Youkoso V9 Chapter 2

Classroom of the Elite Volume 9 Chapter 2

“A Changing Relationship”


TL: TL-Anon and Graze
ED: Graze


The early morning for Class C started out with an unusual sight.

A circle seems to be forming around Karuizawa Kei and the girls who make up that circle appear to be excited to the point of causing a commotion.

“You’re rather late to school today, Ayanokōji-kun.”

Since there are only five minutes to go before the bell rings, my neighbor Horikita Suzune interjected with that.

“I overslept.”

Looking bored, Horikita gave a sigh. Then she continued speaking.

“You seem to be on good terms with Hirata-kun and Karuizawa-san. You knew, didn’t you?”

“There’s no way I’d know. It’s their private affair.”

She didn’t seem like she had cut things off with Hirata back during the training camp but it looks like she’s done it now.

Since they’re a couple famous throughout the school, it made waves to an amazing extent.

If a third party were to hear of this, they would definitely be surprised.

But this would mean that on the surface, Kei and Hirata’s connection has been severed. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean Kei would lose command of the girls’ group.

If there’s an exception to that, it would be if someone from within the class stole Hirata’s heart and became his true partner. Even then, I can’t imagine Kei being ousted from her position.

Even if that girl attempts to slight Kei, Hirata would be the first one to put a stop to that. If not, the meaning behind Hirata going as far as to fake a relationship with Kei to save her would be rendered moot.

“So, which one of them dumped the other?”

I tried asking Horikita that. Because I don’t know that myself either so there’s nothing for Horikita to suspect.

“Looks like it’s Karuizawa-san who did it.”

“That’s surprising. She seemed like the type to consider going out with a good man. A symbol of status.”

“I suppose so. At the very least that’s what I thought…”

For a moment, she looked at me suspiciously but then immediately averted her eyes. There’s no possible way she could have acquired any information from my expression.

It’s proof that Horikita herself has begun to understand that.

Still, Kei dumped Hirata, huh?

In the first place, it’s a fake relationship started by Kei. It’s not even about who dumped who. But in all likelihood, Hirata suggested doing that would be best for Kei.

If Hirata were to be the one doing the dumping, it would mean there’s a problem with Kei and could have put Kei’s status at risk.

In any case, judging from my surroundings, it’s clear that their breakup came as a shock to Class C. But what made me think those girls are amazing was that they were boldly discussing that romantic affair.

“Ehh, ehh? Why did you break up with him even though you don’t have a new boyfriend yet, Karuizawa-san!”

Shinohara’s unrestrained voice reverberated. Despite chatting with each other, Ike and Sudō’s group were clearly eavesdropping on that conversation.

“You see, I also thought I needed to step it up. It’s easy to be spoiled by Yōsuke-kun but I wanted to think things through on my own.”

The catastrophe that befell this big couple would obviously have an impact on Class C but it would probably also end up having an impact on the other classes.

There’s no doubt a battle would erupt between the girls over Hirata.

“I’m amazed they can even think about things like romance. Even tomorrow isn’t guaranteed at this school and they should know that situation too.”

“Isn’t it exactly because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed that they’re enjoying the present the best they can?”

“I have no reason to deny them that as long as they’re not robbing someone else of their future…”

On the other hand, as I wondered what’s going on with the other half of the hot topic Hirata Yōsuke, there he was with a gentle expression on his face while boxed in by both the boys and girls of the class.

Even though he got dumped by his girlfriend, there isn’t a smidgen of misery coming from Hirata. The best proof of that is that Ike and Sudō aren’t heading over there to tease him.

No, perhaps… I should say that they’ve already graduated from that sort of thing. They do seem interested in that conversation somewhat but there’s no sign of them engaging in malicious gossip.

On the contrary, Horikita and I are the ones engaging in a tasteless conversation. The special exams so far and the training camp. All of that’s making this immature bunch change bit by bit.

But of course, not everyone is maturing at the same rate.

“Yo, Hirata~ Heard you got dumped by Karuizawa~ Don’t mind it, don’t mind it!”

I thought they’ve become capable of reading the mood, but Yamauchi alone proved to be the exception.

Flippantly and happily approaching Hirata, he then struck Hirata’s shoulder. Seeing that, Ike and Sudō felt uncomfortable and approached Yamauchi, flanking him from both sides and grabbing hold of him.

“Oi, what’s the matter? Let’s console Hirata together. Even the handsome ones get dumped!”

“This is in bad taste. Cut it out.”

“Huh? Isn’t this a rare sight seeing the handsome guy get dumped?”

When Sudō tried to hold Yamauchi back, he refused to listen and instead gave a refutation.

“Sorry about this, Hirata. I’ll take him away immediately.”

“It’s ok, it’s the truth after all.”

It wouldn’t be out of place for him to show displeasure but Hirata didn’t seem to care in the slightest.

“Speaking of which… have you heard anything about Ichinose-san?”

Out of the blue, a topic regarding Class B came from Horikita.

“Recently, I’ve been hearing slander directed at her.”

“Isn’t it just a lie by someone jealous of her popularity? Or maybe the strategy of someone who wants to knock down Class B? What do the slanders say?”

“…It’s something I’m hesitant to put to words.”

Saying that, she retrieved a note from under her desk rather than speak about it in detail.

She wrote something down on it and then showed me.

‘A history of violence’.
‘Engaged in compensated dating’.
‘Engaged in theft and robbery’.
‘A noted history of drug usage’.

These are things that even those delinquents over there haven’t done, not all of them.

“They sure spread quite the malicious rumors around.”

“She doesn’t seem like that sort of student to me though…”

“If it’s just spreading rumors, it won’t exactly count as a crime after all.”

“That’s not true. Regardless of the veracity, it’s defamation…it’s categorized that way when targeted towards a large number of people. It’s possible to sue.”

“If we’re talking about being out there in society then there’s no doubt about that.”

But high school is still high school. This is an isolated space filled with underaged students. It’s not like it’s being written on the internet too for the whole world to see.

“So you’re saying it doesn’t count as a crime.”

Even if society cannot hand down punishment, it’s still possible for the school to hand down punishment at its discretion.

But it would be difficult to pinpoint the source of the rumors. The reason a variety of rumors were spread is so that if asked, they can simply say they heard it from someone else during day-to-day conversation and that’ll be the end of that.

The school won’t be able to investigate beyond that and in the end, it’ll peter out.

All it can do is to warn the perpetrators to not thoughtlessly spread rumors any more than that. After all, I’m certain that the plan to crush Ichinose has been gradually implemented over time.

There’s no doubt it’s Sakayanagi pulling the strings behind the scenes. But there’s still not very many people aware of this.

“What did Ichinose do in response?”

“I don’t know that much. It’s not like we’re close or anything. Besides, if I carelessly approach, suspicion may fall on us.”

“Well, it’s true that playing the role of the observer is the wisest thing to do.”

“But…I wonder if a tasteless strategy like this will work on Ichinose-san.”

“What do you mean?”

“No matter how malicious the slander may be, the amount of damage it can inflict is limited. Ichinose-san’s reputation throughout the school is something even I’m aware of. This sort of harassment is too miserable to be done out of envy like you said earlier.”

“Then you’re saying it’s a strategic mistake then?”

“That’s right, but as they say, you can’t have smoke without a fire.”

“So you’re saying Ichinose used to be a violent criminal or that she used to do drugs?”

“Even if not all of it’s true, perhaps at least one of it is?”

Of course, the possibility of it being true is extremely low. She added that after.

As Horikita said, there’s no evidence that all of it’s just a lie or that they’re all just rumors. And also the fact that Sakayanagi had been making remarks hinting at such could mean there’s some truth to it.

“Well… It’s not like we can come up with an answer just by thinking about it. More importantly, the current standing of the classes based on the results of the training camp has been released. Care to have a look?”

“Ehh, I’m not…”

“I know you’re not interested. But just keep it in mind.”

I flipped through the pages of the notebook she forcibly placed on my desk.

(Introduction End)
(Part 1)

Even though the cataclysm caused by Hirata and Kei in the morning has yet to die down, rumors of yet another love affair caused an incident in Class C.

“Excuse me.”

Nearing the end of school, some students are heading to their own clubs while others are heading back and in the midst of it all, an extremely unexpected person showed up.

“Is Yamauchi Haruki-kun here?”

The students still left in the classroom all turned simultaneously to face Yamauchi in surprise.

He was probably to head back to the dorm with Ike and play games because Yamauchi was opening up a strategy guide about some game at that moment.

“Ehh, that’s me but… you need something?”

Yamauchi usually gets excited when looking a cute girl but right now he seems scared out of his wits.

The leader of 1st year Class A, Sakayanagi, showed up and named Yamauchi.

“Would you mind giving me a few moments of your time?”

“O-of course I’m free…”

“…This isn’t quite the right place so I’ll be waiting for you in the corridor by the stairs.”

Perhaps the stares from the other students are making her uncomfortable, Sakayanagi disappeared out into the corridor with downcast eyes.

A silence fell upon Class C.

“No, no, no, no! This cannot be happening!”

The one who broke that silence was Ike, standing beside Yamauchi who had just been nominated. If Sudō were here, it would be even rowdier but he had already left for basketball practice.

The other students, including Yamauchi himself, could not wrap their heads around that absurdly bold entry and invitation.

Yamauchi then immediately grabbed his bag. Maybe he’s just acting on instinct.

“Sorry! I’ve got business to take care of!”

“Y-y-yeah…”

“Hold it, Yamauchi-kun.”

“W-what is it, Horikita?”

Currently, Yamauchi is making a beeline out of the classroom. And as though she were taking the wind out of his sails, Horikita blocked the entrance.

“Maybe she’s trying to do something to knock Class C down.”

“Huh? Why do you think that?”

“The very fact that you’re being asked out is abnormal in and of itself.”

Despite maintaining a serious expression from start to finish, what Horikita is saying is far too straightforward and pointed.

It’s on the level where an ordinary person would realize they’re being insulted.

But Yamauchi was rather positive about it on the contrary.

“Bumping into a transfer student with toast in her mouth on a street corner and falling in love… You ever heard about that sort of plot?”

“Eh? Toast…? Street corner?”

Unable to understand what he’s talking about, Horikita wrinkled her brow.

To be fair, if you’re only listening to Yamauchi’s remarks then it wouldn’t make any sense. But after seeing Yamauchi collide with Sakayanagi back at the training camp I can tell he’s talking about that incident.

“I’m going because Sakayanagi-chan is waiting for me.”

Not even hearing or heeding Horikita’s warning, Yamauchi walked off. Yamauchi did not even make an attempt to believe her.

“I am indeed this class’s lethal weapon. But that is exactly why it’s okay. On the off chance anything happens, I’ll take care of it.”

I’d like to hear in detail his countermeasure for taking care of it.

In all likelihood, he hasn’t even given it any thought.

“…I get it. If you say you’re going then I don’t have any right to stop you. Just don’t carelessly let anything about the class’s internal affairs slip out.”

“Don’t worry about it. I am well aware of that.”

After saying that, Yamauchi gave a cheeky laugh and left the classroom. A portion of the students, which includes Ike, hurriedly followed Yamauchi.

“We should go too.”

The one who said that to me was Haruka. Apparently, she had also said the same to Keisei and Airi because the two of them are tagging along with her.

Since I don’t really have a reason to decline, I gave a light nod and stood up. When we stepped out into the corridor, we immediately spotted a few boys there including Ike.

“Ahh, stop stop. This way, this way!”

When we tried to pass through, the Professor noticed and stopped us.

“The two of them are talking over there right now.”

“…Ehh, what’s with that speech?”

Haruka whispered that to herself after noticing that the Professor no longer uses ’gozaru’ as part of his speech.

“Apparently he got set straight during the training camp.”

I offered an explanation regarding the Professor’s serious tone.

“How should I put it, it feels like he’s lost his individuality. Well, I’m not interested though.”

Haruka quickly lost interest in the Professor and so turned our attention to Yamauchi and Sakayanagi.

“Umm, so what did you want to talk about…”

Yamauchi nervously spoke to her.

Sakayanagi too, was using her left hand to shyly play with her hair.

If we look at this from a psychological perspective, it would be described as an unconscious reflex meant to make one look more attractive for a member of the opposite sex they’re interested in.

“Could it be that Sakayanagi is legit interested in Haruki?”

While looking at the two of them, Ike muttered that in frustration.

He probably deduced that unconsciously from Sakayanagi’s expressions and gestures.

However, in this case, we should assume Sakayanagi is deliberately creating that sort of image.

But in contrast to my calm analysis-

“No, no, this is way too stupid. She’s super cunning. There’s absolutely no way she’s actually into Yamauchi-kun.”

Haruka spat that out. Perhaps this is what you’d call a woman’s intuition.

“I-I think so too.”

Airi also agreed with Haruka, maybe because she felt the same way too after seeing this.

“Men really are simple, how could they possibly fall for something like that? She’s definitely acting.”

“…Is it really an act?”

Keisei couldn’t tell from just looking. Well, I wouldn’t have been able to tell either if I hadn’t read between the lines though…

“She’s definitely acting.”

Haruka said so with certainty.

“Maybe she’s trying to acquire information on Class C like Horikita-san said.”

“But isn’t that way too obvious? There should be a better way to go about doing that. She has a higher chance of succeeding if she makes contact with Yamauchi in secret and she wouldn’t put us on guard either.”

“That’s true but…”

Keisei’s right too. If her intention here is to ensnare Yamauchi in a trap, there are plenty of ways for her to make contact with him.

She’ll only be incurring severe damage by acting in a way that tips off all of Class C. If this leads to a problem, Sakayanagi herself would definitely be ruled as having been involved.

Considering that, maybe she really is interested in Yamauchi like Keisei and Ike are saying… That would make more sense.

But Sakayanagi is aggressive and bold, so both of those are equally possible.

“The truth is, I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while now, Yamauchi-kun.”

“R-r-r-really, really, really?”

“I don’t have time to lie about something like this, you know?”

As I conducted my analysis, a conversation began starting up between the two of them.

“I won’t be able to calm down here, shall we go elsewhere?”

“T-That’s right. Yeah, let’s do that, let’s do that.”

“In that case, please accompany me for a while.”

The two of them started walking side-by-side.

Yamauchi is trying to match Sakayanagi’s slow pace.

Looks like he is capable of being considerate, even if it’s only the bare minimum amount.

The other students saw the two of them off, perhaps having determined that following them any further would be difficult.

(Part 1 End)

 

(Part 2)

The Ayanokōji Group assembled in a cafe with all its members present save for Akito, who’s headed off to his club. Haruka started the conversation.

“So, what do you think is the truth behind that little farce between Yamauchi-kun and Sakayanagi-san earlier?”

“Can we really call it a farce though?”

Keisei asked Haruka that once again.

“That’s- I mean, right Airi?”

“I… I think that was, umm, that…”

Airi said so with a slight blush.

“Ehh? But I mean, wasn’t that a bit sly?”

“Yeah, her gestures looked that way but… like Keisei-kun said, maybe she’s trying to investigate Class C so she can do something bad.”

“That’s that thing where you make someone think that.”

By boldly showing up, she’d try to make us think it’s not a trap because it’s overwhelmingly simple. There’s some truth to that as well.

“Kiyopon and Yukimu~, what do you think? Do you really think romance is a possibility?”

Haruka asked us again.

“I’m not very well-versed in that area. Please don’t ask me that so many times.”

Not wanting to talk about romance any further than this, Keisei refused to answer.

Inevitably enough, Haruka and Airi turned this way.

“Yamauchi and Sakayanagi haven’t interacted until now, it’s too abrupt. Isn’t it too much to call it romance?”

“That’s a rational opinion, Kiyopon. Romance does require a foundation but it’d be a different case for someone like Hirata-kun. Of course, the same doesn’t hold true for Yamauchi-kun.”

In the end, we couldn’t continue with the conversation with only the information we have at hand. Eventually, the topic changed from Yamauchi and Sakayanagi’s romance to the situation in Class C.

“Ahh, speaking of Hirata-kun… He broke up with Karuizawa-san, right?”

“I’m not surprised, or maybe I should say I always thought they’d break up one day.”

“Ehh, r-really?”

“You might call it appropriate for the boys’ leader and the girls’ leader to be a couple but they don’t really go well together, do they? How should I put it, Hirata-kun seems like he’d appreciate a quiet, beautiful girl more.”

“Karuizawa-san is also cute… Don’t you think so, Kiyotaka-kun?”

Airi asked me a question that’s truly difficult to answer.

Or rather, I should say she asked me because she wanted to hear the answer to that.

“I’m not sure. I’ve never really paid attention to Karuizawa after all.”

I don’t know what Airi’s thinking but that answer is all I can give.

“Well, I suppose that’s true~ Anyways, Karuizawa-san aside, the problem is that Hirata-kun is now free.”

Haruka deliberately changed the topic back to Hirata.

“Quite a lot of girls in our class like Hirata-kun. I wonder what’s going to happen.”

“Really?”

“Ehh- You didn’t notice? For example, Mii-chan definitely likes him.”

“Ahh…now that you mention it, she looks over at Hirata-kun from time to time.”

“Right, right?”

Keisei took out his notebook, perhaps because he’s grown tired of the romance talk.

“I’ll study.”

“Ahh, it’s almost our end-of-year exam… I just remembered something depressing.”

“I need to come up with something for Haruka and the others to use as well.”

Haruka lowered her head towards the table as though bowing.

Chabashira didn’t give us any explanation in particular regarding the end-of-year exam. In other words, it’s going to be a written exam as usual.

If a student gets a failing grade, they’ll be expelled immediately. That’s probably how it’ll be.

“Around when do we start up our study group?”

“Let’s see… Let’s start as soon as the practice test on the 15th is over. If we start there, we’ll have roughly 10 days until the end-of-year exam. If we focus on past problems and trends, we should be fine.”

“As expected of Yukimu~, perfect plan. I agree I agree.”

Haruka seemed happy, maybe because she didn’t want to start studying right away.

“The last special exam of the school year will probably be held after the end of school year exam ends in March.”

“Last special exam of the school year… I see, the 1st year is almost over.”

“A lot of things happened but when it’s all over, it seems like time flew by.”

Airi and Haruka both look back on the past year.

“It’s still too early to be reminiscing. If you flunk the end of school year exam, it’s expulsion for you. And it still depends on the contents of the special exam.”

Keisei brought them back to reality. It’s probably because he wants what’s best for Haruka and the others.

“Ahh.”

Right after Keisei started studying, Haruka noticed something.

When I followed her gaze, I saw Ichinose there.

She was together with several boys and girls, all of them Class B students.

They’re probably gathering much like we are but from what I can see, their expressions are stiff.

It looked like they’re attempting to protect Ichinose from the slander and defamation she’s receiving. But Ichinose herself probably doesn’t desire a situation like this.

She’s acting the way she usually does, chatting with her friends and cheerfully calling out to people as she went along. But if there’s something worrying about this, it would be the fact that Kanzaki isn’t there.

As Ichinose’s second-in-command, I get the image of them frequently being together.

“Quite the problem now, isn’t it?”

Haruka looked at Ichinose coldly.

“…Weird rumors, is what it seems to be. I don’t know who’s spreading them around but that’s awful…”

“It’s not that unusual, is it? This time it went too far but similar things happen occasionally, don’t they? I guess that’s the burden popular girls have to bear?”

“Really?”

Airi looked perplexed, as though she had no idea about that.

“If Airi were the aggressive type like Ichinose, I’m sure there’ll be people envious of you right now though?”

That certainly may be the case. But still, it doesn’t look like Airi can even imagine herself as the aggressive type.

She tried to think of it but it would seem she’s failed at that.

“Well, isn’t it best to not worry about it?”

Ichinose probably understands that too, Haruka said.

I continued to listen to Haruka and Airi’s conversation without joining in.

(Part 2 End)
(Part 3)

Roughly two hours after that. The girls kept chatting and Keisei kept studying.

I’d join Airi and Haruka’s conversation from time to time while fiddling with my phone.

Haruka’s phone, which she had placed on the table, then vibrated.

“Ahh, it’s from Miyachi.”

Haruka touched the screen and answered the call on speaker.

“Done with club activities?”

“Sorry, looks like I’ll be a bit late.”

It was a call from Akito, speaking in a slightly nervous tone, informing us that he’d be running late.

“Hmm? Could it be overtime club practice?”

“No… Looks like trouble’s brewing.”

“What trouble? Give me a bit more detail here.”

“Class A and Class B are quarreling. Worst case scenario, I have to be there to stop them if a fight breaks out.”

Doesn’t sound like Akito himself is involved though.

But Class A and Class B?

I recalled the faces of Class B’s main members I spotted earlier. But I wonder if Ichinose would really allow such careless actions that could escalate into a fight.

“You should just let them be. It’s got nothing to do with our class.”

“Could be us next, no?”

After saying that, Akito ended the call. Akito’s a man of few words but sometimes he can be surprisingly passionate like when he invited Ryuuen, who no one wanted to get involved with, into his group during the training camp.

“I wonder who’s quarreling…?”

Airi asked. Perhaps she’s curious.

“It’s usually always that class stirring up trouble.”

Of course, they’re talking about Ryuuen’s class that’s now fallen to Class D.

“Now that you mention it, that’s right.”

The two of them tilted their heads at the unexpected confrontation between Class A and Class B.

“Hey Kiyopon, Airi. Why don’t we go take a look at Miyachi?.”

“B-But wouldn’t that be dangerous?”

“I suppose so. But maybe even our class might get dragged into it if provoked.”

Haruka answered teasingly. But Airi shrunk back as though frightened.

“It’s alright. If push comes to shove I’m sure Miyachi will do something about it, no? Apparently, he used to be quite bad himself in the past too.”

“B-bad? Really?”

“I just heard it from him though.”

Perhaps the reason why he wasn’t afraid to deal with someone like Ryuuen is that he’s rather confident in his own skills.

“Well if Airi gets into a pinch, Kiyopon will save her. Right?”

“…I’ll do my best. But I’d rather not get into a fight.”

“Ahahaha. It’ll be fine. Violence usually doesn’t break out at this school. I think.”

Because there had been several such cases in the past, Haruka trailed off at the end there.

But since there’s no reason for us to not go looking for Akito, we decided to do just that.

(Part 3 End)

 

(Part 4)

We saw no sign of Akito as we headed toward the archery club.

“Huh? Where’s Miyachi?”

There’s no doubt that Akito had been headed toward the cafe, so along the way, he must have come across a dispute and diverted from the path.

The three of us collectively agreed to search for Akito.

A few minutes after we started searching, we got some reliable information from some of the students who were heading home from their club activities.

Thus, we somehow managed to arrive at the gymnasium located a short distance away from the school building.

There, two first-year students were facing off with one another.

They didn’t appear to be the people Haruka and the others had been expecting either.

The first student was Class A’s Hashimoto.

The other was Class B’s Kanzaki.

Meanwhile, Akito appeared to be in the difficult position of standing watch between the two.

“You guys aren’t really going to fight, are you?”

“You’re quite persistent, Miyake. I wasn’t the one who instigated this in the first place, Kanzaki was.”

While Hashimoto spoke as though he was being pestered by someone, our eyes met.

“It seems like your friends have arrived?”

After Hashimoto pointed this out, Akito and Kanzaki looked our way at almost the same time.

“…You guys came.”

It seems like he didn’t want us to interfere.

Well, nothing good comes from getting the girls tangled up in something like this.

Despite this, Haruka spoke up and inserted herself into the conversation.

“That’s because you’ve gone and gotten yourself involved in something strange. That’s why we came to help out.”

“Came to help… right…”

Realizing that he shouldn’t have said anything in the first place, Akito regretfully looked up into the empty air for a moment.

“So what is it? It doesn’t seem like they’re fighting.”

Realizing that it couldn’t be helped now that we were already here, Akito changed tracks.

“It seems like I misunderstood something. Although the situation does seem to have a bit of a dangerous feel to it.”

“Kanzaki is the dangerous one here.”

If I remember correctly, Hashimoto didn’t seem to be any different than usual.

However, Akito didn’t seem to be buying it.

“I would hope so.”

Akito didn’t show any intention of leaving any time soon.

It seemed like he wasn’t certain about whether or not things would take a turn for the worse.

At the same time, Kanzaki looked at us with a somewhat troubled expression.

That is to say, he had been hoping that nobody else would show up here.

However, he should also understand that such a dream was no longer possible.

For that reason, he chose to keep silent.

Ultimately, Kanzaki didn’t say a word to any of us and once again turned his attention back toward Hashimoto.

“Continuing from where we left off, Hashimoto. What have you been doing after school? You don’t belong to any clubs, so why are you here so late?”

“So if I don’t have any club activities, I have to head home early? I’m free to go and do whatever I want after school. Moreover, out of everyone here, I think Miyake is the only one involved with a club. Right?”

Taking the initiative, Hashimoto poked a hole in Kanzaki’s argument by dragging us into the conversation.

Compared to Kanzaki, our sudden appearance seemed to play right into Hashimoto’s hands.

The members of the Ayanokouji Group briefly exchanged glances.

It wouldn’t be possible to say that we’re allies of Class A or Class B.

Though, if we had to choose between the two, we would definitely choose Class B.

That would be because of the armistice between Horikita and Ichinose.

“Ha! Not going to answer?”

Noticing that his question was being responded to with silence, Hashimoto let out a laugh.

“You’re not waiting here in order to meet anyone in particular. You’re just trying to spread rumors to as many people as you can, aren’t you?”

Kanzaki wore his usual calm expression, but his spirit was very imposing.

From what it looks like, Kanzaki had been questioning Hashimoto about the recent rumors surrounding Ichinose.

Akito was worried that they would get into a fight with one another, which leads us to where the situation is at now.

Hashimoto probably felt that his actions were exposed to a certain extent after listening to Kanzaki’s claim, as he nodded a couple of times in response.

“Rumors? Ah, you mean the ones about Ichinose doing various malicious things? What connection do I have with those rumors?”

“Playing dumb is just a waste of everyone’s time. I want to make one thing crystal clear with you. What you and the rest of your class are doing is simply too malicious. It’s no different than the type of thing Ryuuen would do.”

“Even when you say something like that, I don’t have an answer for you.”

Hashimoto, whose intentions are usually hard to completely understand, spoke evasively in response to Kanzaki’s questioning.

Akito seemed to grasp that the two of them wouldn’t immediately break into a fistfight, he distanced himself from the two of them and came over to us.

“Hey, what should we do?”

Haruka asked Akito in a low voice.

“Nothing, let’s just watch for the time being. If they split up without anything happening, it’ll end with that.”

“But… Is it okay for us to be listening in?”

I could somewhat understand Airi’s uneasiness.

Our Class C has nothing to do with their discussion.

At the very least, Kanzaki won’t be pleased about having us be present here. That was the vibe I got from the air around him.

“What do you think, Kiyotaka?”

Akito asked for my input.

“Isn’t it fine until they tell us to leave? If at some point, this turns into a fight, the presence of a third party can help keep things civil. Kanzaki should see the benefit in that too.”

It seems as though Akito immediately agreed with me, as he nodded a few times.

Hashimoto then took the topic of the rumors one step deeper.

“Hey, Kanzaki. This thing going on with Ichinose… are you sure they’re really just rumors?”

“What?”

“You can’t have smoke without a fire. That’s probably what most students are thinking.”

“Rumors can create smoke without a fire as long as there’s malicious intent.”

Hashimoto leaned against the nearby wall.

“Indeed. It’s true that rumors and fire are entirely separate things.”

Proverbs can’t be applied to every situation in the world.

“However, can you confidently tell me that Ichinose doesn’t have a dark past, Kanzaki?”

“Approximately one year. That’s how long I’ve been going through thick and thin together with Class B. That’s why I’m absolutely certain.”

“Oh give it up Kanzaki. Responses like that stink so much that I can’t even look you in the eyes.”

After saying so, Hashimoto dropped eye contact.

“Of course, I’ve also asked Ichinose directly.”

“Hoh? And what did she say?”

“She said something like: ‘I hope you aren’t entranced by any of those rumors. Don’t take them to heart.’”

“That is to say, she neither affirmed nor denied them?”

“That’s right. That’s why I decided to believe in her.”

“Oi oi, are you being serious? How much of a softie can you be?”

Hashimoto let out a laugh of contempt before immediately continuing.

“Not wanting to talk about your own dark past is just a part of human nature. Just because you’re friends, it doesn’t guarantee that she told the truth. That’s also why she didn’t tell the truth to her classmates. Or, are you saying that just because Ichinose is a good person now, that she has to have been a good person in the past as well?”

Hashimoto attempted to shake Kanzaki’s confidence.

However, Kanzaki didn’t appear to be distraught at all.

The look in his eyes told me that he has complete trust in Ichinose.

“You actually think that she’s going to tell you the truth just because you’re her right-hand man? How sweet of you.”

Hashimoto doesn’t mask his surprise at Kanzaki’s blind faith.

Or it could be that he came to the realization that there was no longer any need to prolong the conversation any further.

“I didn’t confront you to listen to something like this in the first place. I want the details of what you’ve been doing today.”

“Then I’ll tell you. I’ve been spreading around rumors about Ichinose.”

Hashimoto admitted to it.

“Hey, Kanzaki. You’re a smart, caring guy. However, that’s precisely why I suggest that you avoid getting too involved in things like this. All that you’ll be able to do is blindly believe in the other person.”

“In other words, you have no intention of retracting those rumors.”

“Aren’t you misunderstanding something here? There’s no way to ‘take back’ rumors. Rumors flow from one way to the next, spreading out however they please. I just caught wind of them and helped passed them along.”

While he admitted to helping spread the rumor along, Hashimoto clearly denied that he was the original source.

However, that didn’t make Kanzaki back down.

It seems that from the beginning, Kanzaki was aware that Hashimoto wasn’t the origin for the rumors.

“These last few days, I’ve been doing a thorough investigation on you guys in Class A.”

“And?”

“I determined that the source of the rumors all come from various students from the first-year Class A. Then, when we asked those people where they heard it from, they would give vague responses like ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘I heard it from someone else.’ Mighty similar to the response that you gave me just now. The true meaning behind this? You should already understand, Hashimoto.”

It means that someone had given instructions to everyone from Class A.

“I’m sorry, Kanzaki, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you don’t mind, would you please explain it to me?”

“The rumors about Ichinose were almost certainly propagated by your Class A.”

“Eh-”

“I don’t intend on listening to your excuses. I didn’t just ask first-years. I also consulted second-year and third-year students who claimed to have heard the rumors from you guys. If necessary, I can ask them to come out and confirm the facts in person.”

From the looks of it, Kanzaki and his classmates have been excessively thorough with finding the origin of the rumors.

He’s been convinced that the whole operation was spearheaded by Class A.

And with that, he’s now gone and approached Hashimoto.

Based on the fact that Kanzaki is here on his own, without a group, Class B is doing this out of consideration for Ichinose.

If a large number of students were to make a scene, it would end up attracting even more attention from students. Even those who aren’t interested in rumors in the first place.

No, there’s also the possibility that in this case, Kanzaki is acting entirely alone.

“I see. So that’s why you’ve been stalking me all day today as well.”

Because Hashimoto included the words ‘as well’, it meant that he had noticed when Kanzaki started tailing him.

Yet, he didn’t seem like he cared about it at all.

That’s because he understood that it obviously wasn’t any sort of hindrance to what he was doing.

Hashimoto shrugged and let out a sigh as Kanzaki spoke up.

“Was it Sakayanagi who gave you instructions to spread the rumors?”

“Uh, no?”

“Then who did? She’s the only one who can give instructions to you guys in Class A other than Katsuragi.”

“Who knows? I’m just the same as any other student. I heard these rumors from someone else. Even if you’re so confident that the rumors were started by Class A, I still don’t even have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. Maybe it’s the handiwork of Ryuuen and he’s actually just pretending to have retired?”

At that, Kanzaki changes tactics a bit.

“So you’ve all blindly accepted a rumor which may or may not be the truth and spread it around?”

“The world is overflowing with people doing that exact thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. If it’s interesting people will want to share it with others. Don’t you think that, due to their experience, girls participate in things like that much more than guys do?”

While saying so, Hashimoto turned his gaze towards Haruka and Airi.

“Well… I do like rumors, but…”

“The sad thing is, the juicier a piece of gossip is, the more enthusiastic people are to talk about it. Think about it a little bit more objectively, Kanzaki. When you asked Ichinose, she didn’t confirm or deny anything, and she also isn’t asking for any help. Don’t you think that’s strange? If it’s all just a lie, she would be seeking cooperation to catch the perpetrator instead.”

“Ichinose hates extreme conflicts. I’m sure that she has a big enough heart to even forgive the people who are defaming her.”

Since Ichinose won’t say anything on the matter, Kanzaki has no other choice than to believe in her.

“Good grief. You people from Class B…”

In any case, I’ve managed to confirm one thing based on the way Hashimoto has been speaking and acting so far.

The rumors that have been circulating about Ichinose recently… Sure enough, they aren’t all lies.

I temporarily put aside my position as a student and looked at the situation from society’s point of view.

Naturally, on the grounds of defamation and libel, Ichinose would be able to sue the party responsible for circulating the rumors. Regardless of whether they were true or not, the damage to her public reputation would give her the grounds to do so.

Well, provided that it’s limited to situations where the truth isn’t at odds with the public interest.

If this entire thing has been orchestrated by Sakayanagi, then, of course, everything should be going according to her plan.

The fact that Ichinose has chosen to stay silent proves that her strategy is working just as intended.

Giving Kanzaki a solid pat on the shoulder as he passes by, Hashimoto put his hands in his pockets and begins to leave the room.

“Our conversation isn’t over yet.”

“Haven’t we said enough? Even if we continue the conversation, we won’t end up being able to agree on anything anyway.”

Lightly gesturing a farewell to Haruka and Airi, Hashimoto left the room, heading toward the school building.

I felt a strange sense of incongruity after watching Hashimoto leave.

It was obvious that he didn’t treat me the same way as he did back at the training camp.

In the end, it was nothing more than mere intuition.

What’s changed between then and now… What’s different… It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact details.

“Excuse me.”

Kanzaki gave us a slight bow and left, leaving toward the dormitories instead of the school building.

“Somehow, I feel like we just witnessed something totally awesome!”

“Why do I feel like you’ve been enjoying all of this?”

Haruka stuck out the tip of her tongue in response to Akito’s retort.

“Well, that’s because this ‘so-called’ violence is kinda exciting! Plus, if by some chance, we were attacked, Miyachi would have a plan ready to protect us right?”

While saying that, Haruka made a show of doing a few boxing jabs in the air.

“I heard that you used to be quite the delinquent?”

I asked, going along with the flow of the conversation. Akito let out a heavy sigh.

“I don’t really wanna talk about it, Haruka. I don’t want it to spread around.”

“It doesn’t matter, does it? You’re different now anyway. Were you really strong back then?”

“Let me just say this, I wasn’t some famous delinquent. Honestly, someone else was the top delinquent at the school I went to, and he was much stronger than me.”

“Huh. Was it a rough school?”

“Where I come from, adults would live a disordered life, and when they have kids, raise them that way as well. By the way, Class D’s Ryuuen went to the middle school right next to mine.”

“Ehhh? Seriously!?”

“Aah. Throughout the several times when conflicts started between our schools, we came in contact with each other. Well, that guy probably never took me very seriously.”

Ah, so Akito is skilled at handling those kinds of situations because he’s grown accustomed to fighting.

“This conversation ends here. Don’t share this with anyone outside of the group, okay?”

“I getcha. Let’s go back to the cafe ok? Yukimuu is waiting.”

“Sounds good.”

In the end, this is just somebody else’s problem.

The best option is to avoid digging any deeper. I’m certain of it.


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