SS Chapter: A Sign of Battle
At night, the New Year's Eve bell declaring the coming of the New Year rang for the 108th time on the television. Apparently it's to cleanse all worldly desires away and to welcome the new year with a purified body. It's a silly story. People won't lose their worldly desires from a farce like this. The more you suppress it, avarice from the core is something that only swells up. There was an incoming call to me from an unregistered, unfamiliar number. Feeling like killing boredom, without thinking anything, I silently pressed the phone's call button.
"Happy New Year. Were you awake?".
A woman's voice. Naturally, a voice I'm familiar with.
"To think you'd call me this early into the new year, Sakayanagi".
"If you wouldn't mind, may I have a bit of your time from now? I'd like to meet you in person".
"Are you asking me out on a date at a time like this? Kuku, it's not like I won't answer you though. Come directly to my room then".
"Then, in 30 minutes, I shall be waiting by the vending machine outside the dorm".
After ignoring my invitation, she sure is continuing to onesidedly talk.
"Fine, I was free either way".
Having finished our brief conversation, I threw my phone onto my bed. There's no need to honestly respond to her but this time, there are some circumstances. Either way, I already understand the contents of what she wants to say, so after confirming that the promised time has passed, I left my room.
Then, slowly, I left the lobby of the dormitory and immediately headed for the vending machine. As I carefreely arrived at the promised location, that woman immediately called out to me. As always, she was carrying her cane around as she welcomed me.
"You're 10 minutes late. I believe I've given you 30 minutes to prepare though".
She spoke that fact calmly without any happiness or anger.
"Kuku. I could have just ignored you though".
"Well, this is fine".
10 minutes was being too lenient. I should have kept her waiting longer in this cold weather.
"But for a late night date, there are quite a bit of onlookers".
Beside Sakayanagi, the figures of Kitou, Hashimoto and a sleepy-looking Kamuro were there.
"Usually this is something that's done as a pair".
"Fufu. I don't have the courage to meet you so late at night when it's just the two of us".
Having received such words of praise I'm thankful for, I drew closer to Sakayanagi.
However, just by drawing closer to a certain extent, Kitou takes a step forward. It was a silent pressure that was telling me not to come any closer. Is he playing at a knight protecting the princess? Kitou's face doesn't befit that of a knight's.
"It appears you've suffered quite the terrible injury. Even now, it seems there are some scars left behind".
"Are you worried about me?".
"So you're not going to deny your injuries then?".
"Deny? It'll just be strange even if I deny them with this face".
It's been a week since I fought Ayanokouji on that rooftop. The swelling and the bruises have gone down quite a bit, but even so, I haven't made a complete recovery yet. It's obvious these injuries aren't something I'd sustain from falling down a flight of stairs. And I don't know where she got wind of this, but it's nothing particularly surprising.
Looking at either me or Ishizaki who both went out with our faces swollen, anyone would be able to immediately tell.
"For someone who holds pride in fighting, you've lost face, Ryuuen".
Hashimoto says that while laughing. While courteously pointing out where my drive lies.
"Was it alright for you to go about in such a state?".
"I'm grateful for your concern, but I don't want to be told that by someone whose legs are crippled like you".
"Fufu. That may be the case".
Maybe my provocations were fruitless.
As for Sakayanagi, she probably has something else she wants to hear.
"If you wish, I can tell you all about the extent of the condition of my injuries right here and now".
Sakayanagi's two prized bodyguards, Kitou and Hashimoto, each turn their eyes towards me.
"Even though your subordinates are not present, you're rather bullish".
By subordinate, she probably means Ishizaki or Albert and the others.
"Whether they're here or not doesn't matter. If you look at them as part of my forces, they're not here after all".
I took a step forward. Kitou also takes a step forward. Leaving aside Hashimoto, it seems Kitou has taken a fighting stance. Whatever happens, to be able to move immediately, he's warming up for it.
"Let's stop with the dangerous stuff. No one stands to gain anything from fighting in a place like this".
Hashimoto, as though joining in, said that.
"Shall we get down to business then? The reason I called you out at a time like this is because there is something I would like to ask you directly. It's something that's difficult to ask when there are people around".
Late at night between the end of one year and the start of the next, the rules on the school campus are somewhat different from the rules of the outside world. The convenience store that's normally open for 24 hours is also closed, and there are no stores currently open. There's no one that would go outside at a time like this. Either they've gone to bed already or are watching the welcoming of the new year on the television. This is a situation where we can talk about anything we like, in other words.
"You've fallen from your seat as leader of Class C. I've heard word of that".
"I knew you'd try to confirm that".
"Is that true?".
"If it is, what'll you do?".
"That was a rather quick admission. Unlike your injuries, it's not like we were there at the scene watching".
Sakayanagi stares at me with eyes that were searching for the truth. Until I met Sakayanagi, I had onesidedly reached a single conclusion. There's no way she could possibly know about Ayanokouji.
Who I quarreled with, who I was defeated by. I had thought she wouldn't show much interest towards that.
"Did you think I would have put on airs?".
"I wonder. That may be the case indeed".
However, it's still fishy. Sakayanagi's eyes are that of someone who knows something. She had such a look in her eyes. Ayanokouji did not talk in depth about it but did he already attract Sakayanagi's attention?
If so, then when? There's almost no doubt it was before the incident on the rooftop with me. No, if that's the case, then Sakayanagi should have had a strong interest in Ayanokouji since way back.
But up until now, Sakayanagi showed no signs of it and as a matter of fact, she's trying to investigate it like this. From that bizarre contradiction, I arrived at a single answer.
It means there is a possibility that Ayanokouji and her were acquaintances from way back. If that is indeed the case then what Sakayanagi wants to know right now isn't whether or not I lost.
'It's whether or not I lost to Ayanokouji'
It would be that she wants to know the truth regarding that. It's quite an interesting line of reasoning if I do say so myself, or so I thought, but I'll let that problem be for now.
If such an interesting topic were to be dangled in front of me, it'll cause my instincts to throb.
"Even if you lose to someone, will you conceal that fact, Sakayanagi?".
"I don't know, because for me to lose to someone, cannot possibly happen after all".
That's a Sakayanagi-like screwed up response.
"However, if I happened to lose, at such a time, will I honestly acknowledge it or not, you ask?".
"Kukuku. Because you're prideful if nothing else, after all".
"Pride is important, you know. A life without pride would be boring, wouldn't it?".
"A life of showing off your pride, on the contrary, is the pointless one".
"Hey, couldn't you have confirmed something like this over the phone?".
Kamuro, who had been silent up until now and listening to the conversation, joined in.
"The thing about truth is, you won't know until you meet face-to-face. Especially since he's proficient at telling lies. Over the phone, it would have been difficult to ascertain it".
"Ahh, I see. Then at least get it over with quickly".
The small fries Sakayanagi uses also have it tough. Underneath the freezing sky, Kamuro's body slightly trembled.
"After playing the tyrant, in the end you ended up losing to your subordinate and fell from your seat as leader".
Sakayanagi pretends to ponder over it.
"It's a story that's hard to believe, isn't it?".
"If so then what else could it be?".
"That is something I do not know. That is why I have called you out like this".
"If you meet face-to-face with me, you'll begin to see the truth, huh?".
She's always trying to sound me out. Well, if you ask me, I have no intention of maneuvering around her every single time over Ayanokouji.
"I have no further intention of doing anything else in this school".
"Oi, oi. That's a joke, right? Are you seriously saying that?".
The one who reacted before Sakayanagi, was Hashimoto.
"There is no need to doubt like that. Due to his contract with Katsuragi-kun, every month, he is guaranteed private points. Ultimately, linking up with Class A is an assured pathway for him so even if he drops out now, it won't be an inconvenience".
"Precisely. I'll be observing your petty fights from above".
"However, there's no guarantee it'll continue to go well though. If an event where you lose a large amount of private points were to occur, your rise to Class A will become doubtful".
She gives a courteous preface, no, explanation. The point is, it's a provocation from Sakayanagi saying she can crush me at any time.
"But please be at ease. First of all, I've decided that I will be thoroughly tormenting Class B. Having you and Class C as my playtime opponents will have to be on a different occasion".
"Do as you please".
Just as Ayanokouji's information said, it appears the brunt of Sakayanagi's attack from now will be focused towards Class B. I have no interest in what'll become of Class A or Class B but as a spectator, I'll have them entertain me.
"If you have no intention of starting a fight here, then I'll be taking my leave".
"It was only for a brief while but I had quite a bit of fun. I thank you for your loser's speech".
I turn my back. However, feeling like I'd tell her something, I stopped walking.
"Sakayanagi, you should also remember that you're not a winner who's guaranteed victory".
"If you're going to teach me defeat then I'll welcome it anytime".
I have no further intention of getting involved in the dispute between classes. However, if she were to challenge me as an individual, then I will crush her. If I didn't need to protect my colleagues in Class C, I wouldn't have to rack my brains over Sakayanagi's strategies every single time.