About two hours passed. The girls were chatting while Keisei was facing his book, studying.
While I sometimes joined the conversation Airi and the others were having, for some reason I kept fiddling with my phone. Then, Haruka’s phone that was left on the table vibrated.
“Oh, it’s from Miyachi.”
Haruka touched the screen to answer the call on speaker.
“Have you finished your club activities?”
“I’m sorry, but it looks like it’s gonna end later.”
The reason of the call came from Akito’s trembling voice.
“Huh? Is it perhaps for extra practicing after school?”
“No… Something bothersome happened.”
“What are you talking about? Can you explain it better?”
“Class A and Class B are quarrelling. If it gets worse, I’ll have to step in and stop it.“
It looks like Akito isn’t a part of it. But what about Class A and Class B? The faces of the main members of Class B crossed my mind. However, I wonder if Ichinose would really allow such careless actions that could easily escalate into a fight.
“It’s better if we leave it. It has nothing to do with our class.”
“It could be us tomorrow.” Akito said, ending the conversation.
Usually, Akito doesn’t speak much, but he surprises with his actions. Like when he invited Ryuuen into his group during the training camp, a guy who no one wanted to get involved with.
“Who’s fighting…?” Airi asked as if being interested in it.
“It’s always the same class that starts trouble.”
Of course, that was was about Ryuuen’s class who now dropped to Class D.
“Now that you mention it, it could be.”
The two shook their heads at A and B Class’ surprising confrontation.
“Oi, Airi, Kiyopon, won’t we go looking for Miyachi?”
“B-but, isn’t it dangerous?”
“I suppose so. But our class might get dragged into it anyway, especially if provoked”
Haruka answered mockingly. But Airi squeezed in fright
“It’s alright. Miyachi will do something when the moment arrives, right? He used to be quite the bad boy in the past.”
“I’ve heard it from the man himself.”
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 in trouble, Kiyopon will help, right?”
“… I will do my best . But I’d rather not get into a fight.”
“Ahahaha, well, it’s okay. Acts of violence don’t happen so often in this school. Maybe.”
As there were several cases of violence in the past, Haruka’s remark here ended in ambiguity
Since we did not have any reason to refuse searching for Akito, we just did that.
On our way to archery club, there was no sign of Akito.
Huh? Where did he go, that Miyachi?
I am sure that Akito was headed towards the cafe, somewhere along the way he must have come across some kind of a quarrel and diverted from his path.
All three of us, huddled together are searching for Akito.
Just after a few minutes of searching, we got some reliable piece of information from classmates that were heading back from their club activities.
And finally we managed to get to the gymnasium, which is located to a short distance by our main school building.
There, two boys were facing each other.
Both of them were not the ones that Haruka and the others expected to see here.
One of them is Hashimoto. A first year from Class A
The other one is Kanzaki. A first year from Class B.
And the one who is standing between them, watching over them is Akito.
“Come on, guys, you are not going to fight for real, right?
“You are quite stubborn, Miyake. I am telling you, I am not the one who started this, Kanzaki is”
As Hashimoto was talking like he was falsely entangled to this situation, he looked at me straight in the eyes.
“It seems like your friends have arrived?”
After Hashimoto made that remark, Akito and Kanzaki looked towards our way at the same time.
“… You guys, came”
I don’t think he wanted us to interfere
Well, nothing good comes when the girls are involved in these kind of problems.
However, Haruka butts in the conversation instantly.
“It’s because of you Miyachi. You got yourself stuck into a strange situation. That’s why we came to help”
“You came to help me… Sure…”
Having already reggreted of what he had just said, Akito looked blankly into empty space for a moment.
“What is the reason for the quarrel between these two?”
Akito changes his attitude since it can’t be helped now and we are already here.
“It seems that I misunderstood something. Even though the situation looks a little rough”
“Kanzaki is the only threat, here”
If I am not mistaken this is Hashimoto’s usual behavior
However, Akito does not seem like he is buying it.
“I sure hope so”
Akito shows no sign of leaving this place.
He doesn’t seem to figure out if this could escalate into something worse.
At the same time, Kanzaki is looking towards us with a somewhat awkward expression.
It was almost like he did not want any more people to show up here.
However, he also understands that he cannot order the people to leave either.
That’s why he chooses to remain silent.
Eventually, Kanzaki never said a word to us and turned his attention towards Hashimoto, again.
“Let’s continue from where we were left off., Hashimoto. Concerning what were you doing here after school. You do not belong to any of the clubs. So what are you doing out here so late?”
“So, if I do not have club activities I have to head home, early? I am free to go and do whatever I want after school. Moreover, out of everyone here only Miyake is involved with club activities. Isn’t that right?”
Unlike Kanzaki, it seems that it is convenient for Hashimoto to see us here.
We, the members of the Ayanokouji group exchanged glances.
Nor Class A, neither Class B are our allies.
However, if we had to choose between them, then it would definitely be Class B.
That’s because of the truce between Horikita and Ichinose .
“What’s that? You are not going to give me an answer?”
When we all stayed silence to his question. He laughed at us, just as I had guessed he would.
“In your case, you are not here to meet anyone in particular. You catch the right people and then you spread rumours about them, aren’t you?”
Kanzaki had his usual calm expression, however his spirit was very imposing.
It seems like Kanzaki was pressing for an answer from Hashimoto about the recent rumours surrounding Ichinose.
Akito was worried that it would develop into a fight, which lead us to our current situation.
Because of Kanzaki’s words, Hashimoto must have felt that some of his actions were being exposed.
So, he nodded in refusal a couple of times.
“ Rumours? Ah! You mean about all these bad things that Ichinose is doing. What is exactly the connection between me and these rumours?”
“By playing dumb you are just wasting our time. I want to make it clear to you. What are you and your class is doing is just too vicious. It’s no different from what Ryuuen is doing.”
“Even if you say such things to me. I have no answer for you”
Hashimoto, whose real intentions is difficult to grasp, anyway, is standing firm against Kanzaki’s questioning.
Akito judged that they would not fall into an impromptu fight. So, he came next to us.
“Hey, what should we do?”
Haruka asked Akito in a low voice
“Nothing at all, for the time being let’s just keep watching. If they separate without anything happening, that will be the end of this incident “
“But… is it okay to keep listening to their conversation?”
I can somehow understand Airi’s uneasiness.
Class C has nothing to do with this discussion.
At least, Kanzaki does not want us here. That’s the vibe that is transmitted by the air around him.
“What do you think, Kiyotaka?”
Akito is asking for my advice.
“Isn’t it better to stay here until they tell us to leave them alone? If all this turns into a fight at same point it would be easier for a third party to keep things civil. This is is also beneficial to Kanzaki.”
It seems that Akito agrees with me as he makes a small nod.
Then Hashimoto stepped further on the matter of the rumours previously noted by Kanzaki.
“Hey Kanzaki. All these things..Is it really just rumours about Ichinose?”
“There is no smoke without a fire. I am sure a lot of students think like that.”
“A rumour can make smoke without a fire. It only needs malicious intent.”
Hashimoto leans to the wall beside him.
“Indeed. Fire and rumours are two entirely different things.”
Not everything in the world can be applied into aphorisms.
“However, can you confidently tell me that Ichinose does not have a dark past, Kanzaki?”
“Approximately one year. That’s for how long I have been sharing the sorrows and joys of Class B. That’s why I am certain.”
“Oh! Give me a break, Kanzaki. Your responses are so clumsy that I can’t bear myself to look at you seriously.”
After saying this, Hashimoto looked down.
“Of course, I wanted to hear directly from Ichinose”
“Really? What did Ichinose say?”
“ ‘I hope you are not mislead from these rumours. Do not take them seriously’. That was her reply”
“In other words, she neither deny, nor affirm them?”
“Exactly. That’s why I believe in her.”
“Whoa! Are you serious?! How much of a softie can you be?”
He gave us a contemptuous laugh. And soon, Hashimoto continued.
“It is only normal not to want to talk about your own dark past. She can not go around telling the truth, just because she was asked by some friends. That’s why she did not tell the truth to her classmates, either. Unless you are implying that because she is a good person now, it is certain that she was also a good person in the past.”
Hashimoto is still trying to destabilize the situation. In response, Kanzaki does not seem to be upset, at all.
He believes Ichinose, that’s what the look in his eyes is telling me.
“You think that Ichinose is going to confess to you the truth, just because you are her right-hand man? How naive of you!”
Hashimoto does not hide his shock at Kanzaki’s blind faith in Ichinose.
Rather, he might have concluded that no further dialogue would be meaningful.
“I did not come here to listen to this. I want to hear the details of what you’ve been doing, today”
“I’ll tell you, then. I am spreading rumours about Ichinose”
Just like that, Hashimoto admits to it.
“Hey. Kanzaki. You are a smart, compassionate man. However, for this very reason, it would be better for you not to get involved further with things like this. Besides the only thing you can do is to believe blindly in other people”
“In other words, you have no intention of revoking those rumours”
“Aren’t you misunderstanding something here? There is no way to revoke a rumour. The rumours flow left and right, they come and go to anywhere. Like this, I just happened to listen to a rumour and passed it along”
While he admits to helping spread the rumor along, Hashimoto clearly denies that he is the original source.
However, Kanzaki won’t back down so easily.
I think it’s because he knows from the beginning that Hashimoto is not the original source of the rumours.
“In the last few days, we have been doing a thorough investigation, on you guys of Class A”
“We determined that the source of the rumors comes from the first-year students, boys and girls, of 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 somewhere.’ Very similar to the response that you gave me just now. What is the true meaning behind this? You should already understand, Hashimoto.”
There is someone who has instructed all students of Class A.
“I’m sorry, Kanzaki, but I do not understand at all. If you don’t mind, would you please explain to me?”
“The source of the rumour about Ichinose almost certainly originates from the first-years of Class A.”
“I don’t intend on listening to your excuses. I didn’t just ask the first-years. I also consulted second-year and third-year students who claimed to have heard the rumors from you. If necessary, I can ask them to come out and confirm the facts in front of your very eyes.”
Apparently Kanzaki and the others have thoroughly investigated the source of the rumour.
And he is convinced that all this, has been led by the first-years of Class A.
That’s why now, he has approached Hashimoto.
Since Kanzaki has come all alone to confront him, it must be out of consideration for Ichinose.
If a crowd of students made a fuss here, then even the students who were not interested in rumours will also show interest to know what happened.
No, perhaps this is the case. Kanzaki is dealing with this all alone as well.
“I see. So that’s why you’ve been stalking me today, too.”
Since Hashimoto included the word ‘too’, it meant that he had noticed when Kanzaki started tailing him.
However, he did not seem to care at all about it. Maybe because he understood that it was not a hindrance to what he was doing.
He shrugged his shoulders and let out a sigh.
“Who ordered you to spread around this rumour? Was it Sakayanagi?”
“Then who is it? She is the only one who can give you, Class A orders apart from Katsuragi.”
“Who knows? I’m in the same situation as the other students. I heard these rumours from someone else. Even if you’re so confident that the rumours were started by Class A, I still don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about. Maybe it’s actually the work of Ryuuen who is just pretending to have retired.”
Just then Kanzaki changed his direction a little.
“So you just accept a story you heard somewhere without questioning and then you go and spread it around?”
“The world is full of people doing the same exact thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or just a lie. If it’s interesting people will want to talk about it with others. Don’t you think that girls are far more experienced in such things than the boys?”
As he was saying this, Hashimoto turned his gaze towards Haruka and Airi.
“Well.. I certainly like rumours, but…”
“In fact, the sad thing is that the juicier a rumour is, the more people talk enthusiastically about it. Just think about it, a bit more objectively, Kanzaki. When you asked Ichinose, she didn’t confirm or deny anything, and she also did not ask 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 even think there’s room for sympathy even for someone who’s been gossiping about her.”
As long as Ichinose won’t talk on the matter, Kanzaki can only believe in her.
“Good grief, you people of Class B….”
In any case, I have managed to confirm one thing from Hashimoto’s attitude and way of speaking.
The rumours that have been circulating around about Ichinose, well, not all of them are just lies.
I will abandon my stance on the matter as a student and try to solve it from the social perspective.
Naturally, Ichinose is able to sue those suspected of spreading rumours for defamation and libel against her character.
Whether the rumor is true or false, it’s fair to say that it has damaged her honour openly. That alone should be enough to pursue the culprit.
However… This is the case only when the truth does not conflict with the public interest.
In case this whole thing has been orchestrated by Sakayanagi, then it’s no surprise that everything goes according to plan.
The silence of Ichinose is a proof that the plan works well.
Once he gave a pat on Kanzaki’s shoulder, Hashimoto walks away with both hands in his pockets.
“Our conversation is not over, yet”
“Haven’t we talked enough, already? Even if we continue this conversation, we won’t reach a common ground in the end, anyway”
By lifting his hand lightly, he gestured farewell to Haruka and Airi and then Hashimoto returned to the school building.
That Hashimoto gave me a strange feeling of uneasiness.
It is obvious to me that his stance toward me is quite different to what it was back in the training camp.
In the end, this was just an intuition.
It is impossible to pinpoint what is different or what exactly has changed.
Kanzaki bowed slightly to us and returned to the dormitories instead of the school building.
“Somehow, I feel that we’ve witnessed something totally amazing”
“You actually enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Haruka stuck out the tip of her tongue in response to Akito’s quip.
“You see, violence is kind of exciting, sometimes . Plus, if by any chance, we were attacked, Miyachi would be able to protect us somehow, right?”
As she was saying that, Haruka made some boxing jabs in the air.
“You were quite the delinquent, is that correct?”
I asked him, just to go along with the flow of the conversation. But, Akito let out a deep sigh.
“I do not want to talk about it. Haruka, it is not something that I would like to spread around”
“It doesn’t matter. You are different now, anyway. Were you really strong back then?”
“Let me tell you this. I wasn’t some famous delinquent. Honestly, the junior high school I was attending to had a different guy as the top delinquent and he was way stronger than me.”
“Wow! Was it a rough school?”
“The district where I lived was originally a place where the adults was raised like that and they raised their kids the same way, too. By the way, Ryuuen from Class D went to the middle school right next to mine.”
“Yeah. We got to know each other during the several conflicts between our schools. Well, he probably never took me very seriously.”
So, Akito handles well these kind of situations because he is used to fighting.
“Let’s end this conversation, here. Don’t spread this outside the group, okay?”
“I understand. Well, let’s go back to the cafe, then. Yukimu will be waiting”
“Yes, let’s go”
In the end, this is someone else’s problem.
I am certain that it is the best thing not to dig deeper.