That evening, Sakayangi and Kamuro met up with Yamauchi at Keyaki Mall. Given the situation, they rented a room at the karaoke parlor in order to avoid attracting too much attention. “So, uh… Kamuro-chan came along too.” “Sorry. It’s still a bit embarrassing for us to go on a date alone together…” “N-no it’s cool, really! I’m just happy to be on a date with you at all!” Yamauchi put on a desperate smile, trying his best to avoid being disliked. In all actuality, he had wanted to confess to Sakayanagi had she come alone, and afterwards, they could officially become a couple together. Even so, Yamauchi forced his feelings aside. “Yamauchi-kun, will you be alright during this next special exam?” “Eh?” “Well, it’d be great if you will be, it’s just…” Sakayanagi let her voice trail off for a moment. “If you got expelled, we wouldn’t be able to meet like this anymore. That… That’s the one thing I absolutely don’t want to have happen.” Even though Sakayanagi’s cutesy innocent acting made Kamuro feel sick to her stomach, she didn’t let the nausea show on her face. This was nothing more than Sakayanagi toying with him. Besides, if she were to take each and every one of Sakayanagi’s games seriously, she’d probably lose her mind. “I-I’d hate that too!” “It’s kind of like our feelings are intertwined, isn’t it?” Sakayanagi gently patted her chest with a sigh of relief. “If there’s something troubling you, you can always come to me about it, Yamauchi-kun.” “But…” “You and I are certainly mutual enemies, but it’s different during this exam. We don’t have to compete against students from other classes, do we?” “That’s true…” “And because of that, it may be possible for us to cooperate with one another instead.” “Cooperate…?” Yamauchi appeared to have had somewhat of the same idea. “It’s just an example, but… what if I used my praise vote on you, Yamauchi-kun?” Hearing that, Yamauchi gulped in anticipation. People wanted as many praise votes from the other classes as they could get their hands on. For the students at risk of expulsion, they were so desperate for these crucial votes that they would stoop to any level to get them. “A-are you seriously gonna help me?” “If you’re in trouble, I’ll gladly cooperate.” Although Yamauchi kept his cool on the surface, her kind words had impacted him, making him happy from the bottom of his heart. He had never once spoken with a girl this intimately before in his entire life. After all, it would be embarrassing for her to realize that he had absolutely no experience with love. “To tell you the truth… It seems like people in my class are pretty jealous of me, and uh, I’m worried that they might use their censure votes on me.” “Jealousy, is it?” “It’s because I’m the only one who can meet up with you like this, Sakayanagi-chan.” “That is true, isn’t it? I’m not interested in other boys at all.” He couldn’t bring himself to say he was at risk of expulsion because his grades were bad. Instead, Yamauchi wanted to make himself look good so Sakayanagi would like him more. “Either way, I understand what you’re getting at, so I’ll give you some secret instructions that will help you out, Yamauchi-kun.” “S-secret instructions?” “Yes. Please reach out to approximately half of your class and try to pull them over to your side. Then, you can target somebody else and push for them to be expelled.” “But, uh… if I did that, isn’t it possible that I might end up getting targeted…!?” “I suppose that’s true. It’s not like anybody wants to be seen as the leader. After all, if you end up carelessly upsetting the wrong person, you might end up being voted for instead.” Yamauchi nodded in agreement. “That’s why I’m going to help you.” “H-how?” “There are about twenty people who follow me in Class A. I’ll have all of them use their praise votes on you, Yamauchi-kun.” “Eh!?” “A good number of your classmates should also be willing to give you praise votes, right? With their votes included, even if you end up getting more than thirty censure votes, the votes will pretty much cancel each other out. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be expelled.” “A-are you serious?” “Of course. That said, even if you get twenty votes, your safety won’t be guaranteed. That’s why you need to take the reins and drive somebody else into a corner.” “B-but who?” “Let’s see… Naturally, you can’t get rid of somebody useful to your class. Masumi-san, does anyone suitable come to mind?” “…How about Ayanok?ji?” “Ayanok?ji…kun, is it? I believe I’ve heard the name but…” “Oh, uh, he’s the kinda guy who doesn’t stand out at all. How should I explain it…?” “You can spare me the details. He sounds like he might be the perfect target. You two aren’t particularly close, are you?” “Not at all! He’s just a classmate!” “In which case, let’s have him be the sacrifice.” “But…”
Yamauchi’s desire to save himself was in conflict with his reluctance to sacrifice one of his classmates. However, needless to say, his desire to protect himself was far stronger. “I think it’d be painful to cut ties with a classmate, no matter what kind of relationship you had with them, so I’d try to avoid thinking about it too much. I think we’ve chosen a suitable target, so we just have to go along with it.” Sakayanagi smiled at him with an expression that seemed to say ‘That way, your heart won’t hurt as much, right?’ “Next Monday, after this exam is over, would you like to meet up again, just the two of us? There’s something I’d like to tell you then, Yamauchi-kun. It’s something very important.” “!!!” Yamauchi staggered. Her words dealt a finishing blow, completely enticing him. His imagination ran wild as he envisioned an upcoming confession of love from Sakayanagi. For the sake of turning his dreams into reality, Yamauchi would do everything in his power to avoid expulsion, no matter what. Even more importantly, if he didn’t successfully carry out the strategy she had come up with, it was possible that she might begin to hate him. These thoughts were the only thing spurring him on. “So, let’s start out by identifying people who appear to be Ayanok?ji-kun’s friends. It’d be best if we could quietly have him expelled without him hearing about it.” “G-got it.” “But before that, I have some advice for you, Yamauchi-kun.” “Advice…?” “Please don’t tell anyone that we’re going to be voting for you. There’s a risk that your classmates will resent you if you carelessly talk about it.” “That’s for sure…” They would obviously get jealous and antagonistic if they found out that Yamauchi was the only one safe from the exam. “Understood. I won’t say anything.” “Thank you very much.” “But… U-uhm.” “What is it?” “Uhm, It’s not that I’m doubting you or anything, it’s just… Are you really going to use your praise vote on me?” “Are you saying that you want to have something in writing?” “It’s just that I’m kinda worried about it…” Yamauchi was worried because he lacked confidence in leaving it to a simple verbal agreement, something that was well within Sakayanagi’s expectations. “Do you think that I’m going to betray you, Yamauchi-kun? Even if I wanted to, there’s no reason for me to do such a thing. But if you really aren’t willing to believe me… let’s just forget that this conversation ever happened. If you really can’t trust a promise from me, I suppose I’ll have to reconsider meeting up next Monday.” “W-wait! I believe you! I trust you!” When Sakayanagi tried to back out, Yamauchi eagerly attempted to reel her back in. “I’m sorry for doubting you…” “It’s fine. I understand that you’re anxious.” With a gentle smile, Sakayanagi presented Yamauchi with one final warning. “That said… Yamauchi-kun, if I catch you eavesdropping on me, sneaking photos, or secretly recording our conversations in the future, our relationship will be over. The two of us will become enemies.” “N-no problem! I’d never do something like that!” “Very well. Then, Masumi-san, if you would, please pat him down.” “Eh? Me?” “Please.” “…Fine.” Despite voicing her reluctance, Kamuro proceeded to frisk Yamauchi. “It’s getting interesting.” For Sakayanagi, this was nothing more than a game. In her mind, the outcome to all of this had already been decided since the very beginning. After Yamauchi left, Sakayanagi stayed behind with Kamuro in the karaoke room. “We’re not going home yet?” It was just a little past 8:00 PM. The mall was only open to students until nine, and the karaoke parlor was going to close soon as well. “What do you think of this strategy I’ve come up with, Masumi-san?” “What do you mean…?” “Ayanok?ji-kun is no ordinary person. You’ve noticed this yourself, right?” “Well, I know that you’ve been excessively interested in him.” “It’s something more than that, isn’t it? You’ve been close to him before. You should’ve been able to notice it.” Although she wasn’t certain about anything specific, he was unpleasant. He seemed like a student who was shrouded in mystery. That was the impression Kamuro had of him. “He’s powerful.” “…How powerful?” “People like Katsuragi-kun, Ry?en-kun, and Ichinose-san wouldn’t even stand a chance against him.” “Really? What about you then?” “Hmm… Who knows?” “Are you being serious…? I can’t believe you’re saying this.” Kamuro was surprised. She had thought Sakayanagi would say she could beat him without any hesitation. “Of course it’s possible that I can beat him. That said, it’s also true that I don’t know exactly what he’s capable of. Well… I suppose it’s a bit different from that. Maybe there’s just a part of me that wants him to be an opponent far outside of even my capabilities.” It was a mysterious feeling that she had never noticed she had before. “I hope I can see him take things seriously before I have him expelled.” It was something Sakayanagi wanted from the bottom of her heart.