Intro After the graduation ceremony and the closing ceremony went off without a hitch, the spring break finally started. The students forgot about the competition between them and enjoyed a short break. Although the students weren’t allowed to leave the campus, it wasn’t particularly inconvenient for them. The main reason for that was the existence of the Keyaki shopping mall. For both the students and the staff, the mall was an essential facility. I won’t go into detail, but there are coffee shops, a home appliances store, and even a karaoke place. All the necessities are available. If there were other things that you might want, all you had to do was to order it online after gaining permission. You could live a life of indulgence, as long as your private points allowed it. Fortunately, there wouldn’t be any starving students in the first year due to a lack of points. Even the students of Class D would receive tens of thousands of yen in pocket money at the start of April. There’s a clear difference between that and the amount of money that normal highschoolers get throughout the country. However, there are still students who encounter trouble. However, there were still students that had encountered some difficulties. Speaking of which, I’m one of them. In my contract with my classmate Kushida, I had to hand over half my private points to her every month. Although that contract had a purpose at the start, the situation was changing now. The contract with Kushida, no, my relationship with her from now on, will all be decided during this break. Should I proceed as previously planned, or go with another option? I say that, but I’m not the one who has the power to make that choice. Well, spring break had just begun. There’s no need to panic. I put on my casual clothes and get ready to head out. I planned to spend most of my break in my room relaxing, but today I was meeting up with a certain person. I didn’t expect it to be this quick, as I thought setting it up would take some time. But after getting in touch with that person, I contacted another person. “Is this the final confirmation?” Because it’s the first day of spring break, I’ll need to adjust some things, but that’s fine. The person I contacted would turn out to be very important. But this importance wouldn’t be for today, but instead for the end of the spring break. Part 1 In late March, the temperature began to warm. As we neared the season for the blossoming sakura, news of it seemed to be everywhere. Although I went there early, when I arrived, the person I was meeting today was already there. “Hello, Ayanokouji-kun.” I met with Hiyori, who was smelling fresh and was wearing casual clothes at Keyaki mall. “Good morning.” “I was the one who called you out here, so I couldn’t keep you waiting.” After I said that, Hiyori smiled slightly. “Sorry I agreed on such short notice for it to be today.” “I’ve got nothing to do over the break, so there’s no need to apologise. Let’s go-“ “They finally added new books to the library yesterday.” Hiyori showed me what she was carrying, letting out another small smile. It seemed like this was an even happier smile than before Class C’s Hiyori Shiina. She was a girl who loved books more than anyone else. “I wanted to share some information with Ayanokouji-kun as soon as possible.” The books of the author both me and Hiyori liked were hard to get ahold of at the convenience store and the bookstore in the mall. And since digital versions weren’t available, we could only borrow them from the library.
Although you could borrow it from the library, it would have been seen by many before. So I cherish the opportunity to be able to talk about a book like this with someone else. “There are more people than expected.” The tables of the cafe were filled with students. This was expected, being spring break. Whether the cafe was full or not depended on the time of the day. Fortunately, there still seemed to be some seats left, and we walked over there together. “We haven’t met up like this during a holiday before, so it’s kind of refreshing.” This was true that we never met up on non-school days, so this was a rare occurrence, seeing Hiyori outside her school uniform. “That’s true.” We talked to each other, and a fresh mood overcame us. “Let’s not waste any time… I brought some books, do you want to have a read?” She happily took the book out while saying that. Suddenly, her hand stopped moving, and she raised her head as if she just remembered something. “Oh, that’s right, before we start talking about the book, can we discuss something else?” Just when she was about to continue, a loud voice came from behind. “How annoying. As expected, it’s crowded. Are there no seats left?” A familiar voice emerged nearby, complaining about the situation of the crowded cafe. “Are these seats fine?” “Yep, that’s fine.” After a bit, those two students took the seats beside me. I turned my attention to the voices of the two students, and it turned out to be my classmates, Ike and Shinohara. They were busy talking about something, so they didn’t notice me and continued on with their conversation. Not long ago, I noticed they started getting closer, and it seemed like this was continuing. “That’s… Ike and Shinohara, right?” Hiyori asked me this at a volume which would not be noticed by them. The distance between us made it impossible for them to hear us whisper. “You seem to know them.” “A year has already passed, so I know a lot of people from the other classes.” Hiyori’s eyes were sparkling, and she looked proud of that fact. We stood silent, and listened in to the conversation between Ike and Shinohara. “So our monthly private point income has decreased to about 30,000 points.” “There’s no helping it. With Class A as our opponent, we had no chance of winning. “ “Maybe so. But we’ll be back to Class D next month, right? That sucks…” As if finally remembering that we had lost during the end of year exam, Ike scratched his head. “But do you know the reason for our loss?” “What, whose fault was it?” Was he going to say that it was my fault as the commanding tower? I thought he was going to say that for a moment, but… “It’s me, it was my fault.” Ike made a startling statement which left Shinohara stunned. “No, I’m serious, I think that I was one of the reasons that we lost. To be honest, we could have won if our class was more unified. Class A is powerful, but we got some pretty good results against them. “Hmm, that’s how you see this, huh? You saying this is really surprising to me, Ike.” “Don’t use my first name, Shinohara.” “You use my first name, so this way it evens out.” Although they occasionally spoke about mundane topics, they returned back to reviewing what happened this past year in the end. “Next year, I want to try harder. In both academics and sports.” “Seriously? I don’t think you can do this.” “I won’t be able to do it perfectly, but I really do want to.” It seemed like he really had put some thought into that statement. “I just wanted to ask, why?” “Because of Ken and Haruki.” Until recently, a trio of friends known as the “three idiots” were in our class. I remember when I first came to this school, I was close with that little group, but left soonly afterwards. A more suitable description of events would be that I was kicked out by them. “Ken’s obviously not suited for it, but hasn’t he been studying a ton recently? He’s been listening in class, and I thought he was just pretending but has he actually turned into someone who has half a brain?” “His grades have improved as well.” “Yeah. His grades have been getting better and better, and he’s already great at sports. I already know that I can’t win against him in any category.” “Weren’t your grades better than his at the start?” If you compare Ike with the current Sudo, in both academics and athletics, Sudo would have the upper hand. “That guy… he’s probably going to get even stronger next year.” On one hand, he was happy because of the growth of someone close to him, but on the other, he was scared of the possibility of being left behind. And the biggest reason for this fear was…. “If I go on like this, the next candidate to be expelled will be me.” “Ike…” The lower your grade was, the more likely you would be the next to drop out. After seeing Yamauchi, who had his own fair share of problematic behaviour, drop out, he began to realise that he might be next. “Don’t laugh, it’s not like me to say these kinds of things.” “Although I’m not compatible with you…I’m the same.” Shinohara wasn’t someone with excellent grades, nor was she a person with great merit. Although their gender separated them, they both had a similar status. “I don’t laugh at guys who want to work hard.” Shinohara nodded her head resolutely towards Ike while saying this. “I’ll work harder next year. I won’t lose to you!” “I’m not even afraid of losing to you.” You could say that Ike and Shinohara’s relationship has made some progress here. In the future, they might even inspire other students to work harder. If someone walked ahead, the others would follow. Making use of this mutual relationship was important. “Look, Shinohara.” “Hm?” Ike, who was sitting next to me, suddenly turned serious. “This- look, I have something to tell you, so will you listen to me?” “What’s this, why are you being so serious?” “Err, how do I say this… Our relationship right now is kind of like friends who constantly argue with each other, but….umm…” Hiyori and I looked at each other. It was precisely because this wasn’t our business that we had a better understanding of what those words meant than she did. Maybe a new couple will be born here. That would be the most obvious development based on what was happening right now. “Will you-” “Ah!” Shinohara loudly interrupted just when Ike was about to say it. Although this was an open area, the campus was a small place. No matter where it was, there were still going to be people that were watching. Shinohara, who was looking at Ike’s direction, finally noticed we were here. Ike turned his head towards the source of Shinohara’s shock. And he jumped up in surprise as soon as his eyes met mine. “Ahh, Ayanokouji!” Because he was about to confess, his reaction to seeing me was pretty exaggerated. “You, you… you’ve been here the whole time?”
“What?… Why can’t I be here? Is there a problem?” “Even, even if there’s nothing wrong with you being here, you should have still said hi to me! You didn’t even say anything, you’re too sneaky!” No, in this situation, greeting him would have made things worse. He also said I was sneaky… but we were here first. “Were you listening to our conversation?” “What were you two talking about just now?” I reversed the direction of the questioning and asked Ike a question of my own, who hurriedly looked away. “No-nothing.” Shinohara, who was listening to us, changed the subject. “…Hmm, are you and Hiyori-san on a date?” It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who could ask those sorts of questions. Of course, after seeing the two of us here alone drinking coffee, such a question isn’t a surprise. “It isn’t like that. What about you?” “No, no, I don’t have that sort of relationship with Ike.” Shinohara quickly rejected that notion. Ike quickly intervened, perhaps not liking what she said. “Yes, yes, Ayanokouji, don’t misunderstand, okay? Who would want to date someone as ugly as her!” “Huhh?? Who’s the ugly one here?!” “It’s you, obviously!” No, no, no, why are they arguing now? The two of them stood up, ruining the pleasant atmosphere the cafe had before, and glared at each other. “Argh…! You’re pissing me off.” “That’s my line. I’m the one who took the time to hang out with you today!” “Huh? Huh? Huh? I had no other choice, so I asked you.” “What! That’s disappointing….!” I thought the two of them would sit down eventually, but somehow I had lost sight of them after they went somewhere else, arguing all the way. I thought the two of them would sit down eventually, but somehow I lost track of where they went as they continued arguing. This was so close to being the birth of a new couple, but there was a plot twist. “We don’t need to worry…right?” Hiyori was also slightly affected by how suddenly the situation had changed from just now and said that quietly. “I don’t know…” They could only blame themselves for sitting next to a classmate. I’ll hope that they reconcile as soon as possible, and maybe after that their relationship will go further. “What were you saying just now?” “Oh that, yes, yes. Although that was an…adventure, it’s similar to what they were saying just now.” Similar? I was taken aback when she said that. Was it related to how Ike was going to confess? Such thoughts flashed through my mind, but they were immediately rejected. “I have something to ask you regarding the end of year examination.” Ike and Shinohara did indeed talk about the end of year exam. “What do you want to ask me?” “I apologise if I’m wrong, but I’ll ask this bluntly. Are you the one who changed Ryuuen? Hiyori stared at me with her innocent and curious eyes. Thinking back to when we first met, she always had a keen insight. “If you’re serious when you ask this, then I’ll have to ask something from you first. What do you mean by that?” Pretending to have nothing to do with this was the best route I could have taken. But her eyes had such conviction in them, so I didn’t take that route. “Yes. But, since it’s you I’m asking, I don’t think I need to elaborate on it.” Changed Ryuuen. Generally speaking, most people after hearing that would just shake their heads. The people who didn’t have that kind of reaction either had some sort of understanding of what happened, or was the one who caused the change. “Why do you think that?” I asked Hiyori what her reasoning was instead of denying it. I needed a clear answer for why she believed that was the case. “I just put the pieces of the puzzle together. Ryuuen-kun had always targeted your class. But he suddenly stepped down from his position during his targeting of Class D. Apparently, this was due to Ishizaki-kun’s taking him down, but no matter how I think about it, it still seems like a cover-up. After I tried contacting Ryuuen-kun’s close associates, Ishizaki-kun and Ibuki-san, about Ryuuen-kun himself, I became sure of it.” Hiyori seemed to have conducted an investigation behind my back. And during that, she became suspicious of Ryuuen’s actions. “If this upsets you, I apologise. I’ve been nervous this whole day because I had to reveal what I knew to you. Because I’m afraid that getting too involved with this would anger you. No matter what the truth is, one glance at you tells me that you don’t want to talk about it.” “So you reveal this to me after gaining an understanding of the situation.” This was entirely different from the everyday gossip you hear. It’s a decision made after careful consideration. “If we can’t be friends after this… I’ll definitely regret it. If I can’t talk to you like this anymore, I will definitely regret what I did.” If that was the case, she should have kept this to herself. But, even so, she still said what she said. “I think that if you don’t look into this any deeper, there won’t be any… further developments.” “What kind of developments?” After hearing that, Hiyori replied, with a hint of surprise in her words. “Yeah… I don’t really know what I’m saying myself.” Hearing that, Hiyori had a puzzled expression. “Can I ask… if you’ve heard about the battle between Class B and our class?” “I just know the results.” I didn’t know the details of what happened. Hiyori changed the topic and started talking about how they got the win. “If you look at it as an outsider, the way we won would have been considered a bit problematic.” “That’s true, Ryuuen’s style of fighting raises many questions. But it was a necessary evil for your class to get promoted. Do you think it’s a crafty approach?” “I can’t deny this, at the very least.” Even if it couldn’t be praised, and even if it was criticised behind their back, it still brought victory to their class. People like that were needed in society. If you were going to fight in a way that was going to be looked down upon by everyone else, you had to have an indomitable mental strength. “It’s just that this approach is equivalent to crossing a very dangerous bridge. Class B would have their suspicions. However, I don’t think they can find any concrete evidence since they should have taken measures dealing with the surveillance footage already and still haven’t taken any action.” This school was equipped with many surveillance cameras. It wasn’t only the school building, Keyaki mall and its surroundings were also under surveillance. But that didn’t apply to everywhere. Toilets, dormitory rooms and the karaoke rooms don’t have surveillance cameras, of course. If Class B had doubts about what happened in the previous exam, they would already be investigating it. However, they would probably not find anything of use and would be hard for them to investigate further. “Those were 5 beautiful wins, so can’t you consider it a perfect strategy?” “Beautiful? I don’t think so. Actually, I think it’s better to call that strategy extremely flawed.” “What do you mean? That it was possible to get 6 or more wins?” “5 wins is already really good. Actually, I think we were too greedy. Because Ryuen-kun had to adopt a very dangerous strategy to get those wins.” Hiyori reviewed and analysed her class in the last exam. Then she also told me how they won. “Although it’s fine to place continuous pressure on Class B students, targeting their bodies to weaken them is a clear violation. Although this method was used because Class B had so many kindhearted students, even they would not tolerate this.” After hearing that, I felt the same as Hiyori did. I knew that this girl lived a completely different life from me. Our existence should have nothing in common. However, there were some similarities in our thoughts and our ideas. Because of this, doubts started to creep up. “So before Ryuuen employed his strategy, you already had knowledge of it, and you didn’t try to stop him?” “Do you think he’ll listen to what I say?” Compared to Ishizaki or Ibuki, Hiyori’s suggestion may hold more value to Ryuuen, but it would probably not be listened to anyway. He would not listen to the suggestions of others, instead only sneering at them and ignoring it. “True. So, how do you think Ryuuen can be stopped?” I wanted to know how she thinks and acts. Perhaps Hiyori already understood that just by sensing it. That understanding was why she decided to act today. “By someone similar in power to him… No, by the criticisms from someone even more powerful than him.” Ryuuen will not take advice from anyone. However, if this advice was coming from someone Ryuen acknowledged and approved of, then it was another matter. So that’s why she was telling all this to me. “Hiyori, can you help me pass on a message?” I decided to not answer her directly. Because I reckon I didn’t need to. This was enough. If it was another student, then this was a different story. But Hiyori wasn’t the kind of person to use this situation to make things difficult for me. Because she understood that there was a reason why Ryuuen, who identified me as the leader of Class D, didn’t expose me publicly. “What is it?” Hiyori, with her unchanging attitude, gently looked at me. “Tell Ryuuen that if it were me, I would have been able to secure more than 5 wins, using a better method. Please pass that on to him.” “-Okay, I understand. I’ve memorised your message, and I’ll pass it on for you.” As if she was expressing gratefulness, she held her hands together, closed both her eyes and smiled. p108 It seems like in addition to Ishizaki and Ibuki, Ryuuen also had other good allies. If Hiyori were able to easily control those 3 people from going out of control, then she would become an even more dangerous opponent. And just like this, Hiyori ended the conversation about the end of year exam. “So…” Normally, we would already have left, but the most important thing would come after this. “If you’d like, please take the book and read it.” She opened her bag again and took the book out. We originally met up to talk about that book. “Can I? The book’s borrowed under your name though?” “I’ve already gotten permission from a teacher. Although it’s not ideal, it’s fine as long as I returned it on time.” Because Hiyori was a top student who always went to the library, it wasn’t surprising that she got special treatment. And after we’ve discussed everything there was to discuss about the book, drank our tea and said our goodbyes… “It seems that I should change my evaluation of her.” Until today, I’ve only regarded her as a student from the same year. Maybe if I went further, she was a friend with mutual interests. Soon after Hiyori left, I saw Kei, who was also at Keyaki mall. “…What do you want?” Kei, who appeared in front of me, looked quite unhappy as she spoke. “How about sitting down first?” I urged her to sit on the seat which Hiyori had sat on, but Kei refused after just glancing at it, looking at it as if it were trash. “Rumours about us would circulate if anyone saw us sitting together and drinking tea.” She said this while looking into the distance. Even if a third party was looking at this scene, it wouldn’t look like we were talking. “Is there a problem with those rumours?” “That’s a huge problem! If you just casually interact with the opposite sex, rumours will start immediately, shouldn’t you know this already? You don’t understand this situation at all.” Put simply, this was precisely what I’m doing now, casually interacting with the opposite sex. “So, what do you want?” “Sorry, I forgot. I’ll contact you when I remember.” I had already done what I needed to do with Kei. “What the hell? This is such a mess. I’m going back…” After sighing in disbelief, Kei turned away. I watched her walk away without attempting to stop her. It’s not hard to see why she was in a bad mood. Because I deliberately upset her.