For Masayoshi Hashimoto, the question of who he would support was a trivial thing.
However, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that in the end, he didn’t mind at all.
Whether it was Sakayanagi or Katsuragi that would become a leader, he would use the one that would be beneficial to him.
Simply as that.
Although he was happy Class A was his start, he also considered falling down to B or C Class on the way.
The important thing was to take the position that he could turn into his advantage at last.
For this reason, he thought of the possibility of connecting with Ryuuen who came to rise at high speed. An outstanding talent that could bring down even Sakayanagi or Ichinose.
He recognized Ryuuen was a person with an uncanny strength. He wouldn’t even hesitate to spread A Class’ information if necessary for his sake.
Of course, he thoroughly acted as an espionage under Sakayanagi. However, if Ryuuen happened to be better than the others, Hashimoto would not decline to betray Sakayanagi.
Likewise, he kept his eyes on B Class’ Ichinose too. Only in Ichinose’s case, she was a partner that monkey business did not work with her, different from Ryuuen or Sakayanagi.
Hashimoto decided to remove obstacles on the way without hardship. Although he wouldn’t go as far as betraying Ichinose, Hashimoto had a connection with a student from B Class that was close to her. He built a relationship with her classmate soon after he enrolled.
There is not much insurance in the event of unforeseen circumstances. And today, he was trying to prepare for these unforeseen circumstances, once again.
“Um, Hashimoto-kun. May I ask you something?”
In the hallway, after school, a female classmate named Motodoi Chikako called out to H
She belonged to the same tennis group as him. It looked like she had taken the opportunity when Hashimoto was leaving the classroom. She was restless, not being able to calm down. Hashimoto soon realized why, without even asking. Today was February 14th. He had already witnessed this scene several times. However, he didn’t show his realization. He didn’t even bring it up.
“What’s the matter Motodoi, what is it?”
After his kind response, Motodoi began to talk as if deciding to speak her mind.
“Here, chocolate. It’s Valentine’s day, today.”
Hashimoto immediately took the chocolate that she offered him.
“Thank you, Motodoi. You made me happy.”
“I’m, I’m glad.”
Hashimoto perceived before from her look that she had had an affection towards him as a person of the opposite sex. In all probability, it was chocolate to showcase her true feelings. He had faith he would succeed if he confessed to her, but he had no feelings towards Motodoi because he perceived her only as a valueless person that cannot be used, neither in a good way nor bad. There were zero merits in dating her.
“Please, come to the club more often.”
“Sorry, lately I have been skipping it, a lot.”
“True. Our senpais are worried about you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Anyhow, I’ll return the gift next month.”
A blushing, Motodoi nodded and then ran off as if running away from the embarrassment.
Even if the chances of dating were nonexistent, Hashimoto was still making connections. Maybe something would be different the next time.
To make up for lost time, Hashimoto headed towards the first-year Class C classroom hurriedly. There was a person he paid more attention to, than Motodoi.
C Class’ male student, Ayanokouji Kiyotaka.
“What is it, that makes me, to be so interested in him…”
He somehow had no special impression of him until the training camp. He only remembered that during the school sports competition, he ran a fierce relay against the former student council president. But, Hashimoto didn’t think that his evaluation of someone should change simply because he was quick on his feet. Furthermore, both Sakayanagi and Ryūen who had strong antennas on catching things, did not seem to pay any extra attention to Ayanokouji.
However, soon after came an event that made him change his idea about Ayanokouji.
According to a strange remark by the student council president Nagumo Miyabi, he was the guy that Horikita Manabu valued more than anyone. He tried to rid of it, as as a joke, but he couldn’t. Thinking about it now, there were signs. Why had a former student council president and Ayanokouji directly confronted? That couldn’t be just coincidental. What if he had to act that way intentionally? These doubts happened to whirl around him.
Moreover, he still couldn’t understand how Ryuuen was overthrown by Ishizaki and the others. The current Class C was also overwhelmingly at their lowest in spring, but began to steadily shrink the difference with the upper classes.
Maybe Ayanokouji got involved in this chain of events…
“What if… he is the one that surpasses both Sakayanagi and Ryuuen…?”
At that point, this option didn’t seem very likely to him.
He decided to stop having doubts. It was a wild idea that was a reach. Something concrete was lacking. Nagumo’s words were actually no more than a tasteless joke. The reality of what had happened during the relay at the sports festival was nothing more than a fantasy that Hashimoto had come up with to fit his own convenience.
That’s why he had to find out the truth.
Recently, while he was spreading rumours about Ichinose as instructed by Sakayanagi, he also found time to follow and investigate Ayanokouji. He found his way to Class C only to find out that Ayanokouji was already gone.
“Never wasting time, Ayanokouji.”
He rarely stayed in the classroom after school, which could be due to his circle of friends being rather small.
Could he be together with Miyake, Yukimura and the others who were in the group of his close friends? Hashimoto, thought, but after realizing that Yukimura and Sakura were in the classroom, he crossed out that possibility.
Awkwardly observing the students of another class would make him stand out.
To avoid that, immediately after arriving at the classroom, Hashimoto called out to Hirata, who hadn’t head out to his club activities, yet.
“Hey, Hashimoto-kun. What’s up?”
“I came to check whether you’ve got a new girlfriend.”
“I’m not thinking about having a girlfriend now.”
“Are you in the process of healing a broken heart?”
“Ha ha… It might be.”
“Let me hear the rest of the story next time. Btw, I was about to ask for the contact of the guys I was together with at the training camp. I thought the next I’d ask would be Ayanokouji, but it looks like he already returned to his room.”
“You haven’t seen him? He left maybe one or two minutes ago…”
He had missed him by just a bit. Deciding to follow him immediately, he headed towards the entrance saying thanks to Hirata.
The school-year-end trial was approaching. Even Hashimoto couldn’t allow himself to waste time every day. He had to come to a conclusion quickly about Ayanokouji so that he could get ready for the test as soon as possible.
“It’s about time i got something, here”
He would make his move, if he had the chance. He chased after him, with that intention.
Fortunately, Ayanokouji was occupied with his mobile phone at the entrance.
Was he meeting up with someone, or was he just killing some time? Either way, Hashimoto was lucky enough to continue.
Ayanokouji had been always using his mobile phone to stay in touch with somebody. Was he just getting in contact with Miyake and the others? Or was he speaking to someone Hashimoto didn’t know?
One thing was certain. That Ayanokouji was an unusually easy target to track.
Hashimoto had followed several students, so far. Katsuragi, Ryuuen, Kanzaki, and even Ichinose, sometimes. None of them were particularly easy to tail. He would consider himself extremely lucky to be able to follow one of them once every two days. Moreover, it would take nearly an entire week to find out any new information about them if things went poorly.
However, Ayanokouji lead a monotonous daily life with a very closed circle of friends and social connections.
This made it extremely easy to anticipate his actions ahead of time. Above all, Ayanokouji did not show any sign of alertness.
He was never looking what was behind him, never showing any indication that he had sharp senses or a keen intuition.
Still, Hashimoto would not let his guard down.
He had to be careful, and follow the trail from a good distance.
At that time Hashimoto received a call from Naoki Shimizu, a classmate.
“Hello. is something the matter, Naoki?”
“No… Actually, it’s about this morning, I’ve seriously had enough of this”
“Ah, yes. You’d better not mind it, okay? Besides, there are a lot of people who talk too much in our class”
In Class A, to which Hashimoto belongs, a little problem occurred that morning. Shimizu had confessed to a girl named Nishikawa, only to be rejected, his failure had begun to circulate among the girls of the class. Perhaps Nishikawa had carelessly told one of her friends about the confession, and it just spread around from there. Something like this would happen every once in a while.
“If you worry too much about things like these, you won’t be able to confess to anyone”
“T.. That’s right. For real, I can’t forgive Nishikawa for what she did”
“I would like to hear your complaints, but now, i am in the middle of something”
“Oh, really? My bad”
Hashimoto promised to call him back that evening and hung up.
“This is what happens when they do not have the certain conditions to succeed, and they confess, anyway”
After deciding to comfort him later, he followed Ayanokouji who was returning to the dormitory.
“If you go straight back to your room, then, there will be nothing for me today”
The most painful trait of following Ayanokouji is the fact that nothing changes.
However, the elevator, passed the 4th floor, where Ayanokouji’s room was located and continued ascending. Hashimoto watched the elevator monitor from the lobby as it stopped on the girls’ floor.
“If I’m not mistaken… That’s the floor where Ichinose’s room is”
Or maybe that was just a coincidence, and he was just there in order to meet with another girl.
However, given the recent events, it was hard for him not to associate things like this with Ichinose’s case.
“But even if it’s Ichinose, is it possible that he will only pay her a visit…”
No matter how narrow his circle of friend is, Ichinose is a popular student even in his school year. No, it’s not surprising that they are friends with Ayanokoji.
Moreover, if the other person is cute like her, there may be students going to visit in anticipation of something.
But soon Ayanokouji returned to the elevator and the elevator stopped on the fourth floor, where there was Ayanokouji’s room and descended back down.
It didn’t make any sense. From the floor of Ichinose, Hashimoto could see a group of girls from B Class coming down.
Hashimoto established the theory that Ayanokouji had run into all of these girls who had gone to visit Ichinose before him, and made the decision to turn back before encountering them.
Just to be sure, he went to the fourth floor with the elevator, but there was no sign of Ayanokouji.
There was no doubt that he had returned to his room.
“After all, I didn’t find anything about you, today, either, huh?”
Hashimoto, who was thinking about whether to give up for the day, decided to wait in the lobby for a while. Besides, it was still pretty, early.
It was still probable that Ayanokouji would try to get in contact with Ichinose later on, or even make arrangements with someone else, entirely. Furthermore, it didn’t matter if he went upstairs or downstairs because he’d be able to confirm things on the monitor of the elevator.
One of Hashimoto’s thoughts came into fruition in about an hour, later.
Ayanokouji who got into the elevator, began to move downstairs. He hadn’t changed from his uniform into his plain clothes yet.
“Are you going back to school?”
It was incomprehensible to do such action after returning to his room.
It would make sense that he wouldn’t bother to change his clothes if he was simply heading off to the convenience store which was close, but he was also holding his school bag.
Hashimoto, immediately got up from the sofa and hid in the emergency stairs.
“I am looking forward to an interesting development”
As if Hashimoto’s wishes had been answered, Ayanokouji left the lobby and started walking towards the unpopular side of the school campus. At least, the odds of him heading to the convenience store or the school vanished.
Then, is he meeting with someone? No, he was just moving to a place that was not suitable for meeting friends.
In other words, he was full of anticipation, to what he was going to do and who was he going to meet. It was definitely a meeting.
If he was about to meet with the former student council president Horikita, or even Ryuuen, things were about to get pretty heated.
However, such speculation was about to be betrayed in an unexpected way.
“Woah, woah, is this for real…?”
The person who was meeting with Ayanokouji was none other that first year Class C Karuizawa Kei.
Her recent breakup with Hirata had made her quite popular in Class A. Even though Hashimoto had never had any contact with her so far, he still couldn’t hide his surprise at her unexpected appearance.
His expectations were betrayed. It was just a case of romance that had nothing to do with the “hidden side” of Ayanokouji that Hashimoto followed and hoped to uncover.
His brain automatically tried to see it differently, but no matter how he looked at it, their relationship with one another was clearly beyond of the limit of just friends.
He had witnessed several dates between Hirata and Karuizawa before, but he had never felt a strong sense of ‘love’ or ‘intimacy’ between the two of them.
“…. I don’t understand. Why, Ayanokouji?”
Which one had fallen for the other first? Or was it both? Hashimoto tried to guess, but no answer came. In the first place, there is no right answer to love. Objectively comparing Hirata and Ayakoji, 80% of girls were likely to choose Hirata, but it would not be strange for the remaining 20% to choose Ayanokouji.
If there were 100 people, at least 20 people would choose Ayanokouji. That could mean….
“Ayanokouji… has been in frequent contact with Karuizawa…?”
However, he immediately erased this option from his mind. It was just a story he had come up with to explain the current situation, nothing more than an aspect of his imagination. He knew he would not get a definite answer unless he investigated further. But this was a place where not too many people were passing by, so he could not go any closer to hear their conversation.
“What should I do?”
At that time where Hashimoto could not decide what to do next….
The situation between the two moved at once.
Karuizawa handed what she was holding in her hands to Ayanokouji.
On February the 14th, this is something to be handed to somebody without being noticed. You don’t have to look inside to understand what it is. In this case, at least it is obvious that Karuizawa is turning her favor towards Ayanokouji.
“Well, somehow it is over for today.”
This had nothing to do with the information he wanted to know. So, he concluded his tailing and decided to head back. But, suddenly Hashimoto, stopped in his place.
“On that occassion… Why don’t you challenge him, a little?”
This was a rare a chance, given that there was a little time remaining until the end-of-the-year school exam. Shake him up by dragging the unrelated Karuizawa into this. This is the best chance to get Ayanokouji out of the way.
On the other hand, if nothing comes out, it could be a sign that he has nothing to fear about Ayanokouji. So, Hashimoto made his judgement, and took quick steps towards Ayanokouji and Karuizawa.