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LN Classroom of the Elites Volume 9 Read Online

GOLDENAGATO

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Vol 9 - Prologue
The Monologue of Ichinose Honami

I've never thought of myself as either a 'good person' or a 'bad person'.

I like to think I've managed to become an 'honest me', just like my mother wanted.

I had a comfortable life throughout both elementary school and middle school. I had plenty of friends, both boys and girls.

I found sports rather difficult but I put in as much effort into it as I did my studies.

By the time I was a 3rd year in middle school, I was even able to gain the title of student council president that I had longed for.

I was even offered a spot at a private high school on a scholarship.

A fun school life. A happy private life.

But........I made a single mistake.

A mistake that could never be forgiven, a mistake I should never have made.

The angry face my mother, who had collapsed from illness, made at that moment.

Her tears at that moment.

The bitter face my little sister made after being hurt and left as nothing more than a shell of herself.

I could never forget.

Even now, I occasionally recall that moment.

My trembling fingers.

My trembling body.

A heart dyed black.

I wasted half of my 3rd year of middle school and I ended up becoming a shut-in for half a year.

But on a certain day, that ended.

When I learned about this school, I felt I needed to put an end to that.

In order to bring back the smiles of my mother and my little sister.

That's why I won't run from my own 'answer'.

I will face it head on.

Yes, that's the oath I swore.

But---

At this school I enrolled at while embracing my dreams, I was confronted with a trial.

I found a letter and just froze up.

Around me, my classmates were turning towards me with curious looks.

I read the contents of the letter over and over.

And no matter how many times I read them over, the words did not change.

'Ichinose Honami is a criminal'.

The girl had been feeling extremely nervous since long, long before the incident occurred.

In the student council room on a day off.

"1st year, Class B, Ichinose Honami, huh?".

"Yes".

She squeezed her voice out from within her throat.

Ichinose Honami's expression was rather tense when she faced Vice President Nagumo.

A special one-on-one interview.

"What did the student council president tell you?".

"That it's still not time...".

Ichinose, who had wanted to join the student council, stood before the doors leading to the student council not long after enrolling.

However, President Horikita interviewed Ichinose and rejected her application to the student council.

Ichinose, who strongly desired a place on the council, felt disappointment at that but upon hearing of her circumstances, Vice President Nagumo had approached her.

There are three reasons behind that.

One is that she belongs to Class B, much like himself, rather than Class A.

Another is that her academic ability is nothing short of outstanding.

And the last reason is that she qualifies as an extremely good-looking person. Something Nagumo seeks in the opposite sex.

It's mainly because Ichinose met that last criteria. The first two are nothing more than a bonus.

The important thing is whether or not she's worth keeping at his side as his personal property.

"I hear you were on the student council, and student council president no less, during middle school?".

"Yes, that's why I wanted to join the student council here at this school as well".

Ichinose told the truth. And also a lie.

"I heard from your homeroom teacher, Hoshinomiya-sensei. Looks like your results on the entrance exams were also outstanding".

"Thank you very much".

She obediently accepted his praise.

But she couldn't look Nagumo in the eye.

"To be honest, you're quite something".

"But...President Horikita didn't acknowledge me.......".

Ichinose, with a bitter smile, put herself down.

It was because she had expected she'd be able to join the student council.

Even so, a hint of a smile remained.

Because she felt that she wouldn't give him a good impression here by being depressed.

"It's because President Horikita's a strict person. In all likelihood, he already rejected you out of hand because you're not in Class A. That man puts a lot of emphasis on status".

"I see..........".

That was a lie Nagumo told.

At first glance, Horikita Manabu looks like the sort of person who'd obsess over status like that. However, the truth is the exact opposite of that.

He assesses the person whether they're from Class D or Class A and he's the sort of person who'd evaluate talent.

But to Ichinose, who had been rejected, Nagumo's words sounded like truth.

"I wonder if I must get promoted to Class A in order to join the student council?".

"I don't know about that. Even if you get promoted to Class A, President Horikita may or may not acknowledge you. In other words, Ichinose, you weren't considered up to par from the very moment you enrolled here. No matter how much effort you put in now, President Horikita will never accept a student stuck with the label of Class B".

At that cruel announcement, the remaining smile on Ichinose's face vanished.

"B-But you're in Class B are you not, Nagumo-senpai? And you're still vice president so that means---".

Nagumo immediately extinguishes that fleeting hope of hers.

"In my case there were two reasons. One is that I joined the student council before President Horikita came to power. In other words, it was during the reign of the 3rd year student council president last year. But back then, Vice President Horikita alone objected to my student council appointment to the bitter end".

Ichinose's expression clouded up.

Seeing that, Nagumo felt joy in his heart.

He decided then that he would definitely get Ichinose appointed to the student council.

And that he would love her as if she were his own personal property.

"One more thing, I'm aware of just how talent I possess. I'm proud to say I'm someone who would've normally been assigned to Class A. That's precisely why when I applied for the student council, I confessed the full truth behind my assignment to Class B. Without holding anything back".

"Confessed.....?".

"Yeah. I proved that when it comes to ability, I'm not inferior to Class A. That resulted in my current position".

"The confession of the cause for that.....what was it for you, Nagumo-senpai?".

At those words, Nagumo internally smirked.

"Sorry but I have no intention of answering that. Right now, the one being questioned is you, Ichinose".

"Me.....?".

"I'm not quite convinced yet. Normally speaking, it would've been strange for you to not be in Class A. Your grades are outstanding, there's nothing wrong with your interpersonal skills. And you were once student council president. Yet why Class B? There must be some reason for that".

Ichinose could not hide her agitation, not when Nagumo's cunningly pointing it out.

But this is merely something Nagumo hypothesized based on the information he obtained from Ichinose's homeroom teacher, Hoshinomiya.

"Tell me what you think could be the reason. And if I deem you as a student worthy of Class A then I'll take responsibility and accept you into the student council".

"Is that......possible?".

"President Horikita's authority is certainly absolute. But what happens to the council after Horikita-senpai graduates? If new 1st years aren't allowed in then it would be impossible for the student council to train its successors. The one who'd be troubled by that would be the future student council president, me, right?".

".....I suppose so.......".

"Someone who is unable to grab hold of this opportunity has no place in the student council".

Ichinose had a secret she's been harboring.

The memories of her holing herself up inside her room for half a year during her 3rd year of middle school came flooding back.

"What I say here-----".

"It won't leave this room, of course. Your secret is our secret".

Her past she had held onto without telling a soul. But, she needs to face her past.

It's precisely because she lost the trust of others that she needs to trust in others.

"I.........I".

Ichinose opened up about everything.

About her own 'mistake'.




Vol 9 - Chap 1
The Student Council President's Intentions

Early February, after the training camp ended and the return to the Advanced Nurturing High School. Sakayanagi Arisu from Class A of the 1st years was in the student council room.

Placing her favorite hat on the desk, she faced the student council president Nagumo Miyabi from Class A of the 2nd years.

"The student council room has become rather flashy. It's completely different from the way it used to be".

To put it nicely, it's prim and proper.

To put it meanly, it's become an exceedingly formal room. Even the wallpapers have been changed and accessories that look like Nagumo's personal belongings have been moved here in bulk.

Rather than a student council room, it looked more like a room that exists for Nagumo's sake.

Renovations of that sort have been performed.

A place that exists almost as a sort of symbol of his might.

That's the impression Sakayanagi had of it.

"Did Horikita-senpai recommend you for the student council, by any chance?".

At the visit of Sakayanagi, who seemed entirely unrelated to the student council, Nagumo posed that question.

"Unfortunately, I'm not a fit for that role so I was not invited to do so".

"He just doesn't have a good eye for that sort of stuff".

"Then perhaps you mean to say you're different, new student council president?".

Nagumo laughed faintly.

"Of course I'd welcome you. But then you'd have to be my personal property though".

Answering with that, Nagumo caressed the head of the stuffed rabbit near him.

Is it his? Or perhaps it's from one of the girls around him?

Be his personal property. In other words, it means he has no interest in borrowing the talent of others. He makes decisions based on looks alone.

She could have overlooked it but Sakayanagi boldly chose to pursue that topic.

"What will I have to do in order to acquire your seal of approval, I wonder?".

"By showing me an appropriate amount of talent. That's the only way. First off, it's not too late to join the student council you know? Come over to my side, Sakayanagi".

"I see".

Sakayanagi smiled, but then immediately continued.

"Let's not. I think it would be a problem for there to be two leaders in one organization. And most importantly, the senior students may be humiliated".

"Two leaders, huh?".

It's like Sakayanagi is saying that she's equal to Nagumo if not superior to him despite only being a 1st year.

But even after hearing that, Nagumo did not grow angry. On the contrary, he relaxed his cheeks even more than before and laughed.

"Both you and Ryuuen. We've got a lot of interesting 1st years this year, don't we?".

This school doesn't have a single student considering making the student council their enemy.

Most would nestle up to it in an attempt to make it to Class A. Or they'd make sure to not attract its attention.

But both Sakayanagi here and Ryuuen would not think twice about making enemies out of anyone. And they'd show no mercy either.

"I can't say that's a wise lifestyle choice".

There are students who'd praise that sort of student with enemies in all directions, but Nagumo isn't one of them.

He'd rather acknowledge those who are willing to throw away their pride at times in order to make use of their power to accomplish a goal.

And with that, Nagumo's phone which had been placed on top of the desk up until now, vibrated once. The vibrations continued a few times after that at short intervals.

"Is that fine?".

"I'm currently setting aside time for you. Don't worry about it".

"Popular people sure have it tough, don't they? Surely you always get calls like this without fail?".

"If you understand that then why don't we get down to business? If you don't wish to join the student council then what business do you have with me to the point you'd have me clear out the room? I'm sorry but after this, another '1st year' is going to be paying me a visit. They've already made an appointment with me so I can't set aside much time for you".

"Is that so? Then I suppose I'd best get on with it".

Nagumo deliberately said it was a '1st year' to Sakayanagi yet there was no change in her expression.

But Nagumo concluded that on the contrary, it meant that she's interested.

"I came here today to ask you for a favor. It's about a member of the student council, Ichinose Honami-san from Class B of the 1st years. I will be launching an attack against her shortly. It may get somewhat stormy once that happens".

"I've heard that one before. So?".

Nagumo urged her to continue. This is something Nagumo heard from Sakayanagi during their previous meeting alone.

Of course, there aren't that many people aware of this fact.

"She's the only 1st year in the student council. In other words, you could say she's slated to become the future student council president".

"Assuming none of the other 1st years are accepted into the student council and there's no outstanding talent among the incoming freshmen either, that is".

"Yes, you are right".

In other words, Ichinose's loss is also the student council and Nagumo's loss.

"As a 'thank you' for the other day, I thought to inform you of it in advance. In the worst case scenario, Ichinose Honami-san may be expelled so I must ask you to bear with it".

Sakayanagi declared that without showing any fear of Nagumo.

"I don't recall giving you permission to 'go that far', Sakayanagi".

For the first time, Nagumo's smile vanished.

"Yes, you did say to merely bully Ichinose-san and no more, President. However, I was thinking I'd play rough with her for a bit".

"Honami is my personal property I plan on loving. I only gave you permission to weaken her a bit".

"I am well aware of it. But, there are always unforeseen factors in play".

Nagumo stared down Sakayanagi with a slightly sharp gaze.

Some may even describe it as a glare.

Sakayanagi coolly shrugged off that stare from Nagumo.

"So you......won't mind it if she does end up getting expelled?".

Nagumo slowly raised his elbow from the chair's armrest.

"You're a bold woman. Aren't you afraid of me?".

"It's just in my nature".

"Tell me something. You could've simply done what you wanted without asking me for my permission. But you still dutifully came here like this to ask for my permission. Should I assume this means you don't want to make an enemy out of me?".

Nagumo asked Sakayanagi that question, not fooled by words like respect.

"You may interpret it however you wish".

"Don't hide it. I want your honest thoughts on it".

Nagumo tried to uncover her true intentions, the flattery notwithstanding.

"The student council at this school appears to possess more power than I expected it to at first. If, in order to protect Ichinose-san, the student council...no, if President Nagumo makes a move then it will be troublesome for me as well".

Sakayanagi too, wishes to avoid having Nagumo cover for Ichinose.

That was her response.

As though satisfied with that, Nagumo flashed a smile.

It was a roundabout way of saying so but it does mean she does not wish to make Nagumo her enemy.

"Looks like the information I gave you is proving useful".

"Yes. Thanks to you, it appears I will be able to strike at Ichinose-san's weak point. I will be putting that information to better use from this point onwards".

"Very well, Sakayanagi. The student council too will turn a blind eye to your actions".

"Shall I also assume the student council 'too' will turn a blind eye?".

There's no way Sakayanagi would miss it in the pledge Nagumo made.

"....fuu. Ahh, there's no duplicity in saying the student council 'too'. What are you thinking of doing?".

"That's for you to look forward to......I'll leave it at that".

There are no upsides to discussing her strategy here. That's the decision Sakayanagi made.

The man in front of her, Nagumo, is someone who isn't the least bit trustworthy. He's simply going to throw away someone who could become an asset for the student council.

"By the way, I don't get many chances to speak with you alone like this so there's something else I'd like to ask you".

"What?".

"The possibility of it happening is low but when the going gets tough, as a drastic measure......there's no guarantee that there won't be a student who wouldn't resort to brute force. I'd like to hear your thoughts about that, President".

Sakayanagi is confident she won't lose to the resourceful type like Katsuragi, Ichinose or Horikita. But, violence is a different story. A cripple like Sakayanagi would stand no chance.

"You don't fare so well against the type of person who'd resort to using brute force at the very last moment?"

"It's not exactly my speciality".

All the more so for Sakayanagi, who is physically handicapped.

"Unfortunately for you, I don't particularly dislike the use of violence either. In the first place, fights breaking out between students is a normal occurrence. Unlike Horikita-senpai, I don't plan to crack down on them either and.....if it's just a skirmish I plan on laughing it off".

That declaration seemed to put Sakayanagi, weak against violence, at a disadvantage. But Sakayanagi was concerned about something else entirely.

"I see...then of the fight that broke out between Class D and Class C of the 1st years a while back. If it were you, President Nagumo, would you have handed down a different sentence than the previous student council president?".

Sudou and Ishizaki's group, which side threw the punch and which side was punched. That incident where they quarrelled over surveillance cameras and what not.

Even though Nagumo was not directly involved with that, there's no way he wouldn't have known of it given that he always sticks to Horikita Manabu.

"Let's see.....that incident which ended up getting the school involved. I can't really give an innocent verdict on that but I won't push them to the point of expulsion over it either. I'd end it by merely suspending the parties involved from school. Of course, I won't demand their class points be deducted either".

That's the student council's opinion of it at best, was what Nagumo added.

No matter how tolerant the student council is, if the school says 'no' then it's a 'no'.

Sakayanagi is most likely well aware of that fact too.

Even if they are far more powerful than your average student council, they are at the end of the day, still only students. One cannot afford to forget that.

"I see. I understand you are an extremely tolerant person".

One must keep in mind that in the future, battles involving intimidation and violence will become a reality and to factor that into their calculations.

"If you're so worried about that, I can prepare a 2nd year escort for you".

The 2nd years will use force to subdue the 1st years.

The student council president made that offer.

"I am most grateful but that will be unnecessary. To fight with the pieces I hold in hand is my modus operandi".

What Sakayanagi wanted to know was 'how far she can take it until it's no longer safe'.

It's more than enough for her knowing that she has the right to counterattack after being attacked.

"Are you satisfied?".

"Yes, abundantly".

Satisfied with her conversation with Nagumo, Sakayanagi slowly stood up while grabbing onto her cane.

"Oh, speaking of which---".

"You still have something for me?".

It can't take much time. Paying no heed to those words from Nagumo, Sakayanagi continued.

"Our conversation's completely over but I happened to hear something interesting. About a student purchasing private points from 3rd years who are about to graduate, or something? A strategy which makes use of what the school collects prior to graduation and uses it as currency post-graduation. Truly a formidable...you could almost call it a surefire way to graduate from Class A".

During the training camp a few days back. It's a topic that came up during Kouenji and Nagumo's conversation.

It's information only the boys overheard but it wouldn't be strange for one of the boys to have informed Sakayanagi. On the contrary, you could even say it's something they'd definitely want to let Sakayanagi know of.

"I made sure he can't use that strategy anymore. Besides, it's not like Kouenji's the only one who thought of that strategy. There are more than a few students who have thought to transfer the surplus private points that 3rd years nearing graduation possess".

Nagumo sneered as though saying it's something that's already been done repeatedly in the past.

"That's why the school announces that they'll be collecting 'private points leftover at graduation' when you get to the 3rd year. It's customary".

"Is that so? The way we understand the rules, the private points are to be collected at graduation and therefore they are rendered worthless upon graduation. Which is why it wouldn't be strange for a 3rd year to think of entrusting their private points to an underclassman they're close with".

Even dust that piles up will eventually become a mountain.

Just by acquiring private points from several people, a select few students will be able to collect a considerable amount.

It's no wonder Nagumo realized Kouenji's made his move at an early stage.

"Normally speaking, it's information announced only to the 3rd years. I'll just ignore how you, President, were able to obtain this information despite only being a 2nd year...and the reason you boldly declared this in front of a 1st year is because you intend on altering this limiting rule you just spoke of, is that it?".

"Kouenji seems to be the only one in possession of an amount greater than what the school permits after all. It's a form of rule violation".

By announcing it in front of boys from across all school years, it tipped the school off to a loophole in their rule. There's a high possibility that they'll be adding a rule to deter 3rd years from transferring their private points.

Normally speaking, no matter how wealthy the family you're born into is, there's still no guarantee that you'll pay up after graduation.

However, Kouenji's a special exception.

It's well known that Kouenji Rokusuke is in possession of a large amount of personal assets as a 1st year high school student on the Kouenji Conglomerate's official website.

Even though there's the possibility that he will renege on his promise, taking a risk is still well worth it.

"But being born into money, that is yet another 'ability'. Is he not allowed to make use of it?".

"Then does anticipating it and shutting it down also not count as an 'ability'?".

"Fufu. That is certainly true".

Sakayanagi laughed as though fascinated and tapped her cane lightly once.

"I never liked the school's rule that allows you to save up 20 million points to rise to Class A. If possible, I'd like to revise the system itself. Well, even supposing this system will no longer exist in the future, it still won't apply to you 1st years though".

As a measure this school took, Sakayanagi and the other 1st years have already been made aware of this rule.

Taking the possibility that there are students counting on saving up 20 million points into consideration, they cannot repeal it.

"But I've heard there hasn't been a single student so far able to save up 20 million points independently. I don't believe you need to worry about that rule if it's nothing more than a formality".

"It just means you can't save up that much alone".

"It is meaningless to save up as a class. There is the strategy of sending someone to an enemy class as a spy and there are students who fear that but it's not very realistic. Even if one of the lower classes were to send their own to the upper classes, once they're part of the privileged Class A they will just end up turning traitor".

"That's right. There's no merit to be found in going out of your way to knock down a strong class. But you can't rule out students with a strong sense of justice acting for the sake of their comrades".

"I suppose you're right. But surely the upper classes also won't fork over information to a student who just joined them out of the blue. Besides, in the school's exams, a minus that occurs because of you may come back to bite you. If you deliberately sabotage your class, you yourself will be expelled".

Understanding that Sakayanagi has completely comprehended the system, Nagumo nodded in satisfaction.

"I'll just give you this one warning. I don't dislike that aggressive attitude of yours but you will flounder if you make enemies out of everyone at this stage, you know? Don't you think it's better to earn the trust of your surroundings first? It's still not too late. Build trust".

"And to use that trust as a weapon to ensure victory?".

"It's the most efficient strategy".

A betrayal from someone you're sure would never betray you. It'd be an attack that would be more than enough to cause critical damage.

"But if you say to build trust then perhaps you were too quick to throw away the trust you've taken care to establish, President? Like you said, don't you think it would be far more effective to use it at the very end?".

A declaration of war against the former student council president during the training camp. And the betrayal of that trust.

"I threw away the trust?".

In response to Sakayanagi's words, Nagumo gave that response while looking like he was holding back laughter.

"I definitely lost Horikita-senpai's trust and the trust of the students of 3rd year Class A. But nothing's changed in regards to the 2nd years and the other 3rd years. The 1st years will come to understand that right away too".

Nagumo's tough act and his conceit.

For a moment, that was what Sakayanagi thought but she immediately changed her mind. Even breaking the rules he established with Horikita Manabu had been something planned from the beginning.

It may be a consensus that the 2nd years had reached beforehand.

"Let me make a correction here, Sakayanagi. I acknowledge your talent. If you wish to join the student council at any point in the future, I will allow it".

"Thank you. That aside, I'm glad I came here today. I was able to learn the sort of person you are, President Nagumo. At the very least, I'm glad to know that you and I are more alike than I ever was with President Horikita".

Politely bowing her head, Sakayanagi left the student council room. And when she did, Nagumo immediately followed her.

"You left your hat".

"My, my. Thank you very much".

After taking her hat back, Sakayanagi once again lowered her head.

"Please excuse me".

"Sakayanagi, would you happen to know anything about Ayanokouji?".

Nagumo asked that unexpected question.

"Ayanokouji...? I am somewhat familiar with that name. He's a 1st year, is he not?".

"I see, no, it's nothing".

If she doesn't know then there's no reason to talk about it, Nagumo tried to end the conversation with that.

"If necessary, I can investigate him for you though?".

Sakayanagi offered her assistance as though taking a bold step forward.

"No, I said something unnecessary. Forget it".

"Is that so? Then excuse me".

When Sakayanagi walked off, she ran into a lone female student. She's someone even Sakayanagi with her small social network is aware of: Kushida Kikyou from Class C of the 1st years.

"Hello, Sakayanagi-san".

"A coincidence, is it not? Do you, by any chance, have business at the student council room?".

"Yeah. I was thinking I'd apply for the student council. Could it be you're the same, Sakayanagi-san?".

"Something along the lines of that. Please excuse me".

"See you later~".

Sakayanagi felt somewhat doubtful that Kushida would want to join the student council at a time like this. Normally speaking, an honor student like her aiming for the student council wouldn't be out of place. But she wasn't convinced.

The girls are also well aware of Nagumo's actions during the special exam. It may be a different story for a senior student who knows Nagumo well but it wouldn't be strange for a 1st year to be suspicious of Nagumo's actions.

If she is aware of Ayanokouji Kiyotaka's true nature and is in cahoots with him then there's the possibility that she's been sent to investigate Nagumo.

But knowing Ayanokouji's personality, he won't carelessly get involved with Nagumo at this stage.

Kushida Kikyou.

There hasn't been a single bad rumor about her. She's nothing but benevolent.

"Fufu. It's exactly that sort of person who'd unexpectedly turn villainous though".

At the very least, Sakayanagi doesn't believe that she's purely good.



Vol 9 - Chap 2
A Changing Relationship
(Introduction)

The early morning for Class C started out with an unusual sight.

A circle seems to be forming around Karuizawa Kei and the girls who make up that circle appear to be excited to the point of causing a commotion.

"You're rather late to school today, Ayanokouji-kun".

Since there are only five minutes to go before the bell rings, my neighbor Horikita Suzune interjected with that.

"I overslept".

Looking bored, Horikita gave a sigh. Then she continued speaking.

"You seem to be on good terms with Hirata-kun and Karuizawa-san. You knew, didn't you?".

"There's no way I'd know. It's their private affair".

She didn't seem like she had cut things off with Hirata back during the training camp but it looks like she's done it now.

Since they're a couple famous throughout the school, it made waves to an amazing extent.

If a third party were to hear of this, they would definitely be surprised.

But this would mean that on the surface, Kei and Hirata's connection has been severed. Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean Kei would lose command of the girls' group.

If there's an exception to that, it would be if someone from within the class stole Hirata's heart and became his true partner. Even then, I can't imagine Kei being ousted from her position.

Even if that girl attempts to slight Kei, Hirata would be the first one to put a stop to that. If not, the meaning behind Hirata going as far as to fake a relationship with Kei to save her would be rendered moot.

"So, which one of them dumped the other?".

I tried asking Horikita that. Because I don't know that myself either so there's nothing for Horikita to suspect.

"Looks like it's Karuizawa-san who did it".

"That's surprising. She seemed like the type to consider going out with a good man. A symbol of status".

"I suppose so. At the very least that's what I thought......."

For a moment, she looked at me suspiciously but then immediately averted her eyes. There's no possible way she could have acquired any information from my expression.

It's proof that Horikita herself has begun to understand that.

Still, Kei dumped Hirata, huh?

In the first place, it's a fake relationship started by Kei. It's not even about who dumps who. But in all likelihood, Hirata suggested doing that would be best for Kei.

If Hirata were to be the one doing the dumping, it would mean there's a problem with Kei and could have put Kei's status at risk.

In any case, judging from my surroundings, it's clear that their breakup came as a shock to Class C. But what made me think those girls are amazing was that they were boldly discussing that romantic affair.

"Ehh, ehh? Why did you break up with him even though you don't have a new boyfriend yet, Karuizawa-san!".

Shinohara's unrestrained voice reverberated. Despite chatting with each other, Ike and Sudou's group were clearly eavesdropping on that conversation.

"You see, I also thought I needed to step it up. It's easy to be spoiled by Yousuke-kun but I wanted to think things through on my own".

The catastrophe that befell this big couple would obviously have an impact on Class C but it would probably also end up having an impact on the other classes.

There's no doubt a battle would erupt between the girls over Hirata.

"I'm amazed they can even think about things like romance. Even tomorrow isn't guaranteed at this school and they should know that situation too".

"Isn't it exactly because tomorrow isn't guaranteed that they're enjoying the present the best they can?".

"I have no reason to deny them that as long as they're not robbing someone else of their future.....".

On the other hand, as I wondered what's going on with the other half of the hot topic Hirata Yousuke, there he was with a gentle expression on his face while boxed in by both the boys and girls of the class.

Even though he got dumped by his girlfriend, there isn't a smidgen of misery coming from Hirata. The best proof of that is that Ike and Sudou aren't heading over there to tease him.

No, perhaps...I should say that they've already graduated from that sort of thing. They do seem interested in that conversation somewhat but there's no sign of them engaging in malicious gossip.

On the contrary, Horikita and I are the ones engaging in a tasteless conversation. The special exams so far and the training camp. All of that's making this immature bunch change bit by bit.

But of course, not everyone is maturing at the same rate.

"Yo, Hirata~. Heard you got dumped by Karuizawa~ Don't mind it, don't mind it!".

I thought they've become capable of reading the mood, but Yamauchi alone proved to be the exception.

Flippantly and happily approaching Hirata, he then struck Hirata's shoulder. Seeing that, Ike and Sudou felt uncomfortable and approached Yamauchi, flanking him from both sides and grabbing hold of him.

"Oi, what's the matter? Let's console Hirata together. Even the handsome ones get dumped!".

"This is in bad taste. Cut it out".

"Huh? Isn't this a rare sight seeing the handsome guy get dumped?".

When Sudou tried to hold Yamauchi back, he refused to listen and instead gave a refutation.

"Sorry about this, Hirata. I'll take him away immediately".

"It's ok, it's the truth after all".

It wouldn't be out of place for him to show displeasure but Hirata didn't seem to care in the slightest.

"Speaking of which...have you heard anything about Ichinose-san?".

Out of the blue, a topic regarding Class B came from Horikita.

"Recently, I've been hearing slander directed at her".

"Isn't it just a lie by someone jealous of her popularity? Or maybe the strategy of someone who wants to knock down Class B? What do the slanders say?".

"...it's something I'm hesitant to put to words".

Saying that, she retrieved a note from under her desk rather than speak about it in detail.

She wrote something down on it and then showed me.

'A history of violence'.

'Engaged in compensated dating'.

'Engaged in theft and robbery'.

'A noted history of drug usage'.

Etc.

These are things that even those delinquents over there haven't done, not all of them.

"They sure spread quite the malicious rumors around".

"She doesn't seem like that sort of student to me though.......".

"If it's just spreading rumors, it won't exactly count as a crime after all".

"That's not true. Regardless of the veracity, it's defamation...it's categorized that way when targeted towards a large number of people. It's possible to sue".

"If we're talking about being out there in society then there's no doubt about that".

But high school is still high school. This is an isolated space filled with underaged students. It's not like it's being written on the internet too for the whole world to see.

"So you're saying it doesn't count as a crime".

Even if society cannot hand down punishment, it's still possible for the school to hand down punishment at its discretion.

But it would be difficult to pinpoint the source of the rumors. The reason a variety of rumors were spread is so that if asked, they can simply say they heard it from someone else during day-to-day conversation and that'll be the end of that.

The school won't be able to investigate beyond that and in the end, it'll peter out.

All it can do is to warn the perpetrators to not thoughtlessly spread rumors any more than that. After all, I'm certain that the plan to crush Ichinose has been gradually implemented over time.

There's no doubt it's Sakayanagi pulling the strings behind the scenes. But there's still not very many people aware of this.

"What did Ichinose do in response?".

"I don't know that much. It's not like we're close or anything. Besides, if I carelessly approach, suspicion may fall on us".

"Well, it's true that playing the role of the observer is the wisest thing to do".

"But...I wonder if a tasteless strategy like this will work on Ichinose-san".

"What do you mean?".

"No matter how malicious the slander may be, the amount of damage it can inflict is limited. Ichinose-san's reputation throughout the school is something even I'm aware of. This sort of harassment is too miserable to be done out of envy like you said earlier".

"Then you're saying it's a strategic mistake then?".

"That's right, but like they say, you can't have smoke without a fire".

"So you're saying Ichinose used to be a violent criminal or that she used to do drugs?".

"Even if not all of it's true, perhaps at least one of it is?".

Of course, the possibility of it being true is extremely low. She added that after.

Like Horikita said, there's no evidence that all of it's just a lie or that they're all just rumors. And also the fact that Sakayanagi had been making remarks hinting at such could mean there's some truth to it.

"Well...it's not like we can come up with an answer just by thinking about it. More importantly, the current standing of the classes based on the results of the training camp has been released. Care to have a look?".

"Ehh, I'm not.....".

"I know you're not interested. But just keep it in mind".

I flipped through the pages of the notebook she forcibly placed on my desk.

(Introduction End)

(Part 1)

Even though the cataclysm caused by Hirata and Kei in the morning has yet to die down, rumors of yet another love affair caused an incident in Class C.

"Excuse me".

Nearing the end of school, some students are heading to their own clubs while others are heading back and in the midst of it all, an extremely unexpected person showed up.

"Is Yamauchi Haruki-kun here?".

The students still left in the classroom all turned simultaneously to face Yamauchi in surprise.

He was probably to head back to the dorm with Ike and play games because Yamauchi was opening up a strategy guide about some game at that moment.

"Ehh, that's me but.....you need something".

Yamauchi usually gets excited when looking a cute girl but right now he seems scared out of his wits.

The leader of 1st year Class A, Sakayanagi, showed up and named Yamauchi.

"Would you mind giving me a few moments of your time?".

"O-Of course I'm free.........".

".....this isn't quite the right place so I'll be waiting for you in the corridor by the stairs".

Perhaps the stares from the other students are making her uncomfortable, Sakayanagi disappeared out into the corridor with downcast eyes.

A silence fell upon Class C.

"No, no, no, no! This cannot be happening!".

The one who broke that silence was Ike, standing beside Yamauchi who had just been nominated. If Sudou were here, it would be even rowdier but he had already left for basketball practice.

The other students, including Yamauchi himself, could not wrap their heads around that absurdly bold entry and invitation.

Yamauchi then immediately grabbed his bag. Maybe he's just acting on instinct.

"Sorry! I've got business to take care of!".

"Y-Y-Yeah.......".

"Hold it, Yamauchi-kun".

"W-What is it, Horikita?".

Currently, Yamauchi is making a beeline out of the classroom. And as though she were taking the wind out of his sails, Horikita blocked the entrance.

"Maybe she's trying to do something to knock Class C down".

"Huh? Why do you think that?".

"The very fact that you're being asked out is abnormal in and of itself".

Despite maintaining a serious expression from start to finish, what Horikita is saying is far too straightforward and pointed.

It's on the level where an ordinary person would realize they're being insulted.

But Yamauchi was rather positive about it on the contrary.

"Bumping into a transfer student with toast in her mouth on a street corner and falling in love.....you ever heard about that sort of plot?".

"Eh? Toast......street corner?".

Unable to understand what he's talking about, Horikita wrinkled her brow.

To be fair, if you're only listening to Yamauchi's remarks then it wouldn't make any sense. But after seeing Yamauchi collide with Sakayanagi back at the training camp I can tell he's talking about that incident.

"I'm going because Sakayanagi-chan is waiting for me".

Not even hearing or heeding Horikita's warning, Yamauchi walked off. Yamauchi did not even make an attempt to believe her.

"I am indeed this class's lethal weapon. But that is exactly why it's okay. On the off chance anything happens, I'll take care of it".

I'd like to hear in detail his countermeasure for taking care of it.

In all likelihood, he hasn't even given it any thought.

"...I get it. If you say you're going then I don't have any right to stop you. Just don't carelessly let anything about the class's internal affairs slip out".

"Don't worry about it. I am well aware of that".

After saying that, Yamauchi gave a cheeky laugh and left the classroom. A portion of the students, which includes Ike, hurriedly followed Yamauchi.

"We should go too".

The one who said that to me was Haruka. Apparently, she had also said the same to Keisei and Airi because the two of them are tagging along with her.

Since I don't really have a reason to decline, I gave a light nod and stood up. When we stepped out into the corridor, we immediately spotted a few boys there including Ike.

"Ahh, stop stop. This way, this way!".

When we tried to pass through, the Professor noticed and stopped us.

"The two of them are talking over there right now".

"...Ehh, what's with that speech?".

Haruka whispered that to herself after noticing that the Professor no longer uses 'gozaru' as part of his speech.

"Apparently he got set straight during the training camp".

I offered an explanation regarding the Professor's serious tone.

"How should I put it, it feels like he's lost his individuality. Well, I'm not interested though".

Haruka quickly lost interest in the Professor and so turned our attention to Yamauchi and Sakayanagi.

"Umm, so what did you want to talk about.......".

Yamauchi nervously spoke to her.

Sakayanagi too, is using her left hand to shyly play with her hair.

If we look at this from a psychological perspective, it would be described as an unconscious reflex meant to make one look more attractive for a member of the opposite sex they're interested in.

"Could it be that Sakayanagi is legit interested in Haruki?".

While looking at the two of them, Ike muttered that in frustration.

He probably deduced that unconsciously from Sakayanagi's expressions and gestures.

However, in this case we should assume Sakayanagi is deliberately creating that sort of image.

But in contrast to my calm analysis---

"No, no, this is way too stupid. She's super cunning. There's absolutely no way she's actually into Yamauchi-kun".

Haruka spat that out. Perhaps this is what you'd call a woman's intuition.

"I-I think so too".

Airi also agreed with Haruka, maybe because she felt the same way too after seeing this.

"Men really are simple, how could they possibly fall for something like that? She's definitely acting".

"...is it really an act?".

Keisei couldn't tell from just looking. Well, I wouldn't have been able to tell either if I hadn't read between the lines though......

"She's definitely acting".

Haruka said so with certainty.

"Maybe she's trying to acquire information on Class C like Horikita-san said".

"But isn't that way too obvious? There should be a better way to go about doing that. She has a higher chance of succeeding if she makes contact with Yamauchi in secret and she wouldn't put us on guard either".

"That's true but.....".

Keisei's right too. If her intention here is to ensnare Yamauchi in a trap, there are plenty of ways for her to make contact with him.

She'll only be incurring severe damage by acting in a way that tips off all of Class C. If this leads to a problem, Sakayanagi herself would definitely be ruled as having been involved.

Considering that, maybe she really is interested in Yamauchi like Keisei and Ike are saying.....that would make more sense.

But Sakayanagi is aggressive and bold, so both of those are equally possible.

"The truth is, I've been wanting to talk to you for a while now, Yamauchi-kun".

"R-R-R-Really, really, really?".

"I don't have time to lie about something like this, you know?".

As I conducted my analysis, a conversation began starting up between the two of them.

"I won't be able to calm down here, shall we go elsewhere?".

"T-That's right. Yeah, let's do that, let's do that".

"In that case, please accompany me for a while".

The two of them started walking side-by-side.

Yamauchi is trying to match Sakayanagi's slow pace.

Looks like he is capable of being considerate, even if it's only the bare minimum amount.

The other students saw the two of them off, perhaps having determined that following them any further would be difficult.

(Part 1 End)

(Part 2)

The Ayanokouji Group assembled in a cafe with all its members present save for Akito, who's headed off to his club. Haruka started the conversation.

"So, what do you think is the truth behind that little farce between Yamauchi-kun and Sakayanagi-san earlier?".

"Can we really call it a farce though?".

Keisei asked Haruka that once again.

"That's---I mean, right Airi?".

"I.....I think that was, umm, that......".

Airi said so with a slight blush.

"Ehh? But I mean, wasn't that a bit sly?".

"Yeah, her gestures looked that way but.....like Keisei-kun said, maybe she's trying to investigate Class C so she can do something bad".

"That's that thing where you make someone think that".

By boldly showing up, she'd try to make us think it's not a trap because it's overwhelmingly simple. There's some truth to that as well.

"Kiyopon and Yukimu~, what do you think? Do you really think romance is a possibility?".

Haruka asked us again.

"I'm not very well-versed in that area. Please don't ask me that so many times".

Not wanting to talk about romance any further than this, Keisei refused to answer.

Inevitably enough, Haruka and Airi turned this way.

"Yamauchi and Sakayanagi haven't interacted until now, it's too abrupt. Isn't it too much to call it romance?".

"That's a rational opinion, Kiyopon. Romance does require a foundation but it'd be a different case for someone like Hirata-kun. Of course, the same doesn't hold true for Yamauchi-kun".

In the end, we couldn't continue with the conversation with only the information we have at hand. Eventually, the topic changed from Yamauchi and Sakayanagi's romance to the situation in Class C.

"Ahh, speaking of Hirata-kun...he broke up with Karuizawa-san, right?".

"I'm not surprised, or maybe I should say I always thought they'd break up one day".

"Ehh, r-really?".

"You might call it appropriate for the boys' leader and the girls' leader to be a couple but they don't really go well together, do they? How should I put it, Hirata-kun seems like he'd appreciate a quiet, beautiful girl more".

"Karuizawa-san is also cute.....don't you think so, Kiyotaka-kun?".

Airi asked me a question that's truly difficult to answer.

Or rather, I should say she asked me because she wanted to hear the answer to that.

"I'm not sure. I've never really paid attention to Karuizawa after all".

I don't know what Airi's thinking but that answer is all I can give.

"Well, I suppose that's true~. Anyways, Karuizawa-san aside, the problem is that Hirata-kun is now free".

Haruka deliberately changed the topic back to Hirata.

"Quite a lot of girls in our class like Hirata-kun. I wonder what's going to happen".

"Really?".

"Ehh---you didn't notice? For example, Mii-chan definitely likes him".

"Ahh...now that you mention it, she looks over at Hirata-kun from time to time".

"Right, right?".

Keisei took out his notebook, perhaps because he's grown tired of the romance talk.

"I'll study".

"Ahh, it's almost our end of school year exam.....I just remembered something depressing".

"I need to come up with something for Haruka and the others to use as well".

Haruka lowered her head towards the table as though bowing.

Chabashira didn't give us any explanation in particular regarding the end of school year exam. In other words, it's going to be a written exam as usual.

If a student gets a failing grade, they'll be expelled immediately. That's probably how it'll be.

"Around when do we start up our study group?".

"Let's see.....let's start as soon as the practice test on the 15th is over. If we start there, we'll have roughly 10 days until the end of school year exam. If we focus on past problems and trends, we should be fine".

"As expected of Yukimu~, perfect plan. I agree, I agree".

Haruka seemed happy, maybe because she didn't want to start studying right away.

"The last special exam of the school year will probably be held after the end of school year exam ends in March".

"Last special exam of the school year.....I see, the 1st year is almost over".

"A lot of things happened but when it's all over, it seems like time flew by".

Airi and Haruka both look back on the past year.

"It's still too early to be reminiscing. If you flunk the end of school year exam, it's expulsion for you. And it still depends on the contents of the special exam".

Keisei brought them back to reality. It's probably because he wants what's best for Haruka and the others.

"Ahh".

Right after Keisei started studying, Haruka noticed something.

When I followed her gaze, I saw Ichinose there.

She's together with several boys and girls, all of them Class B students.

They're probably gathering much like we are but from what I can see, their expressions are stiff.

It looked like they're attempting to protect Ichinose from the slander and defamation she's receiving. But Ichinose herself probably doesn't desire a situation like this.

She's acting the way she usually does, chatting with her friends and cheerfully calling out to people as she went along. But if there's something worrying about this, it would be the fact that Kanzaki isn't there.

As Ichinose's second-in-command, I get the image of them frequently being together.

"Quite the problem now, isn't it?".

Haruka looked at Ichinose coldly.

"...weird rumors, is what it seems to be. I don't know who's spreading them around but that's awful......".

"It's not that unusual, is it? This time it went too far but similar things happen occasionally, don't they? I guess that's the burden popular girls have to bear?".

"Really?".

Airi looked perplexed, as though she had no idea about that.

"If Airi were the aggressive type like Ichinose, I'm sure there'll be people envious of you right now though?".

That certainly may be the case. But still, it doesn't look like Airi can even imagine herself as the aggressive type.

She tried to think of it but it would seem she's failed at that.

"Well, isn't it best to not worry about it?".

Ichinose probably understands that too, Haruka said.

I continued to listen to Haruka and Airi's conversation without joining in.

(Part 2 End)

(Part 3)

Roughly two hours after that. The girls kept chatting and Keisei kept studying.

I'd join Airi and Haruka's conversation from time to time while fiddling with my phone.

Haruka's phone, which she had placed on the table, then vibrated.

"Ahh, it's from Miyachi".

Haruka touched the screen and answered the call on speaker.

"Done with club activities?".

"Sorry, looks like I'll be a bit late".

It was a call from Akito, speaking in a slightly nervous tone, informing us that he'd be running late.

"Hmm? Could it be overtime club practice?".

"No...looks like trouble's brewing".

"What trouble? Give me a bit more detail here".

"Class A and Class B are quarreling. Worst case scenario, I have to be there to stop them if a fight breaks out".

Doesn't sound like Akito himself is involved though.

But Class A and Class B?

I recalled the faces of Class B's main members I spotted earlier. But I wonder if Ichinose would really allow such careless actions that could escalate into a fight.

"You should just let them be. It's got nothing to do with our class".

"Could be us next, no?".

After saying that, Akito ended the call. Akito's a man of few words but sometimes he can be surprisingly passionate like when he invited Ryuuen, who no one wanted to get involved with, into his group during the training camp.

"I wonder who's quarreling......?".

Airi asked. Perhaps she's curious.

"It's usually always that class stirring up trouble".

Of course, they're talking about Ryuuen's class that's now fallen to Class D.

"Now that you mention it, that's right".

The two of them tilted their heads at the unexpected confrontation between Class A and Class B.

"Hey Kiyopon, Airi. Why don't we go take a look at Miyachi?".

"B-But wouldn't that be dangerous?".

"I suppose so. But maybe even our class might get dragged into it if provoked".

Haruka answered teasingly. But Airi shrunk back as though frightened.

"It's alright, if push comes to shove I'm sure Miyachi will do something about it, no? Apparently he used to be quite bad himself in the past too".

"B-Bad? Really?".

"I just heard it from him though".

Perhaps the reason why he wasn't afraid to deal with someone like Ryuuen is that he's rather confident in his own skills.

"Well if Airi gets into a pinch, Kiyopon will save her. Right?".

"...I'll do my best. But I'd rather not get into a fight".

"Ahahaha. It'll be fine. Violence usually doesn't break out at this school. I think".

Because there's been several such cases in the past, Haruka trailed off at the end there.

But since there's no reason for us to not go looking for Akito, we decided to do just that.

(Part 3 End)

(Part 4)

We saw no sign of Akito as we headed toward the archery club.

“Huh? Where’s Miyachi?”

There’s no doubt that Akito had been headed toward the cafe, so along the way, he must have come across a dispute and diverted from the path.

The three of us collectively agreed to search for Akito.

A few minutes after we started searching, we got some reliable information from some of the students who were heading home from their club activities.

Thus, we somehow managed to arrive at the gymnasium located a short distance away from the school building.

There, two first-year students were facing off with one another.

They didn’t appear to be the people Haruka and the others had been expecting either.

The first student was Class A’s Hashimoto.

The other was Class B’s Kanzaki.

Meanwhile, Akito appeared to be in the difficult position of standing watch between the two.

“You guys aren’t really going to fight, are you?”

“You’re quite persistent, Miyake. I wasn’t the one who instigated this in the first place, Kanzaki was.”

While Hashimoto spoke as though he was being pestered by someone, our eyes met.

“It seems like your friends have arrived?”

After Hashimoto pointed this out, Akito and Kanzaki looked our way at almost the same time.

“...You guys came.”

It seems like he didn’t want us to interfere.

Well, nothing good comes from getting the girls tangled up in something like this.

Despite this, Haruka spoke up and inserted herself into the conversation.

“That’s because you’ve gone and gotten yourself involved in something strange. That’s why we came to help out.”

“Came to help… right…”

Realizing that he shouldn’t have said anything in the first place, Akito regretfully looked up into the empty air for a moment.

“So what is it? It doesn’t seem like they’re fighting.”

Realizing that it couldn’t be helped now that we were already here, Akito changed tracks.

“It seems like I misunderstood something. Although the situation does seem to have a bit of a dangerous feel to it.”

“Kanzaki is the dangerous one here.”

If I remember correctly, Hashimoto didn’t seem to be any different than usual.

However, Akito didn’t seem to be buying it.

“I would hope so.”

Akito didn’t show any intention of leaving any time soon.

It seemed like he wasn’t certain about whether or not things would take a turn for the worse.

At the same time, Kanzaki looked at us with a somewhat troubled expression.

That is to say, he had been hoping that nobody else would show up here.

However, he should also understand that such a dream was no longer possible.

For that reason, he chose to keep silent.

Ultimately, Kanzaki doesn’t say a word to any of us and once again turned his attention back toward Hashimoto.

“Continuing from where we left off, Hashimoto. What have you been doing after school? You don’t belong to any clubs, so why are you here so late?”

“So if I don’t have any club activities, I have to head home early? I’m free to go and do whatever I want after school. Moreover, out of everyone here, I think Miyake is the only one involved with a club. Right?”

Taking the initiative, Hashimoto poked a hole in Kanzaki’s argument by dragging us into the conversation.

Compared to Kanzaki, our sudden appearance seemed to play right into Hashimoto’s hands.

The members of the Ayanokouji Group briefly exchanged glances.

It wouldn’t be possible to say that we’re allies of Class A or Class B.

Though, if we had to choose between the two, we would definitely choose Class B.

That would be because of the armistice between Horikita and Ichinose.

“Ha! Not going to answer?”

Noticing that his question was being responded to with silence, Hashimoto let out a laugh.

“You’re not waiting here in order to meet anyone in particular. You’re just trying to spread rumors to as many people as you can, aren’t you?”

Kanzaki wore his usual calm expression, but his spirit was very imposing.

From what it looks like, Kanzaki had been questioning Hashimoto about the recent rumors surrounding Ichinose.

Akito was worried that they would get into a fight with one another, which leads us to where the situation is at now.

Hashimoto probably felt that his actions were exposed to a certain extent after listening to Kanzaki’s claim, as he nodded a couple of times in response.

“Rumors? Ah, you mean the ones about Ichinose doing various malicious things? What connection do I have with those rumors?”

“Playing dumb is just a waste of everyone’s time. I want to make one thing crystal clear with you. What you and the rest of your class are doing is simply too malicious. It’s no different than the type of thing Ryuuen would do.”

“Even when you say something like that, I don’t have an answer for you.”

Hashimoto, whose intentions are usually hard to completely understand, spoke evasively in response to Kanzaki’s questioning.

Akito seemed to grasp that the two of them wouldn’t immediately break into a fistfight, he distanced himself from the two of them and came over to us.

“Hey, what should we do?”

Haruka asked Akito in a low voice.

“Nothing, let’s just watch for the time being. If they split up without anything happening, it’ll end with that.”

“But… Is it okay for us to be listening in?”

I could somewhat understand Airi’s uneasiness.

Our Class C has nothing to do with their discussion.

At the very least, Kanzaki won’t be pleased about having us be present here. That was the vibe I got from the air around him.

“What do you think, Kiyotaka?”

Akito asked for my input.

“Isn’t it fine until they tell us to leave? If at some point, this turns into a fight, the presence of a third party can help keep things civil. Kanzaki should see the benefit in that too.”

It seems as though Akito immediately agreed with me, as he nodded a few times.

Hashimoto then took the topic of the rumors one step deeper.

“Hey, Kanzaki. This thing going on with Ichinose… are you sure they’re really just rumors?”

“What?”

“You can’t have smoke without a fire. That’s probably what most students are thinking.”

“Rumors can create smoke without a fire as long as there’s malicious intent.”

Hashimoto leaned against the nearby wall.

“Indeed. It’s true that rumors and fire are entirely separate things.”

Proverbs can’t be applied to every situation in the world.

“However, can you confidently tell me that Ichinose doesn’t have a dark past, Kanzaki?”

“Approximately one year. That’s how long I’ve been going through thick and thin together with Class B. That’s why I’m absolutely certain.”

“Oh give it up Kanzaki. Responses like that stink so much that I can’t even look you in the eyes.”

After saying so, Hashimoto dropped eye contact.

“Of course, I’ve also asked Ichinose directly.”

“Hoh? And what did she say?”

“She said something like: ‘I hope you aren’t entranced by any of those rumors. Don’t take them to heart.’”

“That is to say, she neither affirmed nor denied them?”

“That’s right. That’s why I decided to believe in her.”

“Oi oi, are you being serious? How much of a softie can you be?”

Hashimoto let out a laugh of contempt before immediately continuing.

“Not wanting to talk about your own dark past is just a part of human nature. Just because you’re friends, it doesn’t guarantee that she told the truth. That’s also why she didn’t tell the truth to her classmates. Or, are you saying that just because Ichinose is a good person now, that she has to have been a good person in the past as well?”

Hashimoto attempted to shake Kanzaki’s confidence.

However, Kanzaki didn’t appear to be distraught at all.

The look in his eyes told me that he has complete trust in Ichinose.

“You actually think that she’s going to tell you the truth just because you’re her right-hand man? How sweet of you.”

Hashimoto doesn’t mask his surprise at Kanzaki’s blind faith.

Or it could be that he came to the realization that there was no longer any need to prolong the conversation any further.

“I didn’t confront you to listen to something like this in the first place. I want the details of what you’ve been doing today.”

“Then I’ll tell you. I’ve been spreading around rumors about Ichinose.”

Hashimoto admitted to it.

“Hey, Kanzaki. You’re a smart, caring guy. However, that’s precisely why I suggest that you avoid getting too involved in things like this. All that you’ll be able to do is blindly believe in the other person.”

“In other words, you have no intention of retracting those rumors.”

“Aren’t you misunderstanding something here? There’s no way to ‘take back’ rumors. Rumors flow from one way to the next, spreading out however they please. I just caught wind of them and helped passed them along.”

While he admitted to helping spread the rumor along, Hashimoto clearly denied that he was the original source.

However, that didn’t make Kanzaki back down.

It seems that from the beginning, Kanzaki was aware that Hashimoto wasn’t the origin for the rumors.

“These last few days, I’ve been doing a thorough investigation on you guys in Class A.”

“And?”

“I determined that the source of the rumors all come from various students from the first-year Class A. Then, when we asked those people where they heard it from, they would give vague responses like ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘I heard it from someone else.’ Mighty similar to the response that you gave me just now. The true meaning behind this? You should already understand, Hashimoto.”

It means that someone had given instructions to everyone from Class A.

“I’m sorry, Kanzaki, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you don’t mind, would you please explain it to me?”

“The rumors about Ichinose were almost certainly propagated by your Class A.”

“Eh-”

“I don’t intend on listening to your excuses. I didn’t just ask first-years. I also consulted second-year and third-year students who claimed to have heard the rumors from you guys. If necessary, I can ask them to come out and confirm the facts in person.”

From the looks of it, Kanzaki and his classmates have been excessively thorough with finding the origin of the rumors.

He’s been convinced that the whole operation was spearheaded by Class A.

And with that, he’s now gone and approached Hashimoto.

Based on the fact that Kanzaki is here on his own, without a group, Class B is doing this out of consideration for Ichinose.

If a large number of students were to make a scene, it would end up attracting even more attention from students. Even those who aren’t interested in rumors in the first place.

No, there’s also the possibility that in this case, Kanzaki is acting entirely alone.

“I see. So that’s why you’ve been stalking me all day today as well.”

Because Hashimoto included the words ‘as well’, it meant that he had noticed when Kanzaki started tailing him.

Yet, he didn’t seem like he cared about it at all.

That’s because he understood that it obviously wasn’t any sort of hindrance to what he was doing.

Hashimoto shrugged and let out a sigh as Kanzaki spoke up.

“Was it Sakayanagi who gave you instructions to spread the rumors?”

“Uh, no?”

“Then who did? She’s the only one who can give instructions to you guys in Class A other than Katsuragi.”

“Who knows? I’m just the same as any other student. I heard these rumors from someone else. Even if you’re so confident that the rumors were started by Class A, I still don’t even have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. Maybe it’s the handiwork of Ryuuen and actually is just pretending to have retired?”

At that, Kanzaki changes tactics a bit.

“So you’ve all blindly accepted a rumor which may or may not be the truth and spread it around?”

“The world is overflowing with people doing that exact thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. If it’s interesting people will want to share it with others. Don’t you think that, due to their experience, girls participate in things like that much more than guys do?”

While saying so, Hashimoto turned his gaze towards Haruka and Airi.

“Well… I do like rumors, but…”

“The sad thing is, the juicier a piece of gossip is, the more enthusiastic people are to talk about it. Think about it a little bit more objectively, Kanzaki. When you asked Ichinose, she didn’t confirm or deny anything, and she also isn’t asking for any help. Don’t you think that’s strange? If it’s all just a lie, she would be seeking cooperation to catch the perpetrator instead.”

“Ichinose hates extreme conflicts. I’m sure that she has a big enough heart to even forgive the people who are defaming her.”

Since Ichinose won’t say anything on the matter, Kanzaki has no other choice than to believe in her.

“Good grief. You people from Class B…”

In any case, I’ve managed to confirm one thing based on the way Hashimoto has been speaking and acting so far.

The rumors that have been circulating about Ichinose recently… Sure enough, they aren’t all lies.

I temporarily put aside my position as a student and looked at the situation from society’s point of view.

Naturally, on the grounds of defamation and libel, Ichinose would be able to sue the party responsible for circulating the rumors. Regardless of whether they were true or not, the damage to her public reputation would give her the grounds to do so.

Well, provided that it’s limited to situations where the truth isn’t at odds with the public interest.

If this entire thing has been orchestrated by Sakayanagi, then, of course, everything should be going according to her plan.

The fact that Ichinose has chosen to stay silent proves that her strategy is working just as intended.

Giving Kanzaki a solid pat on the shoulder as he passes by, Hashimoto put his hands in his pockets and begins to leave the room.

“Our conversation isn’t over yet.”

“Haven’t we said enough? Even if we continue the conversation, we won’t end up being able to agree on anything anyway.”

Lightly gesturing a farewell to Haruka and Airi, Hashimoto left the room, heading toward the school building.

I felt a strange sense of incongruity after watching Hashimoto leave.

It was obvious that he didn’t treat me the same way as he did back at the training camp.

In the end, it was nothing more than mere intuition.

What’s changed between then and now… What’s different… It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact details.

“Excuse me.”

Kanzaki gave us a slight bow and left, leaving toward the dormitories instead of the school building.

“Somehow, I feel like we just witnessed something totally awesome!”

“Why do I feel like you’ve been enjoying all of this?”

Haruka stuck out the tip of her tongue in response to Akito’s retort.

“Well, that’s because this ‘so-called’ violence is kinda exciting! Plus, if by some chance, we were attacked, Miyachi would have a plan ready to protect us right?”

While saying that, Haruka made a show of doing a few boxing jabs in the air.

“I heard that you used to be quite the delinquent?”

I asked, going along with the flow of the conversation. Akito let out a heavy sigh.

“I don’t really wanna talk about it, Haruka. I don’t want it to spread around.”

“It doesn’t matter, does it? You’re different now anyway. Were you really strong back then?”

“Let me just say this, I wasn’t some famous delinquent. Honestly, someone else was the top delinquent at the school I went to, and he was much stronger than me.”

“Huh. Was it a rough school?"

“Where I come from, adults would live a disordered life, and when they have kids, raise them that way as well. By the way, Class D’s Ryuuen went to the middle school right next to mine.”

“Ehhh? Seriously!?”

“Aah. Throughout the several times when conflicts started between our schools, we came in contact with each other. Well, that guy probably never took me very seriously.”

Ah, so Akito is skilled at handling those kinds of situations because he’s grown accustomed to fighting.

“This conversation ends here. Don’t share this with anyone outside of the group, okay?”

“I getcha. Let’s go back to the cafe ok? Yukimuu is waiting.”

“Sounds good.”

In the end, this is just somebody else’s problem.

The best option is to avoid digging any deeper. I’m certain of it.


Vol 9 - Chap 3
No Intention of Changing (WIP)

(Introduction)

On Thursday evening, I saw Ichinose while heading back to the dorms.

Ichinose is usually always surrounded by students of both genders. However, today she surprisingly appeared to be alone. For some reason, I couldn’t sense any of her usual ambition in the way she was moving. I wonder if the reason she’s alone is because she took the initiative to stay away from her usual groups of friends? At the moment, she’s definitely the person in our school year who’s flooded with the most attention.

Thoughtlessly involving other people in your own rumors may lead to them getting caught up in a second disaster.

It wouldn’t be surprising for Ichinose to think something like this. I thought back to Kanzaki’s conversation with Hashimoto a few days ago.

Should I try calling out to her? I thought about doing so, but…

I felt a presence behind me and decided against it.

I took out my phone and turned on the camera.

Changing the active camera from the one on the back of my phone to the one on the front, I nonchalantly took a peek at the situation going on behind me.

There were two first-year students on their way back to the dorms.

One of them was Hashimoto.

He was just walking normally, but given what happened the other day, it’s difficult to think of this as a coincidence.

Is he tailing me?

However, while I was in the processes of confirming that, the other student began to approach me.

She was walking up to me without the slightest bit of hesitation.

I immediately turned off the camera and put the phone in my pocket.

“Ah, um, Ayanokouji-kun. Do you have a moment…?”

The person who called out to me from behind was my classmate, Mei-Yu Wang.

Because her name can be difficult to pronounce, people refer to her as ‘Mii-chan’. Though calling her that in my mind is already somewhat embarrassing.

“Right now… Are you free for a little while? I have something I’d like to consult you about.”

Consult with me? She and I have barely ever spoken with one another until now.

You could even say this was practically the first time she came to talk to me face to face.

It doesn’t seem like there’s someone other than her either…

Looking over, Ichinose continued walking back to the dorms without noticing me.

At this point, jogging over to catch up with her would just end up looking strange.

“I’m sorry, you’re busy aren’t you…”

“No, I’m just heading back to the dorms. It should be fine.”

With that, Mii-chan looked a little happier as she let out a sigh of relief.

As I was speaking with Mii-chan, Hashimoto passed us on the way back to the dormitories.

However, he didn’t look in my direction or say anything.

“So, you said you wanted to consult with me about something?”

“Speaking about it here… It’s somewhat…”

She restlessly looked around at our surrounding. It seems like talking while walking back to the dorms isn’t suitable for what she wants to talk about.

“Is that so?”

As I expected, it wouldn’t be possible to ask her something like: ‘Since the dorms are pretty close by, would you like to talk about this in my room?’

Moreover, I can’t suggest something like going to Mii-chan’s room instead.

“What do you want to do?”

Instead of making the decision myself, I decided to just let Mii-chan choose where we go from here.

After a little thought, Mii-chan suggested a location.

“How about the cafe… if that’s alright with you? Though we might be somewhat late in heading back home afterward.”

Since she herself wanted to go to the cafe, I didn’t have any particular reason to decline.

Even if I’ll be a little late getting back, the walk only makes a difference of 5 to 10 minutes, which isn’t a big deal. Following Mii-chan’s suggestion, we headed off to Keyaki Mall’s cafe. Though, we’re just two people who don’t know each other very well. We ended up walking somewhat of a distance away from each other instead of side-by-side.

(Introduction End)


Vol 9 - Chap 4
Ichinose’s Secret, Kamuro’s Secret
(Introduction)

It was a Friday, four days after Kanzaki reached out to Hashimoto.

The rumors about Ichinose had been spreading more each day, and it had gotten to the point where it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all of the students in the school had heard about them by now.

However, Ichinose herself didn’t appear to have reported anything about them to the school.

She gave off an appearance that told everyone that she didn’t care very much about the rumors, and she spent each day as she always had.

Despite being harassed with unpleasant rumors, Ichinose stood firm. And as she expected, eventually, students began to speak in support of her. Students were saying things like: “The rumors really were just rumors.” “She was totally being framed.” and “They were all lies.”

All gossip has an expiration date.

The plan to defame Ichinose had failed miserably.

She had successfully managed to get through it by simply staying silent. Eventually, everyone began to shift their attention to studying earnestly for the upcoming final exams.

Though, during this time, another incident occurred. One that once again stoked the flame of the rumors throughout the school.

It was Friday, after school.

On my way back home from the school building, I bore witness to a large crowd of people as I entered the dorm lobby.

A scene like this taking place as I returned to the dormitory was one I felt like I had experienced before.

“Deja vu, is it?”

Coincidentally, Katsuragi was standing in the same spot as he had been back then. The only difference was that this time Yahiko was also standing beside him. Since there didn’t seem to be anyone I was acquainted with nearby, I decided to approach them and called out.

“What’s with all the commotion?”

“Ah. It seems like a letter has been put into everyone's mailboxes. It’s similar to that case that happened earlier this year.”

Katsuragi mumbled, crossing his arms in dissatisfaction.

“Didn’t you get one in yours as well? Ayanokouji?”

Yahiko pressed me to go look, so I lightly nodded in response.

“I’ll go check to make sure.”

I went over to my mailbox, turned the dial to the right combination, and took a look inside.

There, someone had neatly inserted a paper, folded in the same 4-fold style the last one had been.

If it was the exact same type of message as last time, it would be a print. That is to say, it would be a printed copy.

Naturally, it’s impossible to tell the difference between a handwritten letter and a printed copy when it’s folded like this.

I slowly opened the paper.

『Ichinose Honami is a criminal.』

That was written inside.

However, this time the name of the sender wasn’t included like it was in the letter last time around.

It was just this one line.

The font it was written in was also a standard one, making the entire letter come across as unusually simple. Since it doesn’t seem like the type of thing that would be printed at the convenience store, it was probably printed with a personal printer.

The one sentence reminded me of the rumors that had quieted down.

Additionally, the letter went one step further by calling her a ‘criminal’.

Though, there was no mention of what she had done to deserve that title…

“I’m sure Ichinose will be surprised by this.”

“But if it’s presented in such a straightforward way, won’t it cause the sender all sorts of problems? Isn’t there an issue with doing something so malicious in such a public way?”

Yahiko was asking Katsuragi if the letter was a poor move for the sender.

“Indeed, this situation is quite different than what happened last time. Back then, it was just an allegation that Ichinose could’ve been illegally amassing private points. It turned out that she hadn’t done anything wrong. The school even made an unprecedented announcement by recognizing the authenticity of her large numbers of points. However, this time the letter is obviously meant to defame Ichinose. If she was to report it to the school and ask for help with it, it’s possible that they’ll be able to track down the person who sent out the letters.”

“The sender is an idiot then.”

“No, I’m not so sure.”

“Really?”

“This person... It’s impossible for them not to understand something so simple.”

“Huh… Is it possible that the person spreading the rumors… That Katsuragi-san knows who it is?”

“It’s nothing more than a rough idea.”

Even though Sakayanagi had given me advance notice about her plans, to the rest of the school, she has ostensibly denied her involvement with these rumors. It’s possible that Hashimoto acted alone, or acted under the instructions of one of the second or third years. There’s also a chance that the source of this rumor is someone completely different.

However, Katsuragi said that he had a rough idea about the source in this case.

Which means that Sakayanagi is the clear favorite.

“Whether or not the school takes action here. It will depend on Ichinose as the person at the very center of this incident.”

The person responsible for sending out these letters is convinced that Ichinose won’t report anything to the school, just like with the rumors. That is, they've determined that no matter what they do, Ichinose will choose to remain silent.

When Ichinose doesn’t take action against the letters or the rumors, the school also isn’t able to take action.

In the middle of all of this, Ichinose herself entered the lobby. She had probably been contacted by one of her classmates in Class B and hurriedly returned to the dorm.

A friend immediately gave her one of the letters and she looked through it.

Katsuragi, me, and about 10 other students stood in place and watched Ichinose.

“…”

Ichinose didn’t say a word. She just looked down and stared at the letter.

The sentence on the letter takes no more than one second for somebody to read in their mind.

From the looks of it, Ichinose spent dozens of second reading that single line of text over and over.

“…This is in the mailboxes?”

“Yeah… It’s terrible, isn’t it? It’s probably in every first-year mailbox…”

One of the girls from Class B, Mako Amikura, spoke as she approached and hugged Ichinose.

“Hey, you don’t need to put up with this anymore. Why don’t we talk to the teachers? Something like this shouldn’t be forgiven.”

“That's right! If we bring it to the teachers, they’ll definitely find the culprit!”

So far there had just been invisible rumors, but this time was different. There was now something that could serve as physical evidence. There was clear proof that someone has been maliciously attacking Ichinose.

“I’m okay. Something like this isn’t enough to get to me.”

“Y-You have to! If you don’t, the horrible rumors about Honami-chan are going to spread everywhere!”

It’s no surprise that her classmates were desperately trying to convince her to reconsider.

Even if nine out of ten people don’t believe in the rumors, it’s still a big deal if that one remaining person does. That student’s impression of Ichinose Honami will slowly deteriorate.

Ichinose is able to decide to stay silent without any hesitation, but the people around her are different.

They’re all looking for some way to help her. After all, proving her innocence would also lead to being able to enact punishment on the culprit responsible for all of this. However, doing that would only push Ichinose into a corner.

“I’m sorry everyone, for continuing to trouble all of you. But please, don’t worry about me.”

With those words, she smiled at the girls of Class B.

Without a doubt, these letters were distributed out to the mailboxes during the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. Since very few people check their mailboxes in the mornings, the big discovery came in the evening after everybody had come back from school.

All that had to happen then was for somebody to find the letter and tell Ichinose.

All this time, a lone girl had been carefully watching over the reactions of the upset Class B students.

Katsuragi was glaring at her with a sharp look in his eye.

She was a first-year student of Class A, Kamuro Masumi. A girl often seen together with Sakayanagi, but today, she appeared to be alone.

“Is something up with Kamuro?”

“No… It’s nothing.”

Katsuragi didn’t give an answer. He tossed his letter into the trashcan, called for the elevator, and got in with Yahiko as it had been waiting on the first floor. Katsuragi’s expression remained stern even until the final moment when the doors shut. Watching the elevator go up, I decided to return to my room as well.

(Introduction End)

(Part 1)

My room was located on the fourth floor of the dorms, Room 401.

As soon as I stepped into the elevator, Kamuro got on at the same time.

“Which floor?”

Even though I asked her this as I stood in front of the buttons, she didn’t give me an answer, so the elevator doors just closed in silence.

Shortly after a quiet ride, the elevator reached the fourth floor.

I got off the elevator. So did Kamuro. It was almost as if she was following me.

‘Just a mere coincidence’, ‘she only got off on this floor to meet up with some guy’, a reason like these didn’t seem very likely.

As soon as I reached the door to my room, which just happened to be right next to the elevator, I turned and asked:

“Is there something you want from me?”

“I want to talk.”

“If possible, I’d prefer that you’d have said something sooner.”

“What, do you have plans?”

“No. Do you have an issue with talking right here?”

“I’m sensitive to the cold. If it’s alright with you, could you invite me in?”

Even though she had asked me if I was alright with it, her request ended up coming across as more of a threat instead.

“That’s fine…”

I unlocked the door and we went inside my room.

Kamuro’s expression didn’t change at all. She looked around my room with a serious look on her face.

“What a dull room.”

“Is that really the first thing you’re going to say after forcing your way in?”

“When did I force you to do anything? You rightfully gave me permission.”

With that said, Kamuro sat down on my bed.

“The way you went about getting said permission… Nevermind. So now…?”

“Get me something to drink. We’ll be talking for a while.”

Really, what a shameless girl.

“Well, I’ll make some coffee or tea.”

“You don’t have hot chocolate?”

“…I do.”

“I’ll have hot chocolate then.”

I clearly presented her with two options, yet she unexpectedly demanded a third.

“So what is it that you wanted to talk about? If it was too cold in the hallway, we could’ve talked down in the lobby.”

Since the heater was running in the lobby, we should have been able to talk there without any problems.

While preparing the hot chocolate, I took control of our conversation.

“There isn’t anyone who can bother us here. Talking in your room was for the best.”

“What are you wanting to say?”

To be honest, I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to hear about it.

“Does my presence make you feel apprehensive?”

“It would be strange if it didn’t. A girl I have no intimate connections with, who also comes from the rival Class A, suddenly wants to come to my room?”

“Hmm, that sure is nothing like how Yamauchi reacted.”

She replied, looking straight at me as if daring me to do something.

“Curious?”

“Not at all.”

“Really. Then I won’t touch on that subject anymore. It doesn’t matter anyway.”

While it’s possible that she has someone eavesdropping over the phone or she’s concealing a tape recorder, Kamuro is in a somewhat special position. Since Sakayanagi already knows about me, it isn’t necessary for Kamuro to come here looking to catch me off guard.

If needed, Sakayanagi is in a position where she can wage war against me anytime she wants. At the moment, the only reason she doesn’t is because she doesn’t want me to stand out.

“That letter from earlier, about Ichinose. What do you think?”

“What do you mean?”

ILLUSTRATION: https://imgur.com/vjSnWRP

“Exactly what I said. Do you believe that she’s a criminal?”

“I don’t know. I’m not interested either.”

“Even if you’re not interested you should still have an opinion about it. Do you think Ichinose is a good person or a bad person?”

“You can’t say that someone’s a bad person just because they’re a criminal. Just like how you can’t say that someone’s a good person just because they aren’t.”

In the first place, the definitions of good and bad are ambiguous and subjective. Depending on how you look at it, what’s considered good and what’s considered bad can change quickly.

“…”

Kamuro stared at me listlessly.

She had no intention of allowing me to move the conversation in this direction.

At this point, there was no way for me to continue avoiding the essence of the conversation.

“I think the letters are just like the rumors that somebody somewhere has been spreading.”

“Yes. I did hear that someone somewhere has been spreading rumors.”

“It’s conjecture, but I think some of those rumors are true or at least come close to the truth. Which is why Ichinose wouldn’t fight back against the rumors, or in this case, won’t fight back against the letters. If she did, the truth that she’s been trying to keep hidden would be revealed.”

“Her strategy is to continue to ignore it so that the rumors don’t end up as anything more than suspicion.”

“Yeah. However, that doesn’t solve the problem. If the person who’s spreading the rumors knows the truth, eventually more and more specific rumors will emerge until Ichinose admits to it. It’s highly probable that when that time comes, she won’t be able to simply gloss over it.”

The hot water began to boil so I poured it into a cup.

Then I put the cup of hot chocolate on the table. Kamuro didn’t reach for it.

“Not going to drink it?”

“I’m sensitive to hot liquid.”

I wonder just how true that really is.

“It’s just like you thought. Right now, Ichinose is being targeted by a student who knows the secret that she wants to keep hidden.”

“Why do you know something like that?”

“You know why. Sakayanagi said it in front of you, after all.”

Of course, I remember that.

However, Kamuro herself shouldn’t have any reason to tell me that.

Was this also one of Sakayanagi’s strategies?

“That said, Sakayanagi doesn’t know that I’m here right now talking with you about this. She’d probably be angry if she knew.”

“In other words, you’re saying you betrayed Sakayanagi?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

“Sorry, I can’t believe that.”

“I suppose that makes sense. Therefore, I’ll tell you the secret that Ichinose has been hiding as well. After all, tomorrow or the day after, everyone else will have probably already heard about it.”

In which case, you can prove to me that the things you’re saying are true, huh?

“But before I tell you about that, I need to tell you about something else. About why I’ve been letting Sakayanagi push me around like she has been.”

“Your own personal story?”

“I know you’re not interested, but you’re going to hear me out.”

It didn’t matter if I was interested or not, I planned on listening and hearing her out anyway.

Because if I didn’t, she was never going to leave.

(Part 1 End)

(Part 2)

It was about a week after the school entrance ceremony when Sakayanagi first contacted me.

On my way back to the dormitories, I stopped by the convenience store. I quickly finished my business in the store and left.

“Just a moment please.”

In route between the convenience store and the dormitories, one of my female classmates called out to me.

“What do you want?”

“It hasn’t been very long since we started school here, so I thought that I’d like to talk with you for a little bit, Kamuro-san.”

“You’ve remembered my name.”

“I have memorized the names and faces of all my classmates.”

That said, this girl’s pace was very slow.

The walking cane she grasped in one hand was more than enough proof to show that her legs were bad.

I remembered her name- Arisu Sakayanagi. She was very conspicuous because of her physical handicap. Even though I had no intention of remembering the names of my classmates, hers had managed to stick with me for some reason.

“May I accompany you on the way back?”

I would usually decline. However, although it wasn’t directly because of her bad legs, the mood made it hard to turn her down.

“Suit yourself.”

“Thank you very much.”

She gave a pleasant smile and sped up a little in order to match my pace beside me.

“I’m not going to help you if you fall from overdoing it.”

“I’ll be okay. This cane and I are old friends.”

That said, she still wasn’t moving very quickly.

“Haa…”

Even though I let out an intentionally heavy sigh, Sakayanagi didn’t seem to pay it any mind.

Her outward appearance was frail, but she had the heart of a lion.

“By the way, what were you doing at the convenience store just now?”

“What?”

“From what I can see, it doesn’t seem like you bought anything.”

“So what? Sometimes you just can’t find anything you want.”

I attempted to end the conversation there, but Sakayanagi grabbed ahold of my arm.

“You were shoplifting, were you not?”

Sakayanagi asked, looking me straight in the eyes.

Her eyes were shining. It was as if she had just found herself a new interesting toy.

“While I’m guessing that you’ve scoped out the place a few times already to determine the positions of the cameras, was this your first time doing it at this school? Or how many times does this make it now?”

“Are you sure I stole something?”

“Yes. It seems like you aren’t taking me very seriously, but I am confident. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have asked you if you shoplifted something.”

“Well. That’s true.”

Sakayanagi reached out to me because she had witnessed me steal from the store.

“Even if I did steal something, so what? Gonna tattle to the school?”

“Let me see. While it would be very simple for me to report this to the school, please hear me out before it gets to that point.”

“Huh?”

Without making it clear whether or not she even took notice of my confusion, Sakayanagi continued:

“Your execution was magnificent. What surprised me the most was how you kept your composure. Normally, people would buy cheap things like gum or candy in order to ease their guilt. However, you don’t seem like you’ve ever done that. This also proves that shoplifting has become routine for you.”

Sakayanagi had hit the mark. After seeing me in action once, she could tell that I had been doing it for a long time. But, what does that matter?

I had no intention of letting this go on for very long.

No matter how good my execution was, the fact that she had seen me in the act would never go away.

“Do what you want.”

I reached into my bag and took out the can of beer I had stolen from the convenience store.

Generally speaking, people under the age of 20 weren’t allowed to buy it.

It was only sold here for the teachers and other staff living on campus.

“Hurry up and contact the school.”

Even though I said this, Sakayanagi asked me something entirely unrelated to that.

“Do you drink often?”

“Hah? …No. I don’t have any interest in liquor either.”

“In other words, you don’t use shoplifting as an outlet to ease the burdens of everyday life, but instead as a means for you to savor a thrill and experience the guilt of sin.”

ILLUSTRATION: https://imgur.com/qyhYH6H

She proceeded to arbitrarily analyze the situation.

“I get it. You’re able to calmly analyze a situation. So how about we go and quickly hand me over to the school?”

“Are you certain you want that? If the school finds out you shoplifted, you probably wouldn’t be able to avoid suspension.”

“So?”

“It has yet to be one week since the entrance ceremony. There are still many things, both enjoyable and not so enjoyable, to look forward to after this, yes?”

“If you’re not going to contact the school, I’ll do it myself.”

I tried to take out my phone, but she stopped me.

“I’ve grown to like you, Masumi Kamuro-san. You have to become my first friend.”

With that, she urged me to put my phone away.

“What are you saying?”

“I’ll keep your secret, so in return, please help me out with a few things.”

“That… isn’t what I’d call a friend.”

“Is that so?”

“Besides, do you think I’ll just obediently listen to you?”

“Indeed, even if I was to report you to the school, you likely wouldn’t suffer very much damage. But even so, your status as a shoplifter would then be exposed. If that were to happen, wouldn’t that cause issues with your ability to shoplift again in the future?”

“Not only are you saying that you’ll let me get away with it this time, but I’d even be able to do it more if I wanted to?”

“You’re free to do whatever you want. I won’t be getting involved with that. In the first place, even if I appealed to you and told you that what you’ve been doing isn’t acceptable from a moral standpoint, it still wouldn’t be able to make you change your ways. Or am I wrong?”

“That… Well, I guess…”

“Still, I believe following my instructions will be anything but boring. That place in your heart that could only be satisfied with shoplifting… Perhaps I’ll be able to find something else that can take its place.”

That was my first encounter with Arisu Sakayanagi.

(Part 2 End)

(Part 3)

“-Ah, how tiring. It’s been quite a while since I last sat down and said so much like that.”

Finished with her story, Kamuro looked up at me with the same serious expression she had at the start.

“In short, I’m a habitual shoplifter.”

“Even recently?”

“Sakayanagi has been working me hard. I haven’t had the spare time to steal anything.”

Even though it wasn’t something she wanted, she didn’t seem to be unsatisfied about it.

Before Sakayanagi, Kamuro probably hadn’t been relied on before. She had been holding a darkness in her heart.

Still, it was necessary for Sakayanagi to get Kamuro in a position where she wouldn’t be able to continue committing crimes.

Therefore, Sakayanagi cleverly took advantage of her. If Kamuro was to continue shoplifting, sooner or later, she’d be tracked down.

It wouldn’t matter if she was stealing outside of school grounds, but she was doing it from within the confined school campus.

When the store eventually notices what’s been going on with their inventory, it wouldn’t take them long to figure out the truth.

If that were to happen, Class A would definitely suffer a non-trivial amount of damage.

“Back before the training camp, Sakayanagi had said that you and Ichinose were both hiding the same secret.”

In other words, assuming that everything Kamuro just said really is true, Ichinose has a history with shoplifting as well.

“That’s exactly where I was going with this.”

“Regardless, what are you hoping to accomplish by revealing your past to me?”

Depending on the situation, it wouldn’t be impossible to look back into her past and investigate her crimes.

In which case, Kamuro would suffer alone.

“I don’t particularly like Sakayanagi or Ichinose. But, to be honest, the fact that Ichinose has been stealing as well really hit me hard. She’s so incredibly popular that she really ought to be entirely satisfied with what she has, but honestly, the same should go for me.”

Kamuro laughed in self-derision.

“Stop Sakayanagi. You can do that, can’t you?”

“So you’re saying you want me to help Ichinose?”

“Yes. As it is now, Ichinose will definitely be crushed. I’m not talking about her being crushed physically, I mean her heart.”

“I see.”

It’s difficult for me to confirm if what Kamuro has been saying is true, and it’s just as difficult for her to prove it.

Even if the store noticed a difference between their digital stock and their physical inventory, it would still be very hard to determine the cause of it. After all, it could’ve been a store employee making a handling error. While she did begin shoplifting immediately after enrollment, she didn’t repeatedly steal the same item several times. It was a one-time affair.

It would also be impossible to ask the store to show me the surveillance footage.

The only move I could make would be to report Kamuro’s theft to the convenience store and the school authorities. But even then, going about doing that would just be too disadvantageous for me, regardless of whether her story is true or not.

Even if I assume that what she said is true, I don’t want to obediently follow along with what she’s asking of me.

While it’s probably true that she’s dissatisfied with Sakayanagi, there’s little incentive for her to betray Sakayanagi just to ask someone unknown like me for help.

In which case, what’s the point of all of this?

Thinking about it reasonably, this was all probably carried out per Sakayanagi’s instructions.

She probably decided to use Ichinose as the medium for getting into a head-on confrontation with me.

“So, you think I’m lying?”

After a long period of consideration, Kamuro broke the silence.

“To be honest, there’s no absolute guarantee that what you said is true.”

Of course, after listening to her, it was clear that she was almost certainly telling the truth.

Even so, I didn’t admit this because of Kamuro’s close connection with Sakayanagi.

“…I see. In which case, should I just go and prove it to you?”

“Can you?”

“Probably.”

As she said that, she took out her student ID card and handed it to me.

“Well then, wait here and don’t lock the door.”

With that, Kamuro left the room.

No way, is she planning on going and stealing something right now to prove she’s a shoplifter?

I looked at her card absentmindedly for a short while, and after about 10 minutes, Kamuro came back. She took something out from her clothes and showed it to me.

“Hey now…”

It seems like my guess hit the mark.

“While I thought about taking a pack of gum or something, I grabbed a beer. This way was more credible.”

If it was something like gum that anyone could purchase, it would’ve been simple for her deceive me just by purchasing it in advance. But it’s an entirely different story when it comes to alcohol. Even if she was to go and borrow an ID card from another student, it still wouldn’t have been possible for her to purchase this beverage. It’s impossible for students to purchase age-restricted goods. Along with that, it’s unrealistic to think that she utilized the school’s working force or the teachers on campus. There was no mistaking that this was stolen merchandise.

Did she do it in order to gain my trust?

“Get it now?”

At that, Kamuro began to put the beer away, but I reached out my hand.

“Just in case, let me make sure it’s authentic. It could be fake.”

“…Idiot. Could I even make something like that?”

Kamuro showed reluctance for a moment, but it didn’t take long for her to hand it over.

It was ice-cold, as though it had just been purchased from the convenience store.

I slowly analyzed the surface of the can. It was definitely an authentic alcoholic beverage.

“If it’s so important, you can just have it.”

“No need.”

In the unlikely event that the can was found in my room, things would become troublesome.

Kamuro took the beer out of my hand and began lightly tossing the can in the air.

“Anyway, do you believe me?”

“You showed me the real thing. I can’t not believe you.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“Well, why me?”

“There’s nobody else I can count on in this school other than you. You should know that much.”

I picked up the cup of hot chocolate that I had prepared for Kamuro. At this point, I was confident that she wouldn’t actually take a drink. It had already gotten warm because around ten minutes had passed.

“There isn’t any benefit in it for me.”

“Maybe so.”

Seemingly satisfied with that, Kamuro stood up.

“I’ll be looking forward to the end results.”

Like that, Kamuro tried to one-sidedly end the conversation and began to leave the room.

“Wait a moment.”

“…What?”

“You forgot your ID card.”

Realizing that she had totally forgotten it, she grabbed her student ID card with her other hand. With that, Kamuro had finally left.

Though, she really presented me with something troublesome.

Is ignoring Ichinose’s current situation still the right choice to make?

“No… Am I sure about that?”

Rather, it may be a better choice to take advantage of this opportunity.

I grabbed my student ID card and my cell phone and left my room, headed toward the convenience store.

On the way, I got a call from Horikita’s older brother.

I had thought that I’d finally be able to relax after the uninvited guest left but…

Nonetheless, the caller was someone unexpected. It wasn’t going to be a meaningless call.

“There are a few things I want to talk to you about.”

The older Horikita spoke just after I pressed the answer button.

“Is it urgent?”

“Depending on the situation, it may already be too late. It’s about my sister.”

“…About your sister?”

This was also unexpected.

The older Horikita wouldn’t be bringing up anything about his younger sister unless the circumstances were extreme.

“Kikyou Kushida. She made contact with Miyabi Nagumo.”

“Really.”

I was surprised, but at the same time, I was impressed at the speed of the older Horikita’s information network.

“I thought that you were surrounded with enemies. You’ve done really well to acquire this type of information. Who did you hear this from?”

“This information came from Kiriyama. It’s clear that my relationship with Nagumo deteriorated at the last training camp. He’s definitely going to try something else. I’ll have to take action at this point.”

Vice President Kiriyama, huh?

As I thought in silence, the older Horikita continued.

“You can’t completely trust him, can you?”

“I don’t know Kiriyama as well as you do.”

“That’s fine. You always err on the side of caution.”

As the former student council president, Horikita would always approach others with a certain amount of trust, whether it was Kiriyama or Nagumo. Until there were any suspicions or he was betrayed, his trust in them was set in stone. I would never be able to imitate this type of behavior.

“So what happened?”

“She asked him for assistance with expelling Suzune Horikita. A very bold move.”

“I wonder what happened that prompted her to change strategies?”

As her penalty for losing the bet with Horikita, Kushida gave her word that she wouldn’t interfere in the future.

That said, she clearly had no intention of keeping it.

Just as she tried to use Ryuuen to achieve her goal, she’s now reached out to use Nagumo as well. After seeing what Nagumo did at the training camp, it’s not a surprising action for her to take.

Of course, Kushida should’ve also noticed. Even though she managed to push Horikita into a desperate situation, she’s only gotten herself into one as well. However, necessity knows no law. I felt like she had reached that resolution. To be honest, I had thought that she jumped the gun a bit by siding with Ryuuen, but getting close to Nagumo here isn’t a bad idea for her. If she sides with an upperclassman, there wouldn’t be an additional person who knows her past after they graduate.

However, that assumes that Nagumo is a trustworthy person in the first place.

“After this, Nagumo or the people near him are going to be taking measures against Suzune.”

“What do you want me to do? You’re not asking me to protect your little sister, are you?”

“If Suzune drops out of the school in the future, that’s her own responsibility. However, Kushida also listed your name as a troublesome existence.”

“I see…”

While Nagumo may not have very much interest in me, hearing my name come up over and over will eventually clue him in anyway.

In other words, if I don’t cut the connection before it’s too late, I’ll keep finding myself getting involved with more trouble.

“What’s the possibility that Nagumo got in touch with Hashimoto?”

“What’s your reason for asking such a question?”

“I had noticed a slight change in Hashimoto’s behavior between the beginning and the end of the training camp. I wasn’t sure back then, but after meeting up with him again recently, I realized that this change wasn’t just something I imagined, making the whole thing seem even more suspicious. That is to say, Hashimoto heard something about me from someone during the end of the training camp.”

The number of people in a position where they would tell Hashimoto what they know about me is extremely limited.

“It’s as you say. During the training camp, Nagumo told Hashimoto about you. That said, Hashimoto still probably hasn’t reached the conclusion that you’re the student manipulating Suzune.”

“I see.”

So he’s poking around to find out the truth?

“I don’t think there’s any need for me to ask, but… Are you dissatisfied with this?”

“No. Even if I had known already, the situation would’ve still ended up this way.”

“I suppose.”

The older Horikita muttered in response.

It doesn’t matter if one of Sakayanagi’s followers is distrustful of me.

As long as I don’t do anything, they won’t find out anything no matter how long they search for clues. Even if they think of a strategy, once Sakayanagi gives the thumbs down, the matter is over. It was a lot easier than dealing with Ryuuen or Nagumo.

Nagumo, however, has all his bases covered. It’s a little inappropriate to simply wait and see what happens at this point.

“I’ve given you the information. It’s up to you to decide what to do with it.”

“I will.”

The call disconnected.

In this school, this type of information means quite a lot. Every day, someone is always crafting a plan to best someone else. In that sense, the older Horikita is useful as one of my information sources. While he’s not as adaptable as Nagumo and doesn’t have as large of an information network, his credibility and accuracy are far higher.

In any case, sparks are starting to fly. In order to stop the problem as soon as possible, I’ll have to be the one to make the first move.

(Chapter 4 End)



Chapter 5: Spreading Rumors


Classroom of the Elite Volume 9 Chapter 5 Introduction

The weekend passed by and it was now Monday morning.

After getting out of the shower, I dried my hair with a toothbrush in my mouth. I had spent some more time relaxing than the usual morning. The plan was to wait until I was a little late before leaving to school.

I remembered that I had turned off my phone before I went to bed last night, so I turned it back on.

My phone screen lit up immediately and displayed all of the messages that had accumulated over the night.

[Kiyotaka-kun, do you have a bit of time this morning? Is it fine if I come by your room?]

The message was from Airi, and it seemed to have arrived just after I got in the shower.

There was also a missed call from Kei, but I’d get back to her later.

[Sorry. I was in the shower so I didn’t notice your messages. There isn’t much time right now. Can we talk at school?]

[That’s fine. Don’t worry about it. It can wait for later.]

Her response came back immediately after I sent the message.

The speed of her response made me wonder if she had just happened to have been looking at her phone, or if she was waiting for me to respond.

Nonetheless, her response told me that it probably wasn’t an emergency.

That being the case, I concentrated on straightening up my appearance first.

I didn’t have time to slow down. I finished my preparations for the day and called for the elevator to take me down to the lobby. Many students commute to school in the morning, so the elevator is pretty busy and doesn’t come immediately after calling for it. I had waited until the last possible moment to leave for school, but I still wasn’t able to avoid the wait.

In the meantime, I took out my cell phone and sent a message to Kei.

[What was your call about? If possible, I’d like to meet up with you this evening.]

The message was marked as read immediately after I sent it.

[I didn’t call for any reason in particular, just forget about it. Anyway, I’m fine with meeting up, but can you make it earlier? I already have plans to go out with my friends tonight.]

In which case, I decided to suggest a time around five o’clock.

[Does 5 work? Anytime before 6 is fine.]

[Okie~ 5 o’clock then. What’s it about?]

[I’ll explain when we meet.]

The elevator arrived as soon as I sent the last message.

Hirata was the only one onboard.

“Hey. Good morning Ayanokouji-kun.”

“How unusual, Hirata. We’re both pushing it to the last minute, aren’t we?”

Hirata was an honors student, so he usually left for school in the mornings with quite a lot of time to spare.

It would be unusual for him to be one of the students leaving late, but it was even more so for him to be pushing it to the utmost latest time possible like this.

“To be honest, I had planned on leaving earlier, but…”

As his words trailed off, his expression changed to a somewhat complicated, bitter smile.

“But?”

I questioned Hirata as we got off the elevator on the first floor, only to find several girls waiting there.

They weren’t all from one class. Instead, the girls standing before us were from Class A all the way to Class D. I had to think for a moment about why they had all gathered together, but I quickly caught on to the situation.

“Good morning, Hirata-kun!”

“Yes. Good morning.”

He had a refreshing smile on his face, but it still appeared somewhat strenuous.

“This… is for you!”

In a chorus, all six girls presented him with Valentine’s Day chocolates at the same time. This scene had probably already repeated itself many times. As he went back to his room with the chocolates, I figured that he was probably pushing it so late due to having already made a few trips back to his room.

I parted ways with Hirata and decided to hurry to school.

It would’ve been easy to wait for him, but I lost out to the pressure of not wanting to get in the way of the girls.

So today is Valentine’s Day, huh?

“I’ve never been given chocolates before…”

I accidentally muttered such a thing.

Before I consider whether or not I want a girlfriend, I think it’d be nice to receive chocolates.

I was surprised that I even had such a desire.


Classroom of the Elite Volume 9 Chapter 5 Part 1

It seemed that I wasn’t the only guy excited at the idea of receiving Valentine’s day chocolates.

As soon as I stepped into our classroom, I noticed that Class C was steeped in a strange atmosphere.

Many of the boys were gathered together in one place.

Valentine’s Day was the culmination of an entire year’s excitement.

It was, along with Christmas, a day that highlights the romance between boys and girls.

“Oh, there you are Ayanokōji. You come over here for a moment.”

Sudō called over to me, so I approached the group.

“Did you get any chocolate?”

“Huh?”

Sudō asked me with a somewhat tense expression, a glare in his eyes.

“To explain, it seems like he’s really asking if you’ve gotten any chocolate from Horikita.”

Ike added with a sly grin.

“Don’t say weird stuff like that, you idiot. It has nothing to do with that.”

Contrary to what he had said, Sudō’s eyes weren’t smiling at all.

They were practically filled with demonic intensity, demanding an answer.

“I didn’t get anything from her. There’s no chance she’d give me anything.”

“…For real?”

“Yeah.”

Sudō nodded a couple of times before freeing me from his stern gaze.

“Well, I can understand why Ken is nervous. After all, that Ayanokōji is a monster, you know~?”

With that, Ike drew the outline of something resembling a plastic water bottle in the air with his hand.

“…Ayanokōji, you little shit, don’t assume you’ve won just because of that, got it?”

“No, I’m not at all…”

Ever since the training camp, I’d occasionally hear annoying stuff about what happened.

“Come to think of it, how are things doing on your end, Kanji? Things still doing okay with Shinohara?”

“H-huh? Why bring up Shinohara now?”

“Honestly, you should stop trying to downplay it. Everybody knows already.”

“E-everybody knows… D-do you know, Ayanokōji?”

He somehow ended up trying to confirm by asking me about it.

I understood the flow of the conversation by now, so I responded to him with a light nod.

Ike groaned in shame and crouched down to hide his reddening face.

“See? Even a stick in the mud like Ayanokōji knows about it. So what happened? Did you get anything from her?”

I didn’t notice any envy in anyone’s voices, probably because Shinohara didn’t seem to be very popular within the class. His friend Yamauchi might’ve shown a poor display of irritation about it, but he was nowhere to be seen at the moment.

“I didn’t get anything…”

“You and I are in the same boat then.”

Sudō rested his hand on Ike’s shoulder sympathetically.

“No, it’s fine. I got chocolates from Kushida-chan, after all.”

As he spoke, Ike proudly flaunted a box of chocolates tied shut with a pink ribbon.

“You say that, but didn’t all the guys get something? She gave me chocolate too.”

“Same here. Of course I’m happy about it, but in the end, it’s just obligation chocolate.”

I hadn’t expected Kushida to give chocolates to every single male first-year student at all. It made me wonder how she went about doing that.

Though, for Kushida, I suppose it wasn’t that surprising.

Regardless, the only thing I could see was a bunch of boys stewing in their own hot air. This kind of childish behavior felt like the reason why none of them could get closer to girls, but there was nothing that could be done about that.

It was inevitable that it would turn out this way for a class like ours with barely any experience with love.

Getting something or getting nothing. It all depends on how someone usually handles themselves.

Being desperate isn’t going to get them what they’re really after.

I stood back and thought about this, watching as a girl from Class B offered a box of chocolates to Akito.



Classroom of the Elite Volume 9 Chapter 5 Part 2
“Tomorrow on the 15th, all of you will be expected to complete a comprehensive provisional test. However, just like with the test earlier this year, it won’t have any effect on your grades. The goal is to thoroughly test your current strengths. Furthermore, it will help you prepare of the final exams coming at the end of the year. While the tests won’t contain identical questions, the provisional exam will have similar questions to those found on the final exams. Do not be negligent with your studies simply because you’ve been promoted to Class C.”

Chabashira’s appreciated explanation finished, marking the end of today’s lessons.

As the girl in the seat beside me began her preparations for returning home for the day, I opted to ask her a simple question.

“How’s it going with Kushida?”

“What are you getting at?”

“I’m asking if you’ve been successful with her lately.”

“I wonder. I’m hard at work planning out how to improve my relationship with her. Are you looking to cooperate?”

“I was just asking.”

“Kushida-san has been changing, little by little.”

“In what way has she been changing?”

“Today, after we wrap things up here, I’ll be having tea together with her at Keyaki Mall. The Kushida from before would’ve turned down such an offer without hesitation.”

As it turned out, these unexpected developments seemed to be nothing more than superficial.

“In other words, you’re expecting to see results?”

“If we communicate, we might be able to come to a mutual understanding.”

“Glad to hear it. See you.”

After giving a brief reply to Horikita, I got up from my seat.

“…What was that?”

In response to my ridicule, Horikita looked at me with a slight trace of contempt in her eyes before looking away.

Shortly thereafter, Horikita stood up as well.

“Ah, Suzune. Uh… When’s a good time for you to help me with my studies?”

“That’s quite proactive of you, Sudō-kun.”

“That’s… well, I don’t wanna drop out, ya know?”

Despite what he said, he gave off a somewhat nervous appearance.

His true aim was, of course, to receive valentine’s chocolates from Horikita.

“Any time works for me. Even today.”

However-

“Your club activities still haven’t gone on break yet, have they? We’ll have time for studying after the provisional exams.”

With that, Sudō’s dreams were shattered.

I left the classroom.

The Ayanokōji Group was making plans to meet up, but I decided to refuse this time.

There were other matters that required my attention at the moment.

“Kiyotaka-kun!”

I heard my name reservedly being called from the hallway behind me.

“What’s wrong, Airi?”

“Are you really not joining up with the group today?”

“That was the plan.”

“I-it’s fine if you’re late, so could you still try joining up with everyone?”

“I suppose… Maybe sometime after 6?”

“Sure! I think everyone should still be together then!”

“Alright. I’ll get in contact with you then, okay?”

With that, Airi’s firm expression changed into a beaming smile. I parted ways with her and started moving towards my destination. Class B’s classroom was strangely quiet by the time I arrived there.

Because there were only a few Class B students who I could reliably talk to, speaking with Kanzaki would’ve been my first choice. Sumida and Moriyama, who I had been lodging together with at training camp, would’ve also been fine.

However, as I looked around the classroom, the three of them were nowhere to be found.

I had been hoping to catch someone suitable before they left, but that’s just not how it worked out.

I decided to turn back for the time being.

On the way out, I overheard a conversation between two girls as they left the classroom behind me.

“Hey… Do you think the reason why Honami-chan was absent today…”

“Something like that totally isn’t possible.”

The two of them shared a brief back and forth.

Was Ichinose taking a day off?

Was it merely a coincidence, or was it related to what happened a few days ago like that girl just thought?

I thought about this as I distanced myself from Class B.

How did Sakayanagi come to know Ichinose’s secret in the first place?

There are certainly conversational techniques designed to draw out secrets from other people, such as cold and hot reading. However, I can’t imagine that Ichinose would want to let anything slip about her past with shoplifting. The fact that she was denying it even now is proof enough of that.

Considering how she’s handled herself so far, it even makes me question whether or not she would ever cave into the incitement from the greatest enemy class to begin with.

It would be different if it was Ike or Yamauchi, but Ichinose is clever.

“Did she get carried away by Sakayanagi’s coaxing…?”

Is it possible that there’s someone else that knew Ichinose’s secret?

But even Kanzaki, the person who seems to be Ichinose’s closest ally, didn’t know anything.

And after seeing her close friends, it doesn’t seem like they know either.

Then one of the teaching staff or… the student council?

“If Nagumo abandoned Ichinose and sided with Sakayanagi, it would be possible.”

However, this hypothesis rests on a few assumptions being true.

In the first place, there’s no proof behind this conclusion other than what Kamuro told me.

Plus, the only person who’d be able to disprove that premise would be Ichinose Honami herself.

The school may be wide, but when compared to society, it’s actually rather confined.

Due to that, if you want to speak with someone in secret, you must put top priority to ensuring that the two of you are truly alone.

Basically, this would mean limiting the interactions to early in the morning, or late at night.

While I don’t know Ichinose Honami’s room number, getting it at this point should be easy. Just make a call to the dormitory management office and ask for it directly. There’s no reason for the school to keep the room number of their students a secret. If you tell them that you’re in a scramble to get in touch with them, they should be understanding.

I made the call to verify the room number as I continued walking, getting it without any difficulties.

I felt the presence of Hashimoto behind me, watching me from a distance, but I ignored him.

Recently, he’d taken to tailing me both during the daytime and in the evening.

He didn’t have a bad sense of distance, giving off the impression that he’s had experience with tailing people before.

At first glance, it didn’t seem like there were any advantages to going to see Ichinose with him following behind me. But, it was actually the other way around. The fact that he was watching was exactly what made it worth showing him what I was up to.

I had decided to return to the dorms early to confirm things with Ichinose, so I went to her floor. Unfortunately, there appeared to be several girls in front of her room as I got there.

A group of girls who were all particularly close friends with her.

I immediately turned around and got back on the elevator.

I’d have to give up here for today.



Classroom of the Elite Volume 9 Chapter 5 Part 3
5 o’clock. I made contact with Kei, calling her out to a place a short distance away from the dorms.

Despite the destination being relatively unpopular, it wasn’t the type of place absolutely nobody visited at all.

“Ah, it’s chilly. Why are we meeting up at a place like this? There are other options, you know?”

“But the lobby doesn’t work for you, does it? Strange rumors might start to spread if we’re seen together like this. That would be a problem for you, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, sorta… But meeting covertly like this… doesn’t it stand out in its own way? If we’re seen carelessly, I feel like it’ll produce rumors anyway…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m getting the feeling that you haven’t been cautious enough about this… but whatever.”

That’s fine. After all, the man who’s been following me has to put up with it for a while as well.

“Even so, it’s too cold. I wish summer would come sooner.”

“In the summer, wouldn’t you just end up saying that you wish winter would come sooner?”

After I asked this, she pondered the question for a bit.

“That’s just how maidens are, okay?”

Karuizawa pouted.

“Come to think of it, I wonder if there isn’t going to be a special exam this month.”

“The training camp only just ended, so that wouldn’t be surprising.”

“Then, we can take it easy?”

“Are you all set for the end-of-year exams? It seems like they’ll be quite difficult.”

As I said this, I noticed Kei’s movements stiffen up.

“Eh… Really?”

Until now, Kei had managed to get through one way or another, but she wasn’t in a position where she could start to be negligent with her studies.

“Could you help me study?”

“Ask Hirata. It would be difficult for you, but not impossible, right?”

Kei should’ve been brazen enough to ask him for his help, even immediately after parting ways with him, but she didn’t seem very eager about it. She stared at me.

The simplest solution would be to have Keisei tutor her, but that just wasn’t realistic.

If she was to be tossed into my group all of a sudden, there would definitely be problems.

“It would have to be in the middle of the night. Is that okay?”

“It’s much better than dropping out I suppose.”

Exactly.

“Well, I’ll put together a schedule.”

“Alright.”

However, even if she passes the end-of-term exams, a new problem was going to show up shortly afterward.

This upcoming March. In all likelihood, a large special exam was waiting just around the corner.

It seems like she’d only be safe after overcoming what remains in the 1st year curriculum.

We wouldn’t be able to relax until this battle reaches the bitter end.

“Anyway, uh, what do you need from me?”

She asked, looking nervous for some reason.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just thought that you urgently wanted to meet up with me today.”

“It’s nothing that has to be done today, but I’d like to have it checked out ahead of time.”

“Hmph.”

She scoffed, a look of suspicion filling her eyes.

I decided to disregard it, instead focusing on the issue at hand.

“Do you know anything about this number?”

I showed her the unregistered phone number that called me a few days earlier.

“Eh? Who is this? What, are you getting calls from strangers?”

“Something like that.”

Kei pressed down on the dial button on her phone and manually entered the number into the virtual keypad.

If the number was registered on her phone, a contact would appear after the number has been typed in.

“It doesn’t seem like you have anything.”

“I do have more contacts than the average girl, but I don’t know pretty much any of the seniors.”

I had wanted to see if she would have the number registered, but, as I expected, it was just a slim hope at best.

“Why not just try and call them back?”

“I’ve tried doing that a couple of times, but the other side has always been turned off.”

“Really…? If it’s that important, why not have me check it out for you?”

“Yeah. That’s why I called you out here today. But, don’t be careless with how you go about it.”

With a nod, Kei took note of the phone number.

“Is that everything?”

“Yeah. See you.”

I tried to end our conversation there, but Kei called out to me in a hurry.

“Oh, uh, by the way, there’s this small something I’d like to talk about. Can I ask you something?”

As I was taking my leave, Kei stopped me with an obscure question.

“Do you know what day it is today? Come on. 5… 4… 3-”

“…This is an easier question than I imagined. So much so that I feel like I’m being tricked into giving a wrong answer.”

“Don’t overthink it, just give it to me straight.”

“Valen-”

“Yeah yeah yeah.”

She lightly tapped a small box on my head.

“You’re giving me this?”

“I was originally going to give it to Yousuke-kun, but there’s no reason for me to do that anymore.”

“For Hirata, is it?”

“Oh, so you don’t like it?”

“No, I was just thinking about how long in advance you must have been preparing for Valentine’s day.”

It had been over a month since Kei had resolved herself to break up with Hirata.

“I-I make careful preparations ahead of time, okay? Even though I had already decided to break up with him, there was still a chance I would need to have it, you know? Well, I guess it’s nothing I should expect someone so inexperienced with romance to be able to understand.”

That could be true.

“I just thought that you wanted to see me today hoping for me to give you something like this.”

“Sorry. It never crossed my mind.”

Kei briefly had a slightly irritated expression on her face, but she quickly recovered.

“Anyways, did you get something from any other girls?”

Kei changed the subject ever so slightly. It was as if she was trying to avoid talking about it.

“No, nothing at all.”



I decided to respond like this, regardless of whether or not I had actually received anything from somebody else.

“Serves you right. A man absolutely unsuitable for others~”

She began to make fun of me without hesitation.

“But are you okay with that? If you give this to me, I won’t be unsuitable anymore, you know?”

“That makes you that much more pitiful. It just means that you’ll have to look to me for salvation.”

She was really looking down on me.

“Oh yeah, and you can thank me by returning the favor 1000 times over.”

She continued spouting unreasonable nonsense.

“By the way, uh-”

Kei attempted to change the topic yet again.

However, she swallowed her words as soon as she looked into my eyes.

Standing a short distance apart, we stared at one another.

I slowly shifted my gaze in the direction of the dormitory.

“Well then, I’m heading back to my room.”

“Yeah. Later.”

With that, Kei was ready to quickly return to the dorms.

I immediately put her present into my bag.




Youkoso V9C6 Introduction


Chapter 6: “Something Vague”

For Hashimoto Masayoshi, the question of whose side he supports was a trivial one.

Or better yet, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he didn’t care about it at all.

Regardless of whether the leader of the class turned out to be Sakayanagi or Katsuragi, he would’ve chosen the side that turned out most beneficial to himself. That’s all there was to it. While he was fortunate to have started out in Class A, he was always considering the option of falling down to Class B or C.

The important thing for him was to take up the position that would turn things around in the end.

This was the reason why, after sensing his potential, he had gotten into contact with Ryūen Kakeru after he had quickly risen to power within Class C at the start of the year.

His outstanding talent could’ve taken down both Sakayanagi and Ichinose. Hashimoto had realized that the man had an ominous amount of strength. If Ryūen had asked for it, Hashimoto wouldn’t have hesitated to leak him information about Class A. Of course, this behavior was just espionage done under Sakayanagi’s instruction. However, if Ryūen had the potential to overtake the other classes, he was fully prepared to double-cross even her.

This was the same reason why he had targeted Ichinose in Class B. However, Ichinose was different than Sakayanagi or Ryūen because underhanded deals simply wouldn’t work with her. In response to this, Hashimoto decided not to be too pushy, choosing instead to gradually approach from another angle. While they wouldn’t go as far as to betray Ichinose, he established connections with a certain someone from B class who was close to her.

Hashimoto had promptly set up this type of social network with students from each class immediately after coming to this school.

It was better to prepare as much insurance as possible for the sake of any unexpected situations.

And today, once again, he was making preliminary arrangements in preparation for yet another unexpected situation.

“U-um, Hashimoto-kun. Do you have a minute?”

Within the hallways, after school. A girl from Class A, Motodoi Chikako, called out to Hashimoto from behind. Like Hashimoto, she was a member of the tennis club. She appeared to have run to catch up with him after he had left the classroom. She gave off a slightly fidgety appearance, unable to completely maintain her composure.

Hashimoto immediately understood what was going on without having to hear anything more.

Today was February 14th. He had already experienced this sort of scene several times.

However, even though he understood what was happening, he didn’t let that show on his face. Of course, he wouldn’t say anything either.

“Sure thing, Motodoi. What’s up?”

After getting such a gentle response, Motodoi composed her thoughts and came out with it.

“This is chocolate. Because, uh, it’s Valentine’s day today.”

As she spoke, she held out the chocolate, to which Hashimoto immediately accepted.

“Thanks Motodoi. I’m glad.”

“G-great!”

Hashimoto had already noticed that Motodoi had been looking at him with affection as a member of the opposite sex. Thus, this chocolate was most likely meant with romantic intentions. While he was confident that he would succeed were he to confess, he felt nothing towards her. This was because, for better or worse, he saw her as a person who simply wasn’t worth using. He had already judged that there weren’t any merits to going out with her.

“You should show your face around the club every once in a while.”

“Sorry, I’ve been skipping out a lot recently, haven’t I?”

“Definitely. Our senpais have been worried.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Anyways, I’ll make sure to properly show you my thanks next month.”

“Y-yeah.”

Motodoi blushed, nodded, and ran off. It was as if she was escaping from the embarrassing atmosphere.

Despite the fact that there was no possibility that the two of them would get into a relationship, Hashimoto made sure to keep his options open.

After all, maybe there would be some sort of change with her in the future.

In order to make up for this delay, Hashimoto sped up his pace as he moved toward the first-year Class C classroom.

For now, there was somebody far more worthy of his attention than Motodoi.

A male student within Class C, Ayanokōji Kiyotaka.

“Why is it that I care so much about him…”

There was a part of himself that couldn’t help but wonder.

Before the training camp, he had no impression of him. He was just another student with a vaguely familiar face. He could remember that he had run a fierce relay against the former student council president during the sports competition, but that was all he could think of. Even then, Hashimoto didn’t think that his evaluation of someone should change simply because they were quick on their feet. Furthermore, both Sakayanagi and Ryūen were quick to catch on to things like this, yet Ayanokōji hadn’t caught the attention of either of them.

Recently, however, there was an incident that forced him to change his opinion of Ayanokōji.

A curious remark from the current student council president, Nagumo Miyabi, enigmatically claiming that Ayanokōji was somebody that Horikita Manabu holds in higher esteem than anyone. Hashimoto planned on passing it off as a joke, but somehow he was just unable to do so.

As he thought about it again, there had been signs that he had overlooked.

Why did the former student council president and Ayanokōji personally confront each other during the relay?

What if that confrontation was more than just a mere coincidence?

What if it was intentional? Spurred on by some form of goal, pressing them to race against one another?

Doubts like these began to swirl in his mind.

Hashimoto had also yet to be convinced about what had happened to Ryūen, who was said to have been overthrown by Ishizaki and others from his own class. Moreover, the current Class C, who had started out the year at the very bottom of the ladder, was now steadily starting to close the gap with the upper classes.

What if Ayanokōji had actually been involved with each of these events…?

“What if… he’s an existence that surpasses both Sakayanagi and Ryūen…?”

At this point, this train of thought didn’t seem very likely to him.

And that was to be expected. For now, it was nothing more than a mere suspicion accompanied by exaggerated delusions. It was missing something definitive to tie it all together. What Nagumo had said was simply an unrealistic joke, and the reality of what had happened during the relay at the sports festival was nothing more than a fantasy that Hashimoto had come up with to fit his own convenience.

That was why Hashimoto chose to confirm the facts.

He usually spent his time acting under the orders of Sakayanagi, spreading rumors about Ichinose, but recently he had been spending his free time shadowing Ayanokōji, spying in order to find out the truth.

Hashimoto finally reached the Class C classroom, but Ayanokōji was already nowhere to be seen.

“You never do waste time, do you Ayanokōji?”

His pool of friends was rather limited, so he seldom stayed behind in the classroom after school.

Was he with Yukimura and Miyake and that group of close friends today as well? Hashimoto considered it, but saw that both Yukimura and Sakura were still in the classroom, so he quickly dismissed the idea.

“Yo, Hirata.”

Awkwardly watching the students of another class would make him stand out.

To avoid that, immediately after arriving at the classroom, Hashimoto called out to Hirata, who had yet to head out to his club activities.

“Yo, Hashimoto-kun. What’s up?”

“I just came by to see whether or not you’ve gotten yourself a new girlfriend.”

“Is that it? I’m not thinking about finding a new one right now.”

“In the midst of healing your broken heart, are you?”

“Haha… Something like that.”

“I’d like to hear all about it sometime. Anyways, I’ve been asking around for the contact information for the guys I was lodging with back during the training camp. I was looking to catch Ayanokōji, but it looks like he’s gone home already.”

“You didn’t run into him? I think he left just a minute or two ago…”

He had missed him by just a bit. Quickly making the judgment that he could still catch up with him, Hashimoto gave his thanks to Hirata and immediately went back out into the hallway.

The end-of-year exams were coming up soon, so Hashimoto couldn’t afford to keep tailing Ayanokōji every day. He was hoping to come to a definitive conclusion about Ayanokōji soon so that he could turn his full attention to the exams and tackle them at peak condition.

“I’d love to catch onto something new any time now.”

He would make his move at the soonest opportunity. With this conviction, Hashimoto moved forward.

Luckily, Hashimoto caught sight of Ayanokōji standing near the front entryway, his attention focused in on his cell phone. Was he meeting up with someone, or was he just killing some time? Either way, it was a lucky break.

Ayanokōji was always using his cell phone to stay in touch with somebody. Was he just getting in contact with Miyake and the others? Or was he speaking to someone Hashimoto hadn’t ever met before?

The one thing he could say for certain was that Ayanokōji was an unusually easy target to track.

Hashimoto had tailed a fair number of students so far. Katsuragi, Ryūen, Kanzaki, and even Ichinose at times. None of them were particularly easy to keep tabs on. It would be a stroke of good luck to be able to follow one of them once every two days. On the other hand, it would take more than an entire week to find out any new information about them if things went poorly.

However, Ayanokōji lived a monotonous daily life with a very confined amount of friends and social connections.

This made it incredibly easy to anticipate his actions ahead of time. Moreover, Ayanokōji didn’t show a shred caution in regard to his surroundings.

He never took note of what was behind him, never showing any indication that he had sharp senses or a keen intuition.

Even so, Hashimoto wouldn’t allow himself to grow complacent.

Though it might be overcautious, he decided that he would follow Ayanokōji from even farther away than necessary.

At that point, Hashimoto got a phone call from one of his classmates, Naoki Shimizu.

“Hello. Has something happened, Naoki?”

“No… Actually, it’s about this morning… I’ve seriously had enough of this.”

“Ah. It would probably be better for you to forget about it, right? There are just a lot of talkative people in our class.”

A somewhat problematic event had taken place within Class A that morning. Shimizu had confessed to a girl named Nishikawa, only to be rejected, and knowledge of his failure had begun to circulate among the girls of the class. Perhaps Nishikawa had carelessly told one of her friends about the confession, and it just spread around from there. Something like this would happen every once in a while.

“You won’t be able to confess to anyone at this rate if you worry too much about every single thing, you know?”

“Th-that’s right… but I still can’t forgive Nishikawa for spreading it.”

“Well, while I’d love to hear you complain about it, I’m in the middle of something else right now.”

“Oh really? My bad.”

Hashimoto made arrangements to call him back this evening and cut the call.

“This is just how confessions end up when you don’t meet all the conditions to ensure your success.”

With the resolution to comfort his friend later on, Hashimoto returned to his mission of tailing Ayanokōji back to the dormitories.

“If he’s going straight to his room like this, then I suppose I won’t be finding anything new out today either.”

If there was anything painful about tailing Ayanokōji, it would be the overall monotony of the entire thing.

However, after Ayanokōji got into the elevator, it passed the fourth-floor, where his room was located and continued to rise. Hashimoto watched the elevator monitor from the lobby as Ayanokōji disembarked on the girls’ floor.

“If my memory serves me right… that’s the floor Ichinose is on, isn’t it?”

Or was that merely a coincidence, and he was just there in order to meet with another girl?

Though, given the recent events, it was hard for him not to associate things like this with Ichinose.

“Even though it’s weird, it is Ichinose… so isn’t it possible that he’s just making a courtesy visit…?”

While Ayanokōji only has a very confined amount of friends, Ichinose was incredibly popular with students throughout every school year.

It wouldn’t be surprising for her to be friends with Ayanokōji. In addition, that wasn’t even considering how cute she is. It wouldn’t be strange for a student to expect to get something by making her a courtesy visit.

However, Ayanokōji immediately got back into the elevator and rode back down to the fourth floor, where he got back off.

“What…?”

Nothing about it made any sense. Hashimoto continued to watch the monitor as the elevator returned to Ichinose’s floor and several girls from Class B got on. He came to the conclusion that Ayanokōji had run into all of these girls who had come to visit Ichinose before him, and made the decision to turn back after getting cold feet.

Just in case, Hashimoto immediately rode the elevator up to the fourth floor, but Ayanokōji had already disappeared.

It was pretty much guaranteed that he had returned to his room.

“So in the end, I don’t find out anything today either, huh?”

Considering whether or not to call it quits for the day, Hashimoto ultimately decided to ponder the situation for a little while in the lobby.

It was still pretty early. Hashimoto decided that it was still rather probable that Ayanokōji would try to get in contact with Ichinose later on, or even potentially make arrangements with somebody else entirely. In addition, as long as he used the elevator, it didn’t matter if he went upstairs or downstairs because he’d be able to confirm things on the monitor.

Hashimoto’s resolution to stick around paid off after an hour or so.

Ayanokōji boarded the elevator and began to ride down to the first floor.

Furthermore, he hadn’t changed out of his school uniform yet.

“Is he heading back to the school?”

It wouldn’t make any sense for him to head all the way back to school after deliberately heading home.

For instance, it would make sense that he wouldn’t bother to change his clothes if he was simply heading off to the convenience store, but he had his school bag with him.

Hashimoto quickly got up from the sofa and hid in the emergency stairwell.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes from here.”

As if in response to Hashimoto’s wishes, Ayanokōji walked out of the lobby, headed toward a relatively unpopular part of campus. With this, the odds of him heading to the convenience store or the school vanished. In which case, who was he meeting with? No, the place he was heading toward wasn’t suitable for the usual simple meeting with a friend.

Given the situation, anybody would be filled with anticipation about what he’s going to do and who he’s going to meet.

The idea that he was meeting up with someone was effectively certain at this point.

If he’s meeting up with former student council president Horikita, or even Ryūen, things were about to get pretty heated.

However, each and every one of his expectations were spectacularly betrayed by what he saw.

“Woah, woah, are you serious…?”

The person who turned up to meet with Ayanokōji was none other than first-year Class C’s Kei Karuizawa.

She was a girl who, due to her recent break-up with Hirata, had caused a bit of a buzz within Class A. Even though Hashimoto had never had any contact with her so far, he still couldn’t hide his astonishment at her unexpected appearance.

Feelings of weakness began to overwhelm him. The betrayal of all of his expectations.

This had nothing to do with the ‘other side’ of Ayanokōji that Hashimoto had been seeking to uncover. Instead, this was a matter of love. His brain automatically tried to see it in a different light, but no matter how he looked at it, their relationship with one another was clearly beyond that of just friends.

Hashimoto had witnessed Hirata and Karuizawa’s relationship several times before, but he had never felt a strong sense of ‘love’ or ‘intimacy’ between the two of them.

“…I don’t get it. Why Ayanokōji?”

In the first place, which one of them was interested in the other? Or were they both interested in each other? He could posture guesses as much as he wanted, but he would still never come to an answer. After all, at a fundamental level, there are no such things as answers when it comes to love. If you were to objectively compare Ayanokōji with Hirata, 80% of girls would end up choosing Hirata. However, it wouldn’t be strange for the remaining 20% to choose Ayanokōji.

That is to say, if there were 100 people, 20 of them would end up picking Ayanokōji.

In which case…

“Ayanokoji… has been in frequent contact with Karuizawa…?”

Hashimoto immediately abandoned that idea. It was just something he had come up with to explain the current situation, nothing more than an aspect of his imagination. He wouldn’t be able to come to any conclusions without investigating things further. However, due to the low traffic of people through the place they were talking, it was impossible to get closer to hear exactly what they were saying.

“What should I do…”

Just as Hashimoto was pondering about what steps to take next…

There was a sudden development between Karuizawa and Ayanokōji.

“Chocolate, huh?”

Karuizawa handed Ayanokōji an object that she had been holding onto. Today was February 14th. For her to hand something over in a place so obviously outside of the public eye, anyone would be able to tell what she had handed over without actually seeing the gift.

Due to this, it’s clear that, at the very least, Karuizawa favors Ayanokōji.

“Well, at any rate, I guess I can leave it at that for today.”

However, this bit of knowledge was unrelated to what he originally set out to discover.

With this in mind, Hashimoto started off back home. However, he then stopped in place.

“It’s a rare opportunity… Why not challenge him directly?”

Given that there wasn’t very much time left until the end-of-year exams, this could also be the best option available to him.

He could shake things up a bit by forcibly dragging the unrelated Karuizawa into this. It was his chance to expose Ayanokōji’s weaknesses. At the same time, if Ayanokōji doesn’t show any response to his challenge, Hashimoto could conclude that he had nothing to worry about to begin with.

Satisfied with his decision, Hashimoto began walking toward Ayanokōji and Karuizawa.



Youkoso V9C6 Part 1

I sensed the presence of someone approaching us from behind. Their pace was quick. So much so that it was obvious that they didn’t intend to overlook the closeness of my conversation with Kei.

“Yo, Karuizawa.”

It was Hashimoto, who had been concealing his presence behind me ever since I left the lobby.

“…Uh, who?”

Kei didn’t appear to know who Hashimoto was, so she turned to me for an explanation.

“He’s Class A’s Hashimoto. I was grouped together with him during the training camp.”

“Oh yeah, and Ayanokōji as well.”

After this quick greeting, Hashimoto drew closer to Kei.

“For a man and a woman to hold a secret meeting in a place like this… You’re quite the smooth one, Ayanokōji.”

I had known that Hashimoto would attempt to get in touch with me eventually, but I had to think about why he chose now, of all times, to do so.

Nonetheless, I’d use his plan for my own benefit as well.

“We’re not out here doing anything in particular-”

“Don’t try to hide it. It’s Valentine’s Day. Even if you two aren’t a couple, it isn’t strange to have a secret meeting like this. Actually, you’ve already gotten something from her, haven’t you?”

It seemed that Hashimoto had seen me accept her chocolate and immediately put it into my bag.

“She just gave me this chocolate by coincidence. I didn’t come out here expecting to get anything.”

I attempted to deny it, but Hashimoto saw through my excuse with a sneering grin on his face.

“No, you knew that she’d be giving you chocolate from the beginning, didn’t you? Your bag.”

“My bag?”

“Since you’ve already been back to the dorms, there’s no reason for you to take your bag with you as you go out afterward.”

“…No, I was originally intending on heading over to the library. But just before I could head out, Karuizawa called me and I agreed to meet up with her, that’s all.”

“In other words… It’s just a coincidence?”

I nodded in response to Hashimoto’s deduction before taking two library books out from my bag and showing them to him to prove it.

“Well, it’s all the same either way. In the end, you did get chocolate from Karuizawa.”

From Hashimoto’s point of view, even though I wasn’t the one to reach out to Karuizawa, the fact that I had received chocolate from her was truly important.

“I’m not sure I understand… Is there a problem with that?”

“I’m simply curious about what it is about you that Karuizawa’s interested in. Her previous boyfriend, Hirata, was one of the most popular guys in the entire school, right? It makes me wonder why she’d pick you after dumping Hirata.”

In other words, he wanted to know how things managed to get to this point.

Kei, who had been listening to our conversation in silence, spoke up.

“Aah, sorry, but there’s been a misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding?”

“Yep. I originally planned to give that chocolate to Hirata-kun. It would’ve been a pity to throw it away, so I thought about giving it to someone, and then I just decided on Ayanokōji-kun.”

“You hand over such an intimate gift, but then claim it’s just done on a whim? I’m sorry, but I don’t see it. Moreover, what’s with the location? For a lie, that’s a pretty bad one.”

Hashimoto let out a laugh as he said so, to which Kei responded with a blunt display of anger.

“Haa? You show up out of nowhere and just say everything that comes to your mind. Who in the world do you think you are?”

Kei looked at him with an overbearing look in her eyes.

“I simply want to know the truth.”

Hashimoto was overwhelmed a bit.

Though it was true we hadn’t concealed the unnatural aspects of our confrontation very well.

That was why I decided to change directions.

This would be Kei’s chance to prove how well she could keep up with me.

“Well, it’ll be better for you to just speak honestly here, Karuizawa. If we continue to hide something here, I think it’ll just be troublesome for you afterward. If that guy ends up thinking we’re dating, you’d be troubled, right?”

With that said, I passed her the baton.

Without hesitation, Kei let out a single deliberate sigh.

“Ugh. I’ll say it, but this can absolutely never spread from here, okay?”

With this, Kei pointed at Hashimoto.

“I’ve only temporarily entrusted this chocolate with Ayanokōji-kun, in order for him to give it to the person I like.”

“So, you’re saying that Ayanokōji is just the middleman?”

“That’s right. Do you understand now?”

Hashimoto’s expression said that it was simply unbelievable.

“If that’s the case, then who is that chocolate actually for?”

Hashimoto continued his questioning.

“Huh? This is the first time I’ve ever met you, yet you want me to tell you something like that? Are you stupid?”

Kei was definitely stirring things up, but nothing about it seemed like she was being fake.

That was just the guise of the gyaru that Karuizawa Kei had created for herself.

“That’s… Well, I guess you’re right.”

Hashimoto assented with a somewhat surprised look on his face and ended up bowing his head in apology.

“This won’t blow over just by lowering your head. Seriously, spare me.”

“…Is that so? It seems like I really have misunderstood, my bad. When I thought that you two might like each other, I couldn’t help but get suspicious.”

“Why are you sticking your neck into something you have nothing to do with in the first place?”

“Well, when it comes to you, I’m anything but uninvolved.”

“Wha?”

Hashimoto drew a few steps closer to the irritable Kei.

He reached out his arm and pressed it against the wall behind her, closing off her way out with his own body.

“Wha-what?”

“I’ve thought you were fine for a while now, so how about you go out with me, Karuizawa? I don’t know who you like now, but if you still haven’t given them any chocolate, that means you haven’t conveyed your feelings yet. Isn’t that right?”

Thinking that he still had a chance with her himself, Hashimoto forcefully made a move on Kei.

“What on earth are you saying… Do you think I’d be okay with something like that?”

“It’s all part of the unpredictable twists and turns of love… Isn’t it interesting?”

With that, he cast a sharp glance at me for a split second.

He may have been attempting to bait a reaction out of me by making a move on Kei.

I spoke up.

“Well then, I guess I’m going to head back.”

“Huh? Wait, I’ll head back too.”

Kei forcibly pushed Hashimoto away and took her distance from him.

“How cold.”

Hashimoto smiled bitterly. It didn’t seem like he was going to continue with his aggressive tactic.

Or rather, it seemed that he had lost interest in Kei altogether.

Given the current situation, Kei let out a noteworthy, deliberate sigh and left back to the dorms on her own.

“Sorry for intruding into things like that.”

“No, it’s nothing.”

I walked together with Hashimoto until the point where the pathway to the dorms and the school split up.

“Still, you have it rough when it comes to love, don’t you?”

“What are you talking about?”

Hashimoto gave off a mocking smile before wrapping his arm around my shoulder and whispered into my ear.

“I’m talking about how you’re pretty big. Girls who lack experience won’t be able to handle yours.”

Bringing up that again…

“Don’t look so exhausted. There’s a good number of people that respect you for it.”

I wasn’t happy at all.

Rather, what happened at the training camp was steadily becoming a source of constant discomfort.

“By the way, King. How about we exchange contact info?”

“I’m fine with giving it to you as long as you never use that nickname you just came up with ever again.”

“Hahahaha. I won’t I won’t.”

With that, I took out my cell phone and exchanged contact information with Hashimoto.

“Well, I’m gonna head back myself. See ya, Ayanokōji.”

Hashimoto came and went like the passing of a storm.

Did he think that he had gotten enough information? Or did he feel like he had pushed too far into something unrelated?

In either case, my existence would continue to remain uncertain for Hashimoto.

If only it would stay that way.

I decided to drop by the library and meet up with Hiyori, who should be on standby there.

And after that, I also had to meet up with another person who had requested to meet up at the school.



Youkoso V9C6 Part 2

I got home that evening later than I anticipated, so I wasn’t able to meet up with the Ayanokōji Group.

When I had gotten back to my room just before seven, I found that a paper bag had been placed right in front of my door.

I took a peek inside the bag and found two differently packaged boxes. One was square while the other was a circle, and they each came with a first name written on the front. They were Valentine’s Day chocolates from Haruka and Airi.

Based on what was being talked about in the group chat, Akito and Keisei had gotten the same things.

I went into my room and lined up all of the chocolates on my desk.

“I never expected to get five of them…”

Kei, Airi, Haruka, Hiyori, and… one more.

It was a box of chocolates all wrapped up with a lovely pink ribbon.

Later that night, just after ten, I went back out into the hallway wearing a hoodie over some of my casual clothing and got onto the elevator.

The surveillance camera inside the elevator shouldn’t have been able to catch my face.

It was a pre-emptive measure just in case something went wrong. In the first place, it would’ve been ideal for us to meet up somewhere else, but nothing could be done about it if she really did have to recuperate from an illness.

Given that, it wouldn’t even be strange for her to be sleeping at this time of night. To check for this, I had Horikita let me know how to get in contact with Ichinose ahead of time. I had already sent her a text message and confirmed that she was still awake, so I moved forward with my plan.

However, I still hadn’t told Ichinose that I would be going to her room.

I got off the elevator on Ichinose’s floor and went to her door. I rang the doorbell and waited. Ten seconds passed. Then twenty seconds.

I didn’t hear anything from inside the room, so I rang the doorbell once again.

It was only natural for Ichinose to be confused about a visit this late at night.

After about thirty more seconds, I decided to call out to her.

“Ichinose, it’s me. Ayanokōji.”

It would’ve been a problem for me to linger around on her floor after curfew had already set in.

Ichinose should’ve understood this as well.

She wouldn’t be alright with carelessly exposing somebody else to a dangerous situation like that.

“…Ayanokōji… kun. Whatsa matter?”

I could hear Ichinose’s voice from the other side of the door. As far as the tone of her voice was concerned, she sounded weak.

Immediately after she spoke, coughing resounded from within the room. It was difficult for me to discern whether or not she was truly sick based solely on how her voice and cough sounded.

“Something important has come up. I was hoping I could speak with you about it in person, is that alright?”

“Well… Uh…”

“To be honest, it seems like things might get troublesome if I’m seen by another girl right now.”

I pressured her a little more forcefully.

“Hold on a second, alright?”

She responded with that, and after a short wait, I heard the sound of the lock disengaging from inside the room.

Ichinose opened the door. I could see that she was in unbelievably low spirits.

“Nyaha, that was a bit pushy there, Ayanokōji-kun…”

She was wearing a mask and seemed to truly be in bad shape.

It looks like she wasn’t feigning an illness after all.

“Sorry. I definitely got a bit forceful. You don’t look like you’re doing very well.”

“Yeah… I’m just a little spent is all.”

“I apologize for coming by at such a bad time.”

“It’s alright. The fever is already almost gone. How should I put it, instead of feeling icky from the fever, I feel more hungry due to oversleeping, y’know? Oh, I’m sorry, but could I also get you to put on this mask?”

So as to not have me catch her cold, Ichinose presented me with another mask.

My immune system was much stronger than average, but nobody is absolutely safe when it comes to things like this. If I was to recklessly refuse her offer and then get sick later, Ichinose would probably end up regretting it. I accepted her offer without a moment’s hesitation and put on the mask.

“So, have you been to the infirmary?”

“I went earlier this week.”

Many students were thinking that Ichinose faked her illness to avoid the rumors that had been spreading about her, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

There was no mistaking it. She had really been sick after all.

“You were probably worried that I was absent because of all of these rumors lately. Thank you for your concern.”

“No…”

Did she manage to see through my intentions?

“You’re the first person I’ve met up with face to face since I got sick.”

“Is that so?”

“There were a bunch of students who came to visit me while my fever was worse, but I was having a hard time so I had to turn them all away. Since then, some of my friends have been giving me space, thinking I’m depressed.”

I had come to see her so much later than everyone else, yet I was ironically the first person to actually meet with her.

In reality, Ichinose had taken a day off to recuperate from her illness. However, given how she had handled herself so far, it was obvious that she was also the type that attentively makes sure she’s staying healthy. Given how quickly the end-of-year exams were coming up, Ichinose should’ve wanted to avoid getting sick as much as possible. There was no mistaking that this cold of hers came as a result of her recent mental trauma and the weakening of her own immune system.

“I’m not going to skip out on school just because of those rumors.”

Well, Ichinose herself wasn’t going to admit to that part of it.

“How resilient of you.”

“Resilient, you say…? Ah, sorry, but could you shut the front door behind you? I was airing out the room earlier, but it’s a bit cold now. Please also remember to wash your hands thoroughly after you go back.”

“Yeah.”

She had a humidifier running in her room to prevent the air from getting too dry. The cold virus is one that thrives in cold, dry air. These conditions directly increase how much of the virus is floating in the air. Due to that, it is important to increase the humidity of the room to easily create an environment where the virus would become inactive. Neglecting these precautions could lead to prolonged colds and even increase the odds of infecting any visitors. In fact, the main reason why colds tend to drag on during the winter months is because of the dryness of the air.

Though, a lot of girls have been coming over to my room lately, and I have been going over to a lot of the girls’ rooms as well. It was strange how none of those visits have had anything to do with love affairs thus far.

“What’s the matter…?”

Ichinose looked at me with a strange expression as I stood there staring at the humidifier.

“I really am sorry to intrude while you’re resting.”

“No, it really is fine. It’s definitely safer not to meet up with anyone face to face right now, but it’s probably for the better to let somebody else know that I’ve actually caught something.”

Ichinose was well aware that speculation about the legitimacy of her illness had already begun to spread.

Ichinose showed me her cell phone, as if trying to prove it to me.

There was evidence of several exchanges she had been engaged in with Horikita.

It seemed like Horikita had been worried about Ichinose in her own way.

The two of us didn’t talk for long. I took my leave as soon as the right time presented itself.

Youkoso V9C6 Part 3

The day of the provisional exam had arrived.

That morning, each class would be focusing in on the exam.

Though, nobody in the classroom was diligently studying, as everyone was immersed in conversation instead. None of this conversation had anything to do with preparations for the upcoming exam. Rather, the topic of discussion was something completely unrelated to that.

“It’s pretty noisy.”

“Of course it is. It’s because of those outrageous rumors that showed up this morning.”

“Outrageous rumors? Have there been new ones about Ichinose?”

“No. They’re new ones that have been causing internal chaos within Class C.”

“New rumors, huh…”

With just one look at the restless classroom, it was obvious that this was no trivial matter.

“Incidentally, this has something to do with you too, Ayanokōji-kun.”

With that, Horikita showed me the screen of her cell phone.

She had written down a total of four rumors on the phone’s memo pad.

“This…”

・Ayanokōji Kiyotaka has a crush on Karuizawa Kei
・Hondō Ryōtarō is only interested in obese girls
・Shinohara Satsuki was a prostitute back in middle school
・Satō Maya hates Onodera Kayano

The content of the rumors all followed a similar pattern. The full names of four people, including me, were directly stated as victims of the attack.

“Where did this gossip come from?”

“Are you familiar with the forums that the school set up for each class?”

“The ones in the school’s app, right?”

When students need to look into their point balances or something of that sort, they’re expected to login to an application that the school created for them. Coupled with this application is a set of message boards that students have the liberty to make use of as they see fit. However, because there are several easy-to-use chat applications already available on our cell phones, these boards didn’t see very much use among the students.

“That’s a good catch. Who discovered them?”

“By the time I got to the classroom this morning, the rumors had already started to spread. It’s possible that somebody came across them accidentally while they were using the app. There are also notifications that go out when the forums are updated.”

These forums weren’t just for class discussions. They were also used for general conversation. Due to the fact that anyone could access them, there was a high probability that these rumors were seen by the other classes as well.

“Don’t you think that this is a little different from what happened with the previous rumors?”

“Regardless of whether it’s the same perpetrator or not, there are countless ways to spread rumors. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s no reason to get caught up in the differences? It’s not something that can be covered up now that it’s been posted online.”

With that, Horikita transitioned to another topic.

“I’ll just ask to be sure, but… is it true?”

“No it is not.”

I denied it immediately.

“There are only a few people who know about my relationship with Karuizawa as it is now anyway.”

“So you have an idea as to who posted it, then?”

“Not exactly.”

I gave her a brief summary of what happened during my encounter with Hashimoto the day before.

“There’s a high probability that Hashimoto-kun is the one that spread the rumors about Ichinose-san, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was also spreading these new rumors about you and Karuizawa-san.”

“But, what about the other victims? There aren’t many ways to verify the truth.”

“Yeah…”

A student willing to personally look into the truth of each of these rumors…

“Oi! Were you really a prostitute, Shinohara!?”

Unable to read the atmosphere of the room, Yamauchi shouted out such a thing with a smile on his face.

“A-absolutely not!”

Shinohara stood up in a panic and adamantly denied it. Embarrassment and anger could be clearly seen on her face.

“Well then, how about you show me the evidence.”

“You’re asking for evidence…? How am I supposed to give you something like that!?”

Meanwhile, the audience, captivated by the rumors, began to spread them amongst the incoming students who were just entering the classroom.

Well, it was going to end up like that sooner or later.

“If you’re saying it’s a lie, then are you saying that everything that’s been put online was also a lie? That we’ve all just been running our mouths?”

While watching Shinohara and Yamauchi’s argument unfold, I confirmed my thoughts with Horikita.

“Hmm… I suppose we have no other choice than to check with each of the victims one by one like Yamauchi.”

Though, most people aren’t able to pry into someone’s trauma like that.

“Are you stupid!? You’re getting swept away by rumors and you don’t even know where they came from!”

Shinohara’s anger toward Yamauchi was by no means unreasonable.

It was surprising that she was able to stay calm like this.

“Though~ Don’t you think that all of the stuff posted online seems pretty realistic?”

“You… Knock it off, Haruki!”

In response to his friend’s merciless hounding, Ike reached out and forcefully grabbed Yamauchi by the shoulder to signal that it was time to stop.

“Wh-what’s wrong? This is my chance to get back at Shinohara for always acting so high and mighty.”

“Getting back at her…? No matter what, those rumors have to be lies!”

“How are we supposed to know that? A relatively ugly chick like her could’ve totally done something like that.”

Yamauchi continued to talk mindlessly, without a shred of concern for Ike’s feelings on the matter.

“Oh, I see… Ike, you have a crush on Shinohara, don’t you? So that’s why you can’t admit-”

“Haruki!”

Ike grabbed Yamauchi by the collar of his shirt.

“Cut it out you guys.”

Unable to sit still and watch from afar any longer, Sudō forcibly separated the two of them. At the same time, Hirata arrived at the classroom and immediately caught on to the atmosphere of the situation. He approached some of the girls and began to hear out the specifics about the rumors.

Since Shinohara was just denying everything, Yamauchi decided to temporarily change targets to someone else.

“Well then, Hondō~ Are you seriously only into fat chicks?”

Yamauchi turned his attack toward Hondō.

“N-no way! Absolutely not! Those rumors are downright lies! Right, Ayanokōji? You probably don’t even like Karuizawa, right!?”

Naturally, Hondō also denied everything. He then turned to me for help with escaping the spotlight.

Everyone’s attention turned to me immediately. Fortunately, Kei and most of her friends hadn’t gotten to the classroom yet.

I responded to him with a nod.

“See!?”

He shouted out as he turned his attention back to Yamauchi.

“Dammit. What the hell? Are they all just lies?”

With the three of us all denying our part of the rumors, the classroom began to calm down just a little.

“But… Satō-san doesn’t like Onodera-san very much, does she?”

Maezono muttered these few absent-minded words. They probably came out of her mouth without a second thought because Onodera hadn’t come to school yet.

“Wha-! Ho-hold on, Maezono-san!”

Satō frantically attempted to stop Maezono, but it was already too late.

“Come to think of it, has anyone here ever seen Satō hang out with Onodera before?”

“Th- That’s-”

Things seemed to be developing in a way where it wasn’t possible for the rumors to be dismissed as simple lies anymore.

In this situation, Sudō confirmed that Ike and Yamauchi would remain separated from each other before walking over to me and Horikita.

“Ayanokōji. You really don’t like Karuizawa?”

Even Sudō felt like he needed to ask such a question.

“No, I don’t.”

“Hmm. Well, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s true or not. Hey Suzune.”

“What, Sudō-kun?”

“Ah, well, it’s just that I managed to overhear part of your conversation. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to help out.”

“How so?”

“Well, I have no shame. I should be able to ask around about the rumors straightforwardly like Haruki did.”

Sudō presented her with such an offer.

It was true that Sudō could be a useful tool for determining exactly where these rumors originated from.

Though at the same time, he said he had overheard our conversation, so he should’ve heard me tell Horikita that I wasn’t interested in Kei.

“You shouldn’t do anything that will lower other people’s evaluations of you. You already aren’t very well respected by your peers. You should be focusing your attention on improving how other people see you. Think about how Yamauchi-kun’s tactless remarks seem to have dramatically lowered his social status within the class.”

It felt as though Yamauchi had managed to instantly overthrow Sudō from his position as the most disliked person in the class.

Most significantly, even Ike, his closest friend, had vented his anger at Yamauchi’s behavior.

“That’s probably true… But I really do want to be helpful somehow.”

Sudō glanced at me for a moment before immediately turning away. I guess that he must have been vaguely aware that Horikita would consult with me about various things. Of course, he should also understand that it was easy for us to talk with one another simply because we sat next to each other.

“In which case, you should keep watch over Yamauchi-kun to make sure he doesn’t spiral out of control. It would be different if there was only one positive rumor going around, but this time, if these troublesome rumors really are true, everything becomes really personal. I’d like for you to look after Hondō-kun as well because these rumors have probably dampened his spirits by quite a bit. You can do that, right?”

“…Yeah, you’re right.”

Sudō seemed a little disappointed, but he still obediently followed Horikita’s instructions.

After confirming that Sudō had left, Horikita went back to the subject at hand.

“In all likelihood, this has all been a part of Sakayanagi-san’s plan as well. She wasn’t satisfied with going after Ichinose-san alone, so she set up the same type of trap for Class C. Then she attacked both classes at once. I think she’s trying to shake us up before our end-of-year exams… What should we do?”

“What do you mean, ‘What should we do’? Do you think there’s a way to confront these rumors? The more we try to deny, the more we’re going to blow up the issue. Even if we were to admit that they’re true, people will just continue to gossip behind our backs. The rumors about me aren’t a big deal, but if the rumors about the others start to be treated like facts, then that could cause a lot of damage.”

“…Yeah. That may be true.”

Horikita nodded approvingly as she looked over at Shinohara and Hondō. The way she did it made me wonder if she was imagining herself in their shoes.

“But, in some sense, this was a dirty move. How can we fight back against something like this?”

“I wonder.”

“Even though you see the fire starting to spread, you’re still just going to sit back and watch?”

“It’s not that big of a deal to me. On the other hand, Karuizawa is most likely going to be facing some problems.”

“In other words, you don’t care?”

“Yeah, I don’t care.”

For some reason or another, it seemed like Horikita wanted to see me panic.

Due to this, I was able to see Horikita show a rare expression of disappointment.

“At any rate, it’s fortunate that it wasn’t the other way around.”

The other way around. Meaning that Kei was the one with a crush. On me. It would give birth to even more rumors about how she’s chasing after another guy immediately after breaking up with Hirata. There would be all sorts of speculations going around.

Even if something isn’t true, there will always be people who treat it like fact. People that treat fiction like reality.

“But… I just can’t sit back and watch this happen like you.”

“Is that so?”

Even if we were to leave the rumors alone, judging from the current state of affairs, the problem was clearly only going to continue to spread.

Yamauchi attempted to approach Shinohara and Satō again, but Hirata intervened first.

“Yamauchi-kun. Just because something’s been posted on our class’s forums doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. At the very least, it’s wrong for fellow classmates to be hurting each other like this.”

“But just like with Ichinose’s rumors, doesn’t everyone know already? So it doesn’t make any difference whether or not we say anything, right?”

“I’m not sure I agree with you about that. At least not in the current situation. That’s why, right now, I think that the proper course of action is to avoid getting tricked by these rumors while we sort everything out.”

Hirata’s words were met with strong voices of approval from both the boys and the girls. Of course, it was no permanent solution, but it was enough to successfully handle it for now.

At that moment, a single message came in on Horikita’s cell phone.

“From Kanzaki-kun…”

Saying as much, Horikita took a glance at the message.

“It seems as though Ichinose-san is taking today off as well.”

The very day of the provisional exam. Even if she’s only somewhat sick, she should still want to participate in a test like this where her academic abilities will be measured. Not to mention that Ichinose is the leader of Class B, the one who chose to take on the burdens of all of her colleagues. Well, judging from how she looked the night before, there was no way she would’ve been able to recover completely.

“One more thing… It seems like there were rumors posted on Class B’s forums as well.”

“That is to say, Class B has become aware of the rumors in Class C.”

“So it seems.”

Horikita quickly logged into the app on her phone and checked Class B’s forums. It turned out that there were four rumors listed there as well, similar to the ones found for Class C. The same was also true for Class D’s forum.

“Conveniently, no rumors were posted for Class A. Do you have time after school today? I’d like to hear the details about Ichinose from Kanzaki, and I’d also like to discuss how to deal with these forums.”

“Sure.”

I agreed with Horikita’s request.

“For now, let’s focus on the provisionary exam. After all, this is a valuable opportunity for us to confirm the difficulty level of the end-of-year exam and get a good grasp on where we’re at as a class.”

However, while that would be easy for Horikita, the people that had been targeted by these rumors wouldn’t be able to do that so simply.

When Kei and the rest of her friend group finally got to the classroom, they all gathered together and began to whisper amongst each other.

Each of them would periodically glance over in my direction with a look of disgust in their eyes.

Even though I wasn’t able to hear their discussion, it was perfectly clear what kind of things they were saying to each other. Something like…

‘Do you really think Ayanokōji-kun has a crush on Karuizawa-san?’

‘What do you think about him, Karuizawa-san?’

And there was no doubt in my mind that Kei was responding to them, describing me with words like ‘gross’ and ‘terrible’.

“Didn’t you say that you didn’t care?”

“…It’s still kinda hard.”

I would’ve continued to watch them talk, but I didn’t want to actually hear any of the insults they’d be tossing around, so I looked away.

The real problem was the other students targeted by the rumors other than me.


Youkoso V9C6 Part 4

The provisional exam began despite the traces of the awkward, uneasy atmosphere that were still lingering within the classroom.


It was a critical time for the end of the school year.


The content of this provisional exam was more challenging than that of any of the exams we had taken so far. It was really difficult.


However, the students who managed to get through the previous exams without any problems should probably be able to get through this one smoothly as well. On the other hand, the students who have been just barely scraping by from test to test would probably have to study intensely moving forward.


I had gotten an invitation to study together with everyone in the Ayanokōji Group, but I was already going to be meeting up with Kanzaki together with Horikita after school, so I got in touch with them and let them know to start without me. Kanzaki didn’t appear to want to stand out very much, so he arranged for us to meet up at Keyaki Mall after the provisional exam was over.


After class, I followed Horikita to the spot where Kanzaki was waiting. It was near the southern entrance to the mall.


It was the place on campus furthest away from the school, so students would only rarely be in the area.


I had no interest in the inter-class struggles that were going on, but as a friend, I was still a little worried about Ichinose.


Getting more information couldn’t have hurt as well.


Besides, Hashimoto had been continuously keeping an eye on me over the past couple of days.


If I was to get into contact with Class B, the looming shadow of Class A would continue to draw even closer.


And that was exactly the kind of development I was hoping for.


In fact, Hashimoto had tailed me from an appropriate distance all the way to the southern entrance of the mall.


“Two days off in a row. And you still haven’t been able to get in contact with Ichinose-san yourself?”


“It’s not that we can’t get into contact with her, it’s just that she’s been slow to respond to us. The most I’ve gotten from her was a notification that she’s been out sick with a cold.”

Recently, Kanzaki has been in a constant state of stress, completely unable to relax. Ichinose has probably told him countless times to stop worrying about it by now, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that easy for him.


Her poor physical condition may be one of the reasons for why she’s so reluctant to meet her classmates face to face, but at the same time, she really didn’t want to have to talk about the rumors.


“What did your homeroom teacher say about it?”


“Nothing different from usual. Just that Ichinose is staying home again because she’s caught a cold.”


Their homeroom teacher should’ve been told the same thing as anyone else.


The reason why Kanzaki’s expression was heavy was that he couldn’t help but question the true reason behind Ichinose’s absences. Recently, Ichinose has been at the center of a maelstrom of rumors. Kanzaki’s uncertainty was entirely justified.

“How about going to visit her? Wouldn’t it all become clear if you go and meet with her in person?”


“Some of the girls from my class have tried to see her, but it doesn’t seem like any of them have been able to get her to open her door.”


Realizing that the situation wasn’t very optimistic, Horikita carefully considered the options before speaking up.


“I guess if there’s a bright side, it’s that she’s excellent with her academics. Even though she didn’t take the provisional exam, I don’t think she’ll run into any problems.”


Sick students who missed the exam like Ichinose still had options. They’d be able to take a make-up exam and reach out to other students to see what the exam was like.

“That’s not what any of us are worried about. We’re just concerned about her state of mind.”


Horikita and Kanzaki.


Just as the two of them were beginning to come up with a plan, a group of people approached us.


It appears Hashimoto already gave her a report about our meeting…

“It seems that Ichinose-san is absent today as well. The end-of-year exams are going to begin at the end of next week. If her string of absences is to repeat itself until then… it may turn into quite the problem, don’t you think?”


“…Sakayanagi.”

Sakayanagi and her underlings approached Kanzaki, making it very clear who she had actually come to meet with. She was accompanied by Hashimoto, Kamuro, and one more student, a boy from Class A named Kitō.


In other words, the main members of the Sakayanagi faction.


“Now what in the world could you be discussing with these Class C students?”


“This has nothing to do with you.”


“It seems like we’re not welcome here.”


“If you wanted to be ‘welcome’, then you should’ve stopped spreading strange rumors everywhere before things got out of hand.”


Sakayanagi and her classmates looked at each other and couldn’t hold back their laughter.


“Oh please. What are you talking about?”


“I hope you know that the unity of my class won’t falter just because of a couple of rumors.”


“I do not know anything about what sort of situation Class B is in, but I am looking forward to the future.”


Sakayanagi may have only come by in order to see the results of her plans in person, but Kanzaki was making it perfectly clear to her just how effective her plans truly were.


“Don’t let her get to you, Kanzaki-kun. This is all a part of Sakayanagi-san’s strategy.”


“I know.”

Faced with a problem like this one, Kanzaki was suffering precisely because of his modesty and concern for those around him.


Youkoso V9C6 Part 5

Even after school, the rumors continued to spread with no end in sight.


“Wait! W-wait wait wait! What’s going on Kiyotaka!!”

While spending some leisure time after getting home from school for the day, I got a call from Kei.


“What do you mean ‘what’s going on’?”

I already knew what she was getting at, but I wanted to ask anyway.

“Stop with the ‘what do I mean’! T-there’s, uh, well, a rumor going around that you have a crush on me! How could you not notice!?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“N-nonono. Do you think I can ignore it just cause it’s a rumor??? How did it end up like this in the first place!?”

She started speaking so loudly that I started to hear a painful ringing sound from the inner part of my ear, so I moved the phone away from my head for a moment.

I pressed the button on my phone to lower the volume of the call.

“Maybe Hashimoto spread it after what happened yesterday. Or maybe some other student saw us together.”

“Eeee~!”

Kei let out a quiet scream.

“Well, it’s fine, isn’t it? It would be terrible for you if our positions were reversed.”

“R-reversed?”

“A rumor like ‘Kei has a crush on me’ would be pretty troublesome, right? If it ended up like that, I think everyone would be much more suspicious of you than me since you just broke up with Hirata.”

“…I-I guess so, but…”

“Just don’t worry about it. Rumors always tend to fade away with time.”

“For real?”

“That being said, thanks to this rumor, it should be easier for the two of us to get in contact with each other moving forward. If I start talking to you now, people will assume that it’s because of the rumor, and we could leave it at that.”

It all just depends on how we think about it.

I never had any intention of talking with her in a conspicuous place in the first place, but this rumor could act as insurance just in case I needed to at some point.

“Nonononononono.”


This time around, she repeated the word ‘no’ several times more than she did earlier.

“If we’re seen alone together, people will totally look at us weirdly, right!? Absolutely weirdly, right!?”

Is repeating yourself like this becoming some kind of trend? What a strange way of talking.

This was the type of information that I was indirectly planting for Hashimoto as he followed me.

“Anyway, don’t worry about it.”

“Even if you say that……… No, it’s still absolutely impossible!”

After a long silence, she still ended up deciding that it was too difficult.

After quietly grumbling about something else for a little while, Kei gave up and ended the call.




NOTE: TRANSLATION ONGOING

 
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