Intro On that day, class 2-D faced a strange situation that it had never experienced before. Teruhiko Yukimura’s right leg trembled, as he looked towards the entrance of the classroom again and again. “Can you calm down a little? It hasn’t even been 5 minutes since Kiyopon left. He was called out by the teacher, right? It’s going to be a while.” Hasebe Haruka, a classmate and close friend, spoke to Yukimura. Sakura Airi and Miyake Akito sat around her. “I’m calm… don’t worry.”Yukimura answered. Although he stopped shaking his leg temporarily, it didn’t take long for him to tense up again. He quietly shook his leg up and down, and it rustled his trousers.. Yukimura was planning to talk to Ayanokouji after school, but he gave up temporarily because of Horikita’s appearance. Then he heard from her that Chabashira had called him away and he had gone off somewhere, so he resorted to waiting in the classroom for him to return. Hasebe sighed, somewhat helplessly, and looked out the window. Knowing full well that Yukimura didn’t normally shake his leg, she quickly realized that there was no point in trying to calm him down anymore. The atmosphere in the 2nd year Class D’s classroom was heavy. The May sky that ushered in the spring was so azure and clear, so beautiful, Hasebe thought to herself. Then, she thought about it all over again. How had the situation become like this? The first and second years had paired up for the special exam in April. In the fifth subject test of that exam,, their friend Ayanokouji Kiyotaka achieved a perfect score in math. If it were a normal test, it wouldn’t be surprising to see students get a perfect score. With the academically strong Yukimura in the lead, students who got a perfect score would appear every now and then. Of course, occasionally an unexpected hidden student would get a perfect score. These people either studied really hard before the exams, or they got lucky with how much the exam covered. But this exam was like a world away from the previous one. Of course, even though she wasn’t as strong as Yukimura, Hasebe had still vaguely noticed it. In this special exam, regardless of the subject, the only one in the class that had achieved a perfect score was Ayanokouji himself. It couldn’t be explained by cramming beforehand or by chance. “It’s only been 6 minutes, huh… I don’t think he’ll come back yet.” As a friend,she couldn’t leave the restless Yukimura alone. Hasebe was planning to move on to a completely different topic, but at the end, decided to stay with Yukimura, and leave the topic of the conversation to him. Although the reason for doing this was mainly because she thought she would be able to distract him a little, Hasebe herself wanted to know how incredible was the fact that Ayanokouji had achieved that perfect score in math.” “Was the question that hard?” Hearing the question, Yukimura nodded his head without hesitation. “It’s not a question of whether it’s hard or not. I didn’t even understand the meaning of the question during the exam.” What Yukimura meant was that it wasn’t that he couldn’t solve the answer; it was that he couldn’t even understand the question itself. “After the exam, I tried to analyze the question through my memory and found that it was completely out of range for a highschool student. In other words, this was a question that we shouldn’t have been able to solve.” “What’s up with that? What’s the school’s problem? It’s not even a question of what’s beyond the range of an exam anymore.” “It really is unreasonable. That’s why the points you could get for each subject dropped drastically. But, there were also a lot of questions that weren’t as hard as what Chabshira told us they would be.” In addition to forcing in a few unexpectedly difficult questions, there were also several low-level questions mixed in. So, in other words, this exam was prepared so that even if you couldn’t get a perfect score, you also wouldn’t get a low score. “So they made up for it by raising our average score?” “After all, exam results are directly linked to expulsion. It was a big help to the class.” This in itself was something to be happy about, but to Yukimura, it was just a small thing. “Ayanokouji got a perfect score, which should be impossible. I…it’s like I’m witnessing a magic trick!” The fact that he specifically used his last name to call him showed Yukimura’s resentment. “S-so he solved such a question, Kiyotaka-kun sure is amazing!” To try to change the current dreary atmosphere slightly, Sakura said this with a sage smile on her face. But this seemed to have the opposite effect, and Yukimura’s face tightened even more. “I’ve worked to understand everyone’s academic abilities during our first year, at least at a certain level. That’s why I’m so surprised by this result because I judged that no one could do the question, based on that.” “Do tell me more.” Hearing the Ayanokouji group’s conversation, Shinohara joined in. Before he knew it, many of his classmates were listening to what Yukimura was saying. “You’ve all checked the tablet, right? Is there anyone in the class who got a perfect score in one of the subjects? No, look at the other classes as well, and it’ll be clear. Look at the entirety of the 2nd year. Not a single student, not even Ichinose or Sakayanagi, got a perfect score.” Facts spoke louder than words. Yukimura brought the reality of what happened and put it on the table. Using the tablet, you could see the results of the exams outside class 2D. “I didn’t even notice. You can even see the results of the other classes. Why is that?” The shocked Shinohara took the tablet handed to her, and swiped incredulously. “Who knows. Maybe it’s because of the introduction of the OAA, or maybe it’s some other reason. No matter what the reason is, we’ll have to wait until the announcement of the details of the next exam to know the answer.” “Waaah, I hate this! Wouldn’t this mean that a lot of people will know my scores? This is the worst!” Karuizawa Kei, the leader of the girls in the class said this as she lamented. Then she went on to say this: “Maybe Ayanokouji-kun is just a math genius! You know, sometimes in those TV dramas and stuff, isn’t there, like, a protagonist that only uses math or something to solve the murder case? I’m getting that kind of feeling.” Hearing the words of Karuizawa, which although was from a different direction but just as tone deaf, Yukimura dismissed it with a dumbfounded expression. “Then tell me, why didn’t he get a perfect score on his previous math tests? If he can solve questions of the kind that came this time, it doesn’t make sense for him to not have gotten a full score or something close to it all along. Yukimura retorted forcefully, as if he felt that the other person had utterly missed the point. “What’s the point in asking me that? Well, maybe it’s something like, he studied really hard during the spring break or something?” Karuizawa’s off-the-point answer caused Yukimura to steadily grow more and more irritated. “This isn’t something that can be done in a short amount of time. Even if he had studied at a higher level than I could imagine, it doesn’t explain how he was able to solve questions that are far beyond the knowledge of a high school student! If you can’t even understand that, then keep your mouth shut.” His blunt response irritated Karuizawa as well, and it all gradually approached the boiling point. “I don’t know anything about that. So can you stop getting so angry so easily? You’re pissing me off.” “Yeah, yeah! Isn’t it weird that you’re taking your anger out on Karuizawa-san?” Maezono immediately fired back at Yukimura, helping out Karuizawa. Karuizawa, who had gained an ally, immediately turned around and started digging into what Yukimura had said. “You’ve got a big mouth, but couldn’t it just be that you didn’t understand the question? Maybe it’s just you that couldn’t solve the question, but the question itself wasn’t that hard, was it?” Karuizawa knew deep down that her words were far fetched. But she didn’t change her attitude, because she felt as if she had to play the fool here. However, as the atmosphere heated up at the scene, the doubts surrounding Ayanokouji inevitably grew deeper. “Have you forgotten already? The question was such that even Sakayanagi and Ichinose couldn’t get full marks.” “Then maybe he just happened to know that question?” “I just said-“ Yukimura had already surpassed the realm of anger and had reached the point of speechlessness. And then, in order to organize his emotions, he began to explain. “I… well, basically, that guy… could probably be good at math at an unbelievable degree, I think.” “So what’s the problem? That’s what I said, that he was a math genius, right?” “That’s not the main point. If that’s the case, then that guy-“ “Ah, sorry for interrupting. I had a thought…” Just as the conversation was taking an unexpected turn, Minami Setsuya threw himself into the fray. “Ayanokouji getting a perfect score is indeed confusing, and I don’t think there’s anything strange with what Yukimura said. It’s just that, isn’t this happening too suddenly? After all, he’s never gotten any amazing marks before.” This time the statement was as if to add to what Yukimura had said, yet launching doubts from a different direction at the same time. “That’s why I was wondering, has this Ayanokouji done something shady?” What began to occur in the minds of Yukimura and many other students was the idea of “Ayanokouji is a math genius”. However, another opinion that rejected that head-on had also come up. The doubt of “What if he didn’t do it with his own strength?” “It’s definitely possible. Like seeing the question paper beforehand or something. Remember, didn’t that happen in the 1st year as well? It was the one test that asked the exact same questions as the previous years!” Remembering this, Kanji Ike said loudly. A year ago in the spring, his classmate got the past questions from a 3rd year. It was an extremely difficult test, but if you could remember the answers, anyone could get a high score. “But assuming that the questions were exactly the same as those in the past, isn’t it weird that he didn’t give us that information? And it’s also weird that no one in the other classes noticed it as well.” Hearing Ike’s statement, Miyamoto calmly pointed out the parts that he couldn’t accept. “Then… it’s the method that must not be named, knowing the answer to the question in advance…? Cheating.” “Cheat? How would he even cheat?” Shinohara, who was standing beside him, asked him that in response to his vague statement. “Hacking the school computers and stealing the answers or something! Isn’t that possible!” “That’s as stupid as what Karuizawa said…” Yukimura had a headache, in the face of the class’s already unmanageable mess. Yet miraculously, it was through this speculative topic that the time began to flow solidly. The heat of the discussion focused around the possibility that Ayanokouji hadn’t solved the problem with his own strength, instead getting the answer in some other way. Considering that he never scored high before, this was probably the natural course for the discussion. But the one who reversed the direction was Sudo Ken, who had been listening silently until then. He stood up, and his towering 186cm tall frame instantly gathered the attention of the entire class. “You seem to be getting rather excited, but there isn’t even a shred of evidence of Ayanokouji cheating, is there? Don’t just jump to conclusions when the person in question isn’t here.” The words themselves were perfectly reasonable, but the fact that those words came out of Sudo surprised everyone. In particular, Ike, who had been good friends with Sudou for a long time, didn’t seem pleased. “What do you mean, Ken? Don’t tell me you’re taking Ayanokouji’s side?” “That’s not what I meant. But there is no way he was easily able to see the question paper, right?… I just thought that it’s more likely that he got that perfect score with his own abilities.” The 2nd half of what he said wasn’t as clear, but he expressed his opinion nonetheless. “If we’re talking about ability, his academic score in OAA last month was lower than mine, right? It would have been impossible if he was not cheating!” Miyamoto, who had looked at the just updated OAA data after school, said as if he had already decided that Ayanokouji had cheated. “That just means he’s different from last year. Anyone can grow.” “Isn’t it just as Sudo-kun says? After all, Sudo-kun’s academic ability surpassed Miyamoto-kun’s too.” Kei’s sharp criticism embarrassed Miyamoto for a moment. One year ago, calling Sudo the worst in the entire year wasn’t an exaggeration. But now, after the OAA was updated, his academic ability had suddenly climbed to 54. It was only one more point than Miyamoto’s 53, but it was still higher. “We-well, that’s because Sudo was studying hard, I acknowledge his growth, but…but Ayanokouji is growing too much, too fast!” “So that’s why there’s a possibility that he’s holding back, just like Koenji!” Now, Karuizawa’s previous point of him being a math genius started up again. It seemed like the conversation had come full circle, and was headed towards an even worse direction. “Well isn’t that even more of a problem? Doesn’t that mean he didn’t contribute to the class?” Points that could have been scored, but he didn’t go for them. If he really were hiding his strength, then there would be nothing wrong with what Ike just said. Sudo and the others, who always had a good relationship in their friend circle, were about to be plunged into internal strife. Judging that they couldn’t let this drag on any longer, one of the students acted as the arbitrator. “Let’s all calm down a bit. We can’t solve the problem by just getting heated up here, can we?” At a time when the class’s atmosphere was getting worse, Hirata Yosuke stepped in and pressed the pause button. Hirata, who usually took the lead in unifying the class, kept quiet until the very end this time. He decided to wait until he was sure of what the class was considering, what they were thinking, before acting to break the impasse. Hirata first spoke to Sudo gently. “Sudo-kun, isn’t it almost time for your club activities?” “Eh? Ahhhh, now that you say that…” The reality check suddenly woke Sudo up. “I know you’re concerned about this topic, but there are many things that are uncertain right now. I do not think it is good to let your club activities be affected by mere speculation. You know by now that the “I’ll be late just this one time” excuse won’t work, right?” Hirata judged that the primary goal for now was to reduce the number of students in the classroom. He calmed down Sudo and the others, who had gotten so hot headed that they’d forgotten about their club activities. The introduction of the OAA had caused the number of students concerned about their grades to skyrocket, Sudo included. Sudo picked up his bag quietly, after briefly glancing at the back of Suzune, who hadn’t said a word through the entire commotion, left the classroom. The other students who belonged to clubs followed suit. “I have to go too. I’m sorry, I’ll leave Keisei to you.” “Yeah. Miyacchi, see you later.” Miyake, who was a member of the Ayanokouji group, packed up his archery club things and left the turbulent atmosphere of the classroom, with Sakura and Hasebe seeing him off. Although there were a few more students who left, more than half of the class still remained in the classroom. Part 1 Our Class D had just finished our first special exam after becoming 2nd years. Although I injured my left hand in the conflict against Hosen, I managed to eliminate my risk of getting expelled. The wound which was the price I paid for that would probably take a while to heal, but that couldn’t be helped. Under Tsukishiro’s watch, I left the reception room, and as soon as the door was closed I let out a short breath. And now, my daily routine of a carefree student life would finally return… As if the current situation would allow for such naive thoughts. Besides, the current environment had already begun to drift away from everyday life. In the eyes of many students, being called to talk with the Acting Director was an astonishing thing. As I thought about it, I had to accept the reality in front of my eyes, the reality that I couldn’t do anything about. I could only conclude like this: I had escaped to this school, but there was now a chain that would follow me forever. After all, the only way to be free of it was to get expelled. “Looks like you’re done talking?” “Well, yeah.” Chabashira, who was waiting not far from the reception room, casually joined me. I was a bit dejected, looking at Chabashira’s figure, but I didn’t let it show on my face. As of now, Tsukishiro didn’t know that I was working with Chabashira, who was the homeroom teacher of Class 2-D, and Mashima-sensei of Class 2-A. In that situation, Chabashira was waiting here for me after I had been summoned by Tsukishiro. What was that if not unnatural? If you thought of it as Chabashira’s duty as a class teacher to summon me, I guess it wasn’t a problem; but this was Tsukishiro, so I couldn’t rule out the possibility of this being one of his traps. Because of that, my intention was for her to have left without meeting me again. For an ordinary student teacher pair, it would be unnatural for the teacher to wait around for the student. If she were calmer, Chabashira might have arrived at that conclusion herself. She must have been influenced by the fact that I got a perfect score in math, and that I had made part of my strength public. It’s not like I couldn’t understand her restlessness, but this was careless of her. In her defence, she and I have very different ideas of that man. To Chabashira, the foremost thing was that he was connected to the father of one of her students. After all, she didn’t know anything about the background of the White Room, so it was excusable. It was only natural that our sense of caution and warmth towards him differed. And such, I won’t make any comments about it.. The only thing I could do now was leave the scene as fast as possible, so I continued walking forward. “You’ll be a bit of a celebrity from now on.” I was wondering what she would say, and it turned out to be about that.
“I’m not too happy about it, but it was a necessary measure. I can only assume that this is within the bounds of what is permitted.” “Ignoring the students in the other classes for a moment, how are you going to explain it to your own class? You’ve always done your best to try and seem inconspicuous, but suddenly you get a perfect score in that difficult math test. Of course they won’t leave you alone now. Have you prepared for this scenario beforehand?” I ignored her words as I thought about what to do for the rest of the day. I’d left my bag in the classroom, so I had to go back. “There’s no use in acting in advance. I’ll start from this stage.” Specifically telling my classmates beforehand that I was going to get a perfect score in math in the special exam would have been a questionable thing to do. “This is going to be hard for you. Prepare yourself to be bombarded with questions.” “I know.” If you already had some idea of what was going to happen, couldn’t you just let me go now? “Can we stop here? If I’m walking with a teacher alone from now on, it’ll attract a lot of unnecessary attention.” I know, I know. Chabashira muttered as she headed towards the office. She looked like she was trying her best to suppress her emotions, but I could easily tell that she was overflowing with joy. Compared to the rest of the homeroom teachers, she seemed to be the one who maintained the most distance from her students, but in reality, she might actually be the closest. It was precisely because of the regrets she has from the time she was a student that her hard-to-suppress feelings came out. In front of the average student, her poker face would be sufficient… but to me, it was just comical. Being easy to manipulate was an advantage, but now it was just getting in the way. There was no point in wasting my energy on Chabashira, so I cast her into the back of my mind for the time being. After that, I tried to call Horikita, and although it connected, she didn’t pick up. I then tried sending her a simple text, but she didn’t read it. “Can’t be helped, huh.” Right now, Horikita seemed like the most helpful person to resolve the situation, due to the past year, her involvement in the mathematics duel and the matters relating to the student council. Explaining the situation a bit would allow for a bit more flexibility. If possible, I would have liked to have prepared a bit first, but it looks like we’ll have to do it off the cuff. I could already see my classroom. I wonder what it was like in the classroom just after my perfect score in math came out. It would be ideal if almost all the students went back to their dormitories like normal. As soon as I got back to the classroom, I could see that the scene in front of me differed from what I had been hoping for. It had been just about thirty minutes since I’d been summoned by Tsukishiro. Normally, a large majority of the students would have left the school already. However, even though the only students in the classroom were the ones who didn’t have club activities, there were still quite a few that remained. Their objective went without saying. It had to be me. For those who experienced the atmosphere of the scene and the way they were looking at me, it was clear as day. Horikita, who hadn’t answered my call before, was also here. Looks like Horikita had assessed the situation better than I would have expected. I didn’t have time to express my gratitude, because as soon as I stepped in, a horde of students descended on me. The one leading the charge was a member of the Ayanokouji group, Keisei. In stark contrast to the overjoyed Chabashira, his expression was somewhat resentful. “I’m sorry I couldn’t talk to you when you called out earlier.” Keisei wanted to talk to me right after school, but Horikita’s appearance cut him off, so I first apologized for that. “That’s fine. I take it you have time now? I have a few questions I want to ask.” Haruka and Airi, who were also from the Ayanokouji group, gathered around him. Akito wasn’t there, probably due to the club activities I had mentioned before. And a large portion of the other spectators also pricked up their ears and watched the situation. “You… what’s with the 100 points in math? I checked the scores of all the other 2nd years with the OAA, and even Ichinose and Sakayanagi didn’t get perfect scores. You’re the only one in the entire year.” Normally, just getting a good score in an exam wouldn’t create this kind of atmosphere. But this exam was an entirely different beast. In particular, the more academic ability a student had, the more they could grasp the abnormality of getting a perfect score in this exam. It seemed like even those who were too academically weak to understand it themselves had also understood that abnormality after the students around them told them about it. “About that-“ My eyes wandered over to Horikita, whose seat was in the front row, to ask for help. “Well, let me explain this.” Normally by this time, Horikita would have returned to the dorm, but she must have seen the situation with the remaining students in the classroom and decided to stay. An accurate judgement. Because of the fact that her attention was on me this whole time, I did not need to confirm with her that she had stayed back to try and help me smooth things over. To help collect the dispersed attention, she stood up and walked up to my side. “I’m… asking Kiyotaka.” Keisei expressed his intense disgust at Horikita, who had stepped in as an unnecessary outsider. “Yes. But, Yukimura-kun, I am the one who has the answers you are looking for.” “… What do you mean?” Because she had used a deliberately mystifying expression, Horikita managed to gather the attention of Keisei and all the other students with a single sentence. “Yukimura-kun and I- no, the entire 2nd year couldn’t get this perfect score, so how was Ayanokouji-kun able to achieve that? Don’t you all think that’s inconceivable?” Horikita directed the question to Keisei, but everyone on the scene was definitely thinking it too. “That’s right… To be honest, my head is a mess. I said this before, right? The questions at the end of the paper were impossible to solve. But Kiyotaka did them all like nobody’s business, and I just can’t understand it.” In fact, when the exam concluded, I remember that part of the class were extremely shocked with the content of the exam. Starting with Keisei and Yosuke, the students who had the best grades were discussing the extremely difficult questions. The topic had even spread over to the Ayanokouji group, and I remember that instead of giving a clear answer as to whether I’d solved it or not, I vaguely dodged the question. “Kiyotaka should know very well that nobody in the class could solve those problems. Yet we didn’t even see him brag about how he solved them. Isn’t that weird? It even makes it seem like he has something he can’t reveal… maybe he did something bad, and knew the answers from the start, or something like that.” “He cheated… Of course, it’s not surprising that you want to think that.” Horikita took Keisei’s euphemistically phrased words and put them bluntly. Keisei looked away in embarrassment, but Horikita continued to pursue the topic. “In this situation, it’s hard not to be suspicious. If I were a student who knew nothing, I would definitely feel the same way, and believe that Ayanokouji-kun had been secretly cheating. However, that isn’t the case here.” Horikita took a breath, and scanned the students who were watching her. “I’m planning to explain the same thing for the people who aren’t here now. To solve the mystery of Ayanokouji-kun’s perfect score, we’ll have to go back to spring of last year.” Spring of last year. In other words, the time in which we first came to this school. “We have since switched seats, but it must still be fresh in your memory that until recently, we were seatmates, right? Not long after school started, when I was talking to Ayanokouji-kun, I happened to find out that he was extremely good at academics… Even better than me.” “Better than you in academics? Hold on. I remember Kiyotaka’s scores being about average all around since school started. I’m sorry, but I can’t see anything about it being worthy of special attention. Isn’t his grade on the OAA a C, the overall average?” Even Keisei’s sharp question which came from his clear memory of the past didn’t faze Horikita. “Of course. That’s because my strategy was already in motion before the first exam was completed.” As Horikita said that, she moved away from me, towards the lectern. This was meant to shift the focus of all the students. She must have done this to draw attention away from me. I did think that she would help me out, but the way she did it was better than I expected. “From the very start he had the knowledge to get perfect scores in math. As I knew this before anyone else, I thought up a little strategy.” “…A little strategy?” For Keisei, he wouldn’t have just one or two questions. He had to be wondering how I had obtained that knowledge. But for now, Horikita moved away from that, and continued on with the topic. On not how I had obtained that knowledge, but about why it was necessary to conceal my academic excellence. Horikita merely treated it as a focal point to attract the attention of the other people onto this point. “Last April, we of Class D were overjoyed to have received such a large sum of money. I’m ashamed to say that I was also one of them. But I had a feeling something unexpected was going to happen in turn. During that time, I asked Ayanokouji-kun, who sat next to me, if he could hold back in the exam. You could call this a reserve tactic or a trump card. Of course, I told him to keep it at a level which wouldn’t hold the class back. And that’s how his academic ability got rated C by the school.” Horikita spun the utterly unremarkable academic ability that I’d maintained until now as a part of a formulated strategy. Of course, if people carefully looked back at what happened a year ago, some would definitely find it weird. The fact that Horikita back then wasn’t someone who could get along with others, what the exact time was when Horikita noticed that I was good at academics, et cetera. There were holes everywhere. However, to most people, memories from a year ago were of a distant past. Unlike the intense events that had been engraved into the hippocampus itself, that scene did not make a deep impression, so it was even more forgettable. Only a handful of people would be able to remember those events as if it were yesterday. Most would go, “so it was like that, huh” and use their imagination to fill in the gaps in memory. Of course, it wouldn’t pass for people such as Keisei who had a strong sense of mistrust. He didn’t let go of Horikita, and went after the parts that would be difficult to explain. “…Your words are hardly convincing. If you had doubts surrounding the rules of the school, it would be beneficial for the class as a whole for him to get higher scores from the start. Since he got a perfect score on this exam, getting an A or A+ in academic ability isn’t impossible. You could say it was just one person’s grades, but even that could’ve slowly increased the number of points of our class.” Keisei expressed that he was completely unable to grasp the advantages of this reserve strategy. “That, huh. If we were only looking at the class points in front of us, that would be fine. But if he had gone all out from the start – what do you think would’ve happened to Ayanokouji by now? No, to put it more accurately, what do you think his future would have been like?’ Faced with Keisei’s mistrust, Horikita improvised and took it head on without running away. She was so eloquent it was like she planned this all out from the start. “What I think his future would have been like…?” As he didn’t understand, Keisei repeated the question, so Horikita started to elaborate. “Let us go by what Yukimura-kun said, and assume that Ayanokouji-kun had gone all out since April of last year. If that was the case, then by May, Sakayanagi-san, Ichinose-san, and Ryuuen-kun would definitely have learned of his name. If they ignored the person who was the best in math in the entire year, he would become an obstacle to them sooner or later. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone moved to try and get him expelled.” “So you’re saying, people might have targeted him?” “Correct. Anything can happen in this school. After all, there was even an exam which forcibly expelled people through an intra-class vote. And in fact, at that time, Ayanokouji-kun was at risk of dropping out due to Sakayanagi-san’s strategy. Although that was when he was completely average and was coincidentally chosen as a patsy, it’s possible that it really was aimed at him.” Horikita was saying that according to the situation, the one who got expelled might have been me instead of Yamauchi. “No, that’s wrong. If Kiyotaka had been serious from the start, even if we were to put Yamauchi and him at different ends of a balance the result would have been clear as day.” “I wonder. In order to avoid getting expelled, Yamauchi would have been more careful when making his moves, and Sakayanagi-san’s strategy would have been more complex and harder to see through. Besides, Yamauchi-kun had at least had more people close to him than Ayanokouji-kun. As the things put on both ends of the scales would be different, opinions would follow that change.” If it continued on like this, it would end up as nothing more than arguing for the sake of argument, so Keisei was unable to investigate this point in depth. Even if he brought up any of the other exams, the logic would be the same. “…So why are you revealing this now? If you carelessly reveal his strength, the results will be the same. He’s been drawing attention now that you suddenly showed his strength to everyone, and soon he could also become a target.” Keisei thought that there was no difference in the risks of going all out from the start and going all out now. But it seemed like Horikita was expecting him to say that, and showed no signs of panicking. “No, there’s a huge difference between showing his strength a year ago and revealing his strength now. In the past year, the unity of our Class D had grown by leaps and bounds, and each of us has grown in individual strength. We’ve become able to make the right decisions.” I’m sure that if he looked back at himself a year ago, Keisei would have seen it the same way. “It isn’t just Ayanokouji-kun. Let’s say, yes… He isn’t here, but it might be easier to understand with the example of Sudo-kun. This time last year, he was hard to look at, and undoubtedly the biggest burden to our class. But what about now? Although there’s still remnants of his wild nature left over, he has improved dramatically. In terms of academic ability, he’s shown outstanding growth. And with his already excellent physical abilities combined, his OAA evaluation as of May is even higher than yours, Yukimura-kun.” Keisei was still above him in April, but with this exam, Sudo turned the tables on him. She struck Keisei with the irrefutable fact of the OAA overall evaluation score. “When we first entered this school, did either of us have the strength or willingness to protect Sudo-kun?” For those students who had discussed whether they should abandon Sudo, who didn’t even bother thinking of ways to save him, would they have been able to seriously try and protect a fellow classmate? That’s what Horikita meant. However, if Sudo was in trouble now, Keisei would definitely rack his brains along with the others to think of a strategy to protect him. “But now, if someone has their attention on Ayanokouji-kun, we could now work together to protect him. That is how I have judged it. And that’s why I’ve made Ayanokouji-kun’s true strength public, and started to raise the overall strength of our class.” There were already some students that had accepted what she had said. However, more than half of the students still harboured doubts. Then again, Horikita didn’t have the material to be able to convince everyone. Since the entire story was varnished with lies, it was inevitable that it would come off at points. Of course, it wasn’t as if it was impossible to strike a truce for now. However, things would be different if we had much stronger backup. After confirming that most of the attention was on Horikita, I looked at Yousuke. The boy who enjoyed the absolute trust of the class. Although Yousuke was facing Horikita, he would occasionally pretend to look around while actually observing me. Then, when he judged that it wouldn’t be noticed, he met my eyes. Just like with the other students, there were a lot of things I didn’t tell Yousuke. If it had been any other student, they would probably be just as suspicious or doubtful of me as Keisei and the others were, and would join them in throwing harsh questions at me; but I had nothing to worry about only from Yousuke. He would give the highest priority to the thing that would be the best for the class as a whole. In the current situation, even without being told he clearly understood what his role was. “I understand, if only a little bit, this reserve strategy of yours, Horikita. On that basis, I have another question. Is Ayanokouji outstanding at math alone?” “I can’t comment on that at this stage.” Horikita calmly responded to Keisei’s question. “The student known as Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, has he shown the full extent of his abilities, or is he still holding back? No matter what the “real truth” is, we can hide it to ensure Ayanokouji continues to remain a thorn on their side for the other classes.” “That?” “I see. I clearly understand what Horikita-san is trying to say.” Just as Keisei was about to press on Horikita, he was hit by covering fire from Yousuke, who had been observing from the start. And then Yousuke slowly made his way over to Horikita’s side. “I didn’t get it at first, but I’ve been listening to the discussion, and now I understand. It’s true that an enemy whose abilities are unknown can be dangerous. They will then want to know more and try to gather information. But if even our own classmates don’t know the truth, it’ll be pointless for them to keep digging.” By lucidly conveying it to everyone around them, he supported Horikita and filled in the gaps in her arguments. Judging that Yousuke was her ally, Horikita joined in step with him and agreed. “Yeah. He’s bound to attract attention in the future anyway, so let’s just make full use of him. Letting our opponents see him as an unknown factor is the better course of action. There might even be students outside listening in on us right now. This is that kind of school.” Everyone glanced towards the hallway. Was the student known as Ayanokouji only good at math, or did his excellence extend to the other subjects? We will mislead the other classes and make them wonder about how much of a threat I should be considered. When mixed with Yousuke’s, Horikita’s words immediately became heavier. “Horikita-san really is good, isn’t she? I’m a little moved.” Right then, Kei struck with a casual statement. “Don’t you think so as well, Shinohara-san?” Then she sought agreement from her own friend, Shinohara. I think she was trying to split the others’ attention by drawing it away from my abilities and elevating Horikita as well. Even though I hadn’t given Kei a signal or instructions like I did with Yosuke, she instantly understood what she had to do and did it. “That’s right! I feel like I’ve been seeing Horikita-san and Ayanokouji-kun talking secretly for a long time now, but it turns out that they’re really just doing it for the class!” When she first came to school, Horikita didn’t talk to anyone but me. This fact, in the end, turned out to be useful material. And now, it seems like it gave us a sense of credibility. The brilliant way in which Yosuke and Kei covered for us surreptitiously had an outstanding effect. The group mentality of “If Yosuke and the others think it’s true, then it must be true” was also working powerfully. “A strategy of hiding our strength…. That’s true, the other classes must also be quite shocked now.” Even Keisei, who had been suspicious up to now was no exception “Although I didn’t completely understand the situation of the school, I thought keeping an insurance plan would be good. I don’t know if this is fortunate or unfortunate, but Ayanokouji-kun is bad at communicating, and it seems like he didn’t like to stand out. For those reasons as well, I also wanted him to hide it.” Horikita expressed that the strategy was possible because both of our plans happened to line up. She then looked away from Keisei, and addressed the class. “That’s the secret of how Ayanokouji-kun got a full score in math. Sorry for surprising you all.” Horikita had but one chance at it, and she survived beautifully and prevailed. But if we let them hang around here for too long, questions might start sprouting up again. “I think it would be better if we left it at that for now. As Horikita-san said, the walls have ears.” Yousuke closed the topic cleanly, and explained to the others why it would be bad to keep talking like this. The smarter the student was, the more doubts they would have, but at the same time, as the smarter they were, they more likely they would realise that this wasn’t a conversation we ought to have here. The proof of this was that even the never ending verbal onslaught of Keisei stopped. In a way, you could say that this meeting diverted their doubts to some extent. And thanks to Horikita’s achievements which surpassed my imagination, it would be easier for me to act in the future. Even if I showed my strength outside of mathematics, it could be explained by the fact that I had been concealing it. The preparation that she did here was crucial. I’m honestly grateful to her for dealing with this without even preparing with me in advance.