“As an older sister… I thought that I had to try to give her smile back. So, on the day of her birthday, after school, I went to the department store.”
Even now, you could feel her heart-beat loudly as it must have been back then.
“I think that my emotions during that time were lost within the darkness. I thought that it would be okay… it would not be a big deal to do something like that for my little sister… For just one time. After all, there are a lot of people in the world who do bad things, all the time. I had that kind of feeling. There was no need for us, who had been enduring so much, to be blamed. Such selfish, selfish interpretation. If I had bought it normally, it would have cost me over 10,000 yen. I wanted that hair clip that my sister desired so much… so I stole it for her.”
Ichinose spoke as if she was getting something heavy out of her.
“I knew that it was an act that would make everyone unhappy. But that time, I only wanted to make my sister happy, somehow.”
That was the trigger.
“… But still, I’m inexcusable”
Ichinose exhaled deeply.
“In the end, criminal acts are criminal acts, and no matter how much you regret, you can’t get rid of them.”
She expressed her thoughts in disconnected words.
“So, you got caught?”
Ichinose shook her head in denial.
“I left the department store with the hair clip. My first time shoplifting, my first crime. Nobody found out. Then, I went straight back home and presented the hair clip to my sister. Since I had stolen it, there was no wrapping, so it was a messy present. Still, she was so very pleased. Looking at that smile, I felt my guilt fading for a moment. But that quickly changed and my sense of guilt grew more and more over time.”
Ichinose’s smile was full of self pity.
“After all, when a daughter does something bad, a mother always notices. I had told my sister to keep it a secret. But she wore my present and visited our mother in the hospital. Besides, why shouldn’t she? There was no way for her to think that I would give her as a present something that I had stolen. For the first time in my life I saw my mother so angry. She slapped me and grabbed the present from my sister. I don’t even think that my sobbing sister understood why. My mother who still should be hospitalized took me to the store. I presented myself and begged for their forgiveness. It was exactly there, that I realised for the first time the weight of the crime that I had committed. That no matter how many excuses I had made, nothing could justify what I had done. “
So that was Ichinose’s past. The past that she was trying to remain hidden.
“In the end, the shopkeeper did not turn me in, to the police. But the commotion spread instantly, and I shut myself in. For my whole third year of junior high school, I just stayed indoors…. but I kept thinking, that I should move forward again. It was when my homeroom teacher told me about the existence of this school. Entrance fees and tuition fees could also be exempt. What was more important, it was that when I graduated, I could get a job anywhere. I wanted to start over, start over from scratch”
Ichinose, who finished talking about everything, once again turned towards all the B Class students.
“I’m so sorry everyone. I’m such a useless and pathetic leader…”
“That’s not true Ichinose”
Shibata spoke from nearby.
“We are convinced after all the things you said that you are still a very good person. Right?”
“Yeah. Honami-chan you may have done something terrible, but still..”
The sound of a cane striking the floor echoed through the classroom.
“Why don’t you stop it, already. Are you trying to make me laugh? Everyone of B Class.”
The voices defending Ichinose gave up.
“Well, that’s a very dull farce. Are you trying to draw sympathy by narrating all these boring and unnecessary details? Shoplifting is still shoplifting, no matter the circumstances. There is no room for sympathy. You stole for your own selfishness, in the end.”
As Sakayanagi spoke, Kamuro, standing right beside her, momentarily showed a stiff expression.
“Yeah, that’s right. The background of my past has nothing to do with it.”
“It is true that you have committed a ‘criminal act’. In other words, aren’t there a lot of private points that you are entrusted with, by your classmates, maybe you are trying to steal them, just before graduation?
“… I could never do that, Sakayanagi-san. If I ignore everyone’s wishes and do something like going to Class A, it’s an act of betrayal. I don’t think that the school will permit it, either.”
“Yes, you’re right. You’re a clever one, after all. You’d never use an obvious tactic like that. On the other hand, what if you do this performance right here and gain the sympathy of your class in order to permit you going to Class A?”
Sakayanagi kept pressing obsessively.
“Yes, you may be right. I.. No matter how hard I try, all my efforts might seem hypocritical. The crime I have committed, will never disappear.”
Her criminal past would always follow her.
And suspicions that she may also betray her class would always be there, as well.
“I’m sure you are able to understand, now. That’s the student named Ichinose Honami. As long as you have someone like this as your leader, there is no chance of your Class B winning”
She was thorough by exposing the reality of the situation.
“Now, return immediately, all your private points to the students and step down from your position as the Class B leader. You should do that much, at least. If you don’t do that, your bad rumors won’t disappear in the future, will they?”
Ichinose closed her eyes. Calmly she took a deep breath.
“So, now what, Ichinose? What are you going to do?”
The question came from Kanzaki, as the representative of B Class.
If she would continue to be the leader.
It was only because Ichinose herself would decide.
If it was her first time that her spirit had been crushed.
Ichinose may have not been able to endure it and she may have been snapped.
But Ichinose’s spirit had been crushed already.
No, to put it better ‘I was the one who crushed it’.
And then it had been completely cured.
And her broken parts were now even stronger than before.
“I will wrap my confession with this!”
As she was saying this, she turned with a smile towards Sakayanagi.
“I am certainly a shoplifter, and as Sakayanagi-san said, I don’t think there’s any room for sympathy. After all, a crime is a crime, and I have no intention of running away. However, I’ve never been persecuted for it. In other words, there’s absolutely no reason for me to atone for my sin now.”
“That’s really shameless of you to say that, since you do not think of yourself as a bad person, even if you shoplifted”
“That may be the case. However, I am not going back to that, anymore. I want to break free from my past.”
Ichinose turned to her classmates smiling and then continued.
“I may be shameless, but…. Everyone, will you follow me until the end?”
That’s what she said.
A moment of silence.
By no means, Ichinose said that based on optimism.
She was about to cry and ready to run away. Ashamed by her past.
However, she was going to move forward.
For the past year, along with her B Class students had many hardships, there was no way they wouldn’t understand her.
“We have already decided to follow you, right?!”
Shibata shouted with a smile.
At the same time everyone from B Class yelled cheerfully, expressing their unity.
That is how much they admired Ichinose.
You could feel their faithfulness.
Both Keisei and Akito seemed happy as they had been taken away by such an expression of unity of B Class.
It was not just from B Class, students from other classes voiced their support as well apart from one class in particular.
“Sakayanagi… what should we do?”
Sakayanagi’s attack which she had set up so masterfully, had been nullified.
Kamuro appeared to understand this as well, which was why she had spoken up. Her question could be interpreted as a request to withdraw.
She laughed again, a bit longer that time.
“I see. Well, you’ve done a good job Class B. As I said, the criminal past doesn’t disappear. Rumors about you will continue to spread “
“Yes. However, I do not intend to run away from it.”
“Is that so? Then we should thoroughly—”
“Hey! That’s enough, everybody!”
As Sakayanagi was trying to answer, a couple of teachers and an upperclassman appeared walking in B Class’ classroom.
It was the student council president, Nagumo, B Class’ homeroom teacher Hoshinomiya as well as Chabashira.
“It seems that a lot of important people have gathered here, but don’t you think that this is something concerning the first year students?”
“It’s certainly a skirmish involving the first-year students. However, we prohibit the circulation of rumors as of today”
“…What is the meaning of this? I’m not satisfied with this sudden order on the rumors about Ichinose-san. Regardless of where they came from, if Ichinose-san was troubled by them, shouldn’t be the one reporting it to the school?”
“That’s not the case, Sakayanagi. This is no longer a matter that concerns only Ichinose”
Nagumo responded to Sakayanagi.
“… What are you saying?”
Just as Nagumo was about to explain, Chabashira intervened instead.
“I won’t explain the details, but we’ve already confirmed that there has been an ongoing exchange of slander amongst the first-year students. There are close to twenty different rumors circulating at this point. If this is allowed to continue, it will corrupt the public morals of our school. Rumors are rumors. Regardless of whether or not, there’s conclusive evidence backing them up, the school doesn’t want to see rumors that target specific individuals continue to spread. Therefore, I’ll inform all of you right now. From now on, anyone found spreading meaningless rumors will be subjected to punishment.”
So far, the school had been tolerating the endless spread of rumors, but now they had finally taken action.
“… I see. So, that’s the case.”
After hearing the explanation, she seemed to understand it.
“You mean that the school has finally taken an important measure.”
We could also see Horikita, who came close to us after seeing the situation.
“This is just my hindsight, but this might be enough to save each class. Because of the school’s intervention, Sakayanagi-san’s team won’t be able to attack Ichinose-san anymore. This should also silence the rumors about Hondō-kun, Shinohara-san, Satō-san, and yourself, that were posted online as well.”
“Sakayanagi-san went a bit too far. She attempted to frame each class with the same strategy at the same time, but it backfired because it attracted the school’s attention. It seems like with this one warlike move, she managed to outdo herself.”
After saying that. Horikita stayed silent.
Then, after awhile, she continued.
“What is it?”
“No, it’s nothing”
By saying this, Horikita did not want to say anything further.
“Let’s withdraw here. Now that the school has made their move, our presence is no longer necessary.”
After understanding the situation, Horikita ordered our classmates to withdraw.
Class B which had already been noisy, got even more excited at once.
Class A had successfully been repelled.