With that, I left the guest cabin. I was pretty sure he said their dispute was at the nearby restroom. If it was a minor dispute, the best thing to do would be to leave it alone, just as Miyamoto said, but…
When I heard the name Tokitō, the first person that came to mind was Ichinoses classmate Tokitō Katsumi, who was in the same group as me during last years mixed training camp. The one who was making trouble right now was someone else, Tokitō Hiroya. I remember being surprised when I heard that their both having the same relatively rare surname, Tokitō, wasn just a coincidence, but because they were distant relatives. We haven built up any deep friendship since then, but I have shared food, clothing and shelter with Tokitō Katsumi.
It seemed that they weren acquainted, but if it was okay for an outsider like me to step in, Id like to reach out to him at least. That was what I planned on doing, but…
Even after getting close to the restroom, there was still no sign of Katsuragi and the others. There was a bit of a disagreement, but I guess it was already resolved.
As I was about to take a look around the area, Hiyori called out to me.
”Have you seen Katsuragi? ”
”As I thought, other people saw them too. I also heard that Katsuragi-kun and Tokitō-kun were having a dispute, so I came here. Thats why I asked them to change location just now. ”
I see. If it was around the restroom, theyd stand out even if they didn want to. As I followed Hiyoris lead, I could faintly make out a voice from an unpopular area.
I was instructed to peer in from the shadows, and silently listened for the source of the voice. Just as Miyamoto reported, it was Katsuragi and Tokitō. However, besides them, it seemed that a girl, Okabe, was also participating.
”Katsuragi, are you really followin Ryūen? ”
e still going on with this? This is the third time youve asked me that question, albeit with slightly different wording. ”
”Thats because you won answer. ”
”Theres no way to answer. I keep asking you to clarify what you mean by following. ”
While Katsuragi was calmly handling the situation, Tokitō was letting his emotions get the better of him.
”Im talkin about you being his dog and doin whatever he tells you to do. ”
”I don remember becoming a dog, and I have no intention of being ordered around. ”
”Sorry, but I don think so. If thats the case, why did you team up with him for the uninhabited island exam? ”
”Thats a difficult question to understand. Obviously it was for the class to win. What else is there to say, ” answered Katsuragi, as if it were a matter of course.
”Even though you couldn even get 3rd place? ”
”It certainly didn go as planned. But, the results were not bad. ”
”What the hell is that? Its all the same for 4th place and below. Also, the Trial card up being meaningless. ”
”It means that Ryūen has more on his mind than you think. ”
”I don wanna hear that from a stranger like you. Go on then, whats he thinkin about? ”
”This isn the right stage to talk about it. Im sorry, but I can tell you anything. ”
”Whats that supposed to mean? Theres nothin at all, is there? Anyway, I don like Ryūen. ”
The push and pull exchange went on and on. One thing was for sure; Tokitō really hated Ryūen from the bottom of his heart.
”Its true that if you were to ask me if hes a likable person, I couldn honestly answer with a yes. ”
Katsuragi nodded his head in agreement, not arguing that point. However, it seemed that Tokitō didn care for this attitude either.
”And yet, you teamed up with Ryūen on the uninhabited island and were acting all buddy buddy while eatin together today. ”
e going around in circles. There seems to be a misunderstanding… ”
When Katsuragi was about to deny it, Tokitō intervened with a biting attitude.
”After all that hostility, you were won over so easily. I thought youd have more backbone than that. ”
”Ive had more than one or two run-ins with Ryūen, regardless of being a friend or foe. But now Im fulfilling my role as a member of the class, and as Ryūens classmate. If this class is moving around Ryūen, then it makes sense to follow suit. ”
”I can believe these words are comin from the guy who was goin at it with Sakayanagi. ”
”The process is different. When we started as 1st years, we hadn decided who was going to be the leader yet. And since Sakayanagi, who had put herself forward as a candidate, and I had opposing views, I put myself forward as leader and we had a confrontation. The current class has already set its course with Ryūen as its leader. In the first place, do you really think Ill be recognized as the leader after having just changed classes? ”
”Besides, Sakayanagi and Ryūen are different types. The class also has a very different feel. ”
Katsuragi replied with a good argument as if admonishing him, but Tokitō didn seem to be convinced at all.
”Thats why I told you, Tokitō. Katsuragi-kun isn worth talking to. ”
Okabe, who had been quietly watching up to this point, tapped Tokitō on the shoulder and told him there was no point in going any further.
”In the end, you, who had no place in Class A, were happy to be picked up by Ryūen, right Katsuragi-kun? In other words, you
e his dog. ”
”I don think you people are going to understand me if I deny it here. ”
I see, it was only a rough idea, but I was starting to see the root of all this trouble. After being tapped on the shoulder with a fingertip, I pulled my head back and faced Hiyori.
”Its not just today that some of my classmates have been complaining. ”
”I guess. The resentment theyve been feeling until now mustve been building up. ”
Ryūens dictatorship obviously generates strong opposition. They mustve been forcibly suppressing it until now, but it was finally started to boil over.
”What about Ryūen? In the past, he never wouldve shown mercy in response to rebels. ”
”In the past, yes. ”
”Is the absence of that ruthlessness the cause of whats happening here? ”
Hiyori gave a small nod.
”Everyone is changing. In the beginning, I didn have any strong feelings regarding the class either. I hardly ever asserted my opinion, as long as I could spend the next three years surrounded by books. ”
Certainly, if you were to ask me if Hiyoris presence was strong from the beginning, I wouldve said no. In fact, I didn even take notice of her existence.
”Tokitō-kun has always hated Ryūen-kuns way of doing things. No, its not just Tokitō-kun. The one nearby, Okabe-san, is another one of them. ”
”Are you saying that they want to embrace Katsuragi and rebel against Ryūen? ”
”That may be so. ”
Ability-wise, Katsuragi was more than capable of being a substitute leader. And because hes student from a different class, he could cut through Ryūen without hesitation.
”But Tokitō Hiroya. Ryūen has made another troublesome enemy. ”
Akito said something similar about Tokitō Hiroya, but he has a selfish personality and was rough with his words, and he was also known to be vindictive.
”Do you think so too, Ayanokōji-kun? ”
As Hiyori feared, this situation was a scourge that wouldn benefit anyone.
”Indeed, our class is going strong right now. I think one of the main reasons for this is the growth of Ryūen-kun, who came back after being out of the war for a while. ”
Compared to the beginning of the first year Ryūen, Ishizaki, and others have shown a lot of growth.
”But whether or not this steady progress will continue forever is another story. It might be something you could say for every class, but if Ryūen-kun were to be expelled from school in the near future, our class would fall apart immediately. ”
”The way Ryūen fights is always fraught with danger after all. ”
In the future, it was likely that there would be developments in which he would take on a lot of risk in order to win big. I was also very curious about the agreement he brought up to Sakayanagi.
”Should that happen, its essential to have someone who can contain the damage. ”
She meant a potential leader in case of unforeseen circumstances. Hiyori smiled at me.
”At that time, Ayanokōji-kun…would you join our class? ”
Hiyori, despite her appearance, wasn optimistic and spoke of a strategy to help the class win.
”Again? What a daring thing to say. ”
”I invited you the other day, but that was half-jokingly just to go along with Ishizaki-kun. This invitation is different. ”
In other words, this time shes serious.
”I don consider my class to be weak at all. But its also true that we lack someone who can guide us in case of an emergency. What do you think? ”
A battle with Hiyori, Katsuragi and Kaneda backing me up as general counsel, huh?
”This development doesn necessarily mean that Ryūen is going to be expelled. Isn that right? ”
”Of course, the best thing would be if that didn happen. ”
But for Hiyori, I had a feeling that this was a bit of a spur of the moment invitation. Even if shed been thinking about it in her gut, I questioned whether it was something she shouldve said right now.
”Did you hear something worrying? ” I asked boldly, but Hiyori just smiled a little and didn answer.
While I was talking to Hiyori, Katsuragi and Tokitō continued to argue. Katsuragis rigidity was finally broken by the fact that Tokitō wouldn be pleased no matter how he responded.
”…This is a waste of time. I told you this because I thought if it was you, youd understand, but I was wrong. ”
”You seem to have understood. ”
”Im not askin you to keep quiet about this. If you wanna report it to Ryūen, do it. ”
”I have no intention of reporting it. ”
”You sure about this? Im tellin you, Im serious. You never know whatll happen if you let it go. ”
”Don get me wrong, Tokitō. There are lots of things wrong with the way Ryūen does things. I don think its wrong to have complaints like you do. But Im not impressed by your overzealous behaviour. ”
It was obvious that Tokitō had something in mind. And there was no doubt that his intention was to eliminate Ryūen.
”Shut up. ”
After saying this, Tokitō left Katsuragi. We hid ourselves and watched Tokitō and Okabe leave so that we could stay unnoticed. I was going to leave quietly after that, but…Hiyori pulled my arm, revealing our presence in front of Katsuragi.
”Do you need something, Ayanokōji? ”
It would be strange to run away now, so I went with the flow and walked up to Katsuragi.
”No, it just seems theres a lot of difficulties in your class too, Katsuragi. ”
”Its the same in every class. Although I wouldve preferred not to be overheard. ” Katsuragi looked once at Hiyori, who was standing next to me. ”Im not impressed, Shiina. You seem to trust Ayanokōji, but I can say its the right decision to bring your personal feelings into a class matter. ”
As harsh as it may sound, what Katsuragi said was correct. Sending information to the enemy that you didn need to give could become a fatal wound later on.
”That may be so. But who among our classmates can you talk to about this? If Ryūen-kun, one of the parties involved, heard about it, he wouldn leave Tokitō-kun and the others alone, and neither would the other students. Some might even try to score some points by selling out their friends who betrayed him. ”
”Its not something that can be solved by letting Ayanokōji hear it. ”
”Isn this a good opportunity to sort out your thoughts on what to do, Katsuragi-kun? ”
”Why don you let out whats on your mind so that you can find your bearings? ”
A schemer, huh? Hiyori was trying to use me to influence Katsuragi in a positive way. It wasn easy for Katsuragi, who had a tendency to think alone, to get along with others. Her actions mustve gotten through to Katsuragi, as he agreed in spite of himself.
”You seem to be thinking about the class more than I thought, Shiina. ”
”Of course. I intend to graduate with all my classmates in Class A after all. ”
As if encouraged by her remark, Katsuragi put his thoughts into words.
”As the only second-year student who has experienced both classes so far, I feel there is a crucial difference between Sakayanagis class and Ryūens class. In both cases, the leaders often face complaints from their classmates, but even so, Sakayanagis class has a certain cohesiveness. On the other hand, in Ryūens class, there are still many students who are not convinced and dissatisfied. ”
These were exactly the kind of students Tokitō and Okabe, who had just confronted Katsuragi, were.
”This dissatisfaction will continue to build up and persist as the class ascends… ”
”You mean you
e afraid of the next time it starts to go downhill?
”Yes. Depending on the situation, a single mistake could half destroy the class. I don think that man hasn already have foreseen that, but…I don think hes going to change the current system. ”
”Isn that just what youve read into it, Katsuragi? Im sure Ryūen knows that too. ”
”But if he knows that, then he should step up to the plate and do something about Tokitō and the others. ”
”Well, there will inevitably be backlash against Ryūens methods. ”
Apparently, Katsuragi thought that Ryūen should solve this problem.
”Didn Ryūen pull you out of Class A in anticipation of that, Katsuragi? ”
”If something happened to Ryūen himself, you would be able to fill in for him, Katsuragi. I think thats why he pulled you out. ”
He was exactly what Hiyori was looking for, somebody who could potentially become the new leader.
”I find that hard to believe. ”
Of course, as I told Katsuragi, it was just my own personal interpretation.
”In the case of Ryūen, a high-risk, high-return type student, its possible he could graduate from Class A, or he could also drop out of school in a flash during some exam. Thats why he needed some insurance. ”
It was very possible that a single betrayal could lead to the downfall of Ryūens administration.
”If thats the case…I don like it. ”
I felt it was because he thought highly of Katsuragi, but he didn hide his dissatisfaction.
”Ryūen and I are enemies because of our different values. That hasn changed now that we
e classmates. But now that we
e allies, I think the minimum goal should be to graduate from Class A without missing anyone. ”
Since he knew that this was the kind of person he was, Ryūen probably wouldn tell Katsuragi directly. When I look at his personal growth, I could see that Ryūen has made remarkable progress, but his classmates haven been able to keep up with his momentum.
”About earlier, you made the right decision to keep Ryūen from hearing about Tokitō. ”
”It would be nice if we could just leave the rebels alone, but if we have to get rid of them later, it could become a bigger problem. ”
I was sure it was a source of annoyance and a headache, but at the same time, it would be a rewarding experience for Katsuragi. At the very least, the situation was largely different to the time when he was in Class A, where he was tamed and defeated without a fight.
The expression on Katsuragis face softened slightly, as if some new idea had come to mind.
”What do you think, Katsuragi-kun? ”
”…I understand. ” After clearing his throat once, Katsuragi turned his attention to me once again. ”After having you listen to what I had to say, I have some perspective on what I need to do. Im grateful. ”
”No, Im just saying whats on my mind is all. ”
”If it was all bullshit it wouldn be worth talking about, but what you said was right on the money. Shiina asked you because she was sure youd give the right answer. ”
Hiyori smiled happily. Id been taken advantage of, but it would be nice if this could bring the slightest sign of life into Ryūens class.
”And by the way, Ayanokōji. Im sure some other students were thinking the same thing, but I was a little surprised. ”
”The results of this special exam were very close. ”
Starting with Matsushita, many students had become skeptical of my abilities. In that sense, Tsukishiros presence turned out to be a good thing.
”Was that your true ability? Or did something unplanned happen? ”
”Hmm, I wonder. ”
I tried to play it off, but Katsuragi wouldn look the other way.
”Shiina, Im sorry, but I want to speak with Ayanokōji alone for a moment. ”
”I understand. Ill go back to my room. Then Ill see you later, Ayanokōji-kun. ”
I exchanged a quick goodbye with Hiyori and the two of us remained in place.
”During the uninhabited island exam, Ryūen told me everything he knew about you. ”
”Ryūen told you frankly? ”
”He was a little evasive at first, but I told him that if he wanted me to be part of the class, he was going to have to tell me. ”
That was some kind of honeyed phrase.
If that was the case, then my standing as X, who was working from the shadows in Horikitas class, was revealed. That meant that Katsuragi knew everything, even the incident on the rooftop.
Just like Sakayanagi said, I can prevent the number of people who know about me from gradually increasing.
”Until now, youve handled everything well. ”
”As long as I could have a quiet school life, I figured it wouldn make much difference to me whether I was in Class A or Class D. ”
”Is that why you
e hiding your abilities? Im not going to tell anyone, but it probably won take much time for word to get out. ”
It seemed that way. It was safe to say that there was no way to stop the information from spreading.
”Ill just continue being myself and do what I have to do at this school. ”
”I don know when itll happen, but Im looking forward to the day I get to fight you for real. ”
With that, Katsuragi nodded once and left the area.
Late afternoon. I was on my way to the café terrace with one of my friends.
”Its been a while since weve met up just the two of us like this, hasn it, Satō-san? ”
”Yeah. Probably not since that time. ”
Since that time. She was talking about the time I told her I was going out with Kiyotaka.
Since then, Satō-san and I had become good friends…No, we were much closer than before, to the point where I could now call her my best friend.
However, our group was usually made up of four or five people. Taking turns, I was always hanging out with a group around that number.
That was why it wasn often that I had the opportunity to be alone with Satō-san. It was the same on the cruise ship during this summer vacation. In fact, I had even less private time because I was always hanging out with seven or eight other people. We even went to the pool, which I was somewhat resistant towards… Well, I was able to cover my skin with a rash guard, so there weren any problems. Anyway, there was a reason why I forcibly created some time to spend alone with Satō-san today.
First things first…find an empty seat. Satō-san and I looked around, trying to find a seat before ordering. Unlike at school, the café terrace was spacious so there was no need to worry about finding a space.
However, because of the subject of todays conversation, I didn want people around me if I could help it. If you want to keep some distance from other students, the best place would be a spot with poor sunlight.
What should I do…?
”Im okay with the back of the room if you want. ”
”Eh? Is that okay? ”
”I mean, you have something important to talk about, right? ”
Satō-san, who had already figured it out, replied so and gave me a cute smile.
”Thank you. ”
I thanked her and we decided to take the unpopular seats with no view of the outside. After turning over the in use tag, we headed over to place our orders.