1 Vol.11,5 Chapter 1 Part 1-5

[Introduction]

March 24th. The graduation ceremony

To the third year, not only was this an event that marked the end of their high school life, but it also marked the beginning of another journey they will be embarking on.

To the students enrolled here, this was merely just another event. However-

To me, it was something worth watching.

I was rather curious about the results of the battle between the elder Horikita and Nagumo.

I was still unaware of what happened in their final battle that had lasted until the very end… was the elder Horikita able to graduate from Class A? Or had Nagumo's intervention stopped him?

Although it should have been revealed to me yesterday, I had something that needed to be done, so I didn't leave my room.

So the results would be revealed today instead.

I was also interested in what a graduation ceremony would feel like.

Whether it was the graduation ceremony or the closing ceremony, experiencing something for the first time would naturally be exciting.

With it almost being time for school, I locked the door to my room and headed out.

"Good morning."

Keisei, who was in the elevator with me, greeted me, and I responded quietly. Because there were students from the other classes with us, we didn't talk about anything important.

Just like that, we quietly walked out of our dorm lobby.

"We worked so hard to get promoted to Class C only to get pushed back to where we started… At least we didn't suffer as much damage as I thought we would."

Keisei's murmurs quickly dissipated into the bright and cloudless sky.

Class C's failure in the final special exam of the year will have demoted us back to Class D.

Although many of the students were affected by the loss, our opponent was, fortunately, Class A, so it was to be expected.

As I held the protection point, it meant that I was the commander during the exam as well, which eased the tension.

And so everyone would believe that there was no helping our loss and that if we had already tried our best, then it was already good enough.

Even though we had been demoted back to Class D, the difference in our scores was encouraging.

These were the class points in late March:

▪︎1131 Points for Sakayanagi's Class A

▪︎550 Points for Ichinose's Class B

▪︎347 Points for Horikita's Class C

▪︎508 Points for Ryuuen's Class D

These class rankings would only last until the end of this March.

Class Points were determined and confirmed at the start of each month, and only then would the class rankings change.

As a result, we're still technically Class C.

But following Ryuuen's rise back to Class C, their Class Points are virtually the same as for Class B's.

If everything stayed the same as it was now, the class rankings would definitely change.

But we couldn't forget that at this school, the existing class points could change every month due to a load of other different factors.

Ichinose's class had a lot of diligent students, but Ryuuen's class, even if they could be complimented on their achievements, couldn't be labelled as first-rate students.

And due to the different lifestyles, each class led, the points that each class received would be different.

The students of Class B might be worried about that possibility.

But even so, the fact that Ichinose maintained Class B's ranking throughout the year could offer them peace of mind as well.

That being said, the difference between Class B and Ryuuen's Class was a mere 42 points.

After the next special exam, there was a high chance that Ryuuen's class would take Class B's spot.

Looking from that perspective, it seemed like the Class D that I belonged to was way behind everyone else.

However, we couldn't forget the situation with the class points of each class in April and May last year.

Last April, all the classes started at 1000 class points. Back then, the overwhelming advantage of Class A and the inferiority of Class D did not exist.

Thinking back now, that was the best time to establish our position.

Unfortunately, Class D lost all our class points within a month.

The rankings back then…

Sakayanagi's Class A 940 points

Ichinose's Class B 650 points

Ryuu's Class C 490 points

Horikita's Class D 0 points

As a result, the cumulative class points for the entire grade had fallen. It was the start of the competition between the classes, and who won and who lost in them.

Think of it this way. Our class gained a total of 347 points in the entire year.

Affected by factors such as our attitude, tardiness, absence, etc., the class points might still decrease at the end of the month.

But overall, we still gained at least 330 to 340 points.

That's my point. Our class was the fastest in the entire grade when it came to gaining class points throughout the year, even overwhelmingly exceeding Class A's, the runner up, number. Class A had only received an increase of 191 class points.

Thinking back to spring of last year, when we dropped to 0 points in an instant, we already did quite well in catching up.

However, when we become second years, the class had to become more proactive as a whole.

That was the only way in which we could close the gap with the upper ranking classes.

With Horikita and Hirata's leadership, as well as the growth of the other members of our class, the overall capabilities of our class would have to increase as a whole.

If we could accomplish this, competing with students in the upper classes would become a reality.

After noticing that there was no one around, Keisei seemed like he wanted to say something.

"Don't worry about it. Most of the students don't blame you."

Maybe Keisei felt that I was troubled due to our defeat. I certainly did not care about it, but I noticed something in Keisei's words.

"Most?"

Within these comforting words was a hole right in the middle of it.

In other words, there were still a minority of students who were dissatisfied with me.

"This… is not a perfect situation. They're not saying that you were a bad commander, but they felt as if there could have been a better, more competent person as the commander."

In a sense, this was also a form of blame. Humans were irrational creatures. Even if it had agreed on something before, to take a different stance afterwards was not at all uncommon.

There would be people who thought that the reason we lost to Class A was because of the gap in skill between the commanders, which was understandable.

"Even if someone accuses you, remember you have the upper hand. You were our only choice for commander since you were the only one with protection points…"

Kei told me this after considering the possibility of students confronting me in the future.

"Although most people would agree with that, there's also the example of Ryuuen."

After I said that, Keisei smiled bitterly, and shook his head.

"That bastard is pretty special. I reckon that his recklessness is just an act. It was because of his unexpected rise, as he didn't have any protection points, that led to Class B's fall, suffering a crushing defeat."

From the surface, it seemed like Keisei's words were all true.

But in reality, it wasn't. This was all part of Ryuuen's calculated strategy, all for the sake of winning.

The unexpected appearance was only a part of his setup.

"…Kiyotaka, I need to ask you something."

Just after those words were spoken, Keisei continued.

"When I suddenly decided to try and get involved with Katsuragi to win him over, why didn't you report me?"

In order to beat Class A at the end of year exam, Keisei proposed to Horikita that we try to win Katsuragi over to our side since he was defeated by Sakayangi… But Horikita rejected this due to the high risk of failure and the difficulty of the task.

Despite what Horikita said, Keisei couldn't accept it. This led him to try and convince Katsuragi alone, which resulted in failure.

Despite his failure, this did not have much of an impact on the grand scheme of things.

Although Katsuragi was unwilling to cooperate, the actual damage suffered was also negligible.

"The damage we suffered wasn't that significant, so isn't it fine?"

For Keisei, that wasn't important.

I knew this, but I said something comforting anyway.

"That's because Katsuragi doesn't like to resort to underhanded tactics. If he were someone like Sakayanagi or Ryuuen, we would be subject to even more devastating attacks."

Keisei, who felt deeply responsible due to his failure to forcefully get Katsuragi on our side, was worried about a future that did not happen.

It sounded like Keisei told Horikita about trying to win over Katsuragi himself.

"Ah. I mentioned this to Horikita. I think I should be responsible for this"

He acknowledged his failures bluntly, prepared for any criticism.

"Kiyotaka, are you confident that Katsuragi won't betray Class A?"

He then asked me directly.

"No. Katsuragi may indeed change sides. Won't he?"

"Maybe…"

As for whether the possibility of it happening was 50% or 1%, this wasn't the time to consider.

"I didn't report it to Horikita because I forgot to. Back then, all my worries were about my position as the commander tower and having to bear the responsibility of being one. If you think of it like that, I hold responsibility too. If your plan had succeeded and won over Katsuragi, I would've taken some blame for not being able to communicate well with Horikita and the rest of the class. We're in this together."

After both sides admitted guilt, we could put this case to rest.

"Even so, I felt that I was too naive. If I had considered the risks, I wouldn't have even tried to win Katsuragi over."

Even if we couldn't erase the past, we could use it to reflect on our actions in the future.

"If it were about being too naive, I would be guilty too. Because I didn't say anything at the time."

"I feel better, hearing you say that."

During that exam, many students were passively participating. However, Keisei tried to do everything he could to lead our class to victory.

"And don't you understand what happened then? A strategy like that would've been difficult to pull off anyways."

You could learn a lot from mistakes.

As for whether he could make his plans work, that depended on him.

"Yeah, I was so focused on winning that I couldn't see anything else. Now that I've calmed down, it was humiliating. "

He muttered to himself as he reflected on his actions.

Appeasing to Katsuragi was indeed a naive idea, but the fact that he thought of such a plan and tried to accomplish it on his own was something worth praising.

"So what did Horikita tell you?"

"Horikita didn't blame me, but it was obvious that if I failed, I would've harmed the class as a whole. Not only that, but she also said that next time I had an idea, I had to tell her about it. She also advised me not to rush anything."

It seemed like Horikita made a similar evaluation.

People grew from constant failure. If you merely look at the results before reprimanding someone, then you couldn't be a leader.

Of course, if someone continually fails without learning from their mistakes, then they will be abandoned sooner or later.

"Bluntly speaking, I'm not sure how Horikita still holds the spot as the class's leader. Sure, she's smart, and she's good at sports, but no matter what she says, she still has this condescending attitude towards people. It's hard for people to accept that."

I couldn't deny the point he made. At least I couldn't now.

She wasn't the same type of leader as Hirata or Ichinose.

When alliances were established, enemies were bound to be created.

"But… I'm the same too. I believe that athletics isn't necessary and look down on people who aren't smart. We're the same, me and Horikita."

Just after school started, Keisei tended to look down on students with poor grades.

That was because he believed that as a student, academic performance meant everything, for better or worse.

"The Keisei right now and the Keisei a year ago is completely different. You've changed a lot over the past year."

"Ahhh, the fact that I'm thinking like this now is incredible. Although academics are still the most important, I've come to understand that athletics, the ability to communicate, as well as friendship, are also all necessary. Horikita is also slowly changing. She's more reliable now than ever before, and that makes it easier to trust her."

Keisei didn't really trust anyone outside of the Ayanokouji group. Nevertheless, he still expressed affirmation towards the aspects of Horikita that were worth praising. That allowed me to firmly believe that what he was saying was from the heart.

"That might be the case."

I agreed with what he said.

The kind of student Horikita was had slowly been revealed after a year. Ever since the class vote, she had gradually become more accepted by our classmates. The main reason was not because of her abilities as a leader and tactician, but because the great wall in her heart was slowly starting to crumble. As long as that wall stood, she would consider students apart from herself to be nothing more than a burden, abandoning them without the slightest hesitation. In that way, she was similar to Keisei.

"Of course, I'm not going to obey Horikita blindly. If I believe that she'd made some sort of mistake with her judgement, then I won't hesitate to object and call her out on it. Is doing that wrong?"

Keisei replied after organising his thoughts.

Things that are true ought to be believed, and things that create doubt ought to be doubted.

"No, that's completely correct. That's how the class operated from the beginning."

No matter how reliable she was, she was still just a high school girl.

She would make mistakes from time to time as well.

Now, if any of the students pointed out those mistakes, it was still something worth feeling positive about.

We can work together as a class to solve our problems, as equals.

Due to the authoritarian rule of Sakayanagi and Ryuuen with their respective classes, that approach wasn't an option for them.

It can be said that our class was slowly turning into something similar to how Ichinose's class operated.

Afterwards, we'll need to use our own strength to close the gap.

[Intro end]

[Part 1]

The gymnasium

Students and teachers alike gathered together.

Everyone lined up, watching the ceremony enthusiastically. Other related people we hadn't seen before, were also present.

This was the moment when the 3rd year students took a big step forward into a new beginning.

Whether they were the ones moving onto higher education, the ones who were going straight into work, or the ones who had stopped, failing to find their way in the road of life, they were all about to stop being part of the category known as a child, galloping towards society at full speed.

I was thinking.

What would my position be on that stage 2 years later?

What would I be thinking of then?

I wanted to believe that even after deciding the route in life we would take, we would still be able to paint various scenarios in our hearts.

I wanted to believe that what we learnt in this school would be as crucial to survival as food is.

"Next, I want to invite the students who, after three years of hard work, have graduated in Class A up to the stage."

The host said this through a microphone.

The already quiet gymnasium was cloaked in an even deeper silence.

"Class A's representative——"

If the name that was called out here wasn't Horikita Manabu or one of his classmates…

It would mean that the results of the final special exam had changed the rankings of the classes in the third year.

Many of the remaining students were waiting for this moment, paying close attention to the words of the host.

Because as long as you were enrolled in this school, graduating from Class A was the most important goal there was.

"Horikita Manabu, please come up to the stage."

After that name was called out, Horikita would probably be relieved from the bottom of her heart.

Although I don't know how much pressure Nagumo exerted on him, the elder Horikita still graduated from Class A without a hitch.

Impressively, he stepped up to the stage, casting his eyes on the students and the staff.

"Greetings. On this beautiful, blossoming spring day, I welcome you to this graduation ceremony."

The elder Horikita's speech had started.

He first showed gratitude towards the grand graduation ceremony itself.

Then he talked about what had happened three years ago when he had first entered the school.

"I still clearly remember the first day I set foot into the campus of the Advanced Nurturing High School. I felt that there was a different atmosphere compared to normal schools. As I was shouldering the burden of the future, I vowed to make these three years a meaningful one."

I felt some sort of warmth from the assertive and composed nature of his speech.

The elder Horikita felt like a different person from the one who presented on the same stage as the student council president a year ago.

I felt this change as the speech advanced.

It wasn't just him. The students of this school had also grown significantly over this time.

"Although this was a personal matter, I spoke to the 1st year students last year as the student council representative."

As if he were thinking the same thing as I was, the elder Horikita said this.

"Compared to what you were like last year, I can see how much you've grown with just a glance."

A year ago, the elder Horikita's silence changed the attitude of our fickle first years.

That was something many of the students hadn't experienced before.

And now at this graduation ceremony, not one student was whispering.

The elder Horikita's warm eyes looked upon us, as a student who was going to graduate.

"At the same time, I hope that the students who will soon be the new 3rd years to lead the new 2nd years, and on the basis of complying with school regulations, fully exerting your strength.

After a few minutes, the speech slowly came to a close

"I wanted to assure you that the things I have learnt in this school will not only play a role in my future life but also become my most valuable asset."

Horikita's brother once again stared at the students before him.

"The person who will stand up here and speak to you next year, and the year after that, will be able to understand what I'm feeling.

The person who gave the valedictory.

In other words, the leader of the graduating Class A.

Nagumo, who just read out the farewell address, was the most probable candidate for that.

The students in the first year were still engaged in chaotic warfare. Who would come out on top? Horikita? Ichinose? Ryuuen? Sakayanagi?

Or would it be another person replacing one of the current leaders of the classes?

But then again, the only ⅓ of our time at the school had passed.

The classes would change in the future as more students dropped out.

But even so, only the leader of the class who won the final battle would have the right to stand up on that stage.

The elder Horikita slowly continued. "Thank you, all of you, for the past three years."

Soon, it came to an end.

After the speech to the students, he then turned towards the teachers and addressed them, and then finally to the school itself.

After the grand speech, the graduation ceremony moved onto the next stage.

[Part 1 end]

[Part 2]

After the ceremony, the first years took the lead in leaving the gymnasium.

Then we returned to our classrooms.

Afterwards, there was to be a thank you meeting held by the graduates and all the teachers and their guardians.

It was said that the ceremony held was by the students and their guardians to show appreciation towards the teachers.

The rest of the students were allowed to return to their dorms, but those who were close to the third year due to club activities or some other reason were preparing to see them off after they came out.

Maybe it was to gift them with bouquets, or perhaps a confession.

The students seemed very anxious, and at the same time, quiet from the tension.

"Okay, even though we can mention this tomorrow during the closing ceremony, let's briefly summarise what happened this year. "

Once the students sat in their seats, Chabashira-sensei spoke to us.

"First of all, during the final examination, you achieved commendable results despite having Class A students as opponents. The other teachers are also surprised at your growth."

Although it was a defeat, Chabashira-sensei, who was usually harsh on us, gave us praise.

"My impression of you guys since first entering school has totally changed. It's honestly incredible for you to be able to grow to this point."

"But Sensei, we're going back to becoming Class D again, so doesn't that mean we're still failures?

Ike said, upset.

"At first glance, it does seem like you've gone back to square one, but throughout the year, you've all grown. Don't mind the simple gap in class scores, your strength is actually getting closer to the other classes."

"I'm actually scared that you're praising us like this. Sensei, what's the catch?"

The fact that Sudo was expressing worry towards Chabashira's praise did have some logic behind it.

Considering the suspiciously uncharacteristic tone she used, suddenly talking about a special exam right now wouldn't be that surprising.

"That's what I truly think. This is my 4th year as a teacher. Compared to the previous Class D, you guys really are a step up. But that's true for the other classes as well. Whether you guys can rise to the upper classes depends on how much effort you put in."

Chabashira lightly tapped the blackboard.

"Although the closing ceremony is tomorrow, meaning there won't be any classes, remember that it's still a school day."

Chabashira ended the discussion and dismissed the class.

I didn't know how many students would go see off the 3rd years, but what would the girl at the table next to me do?

She was the sister of the student who had not only served as the student council president but was also the student who had delivered the graduation speech as the leader of the graduating Class A.

Horikita stared motionlessly at the blackboard, thinking about many things.

Even though I felt like if I carelessly poked the snake, it would bite back, I tried to ask anyway.

"Are you going?"

"What are you referring to?"

"That… it should be clear what I mean."

"Are you asking if I was going to see my brother? If that's it, then I have no plans to go."

As Horikita said this, her gaze moved elsewhere.

Not going…huh?

"Have you already gotten the chance to talk with him?"

"…What has this got to do with you? We all have our own problems."

But only you had this problem right now.

"If you miss this opportunity, there might not be another chance."

"That…"

Although their relationship was slowly thawing, the fact that she still showed reluctance towards this important moment was proof of their distorted relationship in recent years.

"I'll go see him."

"Hmm? You're going to see brother off?"

It was because of the fact I didn't get deeply involved with people very much, that Horikita looked so surprised.

"Although I'm not that close with him, this might be the last time I see him."

Well, it wouldn't hurt just to say hello to him.

"Is it…?"

"Do you have any concerns?"

"Nope. You can do whatever you want."

My face clearly revealed my doubts about why she wanted to meet him, but I couldn't say it aloud.

I stood up.

The teachers were required to go to the thank you meet. Even Acting Director Tsukishiro couldn't get away with not participating.

"Where are you going?"

"To kill some time. I have nothing to do until the end of the thank you meet. If you're going to see your brother, can you wait for me?"

"…I'll think about it. How long are you going to take?"

Although she said she hadn't planned to go, it seemed like she changed her mind.

"I don't know. Maybe an hour or two."

The scheduled time for the meeting was 90 minutes, so it was going to be a while until it ended.

In the meantime, I'll do what I have to do.

[Part 2 end]

[Part 3]

Yesterday, the 23rd.

On the night of the conclusion of the event selection exam, I called a certain person.

"Hello, it's Sakayanagi."

It was the voice of a calm adult.

Who I called wasn't the Sakayanagi Arisu in the same year as me. It was her father.

Chairman Sakayanagi, who was confined due to a trap set by Tsukishiro.

He certainly would not recognise this phone number.

"Sorry to bother you this late at night. Long time no see. It's Ayanokouji."

I said that to let him know who I was.

"Hmm? Ayanokouji?… Are you Ayanokouji Kiyotaka?"

Hearing my surname and voice, Chairman Sakayanagi understood and spoke with a surprised tone.

I had to tell him that I wasn't calling just for fun.

"I apologise for calling you so suddenly."

"No, no, I'm just surprised. How did you know my phone number?"

"I asked your daughter which phone number I should dial when I wanted to get into contact with someone at the school."

On my way home from the final exam, I asked Sakayanagi, and she told me without hesitation.

"It turns out that even the Chairman would only tell his daughter his phone number!"

Although he wouldn't go as far as to be preferential and take his daughter's side, was he actually a person who loved his daughter very much?

Well… that's what I thought, but Chairman Sakayanagi's response was unexpected.

"Arisu? No… I didn't tell my daughter my phone number."

Surprisingly, he denied this.

"When and where did she find out?"

Chairman Sakayanagi said with a bitter smile. From the way he said it, it did not sound fake.

"Is the number of the chairman supposed to be a secret?"

"Of course, well, all the teachers know, and there should be records from information sent to relevant people…"

In that case, it wouldn't be very difficult to get a hold of his number. It wouldn't be surprising if Sakayanagi Arisu saw it somewhere, and wrote it down. There was one thing that confused me, though. Chairman Sakayanagi was a man who would enforce fairness even in the face of his cute daughter. I didn't think he's a man who would just help anyone that cried for it.

So why did she deliberately write down his phone number? It probably wasn't for reporting back to him or just making small talk.

I remembered that when I asked Sakayanagi for the chairman's phone number, she obliged happily.

Would it be possible that Sakayanagi had anticipated that I might run into trouble one day and ask her for the chairman's phone number…?

"So… How should I react to your appearance?"

Compared to how Arisu had obtained his phone number, it seemed that my appearance was more important to him.

It seemed seemingly unwelcome for a student to directly call the chairman.

"There are no rules which state that students cannot call the chairman, right?"

That needed to be confirmed first.

If what I said was rejected now, I would not be able to continue talking to him.

"Indeed, there isn't a rule like that, so I won't be hanging up just yet."

If that was the case, we could get on with the topic at hand.

"But… I personally think that the call should end as soon as possible. What business do you have with me?"

Although he sounded a little confused, he didn't seem to blame me for contacting him.

That was because there were no rules which stated that students couldn't call the chairman.

"Chairman Sakayanagi, I heard that you are now under house arrest for suspected wrongdoing. Is this true?"

"That's a very straightforward question coming from a student. It's inappropriate for a student of our school to ask such things from the chairman."

In the end, he politely avoided the question.

But the question was directly related to the topic I wanted to discuss.

Let's be a bit more insistent.

"If possible, can you answer my question?"

"…Ayanokouji-Kun, I don't know what your goal is, but I can't answer your question. I don't need to tell you the reason."

"Because it's not appropriate for a student to know, right?"

"Yes. This matter has nothing to do with you."

Taking into account the current situation and position of Chairman Sakayanagi, as well as the fact that the matter at hand had nothing to do with the students, such a refusal was only the natural response.

REPORT THIS ADPRIVACY SETTINGS

"I know this very well. However, I have my own reasons for asking."

First of all, it was necessary to tell Chairman Sakayanagi my situation.

"Although I don't know your reasons, you're still a student at this school. No matter if you're an Ayanokouji or a Sakayanagi, your position is still the same. Have you forgotten this concept?"

He explained this seriously.

You could see that he was an accomplished man just from our short exchange.

"Of course, the relationship between Chairman Sakayanagi and I is nothing more than one between a student and someone related to the school. There are no other points of contact beyond that. No, I don't think there can be."

Because this was something put into a special framework, more than anyone, I didn't want that sort of thing happening.

"If that's the case, then this call is over. I will forget whatever happened here today——"

"No, if you do that, then we'll never be able to eliminate the foreign existence at the school."

I'll use that sentence to send a signal to Chairman Sakayanagi, allowing him to understand the situation.

"You're saying that there is a foreign existence at our school?"

"Yes. The existence I'm referring to is Acting Director Tsukishiro."

I got straight to the point, as there's no point in drawing it out.

"….What's wrong with Tsukishiro?"

The tone of the other party changed, even for just a moment.

Because of what he associated with him, the connection of "Tsukishiro = foreign existence" immediately came to mind.

"During an important examination between the strength of the students, Acting Director Tsukishiro acted on his own to obstruct the course of the competition. Do you not know about this?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Tsukishiro intervened in an exam? What the hell is going on…"

In any case, Chairman Sakayanagi put on a facade of being ignorant of the situation on the surface.

Because he didn't know my true intentions, this was a logical response.

"You were suspected of wrongdoing, and that was from the actions of Acting Director Tsukishiro. Maybe it's because you valued fairness too much, and as a result, you were too obstructive for what he really wanted."

On the other side of the phone, Chairman Sakayanagi seemed to be thinking about something.

Although we shared somewhat of a connection with each other through the white room, I was still just an ordinary student.

The affairs of adults weren't something that should be discussed with me.

However, if all this was related to me, then it was a different story.

But Chairman Sakayanagi should have been aware of this from the very start.

But as long as there was no visible damage, then the senior management of the school couldn't take action.

"Why would Tsukishiro do such a thing? He's already a powerful man. He has no reason to target someone like me on purpose. Coming to the school to obstruct an exam? I don't see any need for that."

This was the final confirmation that I needed.

The confirmation of whether he was willing to share information with me as equals.

"Tsukishiro's objective is to get me expelled from this school. That's the only reason he came here."

Here, I spoke of what I regarded as an established fact about him.

"If this has no basis, then I can't help but doubt it."

"I know that, but I have no time to leisurely negotiate with you. That man is determined to accomplish his objective, by fair means or foul."

This depended on how much the chairman understood my father.

If it's only a tenuous relationship, then he wouldn't be able to figure out what I meant.

But based on our previous conversation, I could roughly guess what I could expect from him.

Chairman Sakayangi understood my father's affairs and thoughts very well.

"You're saying that sensei…your father's going to these lengths to try to retrieve you?"

The sentence that was just spoken could be used as confirmation that he was feigning ignorance.

I haven't said anything about Tsukishiro being controlled by my father.

Without confirming this point, he connected this situation with my father. This was proof.

"You said that there was external obstruction at the end of year special exam, but was there any actual damage done?"

Of course, Chairman Sakayanagi had no way of knowing the circumstances behind the special exam.

If he knew, then he could have figured out a solution.

"I will explain in detail."

At the end of the year special exam, Tsukishiro seized control of the system and tampered with my answers.

To remove my protection point, he needed to snatch away 1 win from me.

Although it was only one win, it was still an action that affected the entire year.

If we had that one victory, then our class would've been thrust into the running of the upper classes.

As I explained things, his responses faded.

In order to expel a single student, Tsukishiro was willing to do whatever it takes. That was a definite fact.

But it didn't end there.

This wouldn't stop, as long as the student named Ayanokouji Kiyotaka was still at the school. This was just the beginning.

"That's the situation. Will you believe it?"

In any normal situation, there was no helping it if what I said was dismissed as a prank.

But Chairman Sakayanagi knew my father, and he knew my past.

Naturally, he reached a conclusion. The conclusion of whether this had actually happened or not.

"If that's the case, I can only believe what you said, that he came to this school with the sole objective of getting you expelled. I heard that they were implementing a new system, so is this why…."

Although nominally, the new system was for the students and the school, in reality, this was only another way to get me expelled from the school.

"You're saying that in order to get you expelled, he's willing to disregard everything else? Now I understand why you've contacted me. To a student, this is a situation with no way out."

Since Chairman Sakayanagi said that, he probably understood the extent of the situation.

"For you to come to me, is it because you want my help?"

"More or less."

I admitted this.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Problems within the school can only be dealt with by people within the school.

Also, the person should be someone who normally had access to the Acting Director.

"But before that, I would like to ask…. No, I would like to confirm something."

"What is it?"

Regardless if I could answer the question or not, I was prepared to give an answer that would satisfy him.

"Facing off against Tsukishiro, who can even intervene with special exam results, this would be an extremely difficult battle for you. Since you resorted to asking for help from me, there is no doubt that this has reached the level of a crisis. Yet, you are still extraordinarily calm."

He then continued.

"If you misunderstand, then I'll correct it for you. I don't have the confidence nor position to make sure your expectations are met."

I know what he was trying to say.

Chairman Sakayanagi's word couldn't overrule Tsukishiro's

If I was calling him with such expectations, he was saying that I had taken the wrong path.

"I'm in confinement for suspected wrongdoing, and I don't even have a way to get out of this situation. If your expectations for me in this situation are too high, it will only cause complications for me."

I clearly emphasised the next part, so he didn't feel the slightest anxiety.

"Indeed, if this was just a mere call for help, that would be the case."

"What?"

"So far, my belief is that I've been living in this school as unobtrusively as possible. Because I entered this school with the belief that I would live as an ordinary student for 3 years."

That was the reason I came to this school. My desire, my original intention.

"It's also the first time in my life that I've set my own goals, and sought about accomplishing them."

"…Well, I know that much, that's why I accepted you."

Although I don't know how it happened, in the end, I was still grateful for that act of kindness.

"However, if I let the acting director intervene this way, then there'll be no guarantee of me staying in this school as a normal student. This time, I was saved by the protection points, but if the same thing happens next time, I'll be expelled."

Tsukishiro would abuse his position to use methods that I hadn't even considered before.

Sloppy countermeasures couldn't counter the unethical practices by the school.

In other words, the position I'm in right now wouldn't do.

"So that's why you came for me for help?"

"The purpose of the call wasn't for asking you to stop Tsukishiro. If the opposing party makes use of rule-breaking strategies, then I will take corresponding actions. As a result, the school might be caught in the disturbance."

"So it's like that. In other words, you called me because…"

"Well, in the event of an accident, the existence of a supporter is indispensable."

It's not that I wanted him to get rid of Tsukishiro for me, but instead, I wanted him to prevent the consequences that might befall me when I get rid of Tsukishiro myself.

It's like if I use a knife to fight against an attacker, there still needs to be a witness to verify that it was self-defence.

The school's help would be necessary at that time.

Moreover, at that time, Chairman Sayakanagi would be my biggest trump card.

As long as Tsukishiro was removed and cleared of doubts, it was only a matter of time until his position as chairman will be restored.

For Chairman Sakayanagi to smoothly remove these doubts, the fact that it was me in this situation would be beneficial, as I did not like to resort to violence.

He should be a little hesitant to put hope on a child, and so I needed to eliminate this hesitation.

"But can you really stop Tsukishiro? Although it's hard to say, for a student, this is…"

"It's true that Tsukishiro, who has the authority of the chairman, will be troublesome to deal with. He can't be removed by failing an exam, which, in comparison to a student, is much different."

Added to the fact that he didn't show himself often, there weren't a lot of chances to launch an attack.

Only when he acts will we be able to deal with his fraudulent existence.

"Since I can't make the first move, I'll keep track of Tsukishiro's actions."

"But can you withstand his attacks while doing this?"

"There are several things that must be done now. First of all, it is necessary to lay out the groundwork of our defence network."

If it were under the instructions of that man, Tsukishiro would not take long to execute his plan.

If he finally kicked me out of school after 1 or 2 long years, it would be meaningless. If he wanted to decisively win, the main battle would occur after the spring break, in April. If we win against him then, we won't even need to do anything else to force him into a tight spot. But after being forced into desperate straits, he'll respond with even tougher measures.

"Time constraints are that guy's one and biggest weakness."

But by the time that happens, I'll have already made preparations, ready to take him on.

"I don't think this is something a student should say about a staff member of the school. If an ordinary person heard that, an angry response would not be surprising… But since I know you're sensei's son, I'm able to accept that."

"Towards people who deserve respect, I will adopt an appropriate attitude. But I do not intend to forgive someone who had forcefully intervened with our competition."

Chairman Sakayanagi didn't answer and accepted this ordinarily.

"Although you say this is unforgivable, how do you plan to stop Tsukishiro's interference?"

He wanted to know how we should expand our defensive network. I had already decided what needed to be done.

To prevent Tsukishiro's wrongdoing, we'll have to use the staff of the school.

"The first thing I need is a staff member who can actively fight against Tsukishiro. If we can closely monitor him, we can hinder his freedom, which will keep him from acting as freely as he did last time."

We couldn't let our opponents do whatever they wanted. This was an action that must be taken no matter who we were up against, a strategy that couldn't be ignored.

We didn't necessarily need someone in power, just someone who was brave enough to face him.

"Yeah, without them, I don't think your plan could even exist."

Chairman Sakayanagi also seemed to figure out what I was looking for.

I didn't know the school administration. Who to trust, and who not to.

Whether there was someone who was willing to implement justice in the face of Tsukishiro in this school was unknown.

There was also a possibility that there were some teachers who've turned to Tsukishiro's side. Those people shouldn't be involved.

On the other side of the phone, Chairman Sakayanagi seemed to contemplate his thoughts.

The choice of our personnel determined what our fate would be, and no one knew that better than Chairman Sakayanagi.

"Do you know Chabishira-sensei's situation? I asked her to take care of you."

"Yes, she seemed to understand my situation."

"Mhm, she still has a certain understanding of your unrealistic situation."

Of course, whether she could be of use was another matter.

"I don't think we can ignore someone who understands the situation. Starting with her, we can bring the trusted teachers onto our side. That's the best way."

My father tried to force me out of school by forcing Chairman Sakayanagi to step down, and then also secretly fabricating the results of the school exams. Trying to explain that to just anyone would be hard to do, but if Chabishira can confirm and elaborate on what happened, then the situation would be different.

"If that's the case——"

After a little thinking, Chairman Sakayanagi gave his answer.

"Sure enough, Class 1-A's homeroom teacher Mashima-sensei should be the most suitable. He's the one in charge of the 1st year's examinations, and he's an excellent teacher who puts his students before anything else.

"Can this unrealistic story really be accepted by him?"

"It's hard to say… he won't believe it immediately. But once he understands that this is the truth, he will definitely stand by the students. I can attest to that. He won't yield to power and will act according to his beliefs."

If there was no other person more suitable than he was, I wouldn't be dissatisfied.

Knowing that there's a teacher like that close to me… It's definitely not a bad return.

"I have high expectations for both him and Chabishira-sensei, who graduated in the same year. It should not be difficult to talk to them."

"I see. It's Mashima-sensei, right? I'll first talk to Chabashira-sensei, and then I'll do what I can to make sure the conversation goes smoothly."

"This is not going to be easy. People are everywhere, and there are surveillance cameras throughout the school. You'll have to consider the time and place of the meeting very carefully."

Tsukishiro didn't watch me 24/7, but even so, it wouldn't be surprising if he had some sort of warning system. If he found out that I was meeting Mashima secretly, it would be extremely suspicious.

I didn't know where Tsukishiro usually was, but he could freely move around the school to an extent. If I were to run into him into the corner now, it wouldn't be surprising at all.

"It would be easier for me to act if you gave me some suggestions."

I sought advice from Chairman Sakayanagi, who knew the staff at the Advanced Nurturing High School more than anyone else.

I sought advice from Chairman Sakayangi, who understood Advanced Nurturing High School more than anyone else and understood the duties of a director.

"If you are to act as soon as possible… then you should do this. After the graduation ceremony, the third-year students and the teachers all have to attend the closing ceremony afterwards. According to tradition, the director has to attend every year as well. In other words, Tsukishiro will definitely go and participate. No matter if he's interested in it or not, he still has to perform his duties."

"So, if he neglects his role as the chairman, he'll get in trouble with the school?"

"Mhm. That's the case here."

To gain the freedom to do whatever he wants, Tsukishiro will need to prove that he's a superior director compared to Sakayanagi.

In other words, his surveillance of me during this period will inevitably weaken.

"Will the first year homeroom teachers participate too?"

"The closing ceremony lasts for around an hour, but every year it's extended up to 90 minutes. There shouldn't be a problem if two teachers disappeared for about 20 or 30 minutes. It's normal for someone to leave, and the only teachers who have to be present are the third-year homeroom teachers."

In other words, the best time to hold the secret meeting would be after the graduation ceremony, during the thank you meet.

"For the location—the reception room should be fine. Because there are no cameras, it should be the most suitable."

This way, there will be no evidence of our meeting.

Besides, it wouldn't be appropriate for teachers to come to the student dormitory.

"I have no objection to this proposal."

I agreed with the approach taken in preparation for the meeting venue.

"The first step is for me to explain the plan briefly to Chibashira-sensei. But what you talk about in the meeting is up to you to decide. If you can't convince them, I think it would be best to give up."

"This is quite enough."

With Chairman Sakayanagi contacting them, Chibashira-sensei and Mashima-sensei will not be able to ignore this.

It's safe to say that through this call, I got the most amount of help I could have possibly gotten.

"Sorry for suddenly calling you at this hour."

"No worries. —ah, lastly, can I ask you something completely unrelated to this topic?"

"An unrelated matter?"

"I'm glad you came to this school because you dreamed of living a normal life. But, have you considered what you will do after graduation? Like, what job you want to do, where you want to go…something along those lines?"

Chairman Sakayanagi asked me this.

"Although I don't know how much you know, my fate is already decided."

"That means…"

This reaction was enough.

"After graduating, I will return to the white room and take up the role of the leader. That man has trained me for all these years up to now for this."

The moment I step out of this school, the walls protecting me will disappear. If I lived in a cheap apartment, he would attack me at night or use some other method to take me back to the white room.

"So you've accepted your fate…And on that basis, you came here."

"That's the reason why I want to protect these three years to the end."

In simple terms, it is like being in a rebellious phase.

To reject my father's orders and do what I wanted.

"I hope this school will be a memorable part of your life that you'll never forget."

"Thank you. I hope so too."

After the call with Chairman Sakayanagi, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Although I wasn't sure to what extent he could be trusted, at least I was able to certify the fact that he wasn't on Tsukishiro's side.

Furthermore, his daughter was in the same year group as me. That was one of my advantages.

[Part 3 end]

[Part 4]

That was the conclusion of my little talk with Chairman Sakayanagi yesterday.

And now, I'm headed towards the arranged reception room.

I had no intention to rendezvous with anyone else before coming here.

I reached the door of the reception room. Has anyone arrived before me? Or was I the first?

"Excuse me."

After knocking, I entered the room and was greeted by Chabashira-sensei.

She stood by the window and looked at me.

"You're early, Ayanokouji. There's still 10 minutes before the designated time."

"It doesn't make a difference. You're early as well."

Chabashira looked at me pryingly, contemplating how she should reply.

I could more or less guess what was going on in her mind when Chairman Sakayanagi told her about the situation.

Incredibly, the sofa was unoccupied, but neither of us sat down.

"Where's Mashima-sensei?"

"I've already greeted him, but it wasn't suitable for him to come with me. This is a bold move, Ayanokouji. Didn't you want to live a peaceful school life?"

Before Mashima-sensei arrives, I'll play a game of words with Chabashira-sensei.

"You say that, but you were the one that initially disrupted that peaceful school life."

"No matter what, that isn't how you should speak to a teacher. You might want to correct your attitude."

"I'd say my attitude is appropriate considering that what you've done back then wasn't something a teacher should have done."

Chabashira-sensei, who wanted Class D to rise to Class A, even resorted to threatening me, a student, to accomplish what she wanted. Ever since I've always had a sense of distrust…No, disgust, for her.

Chabashira-sensei looked away, ashamed.

"Indeed, I can't deny that."

Her desire for reaching Class A was too strong.

Because Chairman Sakayanagi trusted her, she couldn't blatantly use me, but she could have handled it more smoothly.

No. No matter what she did, the result would've been the same.

Even if Chabashira tried to talk me over, my stance wouldn't have changed.

But then again, my situation had changed a lot since the beginning.

"Since you hate me, why call me here, Ayanokouji?"

It seemed that she was surprised that I called her over in this situation.

Although she was just a pawn to get Mashima-sensei involved, I still could have chosen to exclude her.

It wasn't hard to figure out why I didn't do that.

"At the very least, it's true that I don't like you."

"It seems so."

No matter what my feelings were, I had to use whatever I could.

Like and dislike was a separate matter from loss and gain.

That's because I judged that the presence of Chabashira would increase the chance of bringing Mashima-sensei to our side, even by a millimetre.

"How much did he tell you?"

"He asked me to prepare the meeting by contacting Mashima-sensei. He also said you had something important to talk about, and asked me to help you, but…"

Did she know anything about the situation with Tsukishiro?"

It seems like the Chairman intended for me to have all the power in this situation.

"What's the reason you wanted to talk to us then?"

"I'll say it once Mashima-sensei comes. I don't want to say it twice."

"Although I don't know what you got yourself into, if you want my help, shouldn't you use a more suitable tone?"

She was defiant, and that was perhaps because she was on the defensive in this situation.

"As a teacher, I will obey the instructions of Chairman Sakayanagi, but his word isn't absolute. Do you know what I mean by that?"

"Do you dislike my attitude that much?"

"Heh, I hate it. Although you are an excellent student to an extent, You're still only a 1st-year high school student, aren't you? And although it was a confrontation between classes, you were defeated by Sakayanagi at the end of year exam. Looks like you don't actually have the extraordinary strength I expected of you."

So was she disappointed that I didn't have the power she thought I had?

"If you have the necessary ability, I will tolerate what you say and what you do. However, if what you've displayed up to now is the extent of your power, it's a different story."

If I couldn't defeat Sakayanagi of Class A, then what Chabashira wanted couldn't be achieved.

It seemed like she could keep silent to me as I dominated her all this time.

Although Chabashira was a teacher, what she was doing right now was already beyond the scope of a teacher's duties.

Depending on the content of the conversation, she could, of course, refuse to help.

Depending on the situation, she might even choose to go over to Tsukishiro's side.

If I kept mentioning the fact that I wasn't in her control any longer, it would only be counterproductive.

I breathed out a sigh of relief, seeing that she possessed some degree of intelligence.

"I understand. I will change my attitude, Chabashira-sensei."

"What?"

Chabashira was surprised by my outspoken agreement.

I guess she didn't expect that her defiance on that level would make me yield to her.

Although it seemed like the reason was that I wanted to be able to continue with the conversation, it was mainly because I wanted to leave her with the possibility that I could be tamed.

However, despite this possibility, Chabashira still couldn't trust me entirely.

She could also think that I was laughing at her behind her back as I said that.

I intended to express the fact that I was a "positive presence" for the whole of Class D.

"My way of thinking has changed. After April, I plan to seriously target Class A."

"What's the joke here? Preparing this meeting as well, what are you thinking?"

"I'm completely serious. I plan to break away from Class D or Class C. However, because of the differences in Class Points, there's no guarantee that I'll be able to rise to Class A at the end of the next year. But I'm confident that we'll be able to rise to Class B."

For Chabashira, this was the thing she desired the most.

Rising from Class D to Class A.

That was something that had never happened in this school before.

"It seems like you've finally come to realise…but anything coming out of your mouth would mean nothing if you don't actually intend to do anything."

"That's true. But don't you want to keep your ticket to Class A?"

It didn't matter if this ticket was real or fake, as it was better than having nothing.

"I've already said this, but you lost against Class A at the end of year exam. Although you had an admirable ratio of 3 wins to 4 losses, a loss is still a loss. Although the exam required a certain amount of luck, I can't let you use that as an excuse."

She re-emphasized what was said before.

"No matter who the opponent is, and no matter what the exam is, you can win. It seems like I had been expecting a little too much out of you."

It seems like she had some sort of fantasy about me.

"You'll learn the truth later in the meeting."

"Learn the truth…..?

"Listen to me until the end, and if you still can't trust my strength, you can do whatever you want."

"What is this-"

Although Chabashira wanted an answer, a loud knocking sound blocked out her voice.

"…Please come in."

As soon as Chabashira replied, Mashima-sensei entered the reception room.

"It seems like you're all here."

And immediately after-

"Hello."

A student of Class A, Sakayanagi Arisu.

She came in with Mashima-sensei. An unexpected guest.

I didn't remember calling her, and I didn't think Mashima-sensei would bring her here himself.

"I'm a student of Class A, so even if others see me walking with Mashima-sensei, there's isn't a problem."

Needless to say, Sakayanagi must have followed Mashima-sensei here.

"I received a notification from Chabashira-sensei. But she said she was related to this incident, so I brought her…"

Chairman Sakayanagi probably told his daughter about the call I gave him.

To be sure that I did indeed actually got his number from her.

But was that really related to why Sakayanagi was here?

Was she following orders, or was this just out of curiosity?

9 times out of 10, it's the latter.

"No problem, it's within the realms of my expectations."

I accepted this visitor as someone I should welcome and respond accordingly.

Sakayanagi nodded slightly with a smile.

Then, without even looking in Chabashira's direction, she closed the door to the reception room.

It seems like Chabashira couldn't keep up with why Sakayanagi was here.

Mashima-sensei was the same.

Regardless of that, all the necessary people were in place.

This limited amount of time had to be used meaningfully.

"You seem to have something to say to us, Ayanokouji. Making a special announcement through Chairman Sakayanagi, allowing us to skip the closing ceremony to have a secret meeting… What's the big deal? What's going on?"

"I will explain that now."

I first urged the two teachers to sit down.

But Mashima-sensei told Sakayanagi to sit down first.

"Then, I will respectfully do so."

Mashima-sensei stood, letting the crippled Sakayanagi sit, crossing his arms.

It seemed that whether he would sit depended on the contents of the conversation. Chabashira seemed to be the same.

The three other people in the room all looked towards me.

20-30 minutes was the maximum amount of time they could slip out of the closing ceremony, so time was minimal.

Although I wanted to get straight to the point, I didn't know how long it would take for them to understand. The current situation wasn't something that could be easily understood with just one explanation.

Time was precious, so I started with the matter of Acting Director Tsukishiro.

"You might be wondering why we're meeting at such a busy time, and that's because of important matters relating to Acting Director Tsukishiro."

"Important matters relating to Acting Director Tsukishiro? What are you talking about?"

Mashima-sensei's face had a perplexed expression, due to my unexpected statement right from the start.

Hearing a student saying such a thing, the expression that he had was understandable.

Chabashira also seemed unable to keep up with this, and instead turned her attention to the unexpected turn-up. Sakayanagi, who confronted the attention head first, flashed a fearless smile.

An expression that seemed to express her superior knowledge of the situation.

That cheerful expression was on her face. Classic Sakayanagi.

"The current events are affecting the school's operations and management, and it has reached the point in which we can't ignore it. To smoothly settle this situation, I hope that you two teachers can help me while keeping this case confidential."

"I heard that there was something important to tell me… Is this a joke? Chabashira-sensei."

Finding it very difficult to believe, Mashima-sensei asked Chabashira sensei for an explanation.

"I'm not trying to play games with you. Did you think I'm someone who does meaningless things like Hoshinomiya-sensei?"

"That's what you say, but I don't understand the situation at all. Right now, there's a thank you meeting which I should be at."

This was originally supposed to be a valuable time to interact with the graduates.

He showed no interest in listening to a child's imagination run wild.

"What are you trying to do, Ayanokouji?"

"I don't know, even if I want to explain, I can't. Like I said yesterday, I just prepared this location under Chairman Sakayangi's orders. I also need an explanation for me to understand what's going on."

Both teachers cast a doubtful gaze at me, but I continued to explain.

"If I said that I'm the reason why Tsukishiro replaced Chairman Sakayanagi after being confined for suspected wrongdoing, what would you say, Mashima-sensei?"

"What?"

Even if we get straight into the topic, it wouldn't be easy to progress in this situation.

Not only that, but Mashima-sensei's doubts were growing deeper.

"This makes no sense. Why is it because of you?"

Of course, this would be the natural reaction.

He would never have thought that a student would shape the very structure of the school itself.

Sure enough, we should start with the end of year exam.

"Let me explain what happened—"

When I wanted to bring up the end of year exam, Sakayanagi raised her hand.

"Sorry, but is it alright for me to explain?".

Sakayanagi seemed to have anticipated this would happen and suggested explaining it herself.

"Sakayanagi, you said you knew about the situation, right? "

"Well, if you may excuse my rudeness, I think I understand the situation a lot better than you teachers."

Sakayanagi acted immediately. Maybe she thought that it would be faster for someone who understood the situation to explain, instead of the person in question explaining. I nodded slightly, so she turned her attention to Mashima-sensei.

"Are you saying that you've already heard about this from the Chairman?"

"No, it's just from what I've gathered. Ayanokouji-Kun and I- How should I say this… Simply put, we're like childhood friends."

Sakayangi said this happily. Although I wasn't sure how the others would react to this, the teachers seemed surprised, at the very least.

"I never expected you two to be… childhood friends…"

Sakayangi explained to Chabashira what she meant.

"It's just something similar to that. Anyways, I'll explain the situation to you."

The matter of childhood friends was glossed over by Sakayanagi, and she began explaining the situation.

"I'm sure the confrontation between Ayanokouji-Kun and me as the two commander towers at the end of year exam held a few days ago is still fresh in everyone's minds. Back then, my victory during the final chess event determined the outcome of the exam."

This was the result, which was a fact, at least as far as the school knew.

"What happened then?"

Of course, Mashima-sensei and Chabashira wouldn't have any doubts about what happened.

"What if I said during then, someone stepped in to interfere with the match, which changed the outcome, and therefore had a great impact on the test results? Wouldn't that be a serious issue?"

"Exams are carried out very strictly, and there are no problems with how they're conducted."

"Let me ask, on what basis are you to say that the exam was strictly run? Neither of you was present during the exam, right?"

Because they couldn't serve as an invigilator for their own class, Chabashira and Mashima-sensei were in charge of Ichinose's and Ryuuen's classes. In other words, they did not see our exam take place in person.

"I was originally the loser of that chess game, Ayanokouji-Kun came out victorious."

"Ayanokouji won that match? But I saw the results of the match, and I've also seen what happened during the match."

The first person to say something about this was not Mashima-sensei, but Chabashira.

It was Class C's defeat in chess that led to her class falling back to Class D, which was why she cared so much about this issue.

"You still don't get it?"

Sakayanagi used that question to sound out Mashima-sensei and Chabashira.

"What are you trying to say? Could it be that acting director Tsukishiro changed the results of the chess game? Sakagami-sensei and Hoshinomiya-sensei met up after the exam, and they didn't find anything irregular had happened."

"The thing that has changed wasn't the result, but the process. It's impossible to see the truth if one is bound by common sense. The orders that the commanding tower sends out weren't directly sent to the students. Instead, it was passed onto the school to review, and then after that, finally sent through the headphones. It is a reasonable system on the basis of preventing misconduct. Still, on the other hand, the school is free to change its purpose."

Did they understand now? Just like that, Sakayanagi made them slowly come to an understanding.

For the first time, doubts about Acting Director Tsukishiro and the exam flashed through Mashima-sensei's mind.

"It was rare to have an exam that made use of such large scale equipment even for the teachers, but the fact of the matter is that Acting Director Tsukishiro urgently prepared that to illegally intervene with the exam."

Sakayagani cleverly intertwined lies, mysteries, as well as truths together.

Because exactly how much Tsukishiro had planned out, only Tsukishiro would know.

Instead of confirming the facts, it was an appropriate explanation based on her conjectures, and she acted as if it were the truth.

Such well organized words would be accepted by the teachers.

Mashima-sensei and Chabashira wouldn't be able to understand it entirely due to the sheer volume of information just revealed to them. As Sakayagani was still explaining the topic, in order to keep up with her, their minds would have to treat what she said as a fact.

"Basically, the information Ayanokouji-kun inputted and the information Horikita-san heard- that is, the content read by the machine, was different. If she had followed Ayanokouji-kun's real instructions, I would've lost instead. Do you understand what that means?"

Sakayagani smiled, testing their ability to understand.

Could they understand with just that? This restricted the answer of the other party to only one possibility.

"You mean that Acting Director Tsukishiro-is behind this?"

"Because for him, the protection points Ayanokouji-kun held was in the way of his true objective, which is for Ayanokouji-kun to be expelled."

The two teachers did not speak.

But before long, Mashima-sensei asked something.

"Was what Sakayagani said true, Ayanokouji?"

"Yes, it's as she said."

"I'll admit that what you both said made some sense. As I've been Sakayanagi's teacher for a year, I have a certain understanding of her personality and how she thinks. If she really wanted to lose against Ayanokouji deliberately, she just needed to choose different examination events carefully to manipulate the results to what she wanted, including the chess event. She wouldn't have gained anything by lowering herself in order to elevate Ayanokouji."

As the leader of Class A, even if Sakayagani was lying, admitting defeat would have no benefits.

It's as Mashima-sensei said. If she wanted me to win due to personal reasons, there were many ways to concede victory, either by exceeding the time limit or some other method.

There was no need to deliberately set up something while also saying something of doubtful reliability.

"But even if we do know the whole sequence of events, there isn't a way for a third party to confirm its authenticity, right?"

Chabashira replied to Sakayagani in response to those unfounded statements.

"This was unbelievable for a moment….what do you think?"

Chabashira asked for the opinion of Mashima-sensei, who was seriously listening to what was being said.

"Never mind what I think, the current data is hard for anyone to accept."

Just when Mashima-sensei wanted to step back for a bit, Chabashira stopped him.

"My personal opinion is that what these two said has a semblance of truth in it. Ever since Acting Director Tsukishiro arrived, the whole school feels a bit abnormal."

"If you believe that only because you don't like Tsukihiro, then there's no need to even think about it. It's the same as blindly believing your class can actually win."

Mashima-sensei spoke sternly towards Chabashira next to us.

And then immediately turned to us, students.

"Do you two have any evidence?"

"If we said we heard about the improper behaviour directly from Tsukishiro himself, would you not believe us?"

"…Of course."

A person who engaged in illegal behaviour behind the scenes would not reveal themselves.

Even if the matter came up, the person wouldn't respond to anything. That was something that everyone understood.

"It's hard to believe that there is a child similar to Acting Director Tsukishiro who stepped up, wanting him to leave. That's what I really think."

"It's the truth."

"I don't want to doubt what you students say. I also don't think that you're stupid enough to not realize that lying right now won't do you any good. But this lacks any basis, as well as evidence."

Even though he really wanted to believe it, since there was no reliable evidence, Mashima-sensei would not accept it.

"What kind of person are you, Ayanokouji? Please tell me."

It had been only a matter of time before Mashima-sensei asked that question.

Chairman Sakayanagi was confined for suspected wrongdoing, so a man named Tsukishiro was sent to this school.

Tsukishiro started acting to make me drop out of school. Even if it meant interfering with a special exam, he had to carry out his orders. So it was inevitable that questions would arise about myself.

Should I explain it myself, or leave it to someone else?

Seeing that there was no response from me, Mashima-sensei turned to Chabashira.

"Do you know about Ayanokouji?"

Mashima-sensei asked Chabashira, who had just said that what we said had a certain amount of truth.

"Honestly… From my past experiences, I only know a little."

She glanced at me pryingly. I coldly ignored her.

There was no harm in Chabashira exposing some superficial information about me here.

"I looked at Ayanokouji's entrance exam results, and he scored 50 on all subjects, which I thought was extremely peculiar."

"50 points for each subject… does that mean he deliberately tried to score half marks for every subject?"

"If you investigate deeper yourself, you should see that it's true."

"Hou? How intriguing."

"But this doesn't prove anything. In general, students won't hold back their abilities during the entrance exam, but if you have high academic ability, it is not difficult to attain scores like that. In fact, the method the school uses to calculate the scores of the entrance exam is actually very simple."

"Also, when Ayanokouji enrolled in this school, Chairman Sakayanagi told me that he was a special student."

"Chairman Sakayanagi said that? Is that why you are here? Chabashira-sensei?"

Chabashira-sensei nodded and began talking about what happened at that time.

"He entrusted me, as his class teacher, with the duty of reporting back to him any inconveniences relating to Ayanokouji. As far as I know, Ayanokouji's father is very authoritarian, and he didn't want him to enter this school in the first place. Chairman Sakayagani had to use various methods to semi forcefully permit him to enter the school."

"So he enrolled him into this school without his guardian's permission? Looks like the Chairman is also someone willing to use such forceful means to get what he wants."

If we ignored compulsory education, every ordinary child needed their parent's permission to enter high school. The world wasn't so naive to let children do as they wish.

"Because of the fact my father and Ayanokouji-kun had some sort of relationship, I sympathised with his unfortunate situation and acted because of it. But now, various problems have arisen because of this incident. The Acting Director, Tsukishiro, attempted to get closer to him by fabricating evidence to restrain my father based on dishonest behaviour, and then tried to get Ayanokouji expelled."

That was the most important part for Mashima-sensei.

"The father was against his child entering this school, so he sent Acting Director Tsukishiro here…"

This wasn't something that an ordinary person's authority could achieve.

"He didn't need to do all this, he just had to complain to the school itself."

"His father had already been in contact with the chairman, and Ayanokouji himself after he enrolled."

"So you're saying that his guardian had already expressed to the school with the wish that he wanted Ayanokouji to withdraw?"

"Yes. It's as Chabashira-sensei says. I talked with Chairman Sakayanagi and my father in this very room. You can check the surveillance cameras out in the corridor to confirm if that's the truth."

"And after that, since you're still at the school, does that mean that they rejected the withdrawal application, including the chairman?"

"Yes."

Mashima-sensei wanted to confirm it, so Chabashira nodded her head.

"Chairman Sakayanagi respected the will of the students. Although this was just a temporary replacement…I didn't expect Acting Director Tsukishiro to be sent to the school just to get Ayanokouji expelled."

Sakayanagi replied to Chabashira's review of the situation.

"That isn't a surprise, it seems like Chabashira-sensei doesn't actually know anything about the situation."

"You seem to know that very well."

"Yes. I understand Ayanokouji-kun more than you do, Chabashira-sensei."

Sakayagani always had this unnecessary aura of superiority around her.

"Seeing me come here without an invitation without even objecting to my presence, isn't it obvious?"

Presenting indisputable facts, Sakayanagi smiled haughtily.

"Finally, I get to understand the big picture. At least the part about the father that wanted his child back is true."

Mashima-sensei had figured out what was happening in the current situation but still couldn't accept it.

"But…although I don't know the extent of Ayanokoji's father's authority, why did he have to try to get Ayanokouji expelled in this way? This doesn't seem realistic."

"Because Ayanokouji-kun possesses skill that other ordinary people do not."

"I've taken a look at Ayanokouji's results for the event selection exam from the past few days. In terms of flash mental math as well as chess skills, he's definitely top tier. But there are other similarly outstanding students, and it shouldn't be enough to label him as an extraordinary specimen."

"Mashima-sensei. I won't try to reject the method in how you've attempted to accept this situation. But have you actually thought about what's going on? From the start of school, my father had been paying attention to him. Then Acting Director Tsukishiro tried to use dishonest means to expel him from school. This is a fact, and the only truth."

Mashima folded his arms and closed his eyes.

"Mashima-sensei presumably has reached his verdict. It's just a matter of finding evidence later."

After staying silent for a bit, he opened his eyes and looked at me, Sakayagani, and finally, Chabashira.

"Yeah…The part about how the father was dissatisfied with his child's decision to enrol into the school and tried to get him expelled, I believe. And I don't want to help him with that. I'm sure you're clear with why."

Mashima-sensei was well aware that this was just the surface of the situation.

"Aren't you going to tell me everything?"

It seems that Mashima-sensei had figured out that there was something that was kept secret during the conversation by organising the contents of the discussion in his head.

But if he couldn't even decipher something on that level, then I'd be troubled.

"Yeah. Even if I told you, it wouldn't be of any help… no, it would be meaningless."

Even if I talked about the white room from the very start, I'm afraid the adults wouldn't be able to understand it.

Even if you relied on only common sense, it was obvious that that man was doing something strange.

And, even if I talked about the White Room here, it was still difficult to reach the truth.

Because that matter would've been completely covered up by now.

That being the case, there wasn't any point in doing such meaningless things.

"What if I refuse to assist you?"

"Although I don't intend to give up, if you refuse, it'll be a headache when dealing with Acting Director Tsukisiro. The school's events, whether it's a special exam or something else, would be a lot easier for him to intervene illegally. In fact, during the exam selection exam, it already happened."

Students alone couldn't prevent that from happening.

If we could convey that fact to Mashima-sensei, we could determine if he was a person who would turn a blind eye to that sort of thing.

"Are you trying to test me, Ayanokouji? …Fine. In future special examinations and tests, I will properly handle them. I will not allow Acting Director Tsukishiro to engage in illegal participation again."

Finally, Mashima-sensei had said that he stood on our side.

"Mashima-sensei, you do realise that this isn't so simple, right?"

Chabashira warned Mashima-sensei, who had accepted all of this.

"Even if it's true that he did something against the rules, if we aren't careful, we could get fired."

I could understand why Chabashira said that.

Resisting against Tsukishiro would undoubtedly threaten their teaching careers.

The opponent this time wasn't someone you could fight against with just a half-assed sense of justice.

"Although I don't fully believe this, if what they said was true, then it'd be a grave matter. The school should never manipulate the course of the exam and change the results at will. If we're going to do this, you'll have to do this thoroughly and carefully."

"But, wouldn't it be better if you just ignored these troublesome issues? You just got your wages cut this morning for violating the rules during the event selection exam anyway."

Sakayanagi thought that was interesting, so she pounced on the opportunity.

"Pay cuts for violating rules? What exactly did you do?"

"I'm not going to tell you that."

"Is it because of a conflict that happened between Class B and D's exam? We'll hear about this sooner or later. But if it has something to do with Tsukishiro's improper acts, I think it's better to speak out about this element of concern now, or problems may occur later."

"This has nothing to do with the current situation."

Instead of Mashima-sensei who was not planning to explain, it was Chabashira-sensei that spoke up.

"Let me explain. During the event selection exam between Class B and D, one of the selected events of Class D was Judo. The student participating was Albert Yamada. Class B's Ichinose lost all her fighting spirit during then, which resulted in her failing to select a student to participate.

"Because the opponent was Yamada-kun, this isn't suprising. Probably no-one among the first year can beat him in judo."

"Of course, Ichinose had already decided on who was going to participate in the judo event. However, if the student was chosen randomly like that, what would happen? We don't know what would happen. Everyone should be aware of this."

Once the time was up, students who hadn't yet participated in any events would be automatically selected.

Not only the boys, but the girls as well.

"Even if they had lost immediately, nothing would've happened as a result. But this was Class B, and they would do anything for the sake of their companions. The selected students will most likely go all out for Ichinose."

No matter who the opponent was, Albert would not hold back in order to bring them down.

In that case, it was likely it would have resulted in a major accident.

"As a result, Mashima-sensei decided that it was Class B's loss, without even having a fight. This might have caused Acting Director Tsukishiro to become unhappy with him."

That's why Mashima-sensei wages got cut as a punishment? If I had to say whether this violated the rules or not, it indeed would be considered a violation.

"Both of those situations are the same. If something is considered dangerous to the students, I'll quickly stop it. If there's improper behaviour, I'll quickly see it corrected. We teach them this, so what would happen if we teachers don't apply what we teach to ourselves?"

And for that reason, even if this got in his way, he would not regret anything.

"It looks like I can't stop you."

"I've always consciously done my job as a teacher."

The words he said seemed simple, but Mashima-sensei really was an excellent person who was able to do what he said.

"Your…no, if Mashima-sensei's decision is final, I have nothing else to say."

"Have we reached a temporary agreement?"

Sakayanagi asked me, and I nodded in agreement.

Chabashira backed down, presumably because she realised that trying to persuade Mashima-sensei was pointless.

"Since Mashima-sensei agreed, I'll help as well. Is that fine, Ayanokouji?"

"An additional person on our side is greatly appreciated."

"Let's put an end to this discussion now. I'll keep this to myself. There's no problem with that right?"

"Of course."

After all, both Mashima-sensei and Chabashira hadn't actually seen Tsukishiro's wrongdoings with their own eyes.

And if we increase the number of teachers who are in the know, the chances of leakage of information would increase correspondingly.

Once Tsukishiro finds out that there are people trying to expose his wrongdoings, he would naturally be more alert.

"I also intend to stand at Ayanokouji's side at the time being."

"Sakayanagi. Even if you do know Ayanokouji's situation, if people see you giving special treatment to him, it will raise some questions."

"What are you talking about? Of course I'm going to give him special treatment. I've got the right to do so."

Sakayanagi countered Mashima's words head-on.

"…What right?"

"Yes, although this school's system revolves around competition between the classes, the students themselves will have various situations among them. Some of them might have friends or lovers in other classes that they'll betray for, and some might have relationships that revolve money, or violence. Sometimes, one's feelings can go beyond the boundaries of classes, forming mutually beneficial relationships with people in other classes. Is the climate of this school always the same? No, it's constantly changing. In that way, it's the same as society itself, isn't it?"

Sakayanagi asserted that no one had the power to stop anyone from treating someone else specially.

"Even if I only was able to save Ayanokouji-kun and abandoned my classmates in Class A, the teachers won't have any reason to blame me. The only ones who can resent me will be the students I've betrayed."

Mashima-sensei might have beeen dissatisfied with what Sakayanagi said, but he did not retort.

"But he may find special treatment to be unwelcoming."

"Why?"

"I'll wait until the Acting Director is gone, but after that, things will be different. And when Class D obstructs Class A, I will beat them out mercilessly at any time."

"Will you? That's good."

Mashima-sensei accepted this, facing against the determined Sakayanagi.

"Let's confirm this again. Right now, we can't find any evidence to prove that Acting Director Tsukishiro has acted improperly, is that right?"

"It's already been erased, so it'd be meaningless to investigate now."

He would not do something as foolish as deliberately leaving evidence.

"Then, it seems that we can only wait for his next move."

The teachers had a better understanding of the exams we will face after we become 2nd years.

As for what Tsukishiro would do, I'll leave that to Mashima-sensei to think about.

"It's been more than 30 minutes, and it won't be good to be absent from the closing ceremony for too long. You students head out first, then we'll leave the room separately."

"Got it."

Sakayanagi and I walked out of the reception room and out to the corridor at the same time.

Then the two of us walked side by side together.

"Although it's a bold move, it's beneficial to have Mashima-sensei on our side. As the person in charge of the first year, he's closer to the acting director than anyone else."

"Mhm. Even if it doesn't stop Tsukishiro completely, if it'll restrain him, then it's already a good result."

"Mashima-sensei might have too strong of a sense of righteousness. It's a little worrying. That should be considered one of his negatives in his evaluation."

"Yeah. Although he's reliable, he does have some drawbacks."

"If he gets involved too deeply, Mashima-sensei will be fired. But since he's this sort of person, it will happen sooner or later anyway."

Sakayagani said. Looking at the side of her face, it seemed like she was happy.

"You seem happy."

"I'm delighted. Aren't you?"

"I don't know. The situation I'm in is a bit troublesome after all. Why are you here anyway-"

"Yes, I'm here because this seems like fun. Does that bother you?"

Sakayagani immediately admitted all that.

"No. Because your arrival had improved my chances of persuading Mashima-sense, I thank you for that."

"Well, that's great then."

Sakayanagi turned to face my direction and smiled.

"I won't allow the school to repeatedly interfere with the outcome of our battles."

Sakayanagi was furious at Tsukishiro's inappropriate behaviour.

Afterwards, she faced a complete battle with Tsukishiro and worked towards removing him from the school.

"The enemy that's right in front of us is careless, so we should resolve this as soon as possible."

In Tsukishiro's eyes, we were nothing more than a few high school students. No matter how much we tried, we couldn't create a big enough storm to affect him.

If he thought like that, he would make mistakes.

"Ayanokouji-kun. At the moment, please let me work towards getting rid of Acting Director Tsukishiro."

"Thanks for your help."

Whether she can be trusted wasn't something that needed to be seen as a critical issue.

Because based on our interactions, I was already familiar with Sakayanagi's personality.

[Part 4 end]

[Part 5]

After the two students left.

Mashima openly revealed his thoughts to Chabashira.

"There're still some things I can't understand."

"I'm the same, Mashima-sensei. But what Ayanokouji-kun said was true."

"Interfering with the very structure of the school, all for a single student?"

Mashima-sensei exclaimed. No matter how many people around him emphasised the authenticity of the situation, it would still be hard to believe.

"You've observed Ayanokouji for a year now, Chabashira-sensei, so what kind of existence do you think he is?"

"That's a difficult question."

Because they couldn't stay for long, they left the reception room a minute after Ayanokouji and Sakayanagi left.

"At first glance, he seems like a normal high school boy you could find anywhere, indifferent to his surroundings, with little spirit, and a bit out of place."

The other class teachers would probably think of him in a similar way.

Their impression of him wouldn't be deep, maybe it would be up to the point where they could barely match up the name to the face.

"But those eyes which do not falter even in the face of adults, those eyes that see through everything, those aren't the eyes of a child."

"I'm still in disbelief…"

"Yeah. For a first-year to already reach that level."

"Although I've only been a teacher for a few years, I've seen many types of students. If we focus on the past two years, Horikita Manabu and Nagumo Miyabi are the ones that have left an outstanding impression of themselves."

"That's true."

Both of those students had excellent academic and athletic abilities, second to none throughout their respective years, as well as possessing rare leadership abilities on top of that.

"This year's first years gave me the impression that they are slightly inferior compared to those two people. Of course, some students can match them in some aspects, but not in every one of them. Overall, what do you think is the extent of Ayanokouji's abilities?"

"Will my answer have any impact on what you do in the future?"

"No, not at all. No matter what kind of student Ayanokouji is, I won't allow Acting Director Tsukishiro to do what he wants. This is just out of curiosity."

"Curiosity… That's unusual for you. But I'm still trying to figure that out myself."

Chabashira was also one of the people who wanted to learn more about Ayanokouji.

It was true that she couldn't answer.

"That really is a difficult question."

Mashima helplessly folded his arms.

"Originally, the teachers were to maintain a proper working distance with the students and govern them like that. Forming such close relationships isn't the best thing to do."

"So we just have to eliminate Acting Director Tsukishiro as quickly as possible."

"But after we eliminate him-Is that really going to be the end of all this?"

"What do you mean?"

"Even if we expose the Acting Director, there's no guarantee that there will not be another person sent afterwards. In that case, Ayanokouji's situation will create a disturbance for the entire year…Depending on the situation, the whole school itself might suffer from it."

Mashima expressed his own unease.

Of course, even having said that, he still would not abandon the students.

"The way this situation is unfolding, it's like I'm sinking deeper and deeper into quicksand. This scares me."

"Yeah."

If this continued, there will be students who would not be able to receive a fair evaluation.

This is something that the teachers must prevent from happening.

"I hope my hunch won't turn out to be true."

The two teachers envisioned what would happen in the future, and prayed that those were just groundless fears.

[Part 5 end]

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