Chapter 2: Human Nature Put to the Test Introduction It’s past six in the morning. A light BGM echoed through the room. It’s coming from the speakers installed in the room so one doesn’t even have to think about it to know that it’s the signal for us to get out of bed. The room is still dark and I couldn’t see sunlight pouring in from beyond the thin curtain. “What the hell…keep it down.” It was Ishizaki’s first absentminded words of the morning. There are students who didn’t wake even after hearing that tone but here and there, they start putting on their glasses, sitting upright and slowly waking up. “We’re probably going to start with whatever’s scheduled for this period today, aren’t we?” I heard Hashimoto whisper that from above my bed while sighing. “For now, we should all get up. If even one of us is late, we might all get a demerit.” Keisei said so while putting on his jersey. As long as we’re living in the same room, joint responsibility is something we cannot avoid. “Oi, Kouenji’s not here.” “Good morning, gentlemen. Were you about to head out in search of me?” Having worked up a bit of sweat on his forehead, Kouenji appeared with a pleasant smile on his face. Looks like he woke up before we did. “Toilet? Doesn’t look that way.” “Fufu. It was a good morning and so I had been carrying out my morning training, you see.” “What training? There’s no telling what’s waiting for us today. I can’t approve of you pointlessly tiring yourself out.” Even if Keisei gives him a warning like that, he’s not the kind of man who’d listen. On the contrary, he gave his rebuttal with a smile. “This is nothing. Even after a training session, I possess incomparable stamina. Besides, if you cannot approve of this consumption of stamina then don’t you think you should have warned the group of that yesterday?” “That’s…because I didn’t expect any training to be going on.” “No, no. When it comes to you, that won’t fly. I remember sharing a room with you back on the cruise. You should have at least a slight recollection of the fact that I’m the kind of man who never skips out on training, isn’t that right?” Surely it’s out of the question for you to not remember something like that. As though saying that, Kouenji spat those words out. “Stop acting so high and mighty all the time, Kouenji.” It’s not like he was trying to protect Keisei or anything but Ishizaki stood in front of Kouenji. From the election of our group’s leader until now, Kouenji’s been acting selfishly. It’s understandable that the group would object strongly to that. He’s probably already being treated as a disruptive element. There’s no time. The one thing I’d like to avoid is being late on the very first day. Nominally it would be someone like Hirata who’d make that call and guide the group. However, seeing as how our group is clearly lacking a leader, that did not come to pass. “Promise us, right here, that you’ll be cooperative.” “What do you mean by promise to be cooperative? Does that mean you yourself feel loyalty towards this improvised group? I hardly see it that way.” “I don’t want to cooperate either.” Ishizaki looks around. The prime reason for that being me and nothing else. He unintentionally ended up landing his gaze on me. “Because of Class A. Does that reason not satisfy you?” Hashimoto, who came down beside me, ended up receiving that gaze. “Tch. It’s not just A, it’s all of them.” Lumping us all together like that, Ishizaki once again turned back to face Kouenji. “Just like Red Hair-kun, you seem to be headed down a bad path. It’s a pleasant feeling just watching you but it’s getting old now that I have to interact with you directly. Rather than minding me, shouldn’t you be on your way to the assembly point? Before your incompetence gets revealed.” Kouenji may be the only one who has grasped the situation but considering the situation, it’s like pouring fuel on a fire. By using provocative words like that, it’s clear that he’s stoked Ishizaki’s anger. “Fine by me, you bastard!” Ishizaki yelled. And then Keisei, who was made aware of it by Kouenji’s remarks, checked the clock and panicked. “There’s not even five minutes left until assembly. Please leave the quarrelling for later.” “Not my problem. If we’re late then it’s his fault!” Looks like a little bit of water won’t be enough to extinguish the flames of Ishizaki’s anger anymore now. On the contrary, it seems to be gaining momentum. Keisei’s keeping an eye on the situation to a certain extent and he can also make declarations on it. However, he’s not taking any action that’d take their feelings into account. “You’re a simple-minded person. That’s why you’ve fallen to Class D.” Remarks that are just adding fuel to the fire are dropped this time by Yahiko. As for the rest, the Class B students are keeping a low profile and waiting for this whole situation to blow over. “How unfortunate. I don’t know whether we can make it with this group or not.” Beside me, Hashimoto sighed and lamented the situation. “Well, can’t be helped I guess.” Hashimoto said so. I thought he’d continue playing the role of the observer but he punched the wooden bed with his balled fist. All the other students, save for Kouenji, reacted to that sound.
“Let’s calm down. I won’t say it’s a bad thing to quarrel and slug it out but this is hardly the place nor the time for it, right? Of course, if the furniture we’re using gets damaged, it’ll also become a matter of taking responsibility. If our faces start swelling, we may be questioned on what happened too. Right?” Creating a silence through making a sound without using his voice, Hashimoto said what needed to be said. Ishizaki, who had been yelling about how it’s not his problem, now probably understands that this isn’t the place for that. “Glasses-kun over there, what’s your name again?” “Yukimura.” “That’s right, it’s exactly as Yukimura-kun said. There’s no time. For now, tuck away your anger and let’s head for the assembly, shall we? Then, we’ll eat our breakfast and if your anger still hasn’t abated by then, you’re free to decide whether or not to slug it out again. That’s what being in a group means, right?” “…aren’t you glad, Kouenji? You get to live for a while longer.” “Yeah, I’m really glad. Because I happen to be a pacifist after all.” Despite everything, this is to be expected of Class A I guess. I don’t know where Hashimoto stands in the class’s hierarchy but he brilliantly tided over the situation. The match has been struck but at least somehow it didn’t get as far as an explosion. While carrying a bomb with the fuse lit, we left the room. And so students from across school years, having been separated into groups, gathered in one, single classroom. Approximately 40 people. You could say it’s almost like we make up a class. The 1st years all casually extend the morning’s greetings to the 2nd and 3rd years. Not too long afterwards, a teacher came into the classroom. “I’m in charge of Class B from the 3rd year. The name’s Onodera. I’ll be performing a rollcall now and then you’ll be heading outside and cleaning your designated areas. After that, you’ll be cleaning the school building. This will be routine every morning. If it rains, you will be exempt from outside cleaning but since that means you’ll be spending more time cleaning the school building, it’s not like the time for this will decrease. And also, regarding lessons from today onwards, it won’t be the school’s teachers doing the teaching but rather individuals who teach various topics. Don’t forget to welcome them properly and act politely.” After that short explanation, our group headed off to do some cleaning. 1 The smell of grass coming from the tatami spread out before us tickled our noses. A room that, for some reason, felt nostalgic to me was spread out before my eyes. The place the teacher escorted us to was a spacious area that looked like a dojo. It looks like we’ll be completing this task alongside some students from the other groups. “Starting from today, this will be where you practice Zazen in the morning and in the evening.” “This shall be the first time I’ve done Zazen in my life.” The Professor said so casually from the other side but upon hearing those words, the man in charge of this task approached him. “I-Is something the matter?” The Professor, surprised by the overbearing pressure of the silence, asked that while looking up. “Is that dialect something you’re born with? Or perhaps it’s related to your hometown?” “That is not the case…” “Then you’re not from the Muromachi period or the Edo period either right?” “Huh? Of course that is not the case either…” “I see. Then I don’t know why you’re speaking like that but here that’s a demerit for you. Take this chance to fix that ridiculous dialect of yours and grow up.” “W-What?” “What will someone think if you speak that way to them on your first meeting. Or perhaps you’d like to me to explain it from that angle as well?” I don’t know why the Professor chooses to speak that way but even I could tell that it’s intentional on his part. In society…or at least in a strict environment, he surely won’t be permitted to speak that way. It has nothing to do with rules or obligations but rather, it falls within the territory of ‘morals’ and ‘manners’. Of course, it’s possible for you to refuse to do so by claiming this is an idiosyncrasy of yours but only a minority of people could get away with that. “Alright, listen up here. To be acknowledged, to be known, to prove that you’re special and to act uncaringly of others. There are plenty of people like that. Not just youngsters but the elderly as well, now and then you get people like that.” The man in charge counsels the entire group in a strict tone of voice. “I’m not saying to discard your individuality entirely in the face of society and you’re free to express yourself. But what I’m trying to say is that once you enter society, you must never forget to be considerate of the feelings of others. Here we’ll be conducting lessons that will have an effect on that sort of mindset. One of those lessons is Zazen. By holding your words and your actions in you will integrate yourself into the collective whole and be subsumed. Be considerate of others and finally think about it. What sort of person you are, what you are capable of.” Get it? As though saying that, the man in charge attentively directed his gaze at the Professor and then left. “I have felt fea—no, I need to be careful.” He may not be able to ditch his dialect straight away but from now on, through repeatedly practicing Zazen, the Professor may be able to reflect on himself. On why he slipped into that dialect just now, that is. The groups each take their seats and we received a simple explanation in this very room. In this place, known as a Zazendo, we need to ball our fist, be it the left or the right one, and clutch it with the other hand at all times, whether we’re walking or standing. And we’ll need to keep it at around the height of our solar plexus. It’s a stance known as Shasyu. Depending on which school we’re talking about, you may need to use a specific hand to do the clutching but those schools and the such probably don’t apply here. Then we received one more explanation regarding Zazen. That Zazen is nothing more than a form of meditation. Practicing Zazen isn’t about emptying your head but rather forming an image. That there’s something known as the Ten Bulls that act as a method through which the image is visualized. It’s a series of ten illustrations that depict the road to Zen enlightenment. Since Zazen is a first for me too, I haven’t experienced it before. “After you sit cross-legged, place your legs on top of your thighs. Since the exam’s outcome also depends on how well you can perform the lotus position, make sure you do the best you can.” “Oww…is he for real? I can’t get one leg up though……” “If you are unable to pull it off from the beginning, then you may opt for the half lotus position that you perform with one leg.” The man in charge demonstrated it himself to give us a sample of that too. I was able to cross my legs without much difficulty and so I chose to go with the lotus position. From what I can see, it doesn’t look like many students are able to pull it off surprisingly enough. As for Kouenji, who I’ve grown somewhat curious about……he’s casually crossing his legs for Zazen. A small smile on his face, it looks like he’s gone ahead and entered a state of Zen alone. Since there doesn’t seem to be anything in his posture worth correcting, the man in charge didn’t make a big deal out of him going on ahead. “That guy, he can do it if he puts his mind to it after all.” Beside me, having succeeded in performing the lotus position himself, Tokitou whispered that. “It doesn’t seem like he dislikes this sort of thing. For now that’s a relief.” “No doubt about that.” The man in charge is a hard-faced man, but if it’s Kouenji, it wouldn’t be strange even if he refused to act without a trace of fear in him. As the students understood what it is in general, Zazen time began. Since quite a bit of time was spent on the explanation, the first session was limited to about five minutes.