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Part 3 

Later that evening, Ichinose called Nagumo. 
She was making one final confirmation of everything in preparation for tomorrow’s exam. 
“Nagumo-senpai, it’s me, Ichinose.” 
“Honami? This is about our little arrangement, right?” 
“Yes. I brought it up with all my classmates earlier today, so I thought I’d run everything by you once again.” 
“The conditions I gave you aren’t gonna change. Just scrape together every private point you can get your hands on, including the ones your classmates have. We can’t be having you get through this without sharing in the suffering together.” 
“You’re right. I think so too.” 
He wasn’t willing to lend them the points they needed while they still had points to spare for themselves. 
This was one of the conditions Nagumo had put forward in exchange for his cooperation. 
Nagumo had an enormous amount of private points saved up, with the number nearly reaching ten million. 
However, he clearly wasn’t willing to lend out all of them. Furthermore, even if he hadn’t made this a requirement, Ichinose would have taken the initiative to minimize the number of points she’d have to borrow anyway. 
“How many more do you need?” 
“4,043,019 points.” 
“Is that so? It seems that the strain on my budget will be lower than I expected. That said, this will still be putting me at a considerable disadvantage in the exams moving forward.” 
Nagumo was carrying quite the burden. 
He would have to take action if one of his classmates faced expulsion in the next special exam. 
In which case, it was more than possible he would have the carpet pulled out from under him because of the four million points he was lending out. 
Ichinose was painfully aware of how fortunate she was to receive this offer. 
“I’m truly sorry for making such a selfish request.” 
“It’s fine. It’s quite like you to not want to abandon anyone. But, well, you do remember the other condition I had for lending you the points, right?” 
“…Yes. I, uh… I have to start going out with Nagumo-senpai, don’t I…?” 
“Yep. I’ll transfer you the private points as soon as you agree to it.” 
“…The deadline is tonight at midnight, right?” 
“Are you really still hesitating? Don’t you want to avoid losing one of your classmates?” 
“Of course. It’s just, I’m a little anxious.” 
Ichinose swallowed her fears, forcing herself to speak. 
“Senpai… D-do you, uh… do you like me?” 
“Oh no, uhm… I’m sorry for asking something so rude… It’s just, I always thought that going out means you hold those kinda feelings for someone…” 
“I wouldn’t have made this a condition if I didn’t like you.” 
Nagumo answered without hesitation. 
Even though Ichinose was happy to hear his response, she still couldn’t help but feel uneasy. 

“If you agree to it, I’ll send you the points right now.” 
“Please wait. I… want to think about it.” 
“Isn’t that what you’ve already been doing these past couple days?” 
Slowly but surely, Nagumo’s deadline was approaching. 
“You probably can’t borrow any points from the second and third years, right? Furthermore, the first years are your opponents. It’s even less likely you’ll get any from them.” 
Nagumo was well aware that he was the only one who’d be willing to lend Ichinose more than four million private points. 
However, he had no intention of forcing the matter. 
After all, it was obvious Ichinose would come to rely on him in the end. 
“Be careful. I’m a man who’s fussy about keeping deadlines.” 
“Yes. I’ll definitely contact you later.” 
Ending the call, Ichinose let out a heavy sigh as she leaned against the wall. 
To Ichinose, protecting her classmates was her number one priority. 
She felt like she should be willing to accept his conditions, given that he was willing to help her get what she wanted. 
But Ichinose didn’t have any experience with romance or love. 
She simply couldn’t imagine that it was natural to start a relationship with someone like this. 
And… deep down, her heart was telling her it was wrong. 
It didn’t make sense for two people to go out if they didn’t like each other. 
It was meaningless if the feelings involved were one-sided. 
But, it wouldn’t be easy to suggest breaking up once they started going out. 
“Haa… I’m indecisive, even though I should’ve already made up my mind…” 
It was just a little after 9PM. 
Ichinose had no choice but to answer him within the next three hours. 
She let out another heavy sigh. 
She told herself that, as long as she managed to put up with it, she could save her classmates. 
That it was for the best. That, if there truly wasn’t any other option… 
But no matter what she told herself, her heart was pushing back. 
If she really, truly accepted his condition, it felt like she would lose a part of herself. 
And that, was a painful premonition. 
“No. Nothing good will come out of this way of thinking.” 
What good is there in changing your mind over and over again after getting so far? 
If negotiations with Nagumo were to break down now, one of her classmates would be expelled. 
She patted her cheeks lightly, reinforcing her change in resolve. 
“I… will protect everyone.” 
All alone, Ichinose quietly smiled, having steeled her resolve.


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