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Part 3 
No matter how bad the atmosphere may get, time still moves forward all the same. 
Naturally, the time for discussion arrived once classes had finished for the day. 
It was the second class discussion. To be precise, it was actually the third if I included the one I hadn’t attended. 
It had already been three days since the exam started, so it was about time to get the ball rolling. 
Once again, Hirata immediately stood up and walked out of the classroom. 
Mii-chan seemed a little torn, as she just watched quietly while he left the room. 
Then, as if inspired by something, she quickly sprung to her feet. 
However, she didn’t move a single step forward. 
Hirata’s rejection earlier this morning had probably come to mind, stopping her in her tracks. 
After a bit, her legs gave in and she sat back down in her chair. 
“As she should…” 
Horikita spoke softly; her cruel, yet gentle words just barely reaching my ears. It would be better to stay away from Hirata right now. Horikita, as well as the rest of the class, understood that this was for the best. 
In the past, some of the class’s more jealous boys would vent their complaints about Hirata, but I couldn’t hear any of that now. I had thought they were the type of people who’d look down on him now that he’s fallen out of line. Or perhaps they weren’t willing to say anything negative because it’s Hirata? 
“Mii-chan, wanna go home together after the discussion today?” 
Having anticipated Mii-chan’s mental state, Kushida reached out with a friendly invitation. 
“She’s fairly reliable in a situation like this, isn’t she?” 
“I guess.” 
Kushida wasn’t the type of person who’d neglect a friend in need. 
If she couldn’t save Hirata, she’d at least want to save Mii-chan. 
Even if her motive was to make herself look good, it was fine as long as she actually helped her. 
Mii-chan accepted Kushida’s invitation with a small nod. 
“Well then, I’ll also be excusing myself.” 
Sure enough, K?enji didn’t seem to have any intention to participate either, as he proceeded to leave the classroom just after Hirata. 
He seemed both unashamed and confident, as if he had already been given permission to leave from Horikita. 
Ultimately, it seemed that the discussion would take place with only thirty-seven people. 
Horikita kept her eyes locked on K?enji until he walked out. Only then did she rise from her seat and take her place at the teacher’s podium. 
Chabashira cast a sidelong glance at Horikita before taking her leave as well. 
“Now, I wonder if you’ve all come up with something you’re good at?” 
“Wait a moment, Horikita-san. There’s something I’d like to bring to your attention before the discussion.” 
Keisei was the first person to raise their hand. 
“What is it, Yukimura-kun?” 
“I’m worried someone might eavesdrop on our discussion.” 
Even though we were behind closed doors, we could still be heard if someone was lingering about in the nearby hallway. 
“Yes. We’re not even allowed to have a single, decent discussion at this school, are we?” 
“Shouldn’t we take preemptive measures? Like having a few of us stand guard or something? I honestly think it’s a problem for us to talk like this without doing anything.” 
“Yes, you’re quite right.” 
Having known this already, Horikita nodded her head. 
“But I don’t think having people stand guard will be an effective countermeasure.” 
“By having people stand guard, do you plan on having them warn others not to approach the classroom? The hallway is a shared space that all students can use equally. No, strictly speaking, this very classroom is too. We have no right to deny access to students from the other classes.” 
Horikita was saying that, if we prevented others from using the hallways, there was a chance they might make a complaint to the school. 
“That’s why having some of us stand guard would be nothing but a waste of time.” 
“Then, you’re fine with everything we talk about getting leaked? All of our strengths and weaknesses? We don’t gain a single thing by giving away all of our information for free.” 
“We’ll work around that using these .” 
Horikita took out her cell phone and showed it to the class. 
“I’ll set up a class-wide group chat dedicated to this special exam. While we can still share our opinions verbally, we’ll communicate the important details in the chat. This way, it won’t matter if the other classes eavesdrop or not.” 
Hearing her idea, Keisei nodded along as if totally convinced. 
“I see… If that’s the case, I think it should be alright.” 
“Then, may I contact everyone and make the group?” 
The one who offered to do so was Kushida, to which Horikita had no objection. 
It would be no exaggeration to say she was the only person here who knew everyone’s contact information. 
Mii-chan rose to her feet, cutting into Horikita and Keisei’s conversation. 

“Excuse me. Today, I… Uh, I’ve got something to do, so…” 
“By that… are you saying you want to chase after Hirata-kun?” 
Mii-chan nodded her head slightly in response to Kushida’s question. 
With heavy steps, she began to walk out of the room, trying to once again follow after Hirata. 
“Wait. There’s no point in doing something like that right now.” 
“That… What do you mean?” 
Mii-chan responded to Horikita with a question, the tone of her voice unexpectedly intense. 
“He’s useless and broken right now. You’re going to get dragged down right along with him.” 
“I, I don’t want to abandon Hirata-kun.” 
“I’m not telling you that you have to abandon him or anything like that. Only that he should be left alone for now.” 
“Then when are you going to help him?” 
“…That’s up to him.” 
“You’re wrong. That’s… not true… I don’t believe you!” 
With that, Mii-chan went out of the classroom, unwilling to listen to anyone. 
“Good grief. He just needs to be left alone.” 
Of course, none of us were going to chase after her. 
“I’m going to have to excuse myself for a moment. None of you leave, just wait for me to get back.” 
Horikita left the classroom as well, making it clear she intended to go after Mii-chan and bring her back. 
She probably thought that there was no way she could leave this to somebody else. 
“What a mess… We can’t even have one proper discussion because of Hirata.” 
It was understandable why Keisei wanted to complain like this. 
After all, it had been three days now, and we still hadn’t made any progress yet. I stood up from my seat. 
“Oi Ayanok?ji, are you gonna chase after ‘em too? Suzune said to wait for her.” 
Sud? gave me a clear warning. Indeed, it was only going to get worse if more of us kept leaving like this. 
“I know.” 
“You know? Oi!” 
Disregarding Sud?, I walked out of the classroom and called out to Horikita who had just begun walking down the corridor. 
“…I thought I was clear when I said for none of you to leave.” 
“If you’re trying to force Mii-chan to come back, you don’t have to be the one to do it. I’ll go. You’re the one in charge of bringing the class together.” 
“And you’re the commander. That’s not something you can push on to someone else, now is it? You won’t be able to make full use of the position if you don’t analyze everyone’s capabilities.” 
“You can handle that for me later. There’s nothing I can do about it anyway.” 
“That’s not the problem here…” 
“Do you really think you can fix Hirata’s problem?” 
“Somebody who thinks that leaving Hirata alone is the best course of action probably shouldn’t be the one to chase after them.” 
Horikita, one of the driving forces that had led Hirata to his current state, shouldn’t be the one to approach him. 
“Then… Are you saying you think you can?” 
“It depends on more than just me.” 
“Then something should’ve been done about this a long time ago.” 
Many students had reached out due to their concern. It wasn’t just Mii-chan. 
Horikita was beginning to question Mii-chan’s behavior because she had convinced herself that nothing would manage to get through to him. 
“Well, we’ll talk later. I’ll lose track of them if we continue this now.” 
“Come back soon.” 
She spoke like a mother would when seeing off their child. Just as I began walking, I bumped into Hashimoto. 
It didn’t seem to be a mere coincidence either… I found myself wondering if he was here to keep a watch on our class. 
It was even possible that he had overheard my conversation with Horikita. 
He didn’t seem surprised. Instead, he just called out to me with a grin on his face that made it seem like he had witnessed something amusing. 
“Yo Ayanok?ji.” 
Nonetheless, I didn’t have time to talk with him right now. 
“Sorry. I’m in a bit of a hurry.” 
“If you’re going after your classmate, she ran off that way.” 
I responded to him with a light nod and proceeded to go after Mii-chan. 
These last two days, Hirata’s behavior hadn’t changed at all. 
It was a safe bet that he had gone back to his room at the dorms as fast as possible so he could avoid running into anybody after school.


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