Chapter 4: “What the Class Lacks”
The day after the class matchups were decided…
Class C had arranged to hold another class-wide discussion once school was out for the day, so we were free to do what we wanted during the lunch break.
As a result, the Ayanok?ji Group gathered to eat lunch together, just like usual.
We all met up at the back of the classroom once lunch started and headed off to the cafeteria.
“How did yesterday’s discussion go?”
Wasting no time, I asked my friends about what the class had discussed the day before.
It had taken about an hour for the commanders to determine the class matchups and go over everything, so by the time I had gotten back to the classroom, everybody had already gone back home for the day.
“You didn’t hear about it from Horikita-san? …I guess that might make sense.”
Airi responded with a vague answer, but after faltering for a moment, she spoke up again.
“There was an event manual, right? Ultimately, everyone was having a hard time understanding the rules…”
“There wasn’t even a discussion in the first place. It was a complete waste of time.”
Keisei let out an exasperated sigh.
Apparently, our discussion during yesterday’s lunch break hadn’t been enough for everyone to get a grasp of the rules. From the looks of it, the discussion after school yesterday ended once everybody had gotten on the same page. If that’s what had happened, it would’ve been fairly typical of Class C.
“Besides, the problem isn’t just our class.”
“What’s that mean, Yukimuu?”
“There are only so many places on campus where a bunch of students can meet up, right?”
“Well, it’s definitely impossible for forty people to meet up at karaoke or some place at the mall. What of it?”
“I was the first person to leave the classroom after the discussion finished yesterday… When I walked into the hallway, there were some Class A students lingering just outside the door.”
Haruka and Airi exchanged confused glances with each other.
At first, Akito didn’t seem to understand what Keisei was getting at either, but after a moment, he realized it.
“…You’re saying they were spying on us?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. During this exam, important information will be spoken verbally, right? Even if they were only listening in on our discussion, it’s more than likely that they picked up on something.”
Information like which types of events might get chosen, or who was good at what.
Without a doubt, it would be beneficial to obtain information like that, even if only a little.
In other words, the battle had already begun.
“Looking at it from that point of view, Class C has already fallen behind.”
“Scary! Sakayanagi-san’s already made her move.”
Trembling in fear, Haruka began to rub the back of her arms.
“Then, shouldn’t we start to gather information about Class A? Kinda like that one guy said, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Quickly changing her tone, Haruka then proposed we fight back against Class A.
However, there was no way Keisei would agree so easily.
“If it were that simple, it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.”
“I’m probably not the only one who thinks this either. Even Horikita should understand that there’s no point in doing that. Do you really think Class A is going to gather up in a classroom and hold a forty-person discussion?”
Class C struggled with its lack of unity and cooperation, and these attributes were the first thing we needed to focus on.
This was completely different from Class A, where top students like Sakayanagi decided on everything.
Who the commander is. Who comes up with the events. Who’s in charge of collecting information.
They had already decided on everything the moment the exam began.
Besides, even if they were to hold a classwide discussion, they would probably have two or three people stand guard to prevent us from eavesdropping.
“But, like, wouldn’t it be fine to at least try? We might even be able to catch them off guard at some point. Who knows, maybe they’ll meet up in their classroom to talk about the exam.”
“If that happens, I’d be afraid instead. I’d suspect any information we’d manage to get our hands on.”
If the information we overheard ended up being fake, we would’ve just been wasting our time. Keisei’s concerns were spot on. Information should be hidden when possible; anything that isn’t should be heavily suspected.
“However, an information war is absolutely inevitable. The crucial part is figuring out what kind of method to use…”
“Do… we even stand a chance?”
Airi spoke, surrendering to her feelings of anxiety.
“At this point, it’d probably be better to think of it as though they’re just a step or two ahead of us.”
Since Class C still hadn’t even decided on anything yet, we had no reason to think we were in the lead in the first place.
“Still, who’d have thought we’d have to go against Class A.”
“Sorry. It’s my fault for losing the lottery.”
In reality, I would’ve chosen Class A even if I had won, but I’d at least act apologetic about it like this.
“Ah, no, I wasn’t implying that! That’s totally my bad! I wasn’t blaming you at all, Kiyopon!”
Haruka seemed to take my apology more seriously than I had expected, as she hurriedly spoke up to correct herself.
“Expecting him to win a lotto with only a one in four chance of winning is kinda harsh, Haruka.”
As Akito spoke, Haruka shrunk back even further.
“T-that’s why I said that’s not what I meant…”
At this point she brought something else up, probably wanting to change the topic.
“I think it’d be nice if Class A’d go a little easy on us. They’ve got it easy going up against Class C. Dontcha think so too, Miyatchi?”
“Go easy…? Does Sakayanagi really seem like that type of person to you?”
“…Not at all. She completely crushed Yamauchi-kun, and she could prolly flatten the rest of us too.”
Disheartened, Haruka looked up and began to stare at the ceiling.
“Anyways, it just keeps going wrong for you, doesn’t it Kiyotaka? What with being commander under these circumstances.”
Keisei patted me on the shoulder as if to console me for the trouble I was going through.
“Well, I do have that protection point though. I didn’t really have any other choice this time. I don’t want to lose or anything, but I’m pretty thankful that nobody has to worry about getting expelled.”
For now, this was the only thing I could say to them.
Whatever the reason, I was the one selfishly leading us into the confrontation with Class A.
“Our opponent is Class A. It wouldn’t be your fault if we lose.”
“Plus, their commander is Sakayanagi-san.”
In this situation, ninety-nine percent of people probably think Sakayanagi will win. In which case, my position in the class wouldn’t change even if I were to lose. On the other hand, if I end up winning, the victory would be credited to Horikita’s excellent leadership and the elaborate strategy she comes up with.
“Yeah… Winning this is probably going to be difficult.”
Keisei crossed his arms and let out a defeated sigh.
At this point, however, Akito said something nobody was expecting.
“Just because we’re up against Class A doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible to win.”
“…Really? Well, it’s not like I actually wanna lose, but…”
“This isn’t some secret plan or strategy, Haruka. Think about it carefully. There’s a way to snatch victory away from Class A, isn’t there?”
With that, Akito began his explanation.
“Back when Chabashira announced the exam, I thought it was unreasonable to ask us to go up against the upper classes. But something Ike happened to say made me think of a way we could make it happen.”
“Something Ike-kun said? Wait, are you talking about when he brought up rock-paper-scissors?”
Reminded of something, Haruka spoke up, causing Akito to nod in agreement.
“At first, I thought it was kind-of a stupid suggestion for an event. But, then I realized that, if we pick an event that revolves around luck, we’d always have around a fifty-percent chance of winning, no matter who we’re up against. I don’t think it’d be a bad idea to come up with five events like Old Maid or Daifugo that rely on luck for the day of the exam.”
Having heard Akito’s explanation, Haruka’s eyes lit up.
“With a strat like that, we’d be on totally equal footing with anyone!”
“Yeah! I don’t think it’s a bad idea either!”
“No… It wouldn’t be that simple.”
While the three of them were getting caught up in their excitement, Keisei calmly criticised the idea.
“I won’t know for sure without actually doing the calculations, but the chances of us winning with that strategy are something like 5 to 10%.”
“What? That’s it? I’m not saying our chances would be like, exactly 50% or anything, but it should be like at least 20 or 30%, right? How hard could it really be for our five events to get chosen and for us to win four of em?”
“We’d have to be incredibly lucky for everything to play out that way, Haruka.”
All five of Class C’s events would have to end up getting selected, and we’d have to get lucky enough to win at least four of them. If our odds of winning were an even 50% for each of those five events, our overall probability of winning the exam was…
I took a moment to run the calculations in my head.
There was an 8.33% chance of all five of our events being chosen, and at a 50% win rate, the probability of winning four times would be 18.75%.
Considering that we’d have to make it past both of those conditions, we’d be left with a mere 1.56% chance of coming out on top.
In other words, it wasn’t even close to 5%. It’s hard to say that relying on luck to win would be a good idea.
That being said, this was only considering everything from a simple, standardized viewpoint where luck was the only thing supporting my calculations.
In reality, various other factors would affect our true chances of winning, but ultimately it’s far too detrimental to call this an effective strategy.
This meant we should choose events based on what we’re good at, even if it bears somewhat more of a risk.
The fewer events that revolve around luck, the better.
“It’s that bad? It was just a thought I had, is all.”
Having realized how naive his suggestion was, Akito scratched at his cheek.
At this point, I noticed Airi was looking at me with concern, and her expression became all the more worried once I turned to face her.
“Kiyotaka-kun… Uhm, are you alright? Being the commander…”
It seemed like Airi had been getting more and more concerned as the difficulty of beating Class A became more and more apparent.
“Yeah Kiyopon. You don’t need to push yourself just cuz you got a Protection Point.”
Haruka spoke up, finishing Airi’s sentence before she could come up with the words.
“Haruka’s right. At the very least, none of us thought there was something going on between you and Sakayanagi. Right guys?”
Everyone nodded. It didn’t feel bad being trusted like this.
“Like, some of our classmates seemed to be kinda suspicious of you still, but Horikita-san’s explanation seemed like it convinced pretty much everyone. I mean, at first I totally thought having a Protection Point would be great, but now it seems like it’d be troublesome to have one, ya know?”
“I’m a little jealous of everyone who got Protection Points, but after seeing the situation Kiyotaka-kun’s in, I feel like I’d just end up losing it right away if I had gotten one…”
At the end of the day, only one person was safe. Everyone else was left to fend for themselves. It wouldn’t be easy to maintain safety like that without fully resolving yourself.
In contrast with Airi’s timid self-evaluation, Keisei crossed his arms and disagreed.
“For me, I wouldn’t give up my Protection Point no matter what anybody says.”
“Even if you end being resented or hated because of it? Because of their jealousy?”
“You’re missing the point here. I wouldn’t want to give in to stuff like that just because of something that I rightfully won. Instead, Kiyotaka should’ve done what he could to keep it to protect himself.”
As if he had become the victim here, Keisei indignantly kept his arms crossed.
Akito, who had been silent until now, looked at me and spoke.
“The truth is, fighting against Class A is gonna be tough, so it’s probably better that Kiyotaka agreed to take the risk. If it had been anybody else, we might be seeing our second expulsion here soon, right? Or are you saying that you could’ve been the commander, Keisei?”
“That… Well, I don’t really think so.”
Though, it’s not like I didn’t understand Keisei’s frustration. He had probably just wanted to emphasize that we’d have an easier time winning with a more capable student as the commander.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to avoid expulsion during this exam too, but I wonder who would’ve been the best fit as commander without it…? Horikita-san?”
Airi tilted her head as she carefully thought about all of the options.
“Huh, Horikita-san seems about right to me? Or maybe someone like Hirata-kun or Kushida-san? Yukimuu might’ve done pretty good too.”
She listed off a bunch of students who’d have probably gotten consistent results as the class’s commander.
“Hirata, huh… I wonder what his deal is.”
At this point, Akito seemed to think that continuing to talk about going against Class A would only dampen the mood, so he changed the subject.
“Hey Keisei, how do you see the Class D versus Class B matchup playing out?”
In particular, he brought up the other teams that’d be waging war during this special exam.
“Chances are Class B’s gonna win. Their teamwork is on another level, and overall, they’re a strong class to have to match up against.”
“Yeah! Plus, their commander is Kaneda-kun, not Ry?en-kun.”
They probably thought that there was no need to be afraid of Class D without Ry?en.
However, Ishizaki and the rest of Class D had been looking to fight Class B from the very start. While it’s unexpected, it isn’t something to make light of. If I were in charge of Class D, I would’ve chosen to fight Class B as well. Class A is led by Sakayanagi, and has a number of tough opponents like Katsuragi and Hashimoto. What’s more, their class as a whole has the best academic abilities out of our entire school year. When it comes to Class C, they probably don’t like the idea of going against me. Of course, one could also argue that they’d expect me to keep my presence hidden, but either way, Class D’s specialty is their physical ability, not their academics. In order to make the most out of their strong points, I’d still probably choose Class B. Though, this wouldn’t give them the upper hand or flat-out win the exam for them. It was just their best choice to avoid defeat.
Whether or not Class D can actually win would depend on their decisions moving forward, along with a little bit of luck.
It was nothing more than a small glimmer of hope at this point.
“Hey guys, look at that.”
After school, the full-fledged discussion was finally just about to begin. Nobody moved from their seats as the bell rang with the exception of Hirata, who stood up immediately.
Several of the girls raised their voices and shouted out to him. Among them was Mii-chan.
But Hirata didn’t stop. It seemed like he didn’t care what would happen to the class anymore.
He was just going to school, attending his classes, and heading back home, as if he was trying to avoid getting involved with the rest of the class.
He was probably just going to repeat this cycle over and over again.
“Wait a second, Hirata-kun!”
“You guys are the ones who should wait.”
Mii-chan and the others tried to chase after him, but Horikita’s words stopped them in their tracks.
“We’re about to have a discussion. Do you want even more people to miss out on it?”
“There’s nothing any of us can do for him right now. Hurry up and return to your seats.”
Horikita suppressed their desire to chase after him and motioned for everyone to return to their seats.
Right now, our top priority was getting everyone on board with establishing the class policy for the exam.
“K?enji’s still here somehow?”
Given that K?enji’s participation was entirely unexpected, Sud?’s voice was filled with surprise.
“Fufufu. I’m part of the class, am I not? Of course I’m here.”
K?enji spoke shamelessly, as if everything he was saying was completely natural.
“However, I’d like to wrap up this discussion today. I’m quite the busy person myself.”
“That’ll be difficult. This special exam isn’t something that can be decided overnight. Even if we decide on the events today, we’ll have to persistently practice them in order to win.”
Horikita, taking a stand behind the teacher’s podium, completely shut K?enji down.
K?enji didn’t object any further and simply sat at his desk with a broad smile on his face.
For the time being, he seemed to be willing to hear her out.
“If that’s the case, it seems I’ll only be participating this one time.”
K?enji didn’t waver even slightly. It seemed that, class policy aside, he had no intention of working through this together. Sud? silently began to stand up, but immediately sat back down after receiving a firm glare from Horikita. After all, if he were to start something here, the conversation would never move forward.
“Then, I’ll just have to do what I can to try and get you to participate next time too.”
K?enji took Horikita’s warning with a smile and simply crossed his arms and legs.
This was his way of telling her to continue with the discussion.
“Uhm, Horikita. I’ve got a simple question about event participation I wanna ask you.”
“And what is that, Ike-kun?”
His hand raised, Ike spoke up.
“We’ll be competing in seven events, right? But, like, we won’t have a turn at it, will we?”
“What do you mean by ‘we won’t have a turn at it’?”
“Erm… Well, to put it simply, I mean those of us who kinda suck? Like, the students who aren’t particularly good at physical stuff or studying aren’t gonna have a turn to participate. It’s not like all seven events are gonna need a whole buncha people. If we pick events that only need a few skilled people to participate, a whole bunch of us won’t really have anything to do, right?”
There are nearly forty students in each class.
Even if we chose a few events that needed a lot of people, the final seven would probably only need twenty to thirty.
In other words, Ike seemed to be trying to say that, depending on the participation requirements of the selected events, nearly half of the class wouldn’t end up having to participate.
“I dunno about that. What if an event needs like, twenty people or something?”
Kei spoke up, slipping in her own opinion after Ike finished.
“You’re sooo stupid, Karuizawa. You can play football with like, eleven people on a team. What event could need more than that? I can’t think of a single one, can you?”
“Uhm~… Somethin’ like baseball?”
“Baseball only needs ten people, which is even less than football!”
“Baseball needs nine people.”
Horikita immediately cut in, sharply pointing out Ike’s inconsistency.
“…Well, my point still stands either way.”
“I dunno Kanji. American football needs eleven people like football does, and rugby needs fifteen.”
Sud? listed off a few events that would require more than ten people.
“Yeah, but like, do you want to force people to play rugby or something? I don’t even know the rules!”
While rugby was by no means a minor sport, it was in completely uncharted territory to people who weren’t involved with it. It’s not something regularly taught in gym class, and I’m sure that Class A was no exception to this either.
I could hardly imagine what it’d be like for us to start practicing rugby right now.
Besides, even if we submitted it as an event, it’s doubtful that it would be accepted, and it wouldn’t be very beneficial for anyone.
“So, that’s why I don’t think we’ll need to participate.”
“What’s your point here?”
“That… Well, I just don’t think we need to meet up like this or hold practice sessions moving forward or anything.”
“I understand that you want to take it easy. After all, it’s mentally taxing to do something you don’t want to do. Besides, it’d also cut down on your precious break time.”
“I-I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, but you know…”
“Either way, I’ve determined that all of us need to work together.”
“How about you tell us why that is. I’ll do my best to support you if you can convince me.”
This time, Sud? was the one who spoke.
“Because how many people we’ll need to participate depends on the rules our opponent comes up with. For example, let’s say one of the events they propose is volleyball. Usually, volleyball is a competition between two teams of six, but the rules are allowed to change that to some extent. What if the match had a time limit of thirty minutes, and the rules stated that every ten minutes all of the participants had to change out with somebody new? I wonder what would happen then?”
“Erm… With six people changing out every ten minutes, that’s…”
Eighteen people with that alone. Nearly half of the students in each class would have to participate.
Moreover, because there were only six people needed at any given time, the rule would be simple and easy to follow for pretty much anybody. The school would most likely approve of it as well.
“What if there’s more than one event like this? Put simply, everyone would be forced to participate in two or possibly even three events. We need to be prepared for something like that.”
Of course, this all depended on the events and rules that Class A would come up with.
It was more than possible that they might mix in a few fake events like this, just to make it more difficult for us.
“I know this hasn’t quite clicked with all of you yet, but this special exam is more complicated than you’re making it out to be.”
If we were to go over each event one at a time, we’d eventually come up with some ideas that seem rather ridiculous.
At this point, it wouldn’t be that unusual for there to be strange ideas for events like rock-paper-scissors or poker.
After all, getting those crucial four wins would be far more important than trying to make yourself look good.
Regardless of how impractical the suggestions might seem to be, picking out the right people for events we know they can win is what mattered most in the end.
“I don’t even plan on taking up too much of your time.”
Or rather, it might be better for her to say that keeping everybody stuck here doesn’t necessarily mean we’d come up with good ideas right away.
“So for today, I’d like to leave everyone here with some homework. If possible, I want you to come up with ideas for events you’re good at and events where you think you’d absolutely never lose, and give them to me by after school tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you do alone or if it’s done in a team.”
One of the five events that we end up picking needed to be a one-on-one event. Odds are that every single class would put one forward with the unshakable confidence that they wouldn’t lose it. However, when looked at from another angle, the damage done if you didn’t win would be immeasurable. That being the case, students with special skills or talents that can’t be outdone by others were highly desirable in this situation.
“But, there’s no point unless it’s something the school’d approve of, right? I don’t really understand what their standards are.”
Events and rules that are overly obscure would be turned down by the school.
However, the lack of clarity when it comes to that was probably an issue for many students.
“Don’t worry about that right now. That’s something we can think about after we’ve heard all of the ideas. For now, just feel free to suggest anything that comes to mind.”
“Then, you’re saying you’d even be fine with stuff like video games or karaoke?”
Horikita stressed this point once again, telling the class that they didn’t have to worry. I had no issues with how she was handling the situation.
It was important for us to start by finding out what everybody’s strengths were.
“What do we do if there’s nothing we’re really good at?”
Haruka chimed in with a question for Horikita.
“I don’t mind you not having anything if you’re not very confident in yourself. It’d be risky to use an event if you lack confidence in your ability to win it.”
I wanted them to come up with as many events as possible, but I wasn’t sure if we had enough time to be careful with our selection. For the time being, I didn’t have any issues with Horikita’s plan, so I felt like it would be alright to just wait and see what happens.
With that, the discussion ended for the day and everyone began to gather their things and leave. At this point, K?enji spoke up again.
“You’re fine with ending the discussion so early like this?”
“If it’s this short, it’ll be easier for you to participate next time, won’t it K?enji-kun?”
“When I say I’ll participate one time, one time is as much as I’ll participate.”
“…But, it’ll be problematic if you don’t do the assignment I gave you today. If you don’t, it would be rather hard to say you participated, wouldn’t it?”
“Come up with ideas for events I’m good at, was it?”
He put his hand to his chin and let show an unwavering smile.
“Yes. If you want to say you’ve participated, you at least have to do that.”
Horikita was looking to force him to participate a second time if he couldn’t.
K?enji elegantly stood up from his desk before proceeding to announce something to Horikita.
“There’s simply nothing I can’t do. I am a perfect human, after all.”
“No matter who you’re up against or what the event is, you’re absolutely certain you’ll win. Are you sure about that?”
Her words were filled with one-part provocation, and one-part intrigue, as if she couldn’t help but look forward to how K?enji would respond.
“I see. You want me to pledge that I’ll win any event I participate in, don’t you?”
“That’s right. If you can do that, you’re free to do whatever you want. You wouldn’t have to participate in any more discussions, and I won’t ask you to give your input on anything.”
Sud? spoke up, alarmed by her outrageous proposal, but Horikita just continued.
“But keep in mind, if you don’t participate or if you lose… I’ll be suspicious of anything you say, and your classmates’ distrust of you will skyrocket.”
Horikita’s idea wasn’t bad. With this, she was looking to make full use of K?enji on the day of the exam. K?enji is a top-notch student when it comes to both academics and physical ability. His only problem had to do with his personality. It would be better to bear with him now than have him not show up on the day of the exam or take his event frivolously.
The question was: how exactly would K?enji respond? He stood from his seat and began to walk out of the classroom, but just before he walked through the door, he stopped.
“I’ll leave you with this. You’d best not think that you can bind me with words like that. While I am indeed an unrivaled genius who wouldn’t lose to anyone, it’s up to me to decide whether or not I use that talent for you.”
Put simply, K?enji’s response was a no. It didn’t matter to him if he was suspected or if the class distrusted him. He was just going to do whatever he wanted.
With that, K?enji turned around and walked out of the classroom.
“…Ordinary methods aren’t going to work with him at all, huh.”
“That guy… He’s gotta lotta nerve underestimating us like that. Spouting out nonsense that he’s some unrivaled genius who wouldn’t lose to anyone. I’d kick his ass at basketball if he had me as his opponent.”
I could fully understand why Sud? was speaking about him like that.
No matter how talented and brilliant a person is, it wouldn’t be accurate to call them perfect.
In fact, it raises a question. Would K?enji win if he faced off against Sud? at basketball?
“If he puts in the effort on exam day he might show results, at least to a certain extent. I don’t know how much I was able to get through to him, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Does that make sense?”
It was definitely hard to imagine K?enji losing. After flaunting us with those grandiose words and that self-confidence of his, the thought of him losing, even for a moment, feels like putting the cart before the horse. Sud? was probably well aware of this too.
“…But, do you think he’s even gonna show up at all?”
While we can win if he takes it seriously, if he doesn’t, we won’t.