Chapter 9: Misdirection.
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.
I studied alone on Sunday, as Saki advised.
She had even called me halfway through the day so we could report our progress to each other. While she was giving it her all, I was also doing it in equal. So much so, I finished reviewing every subject up to where the tests would go and had to do it all over again. Though I found it mind-numbing, Saki doubled down, sending me a message that said, “You can never be too careful. That scum may be the dreg at the bottom of the barrel, but his grades are second only to mine. Don’t let your guard down.”
That’s why I picked myself up again, and read it all from the beginning. I would not let slip, I promised myself.
Upon the countless turns of textbook pages, Monday had arrived. After what seemed like a week-long weekend, I went to school. As soon as I got there, instead of slumping over my desk to sleep, I pulled out the math textbook from my bag. I couldn’t help but muse to myself, It’s been a long time since I haven’t been sleepy at school…
Though it had only been two (long) days of studying and fun, a wave of nostalgia crashed onto me. Still, he came onto me without regard to my happy recollections.
“Heya, Creepy Panda. Studying in the morning just gives you energy, doesn’t it?” He approached me with a sickening smile crescent on his face. So no, it wasn’t an energetic morning. Not nice, even.
“Morning…” I answered before he snatched the textbook away from me, to which I hurriedly tried to take it back. “Hey, gimme that back!”
“This isn’t the studying you’re supposed to be doing, is it?” He snickered as he closed the book.
“You should be practicing your kneeling. Dogeza, even.”
Indeed, the bet we’d made stated she would get down on her knees and publicly beg forgiveness if we lost. Of course, I would never let that happen, so I was ready to shoulder the toll no matter what. But my reaction didn’t bode well with Matsuyama, who looked at me as if I were some pest.
“Well, you threatened her, didn’t you? To teach you, I mean,” he enunciated his words, even lacing them in spitting venom.
I had no idea what he was on about, so I was about to ask. However, my kind classmates beat me to the punch.
“You didn’t want to be expelled, so you threatened the top 1, Mizumoto-san!” Said one of his cronies.
“Dirty b*****d,” spat another.
“Matsuyama-kun told us all about it!”
“Yeah! Him trying to save his stepsister is so cool!” One of them cooed with stars in their eyes.
“Mhm! He looks like a prince…”
What the… Before I knew it, her likability in class had returned, as if she had never insulted or flipped them off. Rather, they were singing her praises along with Matsuyama’s. Instead, they were all treating me as if I had blackmailed Saki into helping. One quick glance told me all I needed: Matsuyama’s leer was a lunate and crooked arc, yet no one else seemed no notice.
“You’re a sneaky piece of sh*t, you know? I’ll take first place in this test to free her from you!”
And my class was united, rallying along with his nauseating declaration. Before I could say a word, I was treated as some criminal, and my already non-existent reputation sunk even lower.
I can’t do anything here… I thought to myself from the bottom of my heart, knowing any word of denial would be met with disbelief. Heavy in my heart, I decided I’d take another textbook to review, but then…
“Look! The Creepy Panda started flipping through his textbook! Is he trying to escape from reality? Hahaha!” One of my classmates’ snarl turned to snicker, then to laughter.
Meanwhile, Matsuyama threw the math textbook he’d snatched at my head. It hurt like hell, but I couldn’t react or else it would be a pain to deal with. Unfortunately, though, his attempts at digging me weren’t over, as he growled his next words, “Oi, don’t ignore me,” and tried to grab me by the collar.
“Stop it!” I retaliated, grabbing his arm as strongly as I could by reflex.
“Hah? Oi, take your hand off—ouch!”
Huh? Were his arms always this thin…? I thought as my grip tightened around his wrist. It felt like a twig about to snap. Strangely, though, the fear he’d always caused me started to wane as I realized I was gripping a bit too tight.
“Ah, sorry,” I let him go before things turned sour.
“Ouch… You hurt me you bas—”
Before he could complete his sentence, the classroom door rattled open. “Homeroom’s about to start,” sang the teacher. As luck would have it, he had arrived in the nick of time, and Matsuyama went back to his seat, clicking his tongue without letting the teacher know. Needless to say, I was glared at during the entirety of Homeroom, but any reaction from me would only lead to trouble, so I ignored it. More than that, I was happy to take a proper class after ages of not being able to.
First period was Math. The teacher was surprised to see me unusually awake, though Matsuyama still spoke up, “I asked Akito to stay awake and he said he’d start doing his best from today!”
He was full of lies. As usual, he put on this good-looking and goody-two-shoes act to earn the teacher’s goodwill. A sickening chill ran up my spine when he called me by my first name, but I knew denying it would be futile against the whole of class, so I simply nodded in agreement.
And just like that, classes began in earnest. To my surprise, something quite unexpected happened. What’s this…? I asked myself, astonished. Turns out the level of teaching in this class was quite appalling.
I looked around to see if this is how people usually took this class. Quite a few of them looked at the blackboard with scrunched-up faces, taking serious notes as if this was hard as it came.
Then, the teacher turned around, saw me, and spoke up. “What’s the matter, Iwaki? Are you having trouble in class since you slept too much?” Which elicited bursts of laughter from the class.
“Then try to solve this problem.”
Suddenly I was urged to walk up the blackboard, all under the grins of my classmates. The teacher was in on it, too. I guess he was frustrated with me since I never really paid attention to his class.
In my mind, however, there was no way the top high school in the whole prefecture could have such a low teaching level. That’s why I looked at the question thinking there must’ve been some hidden trick to it. But no matter how differently I solved it in my head, it always came down to the same answer.
Is this really how it always is…?
“Akito~ Hurry up and solve it! Or do you need some help from me?” Matsuyama chirped from his seat.
“Yeah, come on~!”
A sudden cheer, or more like a chant started from behind me. They were all looking forward to seeing me fail and embarrass myself. In any case, I had no option but to solve the question posed in front of me. Still thinking there might’ve been some trick, I wrote and checked it multiple times before turning around.
“Is this it?” I asked fearfully.
“…Correct,” the teacher looked at me in utter shock.
Relieved, I patted a sigh out my chest. I guess my mind was so relieved at it not being a trick question, I inadvertently let my thoughts slip, “Phew. This level was so low it surprised me…”
Hearing me, the teacher spoke up with a bulge in his veins, “Iwaki, I gave you a very easy problem, so it’s natural the level was low, right? If you’re so eager, you can go ahead and solve a harder problem.”
Though he provoked me, I thought he was indeed kind. He must’ve gone out of his way to choose an easier question since I was considered a failure in his eyes, right? Thinking that, I nodded in agreement to the teacher, shrugging off the question I had just answered, “Indeed, right? I mean, this school’s the best in the prefecture, so this question should be a walk in the park for everyone.”
This time I could hear veins popping like firecrackers from all my classmates. Then, the teacher swallowed my comment and glared in pure disgust, lowering his voice to a growl, “Iwaki. You studied hard this past weekend, right? Then why don’t you try out the hardest problem? Of course, if the others say it’s good.”
Honestly, I was a bit nervous when he told me it would be the most difficult question of them all. The same applied to my other classmates. But Matsuyama wasn’t the same, and raised his hand assertively, “Let’s do it, teacher! If he fails, I’ll answer it myself!” His tone was clear and inerrant as he believed he would do no mistake.
“If you say so, Matsuyama. Let’s give it a try then!” The teacher scribbled out the equation on the blackboard before turning around. “I’ll tell you when to stop. Begin!”
As soon as he said that, blabbering strafed from all over the class.
“Ew, what’s this,” one began.
“It’s impossible for him,” another shook their head.
“That Creepy Panda is getting carried away!” I could hear another berate me.
“Matsuyama-kun has to put him in his place…”
Shaking off the gabble, I wrote down the formulas and equations that flowed into my head like a river, swift and free as they appeared. Soon enough, the teacher spoke up.
“That’s enough. Raise your hand if you’ve done it.”
Matsuyama raised his without a second thought, followed by me.
“Okay, Iwaki,” he pointed at me.
“Wait, sir,” Matsuyama interjected.
“What’s wrong, Matsuyama?”
“I’ll answer first. Akito faced this problem with confidence, so I want him to follow up in a cool way when I make a mistake!” He gave a crocodile smile.
“Matsuyama…” The teacher seemed moved.
Sorry to say this, teacher, but he’s just convinced I’m absolutely wrong and is trying to embarrass me. His plan was probably to make me follow him up with the wrong answer. But…
How can anyone be wrong on this level? I was vehemently confused. In fact, I did the math to see if there was some kind of trick to it.
“Well then, show me your answer, Matsuyama.”
“Okay. It’s X.”
Huh? No shot. Seeing his confident answer paled my face. Everyone in the class seemed to agree he was right, so much so that I thought I had possibly made a mistake. I didn’t.
“You’re wrong. You were so close though,” the teacher looked at his papers.
Matsuyama groaned at his words. But even though his classmates were saddened that he couldn’t solve the question, they still looked on with empathy as if to console him.
This class is the ideal one, excluding me… I frowned to myself. Then, the teacher finally turned to me.
“Then, Iwaki. What’s the answer to this?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Okay, okay. The correct answer is Y… Huh?”
“Huh?” Matsuyama’s confusion overlapped with the teacher’s.
“Iwaki? What was your answer again?”
A jolt ran through the whole class while Matsuyama made the funniest face I’ve ever seen. They couldn’t believe for a second I just solved this problem.
“What’s the equation again…?”
“Um, what did just…”
I was at a loss.
“Iwaki, did you look at the answer beforehand?” The teacher asked me while dumbfounded. My classmates, Matsuyama included, tried to accuse me along with him.
However, “No, it was easy. I prepared three patterns of intermediate expressions. Then, I carefully selected which one would be the most optimal to use.”
“What?!” Everyone’s voice overlapped.
What’s so surprising about this…? Saki had given me a lot of questions of this level, so I didn’t understand how the others could be so surprised. More than that, however, “Teacher, is this really the hardest one you have? If it’s something of this level, everyone else should be able to solve it easily, you know?”
As soon as these words grazed Matsuyama’s ears, his face caught on fire. He was the second smartest person in school, so there should be no way for the second in line to stumble on a question this easy.
I guess he just made a careless mistake this time… I argued inwardly. No one is perfect, after all.
In spite of that, the teacher was as pale as a ghost. “…This is it for today’s class. Make sure you review properly for the tests, everyone.” He ended class early and scurried off.
What? What about the hardest problem? I was left stunned by the blackboard. Maybe that really was the most difficult question after all. If that’s the case, do I even need to take these classes anymore?
“Oi, Creepy Panda.”
He startled me as I was deep in thought. Then, he tried to reach out and grab me by the collar, but memories of how I gripped his wrist seemed to flash before his eyes and he pulled back.
“Don’t get carried away, capiche? You got one right. And did Saki teach you how to do that?” His tone was a low growl.
“Y-Yeah,” I nodded, and it was the pure truth.
Matsuyama then, perhaps freed of his angry stupor, directed his voice to the whole class. “I knew it! There’s no way a Creepy Panda like you could ever solve a problem like that!”
It seemed like my classmates were convinced by his strawman argument. He did anything to downplay me out of pure jealousy, but it didn’t really bog me. I mean, I was too preoccupied with the next classes to even think about all the jeering.
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2 comments »
Julian RobertMay 27, 2023 at 5:21 am
GattsMay 27, 2023 at 4:25 pm
Thank you for the chapter !