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Price of Victory

After the unanimity special exam, the weekend ended and the following week opened. September 20.

I woke up half past six in the morning, turned on the television and started preparing breakfast.

A new monday had come. My daily life from now on would probably be dramatically different from my life until last week.

I didn’t even need to rigorously reason out why that was.

Roughly divided, there were two main factors casting a shadow on me. Kushida’s display after she got cornered had caused cracks to form in the relationships between my classmates. By overturning the premise that we would have the betrayer, or Kushida expelled, trust in Horikita and people associated with her like myself is wavering.

To expel or not to expel? I had everyone agree to expel someone by promising that only the betrayer would get expelled. Then using the groundwork I had laid, I cornered Kushida, had her confess that she was the betrayer and executed my plan to see her expelled.

Kushida got protection from students with whom she had curried favor and students who wanted to believe in her, but in the end, after her true nature was laid bare and she started exposing others’ secrets, trust in her fell.

I moved one more piece towards her expulsion, but something unexpected happened.

It was Horikita Suzune’s declaration as despite knowing everything, she appealed that Kushida was necessary for the class.

The piece de resistance: she even declared that she would never support Kushida’s expulsion.

In the first place I was the one who promised that only the traitor would be expelled. Horikita never approved of it, but I was still surprised that she would protect Kushida.

With the little time we had left, we could only either let Kushida stay and accept the penalty or expel someone aside from her.

Anyway, as mentioned before, trust largely waned in Horikita, who changed the plan, and me, who set forth someone else to expel.

Those who had their little crushes exposed, and those who were simply hurt.

Those who have started jumping at shadows after hearing gossip from their friends.

Those who lost friends, and those who resented their friends.

There was no time to enumerate all the factors behind the gravity of our class situation.

But the effects of her rampage are nothing to panic about. They were expected from the beginning.

Kushida had amassed trust. This was an unavoidable cost in bringing her down.

This would be easy if it could be taken as a simple demerit.

But I can’t take it as such. I can’t experience this like that. It would be a waste of an opportunity.

We were the only ones who expelled someone from the four classes. Our classmates are deeply hurt. In exchange, we gained class points. No. It’s important to change our perspective regarding the situation.

Don’t write it off as hurt. Look at the future.

We must see that this is an opportunity to strengthen our bonds precisely because they’re hurt.

If we do that, Horikita’s class will be able to get even stronger.

It’s unclear how many students realize this. Anyway, we mustn’t flee from the problem but confront it head-on.

The special examinations for Horikita’s class continue.

The weight of 100 class points, how precious they are. This will be the perfect time to learn that as she looks back on her actions.

Of course, if she is left alone then she might spiral down. Caution is needed.

If this is neglected then the wounds might just open up.

I finished my breakfast and checked my phone with my toothbrush in my other hand.

It seemed that I hadn’t gotten any new messages since I last checked at midnight.

“But still-“

I hadn’t expected this result, and I was still surprised since I hadn’t expected that special exam. Logic, consistency and objectivity. No matter which perspective one took, there was no other choice but to expel Kushida who had insisted on agreeing to expel and plunged the class into chaos.

Her expulsion would have minimized the damage to the class. I judged that they would have been able to shift their emotions towards the sports festival right away.

Therefore in my opinion, Horikita’s choice to 『not expel Kushida』 was not a choice, illogical and a mistake.

Even as I felt that it was an obvious mistake, I helped Horikita and steered the rudder towards Airi’s expulsion. In other words I yielded myself to this obvious failure.

At the very least I would definitely not have done that before I came to this school.

Now why did I accept that?

The student Suzune’s thoughts and feelings towards Kushida were, in some way, stronger than those of others.

Although she wasn’t a close friend to her, you could say that Kushida was indubitably special to Horikita. It was natural for her to want to keep someone who was special to her, but if she let that affect her judgment fundamentally then incongruity is left.

Not to mention that doing this as she consolidates her position as a leader can be seen as a misuse of power.

It’s easy to understand if you take the example of Haruka, Airi’s close friend.

For Haruka, Kushida was evil for insisting on having someone expelled, and she should have been removed. Horikita and I even advanced under the premise that we would remove her.

That was exactly why she became a vote to have someone expelled.

Despite that, Horikita gave Kushida favorable treatment and let her close friend be expelled.

Even if you tell her to give it her all starting next week, she would never be able to agree.

But what must not be forgotten is that Horikita’s choice wasn’t an easy one to make.

Pressed by the difficult choices of that special exam, Horikita clearly brought out her own answer.

Then she stood in the line of fire, bearing the risk on her back, and declared that Kushida would stay.

This in itself is incomprehensible for your run-of-the-mill student. Resolved for others to call her unjust behind her back, Horikita believed that having Kushida stay would be for 『the good of the class.』

“Of course, it’s difficult to say if that was the right choice at this stage.”

Previously, as the unanimity special exam started, the value that Kushida brought to the class was obviously higher than Airi’s. Even after she was exposed some of that value remained, but that large difference shrunk. Adding to that, Kushida herself didn’t say that she would reform, and she’s expected to act uncooperatively with the class from here on out.

In other words, with this situation you could say that there is no proof that Kushida staying will be to the class’ benefit.

Horikita’s plan was wrong in that regard.

That could not be changed. Still, I had one reason for this. This is a blunt way to say it, but it’s because I want to see Horikita’s growth and where she’s headed.

WHat was waiting in the end if the person, Ayanokouji Kiyotaka’s choice was not chosen?

I wanted to see how the class chemistry would react if Kushida remained.

Will we barely overtake A-Class, proving the legitimacy of this choice?

Will the class collapse, showing the error of this choice?

Or will something unexpected change aside from that?

I think that this will likely lead to more bad things at least…

When I opened the OAA on my phone and took a glance at the name registry, Sakura Airi’s name had already been erased. It was as if she had never existed.

I put my phone in my uniform’s right pocket, picked up my bag and headed to my front door.

Aside from ourselves, I was also curious about the moves other classes had made.

Ryuuen and Sakayanagi were set to fight each other in the year-end exam. It wouldn’t have been strange for Ryuuen to steal their class points so they could be named Class A. But what about Sakayanagi? There was no merit in nominating Ryuuen’s class. Did she intend to join hands with Ichinose and crush Ryuuen for good?

Was the 『promise』 between Sakayanagi and Ryuuen involved?

I should pay attention to them, too.

In terms of class points, Horikita’s class got the best result, but…

I left my room at the usual time and headed outside the dormitories.

After going down the elevator, I saw Horikita sitting on a sofa in the lobby, waiting for someone. I had gotten used to seeing that. Though she glanced at me, she didn’t make to stand up at all.

But maybe because nobody was around, after a little while she stood up and approached me.

“Are you waiting for Kushida?”

I spoke before she started. She replied even though she lost her words for a second.

“It’s as you can see. Yes. I went to her room several times over the weekend but…”

It looked like she tried to give emotional care, but she wasn’t even able to contact her.

It’s probably because she was humiliated in a way she had never been before. Perhaps she had been waiting for Kushida to come down since early morning.

What struck my curiosity more than that was how obvious Horikita’s eye bags were.

“Looks like you’ve been very worried about Kushida.”

“Eh? Ah, no. I have been missing sleep, but that’s for another reason. She hasn’t left her room even once. No matter how many times I visited she would always pretend to be out. Truly confined. Still, I’ve been on the lookout to meet her…”

“Confinement… you’ve been waiting by her front door?”

Even if it was just for the weekend, waiting for her from morning to evening is a big deal.

“I repeatedly rang her doorbell and waited. It was still completely quiet, without a single sound.”

It wouldn’t be strange for Kushida to isolate herself in her room with two or three days worth of food, doing nothing but sleeping.

“But shouldn’t you pay more attention to your surroundings? There’s nothing to gain from other classes learning that Kushida-san is shutting herself in.”

She was too concerned to wait for her in the hallway. This was precisely what was called a waste of a break.

An ordinary student would have lost to Horikita’s passion. As expected of Kushida.

Without showing a hint of sympathy, she would weather the storm.

“After what happened the other day I can’t have her acting like she has up to now.”

“Indeed, you have to follow up after choosing to have Kushida stay.”

Horikita showed some determination and nodded, but it wasn’t as if she had no reservations at all.

“Ayanokouji-kun… how was your weekend?”

Of course, she meant the Ayanokouji group. Since Airi was pointed to and expelled, from Horikita’s perspective a problem must be about to erupt.

“I’ve been keeping some contact with Keisei and Akito but that’s it.”

And we didn’t really talk about anything related to Airi.

Rather than not touching on it, perhaps it would be more correct to say that we didn’t know how to touch on it correctly. And there was no evidence that Haruka even saw our messages. It’s not as if she was knowledgeable about how to use the app. But if she didn’t even leave the room then I wouldn’t be surprised if she blocked us instead.

“You haven’t spoken with Hasebe-san yet.”

“Well, no. As I’d expect, Haruka doesn’t want to contact us.”

Horikita showed a guilty face and lowered her head.

She can’t force her to open up through a confrontation.

Rather than trying to repair our relationships, it would be more realistic to leave myself out and let the three of them maintain their relationships with each other.

In short, it would be best to watch over them.

Even if it happens while Haruka holds a grudge against me, it will happen sooner or later.

And if it does, that would be best for the class. If it doesn’t then it’ll have to be addressed. If she continues to resent me, Horikita and the rest, the possibility for Haruka to harm the class because of her own situation won’t be zero.

Her qualifications aren’t necessary for the class, but losing one moderately useful piece would lower the class’ value and of course be a demerit.

Along with her, Akito and Keisei’s potential could decline.

“Even if we talk to her now we wouldn’t be able to get our message across. There’s nothing to do but wait.”

For now, the only thing for certain is that this is nothing to argue about at a place like this.

After checking our state of affairs, Horikita swallowed a breath quietly.

“Because I forced Kushida-san to stay, your group connections have changed.”

I gave Airi the final verdict directly, but that role was brought on by her.

At the very least, that part was our responsibility.

“There’s no need to apologize twice for the same thing. If you think that was correct then that’s enough.”

“But you covered for me. No, that’s not all…”

As if she was organizing her mind, she carefully continued speaking.

“In that situation, even if I had tried to guide Sakura-san to expel herself, Hasebe-san surely wouldn’t have folded until the end. We wouldn’t have been able to avoid reaching the time limit and the penalty.”

It seemed that she was able to cool down on the weekend and look at the situation closely.

How large the burden of declaring an expulsion was, and the difficulty of its execution.

The fight we had within the time limit was tougher than I thought it’d be.

Even with the relief of avoiding the worst case scenario, unease could still be seen within the color of her eyes.

She must be wishing hard that she had had salvation, to have reached an outcome where no one had to be expelled within the time limit.

A world where we still had 39 people. If, even after losing class points, she could have protected her comrades, deepened our bonds and aimed for Class A once again. Horikita herself understands that those are escapist thoughts.

That’s why she’s suppressing them at the bottom of her heart, where they’re about to boil up.

“In that test, it was as if you had seen everything from the start.”

“It’s not like I predicted the future. I just dealt with it under every assumption.”

“That’s amazing. Even if I can imagine something, I can’t see through everything perfectly. How the questions would go, and what kinds of words would lead the other party to move how I want them to. Your calculations were right.”

Little by little she is starting to notice the world I see and think in.

“It’s fine to reflect and analyze, but problems in our class haven’t been settled yet, have they?”

“Y-yes. That’s right…”

“Don’t think that the environment will be the same as it was a few days ago.”

“Of course, I’ve resolved myself. Hasebe-san definitely hates me, Yukimura-kun and Miyake-kun probably do as well. And there are students who don’t agree with how I forced Kushida-san to stay.”

Resolve, she said, but it’s still hard to say if she understands the true meaning.

How long will it stay quiet with the changes brought on by her decision?

I wouldn’t mind if it was a simple advantage, but this time it’s just about the exact opposite. A disadvantage.

She’s probably not going to be seen as a commendable person who gave us class points.

“Go to school already.”

Horikita is currently dedicating all she has to dealing with Kushida, so talking with her for too long here would be meaningless.

“It wouldn’t do us good to be conspicuous.”

Students in Horikita’s class aren’t the only ones who live in this dorm.

People from Sakayanagi and Ryuuen’s classes who should be called enemies also live here.

I don’t think we can put a lid on Kushida’s true nature, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a need to show any openings.

Our class certainly gained many points.

Whether we will be able to face the price for that skillfully will depend on the students from now on.

But, before that-.

What’s to be done about all the problems from her decision that are already in sight?


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