After that, I cannot say that my group is doing well, even as flattery. Despite feeling responsible, Keisei was unable to properly issue his orders as our leader and Ishizaki stopped talking to everyone else except Albert. Even during mealtime, which is the one and only opportunity we have to reconcile with each other, our group did not assemble. I suppose I’ll put the boys aside for now. Because there’s nothing I can do for this group anyway. Because even if I am to give advice to the struggling Keisei and the antagonistic Ishizaki, I have no intention of acting directly to save them after all.
As my first step towards leaving the stage, getting deeply involved here would be against my interests. I then remembered Haruka and Airi and decided to investigate the movements of the girls once again. However, it’s not easy to make contact with Kei again. She probably have matters to attend to as well and suspicion may be cast on our relationship if we repeatedly make contact like that. Besides, the information I want to get my hands on isn’t information on the 1st year girls but rather, the 2nd and 3rd year seniors. The true intentions of Nagumo, who challenged the older Horikita to a match. I’d like to confirm it.
In that case, the number of people I can approach becomes even more limited. For that reason, I tried making contact with Kiriyama by leaving behind a trace he could get a hint from but Kiriyama is still part of Nagumo’s group. Even if he resents the man deep down inside, he probably won’t give any advice this time. I’d like to attack from a different direction, from beyond the scope of Nagumo’s expectations. And that led me to realize the existence of a certain person. I had Kei investigate a certain 2nd year girl.
That person is ‘Asahina Nazuna’.
A person who happens to belong to the same class as Nagumo Miyabi and who is also personally close to Nagumo. I’ve seen Asahina eating her meals in this large cafeteria with her friends many times. And today, I closely observed Asahina’s movements from a slight distance away. She’s not part of the student council but she’s considerably influential in her class and apparently she’s even a big influence on Nagumo. There are several other boys and girls who are close to Nagumo but there are two reasons why I chose Asahina as my source of information.
The first reason is that despite her rough appearance and mannerisms, she’s very dutiful and never forgets a debt owed. And also that she does not worship Nagumo. And the other reason is that the two of us have had a ‘coincidental’ meeting. The problem with acquiring information about Nagumo is that the entirety of the 2nd years are all subservient to Nagumo. If I clumsily make contact, I run the risk of giving away information on myself. In regards to that, I need to narrow down someone least likely to leak information. That is why our ‘coincidental’ meeting will become a powerful weapon.
Information that I alone could possibly know. Information that only Asahina could possibly understand. I thought I’d use the products of that coincidence. Coincidence. By that, I mean the ‘amulet’. It’s something she dropped a while back that I coincidentally happened to pick up. At the time I didn’t think much of it before handing it over but apparently it’s something unexpectedly precious to her. The evidence supporting that claim is the fact that she brought that item along with her even to this training camp. I was also able to confirm that she carefully keeps it on her body at all times. Occasionally a connection that’s formed through coincidence can prove to be stronger than a connection deliberately forged.
Using that coincidence, I should at least ascertain whether or not she can become an existence that I can draw information regarding Nagumo out of. It’s also precisely because we’re in the middle of the training camp that making contact with her is easy. Now the only remaining problem is how to turn this indirect meeting into a direct one. If I openly approach Asahina, she or someone around her may report it back to Nagumo. I’d like to avoid that. I’ve been looking for an opening the entire time but during dinner, Asahina almost always spends her time with someone else. I couldn’t find an opening to be alone with her.
And today, that golden opportunity arose.
“I’m going to the toilet.”
Just like that, Asahina stopped in the middle of eating her dinner. Strangely enough for a girl, no one else went along with her and so I immediately followed Asahina. It wouldn’t do to get in the way of her toilet break and so I decided to patiently wait for her to return. In all likelihood, I only have around five minutes at most to talk to her. More importantly than that, Asahina herself may be reluctant.
I don’t know how close I can get to her in that five minutes. There’s an absolute need to emphasize the ‘coincidental’ part. Not too long after that, Asahina came back. As usual, she’s wearing her amulet on her left wrist. I pretended to be casually passing her by.
I whispered in a way that made it seem as though I could either be walking to myself or calling out to Asahina. And when I did, Asahina unexpectedly stopped and turned around.
If I don’t respond to that, Asahina will probably assume I was only talking to myself and leave. In this short window, I took action.
“Ahh, I’m sorry. I just thought I’ve seen that amulet before a while back. Please don’t mind me.”
I said so and moved to leave. If she doesn’t respond to that, I’m also prepared to start the conversation myself.
“This amulet isn’t in stock at the school anymore though.”
Since she properly replied to me, I’ll continue without hesitating.
“Is that so? By any chance, did you happen to drop this amulet somewhere a while back?”
If I say that, Asahina should immediately understand.
“Could it be……you’re the one who picked up my amulet?”
“I wonder. I picked it up on my way back during the winter vacation though…when exactly was it again……?”
I didn’t exactly say ‘when’ it was in detail. I pretended not to remember.
“I don’t believe I’m mistaken. I see, so it was you.”
Asahina happily laughed and approached me.
“Thank you. After I realized I dropped it somewhere, it’s really been troubling me. Ever since then I’ve been feeling scared so I started wearing it always like this, you see.”
She bashfully looked at her wrist.
“This amulet is something I bought in this school. So it’s not like I have any strong attachment in particular to it. It’s just, how should I put it, it’s like my mental support? When I have this in hand I feel really at peace. That’s why when I lose it, it feels like an omen that bad things are going to happen and that makes me anxious. That’s why I was really happy knowing someone picked it up and handed it over.”
The purpose of an amulet, in the first place, is to do exactly that.
“To think the person who picked it up would be you.”
“Do you know me?”
“You drew a lot of attention during that relay against Horikita-senpai. A while ago, Miyabi. No, President Nagumo also spoke with you right?”
“Could it be that you were there?”
Of course, I knew that already. Ichinose was also there that day.
“Well, I suppose.”
I’ll make it look like I didn’t notice Asahina until today. Because if I mess it up and let her know I already noticed her from a while back, she seems like the type to become more guarded towards me.
Since picking up the amulet is nothing more than a coincidence, this meeting too, must be a coincidence.
“I’m rather confident in my speed but to tell you the truth, that’s about the only thing I’m good at. Perhaps I’ve caught President Nagumo’s eye due to some misunderstanding.”
I said so as though that’s troubling me and Asahina nodded repeatedly as though in understanding.
“That guy respects Horikita-senpai. Or rather, he’s made that a goal of his so when he wasn’t taken seriously at that relay, he must’ve gotten jealous of you.”
I couldn’t sense any ulterior motive behind Asahina’s words.
For better or for worse, she’s got an honest personality. I decided to step it up a bit.
“How can I get Nagumo-senpai’s attention off my back?”
“How about you beat him then? Like taking that arrogant Miyabi down a peg or two. I’d personally like Miyabi to lose a bit too.”
She said so while laughing. Of course, it’s probably just a joke without any serious intent behind it. However, I boldly picked up on that.
“I see, that might also be an option.”
When I replied like that, Asahina immediately looked dumbfounded and looked at me. After a few seconds, she burst out in laughter.
“Ahahaha! Come on, I was just joking. Couldn’t you tell?”
Asahina laughed herself almost to tears and hit me on the shoulder.
“If Nagumo falls, would that trouble you after all then?”
Since Asahina still thinks I’m joking, I decided to take a stronger tone with her.
If Asahina is the type of person to report this to Nagumo then either way, that’s it for me. Even if she reports it to him right now, it’ll end with her thinking I’m just a cheeky 1st year.
“Are you serious?”