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Published at 8th of June 2017 11:26:11 AM
Chapter 3.1

Youkoso v2c3 part 1



The unexpected witness

 

 

TL: qbomb
Editor: Candy-Sama

Note: this is largely self-edited and will be completely edited later. Read at your own risk.

The next morning. Part of the class, which consisted of Hirata and Kushida’s groups, was in a hurry to exchange information. Ike and his friends hated Hirata due to his popularity with the girls. That being said, they were idly chatting and enjoying themselves due to the girls that clung onto Hirata. However, as I listened to their conversation, it appears that they didn’t get the information they wanted. They were just recording the names of the people they directly asked, occasionally writing memos on their phones. It would be too good to be true for someone to actually come after school.

As for me, I was naturally alone. Although I can talk to Kushida, I still couldn’t handle groups.   So, I asked her to tell me what happened later, and stayed away from the group.

Meanwhile my neighbor, who had rejected Kushida’s invitation, was preparing for class with a nonchalant expression.

The person actually involved in the matter, however, was not at school.

“Hah… Can we actually prove that it was class C’s fault…?”

“If we can find a witness, it’s not impossible to prove. Let’s do our best, Ike-kun.”

“Before we start ‘doing our best’, is there actually a witness in the first place? All Sudou said is that he vaguely recalled there being one, right? Isn’t that just a lie? After all, he’s violent and tends to provoke people often.”

“If we keep doubting him, we won’t be able to get anything done. Don’t you agree?”

“Yeah that might be true, but… If Sudou is at fault, all of our points will be revoked, won’t they? We’ll be back at zero and return to our difficult lives without any pocket money. Our goal of being able to play to our heart’s content will remain a dream.”

“Then we can start saving up again. It’s only been three months since the beginning of the year.”

The girls in the class blushed while listening to Hirata’s honest words. The hero of our class, as always, gave splendid advice without wavering. Karuizawa looked proud of her wonderful boyfriend.

“I think our points are precious. It’s tied with our motivation, right? So, I think we should do anything to defend those class points. Even if we’re defending only 87 points.”

“I understand how you feel. However, I think it’s dangerous to be so adamant about defending points and losing sight of reality. The most important thing for us is to cherish our close friends.”

Ike looked at Hirata with a suspicious gaze.

“Even if Sudou was at fault?”

It’s natural to feel horrible if an innocent person was punished.

However, Hirata nodded without hesitation. It looked like he was saying that such a self-sacrifice is a trivial matter. Because of Hirata’s upright morals, Ike looked down, feeling overawed.

“What Hirata-kun is saying is completely natural, but I still want my points. Every month, the class A kids always get around 100,000 points a month. I’m really envious. There are people who buy a lot of stylish clothes and accessories. Compared to them, aren’t we just pitiful?”

Karuizawa was sitting on a desk while dangling her legs. Our classmates seemed really bitter when she pointed out the large difference between the classes.

“Why couldn’t I have been in class A from the start? If I was in class A, I would be having the time of my life right now.”

“I wish I was in class A too. I could be playing around with my friends all the time.”

I realized that the people who met for the sake of saving Sudou had practically given up.

No one noticed other than me. Horikita, on the other hand, couldn’t stifle her laughter because of Ike and Karuizawa’s delusions. It looked like she wanted to say that they wouldn’t have been able to start in class A even if they tried.

Horikita immediately took out a library book and started reading, trying not to be distracted by the noise. I looked at the cover; it was Dostoyevsky’s Demons. A good choice.

“It’d be great if there was a trick to get to class A in an instant. It’s so difficult to save up class points.”

The difference between our class and class A is a thousand points. Needless to say, it’s a massive difference.

“Luckily for you, Ike, there is a way to become class A in an instant.”

A voice called out from the entrance of the classroom. It was Chiyabashira-sensei, who had come 5 minutes before the start of class.

“Sensei… what did you say?”

Ike, who had practically fallen off his chair, composed himself and asked.

“I’m saying that there is a way to get up to class A, even without class points.”

Even Horikita looked up from her book, wondering if she was lying.

“You’re kidding~. Sae-chan-sensei, don’t make fun of us.”

The usual Ike would’ve taken the bait, but he laughed it off this time.

“I’m being serious. There are such special methods in this school.”

However, it didn’t seem like Chiyabashira-sensei was joking around.

“It doesn’t seem like she’s lying to cause chaos…”

There are times when Chiyabashira-sensei omits information, but she usually doesn’t lie.

Ike’s laughing gradually stopped.

“Sensei, what are those ‘special methods’ you speak of…?”

Ike asked in a polite tone, trying not to offend her.

All the students that were in the classroom were also looking at Chiyabashira-sensei.

Even the students who didn’t care about getting to class A are probably thinking that it wouldn’t be bad to know the method.

“On the first day of school, I said that there’s nothing you can’t buy with points. In other words, if you use your private points, you can force a class change.”

Chiyabashira-sensei glanced at me and Horikita. We put her “special method” to the test by buying a point for Sudou right after the exam, and it worked.

Our class points and private points are linked. If we don’t have any class points, we won’t get any private points every month. But that doesn’t mean they’re strictly the same thing. Since we’re able to transfer points, in theory, we can get private points even if we don’t have class points.

“S-Seriously!? How many points do we need to make that happen!?”

“20 million points. Do you best to save up. Then you’ll be able to get to the class you want.”

Hearing the absurdly high number, Ike completely fell off his chair.

“If it’s 20 million… isn’t that just impossible!?”

The whole class started booing. Everyone’s hopes were crushed.

“It’s usually impossible. But since it’s a surefire way to get to class A, it’s only natural that the price is high. Even if you reduced the number by a single digit, there would be a hundred class A students graduating every year. Then there would be no point in having a ‘class A’.”

Even if we were able to maintain the monthly 100,000 points, it’s not a number that can be easily achieved.

“I’m just curious, but… has there ever been a class that successfully bought their way out?”

An obvious question to ask. Koudo Ikusei High School has been in existence for about ten years. Thousands of hundreds of students have struggled their way through this school. If anyone accomplished it, there would still be word of it today.

“Regrettably, there has never been such a case. The reason is as clear as day. If you save up for three years by maintaining the initial value, you’ll get about 3.6 million points in three years. As class A, you can maybe get up to 4 million points. Ordinarily, it’s not something that can be done.”

“Isn’t that the same thing as being impossible…”

“It’s very close to being impossible. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible. It’s a big distinction, Ike.”

However, about half the class had already lost interest.

For class D, who wished for 100, maybe 200 points, getting 20 million was a far-fetched dream. It was outside the reaches of our imagination.

“May I also ask a question?”

It was the observant Horikita who raised her hand. It seems like she decided it would be helpful to know more about the details.

“Ever since the founding of this school, what is the highest number of points that a student saved up? I would like to know for reference.”

“A very good question, Horikita. It was about three years ago, but it was a class B student that was close to graduating. He saved up about 12 million points.”

“T-Twelve million!? And a class B student on top of that!?”

“But before he could reach 20 million, he was forced to leave the school. He was expelled because he was carrying out a large-scale fraudulent scheme.”

“Fraud?”

“He went to the new first-year students one by one and scammed points out of them. It was probably so that he could gather 20 million points to get to class A, but the school couldn’t overlook his actions. Although his objective wasn’t bad, the school had to punish his actions that broke the rules.”

Far from being a point of reference, it was a story that made the feat sound even more impossible.

“So you’re saying that even if you resort to shady methods, 12 million is pretty much the limit.”

“Give up on this method and try to cooperate with your class to move up.”

Horikita resumed reading, as if she felt like an idiot for raising her hand.

In this world, offers that seem too good to be true are really too good to be true.

“Oh, right. None of you have gotten points from club activities, huh.”

Suddenly remembering something, Chiyabashira-sensei started talking about a different topic.

“What do you mean?”

“There are cases where points are given to individuals for participating in club activities and for their contribution to the club. For example, if a person in the calligraphy club wins a prize in a competition, the school will award them points that correspond to the award.”

The classmates were taken aback from the new information.

“W-We can get points for participating in club activities!?”

“That’s right. The other classes probably know about this already.”

“Hey, that’s mean! Why didn’t you tell us earlier!?”

“I forgot about it. However, clubs don’t exist just for you to get points. So, learning of this fact earlier wouldn’t have helped.”

Chiyabashira-sensei said without any shame.

“No no no, it definitely would’ve helped. If you said so earlier, I—”

“Are you saying you would’ve joined a club? Do you think you would’ve been able to achieve anything by joining a club and going out to competitions with such a weak will?”

“That’s—that might be true, but…! It might’ve happened!”

I can understand what both Chiyabashira-sensei and Ike are trying to say. In the first place, if someone joined a club just for the sake of earning points, they would probably be unable to create any results. Also, joining a club and putting in half-hearted effort would just hinder the serious club members.

On the other hand, someone might join for the sake of earning points and then find that they have a talent for that activity.

What I can say is that our homeroom teacher is being deliberately mean.

“Thinking back on it, it was pretty obvious.”

“What do you mean? Hirata-kun.”

“During swimming class, our PE instructor Higashiyama-sensei said that the student who got first place would receive 5000 points, right? Even that hints towards the fact that doing club activities give points.”

Ike said “I don’t remember~”, and shrugged his shoulders while scratching his head.

“If we got points, I probably would’ve done calligraphy or some kind of art class.”

It seems that Ike is only looking at the positive side; in reality there’s obviously something else involved.

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If someone didn’t participate seriously and slacked off, there might be a case where they’re negatively assessed; going the easy way will only destroy you.

However, it’s great that we learned that results in club activities also gave points.

“Horikita. Doesn’t this show that there’s some worth to saving Sudou?”

“Are you saying that we should save him because he plays basketball?”

“You heard the other day that he was the only first year being considered as a regular, right?”

Horikita made a small nod as she thought back on it.

“If he was speaking the truth…”

Somehow, it looks like she’s still in doubt.

“It’s better to have a lot of points. Right? We can support our own grades, and help others like we did with Sudou’s test.”

“I don’t really think you’re the type of person to spend your own money for other people though.”

“I’m just saying that it’s beneficial to have a lot of points. You understand, right?”

It’s good to have a lot of points, both class and private.

It’s never harmful.

Also, we don’t know many methods to get points in the first place. If our chances of getting points increase with Sudou being in the class, then it would definitely contribute to our class effort. Horikita sank into silence because she couldn’t think of any other way to increase our class points.

“I’m not going to say that I’ll help, but it is necessary for me recognize Sudou’s existence.”

Horikita was being harsh, but she recognized and understood her own interests.

The facts should be accepted as facts.

I didn’t think I needed to say much more, so I stopped talking.

For a short while, I looked at Horikita ponder over the issue and passed the time in silence.

1

The class was temporarily excited, but quickly returned back to reality. Like yesterday, they were trying to get information about witnesses.

On the other hand, I was standing in the back of a room like a ghost, feeling admiration for Ike’s group and Kushida for being able to casually converse back and forth.

It was as clear as day that I, who can’t even talk coherently, wasn’t fit for the job of looking for witnesses. How can they talk so easily to strangers? They’re monsters.

During the investigation, they gathered not only names but also asked for contact addresses. Kushida’s presence probably prompted them to tell her their addresses immediately after being asked. That’s also a great talent…

Even though Kushida and her group were walking to the second-year classrooms and asking all the upperclassmen, there haven’t been any leads.

As time kept ticking, the number of students left after school was rapidly decreasing. When we stopped passing by other students, we decided to call it a day.

“We didn’t find anything today either…”

In order to revise our strategy, everyone returned to my room.

Soon after, Sudou came by and joined in the discussion.

“What happened today? Was there any progress made?”

“Sadly, no progress was made. Sudou, was there actually a witness?’

I understand Ike’s feelings of doubt. Even after the school reported the same information, there was no indication at all that a witness actually existed.

“Hah? I never said that there actually was a witness. I only said that I thought there was a witness.”

“Is… is that so?”

“Certainly, Sudou-kun didn’t say ‘I saw’. He said that he thought someone was there.”

“Couldn’t that just have been a hallucination? You must be doing some strong drugs.”

No, that’s a bit too far… Sudou put Ike in a headlock.

“Hey—! I give, I give!”

While the two fooled around, Kushida and Yamauchi were still puzzling over the situation.

After the discussion continued on for ten minutes, Kushida spoke up, having come up with a new idea.

“I think it might be better to change the direction of our efforts. For example, let’s look for a witness that might’ve witnessed the incident.”

“Look for a witness that witnessed the incident? Isn’t that kind of useless?”

“Are you going to look for the people who went into the building that day?”

“Yeah. What do you think?”

The idea’s not bad. There might’ve been a few people that entered the building on that day, but the entrance is pretty easy to spot. In other words, if someone says that they saw a person entering the special building, we would be getting closer to finding the witness.

“That sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that immediately.”

When I noticed, Sudou was using up his stamina on a mobile game he got addicted to recently. It looked like it was called the “Generation of Miracles” something, but I didn’t really know what was happening. After winning the match, he made a triumphant pose.[1]

Even though Sudou really couldn’t do anything in the present situation, Ike and Yamauchi look disgruntled. However, since they were scared of Sudou’s counter-attack, they decided not to point out their own dissatisfaction. Both of them stayed silent, pretending not to have seen anything.

It’s almost Friday already. It’ll be difficult to get anything useful  on the weekend.

In other words, the actual time we have to find a witness is very short.

The bell rang and a visitor appeared at my door.

The small group of people that regularly visit my room have already gathered, so it was probably that person.

“Has progress been made?”

Horikita asked with a condescending attitude even though she probably knew the answer to her own question.

“No… not yet.”

“I’m only saying this because it’s you, but I have something—”

While she was talking, she realized there were a lot of shoes lined up at the doorway.

She turned around and held herself back in a panic.

Kushida popped out, probably worried that she would head back quickly.

“Oh, Horikita-san!’

Kushida waved at Horikita with a smile. Looking at her cheerful attitude, Horikita naturally let out a sigh.

“You can’t run now, you know?”

“Seems that way…”

Horikita entered the room reluctantly.

“O-oh, Horikita!”

Of course, Sudou was the happiest to see her. He put his game on pause and looked up.

“Did you decide to help? I’m glad you decided to join.”

“I don’t intend to help. After all, you haven’t found the witness yet, right?.”

Kushida nodded her head dejectedly.

“If you didn’t come to help, why’d you come?”

“I was wondering what kind of plan you guys had.”

“I’m happy even if you’re only going to listen to the plan. I wanted advice as well.”

Kushida then told her about the plan that she came up with a short while ago. Horikita’s expression was stiff throughout the whole explanation.

“It’s not a bad plan. It might even produce results with enough time.”

Time is definitely the issue here. It’s doubtful if we’ll be able to get anything done in the few days we have remaining.

“Now that I’ve checked up on the situation, I’ll be leaving.”

In the end, Horikita decided to leave without even sitting down.

“Did you think of something?”

When she was standing at the door earlier, she clearly had something to say.

She’s not that amicable to have come to my room for no reason.

「……実りの薄い努力をしているあなたたちに一つだけアドバイスしてあげるわ。灯台下暗し。須藤くんの事件を目撃した人物は確かに存在していて、その人物は身近にいる」

“…I’ll give one piece of advice to help your weak efforts. It’s hard to see what’s right in front of you, after all. If there really is someone that witnessed the incident, then that person is most likely close by.”

The information that Horikita gave us was much more significant than I thought it would be.

She’s talking as if she already found the witness we weren’t sure existed in the first place.

“What do you mean, Horikita? Are you saying you found the witness?”

Surprise and doubt came first before joy for Sudou. It’s understandable.

Everyone, including me, was in disbelief until she replied.

“Sakura-san.”

An unexpected name came from Horikita.

“Sakura-san, from our class…?”

Yamauchi and Sudou exchanged glances. They looked confused as to who Sakura was. That was probably expected, though. I also had to think about it for a bit.

“The witness is that girl.”

“Why do you say that?”

“When Kushida-san was asking the class for witnesses, she looked down. A lot of the students were looking at Kushida-san, but she was the only one that looked uninterested. She wouldn’t have acted that way if she actually was unrelated to the incident.”

I didn’t notice at all. Horikita’s powers of observations are really impressive.

“Since you’re one of the people that were staring at Kushida-san, it’s only natural.”

What a sarcastic tone.

“So, you’re saying that this Sakura, Kokura something person is probably the witness?”

Sudou said something reasonable, unlike the role of a boke.

“No, Sakura-san is definitely the witness. Her actions made it obvious. Although she may not admit it, she’s who you’re looking for.”

Horikita was acting like her usual self.



All of us were moved that Horikita was doing this for the class.

“Did you really do this for my sake…!”

Sudou looked especially moved.

“Nope. I just didn’t want to waste this time and look shameful to the other classes. That’s all.”

“Um, so in short, you’re saying that you helped us right?”

“You can interpret it however you want, but I’m just saying that you’re wrong.”

“Don’t lie~. You’re just a tsundere, Horikita~”

Ike hit Horikita’s shoulders playfully, but she threw his arm onto the ground.

“Ouch!”

“Don’t touch me. There better not be a next time, because I’ll despise you until we graduate.”

“I-I won’t touch… even if I tried to touch… Ow, ow!”

She pinned him down in a headlock. Unfortunate, but he deserved it.

At any rate, those weren’t the movements of a normal girl. Since her older brother does karate and aikido, does she do martial arts too?

“My a-arm is…!”

“Ike-kun.”

Horikita talked to Ike, who was on the floor in pain. Isn’t this just overkill?

“Should I revise it to, ‘Despising you until we graduate won’t cut it?’”

“Uu! Sho cruel!”

Ike was defeated by those final words.

But Sakura, huh… Of all people, it was a class D student.

It’s hard to say whether or not this is a good thing.

“Isn’t that great, Sudou? If it’s a class D student, we definitely have testimony!”

“Yeah. I’m happy that there is a witness, but who is this Sakura person? Do you know her?”

Yamauchi replied in surprise.

“Are you being serious? She sits right behind you.”

“No, that’s wrong. She’s diagonally in front of you to the left, right?”

“Both of you are wrong… she’s diagonally in front of Sudou-kun to the right.”

Kushida corrected them with a pout.

“Diagonally in front to the right… I don’t remember. I do know that there is someone though.”

That’s obviously a given. If the seat diagonally in front to the right was empty, that would be strange.

This girl, Sakura, certainly doesn’t stand out. It’s a big problem that we don’t know who she is.

“I probably know her, but I don’t exactly know where I’ve heard her name.”

I can’t quite put my finger on it.

“Tell us how she looks like.”

“Well, would it help if I say that she has the biggest boobs in the class? Excessively big, you know?”

Ike, who looked lively again, told us her physical characteristics, but I don’t know who she is with that explanation.

“Oh, that plain glasses girl, huh?”

How’d you understand with just that…? I drew back a bit.

“It’s bad to remember people like that, Ike-kun. That’s pathetic.”

“N-No, it’s different, Kushida-chan. I’m not trying to be offensive. You know how you might remember a tall person by their height? It’s just like that! The only difference is that I’m remembering other people by a different characteristic…!”

Ike tried to smooth over the situation when Kushida quickly lost faith in him. But it’s too late.

“Damn it! It’s different, it’s different! I don’t like a plan girl like her! Don’t misunderstand!”

No, I don’t think there are any misunderstandings here.

Everyone else shifted the topic towards Sakura as Ike broke down crying.

“Then the next step is to find out how much Sakura-san knows. Does anyone know?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure. We’ll have to ask her directly.”

“Can’t we go to her room right now? We don’t have much time.”

The proposal from Yamauchi seems safe, but it also depends on her personality and character.

Sakura is an unusually shy girl. If people she didn’t know very well suddenly appeared at her doorstep, it’s easy to imagine that she would be confused.

“Then should we call her?”

Speaking of which, I forgot that Kushida has everyone’s contact addresses in the class.

Kushida was on the phone for 20 seconds, but she shook her head and put her phone away.

“No, it didn’t connect. I’ll try again later, but it’s a difficult matter.”

“What do you mean?”

“She told me her contact address, but I think she’ll be annoyed if I try to contact her, especially since she doesn’t know me very well. Also, I don’t think she was actually there to pick up the phone.”

She might also be pretending to be gone.

“So she’s kinda like Horikita?”

Why would you even think to ask that in front of the person herself, Ike?

She probably wouldn’t mind. Rather, it didn’t seem like she was interested in what Ike was saying either.

“Goodbye.”

“Ah, Horikita-san!”

Looking like she was caught off guard, Horikita quickly stood up and walked towards the door.

By the time I got up and chased after her, I heard the sound of the door closing.

“Tsundere.”

Sudou looked happy as he laughed, scratching his nose with his index finger.

She doesn’t have tsun, nor does she have dere. I think she’s a lost cause… No tsun, no dere.

Since we couldn’t do anything about Horikita’s absence, the conversation continued without her.

“I think Sakura-san’s just a shy person. That’s the impression I get from her.”

It’s strange to talk about a person’s character without ever having talked to them before.

“Anyway, she’s plain. It’s a complete waste of what she has.”

While talking, Yamauchi gestured towards his breasts.

“Yea, yea. Her boobs are super big, though. That’s cute by itself!”

Ike seems to have already forgotten the regret he felt a few seconds ago and started to get excited.

Ah, but Kushida had a strained smile. Noticing her expression, Ike regretted his words once again.

This is a perfect example of a living being that keeps repeating its mistakes.

The problem is that even though I’m staying quiet, I feel like I’m getting treated the same way as Ike and Yamauchi. Kushida expression seems to say, “You’re also obsessed with the boobs, right? You pervert.” Of course, this is my own persecution complex.

“Um, about Sakura’s face… Nope, don’t remember anything.”

I can barely match the name to the face. I remember seeing her face back when we were doing the bets. I also remember her breasts, though. Somehow, it seems like I’m just the same as the others…

Sakura gives off the impression that she would always be alone and hunched over.

“Which reminds me, I don’t know if she actually talks to anyone. How about you, Yamauchi? Wait, wait a second… Yamauchi, you said that you confessed to her before, right? Were you able to talk to her?”

Oh right, Yamauchi did say that he confessed.

“Ah, ah. Well, I don’t remember if I did such a thing.”

Yamauchi pretended to have forgotten.

“Was it a lie…”

“Bah. No, I wasn’t lying. It was a misunderstanding. It wasn’t Sakura, it was a girl from the neighboring class. A girl who isn’t as ugly and gloomy as Sakura. Oh, sorry, give me a sec.”

Yamauchi dodged the question and took out his phone.

Sakura may be plain, but she’s not ugly. I’ve never looked at her face directly, but she has pretty nice facial features.

But even then, I can’t say with confidence because she has such a thin presence.

“First of all, I’ll try to talk to her by myself tomorrow. She might be wary if there are a lot of people.”

“That sounds good.”

If Kushida isn’t able to get through to her, probably no one can.

2

“…It’s hot.”

This school doesn’t change uniforms with the seasons, and so we have to wear blazers for the whole year. The reason is simple; every building is equipped with heating and cooling systems. The only drawback is that it’s hot whenever we go to and from school.

It was the morning commute. My back started sweating in the few minutes that it took to get from the dorms to the school.

After making my way to school, I took refuge in the cool building.

It must be hell for the students that have morning training. In the classroom, the boys and girls with morning practice were all surrounding the air conditioner. It looked like moths crowding around a light source. Is that a bad analogy?

“Ayanokouji-kun, good morning.”

Hirata called out to me. Like always, he had a refreshing face. I could also make out the faint smell of flowers as well. If I was a girl, I’d probably beg to him and, “Please hold me!”

“Yesterday, I heard from Kushida-san that Sakura-san was the witness.”

Hirata looked at Sakura’s seat, which was still empty.



“Are you going to talk to her?”

“Me? No… I’m only going to greet her. I’ve wanted to talk to her because she’s always alone in class, but I can’t be pushy and invite her, especially as a boy. Also, if I asked Karuizawa-san to talk to her, it would also be problematic.”

It’s hard to imagine a conversation between the super assertive Karuizawa and Sakura.

“For the time being, I think we’ll wait for Kushida-san.”

“That’s great and all, but why are you talking to me? Talking to Ike or Yamauchi is probably better.”

There’s no reason to tell me, who wasn’t really part of the “team” we had.

“There’s no particular reason, but… if I had to say a reason, it’s because you’re related to Horikita-san. She doesn’t talk to anyone but you, so I thought I should tell you.”

“I see.”

Is that the only aspect where I’m better than the other two? While Hirata was nodding, he had a cute smile on his face.

If I was a girl, my kyun-kyun points would’ve reached a hundred and my heart would be beating fast.

“Oh, right. We should hang out sometime. Are you free anytime soon?”

Hey hey, are you no longer satisfied by girls and trying to make my heart throb now?

It would be a grave mistake if I accepted his invitation without any consideration.

“Well, it should be fine.”

Ah, I said the exact opposite of what my mind told me to say. Damn this defective mouth.

I definitely wasn’t waiting for Hirata to invite me or anything.

That’s right, that’s right. This is the problem with Japanese people. Since we’re unable to say “no”, we’re unable to directly reject an invitation.

“Sorry, do you not want to hang out?”

Hirata sensed my uneasiness.

“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll definitely hang out with you.”

I replied, sounding a bit disgusting.

I tried acting pridefully, but I really did want to go, so I gave up in the end.

“But are you fine with my girlfriend coming too?”

“Huh? Oh, Karuizawa-san? Yeah, that’s fine.”

My response came surprisingly quickly. Well, there are various types of couples.

Since they still called each other by their surnames, I guess they’re not that close yet.

Reluctantly parting with Hirata, I waited for homeroom to begin as I held my phone in my hand.

Then I noticed that Sakura was at her seat.

She was sitting down, waiting for the time to pass idly.

I wonder what kind of student Sakura is.

In the three months I’ve been at this school, I’ve heard nothing about her other than her last name.

It’s probably not just me, but the whole class as well.

Hirata and Kushida are active and outspoken. Horikita doesn’t feel the pain of solitude.

Then what about Sakura? Does she like being alone like Horikita? Or is she suffering because she doesn’t know how to talk to people like me? That’s the question Kushida will answer soon.

3

After homeroom ended, Kushida got up from her seat and walked over to Sakura, who was quietly preparing to go back home. Kushida seemed strangely nervous.

Ike, Yamauchi, and Sudou noticed and looked towards Kushida.

“Sakura-san.”

“…W-What…?”

 

The girl with the glasses and the hunched back looked up listlessly.

It looked like she didn’t expect someone to call out to her, since she was panicking.

“Do you have time, Sakura-san? I want to ask you something about Sudou-kun’s case…”

“S-Sorry, I… have plans, so…”

She averted her eyes; it was obvious that she was feeling uncomfortable. Talking to other people does not seem to be her strong point. Or rather, it felt like she didn’t like talking to other people.

“Can you make some time? I really want to talk because this is important. During Sudou-kun’s incident, were you nearby by any chance…”

“I-I don’t know. I already said this to Horikita-san, but I don’t know anything…”

Her words were frail, but she denied it strongly.

Kushida, also seeing how unwilling she was, probably didn’t want to push it too far.

Although she looked confused at first, she immediately went back to smiling.

But even then, she wasn’t willing to withdraw so easily.

After all, this person will greatly affect Sudou’s case.

“Is… it fine if I go back now…”

But something feels strange. She’s not simply bad at talking to people, but rather, it looks like she’s trying to hide something. That much is obvious from the way she’s acting.

She was hiding her dominant hand and wasn’t making eye contact with her. Even if she may be uncomfortable with looking at her eyes, Sakura refused to look at Kushida’s face.

If it was either me or Ike talking to her instead of Kushida, it would make more sense. After all, Kushida was able to get her to exchange contact addresses. Interacting with Kushida is a completely different experience. I don’t think Horikita was wrong in sensing that something was off. I also felt the same way.

“Can’t you just give me a few minutes?”

“W-Why? I don’t know anything…”

If Kushida failed here, their conversation would amount to nothing.

The awkward conversation naturally gathered more attention as it dragged on and on.

But this situation seems like a complete miscalculation from Kushida. Since they were acquaintances that had exchanged contact addresses, she expected this conversation to go much smoother.

If she wasn’t expecting to be rejected, then this situation would make sense.

My neighbor looked over the situation attentively, then looked at me with a slightly smug expression.

It seemed like she was saying, “I know that your powers of perception are exceptional”…

“…I’m bad at talking to people… sorry.”

She was speaking in a strained voice, trying to keep Kushida away from her.

When we were talking about Sakura earlier, Kushida said that she was an ordinary girl, despite being shy.

Looking at her current behavior, she’s clearly not normal. Kushida probably thought the same thing, because she looked completely confused. Even though she’s good at getting people to open up, she couldn’t do it this time.

Horikita, also watching the situation, came to a conclusion.

“Too bad. Looks like she couldn’t persuade her.”

It was as Horikita said. If Kushida wasn’t able to do it, I don’t think anyone in the class would be able to start and maintain a conversation with Sakura.

Kushida is good at creating an atmosphere where unsocial people can easily socialize.

However, everyone has a “personal space”.

The anthropologist and cultural researcher Edward Hall further categorized this idea of “personal space” into four parts. One such part is the idea of an “intimate zone”. The “close phase” is about hugging distance—if an outsider tries to enter this area, they will be strongly rejected. However, if it was a significant other or a close friend, the person wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. If an acquaintance entered Kushida’s “close phase”, she normally wouldn’t mind it. That is to say, she doesn’t use this idea of “personal space”.[2]

However, Sakura clearly rejected her.

No… rather, it looked like she was running away.

The first time around, she said that she “had plans”, but she didn’t say it the second time. If she really had somewhere to go to, she would’ve said it again.

Sakura stood up and took a few steps away from Kushida.

“G-Goodbye.”

Seeing that she couldn’t end the conversation, Sakura decided to run away.

She grasped the digital camera that was on her desk and walked away.

However, she bumped shoulders with Hondou, who wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings as he texted his friend on his phone.

“Ah!”

The digital camera fell out of her grip and clanged onto the floor. Still focused on his phone, Hondou waved it off, saying “My bad, my bad”, and walked out of the classroom.

Sakura picked up her camera in a panic.

“No… it won’t turn on…”

Sakura put her hand over her mouth in shock. Somehow, it looks like the camera broke from the impact. She kept pressing the power button and tried taking out the batteries and putting them back in, but it didn’t turn on.

“S-Sorry. I was being too pushy…”

“No… I was being careless, so it was my fault… goodbye.”

Unable to stop the despondent Sakura, Kushida looked frustrated and couldn’t do anything but watch her leave.

“Why is a gloomy girl like her the witness? How unlucky. She doesn’t even want to help.”

Sudou leaned against the chair and crossed his legs as he let out a sigh in resignation.

“I’m sure there’s a reason. Also, Sakura-san didn’t say that she was the witness herself.”

“I know. If she was going to say something she would’ve said it. It’s because she’s an adult that she stopped herself.”

“Sudou-kun, it’s actually better that she’s the witness.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She’s not going to give testimony as your witness. This case will be treated as your fault. As a result, class D won’t be able to completely escape the consequences, but we can think of it as fortunate. In an incident like this, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to penalize us by 100 or 200 points. We’re lucky since we can only lose 87 points. Also, since you said that you were innocent, the school can’t ignore it and expel you. We’ll be affected more than class C, though.”

Horikita relentlessly said all that she wanted to say at once.

“Don’t joke around. I’m innocent, innocent. The violence was legitimate self-defence.”

“Self-defence isn’t as helpful as you think it is.”

Oops, I accidentally spoke out loud.

“Hey, Ayanokouji-kun.”

When I turned around, acting aloof, Kushida’s face was super close. Even when I look at her this closely, she’s cute. Rather than feeling uncomfortable about the invasion of my personal space, I wanted her to come even closer.

“You’re Sudou-kun’s ally, right?”

“Well… yeah, but why are you asking again?”

“It’s looking a bit iffy right now, since everyone’s willingness to help Sudou-kun is diminishing.”

I looked around the classroom.

“Seems like it. They probably think that whatever we do will be useless.”

If the key witness Sakura denies it, there won’t be any progress made.

“It doesn’t seem like a perfect solution will appear. Let’s give up, Sudou.”

Ike mumbled halfheartedly.

“What’s wrong with you guys? Didn’t you say that you’d help me?”

“That’s… huh?”

Looking for approval, he appealed to the remaining classmates.

“Even your friends don’t want to help you. That’s too bad.”

The other classmates didn’t say anything to deny what Ike and Horikita were saying.

“Why is no one on my side? Man, all of you are useless bastards.”

“How interesting, Sudou-kun. Have you noticed that everyone’s turning on you?”

“What are you trying to say?”

The class becomes tense often, but today was even worse.

Since Sudou was talking to Horikita, it looked like he was trying his hardest to hold back.

However, the blade came from an unexpected direction.

“Don’t you think it’s better for us that you’re expelled? Your existence isn’t a beautiful one. Rather, it’s quite ugly, Red hair-kun.”

The one who spoke was fixing his hair with the hand-mirror he carried around everyday.

It was the particularly conspicuous boy, Koenji Rousuke.

“…What did you say? Try saying that again.”

“It’s useless to keep saying it. It’s nonsense. Since I already know that you’re dumb, it doesn’t matter if I say it one more time or not, does it?”

Koenji didn’t even look at Sudou and replied as if he was performing an a aside  

The desk flew into the air and crashed onto the floor. The students still felt hopeful, but the whole room froze. Sudou stood up and walked over to Koenji in silence.

“Alright, stop right there. Calm down, you two.”

The only boy to move in this difficult situation was Hirata. My heart pounded.

“Sudou-kun. You’re part of the problem, but Koenji-kun, you’re also in the wrong.”

“Fu. I don’t think I’ve ever been wrong since I was born. You’re mistaken.”

“Hah, that’s just fine. You better kneel down right now or I’ll beat you up and smash your face in.”

“Stop it.”

Hirata tried to hold Sudou back by grabbing his arm, but he wasn’t showing any signs of stopping.

It seems like his intention is to vent all of his frustration by hitting Koenji.

“Please stop already. I don’t want to watch my friends fight each other…”

“It’s as Kushida-san says. I don’t know about Koenji-kun, but I am your ally, Sudou-kun.”

You’re too good, Hirata. I think you should change your name to “Hero”.

“I’ll end this here. Sudou-kun, you should act more like an adult. If you made another big uproar here, the school’s impression of you would only turn worse. Right?”

“…Tch.”

Sudou glared at Koenji and left the room. After the door slammed shut, a loud voice rang out from the hallway.

“Koenji-kun. I’m not going to force you to help, but you were wrong to blame him.”

“I’m sorry, but I have never been wrong in my life. Oh, look at the time—it’s about time for my date. Please excuse me.”

While watching their strange interaction, I realized that there was no class unity.

“Sudou-kun isn’t mature, I see.”

“Couldn’t you also have been friendlier, Horikita-san…?”

“I won’t have mercy on anyone that doesn’t listen. He’s done great damage and doesn’t have a single advantage.”

It’s not like you have mercy on people that do listen.

“Yes?”

“Uu…”

While shrinking back like a sharp knife (gaze) just stabbed me, I made a small rebuttal.

“There’s a saying that ‘great talents mature late’. I think Sudou has the possibility of becoming a future NBA player. He might have a chance of making a big contribution to society. The power of youth is infinite.”

I used a catchphrase that felt like it came straight out of a commercial.

“I’m not saying that he won’t become good in 10 years, but I need the strength to get to class A right now. If he doesn’t have the talent now, he has no use to me.”

“Yeah, that’s true…”

Horikita had a consistent opinion, but the rest of the classmates were wavering.

The situation doesn’t look very good.

“You get along with Sudou, right? It seems like you guys eat together often.”

“I don’t think our relationship is bad. But it feels like a burden. He’s the person who skips class and fights the most. I have to draw the line there.”

I see. It looks like Ike has his own opinions.

“I’ll try my best to persuade Sakura-san. Afterwards, things will surely take a turn for the better.”

“Hmm, I wonder. Under these circumstances, I don’t think that Sakura-san’s testimony will have a big effect. Also, I think the school will be suspicious that the witness suddenly appeared from class D.”

“Suspicious… you mean that the school will think that this is a fake witness?”

“Naturally. They’ll probably consider the testimony along with the circumstances. It won’t become absolute proof.”

“That’s… what kind of evidence would be soundproof?”

“If you believe in miracles, the best evidence would be a witness that the schools trusts from a different class or a different grade that watched the event from the very beginning. There definitely isn’t someone like that though.”

Horikita said with confidence. I also thought the same thing.

“Then… no matter how hard we try to prove that Sudou-kun is innocent…”

“However, if the fight happened in a classroom, things would be different.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, those cameras record the classroom, right? So if anything happened, those recordings would serve as evidence, and crush the lies of those class C students in a single blow.”

I pointed at the two cameras in the corners of the classroom.

The cameras were small and blended into the walls, but it was unmistakable that they were there.

“The school uses those cameras to check if we’re whispering or nodding off during class. Or else they wouldn’t be able to do those monthly class assessments.”

“…Seriously? I never knew…!”

Ike looked at the cameras in shock.

“I also just learned of this… that there were cameras in the room.”

“It’s hard to spot. I also didn’t notice until they started talking about the points.”

“Well, ordinary people don’t really care about where cameras are located. They probably wouldn’t know where the cameras are in a convenience store, even if they always visit that store.”

If someone did know, it would be someone who was either overly paranoid or felt guilty about something. Or they might’ve accidentally seen it and noticed.

Alright, shall I head home since we don’t have to look for a witness anymore?

Kushida and the others might talk about looking for another witness. It’ll be a bother to get involved in that.

“Ayanokouji-kun, want to go home together?”

“…”

Hearing Horikita’s invitation, I reflexively put my hand on her forehead. Her forehead felt cool, but her skin was still warm and soft.

“…I don’t have a cold, you know? I just wanted to ask you about something.”

“O-Oh. Well, I guess it’s fine.”

It was strange for Horikita to invite me. I wonder if it’ll rain tomorrow.

“As I thought, haven’t you two gotten closer? Yesterday, you looked like you would kill me when I only touched your shoulder…”

Ike looked a bit dissatisfied as he gazed at my hand on her forehead.

Horikita’s facial expression didn’t particularly change.

“Can you take it off? Your hand.”

“Oh, my bad, my bad.”

I was relieved that Horikita didn’t counterattack, and drew back my hand. I didn’t notice at all.

The two of us walked out into the hallway. I think I know the general gist, but I wonder what she wants to talk about.

“Oh, right. I want to go somewhere before we go back; is that fine?”

“Well, as long as it doesn’t take too much time.”

“Yeah, it’ll take about ten minutes.”

 Kuroko no Basuke reference. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxemics


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