「Hey Izumi, is this a good place?」
On Thursday lunchtime, the day after the selection of participants for the sports festival.
Maisaka came to Chihiro, just like yesterday.
Without waiting for Chihiro’s reply, he took a seat in front of him and pulled out a loaf of bread from a convenience store bag. Today there are three croquette buns.
「Aren’t you bored with the same bread all the time?」
「Well. Isn’t it more comforting to have the same taste all the time?」
Chihiro couldn’t understand the feeling. So, he smiled bitterly and took out his lunch box to pause.**a
（I mean, what is it that he wants today?）
「Oh, yes yes. It’s about the sports festival. I wanted to have a strategy meeting. I thought Izumi would be a good person to talk to」
「A strategy meeting?」
「Yeah. I mean, you want to win anyway, right? There’s a prize, after all」
Chihiro nodded, "I see".
Well, the prize for the first place team was a coupon worth 1,000 yen, which could be used at the school cafeteria and at the store. Although it’s not something worth pursuing, at least it will motivate the team to win.
「But, what exactly is the strategy? I think the only thing that sounds like a strategy is deciding the team」
「Hmm, that’s true」
Chihiro asked as he picked up his lunch, which today consisted mainly of fried tofu and boiled eggs, and Maisaka smiled.
Then, Maisaka took a bite and swallowed a third of the croquette bread.
「To be honest, you’re right, but that’s boring. So,let me at least tell you how the battle is going」
Well, Maisaka is really telling the truth.
And it’s good that everything is peaceful, because Chihiro doesn’t want to talk about blackmailing players of the enemy team or illegal sabotage here.
Well, it’s about prediction of the battle situation.
As he has [Accumulation] ability, Maisaka must like such things. He may have wanted to actually make a plan if possible.
「...From the way you say it, it’s tough?」
「Well, yeah. After all, this class is probably the weakest of the year」
After saying that, Maisaka stuffed his mouth with croquette bread.
Chihiro couldn’t help but stop his hand as Maisaka spoke in a very matter-of-fact manner.
「But aren’t Kamishiro-kun and Fukami-san joining too?」
A questioning voice.
It’s neither Chihiro nor Maisaka who said the exact same thing that Chihiro had thought of.
But it’s Aika, who was sitting with Maria on the other side of the desk. Because of their position, Maisaka’s voice could reach her. It seems that Aika is curious and interrupts them.
Maria, on the other hand, is taking a bite of her sandwich, seemingly uninterested. Maisaka smiles as he watches them.
「Well. It’s true that we have two ranked C students... well, three including Takatsuki-san. The rest of the class has one, so it seems like an advantage, but it’s not」
「Because there’s a rank B in A class」
――There’s a student in Class 1-A who’s been a rank B since he entered the school.
Chihiro had heard that story before, too.
This is the reason why he had recognized Kamishiro as the strongest student in his class and the first-year student closest to Rank B, and why he hadn’t thought of him as the strongest first-year student. This is because there are students who have already reached rank B.
Class A and B have one rank C student each, so at this point Class A is considered to be at least as strong as Class C. In addition, Class C has one rank C student in the competition.
Besides, considering the fact that there are people in Class C who have abilities that are not useful for competition （Chihiro, for example）, there is a good possibility that Class B might have overtaken them in overall strength.
「But, I don’t know much about that person, even though he’s a rank B student」
It’s hard to get information about other classes, but even so, a first-year student in Rank B is bound to have a rumor or two.
At Chihiro’s words, Maisaka nodded.
「That’s true, but well, it can’t be helped. After all, this person hasn’t used his/her ability even once since entering the school」
「Oh, I see」
Aika rolls her eyes, holding a cute lunch box in her hands.
「That’s right. In other words, this person has no achievement after entering the school. It’s not surprising since it was a B when he entered, but it means that this person been the strongest freshman without ever using his/her ability」
The strongest without doing anything.
Even Kamishiro has been training every day and is still a C rank.
... it’s not fair.
Maria looks up after finishing her sandwich. She looks back at Maisaka for the first time and asks quietly.
「What are his/her abilities?」
「Hmm, no idea, huh...」
「I don’t know. It’s been kept private at the request of the student. Of course it must have been used during assessment, but a teacher wouldn’t go to the trouble of revealing it. Though, there’s no way to know if the other students have never seen it」
"But", Maisaka continued.**b
「I’m sure this person will use it at the sports festival. After all, it’s a great opportunity to show off your abilities」
The training that the students usually do is just that, training.
But when it’s a school event, it’s a different story. If they perform well in public, in front of a large crowd, it will remain as a great "achievement".
This should have a tremendous impact, partly because of the effect of keeping the information secret until now.
*sigh*, Maisaka exhaled.
The bag of croquette bread is squeezed tightly and bursts open.
「To be honest, it would be tough. Well, we have Kamishiro and Fukami-san in our class. I think we can do our best, depending on how things go」
「...I’m sorry, but I can’t be of much help. There are many students who are more capable than me when it comes to physical abilities」
Maria’s abilities are self-healing and retaliation, both of which are more suited to direct combat and less suited to physical competitions.
Maisaka must have been aware of this.
So, he nodded lightly and said.
「Therefore, I’ll ask Izumi and Takatsuki-san to fill that role」
Chihiro blinked at Aika, who looked at him too.
After all, the two of them aren’t very good at competitions, either.
「Takatsuki-san can heal everyone. If you use it on Kamishiro or someone who joins many events, it will be a great help. And Izumi is the rider. So, I’d like you to win, if possible. I’d also like to see Nishizaki win the ball game. If she makes a dummy basket or hides her position with an illusion, she’ll have a huge advantage, right?」
Maisaka seems to be thinking of more things than Chihiro thought.
Or perhaps it would be rude to say "unexpected".
Well, his abilities and personality don’t seem to match up, but they do in a subtle way. Maisaka Shuu is such a person.
「Of course, Kamishiro is quite eager. I’m looking forward to it」
Chihiro then thinks while watching Maisaka’s relaxed conclusion.
He wonders what will happen at the sports festival.
Perhaps it’s because he’s been given a strange incentive, but his heart swirls with anticipation and anxiety. In any case, all he can do is to do his part to the best of his ability.
Before he knew it, his hand had stopped eating.
Chihiro looked down at his lunch box and resumed eating, a little hurriedly.
「Sports festival, let’s do our best」
「Yeah. But don’t push yourself too hard, Takatsuki-san」
And after lunch, Chihiro exchanged a few words with Aika as they walked down the corridor towards the locker room.
The conversation took a turn and he ended up accompanying her to the changing room. Maria is also with them, but Maisaka stayed in the classroom, saying he had to prepare.
Although the men’s and women’s locker rooms are not next to each other, they are in the same direction.
Well, there are several changing rooms in the school, all located near the training area. The problem is that they are a little far from the classrooms.
Therefore, they have time to talk like this.**c
「Ahaha. Don’t worry. I’m just doing a scavenger hunt」
「Oh, no. No, not that. I’m talking about your ability」
Aika’s healing ability is a useful power that can heal fatigue, but it has the disadvantage that it wears out quickly. Although it is inevitable for Aika to use it, both for her character and for the strategy of the sports festival, she is afraid that she might get sick from overuse.
「After all, I’m worried about Takatsuki-san because I gave you trouble the other day」
It’s clear from that incident that she is a girl who is devoted to everyone. That’s why Chihiro is worried about the situation where she might overuse her abilities.
But Aika blinks without stopping.
She smiled softly and shook her head.
「No, I’m not bothered at all. It’s just something I wanted to do... and I’m actually grateful to Izumi-kun」
After all, that treatment is one of the reasons why Aika’s rank improved.
「Besides, I can’t leave someone who’s in pain alone」
「But, thank you. Izumi-kun is kind. It made me a little happy」
Aika said, quickening her pace. And before he knew it, they’re getting close to the changing rooms.
「See you later」
She smiled and walked on, and Chihiro felt very dazzled.
After seeing Aika off, Maria came to stand in line where she had been before.
「She’s a good girl. Just like Nishizaki-san said, she’s too good」
Chihiro didn’t answer Maria, but in his heart he agreed.
Aika is kind, caring. That’s why she’s dangerous.
He wants to monopolize that smile, to be special to her. Maybe Kamishiro feels the same way as Chihiro.
Is there a difference between pure love and mere possessiveness?
「I’m not going to give up」
With that, Chihiro quickly shook his head, and Maria giggled happily.
「Then, good luck. ...Master.」
The second half is a faint whisper.
Even though there are many other students around, she said the unusual name quite naturally.
Maria then followed Aika to the girls’ locker room.