Y2 Vol 7 English Chap 4

Chapter Four: Meeting Before The Festival

The days go by quickly, and Friday came, November 12. The day before the festival after school arrived.

All classes have been preparing for the festival. Today after school is the rehearsal led by the student council. It will be an important test for tomorrow’s performance.

All classmates, except for a few, started moving at once to begin preparations. There are a total of four booths in Horikita’s class. The first is the well-known maid cafe, where the main sales are tea, coffee, and other drinks in addition to photo shoots with the maids. The latter sales method is particularly time-efficient, and the unit price is set high, so if there are a large number of applicants, it will be a great source of income. The second and third are outdoor stalls selling powdered food (takoyaki, okonomiyaki, etc.) and Western-style pasta and bread stalls. The stalls generate sales on their own, and the maid café also takes orders. When an order is placed, a student in charge of delivery goes to the stall and brings it to the customer. In order to take advantage of the maid café’s originality, a limited food menu is also prepared, which is a slight modification of the existing menu offered at the food stall. And finally, the fourth and final event is an outdoor quiz competition for children, which was added on short notice with the extra budget.

“You guys didn’t make Hasebe-san and Miyake-kun come?” Maezono asked as her eyes followed Haruka and Akito, who had just left the classroom.

“There’s no point in forcing them to do anything. Let’s consider this a good opportunity to test whether 35 people, excluding Kōenji-kun, Hasebe and Miyake, can be left alone without any problems.”

But those three are not the only ones who are not willing to cooperate.

Kushida hardly interfered with any of the festival’s activities in the weeks leading up to the event, and she’s been going home immediately after school without helping out. She knows that she will be in charge of serving the customers as a maid at the festival, and she has gone to Horikita several times to come up with ideas. Some of them have even been adopted, although they are minor elements.

However, she did not participate in any practice sessions with other maids to make sure they were all on the same page.

“I’d like to do some final checks for tomorrow’s event and also practice my activities for the day. Do you think you’ll have time today?”

Satō called out, somewhat bravely, trying as much as possible not to let her guard down. Kushida, who had just gotten up from her seat, stopped and turned around on the spot.

“I’m sorry, Satō-san. I have something I really can’t miss after school.” This was not the first time Kushida has said that.

“Listen, you keep refusing me like that. When are you seriously going to cooperate?”

The atmosphere was turning sour, and Horikita was about to get up from her seat, but Yōsuke, who was standing beside her, stopped her as if he had anticipated this.

I don’t know who was right. However, it’s impossible to create a smooth class if we interfere in everything. Sometimes things have to be resolved by the people involved. It can be said that this is an uncharacteristic behavior of Yōsuke, who usually pays more attention to his words than anyone else… Probably because he felt that unnecessarily showing Horikita’s special treatment towards Kushida to the class was a bad move.

Of course, Horikita understood this, but she also had a dilemma that she couldn’t leave alone.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got the festival in mind, and I’m not going to drag the class down.”

“But, Kushida-san, you haven’t practised, not even a little. I can’t trust you with the important role of a maid.”

Today’s rehearsal will be the perfect practice. Satō, who had been reluctant to participate, seems unable to back down today. Likewise, Kushida had been even more reluctant and it doesn’t seem like she will budge today as well.

“Then why don’t you remove me? I don’t think there are any other decent candidates.”

A merciless remark, but a fair one. Even taking Kushida’s appearance into consideration, a student who isn’t currently playing the role of a maid wouldn’t be able to serve as a substitute.

“I’ll see you tomorrow at the festival. Bye.”

Although her tone of voice was the same as the gentle Kushida, her actions could be taken as cold. She refused Satō’s proposal until the end and left the classroom.

Did she simply not want to spend time with classmates who know her true nature? Or was it really that she had something she can’t miss? Obviously, the atmosphere in the classroom deteriorated, but that can’t be helped.

“Hey, Horikita-san. Tomorrow’s the festival, but I still think we should remove Kushida-san after all…”

Matsushita, unable to bear the sight of Satō’s downcast and frustrated face, went directly to Horikita “I know what you mean. But I don’t intend to remove her at the moment.”

“But it’s a lie that she has to do things every day, isn’t it?”

Indeed, Kushida’s behavior as of late has been quite puzzling. It can’t be helped that she’s been keeping her distance from the others since the unanimous special exam, but even so, her uncooperative attitude has been conspicuous.

“That may be so. I don’t know why she doesn’t participate in practice either.” “Then…”

“Don’t worry. She’s thinking about the festival and the maid cafe in her own way. Just believe in Kushida-san.”

“Well, I guess you could say that we won’t get anywhere if I don’t believe in her…” Matsushita looked unconvinced, but nodded and turned to follow Satō.

Matsushita, perhaps because she was one of the founding members this time, was also making a lot of efforts. Although it’s true that Kushida’s non-participation in practice is a cause for concern, Horikita’s expression showed no signs of impatience. Rather, it seemed as if it was peeking out with justified confidence.

That was probably why Matsushita backed down.

Since she didn’t seem to be asking for help, let’s watch and wait.

1

On the first floor of the special building, stall number “Special 02”.

Students decorated this space, which was usually used as an empty classroom.

The girls mainly did the work, with the boys assisting them. Interestingly, the girls were by far the best at this type of decoration. It’s probably safe to leave the setup to them with Horikita in the lead. Preparations for the concept café were steadily underway in the back of the special classroom on the second floor.

Unlike our maid café, the concept of Ryūen’s class was “Traditional Japanese style.” The food and beverages were also completely different from ours, including Japanese sweets and tea.

While preparations were underway, we found a unique presence. There was a girl sitting alone in a chair reading a book dressed in the kimono.

“Hello.” When she noticed me, Hiyori lifted her book and, for some reason, hid everything but her gaze.

“It’s been a while. I heard you haven’t been showing up at the library lately.” “It’s not that I haven’t been. I’ve just, you know, changed my hours a bit.”

I thought it was odd for a bookworm to disappear from the library, but I guess she just changed her visiting hours.

“It seems you’ll be working as well.”

“I specialize in checkout. I’m not very good at interacting with people. I’m also not very good at moving around, and I practiced carrying food on a tray, but it didn’t work out.”

In short, she’s not very good at anything in general. However, working as a cashier isn’t hard and if she can handle it smoothly, it’ll be fine.

“By the way, Ibuki-san will be joining us.”

“Ibuki? I had an image that she would never wear this kind of costume.”

“I heard that she had a match with Ryūen-kun for complete exemption from helping at the festival.”

“And she lost.”

Hiyori smiled a little funny as if she was remembering that time. “So, where is this Ibuki who lost?”

“She’s not participating today. She said she absolutely hates wearing it outside of the festival.”

I can understand that feeling, but I hope she can serve her customers well when she goes out on the spot. Well, Ryūen would deal with such matters in a flexible manner.

I wanted to check on Ryūen, who owns the restaurant, but I couldn’t see him.

I wondered if he left the rehearsal preparations to other students. “It seems that Ryūen-kun went to check Class A.”

“Class A?”

“Because they haven’t disclosed what kind of presentation they were going to put on.”

Indeed, the details of Sakayanagi’s class had been unknown until the day before the festival. It’s not strange to want to find out what they will be doing. As long as all the classes were participating in this pre-opening the day before, there was no doubt that they would be preparing to open a stall somewhere.

“I’m going to go over there for a bit too.”

After talking with Hiyori, I decided to look for Sakayanagi’s class. “Um, Ayanokōji-kun…”

“Hmm?”

“Ryūen and the others went up to the third floor, so I think that’s where Sakayanagi-san probably went.”

“I see, that saves me the trouble.”

She seemed to want to say something else, but Hiyori immediately shook her head from side to side. Three second-year classes concentrated in a special wing, and yet they are on different floors?

“I’ll be showing up at the library again next time, so please do so as well, Ayanokōji-kun.”

“Yes, I will.”

I raised my hand to say goodbye, and then walked up to the third floor. The third floor of the special wing is the farthest from the school gate and the hardest to reach. There were three classrooms available here, but until the previous day, they were not popular and had not been rented.

“I didn’t think that Sakayanagi’s class would rent everything there, though.”

As it’s currently an exclusive floor, the 2nd year Class A students roamed the third floor corridors as they pleased. At first glance, it’s hard to imagine what kind of display they are trying to put on. There were only several cardboard boxes scattered about, their contents not visible, and the students were still in their school uniforms. Since it’s impossible to cook indoors due to fire regulations, that field disappears.

“Surprised by the unexpected?” Hashimoto, who was supposedly keeping an eye on the students coming, approached and called out.

“What’s this all about?”

“You can’t even understand what you’re seeing?” Hashimoto laughed quietly, perhaps amused that I didn’t grasp it. “Well, that’s understandable. But I can’t answer you easily.”

I guess they intend to finish the preparations the day before, but have no intention of making them public. As if to symbolize this, a sign was posted on the stairs leading to this floor.

It read, “Due to an issue, the second-year Class A will not be presenting their activities today.”

“That’s what it means. I’m sorry you had to come all the way up here, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Even if I persisted, we would still not be able to find out the details of the exhibit.

“It looks like Ryūen will be leaving soon, too.”

Ryūen came out of a classroom in the back and walked toward us with his hands in his pockets. After a quick glance at me and Hashimoto, he walked straight through and headed downstairs.

“Or are you going to do the same as him and take a closer look, even if you know it’s useless?”

“I’m going back.”

“Good luck. You’ll have to wait until we open to see what happens.”

I was on my way back to the second floor when I noticed that Ryūen had turned his back to face me and stopped. I turned my gaze and stared directly into his eyes. Ryūen raised the corner of his mouth slightly before opening it.

“Tell Suzune that it will be our class that wins tomorrow.”

“I bet the Japanese attire cost more than the maid uniforms, didn’t they? If you’re going to challenge her to a match, at that point, you could have just worked together.”

“It’s simply my taste.”

After replying with words that could be taken either seriously or jokingly, Ryūen started walking away. Without paying attention to Hashimoto’s presence from the upper floor, I also turned back to the maid cafe.

2

Surprisingly, many boys from other classes rushed to the restaurant as soon as it opened. There seemed to be more onlookers who wanted to catch a glimpse of the girls in cosplay rather than eating, which was fine with us. It would be good experience for the maids, who are not used to being the center of attention.

Even Matsushita, who was usually very calm, moved a little stiffly and looked nervous. Sato and Mii-chan’s movements seemed to be much more sluggish than during practice.

Immediately afterward, the sound of plastic bouncing on the floor spread throughout the classroom. It was caused by Mii-chan slipping a glass of water on the tray. The person in question froze at the heavy event that seemed to split the air. In the midst of all this, it was Matsushita who immediately moved.

“I am terribly sorry.”

After gently patting Mii-chan on the shoulder with a calm tone, she instructed her to bring fresh water. Then she brought a rag to clean the floor.

“You’re doing very well, Matsushita-san, I can’t believe it’s your very first time as a maid.”

“Thank you.”

Horikita, who was standing by and watching, was also impressed by Matsushita’s outstanding actions.

“You’re also participating tomorrow as a maid, right?”

“Basically, as a manager. I’ll also serve customers depending on the

situation, but I’m honestly not sure.” Unlike usual, Horikita answered somewhat timidly.

“Well, no one thinks you’re good at putting on a smile, so good luck.” I said turning to Horikita.

I’m sure she’s not worried about the service itself, but offering a smile can be a challenge.

“You look pretty comfortable.”

“It’s almost like the work over here will be done by today.”

It’s like 90% prep and 10% production, and all we have to do tomorrow is the paperwork.

“Maybe I should reassign you to the stalls too.” “Don’t reassign me just because of a personal gripe.”

Horikita started to say something nasty, but quickly backed down because she wasn’t serious.

“For now, it looks like Matsushita-san will be fine, and I’ll be leaving for a

bit.”

“You’re going to observe?”

“I want to see with my own eyes what kind of entertainment there will be.” Take your time. I would meanwhile work on making room for tomorrow’s

waiting room.

About an hour later, Horikita returned to the maid cafe. “I’m back. How are things going?”

“There were a few minor mistakes, but now we’re all settled in and getting used to everything.”

“Thanks for the advance preparation.”

Without this rehearsal, we might have been in danger if we had just gone out and winged it. I knew that practicing without attendees was completely different from actually doing it with a third-party audience. Matsushita, who had been working at full capacity since the opening, rounded up and came up to me.

“Good job Matsushita-san. I’m honestly surprised how well you performed.” “Thanks. Everyone’s getting better. We should be able to start tomorrow in

good shape.” Matsushita said, though her expression was a little stiff. “What’s wrong?”

“I think there might be more sabotage, that’s what I’m a little worried about.” “Sabotage?”

“When Ryuen-kun’s class came over to the maid cafe, I was afraid they’d bring Ishizaki-kun and the others over and say there were bugs in the cups or something…”

Horikita and I exchanged glances for a moment, then quickly turned our attention back to Matsushita.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s not in their best interest to interfere in the practice stage. Besides, since there is a rule that students can’t be guests in the activities, they can’t do such a thing.”

“Ryūen can’t use his usual tactics in the presence of so many eyes at the exhibit. There is no need to worry.” I added to Horikita’s explanation.

The smile returned to Matsushita’s face as she was almost simultaneously told by both of us that there isn’t anything to worry about.

“Somehow, when the two of you say it, I feel a different sense of relief.” She patted her chest in relief, as if she had been somewhat preoccupied.

“You should take a break too.” “I guess I’ll do that.”

Matsushita started to walk away and left the classroom, wobbling slightly. “Did you notice that?”

“Huh?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

Perhaps because it was a minor discomfort, Horikita, who was nearby, did not seem to notice anything in particular.

I hope I’m just imagining things.

“So how did it go? What did the other classes put on?”

“I don’t know if there will be another festival next year, but I learned a lot.” Horikita examined the completed room before leaving to check its condition. “It looks fine. In another hour, we’ll start cleaning up, and you should take

another look too.”

“I’ll let you do that.”

With permission, I decided to parade around the entire school. Kei appeared as if she had been waiting for that moment and took me in arms.

“Let’s go together.”

“I’d rather not but I don’t think you’re going to leave me.” “I won’t leave you.

“You’re free to go with me, but remember that we are only scouting.” “Yes, yes~”

While Horikita responded seriously every time, Kei seemed to be at ease from start to finish. Well, it’s not every day you get a chance like this. In fact, even taking a look at the maid café, it seemed as if most of the others were enjoying the cultural festival in a normal way.

3

First-year students and some of the third-year students were putting on a number of performances that resembled festival stalls. Some of them involved technological intervention, such as target practice, ring toss, or dropping marbles on a handmade platform to win prizes at multiple goals. The collection of prizes made the scene look a bit like a festival hall.

“Oh, it’s Yukimura-kun and the others!”

Kei was the first to point and found Keisei, Sotomura, and the other boys busily preparing for the event. Perhaps because they had practiced baking food in their dormitories, they seemed to be doing it with a certain degree of dexterity.

Let’s not interrupt them by talking to them carelessly. “Shall we try our hand at ring toss?”

“I’ll try! Oh, that stuffed animal is kind of cute. I might want one.” Kei shouted and pointed from behind a student who was experiencing it first. It was a cute prize, a colorful bear.

Unfortunately, however, the ring toss was a demonstration. Even if they succeeded in the ring toss, they wouldn’t receive any prizes. Even though the student council had a budget for the event, the number of prizes were limited.

If students took the prizes home today, it will be difficult to replenish them.

On the other hand, the shooting game that the 1st year Class B was putting on across the street seemed to be offering sweets as prizes, and they were giving them away if guests were successful. The prizes were cheap, starting at 10 points, and even the most expensive ones were worth about 200 points. I guess tommorow there will be prizes other than sweets, but this way, the test would be as good as the real thing.

“Try it, Kiyotaka!” She urged me to try it and lightly pushed me in front of a table where five shooting guns were placed in a row.

I was interested in the target shooting game, so I was willing to give it a try.

You’re given five bullets per game. The gun seemed to be a type of toy called a cork gun, which was filled with cork and fires. Each of the guns lined up on the table seemed to be more heavily built than I had expected. The bullets, however, were distorted in shape, and it was doubtful that they can be shot with precision. I had never held a gun in my hands since I was born. I have a vague image of it from movies and TV dramas, but I am not sure if it’s really true to the actual thing.

I can’t even look at an example because there were no other students

participating in the event. So, from my imagination, I grabbed the gun in the middle of the room and held it up.

“Aim for the most expensive one.”

In order to drop the highest priced assortment of candy, I need to shoot down a large weight. I wonder how powerful it really is. Let’s give it a try first.

The first shot was fired while receiving enthusiastic cheers from Kei. With a light “pop” sound, the cork bullet was fired and approached the weight I had set as my target.

However, the bullet passed through a few centimeters to the left of the weight without delay. My percieved aim was that it should have hit the target with pinpoint accuracy, but the trajectory was completely different. Then, I shifted the muzzle a few centimeters to the right and fired a second shot. I thought I had corrected the trajectory perfectly, but this time it passed diagonally to the right and missed.

“This is pretty hard…”

As I was loading the third shot, the other students began to join in one by one. I decided to watch the other students and try to further correct the trajectory. However, the students firing their guns were struggling to aim as well as I was.

One of the students fired a bullet that hit a weight from the first shot. It did not fall down, but he succeeded in pushing it back.

Continuing to observe to see if there was some trick to it, I discovered that it was not due to my skill, but due to each gun, which looked the same, having a different performance. The millimeter-by-millimeter discrepancies in the manufacturing process and the quality of the bullet cork itself. Various things combined to create an unexpected trajectory with each shot. It was a very interesting system, but at the same time, I understood how difficult it was to shoot and drop the target.

As a result, only the last shot was able to hit the weight that I had originally aimed at, but it was not an easy target to hit, and my first target shooting ended in a disastrous failure. However, I now understood the tendency of the gun itself.

Now, if I could only predict the trajectory of the bullet when fired based on the shape of the cork, I could try again… That’s what I thought, but then I noticed a sign that said “Only one challenge per person today” and gave up.

“Ain’t no way. The big bad Ayanokouji himself is a shitty shooter?”

Just as I put my gun back, Hōsen came out from behind the stall, laughing with a funny smile on his face. Hōsen’s first year Class D stalls specialized in “games.”

“This is surprising. I didn’t expect you to put on such a show.”

The idea was that these trivial prizes from target shooting and ring tossing

were means to return adults to their inner-child.

“When I was a kid, I used to make a killin’ with the adults at these kinda stalls.”

What kind of childhood was that…

“I really wanted to do more serious gambling, but the shitty school turned me down ‘cause of the rules or whatever. Really though, target shooting? It’s the same thing as gambling. This kinda gambling is designed so that the house can win about all the time. It’s a one-time cultural festival, so ain’t no way they’ll know they’re getting ripped off.”

He took out his lighter and put it on the shelf, then came over to this side of the table and picked up the second gun from the far left. The bullet fired from the projectile gun he held up flew straighter than I had imagined and hit the lighter. It shook, but showed no sign of falling over.

“If they ain’t able to take the limited prizes, it won’t be a problem.” “Wouldn’t that keep the customers from coming back?”

“Nah, not if we add value to the shitty prizes and hand them out regularly.”

Hōsen had a plan. If the participation prizes were not attractive, adults might shy away. What appeared to be a participation prize peeked out of the basket. They had prepared a large number of student photos, both male and female, using a printing press and laminated them in various patterns for handmade prizes.

“It’s a good way to show off as an adult that you gotta memory of participatin’ in a cultural festival.”

The fact that many politician-related people will be attending means that some will communicate their participation in the festival as a kind of charity or community activity.

Announcing that the students were given pictures of the festival would also help to create a positive impression. After parting ways with Hōsen, who was surprisingly thinking things through, I returned to Kei, who was waiting for me.

“I couldn’t win it.”

Kei grined happily and poked me in the stomach area with her elbow. “You look pretty happy even though you didn’t get any prizes.” “Because I got to see Kiyotaka’s cuteness. I’m super satisfied as far as I’m

concerned.”

“What do you mean, ‘cuteness’?”

I had no good points at all during that time.

“I was happy that it wasn’t like an anime, where you hit it on the first shot. I realized again that you can’t do everything.”

That’s true. My approach was based on experience. Unless I had some

material from my past experience to draw on, there was no way I was going to do well on my first shot, toy or otherwise.

“That’s cute, huh? I feel like you usually want your boyfriends to be cool.” “I’ve been shown enough of that.”

She didn’t blame me, but rather, Kei’s emotions seemed to take pleasure in the fact that I didn’t take the prize.

As I strolled around looking for other interesting offerings, I spotted Ishizaki.

“Yo, Ayanokōji!”

“Looks like something kind of unusual is being put on.”

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? It’s an idea of mine and Albert’s, you know.

“Wow, how did an enforcer like you get permission from Ryūen to do this?

You couldn’t even set up a birthday party.” Kei stared at Ishizaki suspiciously.

“I wanted to make it happen! I made a proposal just like you told me to do, and I got kicked out of it…”

He held his abdomen as if he was remembering that moment. It was coincidentally on October 20, the day of my and Ryūen’s birthdays. Ishizaki

planned a birthday party for both of us. However, in order to make it happen, he needed to persuade Kei, and her condition was that Ryūen must apologize directly to her for what he did on the rooftop and bow down to her.

Naturally, Ryūen did not accept Kei’s harsh conditions.

“But I’ll get my revenge next year! You’ll just have to wait for me!”

“No one’s going to wait for you. So, what kind of booth are you putting up?” “Who cares? Do you care? Okay, you guys go ahead and give it a try.”

All that was provided was a desk and cardboard. The disposable chopsticks and cups on the table gave the impression of dining, but is it really?

“What is this?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Ishizaki then instructed Albert to take out tools from a cardboard box.

They were a bag of protein and a bag of citric acid. Both are familiar to those who take them during muscle training and other activities.

“This is chocolate flavored protein. Well, just take a light lick.”

Two small bite-sized paper cups were prepared with Ishizaki’s chocolate- flavored protein.

“I don’t want it.”

Kei refused to drink it as soon as it was served. “Oh, don’t be like that. It’s just protein.”

“I’ve never had protein before, and I don’t want to. I’m not trying to get

muscular.

“You can’t build muscle just by drinking protein shakes.” Albert steped forward and mumbled English.

“Huh? What?”

“Don’t worry about that. You can’t build muscle by just drinking protein shakes. That’s right. Since we’re here, why don’t you two give it a try?”

To be honest, I was a little curious to see what Ishizaki would do.

I took the initiative, picked up a paper cup, and drank the protein. It may have been made by a different manufacturer than the one I used to drink, but it tasted a little like the old days.

“Well, I’ll drink it for you then, just in case… it’s bad.”

Kei, on the other hand, who drank protein for the first time, frowned as if it didn’t taste good.

“Tastes bad? Well, it’s not undrinkable, right?”

“It’s not undrinkable, but I don’t really want to drink it.” “Well, you need a palate cleanser.”

Water was handed to me, perhaps to rinse out my mouth. By the time I finished drinking it, Ishizaki was ready to move on.

“Next, this way.”

With that, he prepared a citric acid drink, this time in another paper cup. “Well, it’s citric acid, I guess.”

“I think I like this one better.”

We muttered our impressions of the citric acid drink to each other. “Well, that’s the last one. The two you just drank aren’t bad, are they?” “I didn’t like the protein.”

“You’re good, Karuizawa, how about Ayanokōji?” “Yes, it wasn’t bad at all.”

Hearing this, Ishizaki laughed happily.

“By the way. If you add citric acid to this chocolate-flavored protein, you get a very strange taste.”

He handed me the mixed protein and held it close to my mouth. It seemed like killing two birds with one stone, since both the protein intake and the citric acid intake are not bad.

“Now drink both of them at the same time.” “I’m kind of scared.”

“Well, let’s drink it.”

We tipped our paper cups and started drinking. But the moment I put it in my mouth, I involuntarily stiffened at the taste spreading from the surface of my tongue.

“Shit!” Kei screamed next to me and spat it out on the spot. She then made a vomiting gesture while thrashing about, strongly appealing the others.

“This, that, that tastes like vomit! Eeeeee!”

I remembered that taste too. When I was taught martial arts, I was hit with a powerful fist to the abdomen, and the stomach acid that rose from my body alongside the food I was digesting came up. The smell and taste that spread in my mouth, it was something close to that.

“Hahaha! Yes! That’s funny!” “Not funny! Water!!!”

Pushing away Ishizaki, who was laughing exasperatingly, Kei drank from the water bottle

“This is, how can I say this, certainly a mystery drink.” “Even the quintessential Ayanokōji is a bit taken back.”

Not only was it not tasty, but it honestly didn’t taste edible. The tension plummeted.

“I’m going to surprise my customers tomorrow. For 500 points a cup, I’m going to offer them a magical experience.”

“I’m amazed that Ryūen allowed you to do this.” I’m more surprised about that as well.

“He said, ‘Do whatever you want with your points. We’re doing something else tomorrow.’”

I see. So Ishizaki is just going to rent the extra space for himself. Then the expenses would be minimal, and, well, it’s no wonder that about 10 guests would at least be curious about the experience.

“Ugh, a fun date turned into the worst…”

After that, Kei just kept giving Ishizaki resentful glances until she left the place. Their relationship, which seemed to have improved a bit, may be back to square one.

After finishing our reconnaissance while genuinely enjoying a few of the activities, I returned with Kei to the maid café. The classroom was filled with students, who seemed to be enjoying talking to the maids as they pleased. When one of the students occasionally deviated from the moral line and persistently called out to them, Sudō intervened, forcibly interrupted them, and asked them to leave the room. He suited the role of a bodyguard and was in charge of dealing with trouble.

The two-hour festival simulation would soon be over. I discussed with Horikita whether or not we needed to make any changes to the final staffing for tomorrow.

As I, Sudō, and the other boys started cleaning up, Onodera showed up. “We’re done here, too,” Onodera said. “I wish I could have seen everyone’s

maid outfits.” Onodera, who had been sent out to the outdoor stalls, made a disappointed sound as soon as she returned.

“You wanted to see the maids?”

“I like cute things too. Besides, I’m not the kind of person who looks good in a maid’s uniform, my legs are too thick.”

“You don’t know if it looks good on you or not until you try it on.” “With the limited clothes we have, I’m sure they won’t even fit my size.”

Onodera then replied with a wry smile, saying that it was impossible for her.

Because of her commitment to swimming, Onodera has a well-trained body, including broad shoulders and legs that are more developed than most girls. If we were to provide her with a size-fit maid uniform, it would inevitably be made

exclusively for Onodera. Sudō crouched down and moved his gaze closer to Onodera’s thighs.

“Wait, hey Sudō-kun!”

“They’re the legs of a well-trained athlete. Well, it’s certainly a little different from what you’d call a maid.” He placed his finger to his chin and said exactly what he thought.

“I’m so embarrassed!” Onodera blushed and ran out of the classroom like a rabbit.

“What’s with her?”

As I watched the two of them interact, I could feel the obvious change in Onodera up close. The two of them were not only the same, but they were also very close to each other. However, Sudō didn’t seem to have noticed this, perhaps because he had never shown any affection to Onodera before, or perhaps he had never even sensed the presence of affection before.

It would be nice if both arrows were facing each other, but as it was, both arrows were going the opposite way. I haven’t learned much about love, but I do know that the basic rule in these situations was to keep a warm eye on the people involved. However, that was why my curiosity and urge to see the result of a different pattern came over me. If I go against the “rules,” will they no longer make it as a couple?

“Don’t you understand? Why Onodera behaved like that? The same feelings you have for Horikita, Onodera has for you.”

“What?”

I said it in a slightly roundabout way, so Sudō didn’t immediately understand. However, Sudo wasn’t so rock-headed that he couldn’t understand what

I was saying at all.

“Huh? Onodera… me?” “Yeah.”

“No, no, that ain’t it.” He seemed to have thought about it seriously, but denied that it could be true.

This was also a natural reaction.

“Onodera might not have been interested in you at first, but you’ve been showing remarkable growth these days. It wouldn’t be surprising if she became aware of you as a member of the opposite sex, right?”

Little by little, Sudō’s face turned grim as he began to reorganize his thoughts.

“What the hell… why me?”

“Of course, there’s no guarantee. If you want to know the truth, it might be important to observe Onodera carefully and try to understand her.”

“But, hey… I…”

Nothing else needed to be said to understand the situation. Right now, Sudō’s feelings were strongly directed toward Horikita. That was why I wanted him to show me how he’ll change from this unnecessary comment of mine.

Will he move closer to Horikita or sway toward Onodera? Or will he change into an unexpected third party?

“No. I’m getting a little confused, I’m going to go cool off while I go see the food stalls.”

You’ll have to think long and hard to come up with an answer. “Kiyotaka-kun, was that… okay?”

Yōsuke, who was standing by, seemed to have heard my conversation. “I don’t think you should have interfered.”

“Is that so? Well, I’m sorry if that was careless of me. I’m still learning how this works.” I apologized to Yōsuke with a blank expression on my face.

A little while later, it was time for the preliminaries to end.

“Good work, everyone. That’s all for today. If there are any reassignments for tomorrow’s show, I’ll call you from my cell phone by 9 pm.”

After all the cleanup was done, all preparations for tomorrow were complete.

The students were already on their way home for tomorrow’s performance.

Only two people remained in the classroom, me and Horikita.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but it just doesn’t feel right for you to be a maid,” I said.

“I don’t want to do it, but it would be nice to have more hands, wouldn’t it? It would have been a little easier if your girlfriend had cooperated.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s out of my jurisdiction. I’ve left it to Kei’s will.”

It seemed that Satō and the others, including me, had approached Kei, but she refused to wear the maid’s uniform.

I haven’t heard what the reason was, but I guess it was because she didn’t want to change clothes rather than because it was too much trouble or because she wasn’t suited for customer service.

Not everyone understood Kei’s body and her past.

“I’m just kidding. It’s not something you force anyone to wear. If you’re unwilling to wear it, it won’t make you look good to tomorrow’s guests.”

“Here, look through this. I’ve made some adjustments based on today’s simulation.”

I handed the notebook to Horikita for a final check.

“Thank you. It looks like the schedule you’ve put together is going to be

fine.”

Horikita looked up from her notebook, “All festival participants are required

to take a one-hour break before the end of the festival after notifying their homeroom teacher.”

During this break, they are forbidden from assisting with any of the stalls and must coordinate their workers, whether they are busy or not.

4

In the middle of the street leading to Keyaki Mall, a man and a woman were facing each other. The preliminary preparations for the festival had already begun and there were no students to be seen in this vicinity at all.

“We can finally talk, Yagami-kun.”

“I didn’t think you would barge in on us while we were preparing for the festival.”

“I wouldn’t have caught you otherwise. It seemed as if you were avoiding

me.”

Even after making contact, Yagami forced Kushida to move to this location,

refusing to discuss the situation on the spot.

“It’s just a coincidence that we didn’t meet. By the way, it seems you visited my room several times. sorry, I was away.”

Both continued their dialogue without losing their smiles. If someone were to witness the two of them from the sidelines, the scene would appear to be one of friendly banter.

“Were you really away? Or were you using the answering machine to harass

me?”

“Staying away? Why would I do that? There seems to be some kind of

misunderstanding.”

“There’s no misunderstanding.”

Irritated by Yagami’s refusal to let her grasp the reality of the situation, Kushida stepped forward on her own.

“You cut me off because I was useless. That’s all, isn’t it?”

In a unanimous special examin, Yagami expected Kushida to expel Horikita and Ayanokōji. Since she failed to live up to that expectation, and since there was no contact between them, it wasn’t surprising for Kushida to judge as such.

“Do you remember that I contacted you on the night of the unanimous special exam?”

“Yes. Of course, I remember.”

On the night the exam ended, Yagami called and learned from Kushida’s mouth that Horikita and Ayanokōji had not dropped out. Shortly after that, the phone was disconnected, and Kushida had not been able to talk to Yagami since then.

“I will be honest with you. I thought Kushida-senpai hated me. That’s why I haven’t had the courage to face you lately, and maybe I’ve been unconsciously avoiding you.”

“Stop it. It’s no use lying to me like that now. Pretending to be a junior who has a liking for me only gives me the chills after I learned part of your true nature.”

“Excuse me. Now, could you tell me again how that day happened?”

Kushida was beginning to understand. The freshman in front of her was just having fun playing with her. He knew all about the unanimous special exam, and he was about to open his playful hands again.

“I won’t answer.”

“Why not? At least we know that Kushida-senpai acted to expel one of those two students. But as a result, Sakura-senpai was expelled instead of Kushida- senpai. What I want to know are the details of it.”

“I did nothing in that special exam. So, Sakura-san, who was the lowest in OAA, was inevitably cut. That’s it.”

The class details in the unanimous special exam was not leaked to outsiders.

So, Yagami wantsedto know the details. She tried to push the story forward with the idea that Sakura Airi was only selected due to a lack of ability. But Yagami kept smiling and gently places hid hand on Kushida’s shoulder.

“You shouldn’t lie.” “Lie?”

“Since after the unanimous special exam, Kushida-senpai’s behavior routine had changed significantly. I have already investigated and understood that you have distanced yourself from your classmates, although you seemed to be getting along with students in other classes as usual. In other words, that unanimous special exam exposed a certain degree of your own true nature.”

Externally, Kushida had been smiling at her classmates. But there were limits since her classmates were more distant than ever. A small group of girls used to hang out a couple of times a week, but now it’s down to zero.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m still getting along with my classmates as usual.”

Kushida implied that Yagami just so happened to miss the times she was hanging out with her classmates. Kushida tried to push it that way, but Yagami kept smiling.

“It’s no use trying to hide it; Kushida-senpai allowed her class to discover all about her past. And it was definitely Ayanokōji-senpai who pushed her into that corner.”

Yagami spoke eloquently, as if he had been watching Kushida and the others fight in class. The fact that he mentioned Ayanokouji instead of Horikita’s name was clearly unusual.

“You’re imagining things on your own. It doesn’t fit at all.”

“You’re free to misrepresent it, but… What on earth do you want from me if you have nothing to say? I have to help with the festival, so I’d like to get back as soon as possible.”

“I’m tired of hanging out with you, Yagami-kun.” “You’re tired of…?”

“I’m tired of being your friend, Yagami-kun. That’s all I wanted to say today.”

Kushida abruptly offered to end her relationship with Yagami.

“You want to end your relationship with me. I understand that feeling. Since Kushida-senpai’s past and character are now known in the class, there is no point in pressing Horikita-senpai or Ayanokōji-senpai to be expelled now.”

“I’m not going to correct every single thing anymore. If you want to interpret it as you see fit, go ahead.”

“You’re an interesting person, Kushida-senpai. What you just said was the truth. Besides, Kushida-senpai herself is beginning to think that it’s okay to throw herself into this environment. So, she wants to end her backwards relationship with me and look forward.”

She wanted to look forward. Those words stuck in her mind.

“Aside from Ayanokōji-senpai, have you made peace with Horikita-senpai?”

“I won’t answer that either.”

“By the looks of it, you’ve been heartbroken. I’m a little disappointed, Kushida-senpai.”

Kushida resisted the urge to retort, but anger welled up within her, and she continued hating Horikita as much as ever.

“I am…!”

“Oh, that’s okay. You don’t have to say anything else. I can tell by looking at

you.”

His dismissive attitude lacked some of his former politeness. Kushida

couldn’t help but feel a little creeped out by this, but she couldn’t afford to show any weakness here. Rather, she was clearly more tolerant than the average student, perhaps due to her repeated contact with unusual people like Ayanokōji, Ryūen, or Amasawa.

She was surprised and felt a sense of realization when acting tough.

“This is the end of us, Yagami-kun. We have nothing to do with each other, right?”

“Rest assured. You’re worried that I might go around exposing Kushida- senpai’s past, right? That’s why you came to check on me while giving me a warning, right?”

“That’s right, if Yagami-kun exposes me, rumors about me will go around the school.”

“Then will you listen to what I have to say?”

“I’ll tell them everything about Yagami-kun, about how you used me to get Ayanokōji and Horikita expelled from school, about how you’re a devil with a kind face.”

Yagami didn’t know if this was a threat. Still, using the weapons she has now is the only way Kushida can defend herself.

“You have threatened back. Then I will keep that in mind. Are we done?” Whether it works or not, Yagami broke off the conversation and walked away.

“I’m the leader of the 1st year Class B. I’m busy with various cultural festival stalls, so I’ll see you then.”

“Don’t forget, Yagami-kun, that as long as you keep your promise, I will keep mine.”

Yagami smiled at last and disappeared out of sight with light steps. “I hope this is the end of it.”

While she held such wistful thinking, she also realized that it wasn’t the end.

So what should she do?

Should I just wait with my fingers in my mouth, or should I set up and strike?

“No. I can’t stop Yagami..”

Up until now, Kushida had challenged and lost to various opponents, including Horikita.

She now realized that she was painfully alone.

I realize that I am alone. But even so, the situation has changed drastically.

The other side is definitely licking Kushida’s chops. Not just on the surface, but from the bottom of their hearts.

Even so, she prided herself on being able to read such things. “Before I fight that guy, I have something to do.”

She knew that the problem that needed to be solved goes above just Yagami. She had no desire to go back to being a gentle honor student, but she must show a solid contribution to maintain a firm position in the class.

Kushida Kikyo knew how to survive by herself.

5

In the middle of the night, I received a phone call.

“It’s very unusual for you to call me, Sakayanagi.”

On the other end of the line, Sakayanagi let out a little chuckle.

“Indeed you may be right. May I have a few minutes of your time now?” “I wouldn’t be answering if it wasn’t convenient.”

“I see. Then let me cut right to the chase. Ayanokōji-kun, you will attend the cultural festival as a matter of course, won’t you? My father seems to be concerned that there may be people from the outside who will come to bring you back.”

“The chairman of the board called me a little while ago. He told me that I should consider taking this time off from the main event again, but I politely declined.”

I probably would have attended the last sports festival, though, if not for the fact that I had to give Sakayanagi a break.

“Aren’t you afraid? No, that’s a foolish question, I’ll change the question a bit. Are you perhaps assuming that the people involved will not move to recapture you?”

Otherwise, Sakayanagi said, she doesn’t see the point of me purposefully putting myself in harm’s way.

“It’s simply a question between actual harm and potential harm. There’s other opportunities coming up, such as the school trip. If the harm would go away after these two festivals, I would act differently. However, there’s no guarantee

that there won’t be spectators at next year’s festival too. It’s easy to stay in your shell, but the opportunities I will lose by doing so are far more troublesome.”

“So you want to experience your remaining school life and what is normal for a student as much as possible.” She replied in agreement with my way of thinking.

“Besides, I have other objectives. I don’t want to waste them.”

“If that’s the case, I have nothing further to say; I think it’s best that Ayanokōji-kun does what he wants.”

I was curious about the festival, but I knew it was not polite to ask about it.

Was she simply trying to win that showcase, or was she trying to crush the competition? Or does she have some other goal in mind? If I asked her, she might answer, but that would lead to a different story.

It was up to Class A to make whatever choice they make, and no third party had the right to decide what was right or wrong.

“But unforeseen circumstances are things that can happen at any time. Even if the festival is safe, you never know what may happen next. If you have any trouble, please feel free to contact me anytime.”

“That’s very kind of you.”

“We can’t have Ayanokōji-kun disappear before we have a rematch.” “I’ll take care of myself.”

“I’ll see you soon then. Good night.”

Avoiding any idle chatter, Sakayanagi ended the call with a mutter.

Written on July 1, 2022