Y2 Vol 6 English Chap 5

Chapter Five: Second Sports Festival

It was a sunny morning as I, Suzune Horikita, watched from the faculty side as all the students were gathered on the field. On the stage set up for the event, Miyabi Nagumo-senpai was giving the opening address. The guests invited from outside the school gazed at the students. There weren’t that many, just a few dozen.

Even so, the students seemed uncomfortable at the sight of these unfamiliar outsiders. Everyone is about to give their best in this sports festival, and they’re all ready to go.

The student council had told us in advance that guests had been invited, but the number of guests was more than I had imagined. They are from the political and other circles that are involved in the establishment of this school. There were no politicians that I had seen on TV, but I was sure that these people were closely related.

Everyone is dressed in suits and watching with hardened expressions on their faces. It was as if they were monitoring prisoners. Even in the midst of all this, Student Council President Nagumo continued to speak his words with dignity, unperturbed. He was elegantly fulfilling his role as well as the image of the student body, as well as my brother once had.

After Nagumo-senpai’s speech was over and the students applauded, the baton passed over the teachers, who were once again informed of the precautions that would be taken at the sports festival.

Finally, the opening time arrived.

From this point on, the students were free to do as they pleased. As long as they abide by the rules, they may participate in the events they are currently entered in, or, although they need to earn points, if they see their opponents and judge them to be at a disadvantage, they are allowed to abstain and compete in another event on short notice.

Also, it’s important to remember that students who have completed all the competitions or if they are not planning to participate are obligated to cheer in the designated area. If you are caught chatting, resting, or skipping around in unrelated areas, you will be disqualified from participation and stripped of your points.

In the team competition, students who are able to win are selected from each other’s classes, and the number of students in the team competition is equalized.

The maximum number of students who could participate in a group competition was predetermined, no matter how good the students were. This was done in order not to prevent an advantage to outstanding talents such as Sudō-kun and Yamada-kun, who were contracted to lend a hand in up to three events per person in the team competitions. The above arrangement is limited to “events that can be entered in advance” and is also included in the contract.

It would be nonsense to have a dispute on the day of the sports festival, asking for cooperation in this or that. We don’t have a rule that prevents us from working with other students, such as Ichinose-san or Sakayanagi-san’s class. If there is a competition that needs teamwork to gain each party points, we are able to team up according to the situation.

Fortunately, I had already worked out a plan with Katsuragi-kun beforehand, and went over it many times to make sure it would not be a problem.

Although I am less worried about the opening of the competition because of the large number of participants in the competitions I have reserved, I need to remember to have a meeting with my classmates every hour to check for any problems that may arise, and make minor adjustments accordingly.

The first event I’ll participate in is the 100-meter run. The start time is 15 minutes after the opening of the race, so there is no need to rush, but I wanted to arrive early to check on the participants.

“Hey hey, Horikita! It’s game time!”

Immediately after the assembly was disbanded and were free to go, it was Ibuki-san who came running up to me at full speed.

She was breathless and glaring at me, as usual. “Are you an idiot?”

“Huh! What is this all of a sudden? Are you afraid you’re gonna lose?

Is that what you mean?”

“No...” I immediately denied it so she would stop freaking out unnecessarily. “What is the competition you are going to do now? Catch your breath and then answer.”

“The 100-meter run, of course. I made a deal with you, and I won’t forget it.”

“Yes, the 100 meter run. We both entered in the first race. That was the deal. That means I’ll be running right after this. If you know we’re going to race, why would you use up your energy now? Shouldn’t you wait in the line for me to come?”

“Oh shit...” I guess she understood the stupidity in her actions. “Whatever, it’s game time, let’s go!”

“Rest assured. You don’t need to tell me to go.”

Ibuki-san is not an easy opponent. Last year, she won the 100-meter run by a narrow margin. If it were possible, I would avoid competing with her, but I am greatly indebted to her. If not for Ibuki-san’s help, Kushida-san might not have come to school yet. Even then, I can’t lose to her. I know she doesn’t want that either, so I’m going to compete with her and win fair and square.

Ibuki-san didn’t seem to like walking side by side with me, so we put some distance between us and headed for the first entry together. A pleasant sense of tension is building up.

First up was the battle for the second-year girls only. Not much had changed from the prior reservations, and the only potential rival was Ibuki- san. But it would be shallow to consider that lucky. If I have an easy fight, it means that there are classmates who will have to fight stronger opponents in different competitions.

1

The 100-meter sprint was the first competition I took in the sports festival, and the first competition regarding the deal with Ibuki-san. The result was a difficult win for me.

Oddly enough, it was as close as last year. After we crossed the finish line, Ibuki-san kicked up the dirt in frustration and made a lot of excuses that she had run as fast as she could before the race.

My next battle with her was in the fourth event, the long jump. The two events in between we went into separate battles.

The second event was the steeplechase, in which I placed first, and the third was the team tug-of-war, in which I placed third.

So far, I personally accumulated 5 points at the start, 10 points for the two first places in the individual competition, 3 points for the tug-of-war for the third place in the team competition, and 3 points for the participation prize, for a total of 21 points. It was a good start.

Then, around 10:00 a.m., the second round of the long jump with Ibuki- san began. I had just finished the competition and the record I set was 5 meters, 79 centimeters.

Not bad. I think I almost set a personal best record in a situation where no mistakes were allowed.

Ibuki-san, who was three places behind me in the lineup, was looking at the record and regulating her breathing. There were three jumpers left. By jumping into provisional first place, she was much closer to scoring points in this event.

“Yo, Suzune! I found you!”

As I was watching the next long jumper, I heard a voice calling me from behind. I turned around to see Sudō-kun running up to me and Onodera walking behind him.

They are the pair that I have high hopes for as the point getters in this sports festival.

“From the looks of it, you seem to be in good shape.”

“Sudō-kun has won three in a row in the opening round. And he was totally comfortable.

“Well, yeah. But you also competed in two events and won first place in both. Right, Onodera?”

“I was a little lucky on my end though.”

Onodera, who has no equal when it came to swimming, also showed off her talent in track and field.

“When I first entered the school, I didn’t have the impression that you were that fast. Where did it come from?”

I was curious about this because I always see her in gym class.

“I don’t really like running, and I’m not interested in anything but swimming, so I’m just doing it at random, I guess.”

“You said you never do long distances.”

“It’s super tiring, and I can’t run that fast, and that’s not a good thing.”

They have been practicing together every day since they decided to pair up, and it seems to be a much more natural pairing than I had imagined.

“It’s true. Anyways I really wanted to fight with Kōenji if possible. He participated in three events and took first place in all of them, and it looks like he’s still going to extend his winning streak.”

“That’s no good. It’s not a good idea to crush each other as classmates.

You know that, right?”

Both Sudō and Kōenji have the potential to take first place.

I understand their desire to compete in the same race, but they have to give priority to their class.

“I know, I know, I’m kidding.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“Right. The more I can leave Onodera-san in charge, the less I have to worry unnecessarily.”

“I guess I’m not trustworthy...” He seemed dissatisfied, but when I looked directly at him, he averted his gaze uncomfortably.

That’s a sign that he’s reflecting on how he’s behaved in the past. “Sudō-kun and the others are going to participate in a series of pair

competitions after this, aren’t they? Good luck.”

“Oh. I’m going to extend my winning streak all over the place.”

Those are encouraging words. And here the last runner stood at the starting line.

I stopped talking with them and turned my gaze toward Ibuki-san. “Well, sorry to interrupt you. Let’s go scout the next competition.” “You got it. See you later, Horikita-san.”

“Of course.”

I gave them a light sideways glance as my attention was on Ibuki-san, who had started to get ready for her turn.

I fully understand that her ability is close to mine. In other words, it is conceivable that she could surpass the record I set.

Two emotions were wavering: one is that I want her to fail, and the other is that I want to compete fairly with her at full strength. She should be under a lot of pressure, but her movements were agile and graceful.

She leapt, landed on the dirt and fell forward.

With dirt on her face, her eyes immediately turned to the record keeper: 5 meters, 81 centimeters. A mere two centimeters, but still two centimeters short, and my loss was confirmed.

“I did it!

Ibuki-san struck a gut-punching pose and was as excited as a child. She made a brilliant leap which barely passed my own mark.

“See! I won! You lose!”

I know she was happy to the point of persistence, but it’s a little irritating, as one might expect.

“I wonder if you had the advantage because of less air resistance...”

If there was no difference in our abilities, that is the only possible difference between us...

“Huh? Air resistance?” “Oh, no, it’s nothing.”

“Don’t be a weirdo and admit defeat honestly.”

“Don’t get carried away. Now we both have one win and one loss.

We’re even again.”

Even though I warned her not to get carried away, Ibuki-san had a scowl on her face the whole time.

I guess I should regret missing first place on my part, but when she is so pleased with herself, I can’t help but feel that I have no choice besides beating her in the next round.

“I win! I win! I won and you lost!”

Sigh.

I think my mental stress has gone through the roof. Now I have one win and one loss. I’d like to go for the third match right now, but there are several high scoring team competitions coming up after this, so I’ll have to wait until the competition this afternoon to settle the score with her.

2

The sports festival began without Ayanokōji-kun. An electric bulletin board was set up on the ground so that one could always see which classes were doing well and how they were doing.

Ryūen-san’s class started off at the top of the second-years, but soon after, our Class B took first place and has been holding onto that position. Ichinose-san’s Class C is in third place, and Sakaynagi-san’s Class A is in fourth place, an ideal ranking.

I hope things will continue to go on like this without any upheaval until the end of the event. I had a lot of time to kill before the next competition, so I moved to the cheering section.

“My my, I just wanted to congratulate you, Horikita-senpai!” Yagami-kun, a first-year Class B student, approached me.

“It seems that Yagami-kun’s class is also fighting quite well. You are now in second place by a narrow margin, aren’t you?”

“It’s more astonishing that my senpai is in first place. I can’t believe you started in Class D last year.”

“Is that a compliment? Or is there sarcasm mixed in?”

“Not in the slightest. I genuinely respect you. But not as much as the student council president, if I’m going to be painfully honest.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the very moment when Student Council President Nagumo broke through the finishing line tape.

“The third-year senpais were talking earlier, and they said this is his fifth consecutive first place finish.”

As the girls cheered, the guests of honor turned their attention to the student council president. However, Student Council President Nagumo left the scene with a blank expression on his face and, without so much as responding to the girls who called out to him, told them that he would like to be alone and solemnly walked away.

“I’d want to go compliment him, but he doesn’t look the least bit happy.”

“Even if he wins or loses, it’s not as if this competition matters to him in the slightest. His graduation from Class A was secured long ago. Perhaps he’s just getting bored.”

Certainly, for the student council president, who is in a solid position in terms of rankings, the results of the sports festival are meaningless; he is aiming for first place because he doesn’t wish to look bad in front of the current students and guests, I suppose.

“I’m going to have a little talk with the president.”

“I see. I have another competition, so I’ll leave you now, senpai.”

After exchanging a few words with Yagami-kun, I decided to approach the student council president. Beside Nagumo-senpai, another third-year girl called out to him.

Kiryūin-senpai, a third year Class B student. She is someone I have heard rumors about from time to time in my interactions with third-year students. I know that she is an exceptional student on the OAA.

Since I couldn’t interrupt the conversation, I decided to stand by and

wait.

“Congratulations on your fifth straight win, Nagumo.” “What do you want?”

“You don’t have to be so rude. I’m just concerned that you don’t look

happy with your success. It seems there were more than one or two people giving you a cheer.”

“I’m not really in the mood for jokes. How can you call me successful just because I won a simple competition?”

“You could have messed around with the rankings and competed against weaker students, but it doesn’t seem like you cared too much with who you went up against.” Kiryūin-senpai pointed out that he wasn’t trying to cut corners. “I heard that Ayanokōji is absent, is that the reason for the unflattering look on your face?”

Ayanokōji-kun. Once again, his name popped up.

The student council president exhaled a quiet sigh without looking back at Kiryūin-senpai.

“I thought that guy would finally be able to give me a challenge. I guess I was wrong.”

“You poor, poor thing. I’ll be your opponent, then, shall I?”

At such provocative words, student council president Nagumo gave a sideways glance at Kiryūin-senpai, the first time he looked over. However, seeing the fearless smile on her face, he turned away again.

“That’s a cheap lie. Even if I wanted to, I can’t imagine you’d ever compete with me.”

“Hmph. I guess I’ve been found out.” Kiryūin-senpai says so as she stands next to Nagumo-senpai’s shoulders. “One more event and I have fulfilled my minimum obligation. After that, I plan to relax and watch the games.”

“I’m sure you will.”

“You should no longer be concerned with juniors. At least you’ve dominated your grade level and secured Class A. You’re the student council president. That’s enough. I suggest you graduate quietly.”

Kiryūin-senpai admonished as if she was giving advice.

“Are you trying to be helpful? What’s gotten into you? I’ve talked to you more in the past six months than I did before Ayanokōji was involved.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Well, you don’t need to worry. I don’t need you to tell me that I should give up on playing with Ayanokōji. The kid bailed on me. There’s no point in going after him if I’ll just be set up like this again.”

“If he loses in a direct confrontation with the student council president, how would he be able to maintain the same status as before? Try to understand why he’s running away. He’s got a cute and cuddly side to him.”

Fighting the student council president? Perhaps that’s why he went to the student council room the other day, to talk about such matters? It also aligns with the message Nagumo-senpai entrusted me with.

Kiryūin-senpai lightly glanced at me, but walked away without leaving any particular words.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Suzune. What do you want?”

“Ah, well, I was going to ask you the same thing as Kiryūin-senpai. I saw student council president Nagumo-senpai take first place, but you didn’t look happy at all. Also... you seem to have promised Ayanokōji-kun that you would compete with him in the sports festival?”

“Clearly, it didn’t work out in the end. He seems to be absent. It is what

it is.”

Ayanokōji-kun told me his absence was not due to illness, but rather a

strategy involving Sakayanagi-san. It seems that Student Council President Nagumo doesn’t know that fact, and it would be better not to let him know.

“Hey, lunch is soon isn’t it? Come hang out with me.”

I couldn’t refuse the request, as it was coming from the student council president and agreed to do so.

A short time later, during the lunch break, I was looking at the lunches provided on the grounds. I could choose what I wanted from this array of meals. Sandwiches and other light meals. The lineup was diverse, ranging from a variety of dishes such as pork cutlet served on top of a bowl of rice to more stamina-and strength-enhancing dishes.

I was both impressed and appalled by the school’s thoroughness and attention to detail. Moreover, the prerequisite is that the food must be consumed, and you can take more than one. Most of the students just picked one, but I observed that there were some boys who took more than one. I saw a large student who happily carried three or four of them on his chest. If so, you’re either still underestimating this school or you’re a very big boy.

“Yo, thanks for waiting.”

I was just reaching for a light meal when I was approached by student council president, Nagumo-senpai.

“No problem, senpai. However, I have a meeting, so if you could make this quick, that would be great.”

“Ah. Well then, I want to know something about Ayanokōji. I heard he’s out sick, but how did he suddenly get sick?”

Although he didn’t point it out earlier, apparently student council president Nagumo-senpai is suspicious of him.

“I only received a notice in the morning apologizing for his absence, because an absent student loses 10 points. If he is sick, I can’t force him to show up.”

I am the only one who knows he was absent for another reason.

Naturally, I need to cover that.

“I deeply hope he’s not feeling well.” “Pardon me, senpai?”

I don’t think I gave it away from my attitude. I wonder if the student council president has another reason to think otherwise.

“You heard what Kiryūin said. Maybe he didn’t want to be humiliated and decided to shut himself in.”

“I suppose it’s always a possibility.”

I gave a safe response so as not to provoke him. “Alright well... I guess that’ll end up costing your year.” “What... Do you mean by that?”

“Well, the only way to make up for his absence, is to take it out on someone else, right?” He didn’t directly answer my question, but mumbled to himself.

The student council president then raised his hand lightly to let me know he’s leaving and walked away without picking up his lunch.

“Take it out on our year? What does he mean by cost...?”

It seems like Ayanokōji’s reputation is really all over the place. I, too, was impressed with him again today at the sports festival. When he announced that he would be absent, I was nervous about what would happen, but when events progressed, it turned out that Sakayanagi-san was also absent today.

Without a doubt, Ayanokōji did something to contain Sakayanagi-san.

And the results are evident in the current Class A scores and rankings. If suddenly your commander is unable to come out to the field, it is not surprising that the coordination is not up to snuff.

I feel a little sorry for them, but this is a serious game. I’ll make sure to accumulate wins wherever I can.

3

After a midday break, the sports festival proceeded into the second half of the day. More than half of the students had already completed the minimum number of five events, and those who showed confidence in their athletic abilities were moving on to the sixth and seventh events. The Class A students Matoba and Shimizu were struggling without their leader, as they were up against Horikita and Ichinose, who were assessing the participation and members of the competitions on a minute-by-minute basis.

“Next is doubles table tennis in the gym. Satonaka reported earlier that there were no strong rivals. There are two more seats available. There is a good chance we can win it.”

“We’ve got to keep winning and try not to get last place.”

Sakayanagi’s non-participation cast a dark shadow over the second year Class A, and many students were discouraged, but on the other hand, there were many who were motivated by it.

Hearing that the ping-pong doubles tournament, which was to close in 10 minutes, was running low, the students abandoned the penalty shootout match they had planned to participate in and hurriedly began to move.

Ishizaki, who was walking from the direction in which the two students were proceeding, was looking slightly downcast and not looking ahead.

Shimizu moved to the right to avoid the approaching Ishizaki, but Ishizaki also moved to the left at about the same time.

Shimizu tried to avoid him as quickly as he could, but he could not avoid him and their shoulders collided. The impact was twice as large as expected and could not have been an accidental collision.

Shimizu, judging that he had been forced to hit his shoulder, tried to raise his voice, but...

“What the hell are you doing man?!”

Ishizaki yelled and stepped up towards Shimizu.

“Huh? Why are you acting like the victim when you bumped into me!” Shimizu from Class A and Ishizaki from Class D glared at each other.

“You’re the one who wasn’t looking ahead!” “Huh? You hit me on purpose!”

“What, no? You bumped into me on purpose, no matter how you look at it. Right?” Shimizu calls for help and asks Matoba to cover him.

“Ah. You weren’t looking straight ahead.”

“So I wasn’t looking at you and you took advantage of that? That’s nasty.”

“Nasty? It’s your fault.”

“Huh? Me? When you guys were too busy talking to watch?”

The shoving of blame continued, and time passed without any indication that Ishizaki was going to apologize. Convinced that they were right, the hasty Matoba urged Shimizu to calm down.

“Leave him alone.”

“I’m not convinced we should let him go like this.”

“I understand how you feel. I do, but we have priorities right now.” “I guess so.”

While taking in Shimizu’s emotions, he nailed him to remember to participate in the competition and win. Reluctantly, Shimizu nodded his head, glared at Ishizaki, and walked away.

“You better be careful next time.” “Ouch...”

“What?”

As he was about to walk past, Ishizaki suddenly held his left shoulder and mumbled, “I was caught up in the moment, I didn’t notice... I think I might have hurt myself just now.”

For a moment, the two could not understand what he was saying, but immediately after this, they realized everything.

They realized that this was a cheap trap set by Ishizaki.

The two looked at each other and laughed. However, the situation takes a sudden turn immediately after that.

“You’re making a lot of noise, aren’t you? What’s the matter, Ishizaki?”

“Ryūen-san! Please listen to me! They started messing with me!” Just when things were starting to get tense, Ryūen appeared.

“So Ryūen is involved? What a troublesome guy. I didn’t expect him to use such obvious tricks.”

“What are you even talking about? I only came here because I heard the stupid commotion, okay?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You two have a record, you know that.” “I guess we do have a reputation. What about it?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Although, you know what? Even if we do have a track record, that’s completely irrelevant right now. If an exemplary student was bullied and hurt by a Class A student, I’m going to report it, okay?”

“What’s with the act? You’re the one who talked him into it, aren’t you? I’m calling the sensei’s for God’s sake!”

“Kuku. Of course, you call the teachers when you’re in trouble. That’s pretty funny considering we’re the victims here. I’ll explain it thoroughly, don’t worry. Isn’t that right, Ishizaki?”

“Yeah. I’m the victim.”

“What are you a victim of? You clearly aren’t even taking the sports festival seriously, so does it even matter to you? Go call sensei.”

Matoba decides that it is unavoidable and gives an earful to Shimizu, and sends him running somewhere.

Soon after, Shimizu, who had gone to call the teacher, came back with an unflattering expression on his face.

“What’s wrong? Where’s the teacher?” “I didn’t...”

Shimizu didn’t bring back a teacher but Hashimoto Masayoshi, who was in the same class.

“I saw Shimizu running all panicked so I asked him about it. If he called the teacher, the commotion would get bigger. If you decide to turn it into a situation, you might not be able to participate in the competition.”

“But-“

“I know. Don’t forget that’s what Ryūen wants, to make a big commotion. Don’t play into his hands.”

Instructing him to relax, Hashimoto placed his hand on Shimizu’s shoulder.

“I’ll talk to him for now.”

“I understand. Deal with him swiftly please.”

Matoba, who had no choice but to leave the situation to Hashimoto, watches from a short distance away.

“Please take it down a notch, Ryūen.”

Hashimoto, who heard the story, approaches with calm steps amid the commotion.

“The hell do you mean? It was you guys who set us up. We’re just buying a fight that was sold to us.”

“Sure. But if you don’t back off, we’ll both be in trouble. We’re the breadwinners of the sports festival, and we’re still holding back the main force. I’m sorry to say this, but Ishizaki can only go so far, right?”

Hashimoto exploits this point and tries to hold Ryūen back so that he cannot come on too strong.

“Don’t be arrogant. Ishizaki has been working hard for this day. To show that he has the potential to compete on equal terms with the breadwinners you speak of. Isn’t that right?”

“Geez.” Hashimoto, who had seen Ishizaki playing around on a regular basis many times, could not help but be stunned. “Damn. You always push things to the edge.” Hashimoto knew that he could not compete in a proper debate, but he couldn’t resist scratching his head. “But this makes it clear.

You’re really going to try to crush us in this sports festival, and that’s why the elite first-years are sticking around like freaks, right?”

It was noticed early on that the physically gifted first-year students were being followed around to match the competitions in which the talented students of the second-year Class A were competing. However, there was no way to stop the entries once they were noticed, and so far they have only achieved less than expected.

“Because of the princess’ absence on the day of the competition, we’re pretty desperate to avoid the bottom of the standings. If we make an enemy of you too, we won’t stand a chance. Let’s just call this a painful split.”

“Painful split?” Ryūen’s attitude, which had been relatively friendly until now, changed drastically, and his smile disappeared. “I don’t know what’s going on in Class A. I’m in Class D. I’m doing everything I can to crawl up from the bottom. You’re making a big mistake if you think you can just interfere with that and get rid of me easily.”

Hashimoto’s expression, which had been smiling thinly, froze for a moment at the spirit that seemed to be attacking him

“Then what should I do? Am I supposed to apologize unilaterally to

you?”

“You know that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to get money

from you. I just want a sincere apology. Right, Ishizaki?”

“Sure. The pain in my arm has subsided a bit, so that’s good enough for

me.”

What hurts more than anything is the loss of more time. After

confirming that no special money or other demands would be made, Hashimoto decided to swallow the idea.

“Give me some time to persuade Shimizu.”

“Hurry up. We have another competition coming up.”

More than five minutes have already passed since the altercation began.

It’s almost too late to apologize now and run to the gym in time.

“You heard me. I know you’re not convinced, but you should apologize honestly here.”

“Don’t be silly. You said you would take care of it, so I kept my mouth shut and listened. I’m not going to go along with it.”

“So it’s okay if we don’t win? You might be able to protect your pride by being stubborn and sticking up for yourself here. But will this convince you when you lose by five or ten points?”

“Well, that’s...”

“What matters now is that the class wins. Right? You stepped into some shit, so apologize and get over it.”

One word of apology and you can head right back to the competition.

Hashimoto urged him to do so. “Damn! Why do I...”

Shimizu, who showed great irritation, finally cooled down and reluctantly agreed and stepped forward to apologize to Ishizaki.

“Wait, Shimizu. Matoba is just as guilty as you. Claiming I was looking away and all that.”

“Matoba...”

“Okay...”

The two students have no choice but to stand side by side and bow to Ishizaki, albeit only slightly.

“We’re sorry... Is this okay?”

They quickly raised their lowered heads and were about to leave, but Ishizaki quickly stopped them.

“Ryūen-san, are you seeing this? What the hell is this?”

“It’s like they’re spitting on you. I don’t feel like he’s received a full apology. You don’t have enough sincerity.”

“Are you insane, Ryūen? I won’t back down any further.”

Previously, Hashimoto had tried to negotiate for Shimizu’s sake, but at this moment he had also decided that this was as far as he could go. Deciding that there was no other way but for the teacher to intervene, Hashimoto jogged over to the teacher.

Within a minute or so, he returns to the scene with a teacher. “What in the world is the matter here?”

“Actually...”

“I accept your apology.”

Hashimoto was about to tell the teacher what happened, but just before he did, Ishizaki declared that the apology was accepted.

“I’m sorry, Ryūen-san. You stood up for me, but I wasn’t mature enough to say that it’s just a tiny bump on my shoulder. So, I think I’ll make it up to you later since these two apologized to me just now. Is that okay?”

“If you’re okay with that, it’s none of my business.”

As soon as the teacher had arrived, Ryūen and Ishizaki cut the conversations short. Hashimoto, who had brought the teacher along because he knew Ryūen could not turn his back on the teacher, was also confused.

The teacher, seeing only this situation, came to a conclusion.

“You two bumped into Ishizaki and apologized. And he accepted it. Is that correct?”

“That’s not it-“ Shimizu tries to speak up as the problem seems to have been solved, but Hashimoto stops him.

“Apparently so. It has been resolved.”

“Good then. Avoid further trouble during the festival, okay?” Hashimoto pushes the two, who seem to be about to explode in anger,

away from the scene.

“Go quickly while the teacher is watching.”

They turned around several times to glare at Ishizaki and Ryūen, but eventually they blended in with the crowd walking towards the gymnasium.

Ryūen and the others also dispersed at the same time.

When no one was left around Hashimoto, he lamented deeply. “Man... you’d do something like that in a huge crowd? You’re not

someone... I’d want to make enemies with, at all.”

Hashimoto was chilled to the bone, but even as he said this, he laughed alone with joy.

4

3:00 p.m. With less than an hour left, the sports festival is finally coming to a close.

We enter the final phase of the competition still in first place, with only 17 points separating us from the second year Class D, who are closing in while in second place. The team’s perseverance was beyond our imagination, and we had to assume that Ryūen-kun’s strategy was working. Still, there was no trouble among us second-year students, and we were functioning well as an alliance.

However, if we don’t score more points in the last hour, there’s a good chance of an upset. Standing in a corner of the gymnasium, I stared at the remaining competitions, their rules and schedules. Then Ibuki-san, not even bothering to hide her annoyance, approached me.

“It’s a stupid game!”

“That’s a very funny thing to say; I won by two wins and one loss, isn’t that how it turned out?”

“I didn’t participate!”

“I don’t care. It’s your fault for not showing up at the prescribed time, isn’t it?”

“I just got the time wrong...”

It was the third round of our competition, and it closed for entries at 1:20 p.m.

Ibuki-san could not participate in the competition because she did not make it to the entry in time. Of course, I was not left out, and although I missed first place, I was able to finish second and earn three points.

“I know you’re not happy about it, but in the real world, that’s called a no-show.”

“One win, one loss! It’s not settled yet!” She continues to fuss in my ear, and she has no intention of backing down.

“I participated in a total of nine competitions. One more event is available...”

“That’s it! Tell me what you’re participating in.”

“If you want to ask me to play, you’ll have to show me the right attitude.”

“Ugh!”

“Do you want me to play or not?”

“Oh, please... can... you... fight... me!?” Ibuki-san asks, trembling with anger as if she is about to spit out flames from her mouth. “Are you satisfied?”

“Yes, I am. I guess you made me feel a little better.”

The situation is changing by the minute and the competition slots are filling up. Should I go with the original plan or aim for an even higher score?

“Now, answer me, what are you going to participate in?” “Could you please be quiet for a minute?”

“I can’t take this!” Ibuki-san yells as she provocatively lifts up a certain finger in my face. I didn’t want to deal with it, but ignoring it would only make it louder.

“I was planning on joining the shuttle run after this.”

“Is the shuttle run the one where you go back and forth endlessly until you drop out?”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s also called a round-trip endurance run.”

“I remember doing this in middle school. It’s good for the final battle.” She nodded her head in satisfaction and tried to run out to the entry.

“Why aren’t you coming?”

“If you want to join, go ahead.”

“No, you’re in it too, right? It doesn’t make sense if we’re not in the same group.”

“We’re just considering it. I haven’t finalized it yet.” “What?”

“To be honest, right now the last competition I want to compete in is volleyball.”

“Volleyball? Volleyball has six participants, right? From the looks of it there’s no way you’re going to get six people together now.”

One of the competitions announced on the day of the event, a separate competition for men and women with participation from all grades. We decided to forgo the event in our class, judging that the need for six competent members would be a bottleneck, but the teams participating in the current volleyball tournament seemed unexpectedly weak, as if the other classes were thinking the same thing.

“With 10 minutes left to enter, we have a spot left to enter. The teams participating don’t seem to have many strong opponents from what I’ve seen.

If we can win this competition, it will be worth it to throw away the shuttle run. In a team competition, where teams have to improvise, a lot depends on the abilities of the outstanding students. If we can get one or two more students who are confident in their skills, we’ll have a better chance of winning.”

“So what about that one I asked for so desperately earlier?” “I’m afraid you’ll have to give up.”

Ibuki-san was astonished. I thought she was going to get angry again, but it turned into disappointment and resignation. It all started from the fact that she had misunderstood the receptionist’s hours.

“All right. Then I guess the game is over here...” “You’re not joining me in volleyball?”

“We need four people. There’s no way I can gather them. I’ll pass.” “So, you don’t have friends.”

“Neither do you.”

“I think I at least have classmates who would be willing to help if I called on them.”

“Whatever, I wanted to settle it, but we’ll have to save it for another time.”

For the record, I had won, but whatever.

“Are you going to join us for the shuttle run?”

“All I’m interested in is settling this with you. I’m not going to go out of my way to contribute to Ryūen.”

“That’s convenient. The less points you score, the closer your class is to winning.”

I think it would be better to let this go on without provoking her. That’s what I thought, but for some reason, Ibuki-san didn’t want to leave.

“Is there anything else?”

“If you don’t have enough people for volleyball, aren’t you going to join the shuttle run?”

The deadline for the volleyball is 2:20. The shuttle run deadline is 2:25. Ibuki-san noticed the part I didn’t dare mention.

“Looks like I said something unnecessary. I didn’t realize you had a brain to use.”

“Shut up. So, I’m going to stick with you for a while longer.”

The worst-case scenario is that if volleyball does not have enough people, Ibuki-san and I will have to settle for a shuttle run.

Well, that might not be so bad. I look to the girls in my class in the cheering section for available talent. However, there was no way I could find such convenient students right away, and time passed by without much thought.

I noticed that Ibuki-san, who was sitting beside me, was yawning. “You should just give up and play the shuttle run,” she said.

“My my~ Isn’t that Horikita-senpai and Ibuki-senpai? I want to congratulate you both for your hard work, senpais!”

As we waited for a possible member to invite, first-year student Ichika Amasawa-san called out to us.

At that moment, Ibuki-san, who was sitting down, stood up and glared at her.

“Oh dear, you look a bit frightening today, senpai. Maybe having a bad hair day?” Amasawa-san teases. But half the words didn’t seem to reach Ibuki-san.

“If there are still slots available for you to participate, I’ll give you a shot.” Spat out Ibuki-san.

“I haven’t won much today. We don’t have a lot of opportunities to play when we’re in different grades, so it’s no use. I think it’s better not to play. You’ll lose anyways, senpai.”

“You should be thankful you didn’t get paired with me.”

“You’re still so bullish, aren’t you? By the way, what are you two doing here? If you’re not going to participate in the competition, you might as well be cheering them on.”

“How about you shut up and join the shuttle run? Then we can compete.”

“Oh, were you senpais planning to do the shuttle run? I’m-“ “I finally found you.”

As we were talking, Kushida-san showed up. I wondered if she wanted something from me, but she didn’t even look at me, just at Amasawa-san.

“I thought someone was following me, but it was Kushida-senpai, wasn’t it? What do you need? If it’s okay with you and Horikita-senpai, I’ll listen to what you have to say.”

“Horikita-san? What are you...”

It seemed that she was so focused on Amasawa-san that she was unaware of our presence.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Kushida-senpai. It looks like my friends are all here, so I should get going.”

In the direction she was pointing, I could see Nanase-san, another first- year student, and four unfamiliar girls.

“I came to the gym to join the volleyball thingy. It’s my first experience with volleyball~”

Apparently, Amasawa-san plans to participate in the volleyball tournament.

I guess the first-year students have moved on after all, seeing the situation of the participating teams, which are short-handed.

“See you later. Good luck with the shuttle run~”

After coming over on her own accord and talking as much as she wanted, Amasawsa-san joined up with the group.

“So she’s joining the volleyball competition.” Ibuki-san said, glaring at her back.

“Seems so.”

“Then I’ll join too. You wouldn’t be able to get five members without me anyways.”

“What?”

“I said I’m going to be there. I know it’s aggravating to work with you, but it’s a chance for me to beat that cocky little freshman.”

If Ibuki-san is willing to help us, she’s a perfect asset to the force. “Don’t decide on your own. I haven’t said I’ll take you on the team

yet.”

“Huh? You haven’t even gotten a single student so far. What choice do

you have?”

“Team competitions are equally assigned points. It is natural to want to fill in the gaps with students from your own class, rather than with students from other classes, isn’t it?”

Even if I had scored more points, Ibuki-san was in the second place

class.

face.”

In other words, the point difference would not open up at all.

“I don’t care about that. I’m fine as long as I can see that brat’s sad

“Anyway, it depends on the other members. Our class must make up a

high percentage of the total.”

“Then why don’t you let me join you?”

Kushida-san, who had been watching Amasawa-san’s back as well, utters this without changing her gaze.

“What do you think you’re doing, Kushida-san? I don’t think you’ve changed your mind and are now willing to cooperate with us.”

I spoke my mind frankly, and Kushida-san didn’t deny it. However, it bothered me that her eyes were strongly directed toward Amasawa-san, not me.

“I have something against Amasawa-san.” “You too?”

“I’m not going to tell you why, but I’d be happy to lend you a hand to settle the score.”

“If that’s what you’re after, I’m fine with it. You’re a perfect asset.”

It is often said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Allies roll in unexpectedly.

“But she will definitely be a formidable opponent.”

“I’m sure she will.”

Ibuki-san had already started warming up and getting into the swing of things.

Amasawa-san watched her from afar and giggled. Ibuki-san and I experienced firsthand how amazing Amasawa-san was, but I don’t know the details of the other students. I don’t remember the names of the students who got an A on the OAA, though I’m sure I can remember the names of the students who got close to an A, so I’m sure they were just below a B at the highest estimate.

More problematic is that we are still three students short. It’s a bit of a catch to analyze our opponents when we haven’t even met the requirements for participation.

“What are the requirements for the remaining three? You want to avoid Ryūen’s class, right?”

Kushida asked about the selection of people.

“Yes, that’s right. Of course, I’m inclined to stick to my classmates as much as possible. But the priority is the match and the strength of the opposing team.”

“Okay. Then wait a minute.”

With that, Kushida-san left our side and started to walk away. “Okay, but what is she going to do? We can’t find help easily.”

Ibuki-san and I followed her as she went to Rokaku-san, who is in Class A. After talking with her for a while, the four of us went on to meet Fukuyama-san, who was also in the same class. Finally, we went to the gymnasium to see the students who were cheering for the other competitors.

“That girl over there is Himeno-san from Ichinose-san’s class right?”

The four of us talked for a few dozen seconds until Kushida-san returned with Himeno-san in tow.

“She’s going to join us in volleyball. Himeno-san isn’t a good volleyball player, but she agreed to join the five of us. Just leave the competition to us, and we’ll take care of it, okay?”

Kushida-san speaks in a kind tone to Himeno-san. She’s seemingly turned on her charm mode once again.

I can’t hide my surprise that the two Class A students in particular lent a hand so honestly.

“We’re also in a hurry because we’re about to lose, and even if we don’t win at worst, we want to leave a record that we contributed.”

The two look at each other and nod. They want credit because they are in Class A, which is largely in last place.

While seeing through that psychology, Kushida-san instantly recognized them as capable students. Even though I could not remember their specific grades at OAA, as a friend of Fukuyama-san and Rokaku-san, she had a firm grasp of how physically capable they were.

“This is a trick you will never be able to do, Ibuki-san.” “Shut up. You couldn’t find anyone either.”

There were five or six students in the gym that I could still talk to. “Anyways, I think this is probably the best group we can make right now.” At any rate, the six members of the volleyball team, who had been in doubt about their ability to participate, were all here.

The difference in the number of members from Ryūen’s class is only one person. However, winning the championship and gaining 10 points would be far more rewarding than competing in the shuttle run and only gaining 2 or 3 points. The fact that even if we lose, the gap between us and them will never close is also an advantage for us.

The top two teams consisted of me and Ibuki-san, and the other students who were available, such as Himeno-san, Rokkaku-san, and Fukuyama-san.

Although there is a slight loss due to Himeno-san’s lack of skill, we have enough strength to make up for it.

5

We won the first round without any problems and I noticed a few things watching Amasawa-san’s team. Nanase-san took the lead in the match, dominating both offensively and defensively.

“Nanase was on point, but the brat isn’t as big of a deal as I thought?” “I certainly don’t feel like she’s as good as I had thought. I assumed the

lack of volleyball experience was a joke, but...”

It’s possible that she’s cutting corners on purpose, but from what I’ve seen, she doesn’t seem to be. She’s better than the students who can’t move at all offensively or defensively, but they don’t seem to be a threat. However, as the game passed the halfway point, the situation began to change little by little.

Ibuki-san’s eyes, which had been somewhat languid, began to turn serious. In less than ten minutes of game time, Amasawa-san was visibly improving. Just as Amasawa-san was beginning to show glimpses of her ability, Nanase-san spiked the ball to end the match.

“The next time we play, she might be even better.”

“Yeah but they can’t get so much experience in just a few shitty games.

We... we can still win.”

Too much optimism was dangerous, but with Nanase-san in tow, Amasawa-san was able to have an upper hand on us without touching the ball too much.

We went on to win, and at around 3:40, the final arrived.

At a sports festival, there are many differences from the normal rules of competition. Volleyball was no exception. There is no rotation in the serve, but any player can serve, and the team with the first 10 points or the most points within 10 minutes wins. If time runs out and the score is tied, the team that is ahead will have the right to serve and the game will go into overtime.

“So I guess it’s time to see your losing side.” Ibuki-san yelled out to Amasawa-san from the our side of the court.

“Can you be satisfied with just winning and losing in volleyball? Ibuki- senpai.”

“First, I’ll beat you in volleyball. Then, I’ll win the fight as well.” “Fufufu~ I don’t mind that kind of thinking.”

Amasawa-san’s presence was eerie, but Nanase-san was the one to watch out for.

“Just like the last game, I’ll be the attacker. I’m going to pound everything into their court.”

Ibuki-san declares, even more fired up than before.

Although her control is a little difficult, I can’t argue with the destructive power of her spikes. At the start of the final, Ibuki-san took the lead with her serve.

We thought we had the momentum, but Nanase-san spiked a point right back. I thought it would be a close game, but it turned out to be a little more in our favor as we finished the first half with a 4-2 lead. As expected,

Nanase-san was able to compete with me and Ibuki-san, but other than that, we seemed to have a slight advantage.

The situation changed midway through the game. The time remaining was less than five minutes. After three steps, Ibuki-san jumped up and fired a spike. Amasawa-san, who had scored many points in the past, came out from the other side of the net and prevented the blow. No, she kept his momentum and slammed the ball right down.

The ball slammed into our court, giving the first-year team one point. “Awww... that’s too bad~ Ibuki-senpai! Nanase-chan, what do you call

this kind of play?”

“Doshut or something. I don’t know much about it, though.” “Whatever. Anyways, I’ve already seen through your attack pattern, so

you can’t take one over me from here on out.” “No! I’ll definitely block it next time!”

“Calm down. You just happened to get stopped once.” “Damn it. You’ll have to pass the ball to me next time.”

Then, when the score was 5-3, I started to serve. It would have been easier if it had been decided, but... Because of the rule that if the ball goes out, the opponent is awarded a point immediately, I couldn’t aim at an absurd course. If you hit the ball to a solid spot, of course it will be returned. But I’m going to defend well and pass the ball to Ibuki-san.

“This time... sink it!”

She changed her rhythm, took two steps, soared high, and launched the best spike of the day. The two first-year students who jumped to block it couldn’t touch it, and the ball fell in a straight line to the court floor.

Amasawa-san blocked it, and as if she knew it was coming, she killed the momentum with a clean receive and sent the ball flying through the air. As her golden hair flowed, Nanase-san jumped up high and shot a spike towards Himeno-san. Kushida-san forced her way in front of Himeno-san, who was stiff and unable to move, and tried to receive the ball, but she could not control the momentum of the ball.

The first-year team began to catch up, and in the final minutes of the game, our two teams were finally level.

With only about two minutes left in the game, we could very well run out the clock at this pace.

“I’ll do it again next time!”

Ibuki-san, who was twice prevented from scoring by Amasawa-san, was determined to do it next time. I instructed my teammates to pass the ball around, and the game resumed. As they exchanged receivess, Amasawa-san was ready to spike the ball for the first time.

“No way you’re getting past this time!”

Ibuki-san jumps up on the block, but then Nanase-san comes into view from behind Amasawa-san.

“Whoopsies...”

The smiling Amasawa-san was a decoy. It was Nanase-san’s plan to spike the ball from the beginning.

Caught off guard, Ibuki-san reached out, but was unable to touch the ball. The ball was aimed at the court floor at an acute angle - and Kushida- san slid in to make a great receive.

“Ibuki-san!”

Everyone’s attention turned to Ibuki-san, and the freshmen rushed into a defensive stance.

Amasawa-san was waiting for an attack from Ibuki-san with a relaxed expression.

“Shit!”

Even though the situation was tough, she tried to force a spike, but couldn’t find a way. Although Ibuki-san wanted to spike it, she gritted her teeth and switched to a toss.

I understood Ibuki-san’s determination and released the energy I had been saving. I ducked under Amasawa-san’s block and unleashed a spike that went straight to Nanase-san who was waiting for me.

Nanase-san, who was tired, was unable to scoop up the ball and went off course. If she had been in better shape, she might have been able to volley it in.

It was 7-6, and we had a one-point lead as time was running out. At the end of the game, which would end in about a minute whether I cried or laughed, we had the right to serve.

“Well, I guess it’s time to get serious, huh?” Amasawa-san said, as if she hadn’t been serious until now.

Nanase-san was wise enough to catch up and prevent Ibuki-san’s serve.

The ball, having lost its momentum, flew high into the air, and we all stared at it in awe.

“The target is...!”

The released volleyball came at me at a furious speed as it swelled up. Even though I was concentrating on my nerves, my reaction was delayed, and the moment I tried to reach for it, the distance between me and the ball was too wide to reach. The sound of the ball being hit violently echoed.

“Out!”

The unfortunate thing was that I was too late in reacting and could not touch the ball. The ball was half a ball out of the white line that marked the inside of the court.

“Aw shoot. Sorry, Nanase-chan, it seems like you missed. It’s pretty hard to have perfect control, isn’t it?”

“Thanks for the help anyways, Amasawa-san.”

The whistle blew, and Nanase-san, who had lifted the toss, looked up with a startled expression. Amasawa-san, who was about to hit the ball towards us, landed on the floor without swinging her hand down.

“Oh, time’s up. It was just starting to get interesting...”

Amasawa-san, who had not the slightest regret and was enjoying playing volleyball, praised the good match.

After a quick chat with Nanase-san, we left the court.

Although they lost, the girls also got points for taking second place in volleyball. And we, of course, managed to get a large number of points as first place.

“I’m not convinced... I don’t feel like I won.”

“We were pushed pretty hard at the end. I’d be horrified if it wasn’t timed.”

We were supposed to win and feel better, but we were left with a half- hearted feeling of bewilderment. Still, the win was huge, and it was a fierce battle worthy of ending the sports festival. I noticed that there were quite a few people in the gallery, and they were applauding, albeit sparsely.

6

The sports festival is now in its final stages. The gymnasium is filled

with an odd excitement as the final team competitions have commenced. “It’s almost time for the games, isn’t it, Sudō-kun? Are you ready?”

Sudō and Onodera, who had participated in many pair competitions as a duo during this sports festival, had advanced to the finals of the tennis mixed gender doubles as their tenth event.

“Yeah, sure.”

Onodera continues, feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the somewhat absentminded reply.

“But still, don’t you think we make a great duo? So far, we’ve won four out of four matches in the pairs competition. I’m sure everyone in the class will be surprised.”

In the two matches up to this point, there was one matchup between students in the same grade and one matchup between third-year students, but the Sudō/Onodera pair won without being pinned down, and they have now won five straight group matches. Moreover, Sudō has won nine straight matches, including individual competitions, and is on the verge of a 10-match winning streak.

Onodera, on the other hand, did not finish first in all nine rounds, but she also kept her high ranking.

While Onodera’s words continued with friendly chatter, Sudō’s gaze was on something else.

“Are you worried about that first-year student? You’ve been watching him for a long time, haven’t you?”

“Huh?”

“Hō...sen right? I can’t believe that guy is a freshman, he’s massive and has a terrifying vibe. Yeah, but, it feels like that’s not all Sudō-kun is paying attention to. What’s up?”

“It’s nothing. Don’t worry.”

The Hōsen pair that was playing the game in front of them won with ease, and their opponents for the final were decided. Sudō was staring at Hōsen while talking with Onodera, who was in a happy mood.

Onodera looked up as she was talking and started staring at Sudō’s profile.

Up until now, she had faced the competition without thinking about it, but her heart was clearly in turmoil. They had been working together most of the time, not only today, but also during the preparation for this sports festival. From practice to lunch to the morning commute to school, they had many meetings and practices.

That is why she had acquired the ability to recognize changes in Sudō’s facial expressions. Even his athleticism has a few shortcomings. He has a very rough and tumble personality, and is quick to get carried away. He also has a tendency to lose his temper.

This has sometimes led to him dragging both of them down when they work together.

“You will now play the final game. Please get ready.”

As they were sitting down to rest their tired bodies, one of the staff members approached them

“Well then, let’s quickly decide on a winner and get some momentum going.”

Pretending to be calm, Onodera emptied her mind as Sudō called out to

her.

Even if there is something going on regarding that first-year, it

shouldn’t be a problem. As long as it doesn’t turn into something troublesome, that’s all that matters.

“Let’s do this.” Sudō grabbed his racket and threw one over to Onodera.

One by one, their classmates begin to show up at the gymnasium to cheer on Sudō and Onodera. Perhaps because adults also have a strong interest in the finals, people would stop in their tracks to observe the competition.

“It’s kind of a tournament atmosphere, isn’t it?” “For real. It’s a comfortable tension though I’d say.”

There is no need to worry about atrophy for the two, who are strong on the big stage, including in club competitions.

court.

At that moment, a roar of laughter erupted from the other side of the

“Aha! I ain’t ever thought I’d be playing you in the finals, Sudō-

paisen!”

“Hōsen!” The air changes as Sudō speaks to Hōsen across the net. “You don’t think you can beat me at tennis, do ya? I’m going to destroy you, so look forward to it!”

Doubles begins, with limited match time: a four-point, one-game, two- games-at-a-time, three-game match. The right to serve will not be rotated from one game to the next, but will go to the side that loses the point. There is no need for a change of serve within a team, and any team member can repeat a game.

The match started with an onslaught by Hōsen. His strong serve easily hit into the court. Meanwhile, Sudō’s serve was very lackluster and was returned one after the other, and when he hit the ball in, they were driven back to 3 (40) to 0 (love) in less than a minute.

“What the... ugh! That guy is too fast! I didn’t think he had experience?”

It was no wonder that Onodera panicked, as Hōsen’s ball struck the court at a speed that made her feel fear.

“What’s the matter, Sudō? You ain’t no match for me, don’t hurt yourself.”

“Shit!” His fist clenching his racket forcefully, he swung up and tried to slam it into the ground.

“Sudō-kun, no.” “Ah!”

“Don’t you know that you always fail when you get upset?” “Yeah, but still!”

With no one left to vent his frustration on, Sudō was suddenly stressed

out.

Hōsen, who was watching the scene from across the net, snickered.

“I can’t believe you’re so damn easy. What was all this high talk about

ya? Your movements are way shittier compared to the last matches.”

It was a fact that Sudō had been thrown off due to being too preoccupied with Hōsen.

“I can’t trust Sudōu-kun to serve now.” With the ball in hand, Onodera instructs Sudō to defend and releases her serve.

She hits the ball with a sharpness that makes it hard to believe that she is a girl and has no experience in tennis, but Hōsen quickly closes the distance and shows beautiful technique, handling the racket like a hand finger.

Sudō stretched out his arm, but he could only hit the edge of the racket, and the first-year team took the first game without surrendering a single point.

“You don’t really look like a player, man. You look like a loser.”

Compared to Hōsen, who was really enjoying the game, the girl who was paired with him couldn’t hide her frightened expressions. Hōsen handled almost all of the game by himself, and it was practically a two-on-one battle.

In the second game, Hōsen’s one-sided onslaught was expected to continue, but it took a surprising turn.

Hōsen’s swings were not as strong as before, and Onodera adapted and came forward to hit back.

Just when they thought he might be getting tired. Hōsen’s arm swung wide. The smash that came out was as fast and powerful as a bullet. The ball rushed straight at Onodera, who was guarding the front, as if she were a target. Onodera looked in pain as the ball grazed her cheek.

Surprised and terrified, Onodera unintentionally dropped her racket to the floor.

“You’re not doing that on purpose, are you?!”

“What’chu on about? Ain’t it natural to aim close to the opponent’s body in tennis? If you drop it too far, they’ll hit you back with the same point. Don’tcha know anythin’ about that? You’re arguing with me over just one ball... stop pissing ya panties.”

“Damn it!”

Hōsen proudly asserted his legitimacy while Onodera hurriedly picked up her racket.

“Don’t worry about it. It was just a little graze... Besides, like he said, isn’t tennis supposed to be about aiming close to your opponent and returning?”

“That’s something you can say to a guy who plays pro-tennis. This is a sports festival event, remember?” Sudō complains irritably.

The serve goes to Sudō again, but the first time it goes off course.

The second time, he saved and tried to go in, and was easily returned by Hōsen. The momentum wasn’t as strong, and Onodera, who had caught up, hit back cleanly with her racket.

Two or three rallies followed, and that was when Onodera came to the fore again and hit back.

Hōsen, who had closed the distance, swung his arm down and the ball bounced back.

“Kya!” Onodera stiffened, unable to swing her racket at the hard fastball that had scared her just beforehand. The ball zoomed past her but Sudō was able to bite back and hit the ball back into the opponent’s court, but then Hōsen’s relentless volleys targeted only the area around Onodera. Hōsen seemed to be playing competitively.

The game came down to 3 (40) points for Sudō and 2 (30) points for Hōsen.

Onodera was struggling to get out of the way, but she was so upset that the ball came near her face again that she twisted her left leg and fell down on the spot.

“Onodera!”

As if to cover for Onodera, who could not stand up, Sudō bit down and returned the ball to Hōsen. Sudō’s ball landed just short of the court, and Sudō’s team took the second set. But that didn’t make him happy, as Sudō became more agitated.

“That’s enough! You can’t even play fair!”

“How many times do I have to tell ya, you damn monkey brain? It’s your lousy girl’s fault, isn’t it? Don’t give me bullshit.”

“Please, Sudōu-kun, you’re repeating yourself.” Onodera couldn’t get up and shushed Sudōu as he slumped down on the spot.

“I know that, but come on! You can’t allow this to happen!”

“Sure, the judges are suspicious. But Sudōu-kun’s aggressiveness is also interfering with that, you know?”

It was clear that Hōsen had already won the tennis match and had changed his policy to torment Sudōu rather than win.

The aim was to instill fear in Onodera and even induce injury with a single mistake.

“Anyway, keep calm, Sudōu-kun.” Onodera admonished him gently but forcefully, even though she was in pain.

Sudō, his head still burning, glared at Hōsen unbearably, but when he saw Onodera frowning in pain, he remembered what his priority should be. Hastily, medical attention was provided for Onodera’s injured ankle.

“Hey, why don’t you guys take it easy, don’t go through hell anymore, aite? That sucks man. They up and lost the damn game, this shit is so boring.” Hōsen yawned and looked at them briefly before addressing his partner, a first year.

“That bastard played with us on purpose with the intention of tormenting us to the very last minute...”

Sudō calls out in concern as he looks at Onodera’s left leg. “Are you okay?”

“Well, sort of. But I’m so pathetic. I’m so afraid of the ball that I avoid it, and as a result, I fell and injured my foot.” She laughed to herself and lightly tapped her taped foot.

“No wonder, man. He’s annoying to death, but he’s got great athleticism.”

Sudō was also terrified of the high-powered volleys that he could deliver with his superior body. Unless you’re an experienced tennis player or a club member, you’ll be overcome with fear.

“You know, I’ve always held a pretty good opinion of Sudō-kun ever since you entered the school.”

“Oh? What the hell are you on about suddenly? Why don’t you just rest and get some medical attention?”

“That’s fine. It’s a good thing I got hurt. It means you’ve been given a little bit of time to cool down.”

“You have a strong heart, I mean, I didn’t know you used to think highly of me.”

“Yeah, but you were the number one person I didn’t want to deal with, given your brazen attitude.”

“Oh...”

“People around me scold me for my bad behaviour and inability to study, but I always make sure to support people who work hard in club activities.

“What are you on about?”

“I understand you, Sudō-kun. When I’m going home after a late night of club activities, I sometimes pass by the gym. Whenever I peek in to see if there’s anyone left, Sudō-kun is always the only one left practicing until the end. He cleans up properly, and he’s taking it seriously.”

“What the heck, you were watching that?”

“But... as I thought, Sudō-kun will never be truly appreciated if things continue as they are now.”

“What do you mean?”

“You were angry for me. It’s not that I don’t like that fact, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you have a tendency to lose your temper. If you keep that up, one day you’ll be in more trouble than ever before.”

“Yeah, but-“

“You’d better get over your habit of losing your temper.” “I know, I know.”

“Even in sports, don’t you make more mistakes when you’re frustrated?”

“Well, yeah. Your shooting success rate, for example, might drop drastically...”

“Me too. When I’m frustrated, I desperately try to improve my time, but I end up going slower than usual, and that doesn’t do me much good.”

“Yeah that’s exactly what I mean.”

“I’ll tell you a story. One time, when I lost an important game once, I was so frustrated and disappointed that I went to change in the lockers and went wild. I injured my hand and it was very hard to recover.” She stuck her tongue out a little as if she was nostalgic and ashamed of her old self. “I realized then that nothing good comes from being angry, it just comes back to haunt you.”

“How did you manage to overcome not getting angry?” “It’s because my senpai taught me magic.”

“Magic?”

“Yes. I’ll teach it to Sudō-kun. A magic trick that can suppress anger.” “Well, how do you do that?”

“The peak of anger is actually surprisingly short, a few seconds at most. So when I feel like yelling, I yell once in my mind, then take a deep breath and count to ten.”

“So you’re saying to get angry after ten seconds? That’s it?”

“Yes. I think that’s enough to change things, you should try it.” “I see.”

Despite his scepticism, Sudō memorized what she had just said so that he could engrave it in his mind.

“I wanted to team up with you because I appreciate your passion for sports. Don’t betray that expectation.”

“Onodera...”

With her wounds tended to, Onodera stood up to check on her condition.

“I’m fine. Whether we cry or laugh, this one game will decide the outcome. If we lose, we lose. But if we try our best, we can still win. I know it.”

“For sure.”

The third game begins. Hōsen continues to relentlessly target Onodera, whose movements have slowed down due to her injured left leg. Even when he went too far and lost a point himself, he made no move to stop.

The Sudō team leads by 3 (40) to 1 (15).

Hōsen, who would have ended the match if he dropped the ball, fired another hard fastball at Onodera.

This time, she couldn’t avoid it and the ball hit her right arm. Onodera crouched there in pain.

“This isn’t how the game works, you fucking freak!”

Sudō then remembers the magic words Onodera taught him earlier, even though he is extremely angry to the point where his blood boils. He glares at Hōsen, who repeatedly continues to provoke him, but raises his voice of anger in his own mind.

Ten seconds of anger. Just hold it in for only ten seconds.

He counts the numbers one, two, three, and takes a deep breath to calm his emotions. Eight, nine, ten. The abusive words that he had intended to use against Hōsen receded into the back of his throat.

Of course, not all the frustration has disappeared, but he succeed in looking at the situation calmly and objectively. The suspicious eyes of the judges. Onodera’s gaze. A game that must be won. Time remaining. If he lunged at Hōsen again here, he would naturally be stopped.

“Onodera, do you believe in my power?”

“Of course. I believe in you, that’s why we’re playing a match together.”

After catching his breath, Sudō threw the ball into the air and made the best serve of the day. Hōsen, who had no time to lose, returned the ball as if to catch up, and from that point on, Sudō and Hōsen began to battle it out in a rally. Both of them did not back down and continued to return strong blows, but Sudō, who did not miss the sweet return of Hōsen, was losing his patience, and smashed the ball into the opponent’s court.

“Haaaaaaaaa!” Gripping his racket, Sudō lets out a yell that echoes throughout the gym.

“Shit, shit!”

Despite his overwhelming advantage, Hōsen, who had been licking Sudō’s chops until the end of the game, became annoyed that he had lost the game and slammed his racket into the court, snapping it in half.

“We won, Onodera! Thanks to you!” Sudō ran over to Onodera in excitement and hugged her vigorously, sharing his excitement.

“Ah-ah-ah!” Onodera panics, unsure of what just happened for a moment. “Wait, it hurts, it hurts, Sudōu-kun!”

Sudō regains his composure as his thick arms tighten around her and she lets out a painful sound.

“Woah, calm down there!”

Happy that he was able to control his anger in addition to his victory, Sudōu smiled his best smile of the day.

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“Congratulations on all your wins, Sudōu-kun.”

“Thanks Onodera, if it wasn’t for your magic trick, I would have definitely lost this game.”

“That’s not true. In fact, I dragged you down-“

“Shut up. It’s not a good thing to get hurt, but I think I lost when I got hurt and lost my temper. And you brought it back up.”

“I see. Then we’re. good partners, I guess.”

“Yeah. It was very easy to work with you, and I could rely on you. It’s really great, Onodera. Oh, I hope Suzune saw what we’re doing somewhere.”

There were so many guests and students that it was hard to find Horikita right away.

“Suzune, is that you?” “Um? Who are you?”

“Oh no, uh, sorry, wrong person.” “Well maybe she’s outside.”

“Let’s go out for dinner sometime after club activities, Sudō-kun.” “What? Yeah, that’s fine. But I need your help to find Suzune. Where’s

Suzune?”

“Aha. Absolutely not.”

“Yo, bitch. Don’t you get carried away just ‘cause ya won this one game. You know you woulda lost if I had taken ya seriously, right?” Despite the fact that the match was over, Hōsen approached him with a nasty look on his face. “I wanna take you ‘round back for a playdate. Come so I can re- arrange your face.”

“Listen here. “

Sudō quietly restrained Onodera, who was about to confront the entangled Hōsen.

“There was a mess with this guy a while ago. I can’t blame him for trying to get me involved like that.”

“Yes, but “

Sudō laughed, understanding Onodera’s feelings as he tried to protect her from getting into trouble. Then he turned to Hōsen.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not going to fold to your cheap disses.” “Fuck are you talking ‘bout? You’re my bitch boy from now on.” “That’s why I ain’t gonna do it.

As soon as Sudō refused, Hōsen pressed his shoulder into Sudō, pretending to walk past and let out a powerful clenched fist into his abdomen. The force was so powerful that Sudō fell to his knees, even though Hōsen hadn’t swung.

“Sudōu-kun!”

Sudō stopped Onodera with his hand and slowly stood up.

The teacher comes running up to him, but Sudō replies that nothing has been done to him and the teacher walks away with nothing more than a suspicious look in his eye.

“You know what? I’ve already figured out that you’re a strong fighter, and I ain’t gonna complain because last time was my fault too. But if you want to go further, I’ll have the teacher come in.”

“You’re fucking lame. I’m not even as strong as I was then, I swear I’ve gotten weaker. Come and I’ll show you.”

“Maybe. Onodera, let’s go.” “Uh-huh.”

“You boring son of a bitch, don’t ever bother tryna mess around with me again.”

Sudō felt rather relieved when he was told not to get involved. As long as he didn’t go at it himself, he wouldn’t spread any more trouble. He knew that if he just didn’t let his anger get the better of him, things would turn out much better.

“I guess I should also thank Hōsen for that. Seeing him like that, I realized how lame I really was. It’s hard to put it into words, but when I tried the method you taught me, something just fell into place. I thought, why was I so angry before? I guess it’s like a curse was lifted off of me.”

Sudō was grateful for the 10 consecutive victories that he had been able to pick up, but he was equally grateful for this sports festival, and to have Onodera as his partner.

Written on March 5, 2022