Classroom of the Elite Y2V6 Chapter 3 Part 1
TL: BladeEntity, Swedcxzaq
ED & TLC: d3nj4l
When I returned from Keyaki Mall after shopping, I saw Ibuki-san standing by the elevator, glaring at the entrance. Ignoring her, I pushed the elevator button, causing her to explode with anger.
“Don’t ignore me!”
She approached me, pressing me for an answer with such vigor that she almost spit at my face. I steeled myself for a long-drawn battle of attrition, but honestly, what was this even about? From how intense she was, I’m sure she’d follow me even if I boarded the elevator now. Forced to stop, I had to watch the invitingly open elevator close and depart.
“Ignore you? Do you have something you need from me?”
“This! This message, what does it mean? Answer me!”
She glared at me and thrust her phone screen into my face. Although the bright light was streaming into my eyes, all I could see was a white glow.
“Are you an idiot? It’s too close, I can’t see anything. Move back a little?”
She only moved it back a teensy bit, but I could still quickly read what was written with just a glance.
“What a well written message, I’m impressed. Clearly, a very intelligent person must have written it.”
“Don’t toot your own horn! More importantly, what part of this screams intelligence?”
“Why, if you read it out loud, you might get it.”
“HUH? ‘If you get expelled because of something that has nothing to do with me, naturally, it will count as a loss against me. You wouldn’t be such an idiot, right?’… Just how is this intelligent? No, forget it, just tell me what it means!”
“You just read it, but you still haven’t understood it?”
“Not at all. I thought about it all week, and I still don’t. What, is that a problem?’
She hmphed loudly and crossed her arms. It was a very straightforward piece of advice, and for her to not take it as such, that was unexpected… Well, I would like to believe that it at least had an effect on her subconscious.
“Well, even if I tell you now, there’s no point. And it seems like it wasn’t a problem after all.”
“Haa? What does that mean? Explain it, so I can understand.”
This girl is really slow on the uptake. Could it really be that her athletic and fighting skills are all she has…
“I was giving you a secret strategy to make sure you wouldn’t get expelled. It doesn’t seem like your classmates like you, and if there was a motion that involved expulsion, it could’ve meant trouble for you. But with this, I could spur you on and make sure you stayed here even if you hated it, right?”
“Don’t tell me… You were worried about me?”
She was surprised… No, the grimace on her face showed that she was disgusted from the bottom of her heart.
“Don’t put words in my mouth. There are still things I need your help with. Being short on manpower could be a problem, and anyway, if you were expelled in the previous exam, Ryuuen’s class would have gained 100 points with no downsides by removing you. If you had to be expelled, it would be better for me if you left during an exam which has a penalty.”
Even after the explanation, it didn’t look like she understood even the slightest bit of it.
“Anyway, that’s enough. Let’s go home.”
She was still silently furious, but she let me pass. She kept eyeing me from the side as I once again called the elevator. When I entered the elevator this time, I realized Ibuki-san wasn’t following me in.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“I don’t feel like getting into an elevator with you.”
“What a child. We’ve done this many times before, even as a coincidence.”
“I don’t want to right now.”
“I see. Do as you please.”
I pressed the button to close the elevator and headed towards the floor Kushida-san lived on. From here on out, I will have to persevere until she opens her door. As the elevator climbed, I wondered whether I could really get a breakthrough today. If I didn’t try different tactics, I don’t think anything would change. That being the case, what I intended to do would just be a waste of time.
The elevator reached the destination floor and opened. However, I remained stuck in place, and I didn’t take a single step to get out. What should I do, what should I do to be able to have a face to face conversation with Kushida-san… I was just wasting time, and eventually the elevator doors closed. Before I could press the button to open them again, the elevator moved, heading downstairs.
“Really, it’s all useless.”
With my mind wandering like this, even if I managed to get face to face I can’t expect to be able to convince her to return. I felt sorry for wasting the kind words Chabashira-sensei had said to me earlier.
The elevator had returned back to the first floor. The door opened, and Ibuki-san stepped into the elevator. She was looking down at her phone, so she hadn’t noticed me. Finally realizing that she wasn’t alone, she looked up, saw me and exclaimed.
“Wh, why are you here!?”
Honestly, it wasn’t weird for her to be surprised by this.
“Aren’t you getting on?”
“I said so, didn’t I!? You trying to piss me off?”
I shook my head, and then reached for the close button. At that moment, my mind got stuck on Ibuki-san as I saw her avoiding my gaze. At the last moment, I switched to pressing the open button and stared at her intensely. She looked at me, suspicious about the elevator door not closing even after so long.
Maybe the key to the breakthrough lay in an entirely unexpected place. Wasn’t this just the right time to use Chabashira sensei’s advice?
“What is it!’
“… If it’s going to be like this, I think I can use your help.”
It would be quite the gamble, but she could be exactly what I needed to break this impasse. An unexpected ambush might be the way to make an invisible breakthrough. While I thought it was a harebrained idea, right now I had no choice but to do whatever it took to try it.
“How many times do I need to tell you that I’m not getting on?”
“Enough already. Get on.”
“… What is with you?”
I ensured that Ibuki-san got on despite her irritation, and then I pressed the close button.
“There is something I need your advice on.”
“HAAAHH? For you? No, no way I’m taking on something like that.”
“But you got on the elevator.”
“You dragged me on!”
“You’re already on, so why not advise me on it too?”
“Uh, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“It won’t hurt you or anything. Anyway, it’s about…”
“Don’t keep going on your own! Just having to give you advice hurts me though?”
While we were going back and forth like that, we reached Kushida-san’s floor. I got off first and turned around towards Ibuki-san, who was still on the elevator.
“Get off. You never know who’s listening here. Just in case.”
“Don’t care. I’m going back. I don’t even understand what’s going on.”
Ibuki pressed the close button to go home, but the elevator didn’t close.
“Look, even the elevator wants you to get off.”
“That’s because you’re keeping it from closing by pressing the button outside!”
“By the way, do you have anything you like? Like anything you think is important?”
“… What does that have to do with this?”
“Just tell me.”
“No, umm, what was it? I can’t really think of anything, strawberries, something like that?
“Wow, there’s an unexpectedly cute side to you… Let’s move on and forget about this conversation.”
“YOU’RE the one one asked! More importantly, enough already, let go of the button.”
As she was getting more and more irritated, I decided to get to the topic. I’d realized that it would be better for her, too, if I quickly let her in on the situation.
“I’m about to go meet Kushida-san.”
“And? You can just go by yourself?”
She was mashing the close button but of course, that was meaningless.
“I can’t just do that. For the past week, I haven’t been able to see her, and she’s not coming to school. Even when I come to her room, she shows no signs of coming out. I want you to drag her out. Do you understand?”
“Huh? Wait, why do I have to do this?”
“You’d be helping me out.”
“Don’t care. I don’t even help my own classmates, so there’s no way I can help your class?”
When I brought this conversation up, I’d already predicted that Ibuki-san wouldn’t immediately be on board. But if there was something in it for her, it was another matter entirely.
The elevator had started emitting a warning beep since the door was open for so long.
“Fine. If that’s the case, I’ll give you a reward if you succeed.”
“Don’t need it. If you think I will work for money you are badly mistaken.”
“Yes, you are right about that. However, my reward will definitely be something that you really want.”
“… I don’t think there’s anything like that, though?”
It wasn’t easy to lure Ibuki-san, but if I used a certain something, her thinking would turn right around.
“At the sports festival, we can freely pick any 5 competitions, right? You are free to choose which competitions you want to participate in, and in which groups. This was a provision to help us clear the 5 required events, or, to put it another way, its main purpose is to allow one to avoid powerful opponents… but one the other hand, it’s also a system that also allows you to pick your opponent.”
Ibuki-san had been unwilling until now, but after that explanation her eyes lit up.
“Knowing you, in order to fight me, you’ve not reserved a spot in any competitions, and are just waiting for me, right? Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to make my decision until the last moment. Depending on the situation, it’s likely that I’d be aiming for the last open slot in the competitions. In other words, you will never get the opportunity to challenge me, the very thing you want and are waiting for.”
“… if I help you, you will let me fight you?”
“Yes. I will fight you in one competition of your choice. Of course, for the sake of my class, I won’t be holding back, so you won’t be winning any points though. If that’s fine with you, I’ll do it.”
“Ha. Isn’t that interesting. But I won’t be satisfied with just one. At the very least, three. If we have a best of three, I’ll help you.”
“Three? That’s too greedy…”
As the warning signal continued to beep, I pretended to think.
“I won’t give up otherwise.”
She’s not wrong. If we had just one competition, you wouldn’t be able to accept the result. I agree with that. That said, with two or four matches there was a chance of a draw. So, from the beginning I was expecting that we would end up on three matches, but if I had started by suggesting that she would probably ask for five matches. If you’re okay with three matches, then that was exactly where I wanted to be.
“…… Fine. As you wish, I will compete against you in three matches. Is that alright?”
“Done. You can’t back out now.”
She got off the elevator after that. I released the button and the elevator door slowly closed.
“Of course. But! You will help me until this situation is resolved.”
“Can you tell me clearly what the goal is?”
“Make Kushida-san come to school from Monday. That’s all.”
“Sounds easy enough. Wait, why is Kushida taking a break from school a big deal, anyway? Couldn’t she just be unwell? Everyone has days like those.”
Chabashira-sensei did say that Kushida-san’s secret still wasn’t widely known. But the important thing was to not recklessly leak the truth. Keeping that advice in mind, I decided to tell her everything. If Ibuki-san turned out to be the type to leak it to the people around her, that would mean I was as blind as a bat. Even if I was driving myself into a corner, right now I needed a way to break the deadlock.
I told her the details about Kushida-san. Of course, I didn’t try to strangely hide any information. Even Ibuki-san should be well aware of how Kushida-san has been so far. Even so, I explained to her Kushida’s real personality, how she thinks and even the details of how we reached this situation.
While I was talking, Ibuki-san looked uninterested, and she was listening while looking off in some other direction. Normally, someone acting this way would have made me unhappy, but seeing her do it made me feel relieved. Once I had finished explaining why she was absent from school and the current situation, Ibuki-san released an exasperated sigh.
She wasn’t particularly interested in Kushida’s true personality or anything, and so she was simply expressing that thought.
“You aren’t surprised, huh. Did you know something?”
“Nothing. But I don’t believe that anyone is that nice of a person. Not Kushida, not Hirata, not even Ichinose. I think anyone who puts on a ‘I’m a nice guy!’ image is guaranteed to have a dark side underneath.”
“That’s an interesting way of looking at it.”
It may be surprisingly accurate in some ways.
“So, do you think highly of Ryuuen-kun then? He doesn’t pretend to be good… or rather, considering what he’s like inside, he isn’t a good person.”
“I hate that more. And on that topic, I’m also beginning to dislike people who seem harmless, like Ayanokouji. Those pieces of shit piss me off!”
With all that, does there even exist a person that Ibuki-san could have a favorable opinion of?
“Well, I don’t hate dragging out someone like that. If anything, it makes me want to ask her how it felt to have her good girl front exposed as fake.”
I might have to stop her from going too far, but I also might need to learn from her how to be that kind of forceful.
“So, Kushida is holed up at home, and I just need to drag her out?”
With a fair bit of confidence she casually headed to Kushida’s room.
“Do you intend to do it alone?”
“Just shut up and watch.”
If that’s the case, let’s see what she’s got.
When Ibuki-san approached the front of Kushida-san’s door, she suddenly held onto her stomach and bent over.
“…… Ah, it hurts, it HURTS!”
Her screams of agony could be heard throughout the corridor. For a moment, I couldn’t understand what was going on, and I just stared blankly at the scene in front of me.
“M-my stomach suddenly started to hurt… I… I can’t make it to my room….!”
Eh… a stomachache? Don’t tell me, this is what you came up with? You are trying to get her to open her door so you can use her toilet? On top of how cliche this is, your acting is disastrously atrocious… To start with, Ibuki-san’s room isn’t even on this floor. And even if her floor was the same, it would definitely be faster to go back to her own room.
“To…Toilet, let me use your toilet!”
Ibuki called Kushida-san as she mashed the doorbell. She kept this on for 10 seconds, but it didn’t look like Kushida-san was going to come out at all.
This was a problem I’ve had since before this case… I wanted to hold my head in my hands because of how badly I’d messed up the choice of personnel here. After the performance continued for another ten or twenty seconds, Ibuki-san got up, put on a straight face and returned to me.
“She isn’t out, is she?
“First of all, I am very sure she is in her room”
“Really? If that performance didn’t work, that Kushida is a real piece of work”
She seemed to be serious, so I should refrain from retorting.
I ordered her to follow after me quietly and opened the box that covered the electrical meter of Kushida-san’s room.
“You can see the disk in here, right? If this disk is spinning slowly, then it’s likely that she’s not in there. However, if she is in there using her TV or computer, then it should be spinning fast.”
The disk was currently spinning rather quickly.
“With this, you get that there’s a high chance she’s in there, right?”
“That’s the kind of thing a burglar would know…”
“I looked up a lot of things while waiting for her last weekend. You are prohibited from abusing this knowledge.”
Nah, I wouldn’t do that, Ibuki’s cold eyes seemed to say.
“So, have you thought of any other methods? If not, then I might have to bench you───“
“We’ve been going about this the wrong way.”
“I’m gonna force Kushida out of her room. This will be all or nothing, but that’s fine, right?”
I wanted her to show me her basis for that claim, but after seeing her all revved up I decided to trust her one more time. I took some distance from her, and she once again made her way to the door.
“Hey, Kushida. I’ve heard all about you. The fact that you were deceiving everyone till now was revealed during the exam, was it?”
While I was wondering what she would do, she began berating Kushida. I considered stopping her for a moment, but even if I did that, it would be pointless. Even if I stopped her here, Kushida-san’s probably already heard her.
“Sure serves you right! How does it feel to lose your position as the most popular up until now? Well, if we’re ranking good people, then Ichinose’s probably above you. How’s it feel falling from second?”
Compared to her wooden acting earlier, the method she used to rile Kushida-san up was way better. The most aggravating part of it was probably that she was being told such things by Ibuki-san of all people. However, there was not a sound in response. I suppose such a crude measure wasn’t going to work…
Ibuki-san continued speaking in front of the door, her expression unchanged.
“Come on, show me your unsightly face!”
Using the toes of her right foot, she banged the door with considerable force.
“I’ve got a lot of pent up stress ‘cause of Horikita just now. I can’t help wanting to vent it.”
Ibuki-san’s true feelings didn’t involve saving Kushida-san in the slightest. She vented those feelings to Kushida-san, who was probably on the other side of the door.
“Kicking the door to someone’s room might not be so bad. I kind of understand how Ryuuen feels.”
At this point, it seemed like banging the door again and again was for her own sake. After several kicks, a sound came from inside the room. In spite of that, Ibuki went to kick, but then the room’s door was suddenly unlocked.
“───You’re annoying me, so could you stop it, Ibuki-san?”
Kushida-san appeared, dressed in casual clothes. To think that she would react to Ibuki’s violent way of doing things… What was all my effort for this whole past week? I was slightly struck.
“Hey, you came out! I guess you’re that kind of person after all.”
After learning of Kushida-san’s personality in detail, there may have been some things that Ibuki understood better.
“That misunderstanding is irritating, so could you stop?”
“Eh? Is that the case? I think I’m more likable than you with your fake personality.”
“I’ve never thought positively of you even once. Same as Horikita-san over there.”
Seeing that she added “san” to my name, she seems to have regained her composure. Since there was no point in hiding, I went in front of her room without reservation.
“If it’s fine, can we come into your room? I’m tired and fed up with all this waiting.”
“Well, even if I wanted to close the door, it would be pointless.”
Ibuki-san had stuck one foot firmly in the gap between the door, so she couldn’t close it. Kushida stared at the foot Ibuki had slid in and stomped down with all her might.
She continued grinding her foot on Ibuki’s, but Ibuki showed no sign of pulling her foot out.
“It really isn’t closing, huh.”
“Cut. It. Out!”
As she forcibly opened the door and stepped inside, Kushida-san quickly stepped back and showed us the way in with a straight face.
“Come on in. This may be the first and last time you do so, so take your time.”
It was a loaded way of saying things, but I was already prepared for that much.
It would be simple for Kushida-san to let the current state of affairs continue forever and put the class in a fix. There was no doubt that she’d invited us in because she had already made some sort of decision. This was probably my first and last chance. From a glance, I could see that she kept a tidy room. I got the impression that she was very much more of a clean freak than I was.
“Hmm? Well, well, you sure take care of the place, don’t you?”
Ibuki-san looked around the room, commenting with a mix of admiration and surprise. Seeing Ibuki-san like that, Kushida-san responded.
“Your room is probably a mess, with dirty clothes scattered around where you took them off, isn’t it?”
“Ngh… y-you haven’t even been to my room, how would you know?”
No matter how you looked at it, it was obvious that she’d hit the nail on the head…
“Sit down. I won’t be providing any snacks or drinks, but you don’t really mind, right?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
When she encouraged us to sit down, Ibuki-san and I looked at each other for a moment before taking a good distance between us as we sat. Kushida-san sat on the opposite end with the table between us, making the setup a two on one.
“Well then. You’ve been causing a racket in front of my room for a long time. What are you after?”
“You already know, don’t you? You’ve stayed here, absent from school for a whole week. It’s about that.”
Kushida continued after that half-hearted response.
“You expect me to go to school after all that happened? Not that I’m surprised, but you let this girl know about me, too, right? Just something you did out of spite, I suppose.”
“That’s not it. She’s not going to blabber about it to someone else.”
“Oh? You trust her?”
“I don’t. It’s just that she’d be hard pressed to find someone to talk to.”
Ibuki pounded her fist against the table and glared at me, but I ignored her. It was the truth after all.
“Even if that is the case, you sure aren’t thinking about how I feel. I’m hurt.”
“You have the right to say that?”
“Even if I don’t, Horikita-san, that’s no reason for you to ignore my feelings.”
She quickly threw back a sharp response.
“Let’s move on from that. I fully understand I may be lacking in some areas, but in the beginning you were the one who came at me with hostility. Isn’t that right, Kushida-san?”
To me, Kushida-san was simply a classmate. However, right from the start until now, she’d seen me as someone who had to be expelled.
“I won’t deny that. But it couldn’t be helped; I just couldn’t stand it.”
“I wonder what I should have done. Even looking back on it now, I can’t think of a clear answer.”
“I get it. I thought about the same thing many times—and then I came to a conclusion. I couldn’t stand Horikita-san being here, so shouldn’t she voluntarily drop out of school for my sake?”
“Could you stop saying ridiculous things? That’s not a conclusion, that’s just absurd.”
“It was absurd, wasn’t it? However, that absurdity was the only choice I had.”
Although she was answering my questions, it was definitely hard to call this conversation amicable. However, those must really be Kushida-san’s true feelings. She’d tried to follow the conversation at first, but Ibuki-san’s eyes gradually lost their life.
“Can’t you put all of this behind us and cooperate?”
“I knew you’d say something like that, but don’t make me laugh.”
“You just have that much ability and value.”
She replied immediately, not showing the slightest hint of modesty.
“You sure think a lot of yourself…”
Ibuki mumbled quietly, but Kushida-san continued in response, without reconsidering what she’d said.
”Really? I don’t think so, though.”
“I don’t think so either. I don’t think your abilities are all that great. Wanna throw down?
Saying that, she clenched her fists.
“You’re more of an idiot than I imagined, Ibuki-san. That’s not what ability means, you know? Why don’t you take a look at the OAA? In this school, our ability is determined by how good those grades are. I believe the gap between me and you is larger than you’d think.”
Piqued, Ibuki-san took her up on that and pulled her phone out to check the OAA. And when she saw and compared their Overall Ability scores, her face turned pale and she closed her phone without saying anything.
“I’d like you to put that great strength of yours to use for the sake of our class. If you continue being absent without permission any more than this, you will eventually lose your seat in our class.”
“It’s already lost, though. Well, you may be right. You were prepared for the class’s animosity when you opposed my expulsion, weren’t you? That’s why you are the one who’ll be in trouble if I don’t become an asset. I completely get why you’re so desperate to convince me like this.”
Kushida-san should also have been well aware that the class’s situation was in her hands.
“I’ve lost. I have no place where I belong anymore. However, the reason why I stayed quiet at the very end of the Unanimous Consent Special Exam was to hurt you, even if only a little. If I continue to stay absent even going forward, won’t the school punish the class that caused a student to stop going to school? And then the responsibility for that punishment will be yours.”
Indeed, if she continued to stay absent in this manner, then the class would keep taking damage as if we were poisoned. There was always the chance that a special exam would leave her unable to continue this strategy, but Kushida-san would still have carried out her revenge brilliantly.
“You gain nothing from this.”
“It’s a bit late for that. I already have nothing to lose, so isn’t it normal to try to drag you down with me?”
“Huh? That ain’t normal. Don’t get carried away just because your stats on the OAA are a bit good.”
“I invited you inside on a lark, Ibuki-san, and that might’ve been the right choice. You’re funny. If it was just me and Horikita-san, then the conversation would just have been boring. I certainly may have been mistaken for saying ‘normal’. What’s normal for me is definitely abnormal for others, after all.”
“So you admit that you’re abnormal?”
“I’m not satisfied unless I’m number one. I can’t allow things that are inconvenient for me.”
“You make me sick.”
“I can’t help it. I can’t change the way I think. I was born this way.”
Even if people resented her or took their anger out at her, she didn’t mind.
It was even more unsettling than usual to see her so calm, as if she’d attained enlightenment. She was being more difficult than the time she was yelling and exposing her own weakness.
“Until the school forces me to do something, I’m gonna keep skipping class.”
She proclaimed that from here on out she was ready to continue her attack till her dying breath. Kushida-san, who was—in some sense—invincible, disinterestedly explained that to us.
“What are you gonna do?”
“What am I going to do? I have no choice but to continue talking to you like this.”
“No plan, huh? A big difference from Ayanokouji-kun.”
Upon hearing Ayanokouji-kun’s name, Ibuki-san’s ears perked up.
“I thought I had the advantage, but he never lost his nerve. On the contrary, he made a plan that used it against me. I think he’s someone I shouldn’t have made an enemy out of.”
“He’s—that’s right. He might have the ability to see many possibilities of how things play out far into the future. I only realized that recently though.”
“You’re just like me then.”
After that, a bit of silence ensued.
“You’re really an idiot as well, Horikita-san. Things would have been easier if you’d just cut me off.”
“I suppose I may be an idiot. It can’t be helped if people think my intuition or confidence was baseless. However, I have no doubts in the fact that you are an outstanding student. While your actions against the people who know your past—that is, me and Ayanokouji-kun—have had a negative impact, at the very least, there’s no changing the fact that you contributed to our class for the past year and a half.”
She maintained her grades at a level where being proud of them wouldn’t be embarrassing.
“If causing trouble for the class is truly your top priority, then you may succeed at your revenge by continuing to stay absent like this. But, more importantly, is that all you want?”
“I wonder what you’re trying to get at.”
“I’m asking if that much is enough to satisfy you.”
“It’s enough to satisfy me; I don’t currently wish for any more than that. No matter how you frame your words to try convince me, it’s pointless. I’m not going to agree to anything.”
‘Convince’. When I heard that word, I felt as if something got lodged in my throat. Indeed, I wanted to make Kushida-san come to school. I wanted it to prove that my choice wasn’t wrong. The person in front of me knew that more than anything. However, that was just for my sake. It was hard to say that it was the most suitable answer for Kushida-san.
“I may have been mistaken.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had come here with the intent to ‘convince’ you. But that’s not it. In the end that was just for my sake and the class’s sake. I wasn’t taking into account how you feel.”
“What? This time do you intend to break down crying out of pity?”
“It’s just that I realized that bringing you to a school that you don’t want to go to is a mistake.”
“If that’s the case, then our conversation is over. If I pull your leg then you’ll naturally fall over. I’d be happy if you suffer through your long school life without me.”
“I’m fine with that. But you’ll end up suffering at the same time.”
“I’ll suffer? What”
“Because even though you still have a place to return to, you’re going to end up losing it.”
“You started saying some very self-centered things. I already have no place to return to.”
The more I thought about her, the more a certain feeling welled up inside me.
“I get irritated watching you.”
“Even if I get close to you, there’s no use since you’re a child. In short, you’ve only made the wrong choices at every turn. I wasn’t going to spill your secret, and I didn’t even know everything, so if you hadn’t tried to expel me it wouldn’t have come to this. And the same goes for Ayanokouji-kun.”
“I told you, didn’t I? That I couldn’t stand it.”
“That’s what makes you a child. Lashing out because you couldn’t stand it… isn’t that the same as being a child?”
The one who was struck by that word first was Ibuki-san, who was listening quietly. Without thinking, she burst out laughing. It must have got to Kushida-san’s nerves because she looked irritated.
“Bear at least that much. You’re already a high schooler, you know? You can’t even just walk over to the classroom? Don’t just lie on the ground throwing a tantrum—c’mon, get up and walk.”
“Ah, you don’t say, Horikita-san. But I’m just a poor girl who’s hurt. If I went to school now, then I’d be disliked by my classmates and things won’t be like before. Taking me to such a painful place is unfair. You’re not getting close to me.”
“I’m not in a position to say things about others, but this is the lamest you’ve ever been.”
“My past has already been found out. I can’t keep up my appearance anymore. So I’ll bother everyone. Your appearance crying in class looked like a child’s, but you really are a child. No, you’re a toddler. I feel like I’ve been dealing with a toddler.”
“Quit mocking me!”
She raised her hand, and swung her hand down towards my cheek without mercy. I calmly grabbed her arm and gripped it with force.
“Of course I’ll want to make fun of you. You trouble me and our class for your own enjoyment. Who else would make that their highest priority other than a toddler?”
“I alone should experience pain, deal with it, and cooperate as part of your class?”
“Don’t make up a convenient interpretation, okay? You have solid abilities. As such, you should use them solely for your own sake. Those around you don’t matter. If you act for your own sake and rise to Class A for your own sake, then that will without a doubt be your achievement. You can do what you want with Class A’s special privileges as you please. If you want to do the same thing, then go somewhere where no one knows your past this time.”
Glaring at me, Kushida-san stopped what she was going to say.
“We only have a year and a half left of school. It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? For the past year and a half, you only showed your classmates your good-person facade. This should be easier than that. Or is that perhaps the extent of your abilities?”
Kushida-san’s rage was transmitted to me through the trembling hand clenched in my grip. However, I followed up with one more point.
“This is the only time I will come to visit you here. The rest is for you to figure out. If you still want to make me your enemy after talking this much, then there’s already no remedy—stay a child for the rest of your life.”
“So you’re saying… while I stop here, you will keep moving forward.”
Even without telling her everything, Kushida-san should have been able to see the current situation.
“You will be expelled. I will graduate from Class A and have my dreams fulfilled. That’s a pretty big difference.”
The very prideful Kushida-san imagined the bright future of the person she hated oh-so much and closed her eyes. Looking at school life in terms of our long lifespans, it wouldn’t make up any more than a small percentage.
“Do you really… think that I have a chance to return to school at this point?”
“That depends on you. Are you going to lower that raised fist of yours, or not? Decide.”
Her arm was still filled with strength. With time, she lowered her fist bit by bit.
“I will hear you out, at least. Tell me what you’re planning, Horikita-san.”
After all the twists and turns, Kushida was finally willing to hear what I had to say. But I couldn’t just gloss over everything to make her feel good. I had to give her a plan for her survival and make her accept it.
I built and rebuilt the several hypothetical solutions that existed and arrived at the ideal one.
“After all that, do you want to pretend to be friendly and live your school life───”
“Not at all. Anyway, wouldn’t that be impossible? My classmates have seen my true nature, and nothing’s going to change that fact, right?”
“Indeed. But, to put it another way, you can still pretend to be friendly to people who haven’t seen your true nature, don’t you think?”
Kushida-san appeared thoughtful for just a bit, but then she muttered, “Maybe not?”
She continued, “Until now, only a few people knew my true self, like you or Ayanokouji-kun. That’s why I never hesitated to keep up appearances. But now, that number has gone up by an entire class, you know? And it’s not just you wise men, there’s quite a few idiots and shit people in there.”
What she said was very important. But, Ibuki-san reacted before I could say anything.
“What’d you call me!”
Ibuki-san reacted, inflamed by the “idiots and shit people” remark.
“I’m not talking about you, so why do you care?”
“If you can’t stay quiet, Ibuki-san, you can just go home?”
“Oh, sure. Then I’m leaving. I take it you’ll keep that promise?”
She was about to get up, so I told her what I needed to, just in case.
“No. If you leave now, I’ll consider it as you giving up midway and cancel our promise.”
“Huuuuh? You’re kiddi… Argh, fine, I’m gonna shut up so finish this quickly.”
“Promise? That’s interesting.”
“If she helped me get you back to school, I promised I’d fight her in the Sports Festival. That’s it.”
I wrapped up the addendum of why Ibuki-san was here at this point.
“Oh, so that’s how it is. I was wondering why it was Ibuki-san, but now it’s clear.”
“As a matter of fact, it was thanks to her that I was able to intrude on your room, so it did have some use.”
Ibuki-san looked like she had quite a few things to say, but she restrained herself. I could tell that she wanted to compete against me, even if it required a lot of patience. That spirit was impressive.
“Back to the main topic, can I take it that it would be painful for you to continue pretending after your true nature has been known?”
“Yes. If there was some sense to it, I wouldn’t mind putting in the effort, but why would I do that if I get nothing out of it?”
Until now, the hope survived that she could continue acting after Ayanokouji-kun and I had been expelled. But it was close to impossible to expel everyone in the class. Back in middle school, Kushida-san destroyed her class to end everything when she was in a similar situation. That was why her plan until now had been to do the same thing once again.
“If you are unwilling, you don’t need to continue treating your classmates as you’ve done so far.”
It wasn’t just Kushida-san—this was a surprising statement even to Ibuki-san, and so both of them reacted in the same way.
“Even though we have a gag rule in place, we can’t be entirely sure it’ll work. So, we must work from the assumption that to the other classes, Kushida-san is problematic and has a hidden personality.”
But that way Kushida-san would lose half her potential as a weapon. She was good at both sports and academics, but she wasn’t top-class in either. At best, she was just an honor student. She might win over Sakura with just her raw talent, but she lacked any other point of interest.
“Nobody trusts me anymore. I don’t think everyone will be happy with me when I’m like that. Don’t you think?”
“Of course, it won’t be as it was until now. But can you really say you’ve completely lost their trust? What do you think, Ibuki-san?”
“Answer me, Ibuki-san.”
“Weren’t you the one who told me to shut up?”
“I give you permission to speak.”
“On god… Telling me to shut up, telling me to speak—I’m not your henchman or anything, you know?”
“You don’t want to compete with me? If so, just say the word and—”
Ibuki-san replied, nearly ripping her hair off her head.
“You were overacting as the goody two shoes until now. I don’t believe in anybody being perfect, and, in fact, how you used to be is way more shady to me. If I had to trust either the old you or the new you, maybe I’d pick the new you because you’re more honest this way.”
She quickly blurted out what she was thinking. Since she hadn’t clumsily tried to dress it up, Kushida-san would probably understand it directly.
“Hahaha, that’s an interesting answer. Or should I say, you have a unique way of thought. But not everybody is a weirdo like you, Ibuki-san. In fact, normal people would hate me instead.”
“I agree, she isn’t normal.”
“But, to some degree or another, everyone has two personas. Ibuki-san has recognized your true nature as acting for yourself first and foremost. And that’s because your true nature will absolutely never change.”
Attempting to change that true nature of hers would be a complete mistake.
“And, if you don’t change your tone or how you speak to others from how it was before, it would be difficult for someone who hasn’t seen your true self for themselves to imagine it. Even if someone explained it to them in words, people have trouble understanding something they’ve not experienced for themselves.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s say, hmm. Consider Ichinose Honami-san. She is a good person, even more than you pretended to be. But if someone told you that she is a violent person who uses foul language and desires nothing more than to crush her enemies, would you quickly believe them?”
“…It could be difficult. She seems like a genuinely good person.”
“I have my doubts,” Ibuki-san interjected.
“But those doubts aren’t about Ichinose-san, and more about whether a good person can really exist, right?”
“Well… Sure, maybe it’s hard to understand something without experiencing it for yourself. I only heard about Kushida from what you said, and didn’t actually get that feeling myself.”
“Right? At the very least, Ichinose-san has spent the past year and a half being a good person. Even if someone made a shocking revelation about her to you, you wouldn’t believe it. Let’s say her entire class lined up and told you that she was that kind of person, then, naturally, you would suspect her too. But—even after that—you wouldn’t really see it deep down, would you?”
‘Ichinose-san is violent and uses foul language.’ Even if someone told us that, we wouldn’t truly believe it. We might be on our guard, but until we see that side of her we wouldn’t believe it.
“That thing about not understanding until you experience it, you might be right on that. Even in martial arts, someone could explain a move to you and warn you that it’s dangerous, but you won’t really feel it. But when it hits you for real, then you truly know how powerful it is.”
“Using martial arts as an example, how like you, Ibuki-san.”
“But as long as they still have doubts, I won’t be able to get their full trust.”
“That’s where you show your skills. You have no choice but to act well from now on. At the very least, it is undeniable that your communication skills and ability to maintain the right distance are above most people’s.”
Whether she would be able to get them to trust her from now on was unknown at this point.
“That might be true for the other classes, but what about our classmates? Some people like Shinohara-san, Wang-san and especially Hasebe-san must resent me. Will they work with me?”
“It might be impossible to get everyone on board. But if you just respond with your abilities, you can produce results.”
Just by doing better than average, Kushida-san would render those who couldn’t achieve any more than her unable to complain.
“If their lack of trust in you becomes important, I will help.”
“… Do you think I’ll just take your word for it? You could just betray me.”
“You can have your doubts. I’ll suffer your complaints if you get betrayed.”
Given that she’d already been done and betrayed once, she didn’t have anything to fear in the future. It was entirely up to her whether she chose to rise to the occasion or not. There was a pause—the longest of the day—and Kushida-san shut her eyes. Then she muttered something I couldn’t make out. Finally, having reached a conclusion, she opened her eyes.
“I get it. I, solely for my own sake, will fight for this class and contribute to it for the next year and half. I won’t fight for you, nor our classmates. That should be fine?”
“I have no complaints. I’m fine so long as your results are up to the mark.”
Kushida-san stood up, and this time it wasn’t her fist, but her left hand that she thrust forward.
“It was the other way around that time, wasn’t it?”
I’d held out my hand, but she hadn’t responded.
“You do know that a left-handed handshake signifies animosity?”
“… Does it? Hm, which hand did I proffer last time?”
She responded instantly, as if she remembered it like it was yesterday. That must mean she was well aware of the meaning when she sought a left-handed handshake. I rose, too, and meeting her left hand with my own, shook it.
“It’s almost like we’re commemorating our animosity.”
“Don’t you think that suits us better?”
“Perhaps it does.”
She squeezed my hand tightly, and I squeezed hers in turn.
“That reminds me. There’s something I wanted to do to you, Horikita-san. Is that alright?”
“A request? What is it?”
With a broad grin, she slowly stretched both her hands towards me. Those hands reached above my body and towards my face. And while I was expecting her to gently caress my cheeks… a sharp pain shot through my left and right cheek.
It took me a second to realize that it was the pain from her pulling my cheeks to her heart’s content.
“Whach are you…!?”
“I really hate you, Horikita-san.” She pulled even harder as she said that. “I’ve been so annoyed ever since we met today, and even though we’re now allies you’re still annoying. The thought that this’ll go on forever from Monday fills me with such an insane amount of stress, so you gotta give me an outlet like this, at least a little!”
She squeezed my cheeks with even more power. It didn’t seem like she was going to ease up soon.
“I-isn’t this enuf?”
“No, no! I’m not even close to satisfied!”
I was going to be gracious and let her have at least a little fun, but she got carried away and wasn’t letting go. If she wasn’t going to stop, I had my own plans. Exactly as she had done, I raised both my hands and pulled her cheeks.
“I think itsh about chime you stopped?”
I’d acted on the assumption that she’d stop after getting a taste of her own medicine, but…
“Ofofo, can ju keep jour jokes to that silly faish?”
I didn’t relent, and with enough power to tear her cheeks out, I squeezed even tighter with my fingertips. Despite that, Kushida-san didn’t yield an inch, and pulled even harder, with a power beyond what should’ve been possible for her.
So it had become a battle of who could be more stubborn.
“… You guys gonna keep this up until you’ve ripped each other apart? You look fucking stupid so I’m going home.”
Ibuki-san, the only calm person in the room, said as she turned to the entranceway and left.
This battle of stubborness continued for two or three more minutes, and by that time even the pain had begun to numb. We realized that we’d shown each other a really silly sight, and so we both released the other. When I saw that Kushida-san’s cheeks had become beet red, I became aware that I probably looked the same.
“… Come to school on Monday.”
“You’re persistent. Just go home already?”
She pushed my back, almost driving me out of her room, and so I came out into the hallway.
I stroked my painful cheeks and turned towards the elevator, where I saw Ibuki-san entering it.
“Wait, were you waiting for me?”
I stepped forward as I said that, but Ibuki-san stuck her tongue out and pressed the button to close the elevator.
“… She sure has the talent to annoy people…”
But I couldn’t deny that it was thanks to her that I was able to meet Kushida-san. In the Sports Festival, I must settle scores with her as she’d wanted.