t know. You’ll have to figure out why yourself.” Then he brushed off the answer. “It would be better for both of us to have a proper contract in place, just in case. No, especially for you.”

“Of course I will. I’m going to have Chabashira-sensei, and Sakagami- sensei in between.”

The contract is based on the involvement of the faculty. It would naturally include consequences of breach of contract in it. Even if it is Ryūen, there is nothing that can be done if it is bound by rules that cannot be broken.

“Then, I will leave the preparation of the documents to Horikita. Is that alright with you?”

“Yes. Can I have you and I look it over together a few times, Katsuragi-kun?”

When Katsuragi checks Ryūen with a glance, he gets such a response as, “Do as you please”.

Katsuragi’s presence is really significant in Ryūen’s class, where trust is important. He is smart, trustworthy, and able to express his opinions to

Ryūen without any hesitation.

The degree to which Ryūen entrusted Katsuragi with his job and the way he selected him, was nothing short of brilliant.

It was truly worth the large sum of money that was spent to bring him

in.

“Okay. Let’s formally exchange a written agreement and then work

together in the gymnasium.”

Thus, it was decided that Horikita’s class and Ryūen’s class would fight together in the gymnasium.

The top priority is the victory of the classes, and the aim is to work together within that context.

However, this was not the end of the story, and Katsuragi changed the subject.

“It is good that we have reached an agreement to cooperate with each other, but then there are some things we should think about. It is quite conceivable that Sakayanagi and Ichinose could join forces, but what do you intend to do about that?”

A coalition against a coalition. That development would be quite possible.

“No problem. Even if Ichinose cooperates with Sakayanagi in this gymnastic festival, our unity is better. Besides, Sakayanagi would have to give up even the third place. Just as you feared second place when you teamed up with Suzune, Ichinose would have the advantage if they teamed up as well. Sakayanagi’s class has 38 members due to the withdrawal of Yahiko and the transfer of Katsuragi. With Sakayanagi’s non-participation also confirmed, there are 37 members in the class. Ichinose’s class has 40 students, a surprisingly large difference of 3 students.”

The athletic ability values as a class are almost even. If this is the case, the difference in the number of three classmates may determine the winner.

“But it’s Sakayanagi, she’ll come up with a strategy to just cover the number of people.”

“Didn’t you see the rules this time? When you don’t participate in the festival, you’re on standby at your dormitory. And since you can’t even use your cell phone, that means your A-class head is completely nonfunctional.”

“Of course I read the rules. Yeah, it’s true Sakayanagi can’t exercise satisfactorily because physical condition. However, she can participate in the event and earn a total of 10 points, including five points for the five points

she has and five points for the participation prize. As long as she meets the minimum requirements, she will be able to stay outside and continue to send instructions.”

“I don’t want to see Sakayanagi acting like she’s hopeless.”

As long as she wishes to succeed, it is inevitable that Sakayanagi will stand out.

“It’s not that convenient. The right to abstain from competition is a given right. If you participate formally and abstain, you won’t be shamed.”

“Does this fall under a compelling reason? If you’re participating with an understanding of your own physical condition, you’re required to justify it. I have to finish the 100-meter race with a cane in my hand when everyone else has finished running. I don’t think she’d make such a spectacle of it.”

“Certainly, normally she would not participate because of her personality. However, if she knew that we had teamed up with each other, Sakasakayanagi would consider the risk of losing. I’m saying that it’s a problem to assume her absence will be a sure thing. I am saying this lightly, but I see a percentage chance that she will not participate. Give me a serious answer.”

“Ninety percent.”

“90% based on your unfounded and unfettered assessment. If that’s the case, the appropriate value is even lower. 70% to 80% at best.”

You should be happy with that number.”

I can’t do it. If I want to be sure, it needs to be 95%. Forgetting about us, Ryūen and Katsuragi engaged in a debate.

“That’s nonsense. But if you want to be more sure, there is a way. I’ll thoroughly hang up Sakayagi before the gymnastic festival. If she participates, the whole class will expose her during the competition. That way we can reach the 95% you’re talking about.”

They should succumb to the threat of trampling on personal dignity, Ryūen says.

“That’s not an acceptable story from an ethical standpoint.”

“I agree. I don’t think the school will stand idly by and watch.”

But both Horikita and Katsuragi denied that they would accept the practice.

“If by any chance Sakayanagi joins in, I’m going to smash her to pieces, man.”

“Remember, we are sinking in the lower classes because it’s not easy to overthrow Sakayanagi-san.”

If Sakayanagi functions as a command center, it is certainly impossible to read what kind of moves they will come up with. Whether she participates or not will have a great deal to do with the victory or defeat of this athletic festival.

If we can ensure the absence of Sakayanagi, on the contrary, it means that victory is at hand.

“Horikita. Are you including my contribution to the class victory?” “Basically, I try not to think about it. You’re the only one who remains

in a special position.” She tells me.

“That’s convenient to hear. If the presence or absence of Sakayanagi’s participation is casting a shadow over this cooperation, I may be able to help.”

“What do you mean?”

Interested, Katsuragi stopped talking to Ryūen and turned around.

“If you leave it to me, I’ll make sure Sakayanagi doesn’t participate in the sports festival.”

“What ?”

“Huh?”

Horikita shows surprise, and Ryūen is impressed. And Katsuragi listens in silence.

“However, for making sure Sakayanagi does not participate, I don’t want you to rely on a single point from me at the sports festival. Not just Horikita, but Ryūen too.”

“I didn’t include you in my calculations from the beginning. If you want to seal up Sakayanagi, it will save us a lot of trouble.”

“I can’t even imagine what kind of a move he will use, but if Ryūen and Horikita believe in what Ayanokōji has said and leave it to him, I have no intention of saying anything more about this matter. If Sakayanagi is not participating, it won’t be hard to sink Class A to the bottom of the list.”

“But can you really do that?”

“Oh. There’s a good chance you’ll get some rest without me doing anything, but you can leave it to me. And I’ve been thinking, it’s not every day that Horikita and Ryūen get together and cooperate with each other like this, is it? There’s something else I need to talk to you about, okay?”

I was thinking a little differently than the three of them during this discussion.

“I wonder.”

As I begin to utter my suggestions, Horikita and Katsuragi look at each other and Ryūen listens in silence.

As soon as I finished my explanation, the ice in Katsuragi’s glass melted and clinked.

“That’s an interesting idea, though...” Horikita looks at Ryūen, perplexed, unsure whether to accept that.

“It’s certainly not impossible according to the rules. But...” “You don’t like my proposal?”

Even for the agreement related to the sports festival, if it had been a proposal from me, there is a possibility that they would have refused.

“Yeah, I don’t like it. I reject it.”

Ryūen had denied it, but Katsuragi interrupted.

“Your personal feelings can wait. It’s honestly not a bad idea. We may have to go over the details and the rules again, but no, it’s Ayanokōji’s plan. I’m sure he’s made sure of that.”

“There is no problem with the rules. We can make a more powerful development if we have students from Ryūen’s class cooperate with us rather than just our class. Don’t you agree?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Horikita herself is well aware of the problems we have at the moment.

If we can procure assistance from elsewhere, we can alleviate some of the anxiety.

“Take it on, Ryūen. We should now proceed with preparations for a direct confrontation with Sakayanagi.”

“Listen, Ayanokōji. After crushing Sakayanagi, you’re next.” “If you reach that point, it’s inevitable.”

Perhaps those words were decisive, as Ryūen also accepted my proposal.

“Katsuragi, you should organize that as well.” “That’s exactly what the Class A siege is all about.”

“First, however, the top priority is to keep Sakayanagi out of the gymnasium. Because neither the cooperation at the gymnasium nor the proposal from Ayanokōji can begin without clearing this preliminary step.”

“I know. Just leave it to me on that score.”

I have a strategy for containing Sakayanagi that neither Ryūen, Katsuragi, nor Horikita can do.

1

Just before 7 p.m Sakayanagi, Kamuro, and Hashimoto of the second- year Class A were gathered at a café in Keyaki Mall.

“I’m not surprised to be called out of the blue, but what can I do for you today, Princess?”

“I want to discuss the matters regarding the sports festival. What we should be doing.”

“I thought we had a policy?”

“The situation changes from moment to moment. And today, it means that another change is in the making.” Saying so, Sakayanagi continues.

“Ryūen’s class and Horikita’s class made contact.” Hearing this, Hashimoto’s eyes change. “Which one approached which one?”

“That is unknown. But either way, it is safe to assume that the two are connected.”

“Wait a minute. I don’t think it’s going to work out that easily. I don’t think Horikita will readily trust Ryūen. He’s not someone you can collude with.”

“You know what they say, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ We are in a solid position to run alone. They don’t have to trust each other, but as long as they have the same goals, they work well together.”

The trickiness of the two classes joining forces is easily deduced by both of them.

The report was not a happy one, and the expressions on their faces hardened.

“We are in danger as it is.”

“We can’t beat them on our own?”

“If you assume that the three classes were going to compete separately, there was still a chance for any of them to take any of the places, but the connection came from an unexpected source.”

Sakayanagi makes it clear and looks at Hashimoto.

“I wouldn’t join forces with Ryūen. You never know when you might be stabbed in the back.”

“In fact, it would be more convenient if he did… Ryūen-kun’s class is in first place and Horikita-san’s class is in second place. If the result is that obvious, I welcome it, but if it’s the other way around, it’s a bit tricky.””

Sakayanagi is more wary of Horikita’s class than Ryūen’s. Sakayanagi’s comment, which could be taken as such, causes

Hashimoto’s faint smile to disappear.

“And I’m pretty sure they’re on a roll right now. I thought it would be impossible for anyone other than Ryūen’s class to come in and grab 100 points, expelling the small fry. Has Horikita grown up or is Ayanokōji

also working from the shadows?”

Emphasizing the name Ayanokōji, he turned to Sakayanagi. As if to confirm something.

Sakayanagi continues in a nonchalant manner.

“He’s really stepped up his game lately,” she said. “What’s going on?” “I think he’s hiding more than just OAA. Well, Ayanokōji isn’t the

only student like that.”

Hashimoto quickly backed down, as a battle of wits would have been bad for his position.

He decided that it was not a good idea to provoke her and draw attention.

“But what are you going to do? They say we’ll lose without you, but you’re not going to be there, are you?”

In other words, you’re throwing away the game? Kamuro asks. Hashimoto, who had been smiling, seemed concerned about this point,

and his expression hardened again. With only 150 points, even if Class A sinks to the bottom of the standings, it will not cause much damage.

However, the defeat is not something to be welcomed, as the situation has been built on the foundation of a continuous battle.

“There’s only one answer.” Sakayanagi laughs and continues.

“I will also participate in the sports festival. Even if they really join hands, they are calculating that they can barely win combined with my non- participation. Let them know that is their false hope.”

“Seriously? Will you be okay?”

“It’s nice that you’re willing to do this, but... are you sure?”

The two are concerned by Sakayanagi’s announcement of participation. “Being made a spectacle of? It means nothing to me.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine. If you say you’ll go out, then it’s a quick turnaround.”

“However, that still doesn’t improve overall athletic performance. It can only pick up the competition that you might miss out on. In other words, it will be a tough fight for me to take first place.”

“I think it’s enough that I wouldn’t call it the bottom of the barrel.” “It’s not so difficult to crack the glass relationship between Horikita-

san and Ryūen-kun. Let’s sidetrack them on the day when they are desperately trying to work together.”

Hashimoto and Kamuro have confidence in Sakayanagi, who has absolute confidence in them.

They have produced high results time and again.

“I’m relieved, huh? Well, I’m surprised that you could pick up the information so quickly, Princess. You didn’t do it on your own feet, did you?”

For everyday information gathering, she often used Hashimoto and Kamuro.

But this time the two had never heard of it before, and Hashimoto asked curiously.

“I’m still the Class A representative, and I’m getting to know some of the first-year students.”

Without panicking, Sakayanagi smiled softly as if enjoying the unexpected question.

2

It was finally October, and the gymnastic festival was approaching. I was at Keyaki Mall after school.

I was there with Kei, as we were on a date. The oppressive stares from the third-year students were as usual, but Kei didn’t seem bothered by them despite being involved.

“I’m used to it by now,” she said.

Today, Kei had a few stores she wanted to visit, and we had come to an electronics store first.

“What are you planning to buy?”

“Huh? I don’t really want anything. Well, it’s not that I don’t want something, but I’m not here for myself today.”

Not for herself? It means that she came for someone else.

“Isn’t it Kiyotaka’s birthday soon? I thought about a surprise, but I thought it would be nice to give you something you want.”

Come to think of it, it is almost my birthday.

“I thought we could look around together and see what Kiyotaka wants.”

“I see.”

I recall that Kei had been repeatedly asking me about various things I liked and planned to buy recently. Since she had been saying random things without thinking too much about it, she decided to find out what I wanted directly and give it to me as a gift.

“That’s going to be an expenditure of private points, isn’t it?” Especially for Kei, who doesn’t have a lot of money saved up.

“I know what you mean, but it’s at least your birthday. Don’t hesitate to tell me what you want.”

She seems to be ready to buy anything, but it’s not going to happen.

That said, in this situation, I know it would be incorrect to answer that I don’t want anything, and it is obvious that she would not be convinced if I wanted something extremely inexpensive.

Choose something that is kind to Kei’s wallet. That’s the kind of answer that is required.

“I know what you’re thinking about right now~” She turns her cheeky, sticky eyes on me and forcefully crosses her arms in mine.

“I’ll buy whatever Kiyotaka wants! Okay?” “If you say so...”

At least it means I won’t get something I don’t need. As we walk around with our arms crossed, Kei pulls her cheeks into my arm.

“Fufufu~ I’m on cloud nine.” Then she tightened her arms around me. “I have nothing more to hide from you. Kiyotaka knows everything about me. I never thought I would have someone more important than my own parents!” She blushes and squints her eyes, looking truly happy. “You can’t

hide anything from me either, right, Kiyotaka?” “Ah.”

Hiding things. What does that mean? My family.

About the white room.

What I’m trying to do at school. Friendships, romantic feelings.

If any of these apply to her, then it’s probably nothing more than hiding something. In other words, I’m not telling Kei the truth about anything.

“Oh!”

As I was looking around the store, talking about the products, I bumped into Satō, who had come to the store alone.

As soon as we met, Satō’s eyes fell on mine and Kei’s crossed arms. “Oh my god you two are so in love! I’m so sorry to bother you.” “Hold on!

Kei tries to stop her, but Satō runs away from the scene at once. “Well, shit.” Kei says, putting her hand on her own forehead. “Are you still worried about Satō?”

“It’s not like that, but... I still don’t feel good about it.”

“Then I guess we’ll just have to refrain from crossing our arms outside from now on.”

“I don’t want to do that.” She feels bad for her friend, but is not going to give up that part of her life.

“Huh? Yo, Ayanokōji!”

While walking around the rice cooker and hot water pot section, I ran into Ishizaki and Albert.

I could feel a squeeze in my arm when they showed up.

“You’re on a date with Karuizawa? And you’re arm-in-arm… isn’t that cute?”

Ishizaki comes over to look at me enviously, but I am more conscious of Albert standing beside me. He is holding a large branded pot in his hand. It’s strange that it doesn’t look that big because Albert is so big.

“Oh, this? Ryuen-san’s birthday is on the 20th of this month. We were just choosing a present.”

“What? Is the 20th is the same birthday as…” Surprised, Kei comes looking up at me, somewhat alarmed.

“I’ve never heard of this before either.” “Is it the same as someone’s birthday?”

When Ishizaki pointed his gaze toward Karuizawa, Kei glared at him and hid a little behind me.

“What the hell, you brought it up...”

At that moment, Albert lightly places his hand on Ishizaki’s shoulder.

It was there that he finally seemed to have an idea as to why Karuizawa was so wary.

“Oh… I get it.”

Even though it was Ryūen’s order, Ishizaki called Kei to the rooftop and took part in what can be called abuse.

It is only natural that Kei would not be pleased with such a man.

Ishizaki was angry at himself for being obtuse. He clicked his tongue and then lightly slapped himself on the head with his clenched fist.

“I should have said I’m sorry...... I was on the rooftop when you “

“Don’t talk about it here.”

Ishizaki tried to apologize, but he still lacked delicacy.

This is the Keyaki Mall. It would not be surprising if someone he knew showed up at any moment. Kei would not be happy to have the incident on the rooftop brought up at such a time. I’m sure there will be more than a few opportunities to get involved with Ishizaki as long as the relationship between Kei and I continues.

“Shall we move somewhere else?”

There are a few blind spots even in the wayward of Keyaki Mall.

Kei, looking disgruntled, does not interrupt me and follows me with her arms still entwined around me.

Albert also returned the merchandise to the shelves and followed with Ishizaki. By the emergency exit, we can keep away from the store and at the same time keep the students out of sight but not out of earshot.

Even if someone you know shows up, you can stop the conversation there and it won’t be a problem.

“I’m so sorry! All the time, even before I was apologizing, really!” “I don’t need an apology. In fact, it makes me even more angry.”

“What..?”

“You people were beaten to a pulp by Kiyotaka. You lost, so you’re just apologizing because you had no choice.”

“No, no, that’s not…”

“If Kiyotaka hadn’t saved me on the rooftop or if I had lost to you

and Ryūen, you wouldn’t be apologizing to me like this. No? That’s why it’s annoying.”

Kei has a point when she says that it was annoying.

Now I have become friends with Ishizaki and Albert, but that was all after the rooftop incident. It is no wonder that there are “if’s” like Kei said.

“I know I’m to blame, but still, “

“I don’t blame you. It’s natural for the strongest to be the best. I’ve always hated being the underling, so I’ve always managed to stand on top and be overbearing to the underlings. Isn’t that right?”

Despite differences in degree, the essence of Kei and Ishizaki is the same. They have the same values, to understand their place.

“I understand what you mean. But now that I’ve come into contact with Ishizaki, I’ve learned a few things. He has definitely grown for the better since then.”

“What do you mean, ‘for the better’? It seems to me that nothing has changed.”

“This is just how I feel, but I don’t think Ishizaki would easily go along with what Ryūen did to Kei if he tried to do it to someone else now.”

“Yeah? It doesn’t look like you can rebel against Ryūen, though.”

The point must have been made right on the mark. Ishizaki chokes on his words. Unable to say anything back, his frustration overflows, and he hits his knee hard with the palm of his hand.

Kei, seeing this, sighed.

“That’s enough. You’re friends with Kiyotaka now, aren’t you? I don’t forgive you, but I’m done blaming you.”

“Are you sure?”

“That’s why I said so. It’s over, okay?” “Ah, ah!” Ishizaki looked up happily.

“Let’s see So, that’s it. Whose birthday was it that you were talking

about earlier?”

Ishizaki asked Kei again . Still in disbelief, Kei pointed her index finger at me.

“What? Seriously? Ayanokōji’s is also October 20?” Ishizaki was surprised, as if in disbelief.

“Maybe it’s fate!”

There are more than 400 students in the school, so it’s no wonder there are people with the same birthday.”

“But isn’t it amazing that it’s Ayanokōji and Ryūen-san?”

Rejoice in mere coincidence. As Kei said, it was nothing strange, but for some reason, Albert seemed a little bit happy too.

“Can we go back to the store?” “Ah! Yes! Just a minute!”

Perhaps the loud voice was too loud, or maybe Kei was just annoyed, but she started plugging her ears with her fingers.

“I have a suggestion. How about we celebrate our birthdays together on the 20th? Ryūen-san and Ayanokōji’s birthday party, wouldn’t that be great?”

No, I didn’t think it would be great the moment I heard the idea. I try to imagine it, but I can’t visualize it well.

“If you say he’s going to apologize, that’s fine.” “What?”

“I said I could accept it if Ryūen would bow down to me and apologize.”

That’s a good return for an excuse to refuse. Ishizaki opens his mouth wide, then realizes how difficult it is to do something like that, and his mouth turns into a pout.

“Ryūen won’t apologize to me, right?” “Yeah, that’s never going to happen…”

It would be impossible for Ishizaki to even advise Ryuen to apologize. Ishizaki froze, but then, as if he had made up his mind, he opened his mouth once more.

“If the two of you say yes, I’ll make the proposal to him myself!” “Will you ever give up?”

If he did so, Ishizaki might be met with an iron fist sanction. I know Ryūen very well at this point.

“I’ll do something about it! If I ever get an apology, it’ll be your birthday party!”

“Well, if... that really happens, I’ll think about it...”

Ishizaki is overflowing with enthusiasm, but his cheap shots may lead to his own downfall.

I should clearly reject this idea.

Certainly, Ishizaki has recently shown a stronger sense of self-will. It is also certain that some change in his thinking is beginning to appear in Ryūen, as he did not expel anyone from the school after the unanimous special examination. However, this should not be interpreted as instinct or true feelings.

People do not change easily even if they want to. Ryūen is not trying to change, but to evolve. A man who until now has fought only with evil as a weapon has only begun to use good.

He is beginning to freely control the two sides of the coin. If Ishizaki is misreading that...

“You shouldn’t do that.”

Kei stopped him, but Ishizaki’s resolve was unwavering. “If Ryūen-san says he’s sorry, it’s okay, right?”

“But, you know...”

“Okay! Plus, let me apologize again. I’ll get you something more thoughtful than Ryūen’s gift, I promise!”

Kei reluctantly admits that she was defeated by Ishizaki’s high level of enthusiasm.

“Fine, whatever.”

“Ha, it’s decided! For now, let’s go pick out a birthday present for Ryūen-san!”

Albert nodded his head and Ishizaki went back to the mass merchandiser a step ahead of him. As expected, they seem to understand that they can’t go with the two of us.

“Why did you accept Ishizaki’s proposal? I thought you were going to say no.”

Although she heard his honest feelings and accepted his apology, I have to admit that I didn’t think she would choose to face Ishizaki regarding my birthday.

“Well, I’d prefer a birthday alone with Kiyotaka, too, but...” “You bet on the possibility that Ryūen will apologize?” “No, I doubt that’s possible. It’s just that that...”

Kei turns and looks behind her at Ishizaki, who is happily talking with Albert.

“I could feel that Ishizaki-kun likes you as a friend. I’m sure Kiyotaka needs friends too, you know.”

I knew immediately that she was referring to the disintegration of the Ayanokoji group. Kei, realizing what I had guessed, blushed and looked away.

“Besides, Ishizaki-kun wants to apologize to me again. I just thought it would be okay to accept it.”

The fact that she is not being honest is very Kei-like.

However, I still don’t think it will happen. It would be better to keep Ishizaki’s proposal as a half-baked idea.

And so the days leading up to the sports festival pass by.

3

Satō, who ran out of the electronics, catches her breath in front of the women’s restroom.

“Why… why did I run away?”

A dear friend of hers went out with someone she loves. There is nothing wrong with that.

Although she knew that, when Satō saw her arms around him she felt an unspeakable urge.

I don’t know how I would have behaved if I had stayed there.

So she abruptly ran away, but felt a strong sense of guilt about it. Satō sat down on the spot and hugged her knees.

“I’ll have to try not to panic next time...”

“Kei-chan seems to hold back in the classroom but... I’m sure she would have liked to get even closer to him.”

Just as she stood up with this thought, a shadow fell on her.

“Excuse me for interrupting. You must be Maya Satō, a senpai, right?”

Sato was approached by an unfamiliar student and is momentarily puzzled.

“Yeah… but who are you? You’re a first year right?”

“Who I am isn’t important right now. Actually, I have something I need to tell Satō-senpai as soon as possible. Could you please give me a moment of your time?”

“What do you mean?”

She is confused when a junior she doesn’t know tells her that there is an urgent matter to be discussed.

Still unable to get the image of Ayanokōji and Karuizawa in close contact out of her mind, she was restless.

“It’s information about Ayanokōji-senpai.”

However, Sato’s movements stopped after those words. “Ayanokōji-kun?”

“Yes. It’s about him and his girlfriend, Kei Karuizawa, another senpai.”

Sato couldn’t help but think about the two names that were just now dominating 99% of her mind. A bit of nervousness ran through Sato as the distance between the two drew closer.

“Can we talk somewhere where we can be alone after this?” “Huh…?”

The first year used Satō’s light physical strength to get close enough to touch their lips to Sato’s ear.

“If Karuizawa-senpai withdraws from school - don’t you think that would give Satō-senpai a chance?”

Karuizawa is my closest friend, and Ayanokōji is my love.

The first year says that this is a chance to change the relationship between the two of them and her own position.

00015.jpeg

Various emotions start to overflow. “What are you talking about?”

“I leave it to Satō-senpai’s judgment whether to listen or not. But if you don’t listen, you will surely regret it for a long time to come. If you’re interested, you can come to my dorm room.”

Satisfied after stating the room number, the first-year student turned away and left Satō.

Sato, who was left there, remained confused, unable to understand what was going on.

However, there was only one thing that stuck in her memory.

I will have a chance.

Those words suggest the possibility of dating Ayanokōji.

Satō’s chest tightens, and at the same time, feelings she doesn’t want to know about start crawling out from the darkest parts.

“I...”

4

While some issues remained, the class proceeded with careful preparations for the athletic festival.

Although some students objected to the idea of a joint fight with the Ryūen, once the lid was lifted and practice began, there were no major disputes, and practice for the team competitions went smoothly. Even the

classmates who had been negative at first began to cooperate with each other in order to win, and they practiced and trained day and night.

Finally, the night before the athletic festival arrived. It was around 9:30 at night when I made a phone call to Horikita.

“It’s very late, isn’t it? I was about to go to bed.”

I could hear the sound of a hair dryer in the background.

“I have something important to tell you, something to do with the sports festival.”

“Important from you? I guess I better take this a little more seriously.” As soon as she said that, she turned off the switch and my ears went

quiet.

“Oh, I wanted to say something first too. Sakayanagi has been planning participating in the sports-festival right? I thought you said you could stop her.”

“It has to do with that matter as well. Tomorrow, I’m going to be absent.”

“Absent? Wait a minute, what do you mean?”

I could tell that Horikita was flustered by my sudden statement. I heard a loud bang and a light scream.

“Are you okay?”

“Excuse me, I dropped my hairdryer...”

I hear the sound of a cell phone being put down somewhere. She seems to be in a hurry to pick up the hair dryer.

“So, why the absence? It’s not like you’re sick, right?”

It is understandable that she is puzzled, as I sound seemingly healthy. “Oh, I have no health problems. In fact, I’m even more pleasant than

usual.”

“Then why? If you’re absent, you lose the 10 points you have. Even if we don’t count your wins, losing these 10 points hurts.”

With a class size of 38 students, I can understand the temptation to complain.

“I’m not saying 10 points is light. But this is the strategy I need.” “Your strategy?”

It’s not everyday that your father’s assassins come mixed in with guests of honor.

I’m going to mention something here that I’ve kept quiet until now. “It will lead to a clue regarding Sakayanagi’s strategyand aiming for

Class A.”

“Sakayanagi-san strategy...?”

“I told you, there’s a way to keep Sakayanagi from participating in the gym festival.”

“I don’t know why your absence would lead to Sakayanagi-san’s attack.” Horikita was about to ask why, but quickly thought better of it. “There’s no way I can understand what you’re thinking right now. Besides, even if I try to persuade you, you won’t change your mind about missing the sports festival, will you?”

“Ah. I’ll call the school first thing tomorrow morning to tell them I’m not feeling well.”

“Then it looks like I have no choice but to trust you here.” Despite her dismay, Horikita admitted approvingly.

“In case you’re wondering, I was planning on getting at least three first places as a personal goal, but now I’m going to have to add another ten points to my total.”

“Take care of it.”

I ended the call and connected my phone to the charging cord. Horikita, who hadn’t gone to bed yet, was probably too lucid to recalculate her score and wouldn’t be able to sleep for a while.

It was a bit harsh, but I’ll let it slide as a necessary expense. And there’s one more person I need to call.

Just to tell them what I’ll need and I’m all set.

Written on March 5, 2022