Classroom of the Elite Volume 11 Chapter 6 Part 1
I decided to leave the dormitory and search for Hirata.
He probably hadn’t gone back to the school building, so he was most likely at Keyaki Mall or at least in the area nearby.
Assuming he didn’t want to run into anybody, there was a high probability he was outside somewhere.
Ultimately, I decided to check the entire area.
After about an hour of searching, I came across his distinctive, lonely-looking figure seated on an outside bench.
I walked up behind the bench and, once he was within an arm’s reach away from me, called out his name.
His response came out slowly as he raised his head to face me, his eyes still downcast.
It had been a long time since I had gotten a good look at his face like this.
He didn’t seem to be getting enough sleep, as there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen him have before.
“Can you spare some time?”
Upon hearing my request, Hirata’s eyes opened up a little bit more.
“I’m sick and tired of all of this. Of everyone coming after me over and over again. I thought you understood me, Ayanokōji-kun. I thought you’d know to just leave me alone. I’m disappointed.”
“Sorry. If you don’t like it, why don’t you push me away like you did to Mii-chan and run away?”
Despite taking the risk and provoking him, Hirata didn’t get up from the bench.
“Spare some time, was it? It doesn’t matter. I don’t have anywhere to hide at this school anyway. I’m so tired today that I don’t even have the energy to run away. But… I don’t think I’ll be able to meet your expectations either.”
In just this short period of time, quite a few other students must’ve tried reaching out to him.
Regardless of whether they were expressing their concern, or offering him encouragement, it must’ve been unbearable for him.
Although I didn’t know ‘who’ exactly had reached out to him, I could imagine ‘what’ they would’ve said.
I was sure they had all attempted to gently comfort him and heal his broken heart.
There, on a bench on the outskirts of campus, the two of us sat together.
“So… you had something to say, right?”
I already knew how Hirata was going to handle this conversation.
He was going to sit there and listen, letting my words go in one ear and out the other.
“I want you to tell me your story.”
Hirata responded meekly. He had probably expected me to offer him words of sympathy.
“What you were like as a kid, what kind of thoughts you had. I’d like to hear about it.”
“Who knows. I guess I just want to know for some reason. I’m having a hard time giving you a reason for it.”
Hirata let out a deep sigh before slowly shaking his head.
“I don’t have the energy to reminisce about my past right now. There’s nothing to talk about.”
“You don’t have the energy? Why?”
He turned and looked at me, as if to question why I didn’t already know the answer to that.
“Why is it?”
I repeated the question, ignoring the look he gave me.
“…It’s because Yamauchi-kun got expelled.”
He was being forced to say things that he didn’t want to say.
Hirata spoke as if he had been greatly offended, as he was well aware of my intentions.
“You’re making me say some horrible things.”
“I was just curious. I apologize if I’ve offended you.”
Hirata sighed once again, lacking the motivation to continue the conversation.
He sat with his back hunched over, listlessly shaking his head from side to side.
Pleading for me to leave him alone. Pleading for me to stop caring.
“What does Yamauchi’s expulsion have to do with not talking about your past?”
Confronted with my obstinate request for an answer, Hirata let show a dumbfounded expression for the second time.
“My past doesn’t matter right now, does it?”
I continued immediately, denying Hirata a chance to shut down the conversation.
“Having one of your classmates expelled is certainly unpleasant. Pretty much anyone would agree with that. But, we don’t have the luxury to regret it forever. The Event Selection Exam is already right around the corner. Not just Horikita and Kushida, but even Ike and Sudō are trying to buckle down and fight. But what about you, Hirata? You’re so hung up on Yamauchi’s expulsion, and even if you tried to cooperate…”
I purposefully stopped speaking for a moment.
And then, I changed the topic to show him I didn’t really want to talk about what had happened anymore.
“What I want to know is, what happened in your past that instilled this sense of values in you?”
“What’s the point in asking that? Do you really think I’m going to tell you?”
“You’ll tell me. Because as you are now, you desperately want other people to know about you.”
In truth, he probably really does want to get everything off his chest. He had ended up like this because he couldn’t find a way to do it.
This time, I spoke to him with my eyes.
I looked at him forcefully, almost as if I were threatening him to speak.
Upon seeing the look in my eyes, a sense of fear welled up in his heart.
“I finally understand the reason, the true reason, why Karuizawa-san decided to reveal everything to you, Ayanokōji-kun. She saw your eyes… no, you showed them to her. Those eyes, and that deep, eerie darkness diffused within…”
I slowly ate away the darkness held within Hirata.
This man wasn’t simply waiting to die. Day by day, he had been praying for someone to come and save him.
All he could do was reach for the black spider’s silk that dangled before him in order to crawl up from the depths of hell.
“I’ve told you once before, haven’t I…? About my friend who I had been close with since childhood? The one who started getting bullied once we got into middle school?”
“Yeah. His name was Sugimura, right?”
“To think you’d even remember his name…”
It was precisely because I knew about this story that I was able to predict Hirata’s mental state.
Back then, he had wanted to help this friend of his, but he was afraid he’d end up getting targeted by the bullies as well.
As a result, he simply ended up watching it happen from the sidelines.
“My friend… committed suicide by jumping off a building.”
He was probably beginning to recollect what had happened back then.
Little by little, he began opening up about it.
“He managed to just barely hang onto his life, but… he’s been in a coma ever since…”
Hirata tightly clasped his hands together.
“My decisions caused him to take his own life. The weight of my sins will never go away.”
“That isn’t entirely your fault. In fact, the blame mainly falls on the bullies.”
“Sure, but I think being a bystander makes me equally guilty.”
Hirata had said something similar back when we were on the cruise ship. This was the reason why he was always striving to save those around him.
In fact, every time the class ran into problems, Hirata would always be the first one to intervene.
He was the type of man who’d spare no effort to search for a solution.
For example, back when Sudō got into a fight with those guys from Class D, or when he and Kei pretended to be a couple.
However, there were still a few things that hadn’t been explained yet.
“I understand that you still have doubts.”
Without turning to look at me, Hirata continued.
“Back when my friend attempted to commit suicide. There’s actually more to the story…”
He hadn’t mentioned this back during the cruise.
“Back when he attempted to commit suicide by jumping from a building, I thought that the whole mess was finally over. That, after making such a heavy sacrifice, there wouldn’t be any more bullying in our school. But I was naive. From that day onwards, I saw for myself the unfathomable darkness of human nature.”
His body trembled, and I could see something akin to a murderous impulse flash across his eyes.
“The bullies chose a new target, and this time it was one of my own classmates.”
As he took a deep breath to suppress his emotions, Hirata began speaking to himself in a hushed tone.
“I couldn’t believe it. Something so horrific had literally just happened, and yet the bullying had already started up again. One of my classmates, who had been nothing more than an innocent bystander, began suffering the same treatment as my friend. And what’s more is that some of our classmates who previously hadn’t been involved with the bullying began joining in on it.”
The scope of the bullying had expanded indefinitely.
“If the person at the bottom of the caste system is gone, it’s only natural that somebody will have to take their place. In a way, it’s part of the natural order of things.”
“I knew I couldn’t allow history to repeat itself. I knew I absolutely had to stop it.”
“So… you took action?”
Hirata nodded his head several times over.
“I did it in a certain way in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes.”
Hirata slowly lifted his head and stared out into the distance in front of him.
“Well, to put it simply, I tried to control the class through fear-mongering.”
“You did that?”
“Yes. I’m not particularly good at fighting like Sudō-kun and Ryūen-kun. However, there aren’t very many people who can seriously hit someone. Even if I were serious enough to throw a punch, nobody would be willing to hit me back. I alone stood on top while the rest of the class sat at the bottom. By doing so, I was looking to get rid of the bullying. Whenever things started getting out of hand, I’d step in. I gave both sides an equal punishment, equal amounts of pain. My actions were no different than bullying. But, there was at least a brief moment of peace.”
Hirata was probably well aware that his actions were by no means justice. That what he had done was wrong.
But even so, he didn’t want to acknowledge a world where the people around him were being abused.
“Based on what happened… I find myself wondering if I ended up ruining that year for everyone. They just trudged through each day like lifeless robots who never smiled anymore. At the time, it was the talk of the town back where I lived… It was pretty much treated like a scandal.”
“How did the school end up dealing with it?”
“Their response was fairly unprecedented. They forcefully broke up all of the classes for a while, and then redistributed everyone, including me. We were also placed under strict observation until the day we graduated.”
With a scandal that famous, it’s only natural that it’d end up getting a lot of attention.
In which case, there was no way that this high school hadn’t caught wind of it, right?
No, they may actually have chosen to enroll Hirata here precisely because they knew about the scandal.
Either way, I could finally see the reason why Hirata had been placed in Class D.
“You can’t forgive yourself for letting Yamauchi get targeted, can you?”
“Yes… Back then, I thought that as long as it didn’t come to my attention, I could just pretend not to know about it. I had wanted to just keep quiet about it until the day of the vote.”
Ultimately, Horikita’s actions back then led to him being marked as unnecessary.
“I’m just useless. I never should’ve tried to keep the class together in the first place. Despite doing everything I could, I still couldn’t protect Yamauchi-kun… You probably knew that already, Ayanokōji-kun. I just can’t do it anymore. In order to protect someone, I’ve even thought about using fear tactics again. I get that I should know better. That it’d be a mistake, and yet…”
Hirata’s voice trembled.
His heart was on the brink of collapsing.
He felt like the entire class should share the load, through both the good times and the bad.
He couldn’t bear the thought of somebody suffering. Of somebody disappearing.
Yes, he had probably always been questioning himself each time something happened. And he probably always will.
It wasn’t clear if he had confided in Mii-chan and the other students and if he had, just to what extent.
However, I could easily imagine what sort of things they’d end up saying to him.
『There’s nothing you could’ve done.』
『It’s not your fault, Hirata-kun.』
『Yamauchi only has himself to blame for betraying the class.』
No matter who it was, they would end up saying that Hirata was in the right and somebody else was in the wrong.
That simply wasn’t going to change.
And because of this, it’s unlikely that the problem would ever be solved.
There was no point in telling Hirata to blame the very person he had set out to protect.
Instead, that would only end up making him retreat back into his shell even more.
“There’s something I want to make clear to you. It’s not Horikita’s fault that Yamauchi got expelled from the school, and, of course, it’s not my fault either. You know that, right?”
“…Yes. It was unavoidable. There was nothing we could’ve done about it. …And I don’t blame you either.”
He quietly added in that last part.
To Hirata, it probably sounded like I was emphasizing that it wasn’t my fault.
It would’ve sounded like I was asking him if he had some sort of grudge held against me.
“Who do you think is responsible for Yamauchi’s departure from Class C? From this school?”
“I think… he has nobody to blame but himself.”
This was the conclusion Hirata had come to, though he didn’t want to admit to it.
Yamauchi had suffered the consequences of his own actions. Expulsion was the natural consequence of his lack of ability and lazy lifestyle.
“That’s not true.”
I denied it. I straight up kicked Hirata’s naive idea to the curb.
“It’s your fault that Yamauchi got expelled, Hirata.”
He raised his head and looked at me.
The expression on his face was telling me that he couldn’t understand what I had said.
“If you really wanted to save Yamauchi, you should’ve done everything in your power to make it happen.”
“B-but- I tried my best! There was nothing more I could’ve done!”
“Ichinose’s Class B didn’t lose a single person.”
“That- But that’s because she was a special case. We didn’t have a huge amount of private points like she did!”
“In which case, the problem is that you failed to lead the class like that. You should’ve been saving up points for the past year like Ichinose so you could save somebody when they’re about to be expelled.”
As a result, Yamauchi wouldn’t have been expelled, and there would still be forty people in our class.
“Impossible. We lost all of our Class Points just after we enrolled here. And, even if we hadn’t, there’s no way that our classmates would have agreed to hand over their points. You do know that, right?”
“Between ending up with zero Class Points and failing to lead the class, either way, it’s still your responsibility.”
No matter how much Hirata may try to escape, the fact that it was his fault wouldn’t change.
“Unreasonable. That’s unreasonable.”
“Yeah, it’s unreasonable. But it can’t be helped. You chose to walk down that path. You should’ve kept this fantasy you have of wanting to save everyone to yourself. That way, no matter who ends up expelled from school, the blame wouldn’t fall on you. But, if you keep projecting your feelings on the people around you, you have to bear the full responsibility when it doesn’t end up working out. You should be resolved for at least that much.”
“I had the wrong idea about you. I thought you were an honor student, a man of character who was well respected by many of our classmates. But, I guess you’re not. You’re just a shallow, incompetent student who boasts about things you can’t even do. That, Hirata Yōsuke, is the type of person you are.”
This was an excessively extreme argument followed through to its logical conclusion. He was by no means an incompetent person.
Hirata was such an exceptionally talented person that his capabilities went well beyond what’s expected of a first-year high school student.
There was nothing wrong with him saying he wanted to protect everyone, and just because he failed to do so doesn’t mean that he’s responsible.
But even so, I still blamed him.
I forced the blame on him until the bitter end.
I put him under heavy pressure, relentlessly driving him into a corner until he was about to break.
Was I doing this for Hirata’s sake? No.
Was I looking to empower him so that he could better protect everyone? No.
There was no way he could protect everyone.
And, there would definitely be even more expulsions at some point later on as well.
I was doing this because, when that time comes, Hirata would be necessary to keep the class operating smoothly.
“Just how long are you going to keep dreaming?”
Hirata simply hadn’t moved on from how things were back in middle school. He hadn’t moved on from doing only what was required of him.
It was up to you to decide whether or not you’d continue your education into high school, and it was up to you to decide whether or not you’d stay there.
“This… This is your true nature, isn’t it? Your words are so terrible, ruthless, cold…”
I could see tears start welling up in Hirata’s right eye.
And before long, he sat there crying in front of me.
“You’re free to wish for whatever you want. But if you really want to see your wishes come true, you at least need to fight for it until the very end. Strive to do whatever you can. There’s no other way. If there end up being expulsions along the way, you have no other choice but to accept it. Even so, you still have to keep moving forward.”
“If you stop now, the students around you are going to fall behind and disappear one after another. That’s why, if you keep walking forward, if you keep your eyes on your goal, then there will surely still be people standing behind you after everything is over.”
It takes an awful lot of courage to lead others.
You never know what kind of obstacles you may face, and you could always fall down at any moment.
“But… Then… How do I vent frustrations…? Do I have to keep moving forward all alone? Bottling up everything deep inside?”
“Not at all. When you’re feeling troubled, you can rely on your classmates. Horikita, Kushida, Sudō and Ike, Mii-chan and Shinohara, it doesn’t matter who. You can vent your frustrations to whoever it is that you rely on. We’re all in this together.”
There’s no such thing as a rule stating that leaders aren’t allowed to show weakness.
The people who stand behind them can always be there to lend a hand in case they’re about to fall.
Our classmates should be more than willing to listen to Hirata vent his frustrations.
“I… I… I wonder… if it’s okay for someone like me to lead everyone…?”
“It’s alright. As you are now, it’s okay for you to take the lead.”
I placed my hand on his shoulder.
With this small gesture, even more tears began to pour.
To bury the past.
To get rid of the huge, cumbersome burden that Hirata had been carrying once and for all.
He, who had been stuck and unable to move, could once again stand up on his own two feet.
“Thank you… Thank you, Ayanokōji-kun…”
He hung his head, countless tears falling from his face.
Men are troublesome, difficult creatures who can’t cry in front of others very easily.
That’s why I also wanted a friendship where nobody was forced to hide their tears from one another.
As for this, no more words needed to be said.
All that he needed was a friend at his side, somebody who would lend him their ear and hear out his frustrations.
As long as he did- he could start walking forward once again.