Something really shocking has happened.
And a ton of stuff has been going on.
In the midst of these things, I think I’ve actually become the protagonist.
It was a really troublesome problem this time, so it would be kind of reckless to call myself that, but to me, this seems like a very important, essential incident… though I never want to experience it again.
Have I changed?
I’ve definitely changed.
I’m definitely in control of the moment now.
Whether I make this moment into reality or not, it all depends on my own actions.
Starting now, starting now!
From this point on, our… our war has begun!
In any case, good luck tomorrow, Chihiro-kun!
I love the Cultural Research Club.
The class began discussing the guidelines of the athletics festival’s cheer competition.
The meeting ended with a simple discussion, and the reps standing at the front returned to their seats.
Only Chihiro remained at the podium.
He was going to fulfill his commitment, or rather, the moment itself.
A few students watched him with “What’s up?” expressions.
“Uwa? Did you forget to say something?”
Tada asked casually, but Chihiro couldn’t find the strength to reply.
A storm of unease was swirling inside him.
The class’s mood wasn’t exactly agreeable, since their discussion just now had been anything but lively. Students who sat close to each other were absorbed in their own conversations, and the entire class lacked any sense of unity.
In this type of unassisted situation, he had to fight like a man.
Someone Chihiro hadn’t noticed at all realized that he had remained in the front of the classroom, and fixed his gaze on him.
What Chihiro planned to do would probably chill the mood. No, rather, it was supposed be quite a fervent matter, but since it was too passionate, it would utterly freeze the mood.
Chihiro didn’t know if his actions this time would end in success or failure. Frankly, he felt that he was more likely to fail.
If he failed, the aftermath would be pretty disastrous. Not only would he be outed as a weirdo by his classmates, his place in the class would change.
But that was the worst that could happen.
Compared to the extremely wretched situation he had experienced before, most things were nothing; he could still crawl back up. The world was going to maintain its original form anyway, so only his surroundings would change slightly. He wouldn’t die.
So, he would try to change the world.
“Let’s do our best at the athletics festival, let’s give it our all!”
Chihiro’s voice resounded throughout the silent classroom.
After saying it, even Chihiro himself felt cold. Once it left his mouth he realized that it sounded way more embarrassing than he had imagined.
He was at a loss for what kind of person could speak naturally like this.
“Hey, hey, Uwa…”
“T-Think about it, everyone, in the end, we want to attend the athletics festival, don’t we? Whether we want to attend casually or seriously, we want to go all the same. So, even if we do our best… or be a little bit serious, it won’t matter, will it? Besides, if we win at the athletics festival, it’ll benefit us a lot at the Cultural Festival… L-Let’s work together!”
Chihiro stopped here — but no one expressed any sort of opinion whatsoever.
He could sympathize; after all, it was very difficult to be the first to share an opinion in this type of situation. The first person wouldn’t have a precedent to rely on, so he wouldn’t know whether he had the correct answer or not. The so-called “trend” was very important, so in order to live smoothly and safely in this world, one must properly watch the development of such a trend.
But if he only went with trends and wherever the wind blew, he wouldn’t be able to change anything, and nothing would happen.
Even if he bluffed or put forth false bravado, as long as one single person acted—
Come to think of it… had he scared everyone into keeping silent? If that were the case, this was too pathetic for Chihiro, so pathetic that his stomach hurt.
“T-This sounds like a youthful idea, it sounds great! I agree!”
Enjouji suddenly stood from her seat and spoke up.
Chihiro had agreed with Enjouji beforehand that she would come to his rescue if anything happened. As long as one person started, the others would follow easily. He felt that the word “youthful” was a bit immature, but it was still acceptable, wasn’t it?
Nice going, Enjouji.
Together, Chihiro at the podium and Enjouji standing in the middle of the classroom lifted the revolutionary beacon. Even if only two people were standing up now; in another sense, there were already two people standing up.
Even if there was only one, there had to be someone else, absolutely must be someone else, not much longer before someone else… They looked fearful, but there would definitely be someone else who followed this trend…
Not a single person stood up.
Only Chihiro and Enjouji stood alone in the blizzard-torn classroom.
“Damn, if someone like you… a guy who isn’t necessarily dark, but wouldn’t usually lead the charge, suddenly comes up and talks like that… you’d scare everyone!”
Tada, who sat in front of him, told him during break.
“Shut up! I know! I know, dammit!”
Since he had just broken through that kind of supernatural phenomenon and had been exposed to the Cultural Research Club’s “passion” for some time, Chihiro had already gotten used to being unusual and had forgotten what it meant to be normal. Suddenly displaying that sort of passionate attitude without warning would naturally scare his classmates. When Taichi and the others were in their classes, they’d probably cooperate with the class’s mood.
“Chi-Chihiro-kun… you failed.”
Enjouji said gloomily.
“At this rate, you’ll be doomed to baldness, Chihiro-kun… I’ll always remember your hair…”
“Don’t just decide my baldness on your own! And it’s not baldness, it’s shaving my hair off. Also, even if you forget about my hair, it’ll grow back… There’s too much to criticize with you anyway!”
“Were you guys doing a skit or something?”
Tada asked, causing some guys nearby to roar with laughter. After all, what Chihiro just did seemed to have attracted everyone’s attention a bit.
Ahh, but… Dammit, he’d tried pretty hard already, but it had no effect whatsoever. To be honest, he was a little discouraged… But he wouldn’t give up. It was time to find another way.
“Enjouji-san, do you plan to go hard in the athletics festival? Or were you just seconding Uwa-kun’s motion?”
A girl named Higashino, who sat beside her, asked in an almost mocking tone, since she was interested in the topic of romantic relationships and wanted to join in on the fun.
“I-I want to try my best! Because it’s more fun to do it seriously, and we’ll be happier… And also… I feel that… it’s cooler that way…”
It’s more fun to do it seriously, we’ll be happier, and it’s cooler that way — it certainly seemed like Enjouji’s style of speech.
“Cooler, eh? Guys who work out are pretty cool~, and if we’re active in the games, we’ll be taking on a whole new level of respect! In other words, you’re excited for Uwa-kun to showcase himself during the Festival.”
“G-Guys? Chihiro-kun? Uh, um… I don’t think that’s quite it… In any case, it’d be such a pity for a guy to become bald at such a young age…”
Why was her conversation based on the premise of becoming bald?
“Huh? Do you like admiring guys who participate seriously in the athletics festival, Enjouji-san?” Tada asked.
“Huh… Huuhh? Um, yeah. I think… that would be great.”
“Great, hm… I see.”
Enjouji’s idea of “great” seemed to be different from Tada’s.
No, that didn’t matter. Anyway, he had to think of a way to increase class morale, since it involved his own potential baldness after all… No, it involved shaving his head… Huh? W-Wait.
“Hey, can I ask you all something? What do you think of guys who participate seriously in the athletics festival, or guys who work out a lot?”
Chihiro enquired the group that Higashino, who had just asked Enjouji the same question, was part of.
“Hm? You mean, ‘I’m going to participate seriously, so what do you think of me’? You hitting on us?”
“That’s not what I mean, I wanted to ask you all what you think of guys like those.”
Chihiro had the impression that Higashino was a very open girl, and as a boy himself, he’d find conversation easy with her.
“I think they’re great~. There wouldn’t be any girls who hate fit guys, would there?”
“Serious guys are great~. Ah, but they can’t be too passionate!”
“Like, guys who play high school baseball are so cool, and inspiring, too!”
“I get it, I get it, the image of them sweating furiously is really…”
“Huh? You like the smell of sweat?”
The girls chatted animatedly, their chitchat becoming quite enthusiastic.
“So? You got a problem with that?” Higashino demanded.
“Hey… Could I ask you to keep this topic popular among the girls for a while?”
Although a wall existed between the boys and the girls of Class 1-B, creating a lack of intimacy, the class actually wasn’t that bad together. Thus, the topic of “guys who work out a lot are very cool” began flowing amongst the girls at lightning speed.
“Hey, Uwa, I’ll attend the athletics festival seriously, leave it to me.”
Most of the guys in Class 1-B were pretty practical.
“Good, excellent… This’ll massively increase the guys’ drive!”
Although he was still slightly uneasy, he couldn’t hope for everything, and besides, he’d achieved his ideal trend of one person taking action and the others following suit. Next, if this sort of mood permeated the girls too, that would be even better.
Tada called Chihiro.
“You’re amazing, the guys are even talking about practicing their events.”
“Ahh, I heard that too. Since we don’t have a lot of time, we’re trying not to put too much emphasis on points from the cheer competition and instead rely on event points, right? Also, I’m not that amazing.”
The practical guys planned on using a practical method to win.
“Why’re you so serious all of a sudden?”
Chihiro stopped mid-sentence and thought. Did he want to seriously participate in the Athletics Festival because Inaba had ordered him to?
If Inaba hadn’t ordered him to, what would he have done?
It’s more fun to do it seriously, we’ll be happier, and it’s cooler that way.
“... Because I want to.”
“Because Enjouji-san said so?”
“Nah, my relationship with Enjouji isn’t what you guys think.”
“Ahh, I see.” Tada chuckled. “Hey, the guys’ fires have been lit, so now you’re worrying about how to ignite the girls’ competitiveness, aren’t you?”
“I think they just need a final push. Since they’ve already been affected by the guys, they’re thinking that they need to do something as well.”
“But, how should I push them…”
Chihiro said. With a “Leave it to me”, Tada gave him a thumbs-up.
Then, he said a little loudly:
“Ah~, if the guys train now, we’ll be rising on the scoreboard! If we don’t win then, it’ll have to be the girls’ fault… Oops.”
Tada theatrically pressed a hand to his mouth, then whispered to Chihiro:
“When the guys and girls are separated, each will be real competitive towards the other, so this method is very effective! Heh, heh, heh!”
It did seem to have been very effective; the girls nearby were visibly affected by his words. Ah, the girls over there were affected too. Guys with girlfriends were different after all; he and Tada were like night and day.
“You’re a true expert, Tada… But it’s really surprising that you’re actually doing something for the Festival.”
“More like, you’re the surprise, Uwa. You’re pretty amazing after all. Thanks to you, everyone’s going to seriously give it a go now, including myself. Besides, doing something seriously is pretty embarrassing, isn’t it?”
“... Why is it thanks to me?”
Probably because he had spoken so passionately in front of everyone, right?
Chihiro thought as he asked.
It was his own brave actions, after all, that had changed this class—
“Because there’s no way I’ll be more embarrassed than you, and that makes me rest way easier.”
Chihiro slumped onto his desk, clutching his head.
This world didn’t go his way at all, he clearly intended to have done it more elegantly.
But to the current Chihiro, this was his fighting style.
… How he hated this fighting style.
Chihiro was a bit worried about the newly recovered Yui and Taichi, so he sneaked off to peek into Class 2-B.
“Whooaa! The impact of you running and hugging me is pretty intense, Yui.”
“Stick closer to each other, why don’t you? Not long ago, you two were keeping your distance…”
“But it’s because we were keeping our distance back then! I have a severe deficiency of Iori-content now! Even if it’s you, Yukina, I won’t hold back if you try to stop me!”
“Absorb as much as you want! By the way… are you jealous, Yukina?”
“No, I’m not jealous.”
“Heh heh, you’re at it again, why hide your own true feeeelings?”
“Don’t turn me into some kind of weird character, okay? You’ve been quite scary lately, Fujishima-san!”
Yui appeared to be romping about quite cheerfully with the girls; there didn’t seem to be any problems.
Chihiro looked towards Taichi next.
“Hey, even though I chose to let the people with good motor skills go first while I was deciding the events we’re gonna do… You don’t want to do any event? Or do you have an event you’re good at?”
Taichi was talking to a quiet-looking boy.
“Huh? Ahh, I don’t have an event I really want to attend, but…”
“When I was in the cavalry fights during elementary and middle school, I was always the rider… and I’ve never lost.”
“Hm! That’s really good, isn’t it? You should do cavalry fighting! Can you still change your event?”
“All right… if we can still change.”
“Good, then I’ll confirm with Watase.”
“Heh heh, we’ve discovered Oshima-kun’s talent in an unexpected way! Heh!”
An unusually excited twin-tailed girl piped up from the side.
“By the way, your method of discovering talent is brilliant, Yaegashi-kun. Why are you suddenly asking that type of stuff? Tell Nakayama-neesan~ about it.”
“Ahh… because one of my kouhais from the Cultural Research Club said some things that made me think a lot.”
“Really, really? What did you think about?”
“Um, how should I put it, it’s very hard to describe… I think, I’ve realized that some people actually have things they want to do but can’t without seizing the opportunity… I think that’s roughly it? I was like that before, too.”
“Oh… I see, Yaegashi Taichi… You’re quite the expert.”
“I wanted to ask just now, how exactly do you see me, Nakayama?”
These people are really amazing after all, Chihiro thought.
It seemed that he still needed some time before he could catch up to them.
The day of the athletics festival was a beautiful, sunny day.
Even though everyone was clamoring over how much more comfortable cloudier weather would be, after the festival was underway, their collective passion drove the heat as far away as possible.
According to the older students, this year seemed livelier than previous ones.
After lunch break, the cheer competition had concluded, and the athletics festival entered its final stages.
“You’ve been doing great, Chihiro.”
Inaba rustled Chihiro’s hair.
There was only one event left, and judging by the point count, the two teams with hopes of winning were the Green Team, to which Inaba, Aoki, Chihiro, and Enjouji belonged, and the Red Team, to which Taichi, Iori, and Yui belonged. The Red Team was currently ahead and the Green Team behind, but both of their point counts were close, and if the Green Team placed higher than the Red Team in the final match they could turn the tables and win.
“This is going too well. It's inevitable because of us, isn't it? It’s more interesting to think of it that way. In any case, everything depends on the results of the next match, including our own bet. It’s pretty exciting.”
“Of course, your shaved head depends on this too!”
She still remembers…?
“Although I won’t be participating, good luck to you, Chihiro.”
The final competition was the staple of Yamaboshi High School’s athletics festival, an all-grade mixed cavalry fight.
Yamaboshi High School’s cavalry fights involved the boys and girls forming small groups amongst themselves to fight a mixed battle.
Of course, no direct conflict was allowed between the boys and girls; one of the game’s rules was that the female groups could attack both boys and girls, but the male groups could not attack the girls. If one only paid attention to this rule, it would appear that the girls could single-sidedly attack the boys, but typically, because of differences in physique, the girls’ attacks wouldn’t be able to reach them. Therefore, although it was basically “mixed”, the boys and girls typically fought separately, though a girl would occasionally seize an opportunity to snatch away a boy’s bandanna, which got the mood roaring — that was roughly how it was. Incidentally, people would sometimes take advantage of the fact that male groups couldn’t attack female groups, using the girls to stop the enemy boys from advancing or carrying out similarly advanced battle tactics.
After two preliminaries, the final was to be between the victorious Red Team and Green Team.
The preliminaries were timed, but the final wasn’t: both sides would engage in an all-out war until one side was completely destroyed. If one team was left with only boys and the other was left with only girls, the battle would reach a stalemate and victory would be decided by how many remaining groups each side had.
The fiery mood in the school was approaching its climax.
Whether it was the students’ families coming to visit or the teams whose battles had already ended, all gazed unswervingly at this final, decisive battle.
Under the boiling sun, Chihiro listened to everyone’s support from atop his “horse”.
“Do your beeeeeeest!”
“Wipe the floor with ‘em!”
Some seemed to be overly excited, and combative words were mixed into their shouts.
“You gotta win, Uwaaaaaaaaa!”
A hoarse call of support for Chihiro, too.
“You have to shave your head if you lose, Chihirooooo!”
… and a threat.
“Go for it, Chihiro-kun!”
Among the hubbub, Enjouji’s voice reached Chihiro’s ears too.
Chihiro was slightly surprised. That Enjouji, always the soft one, could shout so loudly.
The battle kicked off.
“All right, let’s do this, Uwa!”
Tada, as his “horse” and in charge of direction, yelled from beneath Chihiro. Chihiro’s group began to move.
The Green Team he belonged to had many bulky guys, and they had used that kind of strength during the preliminaries to break through the other side with brute force.
Compared to them, the Red Team didn’t depend on that kind of power to win.
However, the Red Team possessed an honest-looking second year who seemed to be unusually lucky during the matches and was a galloping, invincible “Martial Goddess” on the battlefield — Kiriyama Yui.
Yui didn’t just attack girls, but boys too, just like a sprinting, ferocious tiger on the battlefield.
The Red Team seemed to acknowledge Yui’s fighting ability: Yui’s “horses” were all taller girls. Even so, they still shouldn’t be able to reach the male riders using normal battle tactics, but Yui would stand on three female “horses” and attack when she fought. It was a highly difficult skill that could not be replicated by normal people.
If the boys could also fight the opposite sex they might have been able to match that, but the boys couldn’t attack Yui, and the girls were no match for her.
Having overcome her disadvantageous height, Yui was singlehandedly wiping the floor with everyone.
“Anyway, girls, first lure away Yui-sa… lure away that long-haired girl’s group, and buy us some time! We’ll smash the guys first!”
Chihiro commanded loudly.
The Strongly United Team versus the Few But Elite Team. Both sides were evenly matched.
A fantastic, chaotic battle unfolded between them.
The cavalry groups of both sides fell in battle, one by one, onto the sand.
A second year boy, second only to Yui as an elite, began facing off with Chihiro. Yui’s activity had far outshined this boy’s, but he had seized a massive number of bandannas on his own.
Chihiro struck first.
The boy responded to Chihiro and took action, but Chihiro focused on this moment and threw out his arm. It had been a feint.
Chihiro snatched the boy’s bandanna.
“Don’t look at me now, I’ve practiced karate for a long time!”
By the time he realized it, there were no more groups around him.
The only ones left on the battlefield were a group of girls on his team and the enemy group with Yui.
Live commentary from the Broadcasting Club broke out on the loudspeakers.
“The only one currently left on the battlefield is the very, very, very active Kiriyama Yui-san of the Red Team, who has become a female hero in one fell swoop! Where was she in her first year?! In addition, the Green Team still has one group of guys and one group of girls. Therefore, after we organize the situation… Please explain for us, commentator-san.”
“The instant Kiriyama-san loses, the Green Team will win; on the other hand, if the girls of the Green Team are eliminated first, there will only be a guy versus a girl left on the battlefield, and the match will be declared over. Since there will be an equal number of groups, the cavalry fight will be a draw, and the Red Team will win. If the Green Team’s guys are eliminated first, it will be a girl versus a girl, and the match will continue, but… if it becomes a one-on-one, there is not a shred of doubt that Kiriyama-san of the Red Team will win. Even if it’s two-on-one now, the guys can’t attack the girls, so this can be called a one-on-one. In other words, victory has already been—”
“Okay, thank you for that very professional commentary! Incidentally, although that last comment was not wrong, it would kill the mood, so there’s no need to be so thorough! In any case, the first team to suffer an elimination will lose! Just remember that, everyone! In other words, this is truly the final, decisive battle, it’s so awesoooome!”
They had gotten a small glimpse of the method that the event organizers had used to keep the mood sizzling.
Everyone listened intently to the commentary, and the never-ending fierce fighting stopped for a moment.
A moment of silence loomed on the battlefield.
Yui’s group was positioned directly in the center, sandwiched between Chihiro and the girls allied with him.
Chihiro and the girls allied with him signaled to each other with a glance, then slowly closed in on Yui. The sandwich maneuver didn’t really have any meaning because Chihiro couldn’t attack Yui; it was really a duel between the two girls, and the results of that were already predictable.
So it was just as the commentator had said: victory had already been decided. It wasn’t an exaggeration.
If they thought of victory as an absolute goal, and thought backwards from their goal, they still had a chance.
Interesting, how interesting.
Even in this sort of situation, they could still find a way to turn the tables as long as they did not give up hope, so this world was really too interesting.
Next, he would only need to take action and turn the false victory in his mind into reality.
The distance between both sides slowly decreased.
They were about to enter the into range of battle.
Just then, Yui stood up from her seated position on her “horses”. Both of her feet stepped onto the shoulders of two “horses”, and she nimbly maintained her balance. She stood extremely tall; it looked like she was practically cheating.
Yui’s chestnut hair billowed in the wind, and she fixated her stare on the enemy she was about to pounce on.
“So we’ll win if we just defeat that girl? Don’t mind if I do, then. Chihiro-kun can’t attack me anyway—”
In order to win, Chihiro spoke to Yui.
“Yui-san, you’re not trying to… make the cavalry fight a draw, and have the Red Team win like that? If you defeat our girl first, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Chihiro incited the unyielding Yui.
“What?! H-How could I do that?! Even if it’s just a cavalry fight, we’ll be earning an all-out victory, a perfect victory!”
“W-Wait, Yui, you don’t need to mind such an obvious provocation from them!”
She fell for it.
“The guys can’t attack us anyway, so it won’t matter if we attack them first! All right, let’s go!”
“I-I got it.”
Yui’s group sprinted at Chihiro’s group, their speed blinding. The girls who served as Yui’s “horses” had to be masters of strength.
“What do we do? Uwa! Do we run for it?”
“No need, keep it like this.”
Chihiro observed Yui’s movements; their allied girl tried to draw near Yui but there was still a distance between them.
“You’re telling me to keep it like this… But we can’t attack, so if they catch us the game will end!”
Indeed, it was about to end.
Let’s end this dragged-out story here.
It was something he had never been willing to accept until now, like an illusion.
In this moment, make that thing real, and end it.
This end will become the beginning for next time.
“Yui-san, I used to seriously like you.”
Yui’s competitive eyes widened in shock.
Yui’s bud-like lips parted in surprise.
Then, in the next instant — her face turned a deep red.
“Huh? Huh? W-What did you say, Chihiro-kun? S-Sincerely? Are you serious? Wait, hold on, um, Ch-Chihiro-kun, he… Y-Y-You’re kidding me! Wait, wait!”
Yui began to flail about. To stop her from falling, the “horses” could only stand still, trying to maintain balance.
“Yui, Yui! Concentrate, stop flailing around, stand still! Hey, listen to me! If you keep doing that—”
The girl allied with Chihiro seized the opportunity to snatch Yui’s bandanna.