Classroom Of The Elite Second Year Volume 2: Chapter 1
Chapter 1: School Life Is Changing
On that day, our second-year class D faced a strange situation we had never experienced before.
Teruhiko Yukimura’s right leg repeatedly trembled as he looked towards the classroom entrance.
“Can you calm down a bit? Kiyopon just left five minutes ago. The teacher called him over for some reason, right? It’s going to take a while.”
Hasebe Haruka, a classmate and close friend of Yukimura, spoke to him. Also, other Ayanokoji group members, Sakura Airi and Miyake Akito sat around next to accompany her.
“I’m quite relaxed... don’t worry.”
Even though Yukimura, who responded like this, stopped shaking his leg temporarily, it didn’t take him much longer to get restless again. His right leg’s sound moving up and down against his pants echoed silently in all four directions inside the classroom.
Although Yukimura had planned to talk to Kiyotaka after school as soon as possible, he had to give up temporarily due to the appearance of Horikita. Then he heard from Horikita that Chabashira-sensei had called Ayanokoji. Yukimura was unsure where to find him, so he came back and recurred to waiting in the classroom until Ayanokoji came back. While looking at Yukimura’s action, Hasebe sighed, somewhat helplessly, and looked out the window.
Since Hasabe knew very well Yukimura did not usually shake his leg, she quickly realized there was no point anymore to calm him down. The atmosphere in the second-year class D classroom was tense.
The sky in May, which marked the beginning of spring, was so clear and beautiful. Hasebe was thinking straight to herself.
Then, she thought again about the current situation. How did the situation become like this?
In April, the first and second-year students together took a special exam.
Out of the five subjects examined in the special exam, her friend, Ayanokoji Kiyotaka, scored a perfect score in the math subject.
If it were a regular exam, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the students get a perfect score.
But Yukimura, who secured a top position at academics in class D, understands the students who get perfect scores in exams would appear every once in a while. Of course, occasionally, an unexpectedly occult student would get a perfect score. These students studied very hard before the exams, or they stuck in a situation where they happened to narrow down the subject’s topics based on their intuition.
But this special exam was very different from the previous one.
Of course, Hasebe had noticed it vaguely, although it was not in the same way as Yukimura.
In the special exam, regardless of the subject, the only student who scored a perfect score was Ayanokoji.
This could not be explained by a pretest surprise or by mere coincidence.
“It’s only been six minutes...I don’t expect him to return.”
It was impossible to leave the restless Yukimura alone as a friend. Hasebe thought about talking to something completely different but then decided to go along with Yukimura and broach the subject. Although the reason for doing this was primarily because she thought it would be possible to distract him. And Hasebe herself wanted to know precisely how proficient Ayanokoji was so he could score perfectly in math.
“This time, was the question too difficult?”
Yukimura nodded without any hesitation when he heard the question.
“It’s not a matter whether it was difficult or not. I didn’t even understand the question during the exam.”
What Yukimura meant was it wasn’t because he couldn’t find the answer. Because he couldn’t even understand the question itself.
“After the exam, I checked the exam questions to the best of my knowledge, but they were far beyond the scope of what we learn in high school. In other words, it’s a question which we, a normal high school student, never could have solved.”
“What do you mean? What is the problem with the school? This question is not even the scope of an exam anymore.”
“‘It’s certainly unreasonable. That’s why the scores obtained in each subject have fallen dramatically. But, as Chabashira-sensei said, many questions in the exam were not so difficult.”
In addition to some unexpectedly tough questions, several easy questions were also added to the previous special exam.
In other words, the exam was conducted in such a way that even if a student couldn’t get a perfect score, the student wouldn’t get a low score either.
“So, does the school compensate for it by raising our average score?”
“After all, the exam results are causally related to our expulsion. That’s a big relief for the class.”
The thing itself was just something to be happy about, but it was just a small thing for Yukimura.
“Ayanokoji got a perfect score in the previous special exam, which, in my opinion, was impossible for a normal high school student. I... it’s like, I was witnessing a magic trick!”
Even though he specifically used his last name to address him, which shows Yukimura’s anger towards him.
“I can’t believe he solved a difficult question. Kiyotaka-kun is amazing!!!”
Sakura said with a broad smile on her face to slightly change the current heavy atmosphere.
But her statement had the opposite effect on Yukimura, and his facial expression tightened even more.
“I analyzed everyone’s academic ability in class D throughout the previous year. Because of why I was surprised by this year’s special exam result. I judged no one could ever solve the question which was asked in the previous exam.”
“I think you should tell me more.”
Shinohara Satsuki, a fellow classmate who listened to Ayanokoji Group members' conversation, also joined the conversation.
Because of her actions, many of her classmates started to listen to what Yukimura and others said.
“You’ve already checked the results on the tablet, haven’t you? Was there anyone in this class, besides Ayanokoji, who got perfect scores in even one subject? Come on, you look at the result of other classes as well, and you get a better idea. Look at the entire second-year result. There isn’t a single student in second-year, even Ichinose-san or Sakayanagi-san, got a perfect score in any subject.”
The facts spoke louder than the words. Yukimura brought the reality of what happened and put it on the table.
By using the OAA application, which was previously installed on the phone, anyone can see the exam results outside the second-year class D.
“I didn’t even notice these facts. We can even see the results of other classes as well. How is it possible?”
The surprised Shinohara picked up the tablet and slid away incredulously.
“I mean, who knows. Perhaps it’s because of the introduction of the OAA application, or maybe it’s another reason. No matter what’s the reason, I think the only way to know the answer to the question is to wait and see what kind of explanation will be disclosed.”
“Aaaah, I hate these things. Doesn’t that mean a lot of students are going to find out my score as well? This is the worst!”
Karuizawa Kei, who is the leader of girls in class D, said her opinion while screaming.
“Maybe Ayanokoji-kun is just a math genius! You see, in TV dramas, isn’t there a person who uses math or something similar to solve a murder case? I have that kind of feeling.”
Yukimura denied with dumbfounded disbelief at Karuizawa’s words, who could not read the atmosphere of the situation in a different direction than Sakura.
“Then, tell me, why didn’t he get a perfect score on his previous math exams? If he was able to answer the questions this time, why didn’t he get a perfect score or something similar before?”
Yukimura replied firmly as if he felt the other party had missed the important point entirely.
“What’s the point of asking a question to me? Isn’t it something like, perhaps he studied a lot during spring break or whatever?”
Yukimura is slowly becoming more and more irritated by Karuizawa’s dumb answers.
“This isn’t something he can do in a short period of time. Even if he had studied at a higher level than I could have imagined, it doesn’t explain that he solved problems that were not within the scope of what a high school student would learn! If you can’t even understand a simple thing, then keep your mouth shut.”
Yukimura, who spoke bluntly, made Karuizawa angry too, and everything gradually approached the boiling point.
“I don’t know anything about what you just said. So, can you stop getting angry so easily? You’re making me angry too.”
“Yes, yes! Isn’t it strange that you’re getting angry with Karuizawa-san?”
Maezono immediately attacked Yukimura in order to help Karuizawa.
Karuizawa, who had earned an ally, immediately turned around and investigated what Yukimura had said.
“You make it sound like you’re pretty amazing, but could it turn out you can’t understand the point yourself, Yukimura-kun? The truth is maybe it’s just you who couldn’t solve the question, but the question itself, it’s not so difficult, is it?”
Karuizawa herself knew in her heart she was really being sarcastic with these statements.
But she didn’t change her attitude because she felt she had to play dumb here.
However, as the atmosphere warmed up in the classroom, the doubts about Ayanokoji grew deeper.
“So maybe he knew the answer by chance?”
“I just said...”
Yukimura had already surpassed his anger, and now he was at the point of being speechless.
And then, to sort out his emotions, he began to explain things thoroughly.
“I... well, it’s my assumption. That guy...could probably be good at math to an incredible level.”
“So, what’s the problem? This is what I said. He was a math genius, right?”
“That’s not the point. If that’s the case, then that guy...”
“Ah, sorry to interrupt. I have a thought in my mind regarding this matter, but I don’t know if I have to say it...”
When the conversation took an unexpected turn, Setsuya Minami further interrupted the conversation as a spectator.
“Ayanokoji getting a perfect score was quite confusing, and I don’t think anything strange about what Yukimura had said. I think it’s early to jump to a conclusion and call him a math genius, isn’t it? After all, I’ve never seen such a surprising score before.”
This time, his statement was to calm down everything in order to support Yukimura’s statement by throwing doubt from a different direction.
“That’s why I was wondering if Ayanokoji has done something shady?”
It was the idea about Ayanokoji being a math genius that began to come to the minds of Yukimura and many other students. However, a different view also emerged in order to conflict with that.
“What if he didn’t solve the difficult question with his own strength? That might be possible.”
“It’s definitely possible. It’s like Ayanokoji knew the answer beforehand or something similar. Remember, didn’t this happen in the first year too? It was the only exam which asked the same question as in previous years!”
Kanji Ike said while remembering the past special exam.
A year ago, in the spring, a student received the past exam question paper from the third-year student. It was a difficult exam back then, but anyone could get a high score if a student could remember the answers.
“But assuming the questions were the same as in the past exams, isn’t it strange he hasn’t given us the valuable information? And it’s also strange that no one in the other classes noticed it too.”
While hearing Ike’s statement, Miyamoto somewhat calmly pointed out the things he couldn’t agree with.
“So...in an unusual way, by knowing the answer to questions in advance...? Somehow Ayanokoji did cheat or something similar.”
“Cheating? In what way did he cheat?”
After Ike responded, somewhat in a calm way, Shinohara threw another question.
“He probably hacked into the school’s computers and stole the answers before the special exam or something! Isn’t it possible?”
“That’s the same stupid thing Karuizawa said...”
Yukimura had a headache as the class became more and more confused about the situation.
However, miraculously enough time began to flow rapidly through this speculative issue.
The heat in the center of the discussion focused on the possibility that Ayanokoji had not solved the question of its strength. Instead, he got the answers some other way.
Since Ayanokoji had never scored a good score before in any special exam, this was probably the natural course for the discussion.
But the one who turned the tables was Sudo Ken, who had been quietly listening until then.
The student, who was over six feet tall, stood up and instantly attracted the whole class’s attention.
“You seem to be talking about it enthusiastically, yet there is no evidence which proves Ayanokoji did anything wrong, is there? Don’t jump to conclusions when the concerned person is not here.”
But the fact those words came out of Sudo surprised everyone.
Even Ike, who was on good terms with Sudo on a daily basis, didn’t find it very pleasant.
“What do you mean, Ken? Don’t tell me you’re on Ayanokoji’s side?”
“That’s not what I meant. But how could Ayanokoji get the answers so easily…? I just thought he was more likely to get the perfect score with his own skills.”
The second half of his statement wasn’t so direct, but he expressed his opinion anyway.
“If we’re talking about his academic ability, his last month OAA rating was lower than mine, right? How could he get a perfect score without doing some shady things?”
Miyamoto, who had looked at the updated OAA data at the end of the school day, said he believed Ayanokoji had done some cheating.
“It just means his academic abilities were different from last year. Anyone can improve.”
“Isn’t it just like Sudo-kun said? After all, Sudo-kun’s academic ability also excelled Miyamoto-kun’s ability.”
Karuizawa’s sharp criticism embarrassed Miyamoto for a moment.
A year ago, it wasn’t an overstatement to call Sudo the worst student in the entire school year. But now, after the OAA data was updated, his academic ability had suddenly risen to 54. His score was only one point higher than Miyamoto’s academic score, which was 53 points, but it was still higher.
“Well, it’s because Sudo was studying very hard. I recognize his growth, but... but Ayanokoji has been growing too much and in an incredible way!”
“So, maybe there’s a chance he’s holding back, just like Koenji!”
Now, Karuizawa’s earlier point regarding Ayanokoji was a math genius that resonated again.
It seemed the conversation had closed at one point and was heading in an even worse direction.
“Well, isn’t this an even bigger problem? Doesn’t that mean he didn’t contribute to the class?”
These points could have been recorded, but they weren’t.
If Ayanokoji was hiding his strength, then there would be nothing wrong with just what Ike said.
Sudo and the others, who always had a good relationship in their circle of friends, were about to get into an internal conflict.
When it was judged from the situation which could no longer be in control, one of the students acted as a mediator.
“Let’s all calm down a bit. We can’t solve the problem here just by letting ourselves get carried away, can we?”
When the class atmosphere was getting worse and worse, Hirata Yosuke intervened and pressed the pause button. Hirata, who usually took the initiative to unify the class, remained silent until the last minute. The reason for doing so was because he decided to figure out what his classmates were thinking and how they were reacting and then act to resolve the situation.
The first thing Hirata did was to speak to Sudo in a gentle way.
“Sudo-kun, isn’t it almost time for your club activities?”
“Huh? Ahhhh, now that you mention it...”
Sudo comes to his senses as if he has been suddenly confronted with reality.
“I know you are worried about this issue, but there are many unclear things right now about Ayanokoji and his perfect score. I don’t think it is worth letting your club activities be affected by mere speculation. You know very well ‘I’ll be late just this once’ won’t solve any problem, right?”
Hirata judged from the situation the main objective, for now, is to reduce the number of students in the classroom.
After becoming too nervous, they forgot about their club activities; Sudo and the others first calmed down. The introduction of the OAA made a number of students concerned about their grades, including Sudo.
Sudo quietly picked up his bag, after looking at Suzune’s back, who didn’t even try to speak a word throughout the commotion, before leaving the classroom. The other students who had activities did the same.
“I have to go too. Sorry, I’ll leave Keisei to you.”
“Yes, Miyacchi. See you later.”
Akito Miyake, a member of the Ayanokoji Group, picked up his archery club kit and left the classroom. Sakura and Hasebe said goodbye to him.
The rest of the students also glanced at each other and tried to return to their dormitories, but more than half of them were still remaining in the classroom.
Our class D had just come out of the first special exam when we reached the second year.
Although I had injured my left hand in the conflict with Hosen, I somehow avoided being expelled from the school. The injury was a price to pay, so it would take some time to recover properly. However, it was something that could not be avoided.
I left the reception room under Tsukishiro’s watchful eye, and once the door closed, I was able to breathe a little easier.
And now, my daily life of being an ordinary student would finally return...
But in the current situation, this type of naive thinking would not be enough.
It’s something different when the Acting Director Tsukishiro called a student to have a conversation with him, which many students would find strange. As I thought about it, I had to accept the reality in front of my eyes, the fact about which I couldn’t do anything.
I have no choice but to assume it’s the chains that will forever follow me around due to my escape from the White Room.
After all, the only way to get out of this mess was to be expelled from school.
“It seems you’ve finished your talk, huh?”
Chabashira-sensei, who was waiting for me at a distance from the reception room, accidentally joined me.
I was a bit depressed, looking at Chabashira-sensei’s figure, but I didn’t let it show on my face.
Even now, Tsukishiro did not know I was working with Chabashira-sensei, the homeroom teacher of second-year class D, and Mashima-sensei, a homeroom teacher second-year class A. In that situation, Chabashira-sensei was waiting for me after Tsukishiro summoned me. So, what was if it wasn’t something unnatural?
He used the Chabashira-sensei to call me was familiar if it was considered the homeroom teacher's role to contact a student on behalf of the Director. Still, the possibility that Tsukishiro is using it as a trap is also undeniable. Therefore, I intended to leave her without contacting me again.
And if it were a normal scenario of teacher and student, it would be an unnatural act for the teacher to wait for the student.
If she had been calmer about it, she could have come to a conclusion herself.
She must have been influenced by the fact I got a perfect score in math and revealed some of my true strengths in front of my classmates might have affected me. It is not like I could not understand her concern, but this was a careless act on her part.
If there is a point on which I can’t support her, she and I have quite different perspectives about the man called Tsukishiro.
For Chabashira-sensei, what was most important is she was connected in some way with the father of one of her students.
After all, she did not know anything about the White Room’s background, so she was excused.
It was only natural. Our precaution and attitude toward Tsukishiro were inadvertently different.
So, I will not comment on those points as well.
The only thing I can do now is to leave the place as quickly as possible, so I continued to walk forward.
“From today onwards, you’ll become a celebrity.”
I was wondering what she would say first, and it turned out to be something like this.
“I’m not happy with the current situation, but it was a necessary step. I can only assume this is well within the tolerance area.”
“To ignore the students in the other classes for a moment, how are you going to explain it to your own classmates? You’ve always tried your best to seem discreet, but suddenly you get a perfect score on a difficult math exam. Of course, your classmates won’t leave you alone. Did you prepare for this scenario beforehand?”
I ignored her words while I thought about what to do for the rest of the day.
I had left my bag in the classroom, so I had to go back to class to pick my bag.
“There’s no point in acting in advance. I’ll start thinking about this from now.”
It would have been somewhat suspicious to tell my classmates beforehand like I would get a perfect math score on the next special exam.
“This is going to be difficult for you. Be ready to face lots of questions.”
If she already knows a bit about what will happen, I hope she’ll let me go as soon as possible.
“Let’s stop here. If I keep walking with a teacher, it will only attract too much unnecessary attention.”
“I know, I know.”
Chabashira-sensei mumbled as she walked towards the staff office.
It seemed she was doing her best to suppress her emotions, but I could quickly tell she was overwhelmed with joy.
As compared to the other classroom teachers, she seemed to be the one keeping the most distance from her students, but in reality, she might be the closest one to her students. It appears it was because of the regrets she has felt since she was a student that her feelings, which were difficult to suppress, came to the surface.
In front of the normal high school student, her poker face would be enough to hide her emotions... However, for me, it was a bit of fun. It was easy to manipulate, but now it was just getting in the way.
It didn’t make sense to waste my energy on Chabashira-sensei and her way of thinking, so I put it in the back of my mind for the moment.
After a while, I took out my cell phone to contact Horikita, and even though the call continued, she did not answer.
Then I tried to send her a simple text message, but she did not read it.
At this point, Horikita seemed to be the most helpful student to resolve this situation because of her involvement in the math duel and Student Council issues.
To explain the situation, a bit would enable some improvisation. If possible, I would like to talk to her first regarding the situation, but it looks like I’ll have to deal with it on the spot.
I can see my classroom from a distance.
I wonder how the class responded after my perfect math score.
It would be great if all the students went back to their dorms as usual.
As soon as I returned to the classroom with that kind of hope in my mind, I could see the scene in front of me was exactly the opposite of what I expected.
It hadn’t been 30 minutes since Tsukishiro had summoned me.
Usually, most of the students had already left the classroom one after another.
However, there were quite a few students left in the classroom, despite the fact there were only students who weren’t involved in any club activities.
Of course, their objective was not to be mentioned. It was supposed to be me.
It was clear enough for those who experienced the classroom atmosphere and the way they looked at me.
Among them, Horikita, who didn’t answer my call before, was also present in the classroom.
It seems Horikita evaluated the situation better than I expected.
I didn’t have time to express my gratitude because many students rushed over me as soon as I entered the classroom.
In front of me were Keisei, a member of the Ayanokoji group, and one of my friends. Unlike the cheerful Chabashira-sensei I met before, his expression was somewhat bitter.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t talk to you when you called me earlier.”
Keisei planned to have a conversation with me right after school, but Horikita’s appearance interrupted him, and we haven’t started our discussion, so I apologized for that first.
“It’s not a problem. More importantly, do you have more time now? I have some questions in my mind, which I want to ask you.”
Haruka and Airi, who was also from the Ayanokoji group, gathered around him.
Akito wasn’t there, so I guess he had some club activities, as mentioned earlier.
In addition, quite a few other students in the classroom were listening intently to see what was going on.
“Hey, you... Now, what about the perfect score you got in math? I checked the scores of all other students in the entire second year on the OAA application, and even Ichinose-san and Sakayanagi-san didn’t get perfect scores in a single subject. You’re the only one in the entire second year.”
Naturally, just getting a slightly better score on an exam wouldn’t create this kind of atmosphere.
But this exam was completely different.
When a student had higher academic ability evaluation, they could understand the abnormality of getting a perfect score on the exam.
Yet it seemed those who were too weak in academic ability also understood this abnormality after the students around them had told their story.
My eyes went to Horikita, who was sitting in the front row, for help.
“Well, let me explain it to you on behalf of Ayanokoji-kun.”
Generally, at this point, Horikita would have returned to the dormitory. Still, she might have seen and judged the situation while the other students were in the classroom discussing these points and decided to remain in the classroom in order to solve the problem. It’s an accurate judgment. Since her attention focused on me all this time, I didn’t need to make a special effort to confirm that she stayed behind to help me make things right.
To keep everyone’s attention focused on herself, she stood up from her seat and took a step closer to me.
“I... I was asking a question to Kiyotaka.”
Keisei expressed intense disgust at Horikita, who had intervened like an unnecessary stranger...
“Yes. But Yukimura-kun, I am the one who has the right answers to all of your questions.”
“...What are you talking about?”
Using a deliberately disconcerting expression, Horikita managed to get Keisei and all the other students’ attention with a single sentence.
“Yukimura-kun and I- no, from the entire second year, nobody managed to get a perfect score, so don’t all other students wonder how Ayanokoji-kun achieved a perfect score? Doesn’t everyone think it’s inconceivable?”
The question was addressed to Keisei, but everyone in the classroom was thinking about it too.
“That’s right... To be honest, I’m a bit confused right now. I’ve said this before, right? The last question on the exam was impossible to solve by a normal high school student. But Kiyotaka did it as if it were nobody’s business, and I just can’t understand it.”
I remembered when the exam ended, some of the students in the class were extremely surprised by the exam’s content. Even starting with Keisei and Yosuke, the students who scored highest in every exam, were discussing tough questions. The discussion had even extended to the Ayanokoji group as well, and I remembered at the time, I didn’t answer whether I solved the last question or not, and in the end, I avoided the problem itself.
“Kiyotaka must know very well that no one in the class could solve such problems at all. But Kiyotaka couldn’t even show off he had solved the problem. Isn’t it strange? It even seems like he has something he can’t reveal...maybe he did something shady, and knew the answers from the beginning, or something.”
“I mean, he cheated... Of course, it’s not surprising if Yukimura-kun and others have thoughts like that.”
Horikita takes Keisei’s words and expresses them straight out.
Keisei turned away as if he was in an awkward position, but Horikita chased after him.
“In this situation, it is difficult not to suspect him. If I were a student who knew nothing about the situation, I would feel the same way as you, Yukimura-kun, and I would believe Ayanokoji-kun had somehow betrayed the class. However, here it’s not the case.”
Horikita slightly adjusted her breathing and looked at the students who were paying attention to her.
“I’m going to explain the same thing to students who weren’t present right now. To solve the mystery of Ayanokoji-kun’s perfect score, we’ll have to go back to last year’s spring.”
The spring of last year. In other words, the time when we first came to this school.
“I’m sure you all remember that my seat was always next to Ayanokoji-kun, even though we had just changed seats sometimes ago. Well, soon after school was started, when I was talking to Ayanokoji-kun, I suddenly realized he was extremely good at academics...even better than me.”
“Even better than Horikita at academics? Wait. I remember Kiyotaka’s scores were near to average when he entered school. I’m sorry, but I can’t see anything about it deserves special attention. In the OAA application, his evaluations were only in the average as C, right?”
Although Keisei’s keen question, which came from his precise recollection of the past, did not disturb Horikita at all.
“Of course. This is because my strategy was already in place before the first special exam ended.”
After saying, Horikita walked towards the direction of the podium. This was an action made to draw all the students’ attention to herself that has initially been focused on me.
I thought she would help me, but the way she did was better than I expected.
“From the beginning, I knew he would get perfect scores in math. And since I knew this before anyone else, I came up with a little strategy.”
“...A little strategy?”
For Keisei, however, he wouldn’t have just one or two questions.
He should also be concerned about how I had gained the knowledge which was supposed to be beyond the reach of an average high school student.
But anyway, Horikita decided to ignore his concern for the time being and continued to move forward with her explanation.
She focused on why I hid the fact that I was able to study, rather than how I acquired the knowledge.
This is how Horikita established a focus and directed everyone’s attention to the point.
“Last year in April, everyone in class D was happy to receive a large amount of money, in terms of private points, transferred by the school authority. I’m ashamed to say I was one of them, too. But I had the feeling something unexpected was about to happen in the future, and it did. During that time, I asked Ayanokoji-kun, who was sitting next to me, whether he could hold back on the exam or not. Let’s just call it a reserve tactic or a trump card. Of course, I told him to keep it at a level that would not hold back the entire class. And that’s how his academic ability was assessed as a C by the school...”
The academic ability of mine was never noticed until now.
Horikita explained to the others I’d maintained the academic ability until now purposefully as part of a formulated strategy. Of course, if students looked carefully at what happened a year ago, they would find it strange too. Horikita was not a student who could have a good relationship with others, would raise questions such as what was the exact moment Horikita realized I was good at academics, etc. There were holes everywhere in Horikita’s explanation.
However, for most of the students, the memories of a year ago were a distant past. Besides the extreme events recorded in the memory, the ones that are not so memorable are even harder to recall.
There were only a few students who managed to remember those events as if they happened yesterday.
Many students said It looks like this happened, using their imagination to fill in memory gaps.
Of course, for students like Keisei, who have a strong sense of mistrust, tricking them wouldn’t be simple.
Keisei didn’t let go of Horikita and went after the parts that would be hard to explain.
“...Your words are not completely convincing me. If you were in any doubt regarding the school’s system or rules, it would be beneficial for the class to get higher scores from the beginning. Since he got a perfect score on this exam, getting an A or A+ in academic ability would not be impossible. Even if it was just one student’s score, it might even slowly increase the number of class points of our class.”
Keisei said he was unable to understand the advantages of Horikita’s backup strategy.
“That’s right. If we were only looking at the class points ahead of us, that would be fine. However, if Ayanokoji-kun performed his best from the start, what would his state be now? No, to put it more clearly, what would his future be like?”
In response to Keisei’s distrust, Horikita did not waver from the situation and took the fight straight with her improvisation in her explanation.
She was so fluent it was as if she had planned all this from the beginning.
“What would his future be like...?”
As Keisei didn’t understand, he repeated the question, so Horikita began to elaborate.
“Let’s take what Yukimura-kun said and assume Ayanokoji-kun would have done his best since last April. If it were the case, then by May, Sakayanagi-san, Ichinose-san, and Ryuen-kun would have heard his name. If they ignored the student who ranked highest in math in the entire year, it would eventually become an obstacle for their class in the future. It would not be surprising if someone made a move in order to expel him from school.”
“So, you’re saying he might become an easy target for anyone?”
“Yes. Anything can happen at this school. After all, there was an exam that expelled students forcefully through a class vote within the class. And, at that time, Ayanokoji-kun was at risk of dropping out because of Sakayanagi-san’s strategy. Even though it was when he had average scores and coincidentally was chosen as a substitute, there’s a possibility he was being targeted.”
Horikita said, depending on the situation, I might have been the one who was expelled from the school instead of Yamauchi.
“No, it’s not fully convincing me what you had just said. If Kiyotaka was serious and revealed his actual strength from the beginning, and even if we had to place him and Yamauchi at different ends of the scale, the result would be as clear as day.”
“I wonder if, to avoid being expelled, Yamauchi-kun had been more careful in making his moves, and Sakayanagi-san’s strategy would have been more complex and difficult to understand. Besides, Yamauchi-kun would have at least had more friends close to him than Ayanokoji-kun. So, with things on both sides of the balance, different opinions would follow that change.”
If she keeps on discussing like this, she’ll just be talking over each other so that Keisei couldn’t go any further.
Even if Keisei looked on one of the other exams, the logic would be the same.
“...So why are you revealing his abilities right now? If you reveal his strength without taking any precautions, then the results would be the same, right? Since you suddenly revealed his strength to everyone at this point, he could also become an easy target for everyone in the future.”
Keisei thought there was no difference between the risks of revealing my abilities from the beginning and doing it now.
But Horikita, who seemed to expect a similar question from him, responded without showing any signs of panic...
“No, there’s a significant difference between showing his strength a year ago and revealing his strength now. In the past few months, our class D unity has grown tremendously, and each of us has grown in individual strength. We’ve been in a position to make the right decisions.”
I’m sure if he looked at himself a year ago, Keisei would have seen the same thing.
“It’s not just a case of Ayanokoji-kun. Let’s say...I think it’s easier to understand the example of Sudo-kun, who isn’t here because of his club activities. Compared to last year, he was nothing but a difficult student to face, no doubt the biggest burden for our class. But what about now? Though there are still some remnants in his wild nature, he has improved his progress dramatically. In terms of academic ability, he is constantly growing. And in addition to his excellent physical skills, his evaluation at the OAA in May is even higher than your evaluation, Yukimura-kun.”
Keisei has still secured a top spot in April, but Sudo turned the table with this exam.
Horikita hits Keisei with the indisputable fact that Sudo had a better overall evaluation score at the OAA.
“Did Yukimura-kun or I have sufficient ability and intent to protect Sudo-kun when we first entered the school?”
For all those students who were discussing if they should or shouldn’t abandon Sudo and didn’t even bother to consider how to save him, would they seriously try to protect a classmate? However, if Sudo were in trouble at this moment, Keisei and others would rack their brain cells to think of some kind of strategy to protect him from dropping out of school.
“But now, if someone is targeting Ayanokoji-kun, we could work together to protect him. That’s how I’ve judged it. And that’s why I revealed Ayanokoji-kun’s actual strength and started raising the overall strength of our class.”
However, more than half of the students had several doubts in their minds regarding what she had said.
On the other hand, Horikita didn’t have sufficient stuff to convince everything.
Since the whole story was made up of lies, it was inevitable that it would come out at certain times.
Of course, this didn’t stop the other students in the class from attacking for now.
However, things would be different if we had stronger support.
When I confirmed most of the attention had shifted to Horikita, I looked at Yosuke.
A boy who has complete faith in the class.
Even though Yosuke was listening to Horikita’s explanation, he occasionally pretended to look around while watching me. Then, judging that I would not be exposed, he looked me in the eye.
Just like the other classmates, there were many things I did not tell Yosuke. If it were any other student, they would probably be slightly suspicious of me as Keisei and the others and would join them in asking me difficult questions. Still, I had nothing to worry about from Yosuke’s side.
He would give the highest priority to things that would be most beneficial for the class.
In the current situation, even if I didn’t have to say anything, he was clear about what he had to do.
“I understand, even a little, this backup strategy of Horikita. On that basis, I have another question. Is Ayanokoji only outstanding in math?”
“I cannot comment on this topic at this time.”
Horikita calmly answered Keisei’s question.
“The student known as Ayanokoji Kiyotaka, has demonstrated his full extent of ability, or is he still holding back? No matter what the real truth is, we can hide it to ensure that Ayanokoji-kun remains unknown to the other classes.”
“So, this is the whole story behind Ayanokoji-kun’s perfect score in math. I’m quite convinced about what Horikita-san is trying to say.”
Exactly as Keisei was about to put pressure on Horikita with another question, he was unexpectedly hit by Yosuke, who had been watching him from the beginning.
And then Yosuke slowly moved to Horikita’s side.
“I didn’t understand the situation before, so I’ve been listening to your discussion. One enemy with foreign assets can indeed be dangerous. Later, it might be the case where other classes will send someone as a spy to gather more information about an individual student of our class or class D as a whole. But even if our class members don’t know what the real truth is, it wouldn’t make sense to continue digging.”
Yosuke would fill in the gaps in the discussion while providing additional information to understand those students around him easily.
When Horikita assumed Yosuke was her ally, she quickly agreed and continued the conversation.
“Yes. Anyway, it’s certain to attract attention in the future, so let’s make the best of it. It’s in our best interest to make our opponents think he’s a person of unknown strength. There might be students outside listening to us right now. It’s that kind of school we’re in right now.”
Everyone suddenly looked towards the hallway. Was the student known as Ayanokoji only good at math, or did his excellence reach the other subjects as well? By creating doubt in the other classes by debating the number of threats that should be considered. After considering Yosuke’s statement, Horikita’s words became more convincing.
“Horikita-san is really good, isn’t she? I’m a little touched.”
At that moment, Kei said a distracting statement to support her point.
“Don’t you think so too, Shinohara-san?”
Then she looked for agreement from her friend, Shinohara.
I think she was trying to push up Horikita’s point of view and divert others’ attention away from the fact they were only focusing on my strength. Although I had never given her a sign or instructions as I gave to Yosuke, she instantly understood what she had to do and acted independently.
“That’s true! I’ve always felt Horikita-san and Ayanokoji-kun are talking to each other, but I guess they’re thinking about our class strategy.”
At the beginning of the school year, Horikita hadn’t talked much with anyone other than me.
This fact is now strong proof that she is working on a strategy.
I think this made the story sound a little more believable.
How brilliantly Yosuke and Kei covered for us had a remarkable effect. The group mentality of If Yosuke and the others think it’s true, then it must be true was also working very well.
“A strategy of hiding one’s strength... surely, the other classes must be quite shocked by now.”
Even Keisei, who’d been suspicious until now, became no exception.
“At a time, even though I didn’t fully grasp the situation of this school, I thought having an insurance plan is always good. I don’t know if this is fortunate or unfortunate, but Ayanokoji-kun is poor at communicating and doesn’t like to stand out. For those reasons, I also wanted him to hide his strength.”
Horikita said we talk about the strategy which was made because we both have the same intentions.
Then she looked away from Keisei and addressed the entire class.
“This is the secret of how Ayanokoji-kun got a perfect score in math. Sorry to surprise you all.”
In a situation where there was no way to fix things, Horikita had successfully managed to get through to the end. But if I let the students linger on for too long, there is no guarantee they will have doubts again.
“For now, I think it’s best to end this conversation here and now. As Horikita-san said, the walls have ears. We don’t know who is listening to us.”
Yosuke wrapped the discussion fairly and explained why it would be bad for our class to keep talking about this situation. The smarter the student, the more questions remain in their mind, but the smarter the student, the quicker they understand this isn’t the right place to talk about sensitive things. The fact Keisei, who had been asking questions all along, has shut up is proof of that.
In a way, it could be considered this discussion had succeeded in deflecting a certain amount of suspicion from everyone.
And thanks to Horikita’s accomplishments that exceeded my imagination, it would be easier for me to act in the future.
Even if I showed my actual strength outside of mathematics, it could be explained by the fact I had been hiding it. The preparation Horikita did here was crucial.
Honestly, I am grateful to her for dealing with the situation without even getting prepared beforehand.
It was finally the end of the school day, which was much later than usual, and the students dispersed one after another.
I want to express my gratitude to Horikita and Yosuke at some other time. However, as the discussion was over in the class, Horikita was the first student who left the classroom. Following her actions, Yosuke went while having a lighter conversation with Kei and other girls. And when they started to leave the classroom, as usual, I picked up my bag and mixed with everyone else, and I went out into the hall.
It would have been considered a day over... But as I judged the current situation, it didn't look so simple.
Even if it was enough for most of the students in the second-year class to know what Horikita and the others had just said, it was a different story when it came to my personal problems.
Some students immediately followed me after I left the classroom. I knew they were members of the Ayanokoji group. At the back, among the approaching students, there was someone in the front whose footsteps sounded intense. There was no need to look back to confirm how much frustration Keisei had built up due to this perfect math score situation.
I pretended not to notice their presence and kept walking forward towards the direction of the dormitory. After a while, Keisei called me.
I slowed down my pace when I was called by Keisei and looked towards the source of the voice.
As I looked back, the other two members of the Ayanokoji group, Airi and Haruka, still had somewhat stiff expressions on their faces.
"You are going back to the dormitory without even saying hello to fellow group members. Isn't it a little cruel, Kiyopon?"
Hasabe Haruka, the most outspoken member of the group, spoke out loudly.
On behalf of the two people, she said, Keisei, who is at the front and somehow had a grim face, and the worried Airi at the back.
This seemed somehow significant. Since the nervous Keisei was about to explode, his thoughts kept his mouth shut for the moment.
After taking a breath, Keisei spoke again.
"Why didn't you tell us regarding your actual strength before? If this matter was to hide the information as Horikita said earlier, does it mean you don't have trust in us at all?"
Although he acknowledged Horikita's claims to some extent, he was still dissatisfied at some point.
It's no wonder.
It was like I was crushing Keisei's feelings because he would be trying to teach me how to study seriously and sympathetically in the past.
Since it was clear at this point, Haruka and Airi were following him as well.
The easiest way to end this matter was to blame all these points on Horikita.
But I couldn't afford to do something like her, since she had crucially helped me a moment ago.
No, this feeling of kindness was unnecessary. It was time to think about the future.
Keisei is an excellent student, and he was not among the students who are slowest in terms of judging the surrounding situations accurately. But if he couldn't truly accept this situation, it would be a heavy mental burden. And if he can't perform well in upcoming special exams due to his mental burden pressure, it will be harmful to the second-year class D. It wouldn't be helpful to Horikita as well, who is the leader of class D.
"I've always trusted you guys. But I judged not revealing anything to anyone was the best thing to do for the future. It's because I've been so close to you all and had good terms with each other that I've had to suppress my desire to tell you and keep silent in this situation."
Instead of blaming someone else, I told Keisei and the others, this was the judgment I had made myself. Although Keisei was aggressive at first, judging from the fact he had just temporarily pressed his anger just because of Haruka's words, I could make him have to make further concessions by doing so.
"I completely understand your irritation at this incident, Keisei. After all, you are more dedicated than anyone else to helping everyone in our group with their studies and always thoughtfully coming to teach me. I'm really sorry about this time."
If the person you've been teaching all this time is better than you, and you've kept it to yourself, anyone else would definitely feel uncomfortable.
And I guess Haruka and Airi felt the same way.
Haruka and Airi heard my apology from one side, but they said nothing.
They probably judged it was best to let Keisei reflect and take it in himself, so they remained silent.
"To be honest, I'm still angry. Kiyotaka, you could have told me from the start that you didn't need to be taught, and you could have also easily passed the exam and handled it all on your own."
As far as the enlightenment is concerned, our convenience and background are irrelevant.
For Keisei, he wished I could have told him from the beginning about my side of the story, which was irrelevant to his background. It's only natural that he would feel that way.
Naturally, he wanted me to tell him from the beginning.
"And based on what Horikita said, we'll continue to cover up about Kiyotaka's grades from now on, won't we? If you can't even tell me how good you are at studying, then the trust between us won't be completely established."
From now on, Keisei will always have his doubts. Things like What was this guy good at and what wasn't.
As someone who taught others, I had to think twice about keeping something so strange around him.
"I want to leave this group. Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have that kind of thinking."
"Yukimuu, are you serious?"
Haruka, who had been silent before, suddenly spoke up at the moment.
It's probably because the content of the statement was something she couldn't keep quiet about.
"Yes, I am serious. I was determined to leave until I heard Horikita's explanation because I didn't think I could trust Kiyotaka at all after the incident. Still, after being in the same group for such a long time, I can understand some things about him. I know Kiyotaka is not a bad person. If he was hiding something for the sake of the class, it's understandable he wouldn't tell anyone. Kiyotaka could indeed have told me he didn't need me to tutor him, but he's not good with words, so I can understand why he didn't say anything."
Keisei clenched both fists and said it without trying to hide it.
"It's just... yeah, it's just... I need some time to clear my thoughts, which stuck in my head."
After saying, Keisei deliberately sighed out loud.
"There is no advantage to taking this any further... In the end, what I'm really trying to say is... it's okay if you're hiding your strength even if you're hiding it in other ways as well. It's not like you're dragging the entire class down as Koenji does, so no one has the right to complain about in those areas. It's only going to make the atmosphere worse if I keep criticizing you."
It might be Keisei, who was the most unsatisfied and unconvinced student, chose to suppress and try to digest this emotion on his own for the Ayanokoji group and his classmates.
"Although my mental side is clear, the problem is I can't suppress it emotionally, so I'll have to reflect on that. Then I'll recognize some of the strength you revealed as real. As for the other subjects, I will continue to use my previous assumption and continue to tutor you except math. Are you okay with my decision?"
In this situation, where it's not too late to end our relationship as friends, this was a valuable proposal.
I had absolutely no reason to refuse his proposal, so I nodded my head and accepted it straight away.
"Thank you, Keisei."
I chose to express my gratitude in a few words.
Airi, who had witnessed everything, finally found the courage to speak up.
"Wh-What if you two made a... good handshake?"
"A good handshake? It's a good idea, Airi!"
After hearing Airi's proposal, Haruka expressed her thoughts.
Keisei immediately shook his head left and right after feeling the massive and depressing atmosphere was gradually dissipating.
"I won't do it. It's embarrassing."
But Haruka grabbed Keisei's right hand quickly before Keisei said any other words. She also held my right hand basically at the same time.
"Alright, now you two become friends…Yay!!!"
After saying she pushed our hands together, forcing us to shake them.
We didn't prepare our hands to shake them, so they just touched.
"If you don't shake hands, I won't let go, okay?"
"I know, I know...!"
Perhaps Keisei felt more embarrassed to have the hands half-heartedly touching each other.
And so, through the two of us shaking hands, it symbolized a formal reconciliation between us.
"I'm fine with it, but Akito still doesn't know anything about this matter, right?"
"Miyacchi probably won't have any problem. I think he'll accept Kiyopon as usual, right?"
"... That's right."
Keisei thought for a moment. He quickly came to the same conclusion after thinking about Akito's image.
"Well, everything's back to normal. It seems like a great burden has been lifted, hasn't it?"
Haruka and Airi were exchanging glances and agreeing with each other.
"In any case, you've become a celebrity so quickly, Kiyopon...that..."
Haruka looked at me as if she remembered something and became tense.
The three of us hoped she would continue what she wanted to say, but there was no sign of the words to come out.
"What's the matter, Haruka-chan?"
Airi, who was worried about Haruka, who had remained frozen and was not moving, called out to her.
At that moment, she continued, as if the spell had been undone.
"Oh, ah. It's nothing, nothing at all. Anyway, now you're a celebrity, you're going to have a tough time."
"Isn't it a bit much to get the perfect score? Sakayanagi-san, who was the second rank this year, got 91 points."
After Keisei acknowledged me, his concerns changed to something else.
"Speaking of Sakayanagi-san, she got similar scores in every subject, didn't she?"
Airi tried to remember...
She got 91 points in math and, surprisingly, she got similar scores in the other subjects. Considering the difficulty of the exams, she is a student who is undoubtedly extremely good at academics. Throughout the school year, she was indeed second only to me in terms of academic strength. What's even more impressive is she didn't study in an exceptional environment like the White Room. In that case, it wasn't an overstatement for her to call herself a genius.
"I knew she was smart, but since the introduction of the OAA, it feels like she's showing more of her strength."
Though there was regret in his voice, Keisei honestly recognized Sakayanagi's strength.
There was no need to doubt her high scores in the past, but her strength had now reached another level.
I wonder if she had deliberately restrained herself or started spending more extra time on her studies.
Whatever happened, there is no doubt she had become a much bigger problem than before and even more of an opponent that I must beat.
"As a memorial to our reconciliation, why don't we meet at the Keyaki Mall once Miyacchi's club activities are over?"
There wasn't a single member of the group who refused Haruka's suggestion.
In front of the Keyaki Mall, where I was scheduled to meet with Ayanokoji group members at 7 p.m., I arrived first and waited quietly for my friends to arrive.
As a student who has caused controversy, I decided it was better not to keep them waiting.
“Maybe I’m earlier than I thought...”
It’s just past 6:30 p.m.
However, waiting for someone doesn’t feel so bad, but it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s one of the few skills I had.
This way, it would be nice if there was a time when there was nothing to think about.
However, there was one thing I found slightly troubling, although not the price of it.
It’s a fact of being alone and strangely attracting attention. Soon, this attention would spill over to all grades because the test results were being shown to all students, from first-year students to third-year students. I’m afraid the curious eyes of seniors and juniors will continue towards me for some time.
For the time being, I did nothing but stay quiet at the entrance of Keyaki Mall. Suddenly, my phone vibrated, so I took it out and found a message from the Ayanokoji group. Airi wrote she left the dormitory simultaneously, and the other four showed they had read it too. I didn’t tell them I’d arrived, and they just checked their status if others arrived at designated meeting spots or not.
“Ayanokoji-kun, are you meeting up with someone?”
Suddenly, someone called me. I didn’t realize it because I was looking at my cell phone, but I saw Ichinose Honami called me when I looked up.
I noticed her classmate Kanzaki was next to her. Even if the school has offered different facilities to school staff and students, there are usually only a few places where students can visit, so it’s natural to meet an occasional acquaintance at the Keyaki Mall entrance, one of the most popular locations in the school.
“I’m supposed to have dinner with some of my friends. How about you two?”
It’s not something I need to hide, so I answered honestly.
Ichinose and Kanzaki, on the other hand, said in perfect harmony without giving each other any signals.
“I think we’re the same, right?”
Kanzaki responded quickly. Instead, his gaze was turned more strongly toward Ichinose than me.
“Speaking of which, I saw the special exam results. Ayanokoji-kun got a perfect score in math, that’s amazing.”
“According to what I saw in last month’s OAA data, I didn’t think you’d be able to get a perfect score in any special exam.”
Ichinose didn’t ask any questions about me, who was hiding strength from other classes, but Kanzaki, on the other hand, didn’t hide his displeasure.
“There are a lot of reasons for hiding my strength. The fact I’m hiding my strength like I’m good at math is something I decided to do after discussing it with my classmates.”
I thought this explanation of mine would help Ichinose and Kanzaki to understand the situation to some extent.
It’s just a matter of imagining things on their own and supplementing the content of the story.
Usually, this explanation should be enough to convince both of them, but Kanzaki’s face didn’t look relaxed.
“You’ve been hiding it for such a long time, huh? It looks like you’re a more annoying opponent than I thought.”
“Kanzaki-kun, you shouldn’t say anything like that to anyone. It’s natural for each class to develop their own ideas and strategies.”
It looks like Kanzaki accepted Ichinose’s accusation as a matter of course, in this situation.
“Well, it’s not like he’s using dirty strategies like Ryuen used in the past. However, there are some things I’m not convinced of right now. First, he solved a problem that was practically impossible for any normal high school student to solve and got a perfect math score, which isn’t something that can be easily achieved through. An explanation of his actions, he said he followed his classmates’ instructions, but...”
As Kanzaki was about to continue his way of thinking, Ichinose stopped him with a firm tone.
“Ayanokoji-kun is not our enemy.”
Ichinose expressed strong dissatisfaction with Kanzaki’s words. It is undoubtedly a strange attitude from Kanzaki. Still, as if I had to select between those two regarding who was right in this situation, I picked Kanzaki because he was on his alert before the enemy made any move, unlike Ichinose, who quickly trusted other students easily.
“Our class alliance, which we made in the first year, has been dissolved already. The second-year class D is our enemy from now onwards.”
“That’s… somewhat true, but there’s no need for Kanzaki-kun to do a meaningless argument...”
“I am not arguing with anyone here. However, I need to know our opponent’s true strength.”
“Ayanokoji-kun has been hiding his true math ability.”
Kanzaki took one step further than Ichinose, closing the distance between him and me.
“Now, when I think about it, is it like you’re only good at math? No, it wouldn’t be possible... What other skills are you hiding from other classes? Didn’t you hide your speed even from your classmates during last year’s sports festival? No, the worst thing about class D is they hide other skills as well from the rest of the school.”
“However, there is a limit to the amount of test scores students can get in the special exam. No matter how well a student can study, they can only get up to 100 points per subject, and their assessment is only up to A+ in the OAA application. Even if Ayanokoji-kun got a perfect score in all of the other subjects, the difference between him and Sakayanagi-san, who was second-ranked in the second year, would only be small.”
In fact, the difference between Sakayanagi and my score in mathematics is only 9 points.
Even if I scored the same perfect score in the other four subjects, there was a difference of 45 points between her and my score. Ichinose thought it’s not something which is a significant threat for her class...
“Our overall scores in class C are much higher than his class overall scores. If only Ayanokoji-kun could make up for the class point difference, the whole class would be able to make up for it.”
“It can truly only be for the written exams, but───.”
“Let’s not go any further, Kanzaki-kun. You know it’s not something we should be arguing fiercely about here right now, right?”
Ichinose, who’s always been a peaceful student, is afraid if we keep having a raging debate at the Keyaki Mall entrance, there would eventually be an uproar.
“I certainly seem like I’ve lost my temper a bit.”
Kanzaki, perhaps thinking that continuing this argument here won’t solve the problem, so he shut his mouth and somewhat helplessly averted his eyes.
“I’ll leave first.”
Kanzaki quickly went into the Keyaki Mall, leaving Ichinose behind.
We silently watched his back.
“I’m sorry. Kanzaki-kun doesn’t have to talk in such a rude way to Ayanokoji-kun, especially in the current situation.”
The class B, which had maintained its position till the beginning of the second year, has now fallen to class C.
Because they are forced to change direction because they can’t communicate with the way they have been fighting, which is understandable.
Rather, Ichinose, who shows kindness even in every situation, can say it is strange.
It wouldn’t be wrong for Kanzaki to think like Ichinose should abandon her soft nature, which she showed in front of any student.
“Am I wrong...?”
It’s not like Ichinose doesn’t understand Kanzaki’s way of thinking. Even if she does understand, there’s a substantial difference as significant as heaven and earth trying to figure out what my skills are compared to going on without knowing.
“Do Ichinose remember what I said to her in the past?”
“Yes, I remembered it perfectly. I have to keep moving forward to advance my class to the upper class while supporting my classmates.”
“There may be some students like Kanzaki who think about moving to another class in the future because of your soft nature towards other students, or there may be students who are unhappy with what you’re doing or the ways you use to fight the situation and keep it in their hearts. It wouldn’t be unusual for some students, depending on the situation, to betray the class. It’s no wonder how the situation is changing. The first-year class B, which was once safe and protected only by Ichinose, no longer exists.”
These words sound more like Ichinose words than any other second-year class C student.
“Don’t give any importance to what happens in the future. You have complete trust in your classmates, and I want you to keep fighting to protect them.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll definitely protect my classmates. If the time comes when someone from my class has to drop out of school and leave school, I know I will be the first one to leave this school from my class.”
It wasn’t a bluff. Ichinose will do what she says.
She would be the first to take the class’s responsibility and choose expulsion before anyone else.
“I’m relieved to hear your determination towards your class and your classmates, but I am dissatisfied with Ichinose in this matter.”
Ichinose tilts her head slightly, wondering what I was talking about.
“I won’t allow you to leave the school.”
Ichinose needs to keep running without stopping for the rest of the year.
I look into her eyes and plant a burning fire in Ichinose’s will deep in her eyes.
What I should give her is not darkness.
It’s a light that never goes out.
If there was any chance of this light glowing in the wrong direction, I snuffed it out.
“This, this... well, um... I’ll definitely... remain...in the...school.”
As she looked at me, Ichinose spoke to me in a somewhat embarrassed tone.
“Huh... You’re really amazing, Ayanokoji-kun... I can’t believe you got a perfect score on such a difficult math test.”
Ichinose said while trying to change the direction of the conversation.
“Maybe math is the only thing I’m good at from time being.”
“Even if it is, it’s amazing because you have a skill that no one can beat you.”
“Ichinose has the same skills too. You certainly have a skill that no one surpasses you.”
“If only it was true...”
It’s just like she lacks the talent around her to handle this weapon properly.
It wasn’t that her classmates weren’t good enough.
Instead, it was the drawbacks of the weapon she possessed.
Ichinose’s ability to bring people together is so strong it breaks the individuality of her classmates.
“I think… I need to leave. We’re attracting other students’ attention here if I stay here for a long time, and it’s bad to keep Kanzaki-kun waiting inside the Keyaki Mall.”
I nodded slightly and saw the back of Ichinose.
I thought it was almost time for our appointment. I pulled out my phone again to confirm the time.
“What were you talking about with Ichinose-san?”
From a distance, Haruka asked me when I looked towards my phone screen. I can see the figure of Akito, Keisei, and Airi. They were all together and looking at me while I talked with Ichinose in front of Keyaki Mall.
“Is it related to your perfect math score?”
“It’s not weird. The better students are at academics, the more it matters of concern for others.”
As soon as I explained the reason to him, Keisei immediately seemed convinced.
However, Haruka seems a little different.
But she didn’t ask any further questions and quickly returned to her usual expression.
Starting from tomorrow, May 2nd, we’re about to have Golden Week.
The students have just successfully passed their special exams, so I’m sure they’ll be spending their holidays happily.
The Golden Week has passed instantly, and school life has started up once again the same way.
The situation is still the same as before, but everyday life gradually starts to change.
On the first morning after the holiday, Sudo was the first student I met near the school’s shoe locker.
It may have seemed like an ordinary meeting with a classmate, but it was part of a routine which was gradually beginning to change.
“It seemed like you were having a rough time a while ago. Are you okay now?”
“I’m fine; nothing unusual happened during the holiday. I had a good time during the Golden week.”
“By the way, this holiday period really went by in the blink of an eye.”
Sudo and I, aligned with each other, head towards the classroom while walking side by side.
Sudo, who left the classroom the other day because of his club activities, probably heard the details of what happened at the school from Ike and Hondou.
He must have understood everything, so I don’t need to explain anything regarding what happened earlier.
“I heard it was Suzune’s strategy, which kept you from being good at studies.”
I nodded slightly. However, Sudo slightly bit his lip, moved his line of sight away from me, and looked straight ahead.
“From the beginning, I saw getting you to be close to her. At first, I didn’t understand the reason behind your actions, but I’m satisfied right now.”
“I didn’t have a good relationship with everyone else; more specifically, I was quite shy at first. It’s not like we’re getting along. Rather, I think we were quite distant at first.”
“Really? Sorry, but I don’t remember it the way you described the situation.”
Maybe it’s because Sudo, who sees Horikita as a person of the opposite sex, can’t accept the things easily.
It wouldn’t have helped me even if I had pointed it out and explained to him, so I let it go.
“I heard from Yosuke later on how you tried to defend me.”
“Rather than defending you, I would say I just told the truth.”
“It’s a fact, but at a time when you didn’t know anything about the situation and still tried to take my side was very impressive.”
“There’s no need for you to say things like that.”
Sudo becomes slightly offended, and as a result, he bit the tip of his lips again.
“It seems like Ayanokoji kept many secrets, for example, a math genius, but it’s also an undeniable fact that you’re a strong fighter as well.”
For Sudo, being a strong fighter was more worrying than my perfect score in math.
“I don’t quite understand what you’re talking about.”
Here I tried to pretend not to know about what he meant to convey.
However, Sudo is not the kind of student I can easily fool with those excuses.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know anything. I know how strong you were because I fought with Hosen too. He had tremendous strength, and his moves were faster than anyone I’ve ever fought. He’s simply a monster, to say the least.”
Sudo said because he had directly confronted Hosen, he had instinctively felt his strength as well.
“It’s the first time I felt fear during a fight. Even now, Hosen’s smiling face burns in my head.”
Sudo said while stroking around his temple with his left index finger two or three times.
“So, you’re scared. Even so, in my eyes, you fought bravely for Horikita, right?”
“That’s the only way I had to do it. I had no other choice but to fight with him. I think that guy has a couple of loose bolts in his head.”
I don’t deny his facts. From what I’ve seen up close, Hosen’s violence is unusual.
“But Sudo also had a chance to win a fight with him too.”
At the end of April month, Sudo was knocked down by Hosen because, in a situation where he had to face the opponent in front of him, Hosen exposed Sudo in front of Horikita and set a trap in such a way Sudo has to protect Horikita and revealed his defenseless appearance in front of his opponent.
As a result, Sudo was severely wounded and ended up defeated by Hosen.
“I don’t know...Even if we fought each other as hard as we could, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to beat him in a fight.”
It wasn’t because Sudo is weak at all. The only thing Sudo lacks is excellent physical ability and coordination, but he was no match as someone compared to Hosen.
I’m afraid even Horikita Manabu, the elder brother of Horikita Suzune, who had knowledge of martial arts, and Albert, who was blessed with a physical body, those who are physically better, wouldn’t stand a chance against Hosen.
“It’s not like I want to talk about my previous fight with Hosen with you. It’s for me. It’s not other people’s concern.”
At this point, Sudo looked straight at me.
“Ayanokoji...you managed to stop his monstrous hit with a power equal to or greater than his strange power. Am I right?”
I’m sure Sudo couldn’t be fooled by saying things like I just accidentally used more strength than I usually do.
Even though I got a perfect score in maths, he thought it was expected, and it was natural for him to associate the two things together.
And since he has feelings for Horikita, perhaps he could pay attention to some other things as well, which will not be convenient for me in the future.
“Maybe you have some kind of misunderstanding. Don’t you think, Sudo?”
“No, I’m not sure what I saw with my own eyes.”
Sudo quickly holds my bicep with his right hand as he squeezed slightly enough to check my muscles and said.
“I’ve felt it since last year when I saw you in the pool. Even though you weren’t involved in any club activities, still your body is well maintained. If you’re well dressed, it’s hard to notice your well-maintained body. The shape and the tightness of your muscles...they wouldn’t look like that unless you had trained significantly.”
In front of Sudo, who had worked out through dealing with the flesh, there was no way to fight sloppily any longer.
Now, not only did he actually watch me, but he is touching me, and the truth about my body will inevitably come out.
“Oh, as I remember correctly, Ayanokoji had a gripping score of 60 before the sports festival, right?”
Sudo is slowly starting to remember what happened last year.
“I thought it was pretty scary at the time... But now I know you had restrained yourself as to what your real strength would be. Actually, what’s your real strength?”
“Who knows. To be honest, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I have no recollection of taking the exam seriously.”
“You don’t know? How is that possible? You had measured your grip during exams in elementary or middle school, right?”
I really don’t remember it.
In the White Room, of course, physical examinations were done regularly.
The instructors took a considerable amount of students’ data in a slightly different way, which probably didn’t compare to the standard physical measurements that would be examined in a normal elementary and junior high school.
However, only the instructor knows about our actual data.
They didn’t go out of their way to talk to individual students in detail about how their numbers were doing.
And the students didn’t take much interest in the numbers, which were changing day by day.
In the end, the only thing that was known was whether the numbers went up or down.
However, even though I am trying to maintain my physical body with a daily routine exercise, my physical abilities are likely to decrease more slowly than when I was in the White Room.
“You really don’t get it?”
Sudo looked into my eyes and should have sensed I didn’t look like I was lying, so I said so.
“At that time, I heard from other students the average grip strength of a first-year high school student was around 60, so I adjusted the results to around those numbers. After all, I wanted to hide my actual strength as low as possible.”
I remember being a bit surprised to learn when my results came above average.
“I am talking about real you. How strong are you if you don’t hide your actual strength?”
“How much stronger I am...?”
The answer would change depending on the standard and the perspective used.
I thought about it for a moment.
“Forget it. You might not give an answer right now. Please forget about now.”
Sudo, as if he didn’t want to hear my answer, withdrew the question he had spoken.
Even if, at this stage, I revealed everything about me, this isn’t content which anyone would be able to understand easily.
At the end of the day, these things can’t be explained in just a few words.
“I guess you are too powerful. I have to see your actual strength in the future for my own eyes, or it will be meaningless.”
He loosened my arm, which he previously held in his hand.
It’s a good thing Sudo, like Keisei, seems to have started to swallow the things slowly.
“But now I understand you are really an amazing guy. Really amazing, Ayanokoji.”
“Are you angry because I kept it hidden from you?”
“At first I thought, What’s wrong with this guy? I know how Yukimura felt before. It would be great if someone were better than me, but I don’t feel good about it. But I understand Ayanokouji’s feelings too. I mean, you don’t like to show off for nothing, so I kind of understand.”
Immediately after that, Sudo gave me a different answer than I expected.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of things on my mind, but I’m going to work hard and grow in my own way. I don’t care what other people are like. I decided to think of it as such.”
Sudo doesn’t intend to spend his energy on what others thought but was committed to looking at himself.
That’s an excellent way to go, and I heard something interesting.
“Besides, no matter how powerful or smart you are in fighting or academics, but in basketball, I’m better than you, right?”
For the first time today, Sudo laughed out loud, fearlessly.
He answered immediately and confidently that it was not until he was sure of it.
Of course, what he said is absolutely right. Even if I had to fight him for a round or two, the result would be obvious. I have no chance of winning.
“In other words, if it’s basketball, then I’ll always be around, so you want to stop there at any time.”
“Sorry, I don’t want to become your punching bag.”
“Hahahaha! I can see what you are trying to say.”
When a person has one thing superior to others, people can accept someone else more quickly.
“That’s why I won’t tell anyone about what happened between you and Hosen the other night. It’s a bit mysterious, but that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today.”
I’m really grateful for your sincere concern.
“Oh right, let me just ask you one more thing about the Hosen thing... I wonder if you’re okay to answer my question...”
“If it’s something which I can answer, I would love to...”
“Don’t think I’d tell the other students about your fight with Hosen and how you hide your strength from your classmates?”
Based on the previous topic’s direction, it was probably inevitable that he would ask me such a question.
In the beginning, even though Sudo witnessed my fight and my actual strength, there was a certain possibility in which he would remain silent about it.
Of course, I had planned to stop him through Horikita if Sudo revealed anything to other students, but after I saw the other night and the look in Sudo’s eyes when he first found out about my perfect score in math, I had a feeling he wouldn’t say anything to others.
“If you were a Sudo like before, I would have thought about it. I told Horikita to refrain from telling you anything.”
“The Sudo from before?”
“If you take a look at the overall strength of second-year class D in the OAA application, you will understand you are the one who has grown the most in our class. I think you are no longer much confused as you previously became; you have developed the ability to judge situations calmly, and based on your judgment, you figured it out what was right and what was wrong. It’s the only reason why I didn’t take any action.”
It was my opinion after examining Sudo Ken.
If another student had witnessed my fight with Hosen, like Ike or Hondou, the story would be different.
“Why do I feel like a teacher is praising me?”
Sudo sighs somewhat with satisfaction and a little bit of surprise.
“I am delighted. It doesn’t feel wrong to praise me.”
Sudo suddenly brought his face closer to mine.
“And I have one more question I’d like to ask. Between you and Suzune...”
“We’re not dating.”
While pulling away from his face, which was too close to me, I answered his question before he could finish emphasizing that my words were real.
Sudo, who felt he had heard my thoughts, averted his gaze slightly in embarrassment.
“Well, it’s not like I have any concern. I haven’t said anything, particularly about whether Ayanokoji is dating Suzune or not. In the case of Suzune...whether it’s you or me or someone else she wants to date, that’s her decision. But if at a point where the person whom she’s dating has any hidden agenda, then I won’t forgive him.”
“I know, I know. If something like ever happens, I’ll report it to you right away. Is that okay?”
“Yes. Well, no, it’s not right...! But yes, that’s good enough for me.”
Either I just said what I wanted to say, and he heard what he wanted to listen, Sudo just stopped for a bit.
“It may sound a bit cold as I was Haruki’s friend, but I still want to say. It’s a relief Ayanokoji didn’t get expelled from the previous class vote. You’re undoubtedly the student, which we needed as we aim to move forward to class A. I’ll see you later, Ayanokoji.”
He left me behind and went in the classroom direction as fast as he could after saying those words.
It was one of Sudo’s attempts to take care of me so that my classmates wouldn’t find out regarding our contact.
“So, I need in class D to raise it to Class A...huh?”
I never thought the day would come when Sudo would say something for me.
However, I’m not the kind of student which our class really needs right now.
Instead, Sudo is definitely the essential student who is indispensable to the class.