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Chapter 1: A New Special Exam - Mixed Training Camp. 
On a Thursday morning not too long after the 3rd semester began, several buses travelled on a highway. The 1st years weren’t the only ones on the buses. The 2nd years and the 3rd years are also on board. In other words, it’s a wholesale migration for the entire student body of the school. The bus that we, the 1st years’ Class C, were riding on entered a tunnel and soon afterwards, our ears were assaulted by the sensation of being clogged up. This is my second time on a bus since enrolling in this school. Where we’re going and what we’ll be doing there are things we haven’t received the slightest bit of explanation on. 
At this stage, all I can tell is that we were all instructed to wear our jerseys and that it is strongly recommended we prepare several spare jerseys and underwear. However, at the very least it’s probably not going to be a field trip. The travel time is about 3 hours, a rather long travel time, and so within the limits of what’s allowed the students brought with them their favourite things. Things like cell phones, books and cards or snacks and juice. 
There were also students amongst them who brought along gaming devices. Since the seats on the bus were ordered according to our names, it was ‘Ike Kanji’ who happened to take the seat beside me. I had intended to get along with him after enrolling but when I realized it, we had became ‘only classmates’ and our opportunities to hang out drastically decreased. 
Even now it’s not me, sitting beside him, that he’s talking to. He stood on the seat with his knees, turned back, and talked to Sudou and Yamauchi and the others in a loud voice since they were seated far from him. From time to time, I could hear the girls warning them about their voices being annoying but they don’t seem to be paying attention to that. The bus interior is quite raucous. No wonder they aren’t being considerate. I do feel a bit lonely but there’s no helping it. 
Fortunately enough, through the exams I was able to befriend students like Keisei and Akito. We were inside a bus with a harmonious atmosphere about it but I could tell that this won’t be a mere picnic. I may have been able to consider it mere leisure if it had been in the middle of the winter vacation but the 3rd semester is already underway. 
In that case, assuming that this is going to be a special exam like it had been with the uninhabited island is best for peace of mind. However, it’s not like Ike and the others haven’t matured either. Probably. Chabashira observed the students going about their own business curiously. Close to my seat and near the driver’s seat, she’s there just observing the students. Since it’d be troublesome if our eyes met by any chance, I decided to look out the window. This is a long tunnel. 
It’s been roughly 2-3 minutes since we entered the tunnel. Just as I thought that, slowly I could feel my field of vision brightening up. We had left the tunnel. As though she had been waiting for that, Chabashira moved. At the same time, the pain in my ear increased. 
“Sorry about cutting your fun short but pipe down.” 
Chabashira said that to the students while holding a handheld microphone in her hands. 
“I thought you lot might like to know where this bus is going and what we’ll do then.” 
“Of course we’re curious about that. You’re not going to tell me it’s the uninhabited island again, are you?” 
Receiving Ike’s complaint, Chabashira answered. 
“Looks like what happened on the uninhabited island is hard to forget for you lot since it’s sticking around in your memory. But calm yourselves. An exam of that scale isn’t something that can be held frequently. It means we’re not cruel enough to force you into that now that summer’s over for you lot. However, as you may have already inferred, a new special exam will be held. Your living standards will be extremely high compared to the uninhabited island.” 
She said that but it’s not something particularly trustworthy. Leaving aside the uninhabited island, up until now there have been special exams held that ordinary students would have considered difficult. Most importantly, a student will be forced to directly confront the pitfall known as expulsion that lurks behind the special exams. 
“The special exam that will be demanded from you Class D students from now is!” 
She went that far yet Chabashira stopped speaking. 
At that moment, my classmates gave little, proud smiles. 
Immediately afterwards, Chabashira lowered her head as though in respect and apologized. 
“My apologies. You’re already students of ‘Class C’. Now then, since you’ve been promoted, I’ll explain the details of the special exams to you lot.” 
Having overcome multiple special exams, the students who have finally made their way up to Class C in the 3rd semester appeared to be accepting their current situation calmly. The fact that the explanation will take place in the bus means that from this point onwards, it’s possible to prepare countermeasures to a certain extent or I’ll at least have the chance to do so. 
Since we were still in motion, it’s forbidden to carelessly get up from your seat but inside the bus, one’s voice will easily reach everyone. If you use a phone then it’s possible to talk only with a specific person. Even Ike and the others who are usually very rowdy, immediately stopped to listen to what Chabashira had to say. 
Even if it’s just this, it still shows that they’ve grown somewhat. 
“From this point onwards, you will be taken to an outdoors school deep in a certain mountain. In all likelihood, we’ll arrive at our destination before another hour passes. The shorter the explanation takes the more of a ‘grace period’ you will have available.” 
So this means there’s approximately one hour to go until the special exam starts. 
Even if it takes 20 minutes to conduct the explanation that still leaves 40 minutes. That much time would be left for me to formulate a strategy in regards to the special exam. That’s probably what she meant by ‘grace period’. “Isn’t outdoors school something you attend in the summer?” 
The mountains we can see from the highway are still covered in white snow. 
A question came forth from Ike, who’s an expert when it comes to mountains from his time as a boy scout. 
“Can’t you keep quiet and listen to me? I believe I’ve just told you about the ‘grace period’”. Chabashira said so more pleasantly than angrily. Ike apologized and scratched his head. A brief laughter ensued. 
Outdoors school. 
Since I haven’t heard of that word before I looked it up on my phone. 
“Taking place mainly in summer, it commonly takes place on a day with pleasant weather in places like mountains or other locations where greenery is abundant. Collective action is undertaken with the aim of promoting students’ health. Also could refer to facilities used for that purpose.” 
I see. Like Ike said, it usually takes place in the summer. But still, it’s not like it absolutely has to take place in that season or anything. 
“Opportunities to meet senior students normally…especially for students not participating in any club activity are limited. But at the outdoors school, we’ll be taking collective action that goes beyond school years for 7 nights and 8 days. It’s like something beyond even what the sports festival offered. The name of the special exam that will be taking place is ‘Mixed Training Camp’. Since you’ll still be anxious if it’s just a verbal explanation I’ll be distributing the materials now.” 
Chabashira began walking and handed over a bundle of the materials to the student sitting in the front row seat. We each took one and passed the rest behind. The material itself was rather thick and amounted to multiple pages. Since we weren’t instructed in particular not to go ahead and look, I flipped over and looked through it. 
There were pictures of what appears to be the training camp properly included. 
Rooms where students can sleep, large baths, cafeterias and the such are included. Seeing all this makes it look fun, or rather, like reading a travel guidebook though…… But it’s inevitable that every important word regarding the special exam we see would make our moods somber. Even if it’s a special exam, there’s the relatively thick paper we were handed on top of the verbal explanation. 
Even if you think of it as being the same as the explanation for the Paper Shuffle we received not too long ago, this special exam seems like it’s shaping up to be something bothersome. 
Not too long after, it appears everyone got their hands on the paper. After confirming that, Chabashira continues speaking. 
“Feel free to read ahead but I’m going to go ahead with the explanation for the Mixed Training Camp. Since I’ll be collecting the materials before you get off the bus, make sure you understand the rules well. I’ll be accepting questions at the very end so make sure to shut up and listen. Do you understand that?” 
Chabashira said so as she looked at Ike again. Ike made two or three zipping motions over his mouth. 
“This time around, the special exam will be a training camp focusing mainly on mental development. In order to accomplish that, we’ll start with the ABCs of integrating into society and we’ll confirm whether or not you can live in harmony with those you don’t interact with commonly. And each and every one of you will learn it.” 
So would that be the reason why we’ll have to take collective action alongside the senior students? Chabashira said so as well but students engaged in club activities will have established relationships between senior students and junior students but even so, most of that will be limited to club activities only. Students outside of that category will have had absolutely no contact with the senior students and those students aren’t a minority by any measure. 
Essentially it’d have been great if such exchanges were to be carried out voluntarily without the need to use club activities as an intermediary but it’s also a fact that reality isn’t that simple. However, how exactly are they going to involve the senior students in this? Unless contact between us isn’t an absolute necessity, then just like during the sports festival, students will probably keep their distance. 
Well, we’re probably heading over into the mountains for the ‘training camp’ to ensure that doesn’t happen though…… Either way, as long as the rules for the special exam aren’t properly set, it’s easy to figure out loopholes. 
There’s a massive gap between the 1st years and the 2nd years in terms of physical and mental development. For teenagers, the period of a year is very significant. It won’t be by that much but we probably won’t be able to fight against them on equal terms. 
“First off, once you lot arrive at the destination, I’ll have you split up based on gender. Then you’ll hold a discussion across all school years and then you’ll divide yourselves up into six groups.” 
“Six groups, based on gender……” 
As though to memorize it, Ike muttered to himself beside me. The explanation has just begun but Chabashira continued on without stopping. 
“The lower and upper limits for the number of people in a group have been decided. Look at the fifth page of the material in your hands and have a good look at the patterns for the number of people written down there.” 
All at once, the students turned their eyes to look at the fifth page of the material. It appears the rules pertaining to the groups in the training camp are written there. 
“When establishing a group, there’s both a lower and an upper limit to the number of people that can be in it. That number has been calculated from the separation of boys and girls as well as the school years. For instance: - If there are 60 boys in the same school year then 8-13. - If there are 70 boys in the same school year then 9-14. - If there are 80 boys in the same school year then 10-15. will be the lower and upper limits for a group. 
However, if the number is below 60 then please refer to the special section. 
That was written there. If there is no difference in the ratio of boy to girl across school years then in theory one class should have 40 and if the ratio of boys to girls is 5:5, then the total number of boy for the 1st year would be 80. 
10-15 would form one group and in total, six groups would be formed. The fact that they referred to the total number of students means that depending on the number of expulsions for the entire school year, the amount of people required would change as well. 
“I think you’re already aware of it but the fact that the division into six is based on gender means that you’ll have students from other classes mixed in when the groups form. Also, for the duration of the outdoors school, you’ll have to overcome the special exam with that group. It means your fates are tied to one another.” 
“It’s unreasonable to ask us to form a group with guys from other classes. Aren’t they the enemy?” 
Perhaps he couldn’t stand to keep quiet any longer, as Ike muttered that so Chabashira could hear. But maybe he struck on a good idea, as he then spoke as though a light bulb had been lit above his head. 
“Is that so? Then we don’t really have to care about that, right? We can simply divide ourselves, Class C, into two groups and that’ll be the end of that. That’s what it means, right? Ayanokouji.” 
Ike asked me that in a loud voice. Certainly, it’s possible to go with the lower limit of 10 to form two Class C groups and this problem can be solved that way. However, that idea of Ike’s unfortunately won’t fly. 
“That sounds good but things won’t be that simple. The rules don’t permit a group to be formed from just one class alone. As long as the number of people in your group meet the quota it doesn’t matter which class you team up with but at the very least, there needs to be two classes or more mixed together.” 
That statement of Chabashira’s also happened to be properly written under the heading of dividing up people. 
“Each group must have students from at least two or more classes as a prerequisite.” 
“Do you mean we’ll be forced to work together with the enemy?” 
It’s not so much a question but more along the line of words that unexpectedly leaked out of Ike. Chabashira, looking slightly exasperated, replied. 
“That would be what it means. Of course, it’s not impossible to try and form a group composed of students from your class as much as possible. As long as there’s even a single student from another class then you’ll have formed it after all.” 
In short, make two groups and go with the lower limit of 10 people. And of those, 9 would be from Class C. If we do so, we can form a group that’s ‘mostly Class C’. 
However, I doubt a group like that will be acknowledged by all school years when the discussion takes place. There aren’t many students who’d join a group that’s made up mostly of people from another class. Also, would having more people be better? Or having less people be better? And if it will change or not? If this is an exam where advantages and disadvantages can occur based on the difference between the number of people in each group then having a group with few people would be risky. 
But since the conditions of the exam aren’t clear yet it’s impossible to judge the merits and demerits of the number of people. Whether it be luck or misfortune will depend on the essence of this exam. 
“Is it better for a group to have many people? Or few people? That will have a significant impact on the ‘outcome’ I am going to explain now.” 
Saying that, Chabashira laughed lightly. 
It’s easy to figure out since everyone’s thoughts were pointed in the same direction. 
“Could you please continue with the explanation of the rules? I’m curious about the outcome but first I’d like to know what sort of things we’ll be doing as a group.” 
Hirata, who felt uneasy, said so and urged Chabashira to continue. 
“That’s right. If I answer every single one of Ike’s doubts we won’t make any progress.” 
Ike apologetically scratched his head. 
“The groups will be something akin to temporary classes formed for the outdoors school only. However, even if it’s only temporary, the contents of it will be intense. Members of a group will take lessons together, will cook and wash together and will even bathe and go to bed together. You will experience daily life of all different kinds together.” 
If they knew that they’d be taking baths and going to bed together, both boys and girls alike would scream. 
“I don’t feel like I can live together with folks from other classes—……” 
I can understand why Ike would grumble like that. We did cooperate with another class during the sports festival, but that was a temporary thing. It can hardly be said that we went through thick and thin together. By the way, after coming here, we were about to take part in an exam that would cross class boundaries. Depending on the circumstances, we may yet form a group that has all four classes mixed in it. 
“How the outcome of the special exam will be decided, that will depend on a comprehensive exam that will take place on the last day of outdoor school. A rough idea of the exam’s contents are written on the page 7. Go through it.” 
We were told to do such, and inevitably everyone checked it simultaneously. 
“Morals” “Mental Discipline” “Order” “Individuality” 
Subjects we would never have to learn in an ordinary school were lined up there. In other words, I should view this as an exam separate from things like English and mathematics, which fall under academic ability. The troublesome thing is, there is no ‘clear answer’ in an exam like this. There is information on each subject in the materials we were given but they are all abstract. There’s nothing about how exactly, in detail, the exam will be conducted. 
Furthermore, I looked at a sample schedule. After we wake up, we’d work on our morning assignments. Then we’d gather at the dojo for Zazen and then we’d go to work (such as cleaning). Then we eat breakfast. Afterwards, we’ll study various things in a classroom. After that, we eat lunch. We then receive assignments for the afternoon and once again we practice Zazen. 
Then we’d have dinner and a bath and go back to bed. It’s an entirely different lifestyle from the one we’ve lived up until now. By the way, unlike our usual holidays, lessons will be held throughout the morning on Saturdays. It appears we’ll only be able to rest on a Sunday. 
“More details on your schedule will be announced upon arrival at the outdoors school. What kind of special exam will take place and in what order on the last day is also something I cannot tell you at this stage.” 
It means that we’ll have to play it by ear for the duration of the special exam. It could be that the subject they listed as ‘Zazen’ will also be a part of the exam. It would be best if I assumed little things like posture and attitude will also influence the exam. Other than that, words like ‘speech’ and ‘fabrication’ are also disturbing signs. 
“Deciding your groups is of utmost importance. All six groups must be as one and must be capable of overcoming a week of the camp. No matter what the reason may be, you are not allowed to withdraw from your group halfway through or change members. If a student is forced to retire from either sickness or injury, then the group must deal with that gap on their own by assuming ‘that student exists’”. In other words, if there’s discord between us or if we antagonize one another, then we won’t be able to proceed. More and more it’s starting to look like on top of forming our groups, we’ll also have to eliminate the other classes. Full-scale lessons will start on Friday morning, that’s tomorrow, and until Wednesday next week there will be lessons held at the outdoor school. 
And also, on the 8th day which will be a Thursday, all school years will take an exam simultaneously and we will be graded. 
“After the 1st years have established their groups, they will rendezvous with the 2nd and 3rd years who will have established their groups at the same time. In short, it means six groups will have formed numbering around 30 to 45 people composed of 1st years up to 3rd years.” 
The situation’s already a chaotic one having to form groups amongst fellow 1st years, but other school years will be added to the mix as well. 
As soon as that fact was conveyed, a strange atmosphere came over the bus interior. 
“If I have to put it simply, the groups you’ll be forming with your school year are the small groups and the groups that will be formed from all school years will be the large groups.” 
Each and every group we form from our school year will be ‘small groups’. The small groups will rendezvous with small groups from the 2nd years and the 3rd years and ultimately we’ll end up as six ‘large groups’. 
“Now moving onto the important topic: the outcome. That will depend on the ‘point averaged’ from the exam results of every member in the six, large groups. It means the talents of the other school years will also play an important role.” 
Basically, an average point will be calculated from all 40 people making up a large group. What worries me is the difference in the number of people. If it’s an average point we’re talking about, even though it should be hard for inequality to creep in, depending on how the small groups are assembled there could be a considerable difference in the number of people once we form a large group. 
The crucial thing here is ‘how to form a large group’. If this is an exam where we’d simply have to compete against one another in terms of academic ability then it’s obvious the large group where all the talented students have gathered will win. Conversely, students judged talentless will inevitably be chased out of the top groups and will have to form low ranking groups. 
However, it’s not like you’re guaranteed to win out in this special exam just by gathering talented students. 
“You’ve gotten the gist of it to a certain extent, haven’t you? Then now for last, I’ll be explaining the most important thing here. That is, to say, the result of this special exam’s outcome.” 
So basically what we’ll stand to gain and what we stand to lose, huh? Once again, the reason why we’re divided based on groups and not classes should be hidden here. 
“For large groups whose average points put them in 1st place through 3rd place, all their students will receive private points as well as class points. For large groups that come in at 4th place all the way down to last place, let’s just say you’ll receive a demerit.” 
The details regarding the outcome was, of course, also written on the materials we were given. 
“Basic Rewards.” 
1st Place: 10,000 private points. 3 class points. 
2nd Place: 5000 private points. 1 class point. 
3rd Place: 3000 private points. 
The aforementioned rewards will be distributed to each and every student. 
If in a small group of 10, 9 happened to be from the same class, they will stand to gain 27 class points by coming in at 1st place. Of course it’s only describing an ideal scenario but it would be for the best if we could collect students from the same class to the utmost of our ability and come in at 1st place. However, the more people we have, the greater the damage we’ll sustain should we lose. Furthermore, if the number of people increases, the more difficult it will become to control the group. By the way, the minus factors that concern me hold far more weight than the few plus factors there are. 
4th Place: 5000 private points. 5th Place: 10,000 private points. 3 class points. 6th Place: 20,000 private points. 5 class points. 
The aforementioned points will be deducted from each and every student. 
Private points and class points won’t fall below zero but it’ll remain behind as cumulative deficit and it’ll be calculated out whenever we receive rewards in future exams. It can be said that this is an element that hadn’t been present up until now. The reason why one would feel the rewards for 1st place through to 3rd place are somewhat lacking is because there’s a huge trick behind it. 
On the subject of rewards, this sentence was written down. Chabashira went ahead and read it out. 
“It’s set up such that depending on how many of a particular class is present in a small group, the reward may be doubled. On top of that, the more people there are making up a small group, it will be amplified even further. These are rules that apply for 1st place through to 3rd place and this won’t apply for the deduction for 4th place and below so relax.” 
If two classes make up a small group then 1st place through to 3rd place will be rewarded as aforementioned but if it’s composed of three classes then both those points will double. If it’s composed of four classes then it will triple. Furthermore, since the amplification appears to change depending on the total number of people, 10 people would cause it to be multiplied by 1, 15 people would cause it to be multipled by 1.5 at most. 
This would be an exception but if a group should be formed with 9 people in it then it would be multiplied by 0.9 in that case. According to calculations, the greatest reward for taking 1st place would be triple if students from all four classes are present and in addition, for a group with the maximum number of 15 it would be multiplied by 1.5 (rounded to the nearest integer) and each person would receive 45000 private points as well as 14 class points. So far, this covers the good parts of the special exam and a troublesome yet interesting part also exists. 
However, you could say that what’s truly important is what comes after this. 
“Also, the large group that comes in at last place will incur a massive penalty.” 
“Penalty……it can’t be.” 
“That’s right. It’s ‘expulsion’”. 
That penalty, which in itself is no longer a surprise, was revealed. 
“Still, it’s not like we’re going to expel everyone in the large group that places last. Because if we did that then we’d have approximately 40 expelled students on our hands. The criteria by which the expulsion will occur is limited to only the small groups whose average point falls below the borderline average point set forth by the school.” 
This is a rather troublesome setup. The overall ranking will be calculated from the average points of the large groups yet when it comes to expulsion, it’s the average point of the small group that matters. 
“If a small group should happen to fall below that border, then their ‘leader’ will be expelled.” 
“How exactly will that leader be chosen?” 
“You will discuss it within your small group in advance and elect one. That’s it.” 
“What the hell? Who the hell would want to be the leader when expulsion’s on the table.” 
Going forward, I wonder just how many students would volunteer. 
“There are upsides to it too. Students who are classmates of the leader will receive double the reward.” 
“…double, you say?” 
Horikita, who had been silent up until now, muttered in surprise. 
“That’s right. The greatest reward for this special exam would be consolidated by the 12 students from Class C within the group. And the remaining 3 will be drawn from A, B and D each. On top of that, if the leader happens to be someone from Class C and you manage to take 1st place then……” 
“W-What’ll happen then?” 
Yamauchi, unable to perform the calculations, rubbed his nose excitedly. 
“1.08 million private points. 336 class points. Is what you stand to gain.” 
“T-Three hundred and thirty six!” 

If we acquire that then in one stroke, our class will change significantly. It depends on the score the other groups receive but it’s not impossible to rise up to Class A in this exam. The more risks you take, the greater the rewards. 
Moreover, the chances of receiving that greatest reward aren’t low by any measure. 
“After the small group has been established, you’ll need to discuss amongst yourselves and decide on a leader before daybreak of the next day. If, by any chance, you are unable to decide on a leader for your group then your group will be immediately disqualified. In other words, all of you will be forcibly expelled. Of course, there haven’t been a single group in the past so foolish as to be unable to decide on a leader and be expelled.” 
So the school won’t be the ones deciding. It’s something that’s up to the students to decide for themselves. 
Naturally, we’d end up quarrelling while attempting to decide on a leader. However, if by the end there still aren’t any candidates, then we’d have no other choice but to decide it with a lottery or a game of rock-paper-scissors. It’s inevitable considering everyone would know that they could be expelled. In a situation where it’s already going to be difficult bringing it together as one, there’s also a high possibility that the unity of the group will be a doubtful one. 
“Also, if the leader is to be expelled, they can choose another person from their group to bear joint responsibility and be expelled alongside them. You could say it’s sort of like dragging them down with you.” 
“H-Huh? What’s with that? That’s fucked up! By appointing some random guy as leader, does it mean we’d be able to crush the leaders of the other classes that way?” 
I doubt something like that can be accomplished this easily. If we’re going to be electing a leader then we naturally we should select and screen him to a certain extent. 
A student who’s clearly a throwaway pawn won’t simply be made the leader. If such a thoughtless act were to be allowed then that’s on the group. There aren’t any students who’d be willing to self-destruct for the sake of their comrades and drag a student from another class down with them in the first place. It’d be a different story if that student happened to be chained down in Class D and already harbored thoughts of dropping out anyways but information about students like that will probably spread around anyways. 
“Relax, it’s not like just about anyone can be made to bear joint responsibility. Only students who are a contributing factor to the group falling below the border, as judged by the school, will be liable for that. Like deliberately failing or boycotting the exam, unless you do such things there’ll be no problem.” 
Certainly if that’s the case then you could say that both the leader and their group members are well protected. However, for this exam, one can’t help but doubt the way the leader ought to be. Things are different this time around compared to previous special exams. What I should focus on is the fact that the assignments for this special exam will be shared across all school years. And that the same explanation is probably being given right now on the other buses as well. 
I need to assume that right now, at this very moment, all sorts of strategies are being laid out. Not just the 1st years but also the 2nd years fighting their own 2nd year fight and the 3rd years fighting their own 3rd year fight. To clear up my doubts, I sent a message to a certain man. Because I wanted to know whether or not the ‘student council’ has a hand in this special exam. 
“One more important thing, the expellee’s class will be receiving a proportionate penalty as well. The details of the penalty change depending on the exam but for this special exam, in the case of expulsion, 100 points per person will be deducted. In the case of class points being insufficient, it will be calculated out over time. Until then, it will naturally remain zero.” 
The magnitude of the consequences remain the same as before but the minus is a substantial deduction. Yet another essence of this exam. 
The selling point of being a leader is that the points to be gained would double but on the other hand, they’ll have to accept the risk that is expulsion. Unless they’re allocated to a group that they’re confident will do fine, there wouldn’t be a single person willing to raise their hand. However, they won’t be able to hand over such a perfect opportunity to the other classes either. On top of that, there’s also the joint responsibility to consider. Rules that are like blind alleys have been set. 
“And with that, the explanation ends. I’ll be accepting questions.” 
Hirata immediately raised his hand. 
“If an expulsion occurs…is there any way to extend a lifeline?” 
“If you’re expelled, you’re expelled. Nothing to be done about it, right?” 
Such words came from Sudou. But Hirata denied them. 
“That’s not true. As a matter of fact, Sudou-kun was almost expelled once by Chabashira-sensei. But thanks to Horikita-san’s quick-wittedness you were saved. Just like that, it’d be strange if there isn’t anything we can do.” 
Hirata got it right. Chabashira answered with a smile. 
“That’s right. As a last resort, you can buy a ‘cancellation of expulsion’ with private points but of course, the price will be high you know? Cancellation of expulsion…in other words, as a general rule a ‘lifeline’ will be equally in demand by all school years. To extend a lifeline to a single person, 20 million private points and a further 300 class points must be paid. This is, at most, just a lifeline and the penalty that will be incurred upon expulsion won’t be waived. Of course, if either of the points required happen to be insufficient then you cannot use a lifeline.” 
A lifeline that requires a tremendous amount of private points isn’t something you could possibly pay for. For the current exam, a minimum of ‘400’ class points are the prerequisite for a lifeline. Students who are disposed of via expulsion probably won’t be bailed out in the first place. Because in order to save one, the entire class would be losing a great sum. 
“That 20 million points you talked about, it doesn’t matter even if the entire class pitches in for it right?” 
However, Hirata has considered a future where he might have to use that lifeline and did not neglect to check. 
“That’s exactly right. But this has nothing to do with you lot since you don’t have that much either way.” 
Chabashira concludes the document. 
“There isn’t much time left until we reach our destination. How you choose to utilize this time is up to you. Once we arrive, I will be collecting the materials I’ve handed out. Also, the use of cell phones will be forbidden for a week. I’ll be confiscating them soon. Other than that, you’re free to bring along daily necessities and gaming equipment but you won’t be allowed to bring along foodstuff. Things that cannot be stored long term, such as meat, will have to be either eaten before arrival or thrown away in the garbage bag upon alighting. That is all.” 
Students who did not give much of a reaction to the explanation of the special exam raised their voices at that. Although they’ve already experienced the same thing on the uninhabited island, it must be difficult having your phone confiscated for a week. 
“I have a question!” 
Ike excitedly raised his hand. Chabashira gives a bitter smile. 
“You said boys and girls will be separated but exactly how far apart will we be?” 
“There are two buildings at the outdoor school. The main building will be used by the boys and the other one will be used by the girls. The buildings are next to one another but in theory, you will be living apart from each other for a week. You won’t be allowed to go outside without permission during recess and after school either.” 
“So that means we won’t be able to talk to one another?” 
“No, each day for an hour at the cafeteria in the main building, both boys and girls will have their meals together. It’s only within that period that the school won’t issue any instructions. In other words, you’re free to do whatever you want then. Do you understand?” 
Perhaps he’s just that happy to be able to talk to girls, as Ike rejoiced. 
I got up a bit and turned to look at Shinohara, who’s sitting nearby. As I did, I noticed that despite looking exasperated, she appeared somewhat happy to hear Ike’s words. Perhaps that Christmas dinner worked out. 
“If there aren’t any more questions then I’ll be ending this.” 
Maybe she decided that only silly questions would be forthcoming as Chabashira wrapped things up immediately. 
“Sensei. May I borrow your microphone?” 
As Chabashira tried to wrap things up, it was Hirata who cut her short. 
“Of course, do you as wish.” 
Chabashira said so as she let go of the microphone and took her seat. 
Hirata slowly came forward to replace her and took the microphone into his hands. 
“From what sensei said, it doesn’t look like we have much time but first of all, I’d like to hear everyone’s opinion. On how to overcome this exam. What sort of partition we should aim for in groups.” 
“For something like that, wouldn’t it be best if we could get as much of our classmates in it as possible? We select our best and form a small group of 12 and the rest we can bring it one from each of the other classes. Ain’t that perfect?” 
Sudou said that to Hirata. 
“That would be ideal but I wonder if those 3 students from other classes would be willing to join our small group of 12. They’d naturally be on their guard.” 
It’d be a group shamelessly aiming to win. I don’t think students from other classes would join one after another at our convenience. And also, if that group fails to get 1st place then the damage we’d receive would be considerable as well. 
“But—. If the smart ones end up forming a group then we’d lose all chances of winning.” 
Yamauchi muttered that. 
It appears he still hasn’t realized that it’s not our academic ability that’s being tested this time. 
“We’d also like a chance to obtain private points for ourselves.” 
It’s understandable that Yamauchi would complain. This was a problem that came up a while back during the exam on the cruise as well. The large group at the top will gain private points but for the students at the bottom, there’d be no profit. On the contrary, they’d lose their private points. If so, then a lot of students would understandably want to be allocated to the winning group. 
“In regards to that, if everyone consents to it then I’d like to go with a way that allows for equal distribution. We don’t know which large group will come out on top. Once the exam is underway, and we can confirm that private points will increase for the entire class, then we can divide them up between ourselves. Since transfer of points is permitted there shouldn’t be a problem.” 
Even if we get points deducted, if everyone shares the burden then the risk would also decrease. 
“Ohh, I see. There’s that.” 
Of course that makes it easy for the talented students to complain though but it’s also easy to come to a consensus in this special exam. What the deciding factor will be is still a mystery. 
Having heard Hirata propose his plan, Chabashira turned away and laughed. 
“I wasn’t able to answer before since you lot didn’t ask me any questions but as a reward for your promotion to Class C I’ll give you just one, good advice.” 
Rather than obediently accept the reward, Hirata showed caution. 
“Whenever you aren’t bound by the rules, you’re free to transfer private points. Whether it be in the middle of the exam or during your daily life, as long as it’s within legal boundaries, you can transfer them however you please. Just one thing, private points aren’t the same thing as simple pocket money. Keep that in mind.” 
“By that, do you mean that while saving up 20 million points, it’s possible to transfer to any class of your choosing? Or is this about the lifeline?” 
“That’s not what I meant. There are various ways to use private points. Even a single, extra point saved could make all the difference when it comes to the lifeline is what I mean. Doesn’t always mean that getting along and sharing points and supporting one another is the right thing to do you know? For instance, let’s say Ike made a mistake and he’ll be expelled unless a million points are paid right away. Let’s assume you’ve fallen into this predicament. And if a transfer isn’t allowed right then and there and he’d be expelled unless he has a million private points on hand, what’ll you do then? If you adopt the strategy of sharing equally amongst yourselves, you may be doing something you cannot take back.” 
Having heard his name be used as an example, I could hear Ike gulping beside me. 
“Besides, when that happens, there’s no guarantee the other students will save you. Because it may yet be they themselves who fall into a predicament next. The only one capable of protecting you would be you yourself.” 
Chabashira gave advice as though trying to say the strategy of sharing evenly amongst ourselves is a mistake. It may be advice we should be grateful for but now it’ll prove difficult to unite the class. 
“The ones who work hard will be rewarded with success. That much is common knowledge in society. Once you enter society, someone benevolent enough to share their salary and bonuses with their friends would be a rare case even amongst the rare cases. Now that you know this, what you do from this point onwards is up to you, Chabashira said so as she laughed. In all likelihood, what Chabashira said just now is true. I don’t think a teacher of this school would stir things up just because there isn’t a precedent. 
Because every day, she speaks in perfect accordance with the manual. However, there’s an underside to this. 
There probably have been cases where individuals have saved up private points but conversely, there have been people saved because their classmates have been saving up a great sum of points. As for how I know this, it’s because in the past, Horikita and I supplied the private points for a nearly-expelled Sudou as a third party and that set a precedent. Ultimately, sharing it evenly amongst ourselves can still be a preventative measure against unforeseen incidents. 
By giving an individual such a great sum of money, you run the risk of them misappropriating it and a betrayal is also very possible. Chabashira said something disruptive towards her own class. Of course, I can’t reject the possibility that it’s merely school policy but…… “Shall we put it to a majority vote then? It’s not like we’ll decide through that but rather, I’d like to know what everyone thinks after hearing that just now. Can the people who’d prefer to share evenly amongst ourselves during the special exam from now on please raise your hands? Of course, I don’t mind even if you change your mind later.” 
Hirata raised his own hand and became the first one to do so. Most of the students were troubled by that and they could only raise their hands bit by bit. It is important to be united as one class and help one another but when it comes down to it, it’s also crucial that you prepare insurance in case you’re the one being disposed of. Once again, it appears most of the students have saved only a few ten thousand or hundred thousand private points. In that case, there’ll be quite a few students who will have enough points saved up for emergencies if only then can place 1st. 
The students who aren’t confident in themselves are the ones who’d wish the most for an equal share. There were more of them than expected but in the end, the number of raised hands wasn’t even half the class. 
“Thank you.” 
It means the majority of the class does not wish for an equal sharing of the points. 
However, now that it’s become like this even Hirata, who’s from the equal sharing faction, won’t be able to prod things in that direction that easily anymore. 
“Was it unnecessary advice, Hirata?” 
“No, I’m grateful for it. It’s valuable information for us at this stage.” 
My phone vibrated once. I thought ‘he’ had replied and took my phone out but it turned out that it was a message from the Horikita ‘sister’. I already guessed it but it had to do with this special exam. 
“Do you have any ideas?” 
A sentence that left everything to me. 
“None whatsoever.” 
I replied with just that. 
But, I reconsidered just a bit and decided to send just one more thing. 
“This exam will separate boys and girls. I cannot help with anything, please do your best.” 
I decided to give such a cheerleading shout. Horikita probably has a lot of things she’d like to say to me but it’s impossible to do so here. I quickly concluded my chat with Horikita and checked yet another chat group that’s currently active. It’s the chat for the Ayanokouji Group (I don’t mean to brag or anything though). 
Keisei and Akito as well as Airi and Haruka were merrily discussing the exam away. I had already read it but I closed it without making any comments in particular. And so I listened to Hirata and the others’ conversation. 
“There isn’t enough time to formulate a strategy. Besides, if boys and girls will have to form groups away from one another then it’ll be difficult enough just advising each other.” 
“No way……” 
Looking at it from the girls’ perspective, they would no longer be able to ask Hirata, the man they could always depend on, for help. It’s understandable they’d feel uneasy. 
“Since we boys won’t be able to lend you a hand, I think the girls should decide on a clear leader. Can you take on that role, Horikita-san?” 
Hirata must have been thinking of this ever since he heard the explanation for the exam. He pinned a white arrow on that lone girl, Horikita. 
Of course, Horikita is about the only one who could play this role in our class. 
“Very well. I don’t mind, consult me anytime if there’s something troubling you.” 
Horikita replied like that without showing any displeasure. However, even though Horikita is gradually becoming someone our classmates can depend on, their level of trust in her is still a far cry from Hirata’s. But if it’s Horikita as she is right now, she’ll understand that herself too. 
“However, there should be quite a few girls who feel like I won’t be reliable enough alone. I don’t like to say this about myself but I don’t think I have a personality that lends itself well to a consultation.” 
It really isn’t something one would like to say about themselves. 
“That’s why I’d like Kushida-san to help me as a sub-leader. What do you say?” 
Horikita said so towards Kushida, who sat towards the front. 
“W-Will I even be of use?” 
“Of course you will. You are trusted more than anyone else in this class.” 
“Umm…ok. If you’re ok with me then I’ll cooperate.” 
“Thank you. Now it’ll be a lot easier for the others to ask for consultation. If you find it difficult to talk to me directly then I don’t mind it if you do so via Kushida-san. I’ll respond to any consultation, no matter how trivial.” 
Leaving aside the extent to which Kushida is trustworthy, it’s an unmistakable fact that this is the best approach right now. Because of the rules of this exam, it’s considerably difficult for boys and girls to meddle with each other’s affairs. First of all, it’s impossible for a boy to join in on the fight at the girls’ side. Both the lessons we’ll be receiving and the exam we’ll be taking, despite being in the same facility, will be taking place at different locations. 
The only time we can make contact is during the one hour we have for dinner. More so if our phones, which we could use for regular contact, will be confiscated. Still, it’s essential that we gather as much information as possible. In that case, I’ll need accomplices to help me gather information from the girls. Within our class, Kushida’s movements are also slightly worrying. 
The only two I can use would have to be either Horikita or Kei. The former’s currently stuck in a rather troublesome situation. Also, I need to take into account her overthinking my intentions and taking unnecessary action as well. Most importantly, if she’s being consulted by the other girls then she won’t have room to do other things as well. 
Therefore, as expected, the only one I can use would have to be Kei. But I cannot possibly force Kei to see through the entire group alone. I sent the essential facts over to Kei’s phone. The mail arrived and was immediately seen by Kei, who replied with a blank mail. 
Boys and girls will be fighting a battle while separated for an extended period of time. A unique special exam was about to begin and it appears she had instantly assumed I’d contact her. Kei herself might want some advice right about now. 
Considering the leader and joint responsibility system, it’s not impossible to think that even Kei may end up becoming a sacrifice. In regards to her attitude during lessons and her exam scores, I cannot say that Kei is doing well, even as flattery. That’s why I’ll teach her how to protect herself. It isn’t something every student will be able to pull off but it’s a way to lower the risk even if just a little. 
As for me, I couldn’t care less about the special exam that’s going to be held really. I have no intention of executing winning strategies. I’m just going to overcome it safely. Still, just like how I’m giving Kei advice, it doesn’t mean I won’t be making a move at all. The worst case scenario in the special exam would be multiple expulsions occurring in Class C. And it’s impossible to perfectly protect the whole class by myself. 
I have to narrow down the people I need to protect. In short, other than myself, I’d like to protect Kei, who has finally become a prominent accomplice as well as Hirata. Next up, considering my involvement with the student council, I’ll need to make sure Horikita survives as well. 
Then there are also my friends Keisei, Akito, Haruka and Airi. It’s just, while I wish for them to remain, they won’t be under my protection. However, as a friend, I will definitely pray for them not to get expelled. 
Even though there won’t be many opportunities for all the school years to gather together, it should be fine if I just kept an eye on Nagumo’s movements. 
I have no interest in the skirmishes that will occur around me. 
The bus left the highway and began to gradually ascend the mountain road that’s paved to a certain extent. I wonder if it’s become a custom for us to go to the ocean or to rivers or places surrounded by nature whenever we leave the school. 
N/T: ‘Zazen’ is a type of meditation that has its roots in Zen Buddhism. 

Anyway, upon arrival, the special exam will begin. Judging from how they confiscated our cell phones, it appears this is a troublesome exam where you’d have to either gather information yourself or utilize your personal connections. However, since the more carelessly you act, the more information is leaked, utmost discretion is demanded of us. 
“I’m not cut out for this……” 
My honest mutters. No matter how many special exams I’ve been through already, I still haven’t gotten used to them one bit. Throughout my life, I’ve seldom ever cooperated with others. 
“We will be arriving at our destination soon. Immediately afterwards, we will have you form groups indoors. And then afterwards, depending on whether or not you’ve finished partitioning your rooms, you’ll have lunch. Throughout the afternoon you’ll all be free to do whatever you want.” 
“That means……hooray! That means we don’t have to study today right?” 
Ike happily looked towards me and laughed. That’s probably going to be the case. However, unlike during summer vacation, today is a non-holiday. Despite the long transit time, isn’t this a kind of special treatment? It’s not that different from a field trip. Upon arriving at the destination, the bus slowed down and drove towards the parking lot before stopping. 
“Students will hand in their cell phones when their names are called and alight from the bus. Ayanokouji, Ike—”. Chabashira performed a roll call of the boys in syllabary order while having them start alighting from the bus. I turned off my phone and placed it inside the plastic box set beside our teacher. Upon alighting, an unfamiliar teacher approached. And we were then instructed to wait a slight distant away from the bus. 
“Ahh—it’s cold!” 
After alighting from the bus, Ike hugged himself and shouted. Perhaps it’s because we’re in the mountains? It’s colder than it was when we had left the school. However, a spectacle unfolded before our eyes that almost made us forget the cold for a moment. 
“Wow…what’s this place? This isn’t on the scale of a mere outdoors school……” 
Before us lay a wide, open space that resembled the school grounds. And behind that were two old-fashioned school buildings. In order to accomodate all three school years, their size was also considerable. It appears we’ll be spending a week here. 
It was the same too during our time on the uninhabited island but I’m really not used to living amongst nature like this. Considering how this may be an exam that’s related to such things, Ike, who had been a boy scout, could be useful. In addition, taking physical strength into account, Sudou’s presence is also reassuring. The girls were also alighting one after another. Horikita, upon alighting, seemed like she wanted to talk to me but unfortunately, we were already lining up and as such, that proved to be impossible. 
Boys and girls were then split up and we each headed over to the school building. The boys to the larger one, which is what they call the main building. Once we stepped inside the building, the somehow familiar scent of timber tickled our noses. 
“It’s an old-fashioned wooden building. It seems to be several years old but it looks pretty well maintained. It’s really beautiful.” 
Hirata said so but it appears everyone else agrees with him as well. Along the way, in a room that appears to be a classroom of some sort, there was no air-conditioning installed but rather a stove had been placed at the center of it. 
Probably starting from tomorrow, we’ll have lessons in classrooms like that one. We then passed by what appears to be a gymnasium. The boys from Class A and Class B arrive and they looked in our direction. Afterwards, Class D entered and next up would probably be the 2nd and 3rd years. We were instructed to form a line, stand still and wait for further instructions. 
Class A, and Class B too, appeared calm and did not chat amongst themselves. I should assume they’ve already come up with some sort of strategy on the bus.


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