It was the morning of August 4th, the day after the completion of the uninhabited island special exam. For the next seven days, from today until the end of August 10th, the students would spend their vacation on a luxury cruise ship. We were promised that there wouldn be any special exams like the zodiac exam held last year.
The ship had a swimming pool, a fitness gym, a movie theater, a concert hall, a bathhouse with a view, a shopping area with restaurants such as the café terrace, and various other entertainment facilities.
In other words, wed earned the right to enjoy all of this.
So where was I on this long-awaited first day…?
I was relaxing in the four-person cabin assigned to each student with my mobile phone in my hand. There was no need to rush off to play just because you had a few days off.
In fact, it wasn a bad idea to give up all entertainment for a while to get some rest and relaxation. In contrast to the hard bed from our dormitories, the bed of a first-class brand gently embraces the body. That feeling was further amplified after spending the last two weeks living in a tent on an uninhabited island.
Ill leave it at that as far as the situation for the first day goes.
The class points for August were determined and announced based on the results of the uninhabited island exam. Normally, they were announced on the first day of the month, but this time the beginning of the month coincided with the middle of the uninhabited island exam. Because of this, the point totals were announced late so that they could account for the results of the special exam.
For students enrolled in this school, the beginning of the month started with the confirmation of class points. The same was true for our individual rankings, but class points were directly related to our private points, which in turn were directly related to our monthly allowance. If you didn have any money at your disposal, your holiday on this luxury cruise ship would be wasted.
Second-Year Class Points for August:
Class A led by Sakayanagi: 1206 points
Class B led by Ichinose: 578 points
Class C led by Horikita: 571 points
Class D led by Ryūen: 551 points
As a result, our class ended up rising to Class C by a narrow margin. There was a chance we couldve even risen to Class B, but we were just one step short.
However, there was nothing to be pessimistic about. In fact, the results were rather good, with Kōenji managing to get us 300 class points with his solo win.
I was once again reminded of the destructive power of this overwhelming points bonus. Kōenji had always been perceived as a nuisance by many in the class, but those people would have no choice but to change their view now.
However, I was skeptical of whether this change in view would last forever. In exchange for the huge amount of class points he had earned, he was given a card that meant he would be exempted from all cooperation until graduation. If this fact were made public, the number of people who felt honestly happy about the situation would likely decrease. Nevertheless, I think this was a good thing.
If we hadn gotten Kōenjis 300 points, we wouldve had to keep fighting for a long time while being uncertain of whether we could really keep up with the upper classes. Having all three classes side by side like this would be a great help mentally.
Now we were just a step away from being able to rise up and become the sole Class B. From there, we would have to try and close the gap through direct confrontation with Sakayanagis class.
This upward path also applied to Ryūens class, which had dropped to Class D.
He was unable to finish in the top three in the uninhabited island exam, so didn win any points for his class. The points gap had shortened as a result of this, but there was nothing to complain about regarding their ability. The addition of Katsuragi would raise the overall academic performance of the class and provide them with a sense of stability.
In addition, Ryūen made some kind of deal with Sakayanagi. It was hard to say if it was a contract to do with private points or class points, or even something completely different, but it may well have an impact in future battles.
Although there were some concerns, their momentum wasn slowing, but increasing, making them probably the scariest class right now. They dropped to Class D in name only; in fact, I am sure they don care one bit.
In contrast, Ichinoses class, which had risen back up to Class B, was not in bad shape if you only looked at the results.
With Sakayanagi leading, Ichinose was able to gain class points through cooperation. However, they couldn rest on their laurels, as the gap between Class B and Class D was only 27 points. Wed entered a situation where the rankings could be switched come September 1st through minor behavioural issues alone. Depending on the results of the uninhabited island exam, they couldve fallen to Class D. The anxiety Ichinose was feeling must be quite strong. The moment of truth will come soon, Ichinose.
I sent her a message, though only in my heart.
I didn think that there would be more exams like the uninhabited island exam where all classes in all years participate from here on, so the next special exam should be a battle among our year. If they fall behind Class C and Class D, the future will look bleak for Ichinoses class. In other words, the next battle may decide their future…
The situation of the three classes side by side could be briefly summarized as such.
In the end, it was Class A led by Sakayanagi on top. It wouldn be easy to close that gap. Their sense of stability was outstanding, and as such, they were able to slip into third place in the uninhabited island exam and accumulate class points.
They have many excellent students, and Sakayanagis ability to control them was perfect. Furthermore, the strategies Sakayanagi was capable of using weren limited to just the traditional or unorthodox, she was able to use both with great dexterity. Class A was truly unshakable, and she was certainly worthy of being their leader.
There was barely a chance, but if Horikitas Class gained momentum, it wouldn be impossible to catch up. Yes, it wasn like there was no room to manoeuvre.
Of course, in order to do that, the dominant Class A needed to be broken down in some way. The shortest route would be to get rid of Sakayanagi, but it would be extremely difficult to do so when considering her protection point. Even if she didn have a protection point, it would be no simple task. Rather than destroying the head, the smart thing to do would be to crush the pieces that are the limbs.
We would need to eliminate more than just 1 or 2 people, but if Kamuro, Hashimoto, and Kitō were absent or otherwise made dysfunctional, there was only so much Sakayanagi would be able to do. There were unknowns about Kitō, but the other two seemed to be people with a lot of problems that could be exploited.
Well, Ill leave it at that for now.
With the official start of the summer vacation, all classes had temporarily stopped fighting and were in a state of truce.
From here on for a while, it was my turn to have as much fun as I could as a normal student. Until the other day, my pockets were empty, but when the class points were announced and the private points for August were given out, my wallet was suddenly full. Our class had 571 class points, or in other words, 57,100 yen worth of private points were given to each person. I didn receive any bonuses since I wasn able to get into the top rankings for additional rewards, but it was more than enough. Private points were essential for spending a fulfilling time on this luxury cruise ship, as the system required a minimum number of private points to enjoy a movie or meal of your choice. Last year, all the facilities on board were free of charge, so the rules have been tightened up regarding money as well. Of course, it didn cost anything to spend the week holed up in your guest cabin, but then it would be no different to living in your dormitory on a day off.
Ping! There was a pleasant little sound and then an email arrived.
I received a message on my recently returned phone that the detailed results of the uninhabited island exam would be released at the resting area by the fitness gym on the ship for two days starting today. Since only the top and bottom few groups had been announced, many students would be interested. As for me, it would be best to check it out so that I could keep an eye on the future.
However, it would be more convenient to send the list to everyones phones, but they didn do that. Did they not want students to take the results home and analyse them for a long time? It could be considered a measure to avoid leaving unnecessary evidence due to Tsukishiros involvement this time.
There was a part of me that wanted to go check it out right away, but it was likely that students would be coming in droves, so it would probably be better to give it some time.
Forgetting about the test results for the moment, I decided to take care of something else. Using my phone, I sent a simple message to Ichinose with a request to meet briefly in the evening in three days time. Of course, it was easy for her to imagine that it was in response to the spur of the moment confession I received on the uninhabited island.
I thought about seeing her and giving my reply right away, but the gruelling uninhabited island exam had only just ended. It was okay to let her spend some time regaining her strength and having some fun with her friends. Since the message hadn been read yet, I turned off my phone for now.
I decided to see what my roommates, Miyamoto Soshi, Hondō Ryōtarō, and Miyake Akito, would do.
”Hey Ryōtarō, the exam results are out. Wanna go take a look? ”
”Hmm…pass… I can walk, Im a wreck. Right now I just want to lie in my bed… ”
Not only was he tired, but it was understandable that this bed would take away his energy to move. The temptation of the bed was too much for all of us, including me. Hondō, who was particularly exhausted, turned weakly to his left and showed his back.
”Youve been like that since yesterday. ”
”I felt like dying when I moved and I really wanted to eat, but I couldn get it down my throat. ”
With his back to me, he covered his head with the duvet and curled up. For now, it seemed he just wanted to lie down and sleep. The trip on this luxury liner would last for a week, so it was a wise decision to not panic and wait to recover his strength.
”What about you guys, Miyake and Ayanokōji? Aren you a little curious about your rankings? ”
Akito turned his gaze towards Miyamoto as he fiddled with his phone. ”Im good. I have a good idea of what rank we placed. Honestly, I think its enough that we didn get expelled. I just want to relax for today, like Hondō. ”
It wasn hard to imagine that Akito, who was working with both Haruka and Airi, wouldve had a lot of trouble as the only guy in his group. It must have taken more of a toll on his spirit than his physical strength.
”You were in the same group as Sakura and Hasebe right? ” Miyamoto asked Akito whilst sitting on his bed.
”Whats this all of a sudden? ”
”I was in a group with three guys, so it was a hell of a sweaty time, but you mustve been in heaven surrounded by girls, right? ”
”What kind of heaven is that? If you ask me, it was hell cause there were so many things to take care of. A bunch of guys would definitely be easier. ”
Because both were part of different groups, each was claiming the other had it better.
To be honest, I was glad I didn join either group. For this exam, unless you were really good friends, it was better to go alone.
Anyway, when the two of them refused, Miyamotos gaze turned towards me as well. Unlike Hondō and Akito, I was able to regain most of the strength I had lost on the island by sleeping well in my bed. I wasn quite in perfect condition, but Id have no trouble moving around the ship.
However, instead of rushing, I could go take a look later. Besides, even if Akito didn go, it was possible that other members of the Ayanokōji group might go to check it out.
”Im going to take it easy today. I don like crowds and Im sure everyone is curious about their rankings. ”
Bang bang bang!
When I tried to say no like the first two did, there were several knocks on the door of the guest cabin. The momentum of the knocks was unbelievably strong, as if something unusual had occurred. Akito jumped up and rushed to open the door, revealing Ishizaki. There was a tense atmosphere as if something was wrong…
”Ayanokōji, lets go check out the test results together! ”
Everyone was taken aback by his smile and what he had said. Akito turned around and looked at me, having lost his voice.
”No, Im… ”
e not busy are ya? Come on, lets go! ”
He barged into the room and grabbed me by the arm while I was sitting on the bed.
”When did you guys become such good friends? ”
The person who was most surprised by the situation was Akito, with whom I spent the most time. Ishizaki, who was from a rival class, was also a bit of a problem child, so it wasn surprising that Akito was concerned. In fact, the other two had also been taken aback by Ishizakis appearance and were still stiff.
”Well, it just kind of happened… ”
I had nothing more to say, but I didn think Akito would find my explanation satisfactory. Despite the strong pressure of Ishizakis smile, I decided to pull back and turn him down.
”Im a little tired today. ”
”Whatcha mean you
e tired? If its you itll be fine. Come on, lets go! ”
With no regard for my feelings, he didn seem to want to give up on dragging me out the room.
”…Okay, I get it. Let me get changed for now. ”
”Right, Ill be waitin for you in the hallway then! ”
Perhaps because he was satisfied with my answer that I would join him, Ishizaki walked out of the room.
”Looks like youve caught the eye of a nasty one. Let me know if theres any trouble. ”
”Thank you, Akito. Well, Ishizakis not a bad guy, so Ill be okay. ”
”Not a bad guy, huh? I ain got a good impression of him. Its possible Ryūens pulling his strings from behind. Youd best be on your guard. ”
Wed repeatedly had clashes with the delinquents led by Ryūen, so it was natural for those who didn know the inner workings of the class to think that way. Ishizaki wasn good at hiding things or playing games, but if he was being controlled without knowing it, then he could be troublesome to deal with. Saying that, now that weren in the middle of a special exam, I could assume that wasn the case.
After changing out of my uniform, I raised my hand lightly to Akito and left the room. Ishizaki seemed to be the only one waiting in the hallway, and I couldn see any other students.
”Right, lets go~! ”
”Theres no need to be in such a hurry, is there? ”
”Eh? Why not? ”
”Even if we don rush, the results will be up for two days, so we can see them later, right? ”
”I want to see it quickly. Im the kinda guy who, when a new movie comes out, can wait and goes to see it straight away. ”
Even if he explained to me that he was that type of person, there was no way I could understand. It was a little hard to imagine Ishizaki going to the movie theatre in high spirits on the day of its release.
”I went to see World Domination 16 the day it came out. ”
Id never heard that title before, but it sounded like it would have guns and fists flying all over the place. And 16 films made it quite the long series. However, that title didn appeal to me at all.
”Im curious where Ryūen-sans group ended up placin. ”
At any rate, Ishizaki didn seem like the kind of guy to not have many friends in his own class. He shouldn have needed to invite me, a student from another class.
”Are you sure you don want to invite Ryūen and the others who are worried about their ranking? ”
Ill ask him indirectly to find out his true intentions.
”That guy will say somethin if he needs to. If he hasn said anythin yet, then it ain needed. ”
”Thats easy to understand. ”
”Right. A lot of the other guys are too tired after being on an uninhabited island and passed on my offer. ”
Like Akito and the others, most people just wanted to rest right now.
e in good spirits. Aren you tired? ”
”Me? I recovered after I slept. ”
”I see ”
It was a surprisingly simple answer, but it was easy to understand. He might not have particularly good motor skills, but he seemed to be more resilient than most. However, the fact that he chose me after the process of elimination didn really make sense.
e easy to talk to, Ayanokōji. ”
”…Is that so? ”
That was a little surprising, since I wasn very good at socializing.
e way easier to talk to than that weirdo Kaneda. ”
I didn know much about Kaneda, but the comparison resulted in some complex feelings.
On the way, we passed by a store.
e sellin national flags! ”
Ishizakis eyes sparkled with excitement as he picked up national flags from all over the world in the store. As I watched him with a confused expression, wondering what was going on, Ishizaki rubbed the bottom of his nose with his index finger and answered.
”Ah, you know, when we went to Alberts room before, he had a collection of flags. I dunno, maybe Ive been inspired by him, but Ive been collectin them too. ”
So, one persons hobby influenced another person, and that spread? Theyd apparently found a common hobby in collecting flags, which seemed to be a rarity nowadays.
”I don know much about Albert, but hes a good guy, isn he? ”
”Yeah, thats right. When we first came to school we had a bunch of problems, but now hes my best friend. ”
It was true that I often saw Ishizaki and Albert together.
”So, as far as friendships go, its smooth sailing, I guess. ”
I was honestly impressed and said so, but Ishizakis face hardened slightly as he walked beside me.
”Its not really like that. Its not like Im the most popular kid in class. ”
”Is it because you
e working under Ryūen? ”
”I don think thats necessarily the reason, it happened right after I came to this school after all. But after our run-in with you on the rooftop, I was supposed to have defeated Ryūen-san and taken back the class. Id been hangin out with a lot of people Id never really gotten to know before. ”
He spoke so much that he seemed to be at a loss for words. It was true that Ishizakis position may be complicated. There were more than a few students who were hoping Ryūen would be defeated and were grateful to Ishizaki. However, if he were to fall straight back into line under Ryūen, he would inevitably face opposition.
”So, Im also part of the cause. ”
”Ah sorry, I phrased it weirdly. Its not your fault, Ayanokōji. That was a fight we started in the first place. Its true that some of my friends left me, but now Im friends with you instead, so don worry out it. ”
Ishizaki turned his head my way and laughed powerfully. But there was something fragile about that laugh, almost dangerous.
”Don go trying to solve the class problems all by yourself. ”
”I know. Class problems are solved with classmates together. Ryūen-san returned with that determination. ”
Ishizaki believed so and would do everything he could to follow.
”Whoa, there are loads of people. ”
Sure enough, the rest area near the fitness gym where the test results were disclosed was crowded with students. A large sign beside the monitor read, Photography is strictly prohibited and there were two adults, probably associated with Tsukishiro, watching the students.
The rankings and scores were displayed as a list on the monitor, which seemed to be scrolling automatically. Right now we could see the group members and scores for the groups ranked 50th through to 60th.
Suddenly, I felt an incredible sense of discomfort flowing through my body. What was it? I couldn immediately figure out what it was, but I felt an indescribable sick kind of feeling.
”I wanted to get a closer look at the results, but I don think I can concentrate with all this. ”
Ishizaki, who wasn feeling the same discomfort as me, looked at the monitor and muttered in displeasure.
”Theres no helping it. Im sure