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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?” 

“You were joking, weren’t you, senpai?” 
“Look here, this isn’t something a 1st year can do anything about.” 
She said that and apologized for joking. But I continued with that exact same tone. 
“Among all the 2nd years I’ve seen up until now, Asahina-senpai looks like the most straightforward one.” 
“…the most straightforward one?” 
“Because it’s very difficult to acquire information from the 2nd years that ‘Nagumo Miyabi’ rules over, you see.” 
“You’re saying something rather outrageous. I’m also a 2nd year. Miyabi and I actually have a ‘deep relationship’, you know?” 
“It’s not about shallow or deep, it’s about how much you’ve been influenced by him. That’s the important part.” 
Either way, since they’re in the same class there’s no way they could possibly be enemies. No matter what she thinks about Nagumo, she probably wouldn’t want her class to be disadvantaged. 
“I think they’re similar though.” 
“Well, please just think of it as a 1st year’s nonsense.” 
And with that I bowed my head. 
“Please excuse me.” 
“Ahh, wait a minute. Somehow, this makes me feel like I’m the villain here.” 
She breathes out and then smiled. 
“I understand you’re not joking. That’s why as an apology, please let me repay you for picking up my amulet. If there’s anything you’d like to ask me, I’ll answer.” 
“Are you fine with that? I may point an arrow at Nagumo-senpai, you know.” 
“To be completely honest with you, I don’t really think the situation will change any just because I talk to you.” 
She seems to be certain that even if she gives me information on some of the 2nd years, it won’t have a major influence. 
In other words, it’s information that would be pointless even if known. If that’s how she sees this, then I’m extremely grateful for that. 
“Among the 2nd year girls, how many are particularly intimate with Nagumo-senpai?” 
“Girls who are intimate with him? Like all of them. Because they trust Miyabi more than any other boy, you see—”. I do know that he’s not the sort of enemy ordinary methods will work against but he’s got a really wide range. 
“What about the people most likely to act as Nagumo-senpai’s pawns?” 
“Do you think I’ll tell you that much?” 
“As a senpai, you wouldn’t mind giving the 1st years a little credit, would you?” 
“You’re saying that? You’re a cheeky one.” 
She said so and laughed. But she didn’t seem against it. 
“Well, it’s not like it’s my place to say that or anything though. The 2nd years have a strong sense of camaraderie. Honestly, we 2nd years split up into groups way faster than both the 1st and 3rd years, didn’t we? After we received the explanation on the bus, we immediately shared information between classes on Miyabi’s command.” 
They should technically be enemies but as I suspected, they seem to be in a state of cooperation. 
Asahina told me the names of each class’s representative. Maintaining contact between the four buses, they were able to decide on their small groups to a certain degree. It appears the girls also did something similar. 
“What about when you linked up with the 1st year and 3rd year groups? Did you randomly decide on those as well?” 
Nagumo’s proposal for the boys was a draft-based system performed by the 1st years. 
“Ehh? Pretty much.” 
“Pretty much? Does that mean there’s an exception?” 
Asahina seemed deep in thought while she crossed her arms. 
“…why exactly?” 
I could tell that Asahina’s now harboring doubts. Perhaps she didn’t find a resolution immediately, since the silence continued. 
“Are you not going to tell me?” 
“No, that’s not it. There was a request made by the 2nd year girls when forming the large groups. Or rather, they made some adjustments. That small group consisted of people that Nagumo could count on.” 
If the groups are formed based on Nagumo’s orders, then there’s the possibility that they were entrusted with a special role. It’s a conclusion you wouldn’t be able to draw unless you know about the internal affairs of the 2nd years. 
From the perspective of the 1st and 3rd years, it’ll only appear to be friends flocking to each other. 
“Are there any prominent 1st year or 3rd year students from that large group that those girls belong to?” 
“Even if you ask me that, I don’t really know much about the 1st years. But I guess from the 3rd years, there’s Tachibana-senpai who used to be Horikita-senpai’s secretary. Ahh, but the leader is someone else. So nothing strange’s going to happen, I’m telling you. In the first place, Miyabi already said he wants to fight fair-and-square, didn’t he?” 
“You have quite a lot of faith in Nagumo-senpai.” 
The older Horikita too, seemed to have some measure of faith in Nagumo’s words. If I am to believe the older Horikita and Asahina’s words, then this whole chain of suspicion would be labelled ‘fake’. That he’s trying to use the suspicion that he’ll use some other method while promising to fight fair-and-square to throw us off and ruin our focus. 
“He always keeps his promises. That’s why he won’t fight dirty. In the first place, even if the girls’ group springs some sort of trap, it won’t have any effect on Horikita-senpai and Miyabi’s fight, will it?” 
“That’s right. That is, without a doubt, irrelevant.” 
Asahina’s doubts are quite right. Nagumo’s proposal was that his group and the older Horikita’s group have a match. It has nothing to do with the girls. That’s why even if the girls who are especially intimate with Nagumo happen to be in the same group as Tachibana, it would still be irrelevant. It means pretending to fight openly while planning something underhanded yet having it turn out to be an open fight in the end. 
So that would mean that the seemingly meaningful words he spoke when making contact with Ishikura-senpai of the 3rd years was also a fake out. If we’re talking about normally sounding someone out, it would be something like having several pieces appear before they fall away and disappear. A rather interesting way of doing it. 
Unlike Sakayanagi or Ryuuen, this is a strategy with its own unique style to it. 
“Now then, if there’s anything I have in particular to say it’s that it’s your loss if you care about that.” 
“You were a great help.” 
I should thank Asahina for listening to my unreasonable request and telling me about their internal affairs. Of course, looking at it from Asahina’s perspective, she doesn’t think what she did here would get in Miyabi’s way at all. Because she probably doesn’t think someone like me could possibly become an enemy. 
“Well, do your best and go scare the hell out of Miyabi. I’ll be rooting for you, just a bit.” 
“Ahh, and also there’s just one more thing.” 
Combining this with the information I got from Kei, the accuracy increases even further. I decided to step it up a bit more.


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