“WHEW.” Horikita sighed and quickly glanced up at the classroom ceiling.
“Looks like you’re all finished,” I said.
“I’ve never considered studying particularly stressful, but I studied harder for this exam than ever before in my life,” she replied.
“What score would you say you got for the math portion?”
“A hundred. Or, at least, that’s what I’d like to say. Since there was one part where the question seemed ambiguous, I can probably only say I got ninety-eight points for certain. A few reasonably difficult questions were mixed in.” She sounded extremely confident.
“It’s possible that you might’ve written something incorrectly or missed an answer, though. Is there a chance that your score is any lower than ninety-eight?” I asked.
“None. I’m certain that I overcame this test. I think I managed to get near-perfect scores in the other three areas as well.”
“Well, that’s amazing.”
“I made this bet with Kushida-san assuming that she’d score a hundred points. I was incredibly thorough in my preparations so I wouldn’t suffer even a trivial mistake. Still, it’s a shame that I might’ve missed two points in the end,” Horikita continued.
People make mistakes. She may very well have scored lower than ninety-eight points, too. The questions Kaneda had set were by no means easy. I didn’t know whether even someone like Keisei had managed to score above ninety. If Horikita had truly gotten ninety-eight points or more, the top spot in our class was hers. Despite tutoring so many students, she’d pushed through thanks to her own willpower and spirit.
“Suzune, there’s something I want to tell you. Can I head back to the dorm with you?” asked Sudou. He approached Horikita with his bag in hand, looking somewhat drained.
“Something you want to tell me? Sorry, but can’t you just tell me here?”
“About today’s test… I’m not sure if I hit the forty-point mark in every subject. I wanted to apologize. I’m sorry,” said Sudou. He seemed sincere.
“That’s not terrible. The exam’s difficulty will change here and there. Considering what was on the test, you did well,” Horikita said. True, the exam had been more difficult than usual. His low score may have been inevitable. “I have a little something to take care of, so head on back with your friends.”
“You’re staying, Ayanokouji? Or are you two going back together?” Sudou gave me a skeptical look.
“My business has nothing to do with him. I’m meeting Kushida-san. Is there a problem?” asked Horikita.
“Kushida? Then no, none,” said Sudou. Once he knew Horikita was meeting a girl, he didn’t care. “Well then, I’m gonna head back and study.”
“All right. But, considering what’s coming tomorrow, make sure to go to bed early,” said Horikita.
“I know. Come on, Kanji, Haruki. Let’s go back,” said Sudou.
He didn’t sound perturbed in the least. If you learned how to study, you could avoid a failing grade. With that ability in your arsenal, you’d have a clear mind going through any exam.
“By the way, what are your plans with Kushida?” I asked Horikita.
“It’s not a big deal. Since we can estimate our respective scores, I just want to confirm something with her,” said Horikita.
It would be some time until we received our test results. If everyone had a solid idea of how they’d scored, then we could determine the winner of the bet without delay. Personally, I was convinced Horikita Suzune won. That was clear just from looking at Kushida, who got up and quickly left the classroom.
“What’s the matter with her, I wonder?” said Horikita.
“She probably assumes that her score is lower than she expected, don’t you think?”
“I hope so. Ryuuen can be rather tenacious.”
“Are you worried about him?” I asked.
“If he gave her the answers, she likely would’ve gotten a perfect score. If that happened, then you and I would’ve had to drop out.”
“So, if that time came, would you have prostrated yourself before Kushida and begged for forgiveness?” I asked.
“Was that sarcasm?”
“Nothing, forget it.”
Horikita pursued Kushida. I decided to follow.
She walked into the hallway and called Kushida’s name. “Kushida-san.”
Kushida slowly came to a stop. “What is it, Horikita-san?” she asked. Fatigue and exhaustion were written on her face.
“Do you have a moment? I’d like to confirm something with you. But there are people around, so how about we go somewhere else?” asked Horikita.
“That depends on what you want to talk about,” said Kushida. “But you’re right, this might not be the best place to chat.”
“Ayanokouji-kun will come along, since he’s involved in this matter. You don’t mind, do you?” asked Horikita.
Kushida didn’t answer, but she didn’t refuse, either. She checked the time on her phone and nodded. She had probably arranged to meet someone else afterward.
Since there were still quite a few students left in the school, we decided to head to the special building.
“You want to discuss our bet on the final exam. Right?”
“Yes. Though the results haven’t been announced yet, we should be able to estimate our scores well enough ourselves,” said Horikita.
“Yes… I did track my score.”
Horikita had gambled her future on this bet, while Kushida had staked her pride. I knew she’d have kept track of how many points she had.
“I’m confident that I scored a ninety-eight or higher. What about you?” asked Horikita. She was doubtful, but only the tiniest bit.
Kushida didn’t look surprised to hear this. Rather, it was like she already knew. If Ryuuen had lent her a hand, it would have a huge impact on our course of action.
“We don’t have to wait for the official results,” muttered Kushida. “I couldn’t have scored any higher than eighty. No, I probably didn’t even get eighty. You won the bet, Horikita-san.”
“I see.” Horikita seemed slightly puzzled by Kushida’s low score. “I thought you would have scored higher.”
“This is what I am,” said Kushida, sounding disappointed.
“I suppose it won’t be confirmed until the results are official, though.”
There was no room for deception; the school itself would announce the results soon enough.
“There’s no need for that. You won the bet. Are you satisfied, Horikita-san?” asked Kushida. She knew that even if Horikita’s estimation was off, it wouldn’t be a nearly twenty-point mistake.
“So, can I trust that you won’t get in my way from this point on?”
“I’ll keep my promise, no matter how much I hate it. Do you want that in writing?”
“No need. Let’s just start by trusting each other,” said Horikita. She held out her hand.
Kushida stared at Horikita’s outstretched hand, her eyes blank. “I hate you, Horikita-san.”
“I know. But I think I can work hard to change that,” said Horikita. She was taking Kushida’s feelings head-on.
“I feel like I’m growing to hate you more and more,” said Kushida.
She walked right past Horikita without taking her hand. Horikita’s outstretched hand clasped nothing but air.
“I won’t do anything to impede you. But I’ll never cooperate with you. Don’t forget that,” said Kushida.
“I see. That’s a shame,” said Horikita. “But I suppose our terms have been set already.”
“Remember, Horikita-san, the terms of the bet were that I wouldn’t get in your way. That’s all,” said Kushida. The darkness lingering in her eyes seemed to latch on to me.
Kushida left immediately. It was as if she didn’t want to face Horikita for even one more second. She no longer had her sights on Horikita, but it might be my turn next. There hadn’t been anything in the bet’s terms about leaving me alone.
“I should’ve thought this through more carefully,” said Horikita.
So, things hadn’t changed all that much. Kushida wouldn’t keep her promise forever. Our presence destroyed her hope for a peaceful future. She’d determined that in order to protect herself, she needed to deal with us. We were nothing more than contaminants in her life. The most I could expect for the time being was a temporary ceasefire.