Y2 Vol 7 English Chap 5

Chapter Five: The Festival

After a long period of preparation, the festival finally arrived.

The festival began at 9:00 a.m., and students were required to arrive at school by 8:30 a.m.

Furthermore, the gates to the school opened at 6:00 a.m., so if necessary, preparations can be made early in the morning. Horikata and I met at the lobby of our dormitory at 6:00 a.m. to go to school. This was because we have to make a final confirmation in advance, in order to avoid any inconvenience during the actual event.

As soon as I joined her, she turned her attention to the box I was holding in my hands.

“Good morning. Is that cardboard by any chance the one you were talking about?”

“I’m sorry for making you come up with an unplanned budget.”

“It wasn’t a big amount, so the impact is minimal. We second years should’ve been given 5,000 points each to spend as we see fit.”

We also rubbed elbows with students from first to third grade who came in early with the same idea, although not as many. I stopped by the classroom once to drop off a box of hand-me-downs and then came over to the maid cafe.

“Did you receive the call from Matsushita-san?”

“I checked. It must be hard for her since she’s one of the leading figures who led the maid café to this point.”

Matsushita contacted me early in the morning and reported that she had to take the day off due to illness.

“But it’s a wise decision.”

If she had only a slight fever, she might have been able to go, but she had developed a cough and other symptoms, so she could not perform a job that required customer service. Additionally, even if she were reassigned, Matsushita, who was not feeling well, could not be entrusted with a heavy workload, and if the cold spread, it would affect the class during the festival.

“Besides, this is the kind of preparation we need to make in advance.”

It’s not enough to just reassign personnel; it is necessary to know where to fill in the missing personnel.

“Speaking of which, did you hear? It’s rumored that Hasebe-san and Miyake-kun may have been the ones who leaked the information about the maid cafe.”

we?”

“Sounds like it. But we could’ve foreseen that at an early stage, couldn’t

This information came down from Kei, who was in close contact with the

girls and had already heard about it.

“I guess so. But I wonder if it was really a good idea to leave it alone.” “Rumors are rumors. Haruka and Akito didn’t actually leak the information.”

Horikita’s self-loathing at not being able to help Haruka and the others peeked out.

“You shouldn’t show your weakness so easily. It will only give them an opening to take advantage of you.”

“You’re always so calm as if you’e a stranger to the situation.”

I noticed that Horikita was looking at me as if to check my expression. The observation continued for five or ten seconds, and then I noticed that her face had changed to a difficult expression with a wrinkle between her eyebrows.

“I have a few questions…do you usually interact with the first-year students?”

“First-year students? No, I don’t. I talk to Nanase or Amasawa once in a while, but that’s about it.”

I feel like I shouldn’t say that I interact with them, since I rarely ever go see them myself.

“Is that what you wanted to ask?” “It’s not a big deal.”

“Speaking of interaction, what about you? You talk to first years in the student council, don’t you?”

“Well, I do. I’m getting a little bit more involved with the juniors.”

The student council had gained three people from this year’s first years; the second years only had Ichinose for a long time. There was a distinct lack of quality, if not quantity, of talent. The most recent addition was Horikita, but it was likely that the number of members was adjusted to fill the gap.

There was no limit to the number of members in the student council, but it was said that there were generally eight to twelve members. At this school, there are currently three third-year students, two second-year students, and three first- year students. It would seem that they were following past conventions.

“At first, I thought it was useless. I would rather be in my room studying than doing student council work because it would better benefit me. To be honest, that feeling hasn’t gone away.”

Student council work wasn’t the only thing that seemed like such a waste of time. Whether it was club activities or friendships, it was basically a series of futility.

Some may go from club activities to becoming professionals, or from friendships to future jobs, but for many, these will be nothing more than memories of the past.

On the other hand, if you work hard at your studies, it is likely to lead you to a great future. It would be the most solid and safe option a student could take.

“There’s a lot to be learned in futility. You’re beginning to see that.” “Your brother was student council president, too.”

“My brother’s case is different from mine. He was able to carry out his student council duties flawlessly while also achieving impeccable results in his schoolwork. I don’t think he ever felt that the student council was a burden, nor did he suffer from a lack of studying.”

Even if we’ll never know the actual truth, there was always plenty of room for Horikita to study. I don’t think there was any way she didn’t put in a lot of bloody effort, but she didn’t let it show in vain.

“I’m grateful to you, if only for the results. Joining the student council has helped me see things I couldn’t see.”

She was honestly thankful, or so I thought, but she still went on with her words.

“It made me realize how great my brother is again, and I have to do a lot of extra work.”

“I wish you had just been honest and thanked me.” “You have to accept some complaints.”

“I agree and sympathize with you that academics are a difficult goal for

you.”

I know that I am not inferior to Manabu in terms of pure academics and

physical ability. But if he was in the same grade as me, under the rules of this school. It’s a long shot, but you never know what kind of fight it would have been.

At the very least, he held enough power for me to consider him a dangerous enemy.

1

As 9:00 a.m arrived at the maid cafe in the special wing of the school, an announcement was made to all students at once.

Guests stepped through the main gate and the opening of the festival was announced.

“What do I do, I’m getting nervous…”

“I haven’t had any contact with outsiders since I entered this school.”

I heard a conversation with Ike, who was standing shoulder to shoulder with Shinohara. I guess being in a closed environment for so long certainly created extra tension.

Meanwhile, Satō and the other maids continued to discuss the shift change due to Matsushita’s absence.

Although the burden on each of them would inevitably increase, the time

adjustment was nearing completion. Satō, dressed in her maid costume, clasped her hands together in anxiety, but quickly slapped her own cheeks between her palms to regain confidence.

“We can do it, we can do it!”

“Maya-chan will be fine. I’ll back you up too.”

Kei, who was helping behind the scenes, cheerfully encouraged her. “Yeah, I’ll do my best!”

Since overcoming a big hurdle, the two of them have really grown closer. Their relationship as best friends won’t be broken in the slightest from now on.

The only other member I had to worry about was…

I looked around and observed the other students. Sudō and some of the male team members were not listening to the announcements and were having their final meeting with Yōsuke.

We had to keep our feet on the ground about what to do when it gets crowded or in case of trouble. After giving out all the instructions, we realized that we were short two students. Immediately after, Horikata and I looked at each other. We must’ve been thinking the same thing. She approached and spoke to me in a whisper.

“Hasebe-san and Miyake-kun seem to be missing.” “I guess it’s not like they’re in the restroom.”

The other students seemed to be too busy minding their own business to have noticed yet.

“I knew there was something going on at this festival, but ……” “If it’s just simply slacking off, I guess I’m rather grateful.”

For Horikita, who had not calculated them as a force to be reckoned with from the start, there was no need to get worked up if they just didn’t help out.

However, if they were to sabotage the project, that would be a different story. “But it also adds fuel to the fire because of the rumors.”

“If you leak information and then skip the festival, well, that’s enough blame, isn’t it?”

“I’ve been keeping an eye on it so far, thinking only time will tell, but …… I still think we should do something about it early on. We should at least dispel the rumors.”

“I understand what you’re saying, but we should focus on the festival today.” “Is that what you want?”

“Even if we can erase the rumors, we can’t erase the fact that those two have slipped out. Besides, there is still a possibility that they could embarrass the class in some other way at the festival.”

With multiple sources of anxiety, a poor response could lead to unnecessary animosity. Taking sides is certainly only for when Haruka and Miyake are determined to not be the enemy.

“I agree.”

Horikita was a bit nervous, but she cleared her throat to get rid of her thoughts.

“I’m sure you’ll be able to handle Hasebe-san and Miyake-kun just fine.” I replied with a glance, and decided to start greeting the guests.

2

“Welcome!”

Satō’s cheerful voice echoed in the classroom, or rather the maid cafe. At the same time, the first guest to enter the store was a man who appeared to be in his 40s.

A total of six maids waiting in the store responded all at once as they had been trained to do.

“Let me show you to your seat.”

Satō’s voice was cheerful, but her movements were stiff, since she wasn’t entirely comfortable yet. Still, thanks to the rehearsal the day before, there were no major mistakes, and after showing the guest to their seat, she took the menu list and cold drinks to his table.

The only way to get back to the practiced routine was to repeat the process and let the get used to the guests. Then, slowly but surely, the number of guests began to increase. The age range was similar, but sometimes teenage boys and girls who appeared to be the guests’ family members began to shyly walk in.

“A good start, huh?”

It wasn’t suddenly full, but it was nice to see that the seats weren’t all empty.

My cell phone was constantly receiving calls and reports from my classmates

scattered around the school. Which exhibits were attracting the most people and which were deserted.

Since the sales of each class were unknown until the end of the festival, we had no choice but to gather information personally. Fortunately, all students were required to take a one-hour break, so there were always a certain number of students who were not busy.

That is why, of course, our class was always being scouted as well.

After watching the room for a while, I decided to take a look at the hallway. It seemed that many guests had already made their way to the special wing, and as far as I could see, the guests outnumbered the students.

If that man was behind this, it’s possible that he’s already in view.

I don’t think he would be looking for me on the day of the event without having done his homework, leaving no stone unturned. But so far, I haven’t seen anyone suspicious. Besides, with so many adults, students, and children in the area, it would not be easy to make contact with me.

For now, the focus should be on the current students rather than on them.

Yoshida from Sakayanagi’s class was peeking into the maid cafe without trying to hide.

There was no sign of student’s from Class C at the moment, but they would likely come to check the situation at some point soon. The classroom door opened vigorously, and Ike and Hondo came out in a hurry.

“We took the order as fast as possible! I’m going to the food stall to get it

now!”

“That’s fine, but please be a little more calm.”

Some of the guests were surprised by what happened. “Oh, right. Sorry!”

It was not an ideal situation for customers or potential customers to watch a

flurry of restaurant personnel run to get their food. With a warning, the two looked at each other, nodded, and began to move, albeit at a rather fast pace.

With this being the first delivery, we couldn’t afford to be late.

Today, this kind of back-and-forth repeated itself every time an order was placed.

“Ayanokōji.”

I turned around when my name was called and saw Kanzaki approaching

me.

“Looks like you’re already thriving.”

We had gone through the preliminary phases, but Ichinose’s class’s offering

was, as I recall, sweets-based. They dealt things like crepes and chocolate bananas. “What about you?”

“The kids love them. But the adults are not as receptive as we thought they would be, so we’re not sure if we can aim for the top spot in terms of sales.”

“You may have a hard time, then.”

“Probably, but my priorities have shifted so I’m not entirely concerned about this festival at the moment.”

Apparently, the first step towards change with Himeno may have worked. “I’m going to the gym now. I want to learn what I can from the third years

for the future.”

“I see. See you later.”

After seeing Kanzaki’s walk off, I decided to return to the maid cafe and start working. I didn’t have much to do until “noon” arrived, though.

In a small partitioned off corner of the classroom, I stood by to deal with any problems that could arise. I’m also in charge of taking pictures of guests who want to have their picture taken. Within a few minutes, after the first photo shoot, the guests who had been watching began asking to be photographed in rapid succession.

I’m not saying that there weren’t adults out there who would like to make some fun memories with high school students, but it was better to assume that the guests were taking advantage of the festival’s purpose and dropping money on us.

In a sense, it seemed that quite a few of them decided that this was also their

job.

Nevertheless, conversation and laughter gradually spread throughout the

maid café, and it began to show aspects of a lively, ubiquitous café.

“New customers, please show them around.” Horikita’s inorganic voice reached the classroom filled with laughter. Satō immediately approached to serve the customer and began to lead him to an empty seat.

“Sato-san will show you around. “ “Well then, if you’ll follow me “

Being one to shy away from showing affection, Horikita was in charge of outdoor advertising. Although she was dressed as a maid to attract customers’ attention, she did not smile in person.

If this were a real maid cafe, Horikita would have been fired during her training period after passing her interview.

Then again. the idea that Horikita would interview for a maid cafe was

unlikely to happen.

3

Less than two hours into the festival, the maid café was maintaining its customer base as planned.

The important thing was how well they could handle the goods we stocked.

Especially since the film we stocked cost about 70 points per roll.

So far our stock seemed to be holding out well, and I, the instant camera and photographer, had been busy flying around the classroom. The instant camera, which cost nearly 9,000 points, was not a cheap photographic equipment to have invested in, and I had to buy another one in case my current one broke down.

“I got one shot~!”

The maids’ voices echo through the store, and I move out of the waiting room, camera in hand.

It seems that this time they wanted a photo shoot with Mii-chan, and Ichihashi, who was in charge of the bill, promptly received the points on her cell phone and completed the payment.

“Yes, cheese!”

After taking a two-shot of the laughing Mi-chan and the customer, I checked the film that popped out of the instant camera.

“Of course…”

I knew it was suspicious at the moment I took the shot, but I had released the shutter just as Mii-chan’s eyes closed.

“Ugh, sorry Ayanokōji-kun……” “Never mind. I’ll take another picture.”

It was a souvenir shot, and while I didn’t mind if the guest’s expression was a little problematic, I couldn’t give him one with a mistake in the maid’s expression. This was not only a consideration for the guests, but also for the maids, such as Mii-chan. As a girl, there was no way she would accept a badly taken photo.

That was why, even though each picture could be taken for 800 points, two, or in some cases three, sheets of film were needed.

The second shoot went well, so I handed over the photos that were ready to be developed. After the shooting was over, I quickly went back to the waiting room. Well, I have been repeating this kind of thing endlessly since this morning. But still… this festival, with so many people connected to politics, was the perfect opportunity for that man.

I knew that he would try some kind of trick to set me up, no matter how many people were around. This must have been the same for Chairman

Sakayanagi. However, as noon approached, there was no sign of any change.

I’m reminded of the conversation between Tsukishiro and the mysterious student who had visited me during the athletic festival.

“But no matter how good you are, you are still just a child. You should understand that that person has already factored in that strength of yours and sent me to you.”

“After eliminating Tsukishiro, all we have to do is eliminate the white room students and peace will return. I came here to advise you because I think you are making such a mistake.”

If we were to tie these matters together somewhat forcefully, it would be natural to think of capturing me by force with adults who are not students through the cultural festival.

In fact, they decided to use Tsukishiro to forcefully hold the festival, so it should be so. Would they miss this great opportunity by letting me evade them?

“Missing an opportunity…”

Of course, the festival was not over yet. But what if they had not made any moves at this point?

That would not be mere negligence, but….

“Ayanokōji-kun, what should I do, I seem to have run out of Darjeeling!”

Seeing Mii-chan rushing in with a panicked look on her face, I interrupted my thoughts.

Let’s focus on the problem at hand for now.

We had prepared several kinds of tea, but the Darjeeling, which used high- end tea leaves, sold out immediately. We had discussed and narrowed down our stock to the minimum number, but the sales were unexpectedly high. On the other hand, inexpensive tea bags sold poorly. Since it was impossible to buy more on the day of the show, we could not restore our inventory now.

“Put a sell-out sticker on all the menu boards right away. I’ll write corrections on the signs that are posted outside.”

“Uh-huh.”

I grabbed a pen and immediately corrected the sign with the menu at the entrance of the restaurant. Both were cheap props from the bargain bin, but they would work.

“There we go.”

I wrote the words “Sold Out due to popular demand” next to the Darjeeling. Although this is an unexpected sellout, it was a way to showcase the popularity of the maid cafe.

Immediately after, an arm reached out from the left side behind me. What came into view was not a school uniform, but the fabric of a suit.

“Take this without turning around.”

A white paper, folded in half, swayed in the slight breeze coming in through the window. There may not be any contact, or so I thought, and just when I thought so, this happened. It would be easy to ignore the order not to turn around, but I silently accepted it.

The person who approached me at such short distance without giving me any sign of him was not an ordinary person.

“May I ask your name?” “That’s needless prying.”

As soon as I grab the paper, his left arm disappears from my sight. I held that position for a while, and then I sense another presence approaching.

“What’s wrong, Kiyotaka-kun?”

Yousuke seems to have come out of the classroom, concerned that I didn’t come back right away.

“Sorry, I was approached by a guest who got a little lost and had to be dealt with. Any trouble?”

“Orders are starting to not turn out well. The stalls seem to be doing better than expected.”

“I see, the turnover is getting out of control. I’ll be right there.”

After confirming that Yōsuke had left, I unfolded the paper I had been holding in my right hand.

[I’m here to pick you up. Decide for yourself what to do. I’ll wait for you at the front gate.]

He even politely included his phone number.

I decide what to do? If they are really giving me a choice, did they really think I would choose to leave?

It was unclear how much significance the note had. All I could say for sure was that the person who handed this to me was connected to the White Room.

Have they decided that they can’t use direct force and will leave it to my judgement?

But the fact that no steps had been taken so far may have something to do with that sentence. Either way, there was no point in worrying about it. I rolled up the small piece of paper, put it in my mouth, and swallowed it.

Paper originally comes from a plant, and its main ingredient is cellulose. It has no enzymes to break it down, so it cannot be digested and gets ejected as it is. It is not a problem if a third party picks up this note, but it can be a disadvantage to have it in my possession. If it was a festival where you were stuck in a bad situation, it was better to do this quickly and easily because there was no further issues.

4

Three hours had passed since the festival began.

It was noon, and new guests were arriving to replace the families who had gone to the school first thing in the morning. After receiving a report from Ike and the others, who had gone out to scout the area, I was walking near the entrance when I heard a voice saying,

“There it is!”

Ike pointed to where several girls from Ryūen;s class were shouting.

“We, the 2nd year C class, are currently competing with the 2nd year B class for sales at the concept café! If we lose, someone might be held responsible and expelled from school!”

The air was clearly alien to the many students who basically continued to serve their customers with smiles and cheerfulness.

A large number of guests stopped in their tracks at the sight of the saddened faces and raised voices.

“Please, can we ask for your cooperation! Please help us!”

One after another, they handed out the flyers they seemed to have been producing. I approached a boy of junior high school age who seemed to have received one of them and asked him if I could take a quick look at it.

On it, offerings for a kimono concept café on the second floor of the special wing were detailed, but it did’nt mention the menu or any other price. Instead, it put the confrontation front and center, strongly emphasizing that this was a battle they absolutely could not lose.

“Nah what? This is bad, right?”

The girls’ earnest appeals could’nt have been left unspoken. In all likelihood, Ryūen was probably threatening his classmates with expulsion.

“Is he seriously trying to get someone expelled, that Ryūen guy?”

“I doubt it. If a forced expulsion is a penalty, that means he threatened to expel them without their consent. It would be a problem. In fact, if the student who was threatened told the school, Ryūen’s position would be jeopardized, and a sharp drop in class points would be inevitable.”

“Then that means he’s lying! Let’s go there now and make them stop!” “Impossible. His classmates strongly fear the chance he’s telling the truth.

Besides, if you listen to the words out loud, all they’ve said is that they might be expelled from school.”

So there was no material to determine that he was lying to the guests as well. The fact that they don’t just settle for a fair confrontation is typical of Ryūen, who comes up with one bold strategy after another.

It was safe to assume that they were working more towards beating us than to be among the top four.

“If we lose, they’ll take away 1 million private points, right? Oh no!”

I would love to tell the head-holding Ike not to worry, but it was important to show the public that he was seriously frightened. The importance of the confrontation became more clear.

“What do you want to do?”

“If they want to do this, we’ll just fight back with a similar strategy.” “You mean threaten to expel someone too!?”

“No, not that way. We’re going to show them that we’re also putting all of our effort into the concept café competition as a second year B class. We are ready for that.”

“What? And what do you mean ready?” “Open the cardboard box I brought for you.”

I had Hondo and Tonomura take the box down to the ground and remove the duct tape. Out of it came a bunch of flyers.

“This is…! It’s a flyer just like theirs!”

“I was planning to put up flyers to drive the guests to the event if necessary.

They beat me to it, but I’m sure it’ll be effective nonetheless.”

The flyers prepared by Horikita’s and Ryūen’s class were quickly circulated throughout the school, and word spread that the two classes were competing against each other.

This way, it was also self-evident that they were making big bets on the one- on-one match-up. Knowing about this confrontation will give the illusion that both classes were taking similar risks. It doesn’t create the need for me to go out of my way to threaten my classmates.

“I’m going to call the girls who have free hands now and ask them to spread the flyers all at once.”

“Okay, okay! I’ll let them know right away!”

The process was to have them use their feet directly and have Hondo and the others communicate the information to their classmates. Then, in addition to the predetermined points for distributing flyers, we notified the boys who were running the stalls to let them know that we were confronting Ryūen’s class as well.

“Did you hear Horikita’s class and Ryūen’s class are playing for a lot of money?”

“I heard that the leader of the losing class is getting expelled?”

It seemed that word of the one-on-one match was beginning to reach the ears of ordinary students who had nothing to do with it.

Speculation led to rumors, and rumors led to speculation. “I’m going back. Let me know if you need anything else.”

Ike and the others who delivered meals were always on the lookout for changes in the situation. They nodded their heads in assurance, and I left them to it as I headed back to the special wing. On the way there, I spotted a Japanese-style girl holding a leaflet in a corner of a largely empty corridor.

“Shisase!”

The way she handed the leaflets to the occasional adult passing by reminded me of the lethargic adults I sometimes see at the Keyaki Mall handing out tissues without much enthusiasm. They were just handing out a predetermined number of leaflets in an unobtrusive manner.

“Can I have one?” “Shassu.”

They may not even be aware of our presence, or perhaps they were just thanking us in a small way. She offered me a small thank-you and a leaflet. But as I took it, her eyes locked onto me.

“Geez.”

“You’ve been handing out flyers in a place like this, Ibuki?” “Go away.”

I was looked at by someone who didn’t want to be looked at, and she looked away with a disgusted expression on her face.

“I’d heard about you, but I guess that means you’re keeping your word.” I had heard that she would dress in a kimono after losing the match with

Ryūen, but it suited her better than I expected. “Costume for a horse and cart, huh?”

She stared at me intensely, but I was relieved that she didn’t seem to understand much of what I meant.

“It’s nothing.”

It wasn’t easy to get rid of all the flyers when you’re handing them out in an unpopular place.

“Maybe you should move to more places. I saw Yamashita and the others handing them out over there.”

“You’re kidding. Why would I team up with those guys?” Although I already knew her answer, she immediately rejected me. “Why don’t you take all of this?”

“That’s a tall order.”

“Fuck, I think I’ll just stuff them in a garbage bag and throw them away.”

She looked down at the stack of flyers she didn’t like and swore. The reason she didn’t do so, though, was probably to make sure she avoided punishment in case they lose.

When you win, you force your opponents to do so, but when you lose, you run away. If you continue to do that, you won’t be able to compete with Ryūen or any other opponent in the future.

“By the way, what did you confront Ryūen with?”

“I would have preferred a tie-up, but he suggested we play a card game.” “Card game? You mean like poker or something like that?

“Well, it’s similar.”

The content of the game itself was not important, but the fact that it was a suggestion from Ryūen was what caught my attention. Maybe Ibuki was successfully entrapped. Regardless, at least Ibuki wasn’t getting in my way any more.

“I’ll spread the word later about what you’ve been working so hard to promote here.”

“Don’t spread it. I’ll kick your ass.”

I quickly dodged a sharp kick as her costume shook. “Damn it.”

“Oh, by the way, the greeting at the café is ‘Welcome home, master.” Try it

out.”

“I’ll say it if you’ll take my kick to your face.” “I think I’ll have to pass.”

She raised her leg slightly to threaten me, so I shrugged and left.

By the time I returned to the maid cafe, the somewhat relaxed atmosphere

that had prevailed earlier in the day was gone, and the largest crowd of the day had begun to form a line.

Horikita joined the lineup, guiding the visitors.

“It looks like you’ve started handing out the flyers without any problems,” she said.

“Yes. From this point on, yours and Ryūen’s class should start to outpace the others.”

“Everything is going according to your plan, isn’t it?”

I’m not the one who added the unique color to it, though. Horikata and I nodded to each other and returned to our respective positions.

5

The maid café was on the road to success. However, the fact that Ryūen made his movements known at an early stage may have backfired on him, and there were no other classes other than Ryūen’s class that followed suit, effectively attracting customers. This in itself was a welcome development, but a problem that had not occurred during the rehearsal arose.

The problem was that there were too many customers due to the confrontational attitude that had been adopted between Class B and C.

The classroom seats were filled to the limit, and cramming in more would only make it more suffocating. The only solution was to make the visitors wait in line, but maid cafes do’nt have a fast turnover to begin with.

It was essential that students dressed as maids also enjoyed conversing with the adults. Usually, in such a situation, we would consider handing out numbered tickets and asking people to come back later. However, in a cultural festival, this was not a good idea. What would a customer with 3,000 points left in his/her pocket do if he/she received a numbered ticket and was asked to come back in an hour? Some customers would do so dutifully, but most would drop their money at another place during the waiting time.

The next thing you know, you’ve spit out almost 3,000 points, and you have no more money to drop at the maid cafe, so you leave without stopping by. This is a development that happens in the real world. That was why we wanted customers who had lined up once to keep lining up until they entered the store and spent their money. And if possible, we even wanted to absorb the points they plan to drop elsewhere.

“That’s not good. Customers are starting to leave the line.”

The prospect of taking a risk and getting a big payoff was now a warning

sign. idea.”

“Ayanokōji-kun, can I get out of customer service for a while? I have an Kushida called out to me as I was about to walk to the end of the line.

She must have been curious to see what was going on and came to check on

the situation.

“What are you going to do?”

“The waiting customers are just bored, and they’re showing a strong interest in the maid café. But they’re probably hungry, too, and it’s too much to ask them to leave.”

“I guess so.”

Since it was also right around lunchtime, it was obvious from the adults now in the classroom that many of them were there for food and drinks. Kushida picked up one of the bags filled with homemade cookies that she has been selling , prepared for souvenirs and started walking down the hallway with it.

Then, with a smile, she called out to the now bored customers. “Sorry to keep you waiting”

She then pulled a cookie out of the bag and started handing them out to the waiting crowd. She may be aiming to fill their bellies just a little, but there was more to it than that.

Once they receive something in return, they may feel guilty about leaving the place.

If Kushida were to leave her current post, it would not be difficult for someone to run away from the line with some guilt on their back, but she stayed and continued to talk to them with a smile on her face.

After receiving the cookies, it was no longer easy to leave the line, even though they were impatient.

There were some disadvantages to Kushida leaving the hall, but the customers who had already taken their seats were certain to spend some money. For now, it was more important to bring the money-generating presence beyond that point.

She could see what was going on in the restaurant better than anyone else, and she also knew how to make the most of herself. What could she do to get as many people on her side as possible?

She knew how to get close to adults of the opposite sex, engaged them in conversation that made them feel good, and sometimes even held their hand or did other skinship with them. They showed not the slightest resistance or aversion to this behavior. The other girls had been working hard all day, but Kushida was the only one who had managed to do all of these things perfectly.

Even when she was accounting at times, she made as few mistakes as possible, even when she stumbled over a calculation. This was truly a gift, as she had never participated in any real-life practice sessions.

“Kushida-san’s abilities are quite something. This is her element, I guess.” Yōsuke nodded his head in respect as he looked at her workmanship. “It seems that Kushida-san and Horikita-san, who have been facing strong headwinds, will also have some tailwinds.”

They’ve done such a good job, I had to admit that to some extent.

“People are creatures that resent easily, but on the other hand, they are also creatures that admit easily. Especially when you are young, evaluations are like the two sides of a coin. From the front to the back, and now back to the front again.

But the more you’re pushed around, the more you’ll feel like a tired presence.” “Still, I’m fine with it, as long as Kushida-san is able to fight alongside

everyone in the class.”

“I’m really impressed by what I’m seeing.”

“I think it’s a cumulative process. During the preparations for the festival, Kushida-san visited Horikita-san’s room late at night several times. I think they were practicing.”

So, in addition to her own talent, she was practicing well behind the scenes. If Yōsuke’s reading of Kushida’s life was correct, it was a reminder of

Kushida’s greatness. It would also confirm Horikita’s confidence that Kushida was in good hands. We then went back to the waiting room and spent about 30 minutes

pulling the camera around.

“Um, Ayanokōji-kun, where is Kushida-san?” Mii-chan came out of the room, looking busy. “Kushida?”

“There’s a customer who wants to take a picture with Kushida-san, but I can’t find her.”

Kushida-san, who was supposed to be organizing the line, had disappeared?

Yōsuke and I immediately looked down the hallway, and sure enough, Kushida was out of sight.

“Excuse me, have you seen a girl standing in line here?” Yōsuke called out to the guests in line.

“Oh, you mean the girl who was handing out cookies? It looks like she was approached by a girl from the same school and followed her about five minutes ago.”

“What was she like?”

I asked about the person who approached her, as if interrupting a conversation.

“Um, a girl with her hair tied up in two knots.”

Yōsuke didn’t seem to have a clue, but I had a strong idea.

“I’m sorry, but I need you to take care of the store for a bit and direct me to another maid the way Kushida did.”

This was the kind of trouble no one expected. That’s why I knew immediately that it was a problem I had to deal with.

6

It was difficult to locate a particular person at a festival where many people, young and old, were present. And if you can’t predict where someone was going, it was even more difficult to find them.

While operating my cell phone, I sighed in admiration at the overwhelming network of information. I was amazed at how fast and accurate it was. Within a few minutes of making the call, I was able to get their location information.

Not in the direction of the Keyaki Mall or the dormitories, but behind the indoor pool facility. When I arrived there, I found Kushida’s back facing me, dressed in an out-of-place maid’s outfit.

“So don’t make me say it again…”

Kushida, who was probably having a heated conversation with her friend,

was shouting at her.

“Wow…”

Meanwhile, the other person immediately noticed me and told Kushida to stop talking.

“What? Why is… Ayanokōji-kun here..?”

” Of course he’s going to look for the ace when you’ve disappeared.”

That’s true. Although I let the substitute maid take over the queueing example set by Kushida, I’m not sure how much longer she can maintain the same pace as Kushida.

“I thought I had taken her to a secretive location, but I’m surprised you found this place, senpai.”

I was actually keeping an eye on her the moment she stepped out into the

line.

“Unfortunately for you, I’ve created an alliance with someone I can rely on

now. No matter where anyone goes, I’ll be sure to know where they are.”

Even Amasawa doesn’t seem to have any idea who it was, but she didn’t inquire any further

“She was going to go right back after this, right senpai~?”

“Yeah. She’s right. I’m sorry I slipped out without telling you, but I also wanted to talk to Amasawa-san for a minute.”

“Then you could have just stood there and talked, that’s no reason to leave for 10 or 20 minutes.”

“That’s…”

Kushida knew that the first priority was to keep the line moving and the customers happy. That’s why Kushida was working on abandoning her customer service duties. She would’nt have left her seat unless it was something serious.

“Whatever there is between the two of you, we’re busy with the festival. Can you talk about it some other time?”

There was no need to go to the trouble of choosing today as the day for the exchange.

“You are not the least bit surprised to see me and Kushida-senpai together, are you? Did you know about our history?”

“No.” I really didn’t know that they had ever had any deep connection before. “But today, with this timely contact, I understand everything.” Even information that seemed unnecessary was derived in my head on its own.

Why was Kushida so adamant about expelling me from the school in a unanimous special exam, and why did she take a reckless gamble?

If a student from the white room was behind it and forced her to do it, it was not unreasonable.

I also began to see why she was acting as she was at the festival, where she would be easily traced. Kushida’s behavior also matched up with her behaviour after school, when she headed somewhere after declining invitations from her classmates to join them.

“Kushida-senpai will pay you back later, so can you give me a little time?”

Amasawa in front of me still didn’t realize that I was vague about my answer.

“Sorry Ayanokōji-kun, could you please excuse me. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I also really need to talk to Amasawa-san.”

“I see what you mean, but it’s not going to happen. This is enough, Amasawa.”

“Senpai’s eyes are so naughty, aren’t they? You’re looking at me like I’m naked or something~”

Amasawa pressed the tip of her finger against her lips in a seductive manner, but the tone wasn’t sexual. It was an action to hide her wariness that I can see right through her.

“Kushida, you have a weakness regarding your past with Amasawa and one other person. That’s why you forced the class to get into an uproar so that Horikita and I would be expelled from the unanimous special exam. Or maybe they were working on something before that.”

“Eh?”

I must have been right on target; unable to confirm or deny, Kushida simply looked surprised.

“Let’s stop now, senpai. This is a time for me and Kushida-senpai.”

“I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Kushida is a necessary part of the class, even before her work as a maid.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“You may be right, but I’m not so sure about the other one.” As she replied, Amasawa’s demeanour changed for the first time. Without warning, Amasawa, with an eerie smile on her face, grabbed Kushida’s wrist tightly.

“What?!”

She then pulled her close and stood behind Kushida with her right hand locked in place and forcefully closed Kushida’s mouth with her left hand.

“Perhaps you have an idea who the other student is, senpai?” Kushida’s words were silenced before she could ask the question since

Kushida knew that person firsthand.

In other words, she knew who the other white room student was. So, Amasawa anticipated Kushida’s reaction and took measures to ensure she didn’t unexpectedly utter that person’s name.

“You know, Kushida-senpai, if you say anything bad, I’ll have you expelled, okay?”

Kushida’s face contorted in pain, probably due to the tight grip on her right

arm. hard.”

“This is’not like you, Amasawa. You seem like you’ve been cornered pretty “Wait, senpai, I didn’t say anything, did I?

“Every single action speaks for itself.”

Kushida, enduring the pain, would not understand the nature of this

conversation. And Amasawa herself didn’t know how much I understood.

“Let’s talk about it again later, just the two of us next time. Please pretend you didn’t see this and leave, Ayanokōji-senpai. If you do that, I’ll let her go in about ten minutes.

“What if I don’t say yes?”

“If you don’t say yes, I might cripple Kushida-senpai here.” She said and squeezed her right arm even tighter.

“Nngh!”

“I’m a pretty girl, but I can easily break an arm or two.”

“Then let’s give it a try. Let’s see if you break Kushida’s arm first, or if I can stop you.

The distance between me and Amasawa was about 5 meters. “Are you serious?”

“Are you serious about breaking her arm? Or are you saying that you don’t think I can stop you?”

“Both.”

“Then you’re wrong about both. You really shouldn’t forget who I am.”

Laughing, Amasawa loosened her grip on Kushida’s right hand, even if only slightly. At that moment I kicked the ground and dove in just as Amasawa switched to a motion to break her arm.

My right hand slid down Kushida’s arm and reached her wrist as my left hand went around her mouth to her back, I grabbed Amasawa’s right hand.

“No way…”

It must be a defensive instinct. In an instant, she abandoned the action of breaking Kushida’s arm and shifted her attention to me, and tried to make a left fist with a tight grip.

However, I did’nt give Amasawa any chance to make any further movements, and caught her, blocking her from moving towards Kushida.

Just as Amasawa had done to Kushida earlier, I went behind her and twisted her body to the ground with her arm behind her back.

“Fuu~!”

The forceful hold on the ground caused Amasawa to lose her breath for a moment and gasp for air. Her breath caused a slight dust cloud to rise.

“Oh my, that was… a little unexpected.”

“Did you think there wasn’t much difference between you and me?”

I could tell by the look in her eyes. Amasawa’s pride, which was always high, was deeply wounded.

“You mean I was wrong about your abilities?” “Probably.”

Amasawa’s fighting skills, which she had learned in the white room, are real.

The fact that she and the other student had been in the white room for a long time and had learned to fight in the white room was a real advantage. However, whether they can compete with me on equal terms was a completely different matter.

Even if the opponent’s skill had increased from 5 to 20, or even 30, it meant nothing because my score was still 100.

“Since when did you think you could beat me?” “From the moment we met.”

“If that wasn’t a line from Ayanokōji-senpai, you’d be rubbing salt in my wounds.”

“I’ll tell you this, you seem to think that the other student might push me out of school, but did you ever wonder why I never asked for the other students name?”

The smile slowly faded from Amasawa.

Up until now, I had never willingly sought out a white room student on my

own.

“That’s because I didn’t think they would be a match for me from the start.” “You’re serious, aren’t you, senpai?”

“It’s not you who doesn’t understand that, right, Amasawa?”

If you had only half-heartedly practiced martial arts, you would not have had

any real feeling for it yet. But Amasawa was different. Even so, in less than 10 seconds of total movement, the match had already been decided by a wide margin.

“You and student should have challenged me at an early stage. You shouldn’t have gone around and involved the people around you in the fun.”

“So, you understood why I contacted Kushida-senpai…”

“It all connected just now. And now the unexpected is about to happen.”

“The unexpected?”

“After 3 p.m., keep an eye on the student council chambers. You are not to be seen in front of anyone. Then you’ll have all the answers.”

Seeing Amasawa’s strength slowly slipping away, I released the restraints.

There was no need for any more forceful techniques.

“We’ve wasted a lot of time. Let’s go back to the maid cafe.” “Is it okay leaving her?”

Amasawa stood up, but there was no emotion in her face.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to worry about your past being exposed.” I started to walk away and Kushida rushed after me.

“How could Ayanokōji-kun know that?” “Don’t worry about it, but you can trust me.” “Who is Ayanokōji-kun?”

That question would be inevitable if you had witnessed the conversation and fight with Amasawa earlier.

“I don’t know anything about fighting, but I can tell you you’re not normal.” “It’s not uncommon for classmates to learn martial arts. Horikita and Ibuki,

even Ryūen and Akito should be strong in fights, even if they are self-taught. It’s not like boys and girls can compete with each other from the start.”

I would explain that it was only overwhelming due to the gender difference.

Whether Kushida would be convinced by that is another matter.

“I’ll have to get back soon and help them get in line. Please go back yourself.”

“Yeah, sure.” Kushida replied, bowing her head as if she had made up her mind to do something. “Thank you for helping me.”

An unexpected thank you from Kushida. Of course, Kushida was easily more down-to-earth than most people on the external front. She was the type of person for whom expressing gratitude itself was easy enough to do.

“You don’t think I’m sincerely grateful, but that’s fine. I just felt like saying so, even if it’s a lie.”

“It’s not a big deal. It’s more of a natural behaviour for a classmate.” “Then you don’t have to consider this as a debt, right?”

She emphasised that part, and I thought about it for a moment, but I didn’t feel like indebting her.

“Of course.”

If I did consider her to be in my debt because of what happened, she wouldn’t really be able to repay me.

Written on July 1, 2022