Y2 Vol 7 English Chap 1

Chapter One: Preparing For The Cultural Festival

It was monday, november 1st, the beginning of autumn - and we’re faced with chilly weather.

The months seemed to go by quickly, and in two months it would be winter break. The view from my new seat wouldn’t last much longer. The fact that I felt a sense of regret was proof that the seating change was a good system for me. I didn’t know if there would be a seating change next semester, but either way, I was sure the scenery will be very different from before.

“Good morning. Everyone’s here, right?” A few seconds after the bell, Chabashira-sensei appeared in the classroom.

The students, who had been busy chatting with each other, quieted down and looked at the teacher with a familiar gaze. The school’s unique system, in which all behaviour outside of class affected the evaluation of the class as a whole, had produced a serious and disciplined attitude amongst the students. It was not that anything had changed significantly in the last week, but I could certainly sense that they had grown a whole lot.

Seeing such an attitude among the students who continued to grow day by day, Chabashira-sensei nodded deeply and began to speak.

“I believe preparations are steadily progressing for the cultural festival, but I have some additional explanatory notes. First of all, I will once again display an overview of the festival as a review, so those who need to should check it.” The monitor behind Chabashira-sensei lit up and the explanation of the rules reappeared.

[Outline of the Cultural Festival]

  • Each second-year class is given 5,000 private points per student to be used solely for preparation of the festival. (First-year students receive 5,500 points and third-year students receive 4,500 points)

  • Additional funds will be given for social contributions such as student council service and contributions through club activities.

  • (Details will be announced to each class after they are finalized.)

  • The initial allocation of private points and additional funds are not reflected in the final sales and will be forfeited if unused.

  • Classes ranked 1st through 4th place will receive 100 class points.

  • Classes ranked 5th through 8th will receive 50 class points.

  • No change in class points for classes placed 9th through 12th

“That’s all I’ve explained so far. You should have no problem understanding what’s been said.” Without a single question from the students, Chabashira-sensei continued with her explanation. “I would like to announce that the details of the ‘additional funds’ mentioned in this overview explanation have been decided.”

Additional funds. The points that can be used for the festival would be increased based on student council service, social contributions, club activities, etc. The time had come to announce the details.

The lack of a confirmed budget meant that the number, content, and scale of the performances could not be finalized. Despite the inconvenience, this was not a problem as long as all classes in all grades were under the same conditions.

“First of all, the total amount of additional funds to be given to this class, and the breakdown of the funds…”

As soon as she said that, Chabashira-sensei operated her tablet and a spreadsheet-based list was displayed. It turned out that a total of 12 people were eligible for these additional funds.

  • Horikita Suzune, Student Council Member Bonus: 10,000 points

  • Sudō Ken, Club Activity Bonus: 10,000 points

  • Onodera Kayano, Club Activity Bonus:10,000 points

Although 10,000 points was the maximum, only three students were able to earn that amount of additional funding. There were 9 other students who received hundreds to thousands of points in recognition of their contributions.

For example, Yōsuke received 3,000 points for his club activity bonus, and Akito received 100 points. Many students who seemed to be active, mainly in club activities, were mentioned.

In total, this class obtained 39,400 additional funds. In terms of number of people, these funds correspond to the initial points for almost 6 people. These funds would be essential for running the festival.

“I can’t give you the breakdown, but Sakayanagi’s Class A has 18,800 points. 17,000 points for Ryūen’s Class C, and Ichinose’s Class D has 26,600 points in additional funds. In other words, this class has the most additional funds among the second-year students.”

So, Ichinose’s class was in second place and Sakayanagi’s class was in third place - narrowly ahead of Ryūen’s class. That was an unexpected result, but one factor could be the student council member bonus. The fact that both Horikita and Ichinose earned 10,000 points for their presence alone was pretty significant.

Other students, such as Sudō and Onodera, were considered to be head and shoulders above the rest in their contributions to club activities, even throughout the entire school year. Since individuals were not allowed to use any of their private points at the festival, in the case of Horikita’s class, the total number of class members plus additional funds must be kept within 229,400. Every single point counts. However, we should not be too proud of this result.

Although advantageous in the preparatory stage before the start of the festival, additional funds would be a liability if they are not completely utilized by the end.

The above seems to be the explanation of additional funds, but it should not end there. Several pieces of information needed for the festival have not been made public.

“Now then, I’ll explain some details about the guests who will be in attendance as this is an extremely important point for making sales.”

How many and what kind of guests would be coming to the festival? And how much money they had has not been disclosed in detail so far.

“Guests of honor will be people who are involved in the operation of this school and their families, but of course there will be a wide range of ages, from the elderly to toddlers and elementary school students,” she said. “It has also been decided that those who work at Keyaki Mall and convenience stores will also be invited as guests.”

The tablet screen switched to a graph, revealing the number of guests by age.

Those in their 30s and 40s followed by those under 20 and those in their 50s. “The adults are guests of honor and they receive 10,000 points. Minors

receive 5,000 points. There are 283 adults and 202 minors. The total number of participants will be 485 in all, for a total sum of 3,840,000 points.”

The ranking of all 12 classes for the entire school year would depend on whether or not we could make sales from the total amount.

“I should also mention that the number of participants includes us teachers.

Homeroom teachers are restricted to use points in the grade for which they are responsible, but they are treated no differently than other guests.”

The rule that they couldn’t use points on their own grade levels would be essential. As homeroom teachers, they would normally want to drop money on their own class if they could.

“Is it possible to use more than 10,000 points in pocket money?”

In response to Ike’s question, Chabashira-sensei immediately shook her head. It was a preemptive question, as usual, and she answered without paying much attention. Although, she seemed to be enjoying such an unchanging Ike.

“No. The guests can’t spend more than the given points. The maximum amount is immovable.”

This means that the guests weren’t provided with unlimited funds. It wasn’t a matter of restricting certain rich guests, but it was inevitable that there would be a competition for them.

“The primary method of payment is through a special cell phone app which the school will use to monitor sales in real time. Keep in mind that the app will be disabled the moment the festival ends at 4 pm. You are free to set your own timing for the checkout, but we recommend that you receive payment before the products are served.”

If you pay after eating for example, there would be cases where it would be around 4 p.m., so there would be a risk of not being able to collect the points.

“Now that we’re done here, anyone with any questions, raise your hands.” A period of time was allowed for questions and remarks, and soon after,

Horikita raised her hand.

“If the sales are the same amount, what would the ranking be? I know this is very extreme, but what happens if all classes receive the same amount of 320,000 points and are side by side? “

If we based it solely on chance, the odds that all sales in all classes came out to be the same would be microscopic, but collusion among classes wouldn’t be impossible. If all of them were treated as number one, they could equally raise their class points. However, I assumed that some countermeasures had been thought of….

“If the sales are equal, they are treated as the same rank. If all 12 classes make equal sales, as Horikita says, then all classes get 100 class points as first place.”

Was this a somewhat lax rule, given that you don’t lose class points even if you lose? No. Maybe they’ve determined from the start that a large number of classes won’t be in line for the same percentage.

“However, the total amount of sales can only be confirmed after the exam, and any manipulation of sales by third parties is not allowed. It is impossible for the classes to discuss and make a plan to combine sales before the festival, or to

make an arrangement to divide the sales equally after the festival is over. You know what this means, right?”

If the amount of sales cannot be manipulated afterwards, it is unlikely that all classes would be in first place. More importantly, it is unlikely that they would join hands in a friendly manner, losing a valuable competitive opportunity.

“I don’t think an equal number of sales among the classes would be normal. I don’t think you need to worry about it.” Not understanding the meaning of Horikita’s question, Maezono voiced her doubts.

“As Maezono-san said, if it is a normal fight, there is no need to be concerned about it. But it’s not a bad thing to know if it’s accepted as a rule or not.”

Horikita had a point. It’s not a bad thing to know. It was unclear whether collusion is completely impossible within the current situation. For whatever reason, it was possible for certain grades or classes to collude with each other to create equal sales. There are several possible ways to do this, but if the final sales of the products were made to align among the classes in advance, it wouldn’t be difficult to create a scenario in which all sold out products equated to the same sum of points. However, it was necessary to be prepared for betrayal, unforeseen circumstances, and trouble. It would be no laughing matter if you prioritized selling out above all else and as a result, ended up in the bottom of the class in terms of sales. The hurdles to overcome in order to intentionally create a tie are far, far higher than we can imagine.

“Does anyone have any other questions?” No one raised a hand.

“That’s all I have to say about the festival. Next, I would like to announce the results of the second semester mid-term exam that we recently conducted. This time, there are students who achieved results that surprised even me.”

The conversation moved on to the written exam and the announcement of its results. There were a few squeals from the students who weren’t good at studying. Depending on how you looked at it, “surprise” could be considered a bad thing.

However, given that Chabashira-sensei’s expression wasn’t dark or stiff, that seemed unlikely.

All at once, the names of the 38 students in the class were displayed, and they were lined up in order from the student with the highest overall score. Keisei took first place. He had a perfect score in all subjects. In second place was Horikita, only slightly behind. The difference in overall score was only 3 points.

The names of the usual honor roll students followed, but the student who surprised Chabashira-sensei was the one who placed 11th, no doubt.

Eleventh place, Sudō Ken. He scored 73 points in Modern Japanese, 76 points in Chemistry, 70 points in Social Studies, 78 points in Mathematics, and 70

points in English.

He scored a well-balanced total of 367 points in all subjects.

The top rankers from this group were honor students such as Yōsuke, Kushida, Matsushita, and Wang. That’s why Sudō’s ranking was a surprise to everyone.

It was a well-known fact that Sudō was working hard on his studies, but it was unexpected that Sudō, who was also involved in club activities that ran late into the day, would come in at the top of the list.

“Seriously, Ken is ranked 11th… Amazing…”

Ike, who was almost on the same side of the rankings, gave an honest, or rather, stunned response. A crazy turnaround, a leap beyond imagination. The difficulty level of this test was moderate, and the difference in overall score between Sudō and the bottom 20 was only about 15 points, but even so, this result must have surprised many people. Sudō himself should have been running around with joy, but he only made a small gut-punch and didn’t seem to be bragging or making fun of others for passing them.

He checked his cell phone to look over the updated OAA.

[Ken Sudō: Academic ability C+, physical ability A+, adaptability C, social contribution D.]

Overall, his physical abilities were outstanding while maintaining a near- average level of academic ability. If he maintained his test scores, he should be able to achieve a B in academic ability in the near future. It seemed that his efforts over the past year had paid off in more ways than he could’ve imagined. He was also able to improve his social contribution skills from the lowest level to a D. He increased his OAA score as well.

My ranking was 14th. I got a perfect score in mathematics, but I slacked off in the other subjects. It would be fair to say that I cut corners, but in reality, I had a different goal in mind. Showing them a perfect score on the second semester mid- term exam would only cause unnecessary confusion. Instead of reassuring them that there were students who could get high scores, it was many times more important to make them feel that they had to grow up and help the class, as Sudō did.

In fact, Sudō’s 11th place result generated a wide range of emotions among his classmates.

Almost everyone was positive. While some students were in the top ranks, others were inevitably in the lower ranks. They were, for lack of a better word, the regulars, but when compared to the average scores of the other classes, it was clear that they were changing little by little. More and more students were trying to improve; and even though their scores were low, they seemed to be steadily and

gradually starting to show results. Of course, not all of them were as good as Sudō. Even when it comes to studying, there are differences in the amount of information that can be absorbed, and there are also large differences in perseverance and physical strength.

Above all, in the case of Sudō, we must not forget that his motivation came from his love for Horikita, who teached him how to study.

Anyways, one could even say, due to the expulsion of Airi from the school, the lower ranked students started working even harder.

1

The classroom after school on the same day.

The main members of the group gathered. They were Satō, Matsushita, Mii- chan, and Maezono. The only thing they had in common was that they were the planners of the maid café.

And then there was me and Horikita, for a total of six. After the initial presentation, meetings related to the maid café were mainly held via cell phone in order to prevent information leaks. Given the concept and scale of the maid café, the outdoor idea was crossed out first. In other words, the location of the café - the classroom - was fixed from the beginning, but we were still unsure about the location of the stall.

Students from other grades and classes came to scout out potential stand locations on a daily basis. We were trying to find the best place to open our booth. It would be more effective to include boys such as Yōsuke in the meeting, but unfortunately, they were busy with club activities at the moment.

As soon as we started moving, Matsushita looked at Horikita and I and asked…

“Hasebe-san and Miyake-kun, what will you do about them?” “What do you mean, ‘what will I do?’”

“They come to school every day, but they don’t want to talk to anyone. It means they keep antagonizing us, the whole class.”

“I’m sure it does. Well, I guess they’re mainly against me.”

Having her best friend Airi expelled from school, Haruka put up a big wall.

Although she was now coming to school, she hadn’t broken down that barrier. “I think Hasebe-san is going to try to do something to the class in the

future.”

I don’t think Haruka told Matsushita directly, nor was she told through a third party. But looking at Haruka now and sensing that atmosphere, a person like Matsushita would’ve guessed. “That may be so. But it’s also true that, so far, I haven’t seen any problematic behavior. She’s even participated in the meetings for the festival.”

Haruka knew about the maid café opening because she initially proposed the idea of a maid café. There was no reason not to include her in the group.

“Are you saying you condone revenge?”

“Of course not. I understand why she’s angry, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mind trouble brewing in class without good reason.”

Disturbance without extenuating circumstances, such as unavoidable special exams, is treated as a complete evil.

Horikita and I both strongly hoped Haruka would not go on a rampage. “Yeah. But we’re not in a situation where that kind of logic would work. It

shouldn’t take this long for her to recover.”

Matsushita repeatedly directed her gaze at me. She seemed to be trying to get a word out of me while keeping the leader, Horikita, on her toes. However, I wouldn’t give my own opinion and remained silent at the time. It’s clear that Haruka was planning to take revenge for the expulsion of her best friend, but right now she was attending school, taking tests normally, and not doing a single thing to cause trouble for the class.

Even if we didn’t know what would happen next, we couldn’t question her at this stage.

“There’s very little we can do in advance,” Horikita said, looking off into the distance. “Preaching to them to stop taking revenge will only get on their nerves.

Just…”

“Just what?”

“If she’s really looking for an opportunity for revenge, she certainly won’t put it off for months.”

I agreed with that opinion. It was hard to imagine that she would continue to live her school life maturely for the next six months or even a year. In other words, the most critical time to be on the lookout was…

“I can’t deny the possibility that she will do something at the festival.” Matsushita nodded quietly, probably wanting to hear those words. “I’ve heard from Ayanokōji-kun that Hasebe-san has no intention of

working as a maid. So, I gave her and Miyake-kun a general role while letting them know what was going on. If we withhold information or exclude her from the group, it would be a blatant statement that we are suspicious of her.”

If by any chance Horikita and the others did something that showed contempt for Haruka, even if she had no intention of taking revenge, it was possible that the extinguished spark would start smoldering again.

“So you’re saying you’ll consider certain people on your side, but you’ll avoid giving them important roles.”

“Yes. I figured I should do that just in case.”

Of course, she probably didn’t have a strong concern about things getting out of control during the cultural festival. Still, as a leader, it was important to be ahead of the curve.

At the festival, many guests would be coming. If Horikita’s class got a bad reputation among the guests, it wouldn’t be surprising if we were penalized in some way.

“I know you’re probably wondering about Haruka and the others, but we’re about to arrive.”

Matsushita was so engrossed in the conversation that she didn’t seem to notice that we were getting close to our destination. Many of the classes were still wondering where to set up their stalls for the event. You never knew where an important piece of information might be picked up unintentionally.

There were a total of eight classrooms that could be opened in the special building, which has three floors. We were currently on the third floor of the building, and the closer you were to the stairs by the entrance, the higher the cost to set up a stall. The third floor was the farthest away from the main gate and had the advantage of being the most cost-effective. The third floor could be rented for between 1,000 and 13,000 points, while the first floor could be rented for a flat rate of 50,000 points. The nearly 40,000 point difference could be used to purchase food and other necessities. The class was given a finite number of points, and it

was inevitable that they’d have to worry about how much to allocate the cost of the stall location and how to come up with the money.

“It’s a lot farther than I thought it would be.”

Mii-chan’s first impression was still about the distance. I think we could all agree on that.

“What do you think, Satō-san?” Mii-chan asked Satō, who had not spoken up so far today, but she didn’t immediately respond. “Satō-san?”

Once again, this time looking up at us, Satō hurriedly replied. “Oh, um. I was thinking… yeah, I guess I think it’s a little far away too.”

“I don’t think all of us will be able to make the trip here unless we have a pretty good show.”

We didn’t stay on the third floor for long, which was a lower priority, probably because our opinions were generally the same. Then we all came down one floor lower, to the second floor.

“I guess the second floor is better than the third floor! More to the point, the first floor would be ideal,” Maezono muttered as she looked at the view outside the window.

“Yes, that’s true. But I guess the first floor is still pretty tough in terms of price.” Mii-chan stared at her cell phone and made a sour face. “But we should make a decision soon. It’s getting pretty full.”

Matsushita took a peek at Mii-chan’s cell phone and said, “That’s right. Two of the five places we picked up are now occupied… However, there are still

candidates from the first to the third floor, which I’d say is a bit of a problem.”

Would you take convenience and pay a large amount of points, or would you abandon convenience and settle for a low payment of points?

“I still think it should be on the first floor. If we can’t get people to come up to the second floor because they are distracted by other exhibits, it’s that much more of a disadvantage.”

“I think it doesn’t really matter if it’s on the second or third floor, as long as it makes people want to come.”

Maezono, Mii-chan, and Matsushita discussed which floor they should purchase. Satō, who was always high-spirited and often speaks even when she’s not heard, had been rather quiet since this morning. Her friends occasionally looked at her as if they were concerned, but she looked as if her mind was somewhere else.

“Sato-san has been like that lately.” Matsushita, noticing my concern, whispered over to me.

“Come to think of it, Satō hasn’t been particularly energetic the last few

days.”

“I was curious if Ayanokōji-kun would know anything about that, but I

guess not.”

I wondered if Matsushita thought I was some kind of Satō whisperer or something. Or maybe she was anticipating Kei’s closeness with Satō, but either way, I didn’t know much.

“She doesn’t seem to be in bad shape, and I asked her if she had any problems, but she didn’t say anything definite.”

“Sometimes people just want to be left alone, don’t they?”

“Yes, I guess. But what can I say, I don’t think that’s the case this time.” “What do you mean?”

Matsushita, who was biting down on her lip, continued without cutting off the conversation, as if she had an idea of what she was talking about.

“It’s like she wants to talk but can’t. She’s the type of person who keeps things inside.”

After a year and a half of friendship, I wondered how she could even tell

that.

“You don’t just keep it bottled up inside and that’s the end of it, right?” “That’s, well… She can usually talk to me about it.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to wait and see for a while longer. If your

understanding is correct, I’m sure she’ll come to you for advice at some point.” “Maybe when. “

Matsushita was a little unclear, but since this kind of long conversation was not possible in Satō’s vicinity, Matsushita stopped talking. The fact that the sky’s the limit was a bit of a concern, but for now, the priority was to decide where to open the stall.

It was time to finalize and move on to the next stage. Just as we were about to finish our inspection of the second floor and move on to the last floor, we were met by another group.

“Yo, Ayanokōji. Are you also looking for a place to open a stand for the festival?”

It was Hashimoto, a member of the 2nd-year Class A, who called out to us. Shortly thereafter, the leader of the group, Sakayanagi, along with Kamuro, also showed up. With all three of them moving at the same time, surely they weren’t just out for a light stroll.

“Well, I’m not sure. They may have already decided, or they may not have even decided whether to go indoors or outdoors.”

“No decision? That’s an obvious lie. Are you telling me that you’re taking Horikita all the way out to the special building to roam around for no reason?

Please tell me what kind of show you’re going to put on.”

Sakayanagi didn’t join in the conversation, but watched on with a wry smile on her face.

“It’s no use asking him. He’s not in a position to know everything about the class.” Unable to listen in silence, Horikita intervened.

“Then you mean he’s simply enjoying his harem?”

He pointed out that I’m the only male of the six and asked Kamuro to agree. “You must be similar, Hashimoto-kun. Sakayanagi-san and Kamuro-san.

You are the only boy, even if the number of people is different. I wonder if it’s because you’re aware of that you’re making strange comments?”

Horikita showed a relaxed response by daring to reply on the same level.

It was a form of getting one over on him, but that didn’t help against Hashimoto. Rather, he would change the subject as if the current conversation never took place.

“Satō, you’ve been spending a lot of time with people like Matsushita, Wang and Maezono.” Hashimoto turned his attention to the four maid café inventors.

The three of them were bracing themselves, but Matsushita stepped forward, looking the same as usual.

“Don’t try to get anything out of us.” “I hope you’ve understood by now.”

The two girls bit down hard on Hashimoto as Matsushita joined Horikita’s

glare.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just…”

The others began to feel uneasy at the implied tone of his words.

“Oops, any more than that would be superfluous?” Grinning, Hashimoto

looked at Sakayanagi for the first time since they had arrived.

You don’t mind if I talk, do you? he seemed to be asking.

“You appear to want to say something, Hashimoto-kun.” Matsushita, who was standing there protecting the three girls, asked in a slightly irritated tone.

As if he’d been waiting for the question, his eloquent and verbose tone became more animated.

“I’m worried about your class, my friend. It seems that you have teamed up with… Ryūen for the sports festival, but do you think you can trust him forever?

“What do you mean?”

“I just thought you were going to team up with Ryūen again. If you are going to team up with him, be careful,” he said, as if he had the heart of an old woman.

Matsushita must have sensed the implications behind his words. She was tempted to ask him if he knew anything about it, but she held her ground.

“We’re in a hurry, and I don’t think we can play word games forever, you know? Everyone.” She turned around and asked the girls and I.

“Right. Let’s get going, we’re wasting time talking to him here.” “She doesn’t like you, does she?” Kamuro said, playing with the bad

atmosphere in the room. Hashimoto let out a deliberate sigh.

“Maybe. I’m just asking for some reasoning… Anyways, good luck with that.” In the end, Sakayanagi didn’t say anything and went into the class we watched earlier.

“That was a little scary…”

Mii-chan, relieved and patting her chest, murmured to Satō, who was standing to her left.

“Huh? Oh, um, yeah. A little bit.”

Whether she heard her or not, Satō’s attitude was unnatural here as well. “Anyway, let’s move.”

“Nothing’s out of the ordinary. He pretended to be on our side, but he’s not afraid to stab us in the back.”

“A sports festival is a sports festival, a cultural festival is a cultural festival. In the end, there are competitions in which our competitors are from other classes. Sakayanagi’s class is an enemy to be defeated, as well as Ryūen’s class. You wouldn’t trust them, would you?”

If we stood around here, we would soon run into Class A again. We all wanted to avoid that, so we decided to look for another potential location.

“Hashimoto-kun said something earlier, did you guys catch it?” Maezono says crisply.

In the process of preparing for the maid café, Horikita and I informed only one member about the deal with Ryūen ahead of time. They must’ve felt uneasy after being shaken up.

“It’s a certainty that we’ll cooperate with Ryūen-kun’s class in the upcoming cultural festival, right?”

“Yes. When we cooperated with each other at the sports festival, we also talked about working together during the cultural festival.”

The content of the two classes’ presentations shouldn’t be similar to each other. Avoid similar or competing stalls in terms of location. The two parties should be able to efficiently exchange staff, temporarily loan out staff, and follow up on each other’s work. Agreements to prepare for unforeseen circumstances,

even if they’re only minor arrangements.

“I didn’t care so much about it during the sports festival because it went well, but when they said something like that, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy… Are you sure you’re okay with trusting them?”

“It’s true that it’s difficult to trust Ryūen-kun personally. That’s why I put Katsuragi-kun in between the two of us. I’m sure It’ll be fine.”

“I want to believe you too. But didn’t Hashimoto-kun seem to know something?”

“Yes, I felt it too. Even if he doesn’t betray you, isn’t it conceivable that the cooperation was leaked?”

“The ones who know are myself and Ayanokōji-kun. Then there are the four of you who started the maid café. In Ryūen’s class, there’s Katsuragi. He may have told other important classmates, but I don’t see the benefit of leaking it.”

Horikita explained to them that it was improbable for the information to be leaked.

“I agree with Horikita. I don’t think they expected Horikita and Ryūen to team up to beat Class A after the sports festival incident. I’m just wary that the next one will be like that. There may be similar contacts and probes in the future, but you shouldn’t worry about it,” I casually followed up.

“Yeah, right. I understand.”

Maezono and Mii-chan nodded their heads, and Matsushita and Satō reassured me again.

Afterwards, we returned to the classroom and gathered to make a final decision.

“I think we’re going to take a majority vote among the members here on where we’re going to open the café. Is that okay?”

“What if the opinions are evenly split?”

“We’ll figure that out then. Let’s try it once first. Rock for first floor, paper for second floor, and scissors for third floor. Okay?”

Mii-chan recited it in a whisper, perhaps to avoid confusion, and then looked at her palm.

“Here we go.”

The six of us, including me, simultaneously expressed our desired floor with our hands. At first glance, it’s a clear decision. The result was four “rocks”, two “papers”, and zero “scissors”.

The third floor was eliminated because of the time and effort required to move to the third floor. I chose paper in order to reduce the initial cost, but it would not be a bad choice to choose the first floor for its convenience. The other paper was Matsushita.

Anyway, this was a step forward as the application for the first floor had been decided.

“I’ll apply right away. There are still a lot of classes that are waiting to see what happens, and it would be troublesome if they were taken.”

Using her cell phone, Horikita immediately began working on an application to hold the ground floor.

“So, are we done for the day?”

“No, I have something to tell you first.”

I had been gathering information about maid cafés until recently. I should probably mention that the main target of maid cafés is men. There were many families among the festival’s guests, but basically, male customers were the main target.

“I don’t think there will be any female customers, but in terms of ratio, there’ll be a considerable difference.”

This was what anyone would imagine, without having to do any research. “I heard that there are butler cafés in the world, the opposite of maid cafés.

The butler isn’t a girl, but a dressed up man.”

Matsushita and the others, perhaps not having heard this information before, were surprised and impressed.

“Maids and butlers are both a type of concept café.” “You know a lot too, Horikita.”

“I’ll at least gather information. You can decide if it’s useful or not after you learn it.”

I should say that was as good as it gets.

“Then let’s move on. The most important and indispensable thing is cleanliness. I think we should take that into consideration as well as the floors in holding the classes in the special building.”

Each classroom was used very differently compared to other rooms. “Floors, walls, ceilings, and other chairs also vary a bit in damage due to

age. I’d like you to check that as well so that you don’t miss anything.”

“That’s important. Even if we do some cleaning ourselves, there are some things we can’t cover up. The cleaner it is, the better it will be for the store.”

Everyone here agreed and began looking around the classroom again. The consciousness that had previously been directed solely toward convenience and the outside landscape would begin to change.

“And also about the uniforms, we shouldn’t push the eroticism too blatantly.” “Eh?! What did you say?” Horikita looked shocked. “Eroticism. Eros and eroticism have been seen as important elements in art

since ancient times. Showing underwear and the like is out of the question, but it’s important, however, not to refuse the hope that it might be visible.”

Horikita probably wasn’t able to get her head around that point. “Ayanokōji-kun… Aren’t you awfully knowledgeable?”

“Since I’m in charge of running the maid café, of course I can’t cut corners. I studied to be as helpful as possible.”

It was also reassuring to know that there were several students in the class who were very knowledgeable about this kind of topic. Of course, I avoided mentioning that Horikita’s class was going to have a maid café, and approached them on the assumption that I was personally interested. It was a little distressing, though, that some of the students who mistakenly thought I awakened as an otaku offered me an unusual degree of hospitality and instruction, saying that they wouldn’t mind receiving nothing in return if it would increase the number of like- minded people in the class.

“May I continue?”

“Umm, yes, go ahead…”

No one seemed to stop me, so I was allowed to talk about what it was like to be a maid for a while after that. It was important for those of us who actually wear maid’s uniforms to understand this. It would also be possible to respond to customers in a conscious way.

“I also thought about a sales strategy. In addition to providing food and drinks, we’ll sell the right to take pictures, called Cheki. Using a specialized camera, the price would be 800 points for a photo of one maid. For a photo session with a customer, the price would be 1,200 points. In order to reduce costs, I suggested using a printer to print out the photos after taking them with a cell phone, but the Professor, who taught me this, rejected the idea. He said, ‘If you neglect quality for the sake of profit, no one will pay attention to you.’”

If we made the most of it, the photo sales could be as good as the food sales. “But you have to worry about holding film inventory, don’t you?”

“No, I’m bullish on the film. We have a plan to sell out. The condition, of course, is that we don’t release the photos. Also, under Horikita’s leadership, the boys have begun setting up a food stall, but the food here should also be linked to the maid café.”

When I finished speaking, Horikita coughed after a moment of silence. “The competition for restaurants will inevitably be high as there are signs of

multiple booths, including the other grades. So we’ll specialize in snacks while keeping our prices low.”

“That won’t make us that much money, will it?”

“It’s essential we use it as a stepping stone to our main goal, the maid café. We can reduce the price of the tickets for one drink, which can then be used at the maid café for those who purchased said ticket.”

We needed to make people aware of the maid café and then get them to come to the special building when the time comes.

In short, it was an effective advertisement strategy.

2

After the meeting for the maid café, I went to Keyaki Mall.

Today, I was going to do a price survey on foodstuffs. This includes items sold in the mall and those available on the Internet. It’s important to be able to prepare high quality food at the lowest possible price. If I invited Kei, it would turn into a date instead of a reconnaissance, so I would do it alone today. On the way to

the supermarket, I found a man staring at a map of the building. I was a little bothered by his rather grim face, so I decided to talk to him.

“You were the center of attention today, Sudō.”

He looked back, a little startled, as if he hadn’t noticed me until I got closer. “Eh? Oh Ayanokōji? What do you mean, the center of attention?”

“I’m talking about the midterms.”

“Oh, you mean that? I’m glad to hear that, I guess I got what I expected given the amount of studying I did.”

Apparently, after the midterm, he even graded himself in detail.

“I bet you’d be surprised to see what you looked like when you first entered the school.”

“Haha, no doubt. I think my past self would be yelling like, “What the hell?

What’s the use of studying and memorizing words and formulas? You should practice basketball more instead of wasting your time like that!”

Sudō replied, imagining himself in the past. I felt compelled to ask Sudō one question, so I decided to act on it.

“If your past self did actually tell you, ‘Don’t waste your time.’ What would you say back?”

“Huh? Well…” After thinking for a moment, Sudō formed his own answer. “You can’t even remember simple formulas, what are you?”

It was a brilliant and uncharacteristic response, but it’s also true that the old Sudō was not a one-trick pony.

“I’m going to become a professional basketball player, so it doesn’t matter,” he would reply.

“Ugh, fine! What’s the right response in that case? Isn’t a professional with brains one step ahead of you? It’s a little tricky when you can’t reason with.” Sudō laughs bitterly as he racks his brains. “To be honest, I’m getting impatient since it’s getting a little more difficult to understand. Up until now, once I got the hang of it, it went pretty smoothly…”

Sudō, who’s been making up for his educational setbacks by trying his hardest now, seemed anxious and impatient. It was as if someone restarted from the junior high school level, or in Sudō’s case, elementary school level. Now that he’s caught up to the average second-year high school student, did he realize that he’s in a stagnant period?

Although the 11th place result he acquired this time, which is higher than half of the class, is something to be proud of, I fear that the momentum will come to a halt here. From here on out, it will no longer be a matter of simply increasing study time. Factors other than effort, understanding, efficiency, and talent are probably required in a more complex way.

“Anyways, what’s up? What did you want from me?”

“Nothing in particular, I was just a little curious. Aren’t you supposed to be at club activities today?”

I was curious as to why exactly Sudō was at Keyaki Mall at this time of the day. Even though the cultural festival was approaching, club activities were still taking place.

“I had to take some time off today.” “That’s unusual.”

At a quick glance, he doesn’t seem to be in bad shape. “I just had another problem…”

“Another problem?”

“Lately, my eyesight’s been deteriorating to the point where I’m aware of it.” He said and stared off into the distance.

“I’ve always had a clear vision since I was a little kid, but lately it’s been strange.”

So the adverse effects of his dedication to his studies were changing Sudō’s physical and mental condition.

For an athlete, eyesight is important. If his eyesight were to deteriorate in the future, it would probably affect his game. Of course, glasses or contact lenses can greatly compensate for this, but even so, good eyesight is better than nothing.

“I’m looking for an optician to measure my eyesight. I’ve never been to one before, and I was wondering where it was.”

“So you’ve been staring at a guide map. If you’re feeling a strong sense that your eyesight is declining, there’s a good chance that your eyesight is actually deteriorating.”

“Even if my eyesight is going to be failing in the future, I’m going to keep studying, man. I mean, I’m dying for basketball and I’m not going to stop. But, while I dream of becoming a pro, I’m starting to think that I might have other options.”

“Other options?” “Don’t laugh, okay?” “I won’t.”

“I thought I could go to a normal university and continue my studies, and even if I could force my way into the pros because of my academics, there’s no way they’d use me in the sports world if I’m not good enough. If that’s the case, then I can get into the university I want to go to and do my best.”

Studying, which he began reluctantly, brought about a major change in Sudō’s thinking.

“You can go to university and become a professional after graduation, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

It’s not that one has to branch off the path to a profession from high school.

Until now, Sudō only thought about the path from high school graduate to professional, but now he’s thought of the option to go on to university. His own path will be further subdivided as well.

“Ah.” Sudō noticed something out of the corner of his eye..

I also turned my gaze to the sight of Akito and Haruka’s backs. “It’s not a date, is it?”

“I guess not.”

If one were to look at the rear view from a distance, it would appear as if a couple was walking. But we classmates know exactly what kind of state the two are in now.

“Can we really just leave them alone?”

“It wouldn’t matter if we told them anything now anyways.”

“That may be true, but…” Sudō clenched his fists, his teeth grinding. “I wasn’t particularly close to Sakura, but I’ve had similar experiences.”

Sudō used to hang out with Yamauchi so much that he was once called one of the three idiots alongside Ike.

That must be why Yamauchi’s withdrawal was particularly painful for him. “But I guess it’s nothing compared to what I was like back then. I couldn’t

even go so far as to say that I would expel myself in his place.”

For Haruka, it seemed like her school life was equal in value, or even more so, to Airi’s.

“If you have any trouble, you can always tell me. Well, I’m sure you don’t need my help, Ayanokōji.”

“That’s not true. If there’s anything I want to discuss with you, I won’t hesitate to do so.”

“Sounds good, man. I better head out, see you later, Ayanokōji.” I said goodbye to Sudō and headed for the supermarket.

3

The next morning, I met up with Kei downstairs in the dormitory. “Sorry Kiyotaka, have you been waiting?”

“Not really. Shall we go then?”

Kei, who was standing beside me, took my hand without hesitation and we started walking. The act of holding hands and walking side by side like this was not uncommon anymore.

“Yesterday… Thanks for staying up with me until late. I’m very happy.” Kei squeezed my hand while blushing a little.

“But it’d be a problem if we get caught.”

Despite already being past the curfew, Kei remained in my room last night.

Fortunately, there seemed to be no witnesses when she left, so we won’t be penalized.

“Ahaha, indeed.”

For some reason, Kei’s profile looked reliable. Is it possible for her to change this much in half a day?

“Did it hurt?”

“Do you even have to ask?” “Is it that bad?”

“No, but… how do I put this, I thought I was used to it.” Although a little embarrassed, Kei was delighted.

“In a way, it was my first time so I probably hadn’t sorted my thoughts yet.

However, I feel reassured that you ignored the curfew and stayed with me the whole time.”

That’s true, who knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been there. “I see.”

Kei ascended another step up on the staircase of adulthood after yesterday’s experience. Although she had support behind her, she succeeded in standing her ground. It was a big improvement from the time she thought she could never stand anymore.

Learning to get up on your own when you fall was important for Kei, a special case that didn’t happen overnight like other students.

“G-Good morning, Kei-chan.”

As soon as we arrived at the classroom, Satō, who arrived early, spotted Kei and got up to run to her.

“Good morning, Maya ~”

Kei, giving me a gaze, excused herself and immediately started closely chatting with Satō.

Although initially somewhat awkward, they soon began their usual chit-chat, or maybe it was even friendlier than usual. The circle of happiness that started with the two of them began to spread to the other girls, even to students that aren’t typically involved, such as Shinohara and Mii-chan, who’ve been struggling for a while.

As a leader, Horikita is gradually starting to show her power and awakening her skills to unite the class, but she’s lacking something. The ability to create, attract, and unify a small group. Without a doubt, Kei possesses these qualities.

The road to the festival seemed to be going well regarding these matters, which are indispensable for strengthening the class, but suddenly news of an incident with the potential to create a major problem arised.

“Hey, is it true that our class is going to have a maid café?”

Ike bursted into the classroom, and shouted out to the rest of the class.

Maezono stood up in surprise since this was a matter that was kept secret from all but a few students.

The people who came up with the idea, such as Satō, Matsushita, and Mii- chan, all looked at each other.

Only some of the girls who were confirmed as staff and those who were asked to participate were aware of the maid café. Then came Horikita, who was in charge of organizing the festival.

Horikita calmly listened to Ike’s story without showing any impatience. If she overreacted, it would reveal to the whole class that they were really going to have a maid café. And it would also be exposed to the other classes.

However, that element was lost when Maezono and the others strongly reacted to Ike’s initial exclamation. Since he claimed it was a maid café, it was highly unlikely that he was just making it up as he went along.

“Where did you hear this, Ike-san?”

“Where did I hear? Well uh…” Ike, frightened by Maezono’s stiff, angry look, chokes on his words. “Just now, in the lobby, Ishizaki, Suzuki… and Nomura, the three of them were talking about it as loud as they could.”

“Hey Horikita-san, what does he mean? It was still supposed to be a secret, right?”

Matsushita, who remembered the contact from Hashimoto, approached us. “Yes. I thought it was unthinkable, but I guess I was naive.”

The answer was clear when Ishizaki and the others were making a fuss. “Does this mean that Ryūen-kun betrayed us after all? You said it was okay,

didn’t you, Horikita-san?”

As Maezono angrily confronted Horikita, the classroom door opened and Sudō came in, looking a little flustered.

“Hey! Ryūen and the others are coming this way.”

“I guess I’ll just have to go greet them. You guys stay inside the classroom and act like adults.”

Deciding that the conversation would get complicated if an outsider joined in, Horikita got up from her seat and decided to greet Ryūen in the hallway.

“Yo, it’s Suzune. You wouldn’t believe how badly I missed you.” Ryūen led the way, with Ishizaki, Albert, and Kaneda following behind.

“I was wondering what you’re doing here with such boisterous students.” “I have something to tell you guys today. Hey, Ishizaki?”

“Y-yes.”

Ishizaki looked around the room with a slightly nervous look on his face. The students who were told not to leave the class were also observing, perhaps because they were curious about what was going on and couldn’t resist.

Maezono, in particular, was glaring at Ryuen without hiding her annoyance. “It seems these guys have caught onto all the fuss that’s been going about.”

Ryūen, sensing the mood, replied with a laugh.

“I’m honestly surprised. You really don’t mind doing the unpredictable.” “Kuku, predictable behavior is boring, isn’t it?”

Ryūen began to explain carefully so that Ike and the others, who hadn’t grasped the situation, could understand.

“At Suzune’s proposal, your class and I formed a cooperative relationship at the sports festival. And we were planning to join forces early on for this year’s cultural festival as well.”

To be precise, I was the one who initiated the request for cooperation in the sports festival, but that’s a trivial detail here.

Horikita and Ryūen agreed to continue working together for the cultural festival going forward.

“We were supposed to make sure that the contents of our exhibits do not conflict with each other. Discuss stall locations. Be able to lend and borrow students and follow up with them as needed. Was that correct?”

“That’s correct. We were planning to follow up with everyone a little further down the road. We were told early on about the content of the stalls and yesterday about the location.” Kaneda smirked as he added details.

“You intended to betray us from the very beginning, but you hid it until today because you were waiting for us to find out where we were going to open our stall. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to renegotiate to cooperate.”

“That’s a pretty big demand for a fresh start, isn’t it? You unilaterally found out the location of our stall and even revealed our exhibit.”

“Revealed? Ishizaki and his friends were just chatting with each other. It just so happened that your class and the other classes overheard them. It’s pretty rude of them to listen in, isn’t it?”

My class slowly began to understand the situation. “Is what you just said true, Horikita-san?”

Yōsuke asked, since Horikita had not yet gotten around to informing the rest of the class of the ongoing cooperative relationship with Ryūen’s class.

“I was going to tell you when everything was finalized…”

The plan was nearly in the final stage, but it was turned upside down at the last moment. Our classmates, including Yosuke, were informed by such a scene.

“May I ask you why, just in case? What’s the benefit in betraying us? Did you team up with Sakayanagi-san, or Ichinose-san and the others?”

“I helped you in the sports festival to destroy Class A. You guys won the game and got a taste of the good stuff, didn’t you?”

We both picked up wins in the sports festival, but we were 100 points ahead in class points as a result.

“We were on equal terms. The same goes for the cultural festival proposal.” “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we crush class A, if you B’s

rise to the same position. It won’t win us many class points, but we’ll win the next festival. We’ll have the same concept as you guys.”

“Does that mean a maid café?”

It was Maezono who immediately responded to the keyword “same”. “Well, I’ll change the concept a little but it is something similar.”

It’s not so important if the event is leaked. However, the fact that they dare to use the same idea on the same stage would be a fatal blow to Horikita’s class, and that must’ve been clear to our planners and classmates, including Maezono.

First through fourth; they declared competing for one of the four placements that would earn them 100 class points.

“You mean you’re going to go out of your way to compete in the same genre? It doesn’t sound like it would be beneficial to you.”

“Sure, it’s probably riskier than the other ideas when it comes to competing for customers. But so what? We have a plan to outsell you and get to the top.”

I don’t get Ryūen’s logic behind coming all the way here to tell us so. “So, let’s have a more intense competition, Suzune.”

“Intense competition?”

The commotion began to grow a little louder, and even Kanzaki and other unrelated students from other classes overheard Ryūen’s declaration of war.

Hashimoto was watching this somewhat amusedly, probably because he learned of this fact before Horikita’s class learned of it.

“The one who earns as many points as possible will receive 5 million points from the other class. Wouldn’t that be an interesting match?”

“Are you serious? That doesn’t sound like a very sane wager.” “If you ask me, it’s only 5 million points.”

You can’t mobilize class points without permission. However, private points

owned by individuals can be freely handled. He proposed a ‘wager’ using this logic. This was a one-on-one proposal, separate from the 12-class competition.

Even if we don’t take the top rank in the cultural festival and lose, if we win the direct confrontation and get 5 million private points, it would certainly be a hotly contested game.

“Well, I would’ve preferred a more flashy battle with a different opponent, but Student Council President Nagumo ran away, saying that he wouldn’t

participate in the festival this time. Well, it wasn’t as if he was running away, but as long as we can’t find someone to fight, we have no choice but to confront you guys.”

“Don’t decide this on your own. I’m not going to accept such a reckless proposal.”

“Are you going to run away too?”

“You broke the contract, leaked it, and then tried to weasel your way out of it. That’s an impossible proposition. I can finally see the true meaning of Katsuragi- kun’s words in regards to the avoidance of a penalty agreement.”

“That doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t you have confidence in your ability to win a fight with me?”

“I didn’t say that.” “Oh yeah?”

“You’ve done whatever you want so far, and even I can’t keep quiet about it.

I will certainly consider the bet you proposed.”

“Kukuku, so you say. I’ll be waiting for your answer, Suzune.”

Perhaps having finished his business with us, Ryūen pulled away as if satisfied. As he turned around, his group followed and the others made way for them.

As Ryūen and the others left, students from other classes, who had been spectators, began to approach.

Hashimoto, whose eyes met mine, smiled thinly and shrugged his shoulders. It was as if to say, “Did you catch that we’re teaming up with Ryūen?” He looked as if he wanted to say so.

Although this was already known to the entire second-year students and to the entire grade, the maid café’s performance, including Ryūen’s surprise participation in the event, will be in a difficult environment.

I wouldn’t be surprised if other classes considering the same idea were now changing plans. But we’ve already started a lot of preparations.

“What are you going to do, Horikita-san? We’re pretty well prepared, aren’t

we..?”

“Is Ryūen really going to turn his class into a maid café?”

Maezono and the others approached Horikita, letting some of the bottled up anxiety and frustration spill out.

“I believe it’s very likely. I don’t think it’s just a threat.” “How about we shift to a different concept now?”

Yōsuke suggested, considering that option in order to turn things around,

but…

“We can’t do that. Part of the budget’s already invested.”

We’ve already ordered as much as we could for the maid’s uniforms and so

on. We can’t throw away the costs we’ve spent so far. If we stop, we’d be throwing away precious funds. We need to re-evaluate how we can get around in the future with our dwindling time.

We have truly fallen into a dangerous situation.

“We have no choice but to take advantage of this situation and turn it into an opportunity to get as many private points as we can by taking the gamble!”

That is, of course, if the classmates agree to this proposal. Because in order to have a large sum of money available, the whole class would have to work together to raise it.

4

Excluding some cases, such as Horikita’s class being exposed through an act of betrayal, it’s ostensibly unknown until the day of the event which stall locations each class has and what kind of stand they decided on. However, the bigger the scale of the event, the more preparations must be made in advance for the day of the event.

In fact, each of the classes began steadily working on the places where they were expected to set up their stalls. In the midst of all this, surprising information came to light from the 3rd year Class A, led by Miyabi Nagumo.

Rumors flew that they were going to rent out a large space in the gymnasium and put on an exhibit combining a “haunted house” and a “maze,” as if they had no intention of hiding it from the start.

Perhaps it wasn’t Nagumo’s plan, but the consensus of the class was to let them do what they want. They were handling the festival in a way that made others think that winning was secondary.

Just looking at the props being brought in from afar, one can see that a reasonable amount of money was invested. As if to prove this, the 3rd year Class A finally announced their own pre-opening yesterday. They allowed students who

wanted to experience the maze haunted house and began to solicit opinions. I can’t help but feel their determination to present a high-quality exhibition to the guests on the day of the festival.

As someone who’s new to the cultural festival, I wanted to experience firsthand what the other classes were going to put on, no matter what form it took. After school, I went to the gymnasium to participate in the pre-open event. Perhaps because the pre-opening was held over several days, there weren’t many first-year and second-year students in the gym, even on the first day of the event.

The gymnasium, with its dimmed lights, had a slightly frightening atmosphere. Not long after I got to the end of the line, I heard a familiar voice.

“That’s great of the president. I can’t believe he’s going to show it off to the public so openly.”

“If it’s this big, it’s not easy to keep it hidden. It was a wise decision to release the information early if it was also for practice.”

I briefly glanced back and saw that the two approaching me were Ichinose and Kanzaki. Apparently, like me, they came to see how things were going and to scout the area.

“Ah…”

As they were about to line up, my presence naturally came into their line of sight. Ichinose was the first to react, bowing her head and averting her eyes.

Kanzaki silently took one look at Ichinose and I and got in line. An awkward silence was setting, and the line didn’t move as fast as I would’ve liked. The third- year students also weren’t able to proceed smoothly, perhaps because it was the first day.

“Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry, Kanzaki-kun, but can I leave it to you…?”

It was obviously a random request, but Kanzaki nodded his head in acceptance without question.

“Well, see you later.”

Ichinose, who’s never capable of rudeness, passed on a few words to me as well and left the line. Only Kanzaki and I were left behind, the atmosphere was heavy. Even a student who knew nothing about the situation was likely to realize a bit of the reason. Especially for Kanzaki, the situation would be clearer than daylight.

“How are you doing?”

I tried asking him something but Kanzaki’s face turned grim. “Do you think I’m doing good?”

There was no way that Ichinose’s class, which was slowly dropping class points, could be in good shape.

It would’ve sounded like a partial provocation.

I filled in my name and received an explanation of the rules. The rules were basically bare minimum manners.

Cell phone use is forbidden in the exhibition, always put your phone on silent mode. No loud chit-chat. Do not stay inside for no reason. Basically, don’t touch the production with your hands.

By the time I finished reading the rules, Kanzaki left the line and turned his back to me. He was probably waiting for Ichinose to come back. I wasn’t sure when she’d be back but I have a feeling it’ll be after I’m long gone.

After signing the agreement and stepping away from Kanzaki, I stepped inside. The walls of the haunted house are naturally narrow and visibility is quite poor. The light, which seemed to have been bought at a uniform store, was

wrapped with tape, perhaps to narrow down the light source, so it doesn’t serve much purpose as a light.

Recently, I’ve often used the Internet to research cultural festivals, but I wonder if it’s possible to produce such high quality displays. I was honestly surprised at the third-year’s advanced technical skills, or rather, the third-year Class A’s.

I ignored the ghosts and began observing more carefully. It’s not surprising, but the atmosphere was basically created with decorated ornaments, and most of the important and frightening parts were hand-made.

The monster’s long necks were timed to the incoming guests as the students lurked behind them.

The fallen warrior that jumped out and drew his sword, of course, was done by someone else.

There were several tricks that were clearly still in production, but in the festival, they’ll be completed with improved quality.

Although it may not be as popular with adults, it may be very well-liked by their families, especially the children. If the price is high, people tend to shy away, but if it is desired by children, their purse strings will be loosened. This will be an important factor in further solidifying the policy of the maid café.

We were about halfway down the exhibition when we came to a sign that said, “Take a left.”

Just as I was about to follow the sign, a shadow moved in my field of vision.

It seemed to be trying to scare me again with a new trick. “Whoa! Ah ah ah!?”

I was supposed to be the one screaming, but the ghost jumped out, stumbled on a step in front of me, and fell over. I didn’t help them because I thought it might be staged, but when I saw them screaming in agony, I was convinced that it was an unexpected accident.

In this darkness, it was no wonder such an accident happened… “Ouch, ouch!!!”

It turned out to be Asahina Nazuna, a third-year Class A student.

“Are you okay, senpai?”

It’s a scary image in a way, reaching out to a ghost that shouldn’t be alive. “Oh, thank you for that.”

Apparently unable to stand on her own, she sat down on the ground. I couldn’t just leave her there, so I decided to lend a hand.

“Which way’s the exit?”

“What? The exit? Maybe this way… or… that way..?” “If you’re worried, let’s turn around.”

I remember the way to the entrance, so I should be able to get back soon with a little help.

“Don’t worry, trust your senpai..!”

She raised her voice in pain. It was because she tried faking a decisive display in vain. It was a very unreliable deception, but it would be better to listen to a senior.

It would be faster than me feeling my way to the exit from scratch. After a bit of hesitation and a few screams of terror from my classmates, I reach the exit with my scared senpai in tow.

I intended to immediately walk away, leaving Asahina in charge of the third- year booth, but due to the pre-opening, there didn’t seem to be any students available.

“Don’t worry about me. Thank you, Ayanokōji-kun. I’m sure I’ll be fine after a little rest.”

I crouched down to check her ankle. “Woah what are you doing?”

“Let me see.” “Oh, um, sure…”

It’s too early to say it was just a slight twist, but it’s starting to swell. If she doesn’t get proper treatment, it could have repercussions later.

“I think you should go to the infirmary. Wouldn’t it be hard to be out of the lineup at the festival?”

“Yeah, I guess. Yeah, I think I’ll do that.”

She tried to stand up and walk alone, but when she realized the pain wouldn’t allow her to do so, she shifted her plan to standing on only her left leg.

However, every time she took a small jump, the impact circulated to her right leg, resulting in a bitter and agonized expression.

“I’ll lend you a hand after all.” “Ugh… but…”

I’m sure her hesitance is partly due to embarrassment, but it seems there are other reasons why she isn’t willing to lend me her hand.

“Are you worried Nagumo might see us?” “How did you know…?”

“Well, I just had a suspicion.”

“If he saw Ayanokōji-kun getting involved with a Class A student, it would probably stir some trouble for you. I can’t let myself trouble you, can I?”

It seems she’s more worried about me than herself.

“There’s no need to worry. I’m sure Nagumo, the student council president, doesn’t take me seriously anymore.”

“Is that so?”

“I think he realized that he was being overbearing.”

I decided to lend Asahina a hand and take her to the infirmary. “Thanks, you know.”

She was a bit conspicuously dressed, which was a problem, but I guess that couldn’t be helped. I lent her a shoulder and we made it to the infirmary with a few curious stares. The doctor immediately sat her down on the bed to give her some treatment.

Asahina was instructed to wait a little before leaving. As I was about to leave, she called out to me.

“Speaking of which, Ayanokōji’s class was met with a disaster weren’t

you?”

Missing my chance to leave, I turned around and was left with no choice but

to speak.

“Are you talking about leaked information regarding the maid café?” “Yes.”

This morning, that very scheme was carried out by the hands of Ryūen.

The whole school got to know about the maid café event we were secretly working on. Of course, there are more disadvantages to having your idea known at an early stage.

“Ryūen’s class also decided to participate in a maid café.”

Due to the fact we have a competitor, we’ll have to compete for the same customers.

“We can only hope that, by having two classes competing with similar concepts, there will be no others following the trend.”

“If you have three or four classes with the same exhibit, it’s only going to make the competition for customers much worse.”

Chasing after them will only increase the risk. It’s not impossible for us to craft a strategy to attain a one-sided victory, but it won’t be easy to beat those of us who are devoting a lot of resources to the event. Soon after, the doctor brought bandages and other treatment tools. We ended up observing the treatment process.

The treatment was over quickly, and the doctor said that if she waited a few days in a rested state, she should be able to walk without any problems. When it became clear that there would be no issue with the festival, Asahina simultaneously let out the pain and relief she was enduring.

“Oh, thank God. I didn’t want to bother the class with something like this.” “The results won’t change the placement of the classes, so it’s not something

you need to worry about, is it?”

If they got last place at the festival, they wouldn’t lose any class points. “That’s not going to happen. But there’s nothing better than having lots of

class points, you know. There are even quite a few of my classmates that are against Miyabi being hands-off this time.”

Asahina continued with her eyes downcast.

“Students who decide not to win need as many class points as possible, right? Even at the cultural festival, if you placed first, that’s more private points you can get before graduation.”

Due to the laws set in place by Nagumo, it’s only natural that they would want as many private points as possible in order to graduate from Class A.

Meanwhile, Class A can’t completely abandon the rest of the classes.

They’ll need to continue to participate just like other students.

“In case you’re wondering, Nagumo is saying that he’s going to let the non- A’s compete and pick one student from the class that takes first place,” she said.

As a result, the complaints from the three other classes won’t be as strong.

But even then, they can’t be completely suppressed without showing willingness to get as many class points as possible.

The pressure on Class A, which has no interest in winning, comes through with different circumstances.

“You know what we were talking about earlier, right? How Miyabi wasn’t keeping an eye on you anymore?”

“What about it?”

“At first I thought that was true. But I think that might be false.” “Why is that?”

“There was never really a clear winner between you and Miyabi, was there?” “That’s true.”

Nagumo and I never went head to head to settle our dispute for good. “If that’s the case, then I don’t think it’s over.”

“I don’t have the intention to fight him.”

It’s simply a waste of time regarding this entire ordeal.

“I don’t think that even matters. It’s not entirely about you anymore, Ayanokōji-kun. Miyabi could start targeting people close to you.”

Having watched Nagumo by her side for the past three years, Asahina could clearly envision it.

“Like former student council president Horikita, Nagumo likes to compete, doesn’t he?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s for sure.”

“Has Nagumo ever been clearly beaten by someone or something? Has he ever had a slight setback?”

Although, I’m sure you can guess that by looking at Nagumo’s attitude up to

now.

“Miyabi’s never stumbled, at least not to my knowledge.” Nagumo’s classmates have an unshakable trust in him.

“It would be an unquestionable fact that Student Council President Nagumo

is an excellent person. If he wasn’t competent, it would be impossible for him to achieve his OAA or become student council president.”

There are more than a few areas where political maneuvering alone cannot

help.

“That guy likes being number one. That’s why he fought to be the top of this

school. In the end, he even became the student council president, so he’s really a man of his word.”

“However, if you asked me whether or not Nagumo is the strongest student, I would immediately deny it.”

“How can that be…? He’s never lost to anyone in particular.” Asahina was surprised by my words.

“I think it’s because he’s never had good opponents.” It’s not that Nagumo’s weak but there’s no doubt that his opponents were weak. “I think his greatest misfortune was that he didn’t have anyone equally as capable, or even more so, willing to compete with him in his year.”

“You mean he didn’t have a good… Rival?” “That’s right.”

Unfortunately, by competing only with lower-ranked students, Nagumo was able to attain number one without much effort. Of course, he may have originally started as second or third best, but he soon overtook the others and became the sole runner.

When he glanced back after finishing the race, he saw that no one was chasing him.

All of them either gave up and walked or stopped altogether because they were incapable of beating Nagumo.

At times, there may have been people around him who were as talented as him, such as Kiryūin, but if they didn’t try to catch up and overtake Nagumo, they

were no different than weeds and pebbles on the side of the road. The fact that he didn’t experience the extremity and difficulty of competition alongside the

frustration of losing from the outset can be seen as the cause of Nagumo’s warped thinking.

The fact that he’s planning and executing strange revenge tactics against me isn’t out of any sense of defeat or inferiority, but only to bring me to the forefront of the stage.

When he asked for a one-on-one match at the sports festival, he never thought he would lose. Of course, he didn’t know everything about me, but even if he had seen my full strength up close, Nagumo wouldn’t have doubted his victory.

Nagumo had never experienced losing, rather, only winning streak after winning streak.

In the true sense of the word, Nagumo Miyabi is a man who has never known defeat.

“I wish we could just stop fighting in this school.” “Is that so?”

“I just hope nothing will happen to me…”

This cultural festival has blatantly shown the change in Nagumo’s behaviour, which was indirectly conveyed to the public. To the masses, it would appear that Nagumo’s belligerence and curiosity have simply been suppressed. In reality, this is not true. This is merely the calm before the storm. Nagumo will take action against me or others after this. It may not be enough to expel one or two people.

The price for neglecting Nagumo… it wouldn’t be unexpected if numerous people get expelled. If we leave a bomb to balloon up to a dangerous level, there’s no doubt it’ll have catastrophic consequences.

I recalled Horikita Manabu’s words, “Nagumo’s methods make a lot of people unhappy.” That is half true. Of course, I don’t deny that I played a part in the seniors’ misery, but the original plan was to just mess with Nagumo’s emotions and thought process. I wasn’t able to achieve the latter. Students who wouldn’t have originally graduated in Class A due to Nagumo’s methods are indeed getting that chance. Not only third-year students, but also first-year and second-year students have received class transfer tickets, albeit on a limited basis. Although there are restrictions on how to use them, they are products that previously didn’t

exist. If it had concerned me up until last year, I would’ve watched Nagumo’s behavior with more interest.

“I’m starting to get a little interested in Student Council President Nagumo.” “Did I hear you right?”

“Mhm.”

An interest that I’ve never felt before, not even once, welled up from the depths of my heart.

“I knew you were strange.”

After casting her gaze down at her bandaged leg, Asahina gave a small

laugh.

“It may have been a coincidence that we met, but maybe that’s why Nagumo

wants to fight.”

Looking back at this “coincidence,” it was also a major factor in my making contact with Asahina.

Coincidence.

I was able to formulate a conclusion in my conversation with her.

The coincidences I just mentioned are uncontrollable. However, it does not mean that they are completely uncontrollable.

Coincidences can change the form of the conversation, depending on your point of view and the way you look at it.

Asahina Nazuna, the amulet, the existence of coincidences, and Nagumo Miyabi. This is not bad for a single test case.

Just as success awaits us after a series of failed experiments.

5

Leaving Asahina in the infirmary, I returned to the gymnasium to check on Kanzaki, who I was curious about, and Ichinose, who I expected to have returned. If I stood out too much, it would result in the same situation again, so I walked farther away from the entrance.

The fact that I couldn’t see Kanzaki in the line made me wonder if he was inside or if he’d already left. However, by the looks of things, it was clear that he would be waiting for Ichinose’s return.

There was a bit of a panic when I exited with Asahina, who was acting oddly, so I don’t think Kanzaki, who was waiting for Ichinose’s return and my departure, would’ve missed it. Then I went to the infirmary and took about 15 minutes to come back. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ichinose was still inside if he had been in the vicinity, unless he returned immediately after that.

While making overall observations, I decided to pay attention to the faces of the students leaving.

A few minutes later, Kanzaki slowly appeared from the exit. I wondered if he was still in the gymnasium, but what surprised me was what came after that.

I thought for sure Ichinose was next to him, but Kanzaki was alone. She was not lagging behind, nor did he seem to be concerned about what was behind him.

I thought he was just going to walk away, but then he turned around and saw

me.

He then approached me after staring for a few seconds.

“You’re back after all. It seems her injuries were not too serious.”

If it had been a big deal, it would’ve been hard to believe that I was just

standing there like this, taking it easy.

I guess that’s what Kanzaki deduced.

“Are you wondering why Ichinose isn’t here?” “To be honest, a little.”

“I didn’t call her because I was worried about the possibility of bumping into you coming back from the infirmary. Besides, there are still a few days left for the pre-opening.”

So Ichinose will be given time to observe the event, even if she doesn’t rush.

To some extent, the direction of Ichinose’s class booth seemed to be set in stone. If it’s only a trial run, then she may want to be present for it just to ensure everything runs well, but as I said before, there’s still time.

“I want to continue where we left off earlier. Your class seems to be doing quite well.”

It was clear that he was referring to the series of events from the uninhabited island exam to the unanimous special exam, and if we went back a little further, to the start of the second-year.

“We’re not unscathed. Unlike Kanzaki’s class, we have vacancies. We’re also carrying a negative that you can’t see just from class points.”

“You’re not the only ones with invisible risks, but you’ve made a big difference in terms of the positive points you can see.” Rather than envy, this was Kanzaki’s honest opinion. “Classes like yours will eventually have to fight against Sakayanagi’s class.”

One thing that stuck out to me was Kanzaki’s somewhat optimistic, one-step- back assessment of his own class.

“Have you given up already? Moving up to Class A?” “I guess so.”

Kanzaki responded in the affirmative rather than the negative. It isn’t difficult to guess what he was thinking. Ichinose’s class isn’t a disastrous one. It

isn’t at risk of losing a lot of points for tardiness, absences, behavior issues, and the like, because they’re a serious crowd that almost never lose class points and rarely make major mistakes in special exams. But in other words, they don’t have the opportunity to make big jumps on special exams.

“No one has yet to notice how the class is slowly sinking. It would still be endearing if they were just pretending not to notice, but they’re all genuinely oblivious.”

“Only you seem to be different.”

“That was until a little while ago; there’s no point in rebelling alone.” “You mean you’ve given up on trying to change their minds?”

“Our class will never make it to Class A.” Here, Kanzaki said it clearly. “If the possibility has been reduced to zero, the only thing left to do is to find another way. If we are going to sink anyway, we should give as many people as possible a chance to escape.”

“So you’re going to move to a different class after accumulating 20 million points?”

“Because Student Council President Nagumo Miyabi has actually implemented this and it’s shown to be effective. Concentrating private points on Ichinose is what we’ve been doing. If we execute this plan to the limit, we can move at least two or three people to Class A. In addition, the existence of class transfer tickets was shown for the first time at the sports festival. Of course, it won’t be easy to acquire them, but the increase in options is a genuinely pleasing factor.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“I don’t know what I’m doing either.”

It was an uncharacteristic response. Kanzaki paused for a moment and began to search for a better answer.

“I didn’t have a place to vent. Maybe that’s why.”

If there’s a problem in daily life, it’ll be shared among those close to the student, regardless of whether or not they’re within the same class, and a solution is found. However, when it comes to class problems, the only way out is to give up on achieving Class A and transfer to another class. If someone were to say such a thing in class, it would inevitably be met with discord.

It would be impossible to get a consensus in Ichinose’s class. “You’re the only person I thought was capable of understanding my

thoughts without talking out of turn.”

I see. He believed I was the best outlet to express his negative emotions. Of course, that isn’t the only reason. It seems that he also holds resentment toward me, who has a strong influence on Ichinose.

“I don’t care what happened between you and Ichinose or what kind of relationship you two have. The fact that you’re having such a bad influence that she can’t even do a satisfactory observation of the third-year Class A’s exhibit is a

major issue.”

“It’s a little harsh when you put it that way.”

“You’ll have to forgive me. I’m sure you understand how frustrating it is.” Kanzaki then raised his hand and told me he’s leaving.

The back of the class strategist who had given up on winning looked one size smaller than usual. It’s a little wild to call him back here, but I can’t just let Kanzaki go home now.

“Can we take some time soon? I’d like to have a little talk about the future.” “Why not now? We can take some time to talk about what’s to come.”

“I’m sorry, but right now I need to do some research on the third-years.

Besides, we can’t make any progress if we start talking about it now.”

In order to discuss the future, we need another piece of the puzzle that’ll allow us to step into it.

“If that’s the case, well, okay. Call me anytime.”

6

It was Friday. I came to a place I don’t usually visit in order to meet a certain student.

After knocking, I opened the door to the student council room, and for a moment, Nagumo Miyabi looked surprised.

There were no students or teachers in sight other than Nagumo, and it seemed that he was all alone today, just as I had been informed by Asahina.

Even for him, my arrival must have been unexpected. I wondered if he’d been watching me just a few minutes ago as I could see his cell phone in his left hand.

I’m sure I was an unwelcome visitor, but he didn’t turn me away and, instead, urged me to come in.

“Excuse me.”

The door leading into the room closed with a slam, and a moment of silence passed between the two of us.

“I waited for you because Nazuna insisted on giving you some time, but I’m not going to assume anything. So, are you here for the student council or for me?”

“I have no business with the student council. I’m here to talk to President Nagumo personally.”

After saying that, he sat back deeper in his chair and placed the cell phone he held in his hand on the desk.

“Well, in that case, I can only commend you for showing your face in front of me. Don’t you think so, Ayanokōuji?”

“I think you’re referring to the sports festival, but isn’t being sick a legitimate right that’s accepted as a reason for absence?”

“Don’t give me that shit, man. I saw you at Keyaki Mall the next day and you looked fine.”

“I got better in a day.” “That’s a blatant lie.” “It might be true.”

It was a bit of a play on words, but Nagumo seemed to realize that further pursuit was pointless.

“Truth or lie, I don’t really care anymore. Anyway, let me hear your reason for coming here.”

His troublesome attitude must’ve come from the bottom of his heart. He doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he wants to quickly end the discussion.

However, such a transparent attitude is also evidence that he is hiding his true feelings.

“May I sit down? I think it’s going to be a bit long.”

“You told me before you had no business with me, the student council president. If I wanted to, I could choose to have no business with you too, right?”

As the head of the student council, Nagumo was prepared to listen, even to someone he didn’t like. If he doesn’t want to, he won’t listen to anything. Well, it’s only natural.

“If you won’t listen to me, I’ll leave.”

If Nagumo, as an individual, was too lazy to even converse with me, I had no choice.

However, I don’t believe that’s the case. If his interest in me completely vanished, that would be a different story, but deep down, I believe the spark is still there.

In other words, he’ll never refuse. It’s precisely because I’m certain of this that I also took time out of my precious day to visit this place.

After a few moments of silence, Nagumo instructed me to sit down. I moved my chair and sat down so that we could face each other head-on.

“Sorry, I don’t have anything to drink.” “No problem.”

I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he won’t be apologizing for anything else. I guess the only thought he had was, “Why did you come here after all this time?”

“I had no idea that the 3rd year Class A would do a pre-opening. It’s normal to think of it as a disadvantage to expose the class’s exhibit to the public.”

“I’m also getting stories up here that some stupid class had their event exposed.”

“That’s an earful, isn’t it? I heard Ryūen visited the student council president Nagumo as well.”

“He was pressing me to bet tens of millions of points with him.” “I heard you refused.”

“Yeah, well, the game with you is over and so is my school life. As a result, I don’t give a shit about the cultural festival. So, there’s no need for me to give out any instructions. They can go and make memories during their final moments in high school.”

So he switched to such a stance, where all the information regarding his

class’s booth is open as he enjoys a normal cultural festival like any other school.

Whether they win first place or twelfth, the third-year Class A remains on top. Nagumo probably doesn’t care whether those in Class B and below are complaining.

“But tens of millions? There won’t be enough, even if he’ll gather it together from his class.”

Ryūen’s class, which has high income but heavily spends, doesn’t have lined pockets.

“That guy told me he would give me the right to expel any student I wanted, even himself.”

Ryūen was going to use the students themselves as collateral for the funds he couldn’t provide.

“Last year I would’ve taken him up on that offer. I’d be dealing with a

separate year, but it would’ve been interesting if we were playing for expulsion.” Nagumo remarked he already lost his enthusiasm and interest in the school. “If you want to compete with me, you can do whatever you want.”

“I understand your personal thoughts. But aren’t there many students who won’t agree?”

“No one can complain to me, ‘cause if they do, their Class A status will no longer be guaranteed. When the festival gets closer, I, or rather the student council, will make a not-so-bad proposal. A little help for a class that’s struggling to win.”

“I see. You’ve thought about it a lot, haven’t you?

“Well, I’m the student council president, after all.” After giving a model answer, Nagumo exhaled a sigh and urged, “Come on, tell me what you came here for.”

“All I want is to have a conversation with the student council president.

That’s all.”

“I don’t exactly believe that.”

“You don’t believe me? I’m actually a little surprised with my own actions. Until now, I’ve been trying to keep my distance from Student Council President Nagumo.”

“I know that very well.”

However, he probably didn’t understand the root of why. “Do you know why?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure it’s not because you’re scared of my ability.” “Unlike the previous student council president, Horikita Manabu, Student

Council President Nagumo attracts the eyes of those around him. It’s also because you’re a little too dazzling for a shady person like me to face.”

“Sure. But that’s just a front, isn’t it?”

Nagumo lightly dismissed the pretense of respect and urged me to reveal my true intentions.

“I wasn’t interested.”

It’s a bit of a stretch, but that’s what I said. I’m going to speak my mind.

While recognizing a certain level of ability, it’s all I could say.

That’s why I didn’t think I needed to get involved in whatever Nagumo was

doing.

“If someone else said what I just heard from your mouth, I might’ve gotten

angry.”

“I didn’t realize it was rude.”

“Nah, you don’t need to apologize. If you feel that way, that’s your business.

I’m the one who made you speak your mind,” Nagumo stated, but he quickly added, “But still, if it wasn’t you who said that, I’m sure I would’ve changed their mind right away.”

He wouldn’t hesitate to entrap the speaker into taking interest, regardless of what they wished for. With Nagumo’s power, that wouldn’t be hard to do.

“Soon your term as student council president will be over, and Student Council President Nagumo will remain in Class A and graduate. I thought that would be fine. Until just the other day.”

“You think otherwise now?”

“I had a change of heart. I felt that I could face you directly, and that’s why I’m here.”

There’s no need for checks and balances, feigned flattery, false joy or anger.

It’s better for the future to say what’s on my mind. I told Nagumo, who was waiting for me to continue explaining the main reason I came here today.

“I have a proposal for President Nagumo. Can I make a challenge to the student council president this time?”

Making such a statement probably never crossed Nagumo’s mind. “I’m not sold, this isn’t like you.”

A change of heart, such an answer was not enough to convince Nagumo. “I don’t know when exactly this change of heart came, but it’s too late. You

ran away from the last chance I gave you at the sports festival. If I may borrow words from your true feelings, you weren’t interested. Isn’t that right?”

“That’s correct. I know it’s a convenient story.”

“Yeah, you’re right. After having given up three opportunities, and now being asked to play a game on the grounds of a change of heart, there’s no way I can honestly say yes.”

Nagumo didn’t change his position and continued to show no restraint. “And, get this, it’s the same as what you said earlier about the sports festival.

You said you were sick the whole time. I’ve decided that’s an obvious lie. Besides, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about what happened on the island.”

“Then, would you like to replicate what happened on the island? This time, in the opposite position?”

If Nagumo could smack me in the gut here, I could apologize for my behavior. However, I didn’t think that would be enough to convince the opposing party.

Not when the other party is Nagumo Miyabi.

“You aren’t funny Ayanokōji. It wouldn’t ever be the same knockout.

There’s a huge difference in value between you and me.”

Naturally, there was no room for a discussion of the proposal. It was obvious that there was at least that much of a difference between Ayanokōji Kiyotaka and Nagumo Miyabi, at least in this school. One was an ordinary student in the 2nd year Class B, while the other was the leader of the 3rd year Class A and the student council president.

The difference between what we’re capable of was so great that even a comparison was unacceptable.

“Well, I’m going to shelve it because there’s no point in getting into it now. Understand this, Ayanokōji. I’m allowed to challenge you to a fight, but you’re not allowed to challenge me to a fight.”

“I understand, but that’s exactly what you’re shelving. I’m right here in front of you right now, and I’m saying that I’m willing to fight Student Council President Nagumo. Can’t you agree with that?”

I intentionally cut my fingertips and dripped blood on the bloodthirsty wolf. But the wolf in front of me didn’t bite easily. He wasn’t defenselessly provocative

as it had been in the past, rather, the wolf was very wary. If he had not thought of me as an enemy before, he already would’ve had his fangs at my fingertips. He may not have realized it, but that was the proof that he recognized me as an enemy.

“You really are strange. You don’t show any sign of timidity when dealing with me. No, it’s not only against me, but also against Horikita-senpai.”

Nagumo looked out the window as if remembering the days of Horikita Manabu.

His original desire was to fight the elder Horikita, not me. That goal was unattainable, but it was also true that there were no other alternatives.

“Oh, man. If I were to play a game with you, what would you do? It’s almost the third semester of the school year, and we already passed the second semester’s halfway point. As you probably know by now, I gave all the power to my classmates to compete for sales at the school festival. I can’t ask them to give it back now. On the other hand, even if I wait for the next special exam, there’s no guarantee that there will be a competition between all the grades.”

We could leave it to luck and wait, hoping that there would still be a battle between all grades. Not that such a thing couldn’t be done, but it wouldn’t be very realistic.

“Above all, you’re well aware of the difficulty of competing in earnest between different grades, as you and the former student council president know, don’t you?”

Last year’s sports festival, training camps, etc., Nagumo Miyabi was adamant about competing with Horikita Manabu. No matter what form it took, no matter how small the match was, he forced himself to do so, hoping to make it black and white. However, Manabu dodged Nagumo’s provocations and didn’t involve everyone in the match.

“More than anyone else. How hard do you have to work to adjust? Because of you, not just this year, last year too, the match with Horikita-senpai didn’t happen.”

In that sense, too, Nagumo was not pleased with me.

“Listen to what I’m about to tell you and think about whether a confrontation can be achieved.”

With that, Nagumo sat back deeper in his chair to correct his posture a bit.

Though many of the special exams the school gave were unknown, we had several patterns to prepare for them. Because no matter what form the confrontation was introduced, there was always a method to execute. When I finished relaying everything, Nagumo remained silent and seemed to be deep in thought.

“I don’t know if we can achieve a 100% perfect match, but I think this can become a reality.”

“That’s true. But do you really think we can implement the plan you’re talking about?”

“I’m sure Student Council President Nagumo can already envision the situation. I’m sure you’ve been observing them day in and day out, right? If that’s the case, there’s no way you don’t know the details.”

“I see. I was planning to shake you up at that time, but instead of getting upset, you decided to take advantage of it.”

“Will you accept my proposal or not?”

We spoke for quite a long time, even for me. But this conversational work is necessary in negotiations with Nagumo.

“I’d be happy to accept your proposal, but…” The reply was positive, but the words had other meanings. “But what’s your real purpose?”

“Can’t you believe it? I just want to compete with President Nagumo.” “I don’t believe it for a second.”

As if convinced, he replied without hesitance. I was somewhat pleased, but decided to wait for Nagumo’s next words.

“Alright, tell me the main issue. I’ll think about whether or not I’ll accept the proposal after that.”

He let me cut to the other main topic without hesitation.

“I have a favor to ask of the Student Council President Nagumo.”

I gave an explanation based on the content of the request and its specific development. After listening, he sat back deeply in his chair, where he’d been sitting for a year.

“I understand what you’re telling me. But that’s not a proposal based on your desire to compete with me. You brought up the idea of a match because you had no choice but to control what you wanted to happen. Am I right?”

“Half right, half wrong. It’s also true that I myself changed my view of the Student Council President, and that’s why I want to compete. However, I also feel that half of it is a hassle.”

“You’re an honest guy.”

“That’s why I want you to accept my proposal.”

“You’re a joke. You asked for a match, and now you’re being so brazen.” “I won’t deny that.”

“Do you think I’m going to play along with you and give you what you want?”

“If you refuse, that’s the end of it. I will never fight the Student Council President again. Even if you use a classmate or someone in the same grade as me. Not even if you take someone hostage, I will thoroughly ignore them, and you.”

“I doubt it. If it’s a random guy, you’d probably leave him for dead, but if it’s Karuizawa Kei?”

Here Nagumo tried to sway me by mentioning Kei. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”

Nagumo’s smile disappeared as I answered immediately without hesitation. “It doesn’t sound like you’re bluffing. It seems like… you really mean it.” “I’m not an omniscient and omnipotent god. I can’t protect everyone 24/7,

365 days a year, whether it’s Kei or my classmates. If the student council president, who has the most power in this school and the control of a large student body, wanted to do so, he could have someone expelled from school without my supervision.”

Of course, there was a risk of paying a significant price for the trouble, but I didn’t care.

“Whoever you expel, I won’t make a move again.” This was not a tactic.

It was pure sincerity, which was why Nagumo’s smile naturally disappeared. “If I want to fuck you over, which I deeply do, I have no choice but to accept

your current proposal.”

“Of course, you can ignore it and graduate without hesitation.” “But won’t you be in trouble if I don’t help you?”

“I’ve already made other plans.”

Yes, there was no need to go through the trouble of disclosing my story to Nagumo any more. But I mentioned half the reason earlier. The urge to fight him was the reason I wanted to have this discussion. Everything would be decided by his next response. It’s the moment of final judgment, whether or not the match between us will take place.

“Okay, I’ll take your word for it, Ayanokōji. My graduation from Class A is unassailable anyway. It’s not a bad idea to end up playing with you.”

Nagumo didn’t think for a second that he was going to lose, he couldn’t even imagine it. This was the overwhelming confidence of a man who was always proud of winning.

“Thank you very much.”

“But are you sure you want to do this? If I do what you suggest, then… no matter how it turns out, people will be hurt.”

“Of course. Either way, the Student Council President Nagumo would’ve been involved.”

Nagumo reacted strongly to those words. “You…”

As I was about to leave, Nagumo stood up and approached me. “You knew?”

“Even though we were distanced, I observed the student council president. I had an idea of what you’d do after this.”

Even though he already declared he had no intention of fighting, this man always had his sights set on me. It was expected that he’d take action at the right time, before it was too late.

“So you’re saying that it’s not only Karuizawa, but also Honami…”

“Like I said, it’s the same no matter who it is. Whether it’s Kei’s expulsion, toying with Ichinose, Horikita, or anyone else. It would be wise not to think you can sway me like that.”

Nagumo, who laughed snidely, quickly switched to a serious expression. “I take back my comment about playing around. You are the only one that

Horikita-senpai recognized. I’ve been able to make sure of that.” “That’s good to hear. Well then, I’ll leave you here.” “Yo.”

“What’s up?”

“Man, I’ll admit that you’ve got a real poker face. I also understand that you negotiated diligently to get me into your deal. So, let me hear your true feelings for once. Even if I was serious about getting Karuizawa to drop out of school, would you have stood by and watched?”

“For Kei, no, I don’t think it’s desirable to have a vacancy among my classmates, no matter who it was. I was going to resist as much as possible.”

“That’s not an answer. The answer you’re giving is to the likeness of classmates. What I’m saying is that I didn’t feel any anxiety about the

disappearance of Karuizawa, who’s very special to you.”

I looked back. Normally, the answer would be obvious. I’m just bluffing and trying to hide how I really feel from others. I was just going to say something

along those lines. But I had a feeling that wasn’t the best answer for Nagumo. “If she disappears, she’s gone, and that’s all there is to it. It is neither more

nor less than that. In fact, it would’ve been a great help to me because you would’ve made the cleanup easier.

“You have loose screws, Ayanokōji.”

This was the first time I saw Nagumo upset, or rather, muttering his opinion on something he didn’t quite understand.

“I’ll call you later.”

I quietly closed the door and left the student council room.

Nagumo described me as crazy, but that’s not true. I believe people who make wrong decisions based on their emotions are the ones with the bolts screwed on the

wrong way.

It’s the same whether the other person is a stranger, a lover, or a family member.

When the time comes for you to fail and drop out, it’ll be the end of you. The first priority is always to protect yourself.

That is the unshakable “solution.”

Written on July 1, 2022