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Part 3 
Class C was still at the point where we were gathering information about what events everyone specialized in. 
The after-school discussions were becoming less and less frequent, but the classwide group chat was becoming more and more active as time went on. While K?enji and Hirata still hadn’t participated, anyone in the class could now join the conversation whenever they wanted to. 
In fact, based on the activity in the group chat, this type of discussion just might be better for Class C as a whole compared to face-to-face discussions where people might not be brave enough to share their opinions. However, this was simply what someone could see from an outsider’s perspective. 
In reality, I was simply waiting for Horikita to finish everything I had entrusted her with. 
Ironing out the details about the role I would play would come later. 
Even so, there were still several things to be wary of. Namely, K?enji and Hirata. 
Hirata in particular. Horikita probably had no way of fixing him in his current state. 
Since both of them still hadn’t participated in the group chat, it was clear that neither of them were looking forward to the special exam. 
While K?enji’s behavior was nothing new, Hirata’s absence was a great loss for the class. 
Hirata had changed drastically. It was as if he had become a different person entirely. 
While it may be a harsh way to put it, he was no different than a swollen abscess at this point. A complete thorn in our side. Even though it was painful, nobody would dare touch it. The only thing we could do is pray that the swelling would go down on its own. It was truly a shame. If he went back to normal, he’d be a versatile card that could be played in any event. 
Besides, there were still a few other things to be wary of as well. 
As Hirata left to head home for the day, Mii-chan ran out after him. 
I found myself wondering how many times this had happened already. 
While one person after another had already given up, Mii-chan still hadn’t lost heart. 
Was this a testament to the power of love? No… even if it’s love, the question still remains. 
She was most likely still afraid that he would come to hate her for her incessant behavior. 
So then, why does she keep trying to reach out to him? 
“Like, it’s super hard to see Hirata-kun act like this…” 
Kei quietly spoke to her group of friends who were still in the classroom. 
“Yeah. Is it really alright to leave him alone like this, Karuizawa-san?” 
“It’ll be useless no matter what I say. He might hold a grudge against me.” 
Hirata’s steadfast rejection from back when Kei reached out to him just the other day was still fresh in everyone’s memory. 
“Yeah. First he got dumped by Karuizawa-san, then Yamauchi-kun got expelled and…” 
I cast a cursory glance toward the girls as they were having their discussion before leaving the classroom. 
My sights weren’t set on Hirata today. I was going to look into yet another problem that needed to be dealt with. 
I had business with a particular student who had left the classroom shortly after Mii-chan. 
“Hey, you got a minute?” 
I called out to the girl, who turned and looked behind her after pausing for a moment. 
“What is it, Ayanok?ji-kun?” 
The girl was none other than Kushida, someone who hadn’t been very involved in the special exam so far. 
She hadn’t done or said anything to help our classmates, nor interfered with them. 
Instead, the days had gone by without her saying very much. 
In the past, Kushida would’ve taken on a more prominent role and worked to support the class. 
However, there was no sign of her doing that this time, and there were probably two reasons behind that. 
The first was that her position within the class had become unstable due to the outcome of the vote in the previous exam. 
Although she was being used by Yamauchi, the fact that she had conspired with him to get me expelled had been exposed to everyone. 
Even though many students had decided that there was room to sympathize with Kushida, it was still a slight problem for her. 
The whole affair had left a stain on what she was most proud of: her guise of a good, virtuous person. 
The second reason was that Horikita was the one taking the lead this time. 
Looking at it from Kushida’s point of view, this was probably the real reason behind her lack of action. 
Kushida has hated Horikita from the beginning for knowing the secrets of her past. 
On top of that, Horikita had given her quite the scolding just before the end of The Class Vote exam. 
Whatever her reasons may have been, it was her punishment for trying to expel someone who didn’t deserve to be expelled. 
The damage to her pride should’ve been nearly fatal. 
“You don’t seem to be supporting Horikita this time.” 
While I was already fully aware of this, I daringly brought it up anyway. 
After all, I wanted to find out what actions Kushida was planning to take in this special exam. 
No matter how closely you look at her smiling, cheerful mask, you wouldn’t be able to discern her true feelings. 
If you didn’t know about the real Kushida laying dormant beneath the mask, you wouldn’t think anything was amiss. 
“Shall we take a walk as we talk?” 
“That’s fine.” 
Not wanting our conversation to be carelessly overheard by others, she urged for us to walk somewhere else together. 

“Do you have any plans after this?” 
“Yup. I’m going to hang out with some girls from Class B for a bit. Do you think it’s wrong for me to be playing around during such an important time or something?” 
“No, it’s important to take some time for yourself sometimes. I think pretty much everyone would agree with that.” 
It’d be foolish to spend your time obsessing over the exam twenty-four hours a day. 
When it’s time to be serious, you should be serious. But when it’s time to relax, you should relax. 
“You understand it, don’t you? The reason why I’m not doing anything? I thought it’d be fine to support Yamauchi-kun and get you expelled. But now that everyone knows what I’ve done, what kind of right do I have to lead the class?” 
Kushida intentionally left out the fact that Horikita had become the leader, the real reason behind her lack of action. 
“You don’t look very convinced.” 
“Well, I guess.” 
“Just to be clear, the reason I’m not lending a hand isn’t because Horikita-san is the one leading the class, okay?” 
“Really really.” 
She nodded several times for emphasis, but even so, she was still lying about it. 
“You don’t believe me, do you?” 
Of course I didn’t believe her. But even though my suspicions didn’t show on my face, she was bound to think so either way. 
She had already decided that I’d be suspicious of her a long time ago. 
“How do I look to you right now, Ayanok?ji-kun? Be honest with me.” 
Outwardly, she seemed like a classmate with a lovely smile on her face. 
I tried to imagine Kushida’s true personality hidden underneath her mask. 
“I’m definitely gonna fuck up that bitch! She dared to make a fool of me in front of the entire class? I’ll never forgive her! I’ll kill her! Kill her kill her kill her! I’ll definitely kill her!!” 
With a vein popping out of the side of her head, she ranted about Horikita, prattling off a list of profanities that were unbearable to listen to. 
I couldn’t find the words to express what I had just imagined. 
“You just thought something incredibly rude, didn’t you?” 
“No… Not at all.” 
The image I had imagined had been a bit too extreme, so I was just at a slight loss for words. 
I pushed it out of my mind and decided to cut to the chase. 
“Since you said you won’t get involved this time, I plan to respect your decision.” 
“But in return, you want information about the class… Don’t you?” 
Kushida had a good understanding of the meaning behind this special exam. 
“Isn’t there someone else in the class you can rely on now, Ayanok?ji-kun?” 
Despite her constantly smiling face, she wasn’t going to agree to cooperate with me immediately. 
Even though we had a contractual relationship, Kushida was once again beginning to put up her guard. 
We seemed to be approaching the final turning point that would determine whether I would be an enemy, or an ally. 
“Nobody can compare to you.” 
“I’m happy to hear you say that, but I’ve got all sorts of things on my plate right now.” 
“All sorts of things?” 
“You’re so mean, Ayanok?ji-kun.” 
The fact that her reputation had been stained had been a huge drawback for her. 
The image of the character she had built up over the past year had been distorted. 
There’s no doubt that she still had a lot of support from her classmates, but they didn’t seem to be completely honest about that. It was a perfect example of how it’s hard to gain trust, but only takes a moment to lose it. 
“Then let me try asking you the opposite. How can I get you to cooperate with me?” 
“I suppose you’ll have to give up on that this time. I plan on laying low until I can be myself and have peace of mind in class. Does that bother you?” 
In other words, this meant that she wouldn’t cooperate with me, but she wouldn’t get in the way either. 
However, this also implied that she would only perform at the bare minimum if she were to be selected for an event. 
“Is it fine to do that? Not just for me, but Horikita as well?” 
“Yeah. You could interpret it that way. Because recently, I’ve come to realize that this school is much more comfortable for me than I thought.” 
The way she presented me with a favorable option seemed to be another one of her skills. 
For the time being, she would don her mask of lies and continue her performance. 
It was unfortunate that I hadn’t been able to get her to cooperate, but it was probably better to just accept it for now. 
“I understand. I’m sorry for asking something unreasonable.” 
“Not at all. Honestly, I’m really happy you wanted to rely on me.” 
Once we reached the school entryway, I decided to part ways with her. 
Kushida left, walking toward the Keyaki Mall without stopping to look back even once.


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