Hint: To Play after pausing the player, use this button

Epilogue: Blind Spot 
The last day of the training camp. In other words, the day has come for our groups to be ranked in this special exam. One week has gone by and in that time, both boys and girls from across all school years making up roughly 36 small groups have gone about their own business. There are groups where members have successfully managed to deepen the relationships between one another and there are also groups that are on the brink of collapse. There are also groups where members indifferently did what needed doing without bothering to deepen relations between each other. At first, nobody in our group thought we’d see eye to eye. However, in the end we did manage to grow closer to one another, significantly bridging the distance that existed between us. Not perfectly, of course. 
At best, it’s a makeshift group. Tomorrow, we’ll be enemies again. We were only temporarily allied. However, there’s still a certain sense of loneliness when you remember that our activities together as a group is at an end. 
“We’ve done what needed doing for now. No matter what the outcome is, this group has no regrets.” 
“I think so too. Thank you for being our leader for a week, Yukimura.” 
Ishizaki and Keisei, both of their own volition, extended their hands and exchanged a light handshake. 
“No matter what the outcome is, let’s do our best.” 
“I’ll be counting on you.” 
The others are also complimenting each other and exchanging handshakes. Afterwards, we headed to the classroom our group was assigned to. There’s nothing to criticize as far as our unity goes too. Our biggest concern right now is how Kouenji will act. He’s currently calmly following us. But there’s no telling when we’ll lose control of him. 
The 2nd and 3rd years from our group are already here and so we panickedly took our seats. After that, the bell rang and a teacher came in simultaneously to begin explaining the contents of the exam to us. Even though we’re a large group made up of all school years, the exam itself will be held based on the small groups or our school year. 
At best, the large groups will only contribute to our overall ranking. No matter how spacious the outdoor school may be, if we’re all doing the same thing simultaneously then it won’t be enough. As expected, there are four topics covered by the exam and nothing out of the blue. ‘Zen’. ‘Speech’. ‘Long-distance relay’. ‘Written exam’. These are the four assessments that will be held. We 1st years will start with Zazen. And then we’ll move onto the written exam. Then the long-distance relay and finally we’ll be giving our speeches. 
On the contrary, the 2nd years have a harder start by having the long-distance relay come first. The 3rd years seem to be starting with their speeches. 

After breakfast, we headed over to the Zazen dojo. We are exempt from cleaning this morning since the exam will be starting right off the bat. All the 1st year boys are gathered here. 
“Now then, let’s start the Zazen assessment. Scoring is based on two criteria. Your actions and manners after entering this dojo and any semblance of unrest during Zazen itself. After Zazen, stand by in your assigned classrooms until you are given instructions for the next assessment. I’ll call each student out by name and we’ll go in that order. Line up and we’ll start the assessment in that order. I’ll start now. Class A, Katsuragi Kouhei. Class D, Ishizaki Daichi—”. 
The teacher continues to read out the names. After Katsuragi came Ishizaki, an unexpected order. Chatters came from the students around us. 
“Hurry up, Ishizaki. Next. 1st year Class B, Beppu Ryouta.” 
Bewildered, Ishizaki panickedly heads over to queue up. 
“So we’re not going by the usual order……” 
Keisei panicked and quickly prepared himself. I’ll admit this is not what we had imagined. We’ve performed Zazen over and over throughout this week but we all did so in our own small groups. 
We sat next to a group member of our choosing back then but this time around, it looks like the school is randomly allocating us. We’ll have to sit next to students who aren’t in our comfort zone. That may seem trivial but right now, when confronted with it out of the blue, that only adds to the list of hurdles. The school’s attempt to shake us up had an effect on a portion of the students right away. A large hand rests itself on the agitated Keisei’s shoulder. It’s Albert’s hand. Having received that concerned warning to keep himself calm, it appears Keisei managed to regain some of his calmness. 
“Sorry. If I’m like this on the very first assessment, it’d have an impact on the group’s morale.” 
Keisei didn’t think of a leader’s burden as being a negative point, but rather a positive one. Afterwards, Keisei’s name is called out and he obediently headed into the dojo. Ultimately, from our group I was called before Albert as second from last. Many teachers stood around inside the dojo holding boards and pens. Furthermore, perhaps to make absolutely certain, there’s almost a disproportionate amount of cameras set up inside the dojo. I’ve already got the basics of Zazen down in my head so I won’t slip up. 
Since the scoring system is mostly based on giving out demerits, I’ll first make sure to get a perfect score. I’ve already concluded that there’s no reason to hold back in Zazen and so I decided that I’ll definitely be getting a perfect score here. A slight distance away, Kouenji is also performing Zazen. There’s not a single mistake to be found in his posture. A truly beautiful posture. He continued to display that perfect, faultless posture. This man was never once serious during training but I suppose that’s to be expected. 
We keep our eyes closed during the actual assessment so I wasn’t able to see the details but it appears he’ll be able to pull it off without any problems. 

After Zazen, everyone starts leaving the room without making any small talk. Of course, we’re probably still being assessed until we’re outside the dojo itself. While being watched by the teachers, students leave the room and head over to their assigned classrooms as instructed. Once everyone in our group assembled in the classroom, Keisei sat down as though in relief. 
“Leg felt numb through the whole thing……” 
“Did you manage to endure it?” 
Maybe Ishizaki’s the same too because while rubbing his leg, he asked Keisei. 
“Somehow. But maybe I got a few demerits.” 
“Well, no use crying over spilt milk. Nothing you can do now that it’s over. You think so too, right Ayanokouji?” 
Saying that, Hashimoto looked at me. 
“That’s right. Next up is the written exam, Keisei’s specialty. It’ll be better to focus on that instead.” 
What he heard from Nagumo last night must still be on Hashimoto’s mind. But that doesn’t mean he’s just going to directly ask me about it or anything. Because Hashimoto doesn’t even know what part of me the older Horikita considers special in the first place. 
Aside from us, two more 1st year small groups linked up. One of them is the group led by Akito that Ryuuen is a member of. I could tell Ishizaki and Albert turning to look at Ryuuen. But rather than look at us, Ryuuen simply took a seat alone. Not talking to anyone else. Alone. He’s part of the group but at the same time, he isn’t. He’s giving off the feeling of being completely isolated. 
“That’s just strange, isn’t it?” 
Beside me, Hashimoto whispers as though talking to himself. It would be so easy to just ignore him but I suppose I’ll humor him a bit. 
“What is?” 
“I’m talking about Ishizaki and Albert’s eyes. They’re looking at someone they hate but I just don’t feel that from them. It’s almost like they’re pets thrown away by their master, looking at him with sorrowful eyes.” 
“I don’t quite understand. Didn’t Ishizaki and the others start the fight after being fed up with the tyranny?” 
“That’s true but……just maybe, there’s something else behind Ryuuen’s fall?” 
Hashimoto doesn’t have a single shred of evidence linking me to Ryuuen. However, taking into consideration Nagumo’s interest in Ryuuen, it’s not strange that his thoughts would forcibly lead him there. 
“Don’t know……I’m not familiar with the affairs of other classes.” 
“I see. Sorry about bringing up a strange topic.” 
Not too long afterwards, after the 10 minute break ended, we moved onto the written portion of the exam. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it. The things we learned during the training camp are the things we are tested on. As long as I get the essentials down, I could definitely get a perfect score but for a struggling student, 50~70 percent would be about right. I wonder what I should do… 
While everyone else is giving it their all in this exam, I tried to figure out just how many points I should lose. I don’t think they’ll announce individual results but it’s not very desirable to keep letting the school see me get perfect scores either. There are already far too many students trying to sound me out recently. I’m not lying when I say I want to hold myself back from getting a high score. And then I reached a conclusion. I decided to deliberately get a question that seems difficult wrong. This means it’ll be difficult for me to get any higher than 95 percent. After I finished writing down all the exams, I felt like looking out the window. But it would be troublesome if they think I’m cheating so I chose to silently close my eyes and wait for the end. 
After the test is over, the groups once again assembled and we score ourselves. Well, it’s not like anything will change just because we have to score ourselves but I cannot help but wonder whether I got that question right or wrong. I suppose changing your thoughts does help to a certain degree. We’re missing one person though since Kouenji left the classroom as soon as the test ended. As usual, Ishizaki seems to have missed out on many questions. Looks like I was right to insure against it. Still, the written exam itself was rather easy overall so every group should have scored highly. And from what I could see of the other students back at the dojo, there isn’t a significant gap forming in both ‘Zazen’ and the ‘Written exam’ portions. Everyone seemed to be performing Zazen relatively well. 
Since both the ‘Speech’ and ‘Zazen’ portions involve simply regurgitating what we’ve already learned, it’s unlikely to give rise to any differences in points as long as they’re properly done. That means the ‘Long-distance relay’ portion will have the most influence on the group rankings in this exam. If the scores directly translate to the rankings then the top group would have to have 100 percent but……number one=100 percent might be too straightforward. Our times will also have an impact. For instance, you’ll still be able to gain additional points even if you’re in sixth place so long as your time’s good. It all depends on how fast you finish and how high a rank you get. When I went outside, I spotted many vans parked. Looks like they’ll be using these vans to take each student to where they’re supposed to receive the baton. 
We received instructions from the staff to get into the vans. The minimum requirement for each student is to run at least more than 1.2 kilometers. 
The baton may be passed to another student every 1.2 kilometers. If due to an accident, the student becomes unable to continue running or is otherwise unable to fulfill the minimum requirements, they will be disqualified. After carefully informing us of those three things, they dropped off Keisei who would be first to run and then we left. That’s because our plan is to have the unathletic students run first. Keisei would go first and then next up would be Class B’s Sumida, Tokitou and then Moriyama. Yahiko is fifth up. 
That’s because the opening phase won’t have too many ups and downs plus there’s not much pressure on you to not be overtaken. These five will run the minimum length of 1.2 kilometers each. 6 kilometers in total. And then the baton will pass to Hashimoto and we’ll have him give it his all in running 3.6 kilometers including the turnaround point. Then Albert will take the baton and run 1.2 kilometers before passing it to Ishizaki, who will then run 3.6 kilometers. I would’ve been fine with taking over after Albert but Keisei insisted that linking up with a fellow classmate would make the transition go smoother. Kouenji will only be running 1.2 kilometers and so I’ll pass the baton over to him last after running 2.4 kilometers myself. 
That’s the conclusion Keisei ultimately reached. The reason he placed Kouenji last is to tempt him into the mood by baiting him with the goal plus to assuage any anxiety about him not carrying the baton. In the case that he holds back, we may be hit with a demerit if they’re unable to determine who ran slowly. Ishizaki then got off the van and now there’s only me, the teacher driving the van and Kouenji left. 
Since there’s the turnaround point to consider, it wouldn’t have been strange for them to drop us off first but it looks like they’re dropping us off in the exact order in which we’re running. 
All that’s left now is for me to stand by 3.6 kilometers away from the goal. The van starts moving back in the direction we came from. 
“Ayanokouji Boy, let me ask you this directly. If we get 1st place in the long-distance relay, what will the result be overall?” 
“…there’s no way I’d know that even if you ask me. In the first place, the results of the exam will depend on the average score of our large group. It all hinges on how well our seniors can perform, right?” 
No matter how hard we try, if the rest of them aren’t carrying their weight then it’ll be difficult for us to secure first place. 
“So you won’t say there’s a possibility of us being in first place, even as a lie?” 
“You’re not the type of man I could cheer up by saying that, right?” 
“I wonder about that. How about giving me 1.2 kilometers of your distance? If I run with everything I’ve got then there’s a very high chance the rest of the group will win.” 
After getting up, Kouenji whispered that into my ear. 
“What’s gotten into you?” 
“Just a whim. I’m saying that this whim of mine may help you out. Not a bad deal, right?” 
“In other words, you’re saying you’ll take responsibility for 2.4 kilometers and give us results?” 
“No need to be so formal. It’s just a whim of mine after all.” 
“I see. Sorry but I refuse. I don’t intend to just up and change Keisei’s strategy on my own.” 
“Fu. Fu. Fu. Really? That’s unfortunate.” 
Kouenji said that and then returned to his seat. 
I don’t know what he’s up to but I have no intention of taking any risks. If he’s helping us on a whim then that means he could hold back during the run itself on another whim. The only thing Kouenji’s promised to do is to run the minimum distance required. In other words, he may hold back once he’s running the extra 1.2 kilometers. The proof lies in how he brushed me aside when I asked whether or not he’d take responsibility. Besides, if some sort of trouble occurs because of a call I made then that may draw attention to me. 
“It looks like you’re sharper than I thought. But at the same time, you’re also a boring man.” 
If this evaluation of me leads him to treat me the same way he treats the other students, then that’s something to be grateful for. I got off the van and waited 3.6 kilometers away from the goal for Ishizaki. 
“Hey, Ayanokouji-kun.” 
Of course, there are also other boys at this spot and Hirata’s the one who called my name. 
“You’re not the anchor?” 
“Yeah. Kouenji will take over after me. What about you? Going with Sudou?” 
“Yeah. After all, he looks like he’s itching to run. But with 15 people, things don’t always go your way.” 
Currently, for the last 1.2 kilometers, Sudou’s rivalry with Kouenji is probably reaching its peak. 
“I personally would’ve preferred having more people. It would’ve been a little easier.” 
“Anyways, let’s do our best. Because as long as we’re over the borderline, no one will get expelled.” 
While we’re waiting, everyone’s free to either chat or remain silent. Since water supply points are located every 1.2 kilometers, it’s also possible to go and grab a drink. 
Well, if you guzzle water before running you run the risk of getting a stomach ache though…A single student, completely ignoring those concerns of mine, guzzled water from a bottle. 
“Ahh—I’m getting nervous…” 
That student whispered before turning around and locking eyes with me. It’s the Professor. He approached me. Maybe he wants someone to talk to. 
“So you’re in this position too, Ayanokouji-kun.” 
“A-Ayanokouji-kun? In this position…?” 
I couldn’t believe my ears at the way the Professor’s talking. The usual Professor would’ve gone with ‘Ayanokouji-dono~ You have been stationed at this location too~’ or something like that. 
“Ahh…no, I stopped speaking like that. I was doing it to imitate a character in the first place but after they warned me during Zazen, I thought I’d just quit doing it.” 
“I-I see.” 
I couldn’t hide my surprise at the Professor’s ill-suited normal speech. It’s like he’s lost his individuality. He’s giving me the impression of a Student A. 
Afterwards, I had a normal back-and-forth conversation with the Professor but to be honest, I can hardly recall any of it. Just changing your manner of speech can change a lot of things so there’s no telling. Anyways, I wonder if Keisei’s successfully passed the baton. No matter how long it takes, the important thing is to stay in the race. This may not sound nice but even if our large group comes in dead last and our group falls below the borderline there’s still absolutely no chance of any harm coming my way. But I do genuinely think it would be best if no one gets expelled. I wonder how many minutes have passed but finally, I could see a student coming over. But he turned out to be from Kanzaki’s group rather than Ishizaki. 
One by one, students continued to arrive after that. Ishizaki came in fourth after a close struggle against the runner in third place. 
“Hah, haaah. Take it, Ayanokouji! Get 1st place!” 
He screamed and handed the baton over to me. Whether or not we can take the lead depends on Kouenji but I just quietly accepted it and started running. 
“I’ll kill you if you hold back!” 
After handing me the baton, Ishizaki screamed that to me with the last of his strength before collapsing. I suppose it’s natural given that he just ran over 3 kilometers through mountainous terrain. 
I decided to slowly bridge the gap between me and the ones in front by running faster than the people around me while not letting it affect my breathing. Rather than me attacking them by going at a fast pace, I allowed their stamina to fail them before overtaking them. By doing so, it’s easier to fool them into thinking they were overtaken because they were slow. Despite the ups and downs, a distance of about 2 kilometers isn’t enough to make me pant. And just like that, I ended up overtaking one runner and ended up coming in third, not too far off from second place. Then I handed the baton over to Kouenji. The baton that passed through nine hands before reaching this point. Its fate now depends on the man before me. 
“Now then, let’s work up a little sweat.” 
Brushing back his hair, Kouenji accepted the baton and started running with an innocent look on his face. He’s probably not doing his best but he’s more than fast enough. If it’s like this then it should be fine. Of course, that is only if he doesn’t just started walking once he’s out of our sight. Afterwards, despite making us worry, Kouenji successfully reached the goal and ranked second. I don’t know whether he couldn’t keep up with the runner in first place or simply didn’t bother to. Probably the latter. 
The speech that will be taking place after this race may yet be a hell above all others for the 1st years. Because they’ll have to speak up after having exhausted themselves here. However, you could say there’s nothing else particularly noteworthy about it. Because despite Kouenji having a flair for the dramatic, I’m sure everyone else will be able to safely overcome this. 

Just like that, our long exam day ended. The group, no, the entire student body is exhausted. Our group will definitely rank far higher than what we expected it to rank at the beginning. 
As long as the average score favors us, our group will definitely stand more than a good chance. The rest depends on how well Nagumo’s group and the 3rd year group perform. 
At the very least we should be above the average. Just like our first day here, all the boys assembled inside the gymnasium. Afterwards, the girls also began assembling. The results of the special exam for both the boys and the girls will probably be announced now. 
It’s almost 5 o’clock in the evening. It’ll probably be late night by the time we get back to the school. 
“You all did well in the last eight days of this training camp. The contents of the exam are different of course, but this is a special exam that occurs every few years. Overall, you all did better than the students who took this special exam last time. I suppose you could attribute that to all of you having better teamwork.” 
The elderly man I haven’t seen before announced all that with a constant smile on his face. Looks like he’s the one in charge of this training camp. 
“First of all, I’ll be announcing the results. For the boys, all groups are above the average set by the school and so there will be no expellees.” 
The moment that was announced, I could hear the boys breathe a sigh of relief. 
“I see, so no expellees……“ 
Patting himself on the chest, Keisei sighed. Ishizaki lightly taps him on the back. 
“Never once thought we’d be expelled. Because we were aiming for 1st place after all.” 
No matter what your feelings are, the fact that we’ve avoided expulsion is a significant one. However, something about the way that elderly man phrased it seemed off. If there are no expellees among the entire student body then there’d be no reason to say ‘boys’ in particular. In other words— 
“As for the boys’ group that placed first, I’ll only be announcing the name of its 3rd year leader. For the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years of that group, your rewards will be handed out to you at a later date.” 
After explaining that, the elderly man slowly read the name. 
“3rd year, Class C. Ninomiya Kuranosuke-kun’s group placed first.” 
That announcement caused a portion of the 3rd years to celebrate. I didn’t know which group it was for a moment, but I immediately realized that it’s the group the older Horikita is in. 
It appears the older Horikita has dominated the battle against Nagumo. 
“You did it, Horikita. As expected of you.” 
Afterwards, groups starting from 2nd place to last place were announced but for the seniors that’s merely a bonus. Fujimaki, paying it no attention, praised the older Horikita. 
“Oi, Yukimura. We’re 2nd. We did it!“ 
“Yeah, that’s a relief. That’s really a relief.” 
I don’t know by how much since they didn’t announce the difference in points but Nagumo’s in 2nd place. That means it was close but he lost. Even if he placed 2nd, it still means Nagumo lost so he’d somewhat quiet down. That’s what everyone thought. To be honest, I couldn’t tell whose tactics would triumph in this fight. Why? Because I wasn’t particularly interested in it. 
However, Nagumo’s been smiling constantly beside me without showing any sign of being agitated. 
This isn’t a man who defiantly made his challenge and lost. I suppose that’s to be expected. Because this man’s been doing something ridiculously ‘wicked’ behind the scenes. 
“1st place secured. Congratulations, Horikita-senpai. As expected of you.” 
Nagumo raised his voice and congratulated the older Horikita. The older Horikita neither replied nor celebrated, remaining silent for the remainder of the announcement. 
No, perhaps he’s starting to feel something off about this. 
“You lost, Nagumo.” 
The 3rd year Fujimaki, who knows nothing, said that to Nagumo. Perhaps he feels like he’s just humbled an upstart junior. 
“Let’s see, the result announcement has just begun.” 
“Oh please, the fight’s already over.” 
“Sure, it’s over for the ‘boys’”. 
“Boys? Girls have nothing to do with this. Nagumo, that was the rule, right?“ 
“Yes, they have nothing to do with this. Nothing to do with my fight against Horikita-senpai, that is.” 
Fujimaki’s expression turned grim upon hearing those cryptic words from Nagumo. He quietly observed Ishikura from the 3rd years’ Class B from beside him. 
“Now then…next up I will be announcing the results of the girls’ groups. The group in 1st place is the group led by 3rd year Class C’s Ayase Natsu-san.” 
This time around, a portion of the girls start celebrating. The small group that’s a part of the 3rd year Ayase’s large group is the one built around Class C’s Horikita and Kushida. They may have just won quite a lot of points for themselves. But after the joy comes the problem. 
“Umm…this is truly unfortunate but there is one small group that has fallen below the average.” 
Both the boys and the girls froze up at that announcement. The students who were celebrating also went silent. 
Everyone did their best in the special exam and worked hard to ensure they’d be above the average. However, the results can sometimes be cruel. This would mean someone’s definitely going to be expelled. 
The question is whether it’s going to be a 1st year or a senior student, or perhaps both. There’s no telling yet. The older Horikita looked at Nagumo as though he just realized something. 
As though he’s trying to figure out the reason behind that constant warped smile on his face. But it’s already too late. 
“Firstly, I’ll announce the lowest group…it’s the group led by 3rd year Class B’s Ikari Momoko-san.” 
The boys all couldn’t tell who was in that group at first. But they could hear screams coming from some of the girls and they start to realize who belongs to that group. The bottom large group has been decided. Now it all rests on which small group fell below the average. 
In the worst case scenario, there could be expellees from all three years at once. 
“Now, as for the group that fell below the average…“ 
Silence fell upon the gymnasium almost as though we were in the midst of Zazen. Everyone, wanting to know the results as quickly as possible, focused on that man’s mouth. 
“Same as before, 3rd year—”. 

He read it out. And the gymnasium was divided into those who are starting to break out into a smile and those who are starting to get nervous. 
“The group’s leader is—Ikari Momoko-san. That is all.” 
The moment that was declared, Nagumo started laughing happily as though he had been restraining himself all this time. 
Time that passed like we were in slow motion resumed again. 
But a lot of the students have yet to comprehend the situation. Nagumo isn’t laughing because some student whose face he doesn’t even know just got expelled. All this means is that a student from the 3rd years’ Class B got expelled, that’s all…but he’s laughing because that isn’t all there is to it. 
“What did you do, Nagumo!?“ 
The 3rd year Fujimaki from Class A approached him as though he just realized what’s going on. The older Horikita didn’t follow suit but his expression turned grim. 
“The announcement is still ongoing, senpai. Please calm down. Currently this has nothing to do with you, Fujimaki-senpai. A Class B got expelled, that’s all. In fact, isn’t it great that a rival of yours has fallen?“ 
He answered with a scornful laugh. 
“Umm, please remain silent. This is truly unfortunate but in taking responsibility, Ikari-san will have to be expelled. Furthermore, since the group can opt to go with joint responsibility, please consult me at a later. Moving on, I’ll announce which girls’ group took 1st place.” 
Despite saying how unfortunate it was, the announcements continued on solemnly. However, the older Horikita no longer cared about having taken 1st place. He got caught up in it just the way he was meant to be. It’s precisely because he’s an outstanding and exemplary person that he got beaten by Nagumo Miyabi. An unexpected attack. 
“Ayanokouji, why is Fujimaki-senpai so angry…? Like Nagumo-senpai said, the leader’s a student from Class B. Isn’t that great news for Class A?“ 
Keisei whispered his doubts into my ear. 
“No, it’s not about the leader. I think it’s about who’s going to get dragged down along with her.” 
We were ordered to disband and while they prepare the bus for the return trip, we are allowed free time to change our clothes. Nagumo stood boldly and called over a single girl. 
“Ikari-senpai, please tell us. Everyone’s curious to know who you’re going to be dragging down with you.” 
Ikari, from the 3rd years’ Class B and slated for expulsion, appears calm. On the contrary, the ones worried are the girls who share a group with her. 
Ikari’s group consists mainly of Class Bs and Class Ds. There’s no doubt about it, since it’s information given by Asahina and Kei. 
Also, among them……there’s also the figure of the sole participant from Class A, Tachibana Akane. 
I looked at the older Horikita. And I then addressed him slowly in my mind. 
I understand. In order to ensure your graduation as Class A, in order to act against Nagumo, you instructed the students of Class A, both boys and girls alike, to not let a single one end up as the leader right? 
Because if you maintain a steady score, you won’t be expelled after all. However, you knew that even that would not be an absolute defense. 
That’s why you accepted Nagumo’s challenge and set the stage for a fair-and-square fight. 
To hold ‘malice’ at bay. 
And also you avoided making careless contact with the girls. 
To lower the risk of Nagumo taking advantage of that opening and targeting the girls. 
Amicably enough, you’ve exhausted all possible measures, I’ll acknowledge that. 
But even so, Nagumo’s malice exceeds even that. 
There’s no need to even talk about it at length. This special exam is a trap that Nagumo set without the school even realizing it. 
The people caught in the trap are now beginning to realize their situation. 
Their expressions, even now, have paled to the point it seems like they’re about to collapse. 
“Isn’t that obvious? You disturbed our group’s peace, Class A’s Tachibana Akane-san.” 
As though to let everyone hear, Ikari spat that out aggressively. 
“Nagumo…the promise made with Horikita was that we wouldn’t involve a third party in this right!?“ 
Fujimaki closes in, looking like he’s going to punch someone. 
“Hold on please. I have nothing to do with this.” 
It’s obvious he’d get angry. No matter who looks at it, he’s involved, is the mood of transparency he’s creating himself. 
“Then, I’ll be issuing the mutual fall notice.” 
Saying that indifferently, Ikari headed over to the teachers. 
At the same time, Ikari’s classmate Ishikura also followed as though they were sticking together. 
Nobody could bring themselves to recognize that. 
That includes the Hashimoto faction too. 
“Tachibana-senpai slowed down Ikari-senpai’s group. As a result, the average score fell below the border, and she’ll be dragged down too. Isn’t it as simple as that?“ 
Unlike Fujimaki, the older Horikita called out to Tachibana, who was standing stock still, before approaching Nagumo. 
A portion of the 3rd years left with helpless expressions. 
“Horikita-kun, I’m sorry……!“ 
“Tachibana, why didn’t you consult me earlier? You should have been able to notice the abnormality.” 
“That’s…because I knew it would only burden Horikita-kun……“ 
Tachibana apologizes while in tears. 
In all likelihood she didn’t notice it at first. The fact that the trap was sprung from the moment the groups were established. 
However, with the passage of time she must have felt it. The fact that the group she’s in is a group that’s meant to drag down ‘Tachibana’. 
And Tachibana challenged the exam, hoping for a miracle. However, as expected, reality is cruel. 
But Tachibana too, should have resolved to accept this as well. That even if she herself were to be expelled, it would end with the loss of just 100 class points. 
“Beautiful friendship, or perhaps love would be a better fit. Congratulations, Horikita-senpai. Once again, please let me give my compliments. It’s my loss.” 
Nagumo gave his compliments in a tone that hardly sounds like a loser’s speech. There probably isn’t a single person who would accept them gratefully. 
“A fantastic idea, no, shall I say it was a strategy that was beyond the norm? There isn’t a single person capable of reading me. Horikita-senpai, that includes you too.” 
Laughing heartily, Nagumo did not let up the attack on his injured opponent. 
“Please do tell me, Tachibana-senpai. Carrying out your duties as part of the student council, and so close to your graduation as Class A of the 3rd years, how exactly does it feel to be expelled? Also Horikita-senpai, what are your current feelings? Surely you’re consumed by a feeling of irritation you haven’t felt before?“ 
Having those words directed at him, the older Horikita silently breathes out. 
“Why didn’t you target me?“ 
“Even if I were to use a strategy like this against you, senpai, I’ve never considered expelling you. You could have stopped me with a strategy unforeseen and I was scared of that. But more than that, it’s not like I ever thought I wanted to expel you, Horikita-senpai. On the contrary, if you were to be expelled, we wouldn’t be able to meet anymore would we? And that’s why when I picked one out of many, it ended up being Tachibana-senpai. I wanted to see what kind of face you’d make when I got rid of her.” 
He then laughed as though saying it was just curiosity, pure interest. 
“My policies differed from yours but I did trust you. Regarding our competition, I thought you to be the kind of man capable of facing me head-on. Looks like I was wrong.” 
Nagumo did not flinch in response to those words from Horikita. 
“Trust is similar to experience points. You accumulate them and it gradually grows bigger and bigger. Its ultimate form, I believe, is family. If you’re out at night and you encounter a stranger, you’d be cautious. Yet if they turned out to be family then you’d let your guard down entirely. I’d say it’s something similar to that. During these two years, even though I’m certain Horikita-senpai did not like me, I did gain a certain degree of your trust. Our values were different but it’s all because I made good on my promises. In regards to our relationship, I obeyed your instructions and kept the rules. But even so, we’re talking about a senpai as sharp as you, it’s not like you trusted in me 100% right?“ 
He should know at least that the older Horikita had given instructions for defense as well as the fact that he had been gathering information. 
“But…even if you doubted me, it’s not like you can afford to take the initiative in betraying me, senpai.” 
It’s one of the harsh points of nonaggressive defense. 
“Because of that one curiosity you held, you’ve lost big time, Nagumo.” 
“Things like trust, I’ve thrown them aside myself. In order to be understood by the senpai who cares for his kouhais.” 
Keeping promises and having kept promises. 
Nagumo easily painted over such foundations. 
Trust and respect. To desire a fight that demolishes such fences. This is a challenge from Nagumo, who thinks that way. 
“I’ve managed to understand your modus operandi well.” 
“That’s a relief. Because this is, at the very most, a mere skirmish still.” 
Saying that, Nagumo asks. 
“If necessary, I just have to expel as many people as needed. That is the original modus operandi of this school.” 
“You seem to be continuing this conversation on the assumption that Tachibana will be expelled.” 
While his surroundings were panicking, the older Horikita alone calmly proceeded with the conversation. 
“W-Wait, Horikita-kun!“ 
Tachibana screams. 
But the older Horikita’s eyes already showed a firm resolve. 
“Heh. I figured it’d be a tie but are you really going to spit that out? With this timing, that large amount of money and class points, I mean.” 
Cancellation of expulsion. 
As long as the criteria are met, it’s the ultimate method available for use by anyone. 
“Please stop, I beg you. My uselessness is my own responsibility……that’s why—-“. 
Tachibana desperately tried to stop him. 
However, it seems Fujimaki also shares the same opinion as the older Horikita, as he spoke to the students of Class A. 
“Up until now, the reason why Class A was able to function as Class A is something the people in the class understand better than anyone else. Isn’t that right?“ 
“That’s exactly right, Horikita. No need to hold back, use it, use it.” 
His Class A classmates said that at the same time. 
“Is that really ok, Horikita-senpai? For the 3rd years to ‘save’ an expellee with this timing means Class A would have to give up their seat you know?“ 
“Even if we have to give it up once, we just have to take it back again. Using the modus operandi of this school you mentioned.” 
“Is that so? Well, I suppose that’s fine too.” 
In all likelihood, from this point onwards, Miyabi will pleasantly discuss the strategy he himself formulated. 
There’s no need for me to listen to something I already know without even needing to ask. 
I took my distance as though to leave this place. It’s because there’s nothing I can do even if I stayed here any longer. 
Horikita was anxiously observing the situation, the whole story. 
She was staring at her brother so intently she didn’t even notice my existence. 
As I left the gymnasium without paying any mind to it, Kei was standing by the side of the entrance as though she had been waiting for me. 
As I walked through the corridor, she started walking after me with a slight delay. 
“It turned out exactly how Kiyotaka said it would. You seriously knew. That Tachibana-senpai would be targeted. Even though if we’re talking about expulsions, anyone other than Horikita-senpai could have fit the bill……“ 
“The rules for this special exam. As soon as I heard the student council was involved in their conception and formation, I thought that. Certainly anyone could have fit the bill if we’re talking about being targeted. But after going to the trouble of setting up this large scale trap. If he intends on giving a far more effective performance then the targets for that would be a limited few. The only female student who’s had extensive contact with him would be Tachibana after all.” 
That was the conclusion I reached after connecting the dots from the information I acquired from Kei, Ichinose and Asahina. 
The miraculous harmony between Nagumo and Ishikura from Class B of the 3rd years clearly hinted at the connection between the two. 
Nagumo’s taken under his wing not just the entirety of the 2nd years but also the non-Class A 3rd years. 
“The large groups all colluded together to come up with low scores and the members of the group that Tachibana belonged to must have been considerably holding back as well. By doing so, it’s an easy task to delineate the border.” 
Was how I explained it but it seems like there’s still something Kei isn’t convinced of. 
“But why did you use Class B? Even though it’d have been perfectly fine to have a student from Class D be the leader. Because you used Class B, ultimately Horikita-senpai’s still Class A right? If you wanted to drag him down to Class B isn’t that what you should have done?“ 
Kei’s viewpoint is a good one. Certainly, that’s exactly right. 
If I’m going to carry out this strategy with resolve then I should have had the leader be a student from Class D and lessened the gap between Class A and Class B that way. Is what I’d have considered normally. 
“It’s precisely because it’s Class B that this was possible. If Tachibana were to complete the special exam’s assignments flawlessly then it wouldn’t be a simple task dragging her down. Unless the other three classes, excluding A, join hands, it’s not a viable trap. Consider Class D, who’s probability of making it to Class A is the lowest one at the moment, in order to ascend even by one class they may decide, at the very last moment, to drag down students from Class C or Class B. But if a student from Class B were to become the leader, that absolutely won’t be the case. Because it would be pointless to drag down students from a lower class at a time like this.” 
On the other hand, looking at it from Class D or Class C’s perspective, if it would result in the students from Class A and Class B being expelled and them crumbling down, then naturally they’d happily cooperate. 
And Ikari’s group, sharing a mutual destination, thoroughly laid the blame on Tachibana. 
If anything happened, they probably harassed her maliciously. Tachibana was left unable to sleep at night from the commotion. 
As a result of obeying Tachibana’s instructions, their grades did not improve. If you look only at the results of the special exam, despite it being mediocre, if they can frame her as having pulled their leg for the entire week then that’ll be more than enough to drag her down. 
If there were pleas, then they would deliberate but if the entire small group collude together to assert that she had obstructed them in places where no one would see then there’d be no choice but to recognize that. 
Of course, it would set a malicious precedent but the outdoor school’s special exam that will be taking place in a few years time should have some amendments made to its rules anyways. 
And just like that, Nagumo’s elaborate strategy ensared her and succeeded in carrying out measures towards Tachibana’s expulsion. 
“……but, like, how could he even come up with a strategy like this. If I were a Class B student, I absolutely wouldn’t be able to stand being expelled for the sake of my comrades. Where’s the reward in that?“ 
“I don’t know what exactly the reward is but at the very least, Ikari won’t be expelled.” 
“Ehh? But, she’s the leader right?“ 
“They probably predicted that the older Horikita would utilize that. 20 million points and 300 class points. If they’re paid, you can cancel the expulsion. In other words, you can extend a lifeline. It’s because he’ll be utilizing that.” 
“Somehow, I can’t tell if that’s a gain or not. Rather, wouldn’t it be a loss?“ 
“It’s a blow having to spend class points but if Class A too, extends a lifeline, then a gap won’t form. Compared to that, they won’t sustain any damage as far as private points go.” 
“Does that mean the 3rd years’ Class B is just that rich?“ 
“No. The absolute condition that comes with Nagumo proposing this strategy would be that he’ll pay all the private points. If he won’t do even that then they probably won’t even cooperate with him.” 
Probably, on the bus, Nagumo made contact with Ishikura and paid him 20 million points in advance. The proof lies in Ikari, who’s always calm, and Ishikura who acts alongside that Ikari. 
“The 2nd years are united. If he raises money from the entirety of the 2nd years then he wouldn’t even need 50,000 points per person. Saving one expellee wouldn’t even be expensive.” 
“What a messed up way of fighting. That’s absolutely not normal.” 
“That’s how Nagumo Miyabi operates, is what it is.” 
He didn’t think of the strategy after seeing the exam. He thought of the strategy first before creating the exam. 
Class A, led by the older Horikita, would have to pay a total of 20 million private points as a single class. 
You could say that it’s an extreme amount of damage. 
Before one or two special exams which would likely occur prior to graduation, they had lost a tremendous amount of money. 
If the older Horikita were to be expelled in the next exam, then in all likelihood, he wouldn’t have enough money left for himself. 
The lifeline would misfire. 
“We should split up.” 
“One more thing, please tell me just one more thing.” 
Perhaps there’s still something she’s curious about, as Kei stopped me. 
“Nagumo-senpai’s way of thinking, it seems like there’s no way to stop the method he used to drive Tachibana-senpai to expulsion. How should I put it, a perfect trap? Is that why Kiyotaka didn’t make a move?“ 
“There’s no doubt that it’s quite a formidable strategy. It’s already pretty much checkmate the moment he makes the enemy walk into it.” 
He set a good predecent that private points can become powerful weapons. 
“If I happened to be in a situation similar to Tachibana-senpai’s……? If it’s a situation where even a lifeline can’t be used? As I thought, at a time like that, wouldn’t it be impossible to do anything?“ 
Kei asks me that softly. 
“You don’t even need to hear my reply, you already know don’t you? I won’t let you get expelled. No matter what method I have to use.” 
After that, Horikita Manabu paid the class points and private points that Class A possessed and chose to extend a lifeline to Tachibana Akane. 
And just as I had predicted, Class B’s Ishikura also extended a lifeline to Ikari. 
An unusual scenario where two classes exercised the right to utilize a lifeline at the same time occurred. And also from this point onwards, one after another, expulsions will occur in the Advanced Nurturing High School from all school years. 


No Comments Yet

Post a new comment

Register or Login