Classroom of the Elite Volume 10 Chapter 5 Part 3
After school, the day before the vote.
Tomorrow, the decision would be made on which student to expel, and their seat in the class would be emptied.
There was a lingering feeling of uneasiness weighing down on everyone, but even so, they still had a reassuring belief that things would be alright.
This was because someone had been chosen as a sacrifice.
Ayanokōji Kiyotaka would be expelled from school.
More than half the class had already sided with this course of action.
Many of them were probably harboring some guilt about it right now.
And yet, that guilt was a small price to pay as long as they were able to save themselves.
After a while, the guilt would fade away.
A year from now, they would simply remember that I had been one of the students in their classroom.
That being said, I felt no resentment toward them. For the sake of avoiding expulsion, everyone had been desperately racking their brains to come up with countermeasures. Ultimately, I just happened to be the target.
After gaining pity from his classmates, Yamauchi skillfully won over Kushida and suggested a target for the vote based on sympathy and understanding.
Kushida then roped in the classmates she could. Since the invitation came from a trusted friend with whom they had confided their secrets, they were completely unable to turn her down.
Yamauchi’s strategy wasn’t bad. He took a risk and did his job well as the mastermind.
It was just a pity that he decided to go after me.
If his goal was really to avoid being expelled, he should’ve gone after Ike or Sudō instead.
After all, the two of them wouldn’t have the capacity to recover from something like this.
Well, since Sakayanagi was the one actually pulling the strings, there was no way that was going to happen.
In any case, since it had come down to this, I had no choice but to take action to remove someone else instead.
But this time, I wouldn’t be the one to do it.
I’m just a low-profile, unimpactful student who was being targeted by Yamauchi. I wasn’t somebody capable of making a change in this situation.
The countenance of the girl sitting in the seat next to me had gone through far more change than I had anticipated.
Her whole body seemed to be giving off a different aura than before, glittering as though she had been hit by a magic spell.
“Well then, that’s it for homeroom. Tomorrow is a Saturday, but there will still be an exam, so don’t oversleep.”
Chabashira’s words marked the end of school for the day.
Everyone was ready to begin packing up their things and head home.
There was a brief moment of total silence.
Come on, Horikita. Move. I know you can do it.
She pushed back her chair and stood up from her desk.
“Could I have a moment?”
Horikita, her voice filled with confidence, called out to every student in the classroom.
It naturally managed to gather the attention of the class, curious as to what was going on.
“I’m sorry, but I’d like to ask everyone to refrain from going home for a moment.”
Even Chabashira seemed curious about what Horikita was up to, as she had stopped on her way out of the room.
“What’s the matter, Horikita-san?”
Hirata responded, reacting a beat faster than anyone else.
He was, after all, the most sensitive to subtle changes in the class’s atmosphere.
“I have something to say about the special exam tomorrow.”
“About the special exam?”
“O-oh look at the time… Well, I already had plans to go hang out with Kanji after this, so…”
“Tha… That’s right.”
Yamauchi and Ike spoke up, emphasizing the point that they didn’t have time to stick around.
“Both of you seem awfully composed. What with making arrangements to go play together even though one of you might be expelled tomorrow.”
When her eyes met with Yamauchi’s, he looked away in a hurry.
“That’s because… there’s no use, even if we struggle. We’ve already resolved ourselves for the worst.”
“Really? How praiseworthy. But I’m sorry, that doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way as you. There’s no point in what I’m trying to do here unless the whole class is able to hear what I have to say, so would you please be willing to put up with it for a bit?”
“Then what the heck are you gonna say?”
“There’s something important I want to tell everyone concerning tomorrow’s exam and who’s going to be expelled.”
Horikita walked to the front of the room and stood behind the teaching podium.
She probably wanted to be in a position where she could see everyone’s faces properly.
“About who’s being expelled…? What are you getting at?”
Yamauchi began talking notably faster than usual.
He was probably doing it involuntarily because of the combination of his own guilty conscience and the extraordinary atmosphere of the classroom.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past couple of days. Who should be expelled? Who should stay? How do we come to a proper decision? Earlier today, I managed to find a satisfactory answer to these troublesome questions. So please, allow me to lay it all out for everyone.”
“Wait a minute, Horikita-san.”
It was Hirata, not Yamauchi, who spoke up to stop her.
“Nobody in this class deserves to be expelled.”
“Is that true? Isn’t it possible that somebody does, though?”
“S-something like that…”
“I’ve had some serious concerns since the moment we were told about this exam. Even though it’s important for us to be able to discuss things with each other and come to a decision about who we’re going to expel, the school hasn’t provided us with any class-time to do it. As a result, it has become a battle where we form into groups and try to control the outcome of the vote. We’re running the risk that we might end up expelling an excellent student, even though they shouldn’t be considered for expulsion at all. Can we really call something like that an exam at all?”
Chabashira was the first person to look visibly impressed, shortly followed up by Kōenji.
“I haven’t the faintest idea what’s gotten into you, but you seem to me like an entirely different person. You’ve really gotten right to the heart of the matter, haven’t you?”
With a clap of the hands, Kōenji continued to speak.
“Let us hear it, then. What do you suggest we do?”
“Originally, I thought we should hold a discussion with everyone in the class and collectively decide on who to expel. But I understand that, realistically speaking, that would be difficult. Therefore, allow me to nominate someone I think we should expel.”
“H-hold on Horikita-san!”
“Sorry, but I’m speaking right now. I’ll give a proper explanation for my nomination later.”
Staying conscious of how much time she was taking, Horikita pushed the discussion forward.
“No way. I’m against you throwing the class into chaos like this.”
Even so, Hirata refused to back down.
It wasn’t in his nature to do any differently.
“She’s at least got the right to speak. We can listen to your objections after she’s done.”
Sudō cut in to stop Hirata from interfering.
“It’s as Red Hair-kun says. I’ve given up some of my valuable time to be here, so I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from wasting it by being a hindrance.”
Kōenji spoke up in support of hearing Horikita out as well, seemingly interested in the direction the discussion was heading.
Taking advantage of Hirata’s hesitation, Horikita once again opened her mouth.
“For this special exam… I have decided that we should expel Yamauchi Haruki-kun.”
Under the watchful gaze of the entire class, Horikita explicitly stated the full name of her nomination.
So far, outside of the public eye, several students had been nominated as targets for censure votes. However, Horikita was the first person to nominate a target publicly like this. One might ask, why hadn’t anyone else done the same thing? That was because they’d immediately gain the resentment of whoever they nominated. More importantly, if they failed to convince the rest of the class, there was a high probability that they would become a target themselves.
“W-why me, Horikitaa!?”
Naturally, Yamauchi was the first person to show any sort of reaction to this.
After all, if Horikita’s reckless nomination garnered enough support, he would become the target for the censure votes. It was effectively a death sentence.
“There’s a clear reason for it. To start out with, your contributions to the class over the past year have been particularly low.”
“T-that’s not true! My test scores have been higher than Ken’s this whole time!”
“He overtook you last time though?”
“That… but, that was just a one-time thing!!!”
“For argument’s sake, let’s say your academics are superior to Sudō-kun’s. Even then, you’re still several levels beneath him in terms of physical ability.”
“Then isn’t Kanji in the same boat as me!? He’s definitely worse than me when it comes to physical fitness!”
Naturally, Yamauchi desperately tried to defend himself.
Anybody would get desperate if they were being singled out in front of everyone like this.
“It’s true that there are a handful of students who are all on a somewhat similar playing field. I’ll give you that much.”
“T-that’s right. Nominating me so seriously… Could ya please give me a break…?”
“However, you’re still a half-step behind, even compared to the rest of them. When I assigned everyone a priority by taking into account their behavior during lessons, tardiness and absence history, and strengths and weaknesses, you ended up in dead last. The runner-up was Ike-kun, followed up immediately by Sudō-kun. This is the conclusion I came to yesterday.”
“I… I’m a candidate as well!?”
Panicking a bit, Sudō spoke up.
“You’ve certainly improved in terms of academic ability and critical thinking these past few months, but that doesn’t just get rid of all of the times you’ve been a burden to class. Or am I wrong?”
“…No, you’re right.”
With the facts laid out in front of him, Sudō accepted them for what they were.
Ike’s expression was heavy, seeming to have come to terms with it as well.
“Are you being serious with all this nonsense!? This is pissing me off! Right!? Kanji!? Ken!?”
Yamauchi tried to bring the two Horikita had nominated as other candidates over to his side, but neither of them had the words to refute what Horikita had said.
“Plus, I’m kinda lovable, right? At least when compared to someone like Kōenji. That problem child totally abandoned the class during several special exams!”
“It’s true that Kōenji-kun has a lot of work to do to improve his behavior. However, he was able to understand the significance of holding this discussion. If I were to put an overall worth to his abilities, the difference between the two of you would be so large that you couldn’t even begin to compare. At the very least, he’s not somebody we should be expelling during this exam.”
Kōenji let show a fearless smile laced with complacency as he crossed his arms in front of him.
“I can’t accept this! I really just can’t anymore!”
“Then, how about I tell you the final reason why you were chosen among all other options?”
Horikita pressured Yamauchi, calmly interrupting him in the middle of his fit.
Horikita’s unusual aura made Yamauchi momentarily shrink back.
“There should be something you’ve been feeling guilty about that you haven’t been willing to tell anyone. Am I wrong?”
Yamauchi was overwhelmed by Horikita’s confident words.
“I don’t have anything to feel guilty about…”
“Seeing as you don’t feel like saying it yourself, I’ll say it for you. In order to protect yourself, you used Kushida-san as an intermediary to gather support from our classmates, all to get Ayanokōji-kun expelled. Isn’t that right?”
The classroom descended into an uproar.
Even though over half the class was aware of the vote manipulation, none of them knew that the true culprit behind all of it was Yamauchi.
“You were planning to have Ayanokōji-kun expelled…?”
Ayanokōji Group members aside, Hirata was one of the people genuinely, visibly, shocked to hear that I was being targeted.
Hirata was the type to always stay neutral and think about the class as a whole, so it made sense that he wasn’t willing to accept it.
“Yes. It’s an undeniable fact. Isn’t that right, everyone?”
Kushida had gotten many students tied up in Yamauchi’s plan.
Even if they didn’t make eye contact with her, they would surely feel shaken if they had an inkling as to what had been going on.
This was enough for Hirata to realize that more than half the class had joined Yamauchi’s group.
“Hmm… Everyone seems a lot calmer than I had imagined…”
“Your plan started out with a small group of people and you steadily expanded from there. If you managed to gather up the majority of the class’s censure votes, your target’s expulsion would be effectively guaranteed, right?”
“I-I had nothing to do with that!”
Despite claiming otherwise, Yamauchi made no further attempts to defend himself.
“Then who did?”
“I-I dunno, okay!? I… was just told to cast my censure vote for Ayanokōji!”
Lying in desperation like this usually didn’t result in things turning out the way you wanted.
“If you don’t know who started it, then why don’t you tell me who told you to cast your censure vote for Ayanokōji-kun instead?”
“You had to have heard it from somebody, right? You’re not going to say you don’t know, are you?”
Yamauchi seemed nearly at his wit’s end as he looked around the classroom.
“…Kanji! I heard it from Kanji! Right dude!?”
He proceeded to pin the blame on his best friend.
“What? No! It wasn’t me!”
Naturally, Ike denied it.
“Is that really true, Ike-kun?”
“No no no no no. It absolutely wasn’t me. I heard it from…”
Ike was, understandably, at a loss for words.
After all, the person who had suggested it to him was none other than Kushida, and he couldn’t just sell her out.
“From your silence, I’m sensing that you’re incapable of providing an answer. In which case, perhaps you really are the mastermind like Yamauchi-kun says?”
“No, no! So, err… Kikyō-chan came to me, asking for help… She said that there was someone who was in a lot of trouble, so she needed me to cast my censure vote for Ayanokōji.”
This time, Ike passed the blame along to Kushida.
Of course, there was no way Kushida was going to sit back and let this happen.
She hated the idea of being targeted more than anyone else in the room.
“Don’t tell me that you’re the mastermind, Kushida-san?”
Horikita was determined to trace down each lead until she got to the bottom of this.
In a situation like this where a specific person was being targeted, it wasn’t a very big deal if she didn’t find out the identity of the mastermind. By questioning people one at a time like this, she’d eventually find out the truth either way.
“I… well… a certain someone approached me, saying they needed my help, so… it was kind of hard to turn them down…”
“And just who is this ‘certain someone’?”
Ultimately, the blame that Yamauchi had tried so hard to avoid was about to come around full circle.
But Yamauchi, getting overwhelmed by anxiety, hurriedly tried to pass it on once again.
“Th-that’s right! I was told by Kikyō-chan! She asked me to help her get Ayanokōji expelled!”
Spurred on by a single lie, there was no way of knowing when this chain reaction of accusations would come to an end.
“Everyone else also heard it from Kikyō-chan, right? Right? Am I right?”
Kushida had indeed been the one entrusted to act as an intermediary.
However, there was something that most everyone in the class understood.
And that, was that Kushida Kikyō was a student who would only ever take action for the sake of her friends, and she would never do something to try and trick or frame somebody.
The difference in the amount of trust they had managed to build up was more than clear.
“You’re so cruel Yamauchi-kun… I… even though I really didn’t want to abandon Ayanokōji-kun, you came asking for my help… but, even though I did the best I could…”
Kushida spoke, burying her face down into her desk, her voice filled with anguish.
It was probably all that the class needed to hear to get a grasp on who was really telling the truth. The scene of Yamauchi earnestly begging for Kushida to help him was probably playing through all their minds.
Yamauchi’s predicament was steadily getting worse and worse, and it would only continue to deteriorate moving forward. Of course, this must’ve also been a headache for Kushida, but given the situation, there was no helping it if she wanted to avoid being targeted.
After all, the absolute worst-case scenario was expulsion.
Horikita called out to Kushida, who was covering her face.
Everyone probably thought she was about to say something to comfort her.
“Your actions have also been a huge mistake.”
With a strong tone, Horikita reprimanded her.
“In this class, you hold influence on the same level as Hirata-kun and Karuizawa-san… No, your influence is even stronger than theirs. As such, if you nominate someone as a target, a great number of your classmates are going to listen to you.”
“I-I didn’t want that. I just wanted to help Yamauchi-kun…”
“Stop with the sophistry, you aren’t that stupid. You should’ve known what would happen if you helped him from the very beginning.”
Facing Horikita’s reproachful words, Kushida stood up from her desk, weeping.
“I didn’t think that far ahead! It’s just, I couldn’t simply ignore Yamauchi-kun’s problem… his suffering… I had to help somehow!”
“No, you knew. You ignored the problem at hand, knowing very well what the outcome would be.”
Confronted with Horikita’s excessive prodding, Kushida flinched, faltering with her response.
In this situation, she couldn’t aggressively retort back to Horikita even if she wanted to.
There was absolutely no way she would break character and take off her mask under these circumstances.
There was no way Horikita didn’t understand this as well.
“This ordeal was caused by your own lapse in judgment. You should’ve done something about it much sooner.”
“That… I don’t know what to do…”
“You should reflect on what has happened here and strive to take actions that will benefit the class from now on.”
Horikita said the final word on the matter, turning a deaf ear to Kushida’s excuses.
“Be that as it may, it seems there’s no mistaking the fact that the primary offender is Yamauchi-kun.”
Horikita dropped her temporary focus on Kushida’s wrongdoings once again swapped her attention back to Yamauchi.
“W-wait Horikita. I told you it wasn’t me…”
“My my, this has been quite the interesting discussion. Though, isn’t it only natural for the boy to try and get somebody else removed from school? Pushing past all the nonsensical formalities, this exam is nothing more than the rabble of the class fighting for their own survival. Or, is there any particular reason why only he should be condemned, hmm?”
Kōenji made a statement that didn’t appear to align with anyone, although it was probably going to end up working out in Horikita’s favor.
“Right you are. While assembling a group with the intention of getting rid of somebody else may not be the most praiseworthy thing to do, it surely doesn’t seem fair to blame him for simply trying to survive. Well, that’s only if that’s all there is to it.”
“Yamauchi-kun. You haven’t been trying to expel Ayanokōji-kun just to protect yourself, have you?”
“W-wait! I said to wait! I told you it wasn’t me!”
“How ugly. Everyone presently in this classroom fully believes it was, so come now let’s hear it. Why did he target Ayanokōji-boy?”
Horikita nodded her head in agreement.
“He, Yamauchi-kun, has been colluding with Sakayanagi-san behind the scenes, taking orders and carrying them out for her.”
The truth was exposed to broad daylight.
“That’s quite the worrisome piece of information, now isn’t it? Collusion with a student from Class A… How unpleasant.”
This was probably the reason why Kōenji had involved himself with this discussion in the first place.
Kōenji was still at risk of being expelled, so he was probably looking to make use of Horikita to avoid the danger. By revealing a truly unnecessary student, the class would put them to trial instead.
Even if Yamauchi hadn’t colluded with Sakayanagi or targeted someone else, the fact that he was the most unnecessary student in the class still hadn’t changed. It probably would’ve ended up like this either way.
It’s probably fair to say that the time needed to back Yamauchi into a corner had been considerably reduced, thanks to the fact that he had gone along with Sakayanagi’s scheme.
“Oi Haruki, you’ve been colluding with Sakayanagi-chan…?”
Not only was his role as the mastermind revealed, but his connection with Class A had as well.
Even his best friend Ike wasn’t able to take this news sitting down.
“T-that’s nonsense! There’s no evidence!”
“I wonder if you’d be willing to show me your phone, then? You should have Sakayanagi-san registered in your contacts.”
“That’s… because we’re friends! There’s nothing suspicious about me having her registered!”
It’s true that there wouldn’t be anything suspicious about it if the two of them really did have a friendly relationship.
However, the fact that, recently, Sakayanagi had openly contacted Yamauchi was fresh in the minds of everyone in the classroom.
Horikita had probably asked Yamauchi about his contacts in order to remind everyone of what had taken place.
“Do… do you seriously have ties with Sakayanagi-chan?”
Coming from his closest friend, Ike’s question felt scornful.
“I-I’m telling you… Why would I join up with Class A!? I’d never betray my friends! This is really the first time I’ve ever heard about this! Come on and give me a break already…!”
At his wit’s end, Yamauchi played the victim.
“Wrong. Under her orders, you convinced our classmates to target Ayanokōji-kun. After all, she’s much more clever than you are. She gave you clear instructions on how to get Ayanokōji-kun expelled from the school.”
“N-no no no!”
“Furthermore, there was probably also something that convinced Yamauchi-kun to willingly cooperate with her. Something like an invitation to start dating, perhaps?”
Bull’s-eye. As Horikita pointed out the one truth that he wanted to keep hidden more than anything else, Yamauchi expressed a whole new kind of agitation.
This was probably something Horikita had deduced all on her own, and based on his reaction, it seemed that she had hit it right on the mark.
“There’s no reason for the class to expel someone far superior to you like Ayanokōji-kun because of this stupid, worthless motive of yours. This is the primary reason why I nominate you for expulsion.”
Horikita spoke not toward Yamauchi, but toward the entirety of the class.
“None of us want to lose one of our classmates. However, you betrayed your own class and colluded with the enemy. You even tried to target one of your very own friends… You are, without a doubt, the most unnecessary student in the class.”
You could practically hear the cogs turning inside Yamauchi’s head as he frantically thought about how to get out of his current situation.
“If… Even if we assume what you’re saying is true… why am I the only one being criticized for it? Trying to protect myself by working with another class is a legitimate form of self-defense, isn’t it!? It’s not like I want to be expelled!”
“I see. So essentially, you’re asking ‘what’s wrong with trying to protect myself?’, right?”
It was a pitiful, stubborn excuse, but Yamauchi still wasn’t willing to admit to it.
“Self-preservation is certainly important. However, I don’t see very much value in someone who’s willing to throw away one of their peers in order to gain that protection, much less someone who’s sold their soul to an enemy.”
Horikita wouldn’t stand down, no matter how much Yamauchi tried to resist.
“Y-you’re just standing up for Ayanokōji because you’re on good terms with him!”
“Not at all. This was the objective outcome of a calm, composed judgment. Both you and Ayanokōji-kun started out from the very same place. Comparing the two of you side by side, the difference between your overall contribution to the class is painfully clear. Furthermore, considering your connection with Class A, there’s simply no more room for discussion.”
“No objections here. I believe that Horikita-girl’s proposal is quite desirable. We certainly don’t want to keep around someone who could potentially betray the class. I certainly couldn’t spend time with a student who could potentially betray the class. She has my support.”
With that, Kōenji was the first to support for Horikita’s proposal.
“Wait! I haven’t betrayed anyone! I swear on my life!”
As a last-ditch effort, Yamauchi swore on his life to prove he wasn’t lying.
It was hard to say whether or not his sentiment managed to reach his fellow classmates.
“Oh! Then, why in the world is it Ayanokōji, huh!?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Even if I really was somehow taking orders from Sakayanagi-chan, instead of trying to expel someone like Ayanokōji, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to target someone more dangerous?”
This was probably a lingering doubt from back when Sakayanagi had first approached him. Instead of Ayanokōji, why not pick one of the central figures of the class like Hirata or Karuizawa?
“I’m guessing that it’s because he doesn’t stand out very much, for better or worse. Even if she wanted you to expel a more outstanding student, you wouldn’t be able to do so very easily. So, she chose someone unobtrusive like Ayanokōji-kun. As far as Sakayanagi-san was concerned, it probably didn’t matter who got expelled. She just wanted a spy, a chess piece she could move however she wanted.”
There was no way somebody like Yamauchi could’ve resisted getting caught up in such a cunning strategy.
“I’m guessing that there are some of you who aren’t too happy about my nomination as well. In which case, please feel free to cast your censure vote for me. Whether you want to vote for Yamauchi-kun or Ayanokōji-kun, or even anybody else, just go ahead and do it. I just felt that I needed to share my opinion with everyone, which is exactly why I decided to hold this discussion in the first place. Please try to account for this as you come to your own decision.”
Horikita spoke confidently, resolved to put everything on the line for what she believed was right, and it was probably going to pay off.
However, Sudō proceeded to chime in once again.
“Hold up, Suzune… I think I understand the gist of the situation. I also get that Haruki is the one in the wrong here…”
His expression was gloomy. This was a desperate show of resistance from someone who always abided by Horikita’s orders.
“But, I’m against having Haruki get expelled.”
“Well, he is your friend. I’m well aware of how important he is to you.”
However, Horikita had already anticipated that Sudō would choose to back Yamauchi.
Yet, Sudō also wasn’t willing to simply back down.
“He’s my friend, so I’m gonna protect him. That makes sense right? I know it’s pretty bad that he went and did what he did with Class A and all but… we don’t gotta expel him for that. Isn’t it all good as long as he reflects and seriously contributes moving forward?”
“If that was the case, there’d be no need to expel Ayanokōji-kun either, since he hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“This whole perspective of yours is flawed, Sudō-kun.”
Horikita took a short breath, readying herself to bring forth all the courage she could muster.
She stood tall, having fully resolved herself to be hated by her peers.
“By protecting one person, you’re abandoning somebody else. It follows that this exam isn’t about sentiment. It’s about theory.”
Sudō opened his mouth but proceeded to sink into silence.
His desire to help his friend was clear.
But in order to do that, it meant that somebody else would have to be expelled instead.
Forming a group and trying to control the votes was, in and of itself, a mistake.
Until today, the class had been free to take whatever action they saw fit for the upcoming exam. Everyone had been consumed with negative thoughts, thinking specific people deserved to be expelled. Thinking that there was no point in fighting back against something that had already seemed to be decided upon.
This was exactly why it had come down to this. Everyone had realized that they aren’t able to take action for the sake of the class and that they just wanted to save themselves. If Horikita had done this on the day the exam was announced, it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. More importantly, if she had appealed to the class before they had been forced to go through this special exam, her words probably wouldn’t have resonated with them. But now, everyone should be able to understand just how difficult and frightening it is to take the initiative and try to expel one of your classmates.
“Sorry, Haruki… I can’t do anything for you…”
Honestly, Sudō’s newfound maturity was shocking. He still had a tendency where he’d easily lose his temper after some small provocations, so while he had some ways to go, he was broadening his own horizons, little by little.
Even though it was a choice between me and a close friend, he had been able to put my relatively close relationship with Horikita aside and calmly come to a reasonable decision.
“Looks like it’s decided then, Horikita-girl.”
Kōenji and the other spectators were ready to hand down their verdict.
“Wait! Wait! Stop!”
Yamauchi began shouting, begging for them to stop.
“It’d be stupid of you to waste your censure votes on me!!!”
“I’ve already made up my mind. Nobody here deserves to be voted for more than you do.”
“Yeah but! I’ve already made an agreement with everyone to vote for Ayanokōji!”
“…I… take back everything…”
Kushida spoke quietly, her eyes cast downward.
“I made a mistake… I wanted to help Yamauchi-kun… but I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. I’m taking back what I asked of everyone…”
Given the situation, in order to avoid ruining her own reputation, Kushida had no choice but to side with Horikita.
“Wait wait. What’re you saying!? You’re breaking your own promise!!! How cruel!”
“You’re the cruel one here Yamauchi-kun… going as far as to betray your own classmates…”
And now, Yamauchi was completely alone.
The feeling of being targeted by many of your peers was one he should know better than anyone.
“You are the weakest link in the class, and you’re a traitor.”
Horikita reiterated her point with both indifference and composure.
“That’s everything I wanted to say.”
With this, she attempted to bring the discussion to a close.
There didn’t appear to be anybody willing to oppose her anymore.
“In conclusion, I’d like to hear the opinions of everyone here. What are your thoughts?”
“I want you to hold on for a second, Horikita-san.”
“…Is something the matter?”
A male student raised his hand and proceeded to stand up from his seat.
If there was a sole factor that had fallen outside of Horikita’s calculations, it would have to be the existence of Hirata Yōsuke.
“Even though I’ve stayed silent and let you say everything you wanted to say, I must object to the way you’re inducing the rest of the class to vote with you. For comrades to come together to kick somebody out like this… it’s just plain wrong.”
Hirata’s words didn’t come from a place of sentiment like Sudō, nor did they from logic like Horikita. Instead, they came from a place of suffering and resistance, spurned forward from his inability to come to an answer.
“There isn’t any other way. This exam doesn’t have any loopholes. It’s unreasonable, but somebody in our class is, without a shadow of a doubt, going to be sacrificed. Don’t tell me you still haven’t come to terms with this yet?”
“How could I possibly come to terms with it? I… I don’t want to lose anyone. It’d be different if somebody wanted to be expelled, but whether it’s Yamauchi-kun or Ayanokōji-kun, neither of them actually do.”
“Neither of them actually want it? You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who actually wants it. How about I raise a pointless question to the rest of the class? Could I get a show of hands of everyone who feels like they want to be expelled from the school? If you come out now, there won’t be any need for any of this anymore. The rest of us will unanimously cast our censure votes for you and wash our hands of all of this.”
Not a single person raised their hand. If there actually was such a convenient student, they would’ve already announced their candidacy ages ago.
“Do you get it now?”
“No. There’s no way I’d be willing to accept something so horrible.”
The perfect honor’s student, well-versed in both sports and academics. A truly virtuous guy.
But despite all of that, Hirata Yōsuke’s weakness was revealed.
When the time comes and he’s pressured to make a decisive decision, he’s overwhelmed, unable to do anything at all.
“I have faith in my decision to push forward here, regardless of whether you’re willing to accept it or not, so let’s take a vote. Here and now.”
“There’s no reason for us to do that. There’s no way to guarantee who people will vote for tomorrow.”
“That’s not true. It’s important to keep an eye on the voting trends of our classmates.”
“It’s pointless. Everyone… everyone’s trying to get someone expelled! I can’t…!”
Hirata was probably afraid that Horikita’s actions would spark a fire that would burn out of control, causing personal information such as ‘who hates who’ to be made public.
“Well then, everyone, let’s get on with it.”
Horikita disregarded Hirata and once again attempted to take the vote.
Nobody could stop her anymore. It was the moment of truth.
A loud, unnatural sound echoed throughout the classroom.
Something happened that nobody in the room had even slightly expected.
Hirata had kicked over his desk, sending it flying forward as it toppled to the ground.
“Wha… Uhm, H-Hirata-kun?”
I could hear the voice of one of the girls, reeling in utter disbelief.
And to be fair, I was just as surprised.
It was the type of situation that made me wonder if he had simply gotten carried away and his foot had accidentally made contact with his desk.
The same was true for Chabashira.
His unbelievable behavior was simply far too unexpected.
“Would you just stop, Horikita-san?”
He had lowered the tone of his voice, as though he was trying to scare her into backing down.
“…What do you want me to stop?”
Horikita answered with a question of her own, adjusting her bangs to help hide her outright shock.
“I’m telling you, stop it with this vote.”
“You don’t have the right…”
Hirata’s daunting words caused her voice to waver just a little.
That was just how much intensity his voice carried.
“This discussion has been a mistake.”
“If so, then what in the world should we be doing? It’s not like you have any ideas. You haven’t been doing anything this entire time.”
“…So what? I’m saying it’s a problem. You haven’t been making a proper assessment of the situation.”
“No, I won’t shut up. I-”
“Horikita… just shut your mouth already.”
Hirata spoke sharply, coldly interrupting her. His words were far heavier than anything we had ever heard him say before.
It felt as though the air within the classroom had frozen over.
“Listen up, everyone.”
Hirata’s tone had changed as he addressed the class, making him seem like a different person entirely.
“It doesn’t matter at all whether everything that’s been said so far is true or not.”
“…It wasn’t! She was definitely lying, Hirata! I’m just a victim here!”
Yamauchi clamored to Hirata, having been forced into a dire situation.
Hirata’s deep, relentless gaze pierced through Yamauchi.
“After everything that’s been said, there’s no way you’re innocent here.”
“The fact that you guys are fine with betraying one your own makes me sick to my stomach.”
His anger wasn’t just directed toward Yamauchi, but the class as a whole.
“It’s an exam. We don’t have any other choice.”
“Either way, it’s wrong to manipulate the vote like this.”
“The exam is tomorrow. Are you saying that we should sit back and not do anything to prepare ourselves? That’d be no different from just silently allowing Yamauchi-kun’s betrayal.”
“What’s wrong with not having a plan? We have no right to judge our classmates.”
“What are you even saying…? Isn’t that exactly what this special exam is asking of us? In fact, many of us actually want this.”
Horikita knew this precisely because she had been standing up at the podium, taking in the gazes of her classmates.
However, Hirata wasn’t willing to even try to accept this.
“…Aren’t you the actual problem here?”
His low, heavy voice resonated throughout the classroom.
Even now, my brain refused to accept that this cold voice was coming from Hirata.
“It’s true that this exam is far too heartless and cruel. I’ll never be able to accept it. But, even so… if you can somehow get yourself to tolerate it, it’s really nothing more than just a normal class poll. By no means is it here for you to pit everyone against each other like this.”
“That’s unrealistic. Behind the scenes, our classmates have been forming a group, holding discussions about how to manipulate the results of the vote. Ayanokōji-kun was going to take on all of that by himself.”
“Yes. That’s also deplorable. Regardless, your blatant appeal to the entire class is a different thing entirely.”
“It’s the same. There’s no difference. You should’ve stopped their plotting yourself if you really wanted to stay true to this hypocritical mindset of yours.”
Nobody could cut into their conversation at this point.
Hirata was the on the edge of desperation, and the only person capable of talking it out with him was Horikita.
“Besides, even without taking a vote here, I’ve already finished explaining everything. Don’t you realize that this ‘normal vote’ you wanted is already completely gone?”
“That’s right… The die has been cast. You can’t take back what’s been said.”
Hirata took a deep breath before continuing.
He regained a little bit of his composure, but there was no change in his cold attitude.
“That’s why I’m going to cast my vote for you tomorrow, Horikita-san. I won’t allow you to cause problems for this class again.”
Hirata was well aware of his own numerous inconsistencies. Nonetheless, he gets along with everyone in the class and values peace and camaraderie more than anyone. Which, consequently, was exactly why he was suffering.
“Yes. Do as you want.”
Horikita didn’t seem dissatisfied. It was as if she was encouraging the class to do the same if they agreed with him.
Having watched over the entire ordeal, Chabashira quietly approached the teaching podium.
“Is that all, Horikita?”
Horikita yielded the podium and returned to her seat.
Classes had already been dismissed for the day, and this was no place for a teacher to interfere.
But even so, Chabashira once again stood before her students.
“You all may think this exam is an unreasonable, terrible thing being forced upon you by the school. However, once you enter society, you will definitely encounter a situation where someone has to be cast aside. Upper and senior management have to be willing to bring the hammer down when needed. The students who study at this school are nurtured to become important factors in the future success of Japan. You won’t be able to grow if you perceive this exam as a simple means for the school to foster harassment.”
In society, people who are hindrances are fired in order to protect the group as a whole.
Following this chain of logic, there are also backroom deals and vilification much like what had been done these past few days.
There are certainly factors of this special exam meant to help us mature into adulthood. However, it is by no means kind to force a group of students, still immature of both mind and body, to make this kind of judgment. The exam may end up negatively influencing the future of the students.
“I’m not going to provide my perspective on this discussion of yours. I believe everybody’s participation has been valuable. I hope you all think carefully before you cast your votes tomorrow.”
With that, Chabashira left the classroom, having finished listening to the entire discussion.
Me? Yamauchi? Horikita? Possibly Hirata? Or perhaps even somebody else?
It was unclear who exactly people would be voting for in tomorrow’s vote. In other words, the person being expelled tomorrow was still completely up in the air, and nobody would be able to find fault with it.
That’s just the kind of special exam this is.
THIS PART WAS LONG AND I HATE LONG PARTS. I’m sorry for how long this took me to finish. I swear I had 50% of this done within two days of having Part 2 done. Aaand then I lost like all my motivation because the part is fuckin massive. It’s freaking impossible to stay motivated when you work really hard for a day, then scroll down to see how much is left, and then see that there’s still a shit-ton more work to do.
Aaaa. Hopefully V10 doesn’t have another part like this one. I like to be able to have a part come out every 1-2 days, but large ones like this… I don’t know…
Anyways. Part 4 and Part 5 of Chapter 5 are shorter and look reasonable. I will hope to have Part 4 done within a timeframe of 1-3 days, with Chapter 5 in total finished by the end of the week.
Thank you for all the support.