Classroom of the Elite Volume 11 Epilogue Part 1
There is a chessboard in front of me, and I didn’t even know the rules for it until about a week ago.
And right here, right now, I’m touching actual chess pieces for the first time in my life.
Throughout my specialized training with him over the computer, I had come to understand the depth and fun of chess.
If my opponent was Ayanokōji-kun or Sakayanagi-san, I’m sure I wouldn’t stand a chance at all.
However, the man standing across the table from me is neither of those two.
Of course, I don’t know just how skilled Hashimoto-kun is.
But, it’s quite hard to imagine him being stronger than either of them.
“Good luck, Horikita.”
Like that, my opponent casually called out to me.
From what I’ve heard, even the people in Class A think he’s a scoundrel.
“What’s with the scary look? Don’t you want to enjoy this situation a little more?”
“A Class A student like you, who’s spent this past year at the top, wouldn’t be able to understand just how meaningful this match is for us in Class C.”
“It’d suck for us to pay out a bunch of class points if we lose, just like you guys.”
The class that wins this chess match would earn 130 class points.
This was a truly monumental battle that would decide whether or not we could earn these points and graduate the first year.
“By the way, do you remember my name?”
“I’ve never spoken to you before, but it’s Hashimoto-kun, isn’t it?”
“I’m flattered you know. After all, you, Class C’s Horikita, are a bit of a celebrity. I first heard of you back when you foiled Ryūen’s plans during the Deserted Island Special Exam.”
I didn’t do anything back then. It had all been a part of the strategy Ayanokōji-kun had orchestrated behind the scenes.
No… It probably wasn’t even something he would call a strategy.
“I’ve only been playing chess for a few months now. Go easy on me, aight?”
“Unfortunately, I’ve only been playing for a week.”
Even though we had yet to move any of the pieces, the battle had already begun.
There could be a mixture of truth and lies concealed within anything we say here. Our history with chess was only one example of that.
This was a battle to keep one another in check and find cracks in each other’s mentality.
This exam was very lenient when it came to small talk among the participants.
The only exception to this was with written tests where the answers might be spoken out loud. As the commanders, Ayanokōji-kun and Sakayanagi-san had most likely had many battles like this with one another by now.
And now that it was a three-to-three tie, it all depended on this seventh event.
This was all thanks to Hirata-kun’s return to action, Sudō-kun keeping his cool, and the collective efforts of a truly great number of people.
Kōenji-kun’s lack of action in the Flash Mental Arithmetic event was the only thing that I needed to reflect on, but that could be left for another day.
I absolutely can’t afford to waste the chance I have in front of me.
I recalled the arrogant, shocking words Ayanokōji-kun left me with before the exam this morning.
[Nobody is stronger than me, even when I’m going easy on them. Remember that.]
As infuriating as it was to hear him say those words, oddly enough, they now felt incredibly reliable.
If Hashimoto-kun really is no match for him, then I have a chance to win too.
I don’t know why, but it doesn’t feel like I’m going to lose.
From even before the match began, all I could think about was how it felt like I had already secured the upper hand.
“Alright then, we will now begin the seventh event, chess. Please take your seats.”
Following the teacher’s instructions, I sat down.
The smile on Hashimoto-kun’s face didn’t waver, but his eyes weren’t smiling at all.
There was a direct connection between the outcome of this match and the fate of the two classes.
It seems that Hashimoto-kun has grasped the gravity of the situation as well.
“Welp, let’s get started.”
With that, Hashimoto-kun picked up two pawns, one black, one white.
“You know how to decide who goes first, yeah?”
At my confirmation, Hashimoto-kun hid the two pieces in each hand and held them out to me, prompting me to choose.
Hashimoto-kun opened his left palm, revealing the white pawn.
In other words, I had the first-move advantage.
“I’m excited to see what your first move will be.”
“I’m not sure if it’ll meet your expectations.”
I picked up a pawn. As the first time I had ever physically touched a chess piece, it felt nice and cold.
And just like that, the seventh event, a battle between Hashimoto-kun and myself, officially began.
My first move── Pawn to E4.
As the first piece moved upon the chessboard, the smile on Hashimoto-kun’s face faded away.
And then, he made his responding move, Pawn to E5.
I quickly went to move my knight, aiming to take his black pawn.
Throughout all the matches I’ve played against Ayanokōji-kun, this was the methodology I had the most confidence in.
In order to protect the black pawn, your opponent would have to play reactively, allowing you to take control of the flow of the match.
“I’ve learned a lot from Sakayanagi myself. Did you really think I’m just gonna let you put black at a disadvantage right from the start?”
From the opening, we each made our moves without thinking too extensively about them.
I had one hour, but because Ayanokōji-kun was going to be using 30 minutes of that, I really only had 30 minutes.
I couldn’t afford to waste my time overanalyzing the opening moves.
As the match went on, I noticed something. That is, he seemed to be refusing to play defensively.
I had no idea who had taught him to play like this, as the moves he was making didn’t follow any of the standard strategies.
In fact, he was making one offensive move after another.
“I’ve got quite the twisted playstyle, don’t I?”
“Indeed. Did you perhaps learn it from your teacher?”
“Yeah. Sakayanagi also plays just like I do. I guess you could say it just clicked for me the most when she was teaching me? Your style seems kinda steady compared to mine… Are you self-taught?”
He’s probing me for something. What exactly was he looking to get from my response?
“I’ve been whole-heartedly devoted to chess for the past week, everything else was pushed aside.”
“Oh really now…? Sounds like you were pretty confident that chess would get chosen, huh?”
“You’re free to think whatever you like.”
With each move, the pieces on the board went through a myriad of changes.
He would frequently surround my pieces, and at a glance, it may look as though he was driving me into a corner.
However, every move I made was meant to slowly encroach upon him.
“Have you really only played one week?”
“You sure love to talk.”
“I think talking is one of my strong points.”
As long as it isn’t inappropriate, he’s completely free to say whatever he wants.
I don’t have the right to stop him.
“That’s right, just one week. But, I can’t deny it’s possible that I may be lying.”
“If you’ve really only been playing for a week like you say, then I don’t believe that you learned through self-teaching at all. I can only imagine that you’ve been thoroughly trained by some confident chess player just like our princess, eh?”
“I wonder. I wouldn’t tell you either way.”
I’m not going to give him any unnecessary information if I can help it.
“Well, that’s fine. More importantly, can I ask you some stuff about Ayanokōji?”
That’s fine? From the look of it, he never cared about how experienced I was or whether or not I had a teacher in the first place.
Based on the way he’s talking, it seems like his true goal is to find out more about Ayanokōji-kun.
So… Even Hashimoto-kun has started to notice him.
“What do you want to know?”
“Ever since the deserted island exam, I’ve been wondering if Ayanokōji was the one really controlling everything from behind the scenes. What do you think?”
He’s trying to shake me up emotionally.
This is also probably one of the reasons why he was chosen to play against me.
“What makes you think that?”
“Just a hunch. Answer the question, Horikita.”
“What’s there to answer? I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Is that so? You seem fairly shaken to me, though.”
“When I found out you were my opponent, I already predicted you’d be trying to mess with me like this.”
“No matter what kind of tricks you try to pull, you won’t get through to me.”
With that, I used my bishop to check Hashimoto-kun’s king.
Hashimoto’s smile once again disappeared for a moment.
“I wonder if you still have the time to keep prattling like this?”
Now, after quietly biding my time for so long, I’ll begin launching my counterattack.
“Things are getting interesting…”
And just like that, the match began to lean in my favor.
He’s by no means an easy opponent, but each and every move he makes are well within my expectations.
Before we were even 10 minutes into the game, his hand stopped.
For the first time, he had to sit and think about what move he would make. That cocksure look he would give me from time to time was nowhere to be seen.
“Aaah, you’re a tough one, Horikita. It’s totally unexpected given that cute face of yours.”
“Despite your appearance, you also seem to be quite skilled yourself.”
“No need to butter me up, now. There’s always a bigger fish out there.”
If this match continues like this, my victory will be all but guaranteed. That’s the direction this is headed in.
There’s no way that the player within Hashimoto-kun hasn’t noticed this as well.
However- there’s no way that this match will end so simply like that.
Okay, I forgot that I had already translated this part in full earlier. So when I said tomorrow, I really meant like, tomorrow for Part 2. Part 1 is done already. Alright cool. Glad we cleared that up.
Side Note: Who else finds Hashimoto’s playstyle completely unnatural here? That’s just like, not how chess works at all in the beginning. I feel like Kinugasa tried to make it more interesting and it like, just didn’t work out that way. Just a thought.