Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
In the end, afternoon classes went exactly as they did in the morning. Answering the teachers’ simple questions was all it took for them to burn to cinders. Each time, Matsuyama would try to fight against me, but I clapped back. It went so poorly for him, he walked up fuming to me after school.
“F*cking Panda,” he called with venom. “The only reason I’m losing to you now is that I happen to be out of shape, capiche? If I were my usual self, I wouldn’t even come close to losing, you understand?” He looked at me as knife cuts steak.
“Y-Yeah, you’re right. There’s no way Matsuyama, someone who’s second only to Saki, would lose like this.”
“That’s it. Plus, don’t forget you have Saki babying you,” he lowered his tone as if he’d calmed down, reminding me I had help.
However, “I mean, the smartest guy in this class would never make a mistake on such a simple problem, would he?”
“—!” His face lit on fire, red as peppers.
Huh? Why are you so angry? I didn’t dare ask the question, though I really didn’t understand. I had to wonder, was he taking it out on me for not being able to answer the questions? Before I could even register that thought in full, I discarded it. There really wasn’t a chance in the world that the number two would ever blunder like that. A catch. There must’ve been a catch.
“F*cking Panda! Don’t you dare—”
He tried grabbing me by the collar but was interrupted by someone’s sudden appearance. She giggled like an elegant princess, covering her mouth all the while. But her titters were more like thorns to Matsuyama’s ears.
“…Oi, Saki. What’s so funny to you?” He tried to hide his displeasure behind a porcelain grin.
“Well, I just saw someone being ruthlessly and effortlessly beaten to a pulp by someone they thought was below him. Funny stuff, ain’t it?”
“—!” His face was almost like a raging Krakatoa. However, his bubbling anger did not amuse her in the slightest, and she instead only poured oil into his throat amidst cackles.
“Thanks for the great show, step-brother. Oh, how good a sibling you are, putting your body on the line just to make the best physical gag possible for his faux sister. Keep up the good work!”
Her provocations only caused him to quake, much to my dismay. Will he beat me up after this? I could only ask myself.
Although she was the one to agitate him with a smile, I would be the one to clean up the mess. I believed her bad mouth would cause me to get into deep trouble, but Matsuyama went against all my expectations. With a smile, he turned to me.
“Aw, how terrible, Iwaki. You made my sister say such a thing…”
“Huh?” I had no idea what he was on about. Why me?
“I mean, how would this school’s number one ever say something like this? I mean, everyone loves her, and some even consider her a Madonna,” he built this narrative on top of a lie.
“No, you’re wro—”
But I couldn’t even finish my own sentence.
“Y-Yeah, it’s definitely the Panda’s fault!”
“Are you okay, Mizumoto-san?”
“If he did or ever does something to you, just speak up. I’ll help you.”
Led by Matsuyama’s lies, they all turned on me. Saki looked sick to her stomach while witnessing these cronies.
“You really are irredeemable, scum,” Saki spoke against him.
“Hey, Iwaki! What the hell are you making her say? I won’t forgive you if you keep this up, you know?!” He raised his voice valiantly. In fact, he seemed to even be under the delusion that every bad word she uttered came from me.
Without a second thought, my classmates started agreeing with him. Saki, deciding there was no point in staying with these mindless followers, walked straight to me.
“Let’s go, Iwaki-kun,” she motioned.
“Y-Yeah, sure, Mizumoto-san.”
“Hey, hey, don’t ignore me, Saki,” Matsuyama started, but air meant nothing to Saki. She didn’t even spare him a glance.
“Would the library be fine today?” She asked me.
“Oi, Iwaki! You even told her to ignore me?! You dirty b*****d!”
Matsuyama pointed his finger at me in accusation, not at her. He had changed his target because anything he said to Saki would be met with nothing in response.
“I can’t talk to you here. Concentrating is impossible when flies start to huddle around this piece of sh*t.”
“Hey, don’t ignore me, Iwaki!”
Without a word more, I stood to leave the classroom with her.
“Saki!” He yelled from behind, trying to stop us one last time. Then, with a faux heroic smile on his face, he announced, “I’ll definitely save you from Iwaki as your brother! Wait and see!”
The class erupted in shrill cheers. Saki then finally looked his way, causing him to believe she finally understood his point. That she would listen.
“Saki…” He filled his eyes with a sickening warmth. Whether it was because he was overcome with emotion, or that he truly believed he was a hero, it didn’t matter. I was truly sickened.
“Кутабаре <F*ck you, scum.>” She motioned a slit in her throat with her thumb, talking in a language I didn’t know. What I did know, however, is that I would never forget the look of sheer horror that painted Matsuyama’s frozen face as we left for the library.
“Akito, you’re a bad boy too,” Saki told me as we walked through the corridors.
As we went to the library, I couldn’t help but realize how much of a head-turner she was. From every corner, I could hear people talk about the beauty who just walked past them, while also asking themselves who was that random nobody walking beside her. Though I was uncomfortable, I shrugged it off for something more important: why was she calling me bad?
“You told him there was no way he couldn’t solve those problems because he was second only to me. Honestly, that was awesome,” she grinned.
Ah, that’s what she meant, I nodded inwardly. Still, “Saki, it’s not good to underestimate him, okay? He may have a bad personality, but he truly is the top two in this school.”
She looked at me in shock. “Akito, could it be… Do you really think so?”
“Of course I do,” I nodded in earnest.
She stopped dead in her tracks, holding her stomach and bellowing a laugh as if I’d just said the funniest thing in the world. “Ahahahahahaha! Oh, I feel sorry for that pathetic step-brother. He’s so stupid I just can’t help but feel pity!”
The students nearby all looked back at her hysterical guffawing. I was puzzled, too, not knowing what she was even laughing at in the first place. After a while of unbridled laughter, she wiped away her tears.
“Aha… Well, maybe that’s the right mindset for you now that I think about it.”
“Yeah. I’m serious about defeating him,” I nodded with a flicker in my eyes.
He wasn’t an opponent I could beat by playing it safe. If by some means she lost, her name would be disgraced before everyone. I could not let that possibly come true, no matter what.
“Don’t be too tense,” she advised me not to overdo it.
“Yeah, I know. So, what are we going to do?”
“Well, you’ve finished all your textbooks, haven’t you, Akito?”
I read every subject under the test scope at least five times.
“Then, it’s time for some new material.”
“Oh, that’s exciting,” I nodded.
Solving the same questions over, and over, and over again was mind-numbing, even though covering every little crack so that I wouldn’t blunder was necessary.
“Hehe, I’ll solve it with you,” she giggled.
“Hm? You too?”
“Yes. It’s our first time working together, after all, Akito.”
Her calling me by my first name in a loud tone caused a thrill in my heart. But one look around told me there was no one in the hallways. Saki took advantage of that situation, shrewdly as ever. The way she schemed everything always amazed me, that’s for sure.
Then, we finally arrived at the library. She then left to go look for the new material, and I took a seat first. As the top school in the prefecture, there were many people using their lunch break to study, so it wasn’t an unusual sight around here. While I thought about the most random of things, Saki plopped down a question book on the desk with a thud.
“I’ve collected a few hard problems for now. Are you up to the task?”
I skimmed through the book’s pages and found the average difficulty to be high indeed.
“Yeah, this stuff’s hard. I don’t think I can finish it in under one hour.”
“Usually, people don’t even consider solving one that fast…”
She gave me a tired sigh as I kept looking at the questionnaire. I paused for a beat before giving my answer.
“Mhm. I’ll also do my best to solve them along with you.”
We both sat across one another. Before we started, she muttered sadly, “I wish I could sit next to you.” Unfortunately, we couldn’t do everything we did back at my place since we were in public.
Turning my mind to the questions posed before me, I couldn’t help but affirm how hard they really were. At the same time, I was delighted to finally face a challenge after so many boring problems. The feeling of unraveling layer after layer was a ton of fun.
About an hour later, Saki groaned. “This is too hard. How am I even supposed to solve this?”
“What’s the problem?”
“This one,” she turned her notebook to me.
“Oh, this one. I got stuck there for a bit, so I had to use this strategy over here. That’s the way I did it.”
“I see. That’s how it’s done. Ugh, I’m frustrated…”
“I had a hard time with it too, you know?”
“…By the way, how long did it take you?”
“About five minutes? I struggled quite a bit.”
“So by your standards, a five-minute problem is a struggle…” She grunted at me in frustration before sighing in defeat. “There’s no point in worrying about it. So, Akito, how do you solve this one?”
“Oh, that. You first…”
After that, I taught her the questions she could not solve. At that time, we were so focused on studying we did not notice the shadows lurking and watching us.
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