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Part 5 
Monday morning soon came around, the day that our opponent’s ten events would be announced. 
What events and rules had Class A come up with, and how exactly would the commander be involved? 
On my way to the school, I happened to run into Horikita’s older brother and Tachibana. 
It didn’t seem like they had been waiting for me. Rather, it really appeared to be just a coincidence. 
Tachibana discreetly distanced herself without saying anything in particular. 
Perhaps this was her way of being considerate so she wouldn’t get in the way of the impending conversation. 
There was no doubt that her tendency to make quick, thoughtful reactions like this had been an ongoing source of support for the elder Horikita back when they were on the student council. 
“Is the special exam going well?” 
There was something special about Horikita’s older brother. Even though he hadn’t gotten an in-depth explanation, he already had a firm grasp of my situation. 
“That’s supposed to be my line. Are you sure you can graduate as a member of Class A?” 
“Well, that’ll probably depend on next week’s results.” 
Whether he was worried or perfectly fine, there was no way to tell exactly how he was feeling by the look on his face. 
“On my end of things, your sister has been working hard. Apparently, you’ve had more of an influence on her than I would’ve thought.” 
“Is that so?” 
Currently, Horikita was practically bursting with energy, as if she had been touched by magic. 
She had taken the initiative to bring the class together in Hirata’s absence. 
Recently, she had also been spending her time refining the class’s strategy for each and every single one of the ten events. 
“Shouldn’t the third-years already be on break at this point?” 
“Well, I was also surprised to find out that wasn’t the case back when I first enrolled here. After all, third-year students at most other high schools would already be on break at this time of year. Of course, we’re just as focused as any other third-year student would be when it comes to stuff like moving on to higher education or finding a job. You just wouldn’t be aware of that yet.” 
It sounded like the third-years had a variety of troublesome things to deal with right now. 
“Higher Education? Finding a job? Even though it hasn’t been decided if you’ll be graduating as a member of Class A yet?” 
“You’ll understand eventually.” 
The elder Horikita left it at that, without even trying to give me a detailed explanation. 
I guess there are some things he just can’t say to the first and second-year students. 
At the end of the day, figuring out whether or not you can rise up to Class A would have to wait until you reached your third year. 
“If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’ll tell you anything as long as it’s within the scope of what I’m allowed to say.” 
“That scope seems rather narrow in my eyes.” 
At my unexpected response, the corners of his mouth raised into a smile, albeit only slightly. 
“Maybe so. You can think of it as an obligation I have as a former student council president.” 
This probably meant he had to be careful when answering questions about the school as a whole. 
“Well, this is a good opportunity. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.” 
I decided to make use of this casual encounter and ask the elder Horikita a question. 
“It’s about Horikita… that is, your little sister. I think she’s an excellent person. In both a physical and academic sense, she doesn’t fall short in the slightest. I don’t know if I’d say she’s topping the charts, but she had the talent to place second or third from the first day she stepped foot in this school. While she may not be on the same level as you, a former student council president, I don’t think she’s bad enough for you to denounce her and try to drive her out of the school entirely.” 
And then, there was the strangest part of all. 
“Either way, you and your sister are two years apart, that is, you haven’t seen her last two years worth of growth. With the system this school has in place, you shouldn’t have been able to tell at first glance just how much she’s grown up.” 
After all, as he was now, the elder Horikita hadn’t been able to meet with her since she began her second year of middle school, not even once. 
Even if he had been disappointed with her results on the entry exam, that shouldn’t have been enough to make him this disappointed in her. 
Back then, when I saw them meet outside the dorm, Manabu’s attitude toward his sister was anything but calm. 
“I see. Certainly, having seen what you did back then, it’s only natural you’d be curious about this.” 
At that, I was reminded of the first time I came into contact with the elder Horikita. 
“I wasn’t disappointed with Suzune because of something superficial like her grades or the class she was placed in. It had to do with maturity.” 
“Suzune has changed dramatically from the way she used to be. She was the type of child who would always have a smile on her face.” 
She, that girl, used to smile all the time? 
…No, I honestly couldn’t imagine that at all. 
“In other words, you’re saying this calm, collected personality she puts forward is because of your influence?” 
“She has been trying to imitate me for a long time now. It’s a bad habit that started to rear its head ever since the upper grades of elementary school. But thinking back on it now, it’s my mistake for letting it happen for so long. I tried for many years to get her to improve by treating her cold and indifferently, but it actually ended up having the opposite effect on her, backfiring entirely.” 
As a result, Horikita continued to chase after her brother’s shadow and became the kind of person she is today. 
“So even though you seem to be completely perfect, you’ve failed to communicate properly with your sister?” 
“There is no such thing as a perfect human. Am I wrong?” 
“Fair enough.” 
I couldn’t possibly refute him on that. 
“In short, after reuniting with her once again, all it took was a single conversation for you to reach your conclusion?” 
Although, back then, it didn’t exactly seem like they had been talking to each other for very long. 
“I realized it before I even talked to her. From the first moment I saw her again, I knew that in the past two years, she hadn’t changed at all.” 
As I wondered if he had seen something in her only an older brother could understand, he continued to explain. 
“That girl has always been completely hung up on my every word. Study harder, exercise more, don’t do one thing, don’t do something else. It would’ve been fine if that was as far as it went. But, she’d imitate my favorite foods and beverages, even going as far as my copying my favorite colors and the type of clothes I’d wear. She’s shown just how strongly she’s depended on me every step of the way.” 
The fact that she had gone that far was already a little alarming. 

However, if you look at Horikita’s behavior since she first came to this school, it made sense. 
“So, after reuniting with your sister at this school, you felt like this dependency problem still hadn’t changed?” 
Unless he could read minds, there just wasn’t enough information to tell what she had been through in the past two years. 
“That’s right. Anyone who knows what she was like as a child would be able to tell. That girl…” 
He cut off mid-sentence, choking up on his words. 
“…Nevermind. This is probably something I should keep secret, even from you. I’d like it to be the perfect metric to determine whether or not Suzune has really changed.” 
“I guess that means your sister still hasn’t changed yet.” 
The elder Horikita nodded. While Horikita had shown a great deal of progress compared to how she was at the start of the year, according to her older brother, that didn’t seem to be enough. 
“She’s been trying her best to break away from her past, but she’s only halfway there.” 
I found myself wondering if she’d be able to satisfy her brother’s so-called ‘perfect metric’ before he graduates. 
There weren’t very many days left until the graduation ceremony. 
“But, if…” 
The elder Horikita stopped walking for a moment and fixed his eyes on me. 
For some reason, I found myself getting caught up in his powerful gaze and stopped walking as well. 
“If Suzune could stop chasing after my shadow, break away from her dependency, and become honest with herself…” 
A Spring breeze blew through the air. 
“She would surpass me altogether, and probably become someone you wouldn’t be able to ignore.” 
He wasn’t saying this just because he was doting on her as an older brother. He truly meant it. 
In a lot of ways, I also admired Horikita’s high potential. 
Why was that, though? Was it because of what he just said? 
Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind. What was I supposed to be doing here, at this school? 
No, what did I want to be doing? I felt like I had suddenly found the answer to that question. 
“But in the end, it all depends on whether she can make the change at all.” 
“She will change.” 
I responded to him confidently. 
“Or, no, let me rephrase that.” 
But then, I chose to correct myself. 
“I’m going to make her change. Not in the same way I’ve gone about it so far, but for real this time.” 
“…Oh? I never thought you’d say such a thing.” 
It felt like this chance encounter with the elder Horikita would leave a large impact on my life. 
It would be a very long time before I knew whether that premonition proved to be true or not. 
“Say, can I ask you one more thing before you graduate? It’s a completely personal question.” 
I didn’t know if I’d ever have another chance to talk to him after this. 
“Are you going out with Tachibana?” 
I was well aware that it was a silly question, but I asked anyway. 
Despite having moved on from the student council, the two of them were still often off doing things together. 
“No. Nothing of the sort.” 
A flat denial. It didn’t seem like he was trying to hide anything either. 
However, a quick glance at Tachibana’s face told me it was somewhat more complicated than that. 
At the very least, there was no doubt that Tachibana had some sort of feelings for him. 
“I’ve spent these last three years thinking about nothing but school, for better or for worse.” 
“Is that so?” 
“But I didn’t think something like this would come out of your mouth. Could it be that you’re just a regular high school student?” 
Perhaps I had been influenced by that talk I had with Hoshinomiya-sensei. 
“I think I’m about as regular as you can get.” 
“Ah. That’s right. So, have you gotten yourself a girlfriend, Mr. Regular High School Student?” 
Even though I had been the one to bring up the topic, I hadn’t expected him to turn it back on me. 
“Not at all right now. But if someone suitable comes along, I’m accepting applications.” 
“I feel like I could rest assured if I left Suzune to you, but I get the sense that that isn’t going to happen.” 
“Of course not.” 
There was no way that would happen. 
“T-that’s no good. You do know saying something like that can become a flag, right?” 
Tachibana suddenly interrupted the conversation she had been attentively listening to for a while now. 
When the elder Horikita questioned her word choice, Tachibana hurriedly provided an explanation. 
“No, uh, I guess it’s like, situational irony or something…? Y’know, the type of thing that happens from time to time where two people who never thought they’d get together end up going out? It’s a common scenario.” 
The elder Horikita and I looked at each other, neither of us having understood Tachibana’s explanation very well. 
“N-no, nevermind.” 
Tachibana seemed to think she wouldn’t be able to get us to understand what she was trying to say, as she ended the conversation with that.


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