Part 10 After waiting for another fifteen minutes… Horikita had finished cooking and set everything out on the table. Seeing all of the food spread out before me was better than I had expected it to be. The way the meal decorated the dining table was similar to how you would see on TV from time to time. She then wrapped everything up by sitting down across from me. If Sud? were to see the two of us like this, he’d probably throw a punch at me in rage. Even if I were to tell him that it was a misunderstanding, it still probably wouldn’t get me anywhere. Better yet, I wanted to believe that he had already experienced this kind of treatment. No, he would probably still be jealous of me either way. “Eat.” At Horikita’s insistence, I picked up my chopsticks. The two of us sat facing one another with the food placed in between. The scene gave off a strong sense of deja vu. It reminded me of the time Horikita had taken advantage of me by buying me a meal in the cafeteria at the beginning of the school year. “Are you suspecting something? Of me?” “Not at all, I’m just feeling a bit uncomfortable.” “If you start doubting the kindness of others, it just serves as proof that you have a problem as a human being.” “You of all people are telling me that?” “Today is special, you know.” “…” If she really did make this because she was being considerate, then I suppose it’d be rude not to at least try it. However, it’s within human nature to be suspicious. No, rather, for me it was my past experiences with her that caused me to doubt her. This time, however, she had managed to perfectly back me into a corner. The outcome had already been decided from the moment I had carelessly stepped into Horikita’s room. For the time being, I chose to at least try the soup. The smell of miso tickled my nose. She had used healthy ingredients with daikon radish as the base. “Barley miso, huh?” Upon taking my first sip, the characteristically intense, sweet flavor of the soup spread throughout my mouth. “You’re well informed. It’s the preferred form of Miso soup in Kyushu, but I wasn’t sure if it’d suit your taste.” “You’re a good cook.” I tried to give her a genuine compliment, but she didn’t seem particularly happy about it. “In this day and age, cooking doesn’t require any special skills, so it’s not anything worth boasting about. If there’s something you want to make, you just have to look up a recipe online and buy what you need from the supermarket or a convenience store. You do know that, right?” If it’s nothing more than cooking, then that might be right. That being said, all sorts of little touches could help highlight your culinary skills, from the way you arrange the dish on the plate to the way you prepare the ingredients. It wasn’t just something you could learn overnight. “Have you been treating Sud? to meals like this too?” When I asked her this, she stared at me with a somewhat dissatisfied look in her eyes. “Why would I be cooking food for him?” “Well… you’re always helping him study, right?” “Yes, but, while that may be true, how does that have anything to do with me cooking for him?” It was just supposed to be a trivial question, but Horikita continued to object to it. “If our positions were reversed and he was the one helping me study, then I’d be more inclined to agree with you. After all, this is normally done as a way of saying thank you. But, there’s no way that I’d go through all this trouble when I’m the one doing him a favor.” Her reasoning was so solid that I couldn’t find the words to refute her, but… “I can’t tell if you’re smart or stupid.” That should be my line. Sud? had fallen for Horikita, so I had thought she’d already cooked for him. Apparently, she still hadn’t confronted his feelings for her yet. But, that was probably because she doesn’t place very much emphasis on something like love. She hasn’t grown to the point where she can be aware of stuff like that yet. “Well now. If you don’t mind, how about we get down to business?” Saying that, she took out a notebook and offered it to me.
Without even having to ask what it was, I knew this had to be what she had been working on over the last several days. “I’ve come up with a plan that I think will suit our class the best. I’d like to hear your opinion on it.” And then, she added on a few more words. “You ate my food, didn’t you?” What a truly dirty trick. She treats me to a meal and then comes and asks me to do work for her. I immediately grabbed the notebook and started flipping through it. She had thoroughly documented the various aspects of the special exam. There was even an entry about the ten events Class A had chosen, but since those had only just been revealed today, she was still in the process of writing them. Incidentally, the ten events Class C had chosen were English, Basketball, Archery, Swimming, Tennis, Table Tennis, Typing, Soccer, Piano, and Rock Paper Scissors. That last one had probably been thrown in as a last-ditch effort in case things weren’t looking good for us. She had also written her evaluation of who would be the best at each event along with an estimated success rate. This notebook contained everything we needed for the upcoming exam. I read over it quietly until I had gone through all the details. Upon seeing me like this, Horikita seemed surprised. “Dinner aside, you didn’t think I’d read through this so seriously, did you?” “Ah, yeah. I was even prepared for you to turn me down, but…” “The data you’ve analyzed is crucial for this special exam. I wouldn’t be able to do my job as the commander properly without at least taking a look at it.” Compared to the information I had gathered on my own, there weren’t any notable differences. “This collection of data almost feels like it exposes our entire class.” “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done over the course of this past week. It’d be troublesome if it wasn’t accurate.” It probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that just about anybody could be a proper commander if they had their hands on this notebook. “I’m going to continue adding on to it, and eventually include information on our best choices for all of Class A’s events as well. I was thinking that you could make use of it to put up a fight as the commander.” “Yeah. People like Sud? and Akito should be valuable assets for the class, even outside of one-on-one events. Whereas in Onodera’s case, her chances are less certain if she were to compete against a boy. It would probably be wise to have a third or fourth option in mind ahead of time.” Horikita nodded silently. It’d be a waste to make a hasty decision on how somebody would be participating when they have the potential to shine across a variety of events. In any case, I really couldn’t find an issue with what she had created. “I don’t have any problems with the notebook. But, could I just add on one thing?” “What is it?” “One of the events Class A chose was chess, right?” After drinking a sip of water, I turned our conversation in a new direction. Because nobody in our class was particularly good at chess, the section on it in the notebook was understandably still blank. “Yes. I haven’t put very much thought into it yet since I’ve personally never played the game myself. Out of everyone, the only person who even has a grasp of the rules is you, the commander. We’re probably going to have to follow your guidance about it.” “About that, I’d like you to be the one to take part in it.” “…Me? I get that we’ll need to have somebody practice for it, but… Why me? I wouldn’t be good at it at all and probably won’t be able to win.” “Because I think you’re the most suitable person for me to teach.” “So you’re saying it’d be easier for you to teach me because you wouldn’t have to interact with someone new?” “I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a part of it.” “I can do it, but… there should be at least a few students who’d be willing to listen to you, right? And besides, I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging or anything, but I think I’m a pretty good option for some of the other events too.” Horikita was one of the more well-rounded students in the class. Whether it be a written exam or a sporting event, I had no doubt that her results would be well above average. “Chess requires raw talent. There’s a time limit imposed on how much the commander can intervene. It doesn’t matter how confident Sakayanagi is at chess, it just isn’t enough time. I can’t imagine that she’ll make use of it at the beginning of the match. In which case, the key to winning would be playing the early stages of the game properly.” If Horikita were to be overwhelmed at the beginning, it’d be extremely difficult for me to make a comeback. “Your fascination with the chess event isn’t just because you know the rules, is it? You’ve predicted that Class A is going to choose it as one of their five events, haven’t you?” “I’m almost certain of it. Don’t you think it’s strange how chess is the only event where the commander has so much influence?” “That’s true. I felt like something was up with that as well… Alright. I’ll follow your discretion.” Thankful that she readily agreed to my request, I went back to eating my meal. “So, how will we be practicing chess?” “It probably won’t be the easiest for you, but I was thinking we’d practice late at night over the internet.” “That’s fair, we wouldn’t attract any unnecessary attention by doing it that way. Nothing would be leaked either.” Another advantage was that, by doing it this way, it wouldn’t interfere with practicing for any of the other events.