The next day. Horikita informed me of something when she arrived at school in the morning.
“I’ve decided not to consider Hirata-kun as an asset, at least for this exam.”
Yesterday, even K?enji had participated in the after-school discussion, but Hirata had just silently left the classroom.
Having witnessed this firsthand, Horikita’s decision was understandable.
“That’s reasonable. He’s too unstable to rely on right now.”
Even if we could force him to participate, it would probably only end up backfiring on us.
“It’ll be fine if it’s just for this exam, but depending on the situation, this behavior of his might continue for quite a while.”
Her concern was not an exaggeration in the slightest.
Pretty much everyone was hoping for his recovery, but for the time being, it was unclear just how that was going to happen.
“If you think his behavior isn’t going to stop any time soon, there’s still the option of getting him to drop out, isn’t there?”
I brought up another idea, and while she was somewhat surprised by it, she reacted calmly.
“That’s… Well, that may be something I’ll have to think about. It’s at least a relief that he didn’t throw everything away and suddenly say he wanted to become the commander this time.”
The thought of Hirata nominating himself as the commander for this special exam wasn’t that unreasonable.
If he had, he would’ve been able to lose on purpose and get himself expelled. It would’ve been as simple as that.
However, even if he doesn’t have any lingering attachments to this school, he still wouldn’t want to cause problems for others, which was why he didn’t take on the position in the first place.
The reason why he was just passively doing what he had to every day was probably because the class would be penalized if he dropped out. He was looking to leave when the time was right, without stirring up trouble for the rest of us.
However, this was just how he was acting right now .
“But- That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll always be acting like this, right? Who knows when he’ll get desperate…?”
As Horikita said, I didn’t know what Hirata would do if he became self-destructive either.
I couldn’t say for sure that the class would stay completely intact when he drops out.
“That’s why I don’t want to force him to participate right now. He’s a bomb that could go off at any moment, and I’d like to unify the class so he doesn’t explode on us.”
Out of everything, Hirata hated internal conflict the most.
So in order to avoid causing more of it, Horikita had been taking an active role within our class since the exam first started.
“You’ve taken on the responsibilities of the commander, so you’re going to have it rough too.”
“I’ll leave all of that to you. I’m the commander, but I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with adequate enough ideas.”
She glared at me with an irritated look in her eyes.
“Can you beat Sakayanagi-san with that kind of attitude?”
“Who knows…? I, for one, intend to win. Could I get you to be a little more involved in making that happen?”
I was well aware that there was no need for her to be telling me that.
“Are you asking me to be actively involved with the class and decide on the participants for the events or the rules about how the commander will be allowed to intervene in them? Try and imagine what that would be like.”
As I spoke, Horikita’s expression gradually tightened.
“…I can’t imagine it at all, almost to the point where it’s terrifying.”
To the rest of the class, I was just a shadow. Even though I had become the commander, this was a fact that wasn’t going to change.
People would think there’s something wrong with me if I suddenly started rattling off instructions about everything.
I would take on a more active role, using the strategy Horikita comes up with as a baseline.
As the two of us were talking, I felt a sudden change in the atmosphere of the classroom.
Hirata had come to school. Although many students made an effort to avoid looking at him directly, it was clear that they were still worried about him.
“G-good morning, Hirata-kun!”
He was very nearly late for the start of school, and Mii-chan proceeded to call out to him. It was a brave decision, done in spite of the negative atmosphere of the classroom. However, her attempt to reach out was disregarded and ignored.
Hirata quietly took his seat without reacting to anyone around him.
But even so, Mii-chan’s smile didn’t waver.
“Who could’ve imagined that this would happen now?”
Despite Mii-chan’s best efforts, Hirata’s self-isolation continued.
“All things considered, she’s the only one who hasn’t given up on reaching out to Hirata-kun. I didn’t think she had such a deep connection with him, but…”
Horikita had noticed that Mii-chan was especially concerned when it came to Hirata, and she seemed to be starting to wonder about why Mii-chan would push herself to do something like that.
“It’s because she’s compassionate, isn’t it?”
“That wouldn’t make sense unless she treated other people this way as well.”
If that was the reason, Mii-chan would’ve probably been more compassionate back when Yamauchi was about to be expelled.