F-Rank no Boukun: Volume 1 – Chapter 1

Translator’s Notes:

F-Rank no Boukun is a work by Eiji Mikage, known for his Utsuro no Hako to Zero no Maria series. It currently has 2 volumes published. Volume 1 is titled “Ochita Tensai no Gaisen”, or, “The Triumphant Return of the Fallen Prodigy”.


Translation Credits:

Translation – defan752

Editing – defan752

“… As they had for a teacher one who was half beast and half man, so it is necessary for a prince to know how to make use of both natures, and that one without the other is not durable. A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.”
— The Prince (Machiavelli)

 

The face of a black-haired beauty was displayed on a monitor floating above the ground.

Leaning against the back of an iron pipe folding chair and propping his feet atop the PA room’s audio console in a cynical manner — Kanna Fujishiro faced that image, and even though he had displayed it himself, he still glared at that girl’s face. His eyes were sharp enough for one to have difficulty approaching his unusually handsome features.

Brushing back his dyed brown hair, Kanna cursed to himself:

“Are you kidding me.”

Kanna hated this PA room. Maybe it was because the cleaning student on duty had not carefully cleaned it, because a thick layer of dust was piled everywhere. In this age where most monitors made use of the “Aerial” suspended imaging technology, the PA room’s equipment was antiquated stuff outdated enough for one to mistake that it was purposely placed there to create a nostalgic atmosphere.

To Kanna, it was like a declaration that F-ranked students only deserved equipment of this level.

“Are you kidding me.”

He cursed again, continuing to stare at the picture of the girl.

The girl was wearing the uniform of Keihou Middle School, which Kanna had once attended, and the appellation of “beauty” described her far more intimately than “cute” or “adorable” could. If a layman’s gaze were to captured by those breathtaking, jet-black eyes, they probably wouldn’t be able to help but avert their stare. Her medium-length, silken black hair draping over her shoulders created a sharp contrast against her fair skin, as defining as a black-and-white photograph.

The girl in that picture, Erika Kagurazaka, had a mouth whose corners were slightly angled upwards; that hint of a smile was slight enough not to be one, but Kanna knew that this was Erika at her happiest.

Because he was the who had, with a cell phone camera, captured that hint of a smile.

Kanna slumped down even further in the seat, and like this, raised his left hand before his eyes, as if examining his watch.

Wrapped around his wrist was an electronic device akin to a large bracelet.

It was a very streamlined, circular device; a green electronic glow emanated from its polished black exterior, pulsating nonstop around the circle, as though trying to bind and trap his wrist. The device, the side of which had seven buttons, was the “CCC (Constant, Control, Circle) mobile”1, a terminal device that every student of Nanahoshi Academy was obligated to wear.

If one did not pass through the authentication machine set up at the doorways of the dormitories, the device would become non-removable, like handcuffs, which was why many students were very vocal in their complaints about them. But Kanna was different: he very much liked the futuristic design of the CCC mobile.

Right now, the forepart of the CCC mobile was displaying a transparent green holographic keyboard, floating in midair like an Aerial. Kanna launched the drawing application and pressed his palm onto the floating keyboard, switched it to its hidden mode, and it disappeared.

Kanna reached out and softly touched with his fingertip Erika’s fair cheek, which floated in midair.

The snow-white skin was dyed a crimson red.

Without hesitating, Kanna continued to apply red to the image with his fingertip. The steadily dirtied picture gave the beauty a bloodied look, giving her an obscene, violent feel.

The crimson red, roughly smeared on with a fingertip, slowly transformed into letters with meaning.

LION”.

Finishing, he looked with disgust looked at the image he had dirtied.

Merely doodling on an old picture of Erika would not change anything. Kanna was well aware of this, but he couldn’t control himself.

Kanna sighed; it was a habit he had acquired recently. Then, he glanced at the time displayed on his CCC mobile.

The time was 12:25.
Like when he had closed the keyboard, Kanna pressed down with his palm and closed the Aerial display. He languidly turned his neck, took his feet off the audio console, and stood up.

He walked to the single window in the PA room.

This south-facing window was just high enough to align perfectly with Kanna’s head.

The unlit PA room was slightly dark, even though it was midday. Because of this, the light source coming from the window emphasized itself even more. Light shot in, as though it were leading itself, yet commanding at the same time, discontenting Kanna. Getting distracted by such a thing was of no use, so he quickly averted his eyes outside the window.

Maybe it was because he had looked outside from inside a dark room full of dust.

“———”

His vision was greeted by intense, yet gentle light, and Kanna could not help but be blinded.

After his briefly blurry vision returned to normal, entering his sight was a green garden of geometrical shapes. There were no visitors to Nanahoshi Academy, secluded within the mountains as it was, yet much time and money had been spent on creating this garden that was beautiful enough to request tickets upon entry.

(Same old, same old; with positively heavenly scenery compared to this PA room.)

Roses blooming with the nourishment of their tuition gave the illusion of sweet fragrance, even at such a distance. Even the sunlight seemed to have adjusted its brightness to the most comfortable, gentle rays, just for the garden.

What an overly meticulously prepared scene.

Overly meticulously arranged, to the point that if a fantasy fairy tale in another world was playing there right now, it wouldn’t seem strange.

And it was because of this that not just anyone was suited for this beautiful scene. There weren’t many befitting of a mysterious tale, but—

(Found her.)

He immediately found the girl who could blend into this scenery.

Found the girl he had been looking for all this time.

The girl in the picture — Erika Kagurazaka.

Placed near the entrance arch of the green garden, just like what a queen of the forest kingdom in a fantasy world would use, was a garden bench with a high backrest, entangled with verdant vines. The girl was seated on it.

It had been two years since that photo was taken, and her beauty was as captivating as ever. A slender body, petite cheeks, and once medium-length hair that now reached down to her waist. If one stubbornly tried to pick out a flaw in her appearance, it would be that although she possessed clearly defined features, she wasn’t very tall. But most people shouldn’t believe that this hurt her charm. With a base shade of black and a red bow tied at her chest, her urban-styled uniform suited her body as though it were specially tailored for her.

Erika was seated at a mosaic-textured marble desk, presumably sipping tea from an exceptionally expensive cup, chatting with seven girls in the same uniform as hers, an elegant smile on her face.

But Kanna understood that it had nothing to do with Erika’s inner emotions; it was merely a false expression.

Erika was merely a grade level’s difference from Kanna, but in this garden, her attitude was exceptionally composed, completely blending into the fantasy world. If she were to leave, it would seem to expose a flaw in this garden.

She wasn’t a decoration planned to be in this garden from the beginning. Kanna smiled bitterly.

But soon, his mouth drooped.

(This is practically clarifying the difference between an S-ranked and an F-ranked.)

Kanna and Erika were ten meters apart, yet the difference between the two was clearly far more than that. As though to illustrate this point, a towering wall separated Kanna and Erika’s school buildings. Kanna had always felt a sense of deja vu around that antiquated red brick wall, and he finally remembered why.

It was the outer wall of Abashiri Prison2, which he had seen during elementary school.

Of course, if it was constructed to prevent escape, then it was to guard against Kanna and the others.

Wah— What’re you looking at, Kana-chan, your eyes are glued!”

Someone suddenly flung their arms around Kanna’s neck from behind.

“— Who’s there?!”
His eyes were swung from the splendid garden back to the PA room.

Kanna let out a rare roar, and threw off the person clinging to him.

He had never once divulged to anyone his intention to come here, and had already investigated that during lunch break, no one would come into this long forgotten PA room.

So why would someone appear here?

The only possibility was that this person had been following him.

Kanna turned around and gazed at the other person.

“You…”

It was the girl he had seen.

As though emitting a sparkly! sound effect, a remarkable face with large, slightly upward sloping eyes.

“Hiya— you know me, I’m Nanami.”

Nanami smiled a naive, guiltless smile, straightening her small frame as hard as possible and raising her hands high.

“Heh heh, I sneaked and followed you here!”

She said as she moved close enough to Kanna to touch him, and looked up at him with those huge eyes.

“……”

Her sudden action left no reaction time for Kanna, rendering him only able to return Nanami’s gaze expressionlessly.

Nanami’s head of seemingly supple long hair had gone through considerable effort to be twisted into small curls and tied into twintails. Her uniform was decked out with some decorative tricks: her eyelashes had been carefully done, she was wearing an elegant marine-scented perfume, and a ribbon was tied around her wrist.

But whether it was her petite frame or childlike face, one always thought that she was merely trying to appear mature. Moreover, Kanna found this type of fashion gaudy.

“Hm…?”

Faced with a reactionless Kanna, Nanami probably felt embarassed: her lips slightly parted into an embarrassed smile.

“… R-r-right.”

Nanami frantically rummaged around her backpack hung full of stuffed toys. Sound after sound of snack wrappings rubbing against each other came from within; she giggled foolishly as she peered inside, saying: “That’s weird— can’t find it—”

“Ah!”

Appearing to finally find it, Nanami beamed as she stuffed something into Kanna’s palm.

“Here you go.”

What she gave Kanna was a roughly palm-sized stuffed toy. It looked cute, but it was a mass of jet-black, and its wide open mouth was filled with unusually sharp incisors, leaving one at a loss for what kind of animal it was.

“It’s really cute, right? It’s for you, Kana-chan—”
Kanna was unable to comprehend the meaning behind Nanami’s action; he stared at the stuffed toy, without any reaction whatsoever.

“… Uh, uhm, I have a rule that says that there can be a maximum of four toys on my backpack at once. But with the new addition of Skitty3, he isn’t just cute, he can release electricity with the force of a stun baton when I need him to. So even though it’s mean to GO-PON, I had to take him off. Life sure is cruel! How heartless of me! But instead of putting it on my desk, giving GO-PON to Kana-chan might make him happier. So here you go!”

Kanna’s silence did not signify that he didn’t understand her, but Nanami had gone ahead and explained her reasoning giving him the toys anyway. What’s more, Kanna was utterly unable to comprehend her logic.

As if to hide the awkward mood, Nanami grinned stupidly again.

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(What’s with me?)

If it were the usual Kanna, he would tactfully decline the toy since he had no reason to take it, but this was much too puzzling, so he obediently accepted it. GO-PON was clearly a stuffed toy, yet it felt quite hard and stuff, lacking the needed softness.

(Hold on, why am I listening blindly to her? Let me reorganize my thoughts first; I do know her face, and I do know her name.)

He stared at Nanami again.

She gave him a familiar expression.

Quite a clueless attitude.

Kanna placed GO-PON into the inner pocket of his uniform, and prudently confirmed his own memories.

Alas, his conclusion remained the same.

(But I’ve never talked to her before.)

Indeed, this was the first time Kanna and Nanami had met.

This was also the reason Kanna did not know how to respond.

(It’s our first conversation together, so what’s with this woman’s intimate attitude? This attitude isn’t naturally expressed; it’s purposefully displayed. But what exactly was the reason for this attitude of hers? Although, if she was planning to confess that she likes me, that would still be justified—)

“… What’re you up to—”

Kanna suddenly halted mid-sentence.

Influenced by Nanami’s ineffable manner, he accidentally let slip his true nature, and had almost blurted some vulgar language. Kanna had learned many “lessons” from how making enemies too easily would wreck his own work.

His raised eyebrows returned to their normal positions.

His straight lips curved upwards, becoming a mild-mannered curve.

Normally exposing an embittered, cynical attitude would do him no good whatsoever. Therefore, Kanna always made a supreme effort to conceal his true nature, and showed people the amiable, gentle, all-smiles attitude of a well-mannered young man. But since he stood out too much, it made him a little hard to approach. Essentially, Kanna gave off this sort of impression among his fellow classmates.

Right now, his attitude towards Nanami must be just as usual.

“Hello, Nanami-san, do you have business with me? … If not, please excuse me, I wish to be alone right now.”

Kanna put on a kind smile, clearly expressing his intention to decline her. Fortunately, his often-displayed traces of aloofness would make themselves useful now.

“Huh? No, I wanna stay with Kana-chan.”

He hadn’t expected it to be completely ineffective on Nanami.

Instead, Nanami grabbed Kanna’s hand. Her own spontaneous attitude seemed to embarrass herself a little, as if she thought she had gone slightly overkill.

(These types of people who are completely clueless at reading body language will occasionally appear, greatly betraying my painstaking theatrics… No, judging by her expression, she doesn’t want to leave no matter what, so she expressed denial while aware of her own peculiarity?)

He pondered so in his mind, but Kanna maintained his wide smile. Ever since his middle school times, he’d long been accustomed to hiding his emotions and expressions.

Perhaps due to seeing Kanna’s smile, Nanami dropped her apprehension, got carried away, and bumped Kanna in the side with her elbow.

“Calling me Nanami-san is way too stiffy! Just call me Nana-chan! Because I call you Kana-chan too!”

“… I understand, Nanami-san.”

Kanna didn’t change his way of address, deliberately cutting into her.

“Hey, you didn’t change even after I said so! Can I take this to mean you’re worrying that other people might misunderstand for some reason? You’re such a gentleman, Kana-chan! You’re so attentive, as expected of the Prince of the F-Rank world! Refined and temperate!”

Kanna was flabbergasted by Nanami’s tenacity.

He paid no attention to his own state of mind; rather, Nanami seemed devoid of any intention to leave.

But even if Nanami was present, Kanna had no intention of ceasing observation of Erika Kagurazaka.

(I can only ignore her appropriately, then.)

Once more, Kanna’s vision slid from Nanami to the window.

That scenery, and Erika Kagurazaka, both of which were able to make one forget the real world, returned to his view.

“Hey, that’s the famous Erika Kagurazaka.”

Nanami pushed up tightly against him.

She squeezed her head onto Kanna’s cheek, and looked outside the window with him. Since she was not tall enough, she simply clambered onto the pipe chair in her indoor shoes.

“Hmph—! You act all cool about not being interested in girls, but you still like watching beauties anyway! Nanami’s gonna get jealous!”

Nanami pouted crossly, puffing her face up.

“… My goal isn’t to look at beauties.”

“You liar! If Erika-san were ugly, would you still be looking at her? Would you?”

“… Here, take this, could you please be quiet for a second?”

Without so much as glancing at Nanami, Kanna fished out a lollipop from his uniform’s inner pocket and handed it to her.

“Hmph! You think you can bribe me with that? You think too lowly of me!”

Despite herself, Nanami seized the lollipop from Kanna’s hand.

“Whatever, since it’s already done, I’ll still take it, because receiving something from Kana-chan still makes me a bit happy. And I’ll eat it too… And this tastes great! Is this a new flavor?!”

Kanna was not giving Nanami candy to appease her; he had concluded that if something were stuffed into her mouth, she should be a little quieter.

“What flavor is this? Hey, what flavor is this?”

Kanna has long since been disinclined to pay attention, and focused on observation.

Outside the window, Erika was looking down, allowing another girl to brush her straight hair; another girl was using what looked to be an extremely high-grade teapot, pouring black tea into what looked to be an equally high-grade teacup.

Although they were classmates, it looked more like the relationship between the daughter of a high-class family and her servant.

“Wow, I’ve seen this in a cartoon before. As expected of Erika-san, embodying a fake world in the real world, her existence really makes people uncomfortable!”

Even Nanami, who seemed easily affable with everyone, seemed not to like Erika very much.

“But it really is a space hard for the gentiles to intrude in.”

Hearing Nanami remark so as she licked her lollipop, Kanna could not help but assent.

It was an already completely constructed world.

It disallowed anything vulgar, and if—

 

“You are Erika Kagurazaka, aren’t you?”

— Only a “wolf” intending to destroy that world would do such a thing.

Appearing in Kanna’s passing vision was a crew-cut man with patterns shaved onto his head, looking over Erika as she held her teacup.

 

(Aha… It’s begun.)

Kanna raised his handgun… No, more precisely, his left thumb and index finger, creating the shape of a handgun.

His left hand formed a gun barrel — he pressed his index finger against his temple and twisted it hard; this was Kanna’s habit when he was about to focus his thoughts.

Indeed, he must focus his consciousness to observe, no matter what.

He couldn’t miss a single shred of the developments that were about to follow.

Nanahoshi Private Academy.

This was a mammoth school with 28,187 students. However, what necessitated special emphasis was not the number of students, but their levels of excellence. Not only were they the champion scorers of mock tests across the country, they led the nation in scores of all club activities; many well-known performance artists were once students at this school. Of course, for the high-scoring students, not just every university, but every single company would do its utmost to express goodwill towards them. Consequently, if one achieved at Nanahoshi Academy, it meant either he or she would go on to lead a successful life.

In each different industry, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that Nanahoshi Academy, producing droves of talent, supported Japan with the expertise that it bred; it has long become an irreplaceable existence for the nation.

Just from its surface, it was an exceptionally perfect academy.

(Indeed, regarding achievement, whether it’s a person or an organization, only its surface will be perfect.)

To earn scores worthy of pride, one must take the appropriate actions. To ensure that a resplendent light maintains its shine, fuel is a necessity. As for that fuel, it was people. It was because of the people sacrificed for fuel that the light of this academy can maintain its dazzling brilliance.

The cornerstone of the weak becoming the strong is natural ethics, it is efficiency, and it is justice. This was the unknown side of Nanahoshi Academy.

Those familiar with this truth address Nanahoshi Academy as thus:

— Survival of the Fittest Academy.

That was why Kanna was convinced.

The weak will become stepping stones, sacrifices, grain, and meat.

The prime example, an unembellished microcosm of the academy, was about to play out before his eyes.

(How will you deal with a wolf when faced with one?)

Kanna widened his eyes, drilling his temple with his index finger.

(If possible, Erika Kagurazaka, I would profoundly like to personally witness the moment you are utterly crushed.)

Kengo Yamabuki.

Another F-Ranked student Kanna was familiar with. He was an F-Ranked man with the undeniable mannerisms of a king, but it was his supremely arrogant assets that engorged him with vice. Having trained his physique in the boxing gymnasium since his middle school days, he was a dignified future star of the fighting world. However, it wouldn’t be deleterious if he were merely supremely arrogant; the problem lay with the fact that Yamabuki was someone who did not exclude using his own brute strength to harm others.

He was not a delinquent who had gone down the wrong path during puberty, he was a rare ace and a true scoundrel.

“Ah — you really are super cute, Erika.”

Yamabuki’s eyes peered and wandered, licking up Erika’s face as she held her teacup.

Kanna confirmed the situation through the tiny PA room window. Within the gorgeous garden tens of meters away, Erika and seven girls, each whose appearance resembled a character from a shoujo manga: slender and delicate, as though if Yamabuki slightly touched them, they would simply shatter into pieces.

Yamabuki had brought along with him two similarly insolent and brutal-looking boys. All three of their bodies exuded ruthlessness up and down; their appearance utterly devastated the tiny world of the girls and the garden.

With the emergence of incompatible characters, the story was abruptly reduced from a fairy tale to a vulgar travesty.

Apart from Erika, the other girls seemed unable to control the situation; faced with rare bullies, they produced expressions of bewilderment, as though saying: Why would such unexpected animals appear in this world?

“Do you have business with me?”

Erika asked firmly, still holding her teacup. Her eyes did not turn towards Yamabuki, instead falling into the black tea in her cup.

“Be my bitch.”

Yamabuki calmly made an extreme request.

Originally puzzled, the girls’ eyes suddenly changed. Even if they were unaware of Yamabuki’s true nature, just from his solid chest and dangerous air, they ought to understand that he was someone from the violent world.

“Does that mean that you wish to date me?”

Giving an immediate reply, Erika’s vision remained focused inside her teacup.

“Whoa, too cute. By goin’ ahead and confirmin’ something you’re well aware of, are you trying to show rejection somehow? That makes me like you even more!”

“… It is my honor for you to like me. However, this is our first meeting. May I inquire which aspect of me you like? If possible, may I request that you inform me of it?”

“Love at first sight, probably. I was experiencing fate.”

Hearing this, Yamabuki’s henchmen chortled indecently.

Perhaps unable to withstand them talking to her beloved Erika any longer, a short girl straightened and stood between Erika and Yamabuki. Kanna knew that girl’s name: a third-year top student by the name of Eiko Hoshimiya.

“P-People like you are unworthy of Erika!”

An exceptionally close and appropriate remark.

But her utterance clearly meant nothing.

“Hah?”

Eep—!

Yamabuki merely shot her a glance and made a threatening noise; Eiko went pale and shut up.

She had likely plucked up her courage and stood forward because of Erika, so it was natural to be afraid. Even if they were accustomed to disdaining low-level people, they were still unacquainted with primitive violence.

“Oh right, I really like this school’s policy. The weak can only be stamped underfoot by the strong, be used, and become their nourishment. But that’s how society is; this school is a microsm of society.”

“It’s microcosm, you idiot.”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

Yamabuki roared with laughter at his buddy’s interjection. No one else at the scene knew exactly what was so funny. After a fit of guffawing, he suddenly glowered at the boy who had interjected.

“… Who’re you calling an idiot?”

Henchman A realized his indiscretion, his face ashen; he glanced at Yamabuki’s eyes, could not help but swallow, and said hurriedly:

“I-I’m sorry, I got carried away.”

Looks like although they were both bullies, there still existed differences in status. Henchman A cowered as he raised his head to look up at Yamabuki, but Yamabuki grinned and patted his back. Seemingly understanding that he was forgiven, Henchman A put on a stiff smile.

Yamabuki glanced at that smile, then turned to face Erika again. His face was filled with a complacent expression, as though he had just demonstrated his boldness to her.

“So, wanna go out with me? Erika.”

Leaving Yamabuki’s complacence in vain, Erika did not so much as look up; she kept rotating her cup, gazing at the undulations in the black tea. Her attitude made it clear that she did not allow someone like Yamabuki to appear in her own story.

“Your attitude’s quite cold. But do you think it’s really okay? You know that this is a boarding school, and there’s no such thing as withdrawing. If you turn bad guys like us into enemies, your scaredy-cat friends’ll be scared out of their wits every night, won’t they? Ah, I don’t mean anything in particular by that, I’m just speaking in general.”

Erika finally did something that could be called a reaction: the hand rotating her cup abruptly stopped.

Accustomed to threatening others, Yamabuki didn’t catch that change.

“You don’t want to date me? Well, I guess it makes no difference if it’s not you; that girl beside you is also on my menu. Oh, no, I think I’m experiencing fate with you, too! Although I don’t even know your name.”

Yamabuki and his two henchmen roared with laughter.

Erika finally raised her head, glanced at the short-haired girl standing beside her, and sighed gently.

 

(Didn’t expect her to use that kind of method.)

Kanna was following the whole scene from the tiny PA room window, and began to reveal a rare fretfulness and impatience. Yamabuki being so stupid and so obscene was something he hadn’t foreseen at all.

“Kana-chan’s becoming impatient because someone is messing around with Erika-san…”

“… I’m certainly not specially concerned for Erika.”

“Liar! Then why did you just yell Erika-san’s name?! You’ve already thought of her as your girlfriend while staring at her, haven’t you?!”

“… Why must you tell me this, Nanami-san?”

Nanami tiled her head cutely in ponderment.

“Hm? Because I’m your future girlfriend.”

(Can’t comprehend her, I don’t remember having such a sci-fi-setting girlfriend.)

“But, that guy’s done for, all right… Dunno what’s gonna happen to him.”

Nanami said worriedly beside his ear.

(Because Yamabuki seems to already have a record of coercing women… into submission, with his brute strength.)

If this had happened at a normal school, someone ought to stand up and stop him.

But this was Nanahoshi Academy, and strength was everything.

No one would come to stop what was about to happen next.

The best proof of that was that not even Nanami spoke up with intentions to help.

(What an annoying development, I won’t even be able to look at what happens next.)

Kanna sighed gently, then turned his attention outside the window once more.

“Whaddya think, Erika? Wanna accept my confession?”

Yamabuki took a threatening step towards her.

Anyone could see that it was his way of declaring an ultimatum.

“… Sigh.”

Erika quietly set her teacup onto its saucer.

And for the first time, she lifted her face and stared at the man before her, confirming the appearance of who was forcing her to date him. She scrutinized his vulgar appearance, which was unbefitting of her lover, and her face remained unchanged.

“…!”

For an instant, Yamabuki was slightly overwhelmed by her commanding gaze.

Whether Erika saw through the entanglement in Yamabuki’s heart or not, the corners of her mouth lifted in some traces of a smile.

She spoke, maintaining her proud stare:

“Are you willing to devote your heart to me?”

It was a sonorous, awe-inspiring voice.

A resonant voice that seemed to penetrate the very heart of the listener.

“I trust no one, but are you willing to devote your heart to me, despite that?”

An inquiry difficult to comprehend.

Yamabuki naturally knit his brows together.

Seeing his reaction, Erika continued apathetically:

“I am asking you whether you are willing to trust me.”

“… Trust? … Huh? Ah, you mean that. Do I even need to say it? I’m already crazy for you.”

“In that case, you mean that you are willing to devote your heart to me?”
“Of course, take it.”

Yamabuki replied dismissively.

Appearing to see through Yamabuki’s prevarication, Erika smiled slightly, and surveyed the girls beside her.

“… I understand.”

Hearing Erika’s assent, the girls’ expressions changed abruptly.

Indeed, they have already realized Erika’s intentions. It was logical; there was no way Erika would date a vulgar man like that. So this meant that—

“Erika?” “You can’t trust the words of someone like him!” “Don’t worry about us, we don’t need protection.”

The surrounding girls spoke to Erika in anguish, one after another. But as though she were listening to classical music, Erika ruminated over every single word of theirs.

Yamabuki’s sadistic emotions ran high at the girls’ wails, and his breathing became erratic.

“Yamabuki-san, may I request something of you?”

“That depends on what it is. Spit it out first.”

“If you wish to date me, I wish for you to sympathize with me on everything, and engrave it all in your memory. Therefore, are you willing to have tea together with me? Since you wish to date me, I will specially prepare tea that suits you.”

“Hah? Why would I want to do that? … Whatever, I’ll drink it, but in return you’ll hafta come to my dorm room every night.”

“Are the F-Ranked dormitories that you live in not three-person suites?”

“They are, but what does that have to do with anything? It’s on purpose, to let my roommates get a closer look at us being intimate.”

Erika seemed not to mind whatsoever when faced with this vulgar speech.

“Drink the tea first, and if you satisfy me, I shall consider further. Please have a seat, then.”

As though yielding to her willfulness, Yamabuki sat down onto the chair with a “Whatever” attitude.

Erika signaled to the girls with her chin. Having just been yelled at by Yamabuki, Eiko had been frightened into losing her composure, but now she took the lead and poured black tea from the pot into a cup.

As soon as she finished, Yamabuki snatched the cup impatiently, but Erika put forth a hand, her palm facing him, motioning for him to stop.

“What? Lemme drink the tea.”

“Before you drink, could you do something else for me? In order for you to be able to sample how exquisite the tea is, there is something I must explain first.”

“A boring lecture? Or does drinking black tea require you to rotate the cup like in a tea ceremony? Please, spare me!”

“No, merely some things for you to pay attention to… Oh yes, Yamabuki-san, please observe your surroundings.”

Yamabuki looked around himself irritatedly.

The geometrical garden shined a verdant glow, brimming with plant life. Among the emerald hues, florid roses bloomed, with endearing birds hiding within them. Swallowtail butterflies fluttering gently by breathed shades of yellow and black to the red and green scenery.

“What do you think of this garden?”

As if in response to Erika’s question, a gentle breeze lifted, bringing the fragrance of roses. “Wah—” One of the girls among the seven sighed in awe, forgetting the scene before her, a smile blooming on her face.

This garden, including Erika sitting in its center, was simply flawless.

“Hah? … Um, it’s very beautiful, isn’t it?”

Yamabuki seemed not the least bit concerned about the miracle-like scenery before his eyes.

“Your reflection is mediocre, but do you not feel that your spirit has been cleansed? Spending time in this garden makes me feel as though I am far from the hustle and bustle; it is a space where I can earn and accept new value. What is outstanding is not merely the scenery before my eyes, the fragrance of flowers, the warm sunlight, the gentle breeze, and conversing with friends to my heart’s content; including all of this, we enjoy the present. To me, having tea here perfectly satisfies my senses, and it is the the most luxurious pleasure of all.”

“Really? To me, compared to this garden, I like your naked body more.”

Yamabuki responded in the lowest way possible.

Even Erika sighed gently, but her mood was not affected: her expression remained blank, and she stretched her foot towards a short-haired girl beside her.

“Sari, please.”

The short-haired girl addressed as Sari stared at that long, slender leg, her hand at her chin as she reflected on what had been entrusted to her. Sari’s face was filled with doubt, and she lightly caressed Erika’s slender leg — just then, Erika nodded very slightly, indicating that she was correct.

“… Please excuse me.”

Sari knelt on both knees at Erika’s feet like a servant, and placed her hands on a stocking—

 

Watching the scene outside the window, Kanna could not help but smile bitterly.

“No way…”

Nanami’s eyes widened in shock.

“Huh? What’s Erika-san doing?”

It was natural for the two to have such reactions.

 

— Sliding off.

Sari began to remove a black stocking from Erika’s feet.

“Mm.”

Erika gazed at her own slowly bared, fair legs with much satisfaction.

Without so much as twitching her eyebrows, Erika sat and waited silently to be served. As though even wanting to display her slowly exposed, fair portions further, she extended her legs even straighter, and with Erika’s beauty, it was as if Sari was playing around with a life-size dress-up doll; it looked imaginary, without a shred of obscenity. After all, dress-up games with life-size dolls were merely fantasy.

After all, Sari was merely obligated to remove Erika’s stocking for her, so she went about it quickly and lacked any feeling of authenticity. Sari was unusually focused on the movements of her hands, almost piously putting in effort to carry out Erika’s order.

As though she wanted to use this action to wrest back the fairy tale world that Yamabuki had obliterated.

“Yamabuki-san.”

Completely attracted to Erika’s calves, Yamabuki had stopped moving and only looked up when he was called. His mute expression looked like that of a pure, faultless child, let alone a bully.

“I had thought that I would be quite uncomfortable with someone like you wooing me using such a method, and I had not expected myself to take much pleasure in it.”

“… Huh, really? I told you I liked your naked body, so you’re entertaining me by going nude?”

Of course, this was impossible.

Erika extended her right hand towards Sari, and Sari placed the removed black sock into Erika’s hand. Erika looked at her own sock, and spoke:

“… Here.”

— Plop.

The stocking was soaked into the black tea specially prepared for Yamabuki.

“Hah?”

Yamabuki’s confusion peaked.

 

Then.

— Hee hee.

— Hee hee hee hee.

A storm of giggles erupted.

The ones uttering the elegant yet wholly disdainful laughter were the girls who had seemingly appeared quite anguished before.

“… T-The fuck’re you laughing at? You fucking whores!”

Yamabuki’s question was exceptionally dimwitted.

Because their mocking giggles were not at all surprising. Erika would rather die than date someone like Yamabuki, but she had responded thusly instead, and had smiled an inexplicable smile.

It was merely a signal.

Merely a signal to utterly humiliate Yamabuki and company.

Only those fools, unable to detect impending danger, would draw such mocking laughter.

As though thoroughly mixing their degrading laughter into the black tea, Erika continually stirred her sock within the cup. Not long after, after their malice had been thoroughly blended with the confusion of Yamabuki and company, the cup of black tea specially prepared for him was finished.

Yamabuki looked blankly at the soaked sock.

Erika pinched the sock that she had just been wearing until now, and tossed it onto the table.

— Splat.

Erika pointed at the drenched garments and spoke:

“Your specially prepared tea.”

With a warm smile that would never appear even when she was joyous inside, she said:

“Please suck on this sock.”

Erika meaningfully glanced at the other girls. Her expression remained the same, but the other girls smiled, as though disdaining Yamabuki, who still did not understand; each exchanged glances with each other, and among them was passed the message, this man is an idiot, as they took pleasure in that.

“I said that I wish to sympathize with you.”

As if she were gently instructing a child, Erika explained in detail:

“Did I not say that when I have tea, I wish to satisfy all of my senses? In that case, do you know my feelings now? Your eyesore of an appearance, conversation with less depth than construction noise, hair gel that stinks like the fragrance of a bathroom, has utterly destroyed my feelings because of what you have brought.”

Erika’s eyes landed on the drenched black socks.

“If you wish to date me, you should understand my feelings. To ensure that you feel the same way, you must drink this cup of tea that I have specially prepared for you.”

“??? W-Weren’t you looking pretty happy just now…”

Having always been the abuser, Yamabuki had never been treated this way, and being unable to grasp the situation, the words coming out of his mouth were utterly meaningless.

“Yes, I am very happy. Arrogance annoys me, but you are not that kind of person anyway. I realized that you don’t get carried away; you are merely an innate clown, and of course it pleases me to watch a clown’s performance. My temporary unpleasantness is an fluctuation for me to enjoy my state of mind, for example, when I go to a haunted house or ride a rollercoaster. How extraordinary, you possess the talent to please. Please treasure it properly from now on.”

Without doubt, her words were dripping with sarcasm.

“Wh…”

Yamabuki flushed crimson, seething enough to be at a loss for words.

He had never been this humiliated. Yamabuki was not just a bully who flaunted his authority, he was a true wolf. When faced with someone who arrogantly provokes him, he was bound to make them clearly aware that they should never let it happen again. He would beat his enemies black and blue, and he had attacked girls several times based on his own desires. People with normal danger sense would never something so ignorant with someone like Yamabuki as their opponent.

However, that would only fly at a normal school.

In Nanahoshi Academy, power was everything.

Even if it made no sense to, one must obey the strong.

 

Obey the absolutely strong, Erika Kagurazaka, the [Pride].

 

As though she were showing it to Yamabuki, Erika placed her CCC mobile before his eyes, pressed the first button, and declared thus:

“<S Instruct>: Never approach me again.”

As a result, the F-Ranked Yamabuki was never able to approach the S-Ranked Erika again. On Yamabuki’s CCC mobile, that wandering glow shifted from green to red. Even though Erika had clearly informed him, Yamabuki was still unable to comprehend the meaning behind this declaration.

In a certain sense, being unable to comprehend this had nothing to do with rank; it was the best proof that he was among the weak of the lowest class in this academy.

“Who’d listen to your order, you bitch?!”

Yamabuki flipped over the marble table, trying to slam Erika who hadn’t moved from her seat.

With a blast of shattering cups, screams arose from the girls who had originally been tittering in contempt.

“… Yaah!”

The screams were merely reflexive shrieks from being unaccustomed to primitive violence; unable to comprehend the meaning behind the Instruct, Yamabuki was daft enough to be calmed by them.

— These bitches dare look down upon me, but in the end they still submit to violence. Looks like people used to living in the generous world are completely unable to imagine what violence can do.

Judging by the vile grin on Yamabuki’s face, that was what he was thinking. So deficient in a sense of crisis, enough to be flabbergasting; so unable to conform to his surroundings, enough to be discouraging.

Yamabuki’s face twisted into a vicious, sadistic leer, swinging a fist at the seated Erika.

“You dare pick a fight with me, I’ll make you regret it for—”

Then — his words suddenly halted.

“Urh… Ah…”

Yamabuki collapsed to the ground, having disobeyed the Instruct and approached Erika.

It was a natural result.

His fist, which should be clenched, was completely unable to exert any strength, his legs were immobilized, and his vision was a haze.

“What… did you… do…”

Even his speech was inarticulate. As though he were seeing something inexplicable, Yamabuki spasmed as he looked up at Erika, drool running from his mouth.

Erika turned a blind eye to Yamabuki.

She did not see Yamabuki as an enemy or an obstacle at all. Just as she had provoked him earlier, she merely viewed Yamabuki as a pathetic clown.

Erika remained in her seat, and extended her right hand towards the other girls, wordlessly signalling. Sari righted the table to its proper position, another girl poured black tea into a still intact cup, and handed it to Erika’s hand, which was still suspended in midair.

After sipping the black tea, Erika placed her right foot over her now bare left foot, and crossed her legs.

“How surprising, I was under the impression that this had to be a prank, but I never imagined that there would be someone so stupidly ignorant of this academy’s regulations.”

After finishing, she took another sip of the black tea.

If her spiel about joyously having tea because it satisfied her senses was true, Erika would only come here to have black tea because there should be something attractive here. Therefore, most likely as though she were appreciating the garden scenery, Erika was currently carefully toying around with the ugly consequences of the wolf lying limp before her.

“The CCC mobiles are internally equipped with an anaesthetic, a fast-acting new drug with virtually no side effects. If you don’t obey the orders of those above you, you will be injected with anaesthetic, and this will be Punitive Sanction C. It was definitely explained under important matters during new student orientation, but it seems like someone of your intellect can’t remember.”

“Are you… kidding me… This is… an academy… where the strong… can do as they want…”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

Erika was completely indifferent, merely stating the facts as though this were routine business.

“As someone with an IQ of zero, you are weak.”

Whether he had heard this despairing truth or not, Yamabuki had already lost all consciousness.

Erika finally gazed at Yamabuki crumpled on the ground, her overlooking eyes lacking even the slightest trace of chilliness, as though she were merely glancing at an inorganic object like an exploded balloon, without a shred of emotion.

“Destruction of property, threatening, attempted assault; all of the above are clearly in violation of school regulations. If I simply present the evidence, you will be liable for more severe punishment than disobeying an order. Sari, you’ve recorded it all, haven’t you?”

“Yes, ever since this inferiority appeared, I began to record.”

When Yamabuki had uttered that girl beside you is also on my menu and related phrases, Erika had glanced at Sari, not out of concern for her safety, but to entice Yamabuki into breaking the rules, and confirm with her eyes whether she had begun to record a video.

Erika nodded satisfactorily at Sari indeed having carried out the deed, and pressed the fourth button on her CCC mobile.

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“Please investigate the punishment.”

Sari also pressed the fourth button on her CCC mobile.

“Presenting film evidence.”

Erika and Sari put their CCC mobiles close and touched them together; both of their CCC mobiles emitted a weak electronic beep, indicating that data had been successfully transferred. The investigation concluded shortly, and the voice of a server came, dedicated to punishment investigation.

“Punitive Sanction decided — Keigo Yamabuki, Student Number 22809310, First Year, F-Rank… has been judged for Punitive Sanction S… To repeat, Keigo Yamabuki, Student Number 22809310 —”

“The so-called Punitive Sanction S entails that no matter how high your grades are from now on, you will be unable to emancipate yourself from your F-Rank, and in these three years until your graduation, you will be unable to leave Dormitory 44 — colloquially named the ‘prison tower sanction’. It is an exceptionally severe punishment. Your future career and college entrance will be unable to follow your own wishes; there are a great deal of restrictions. Moreover, while you are still attending this school, you must obey all E-Ranked and above students, who comprise 90% of the school. If it were me, I would have long since been unable to withstand this sort of humiliation, but to a clown like you, it is a good opportunity to realize your own place, and display your comedic talents; I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.”

Erika coldly expounded on the cruel reality.

“Oh yes, you have not fulfilled your promise yet.”

Erika picked up the drenched sock, and knelt down side Yamabuki, who lay in a deep sleep with his mouth open, dripping drool. To prevent from exposing herself, she covered her skirt while crouching down, but it didn’t seem like something Erika would do at all; it seemed more like the actions of a normal high school girl.

It was only that her next behavior was not normal at all.

Erika wrung the sock.

Liquid dripped down towards Yamabuki’s mouth.

The liquid mixed with black tea flowed down Yamabuki’s cheek. The sock liquid entered the corner of Yamabuki’s mouth; Yamabuki coughed and hacked, half-conscious, as the liquid was expelled from his mouth along with spit.

“You promised to drink it; this is quite excessive.”

It didn’t sound like she was joking; With a tone that was melancholy from the bottom of her heart, Erika was speaking foul words of ridicule… No, she was joking, wasn’t she? It was truly quite difficult to pry into Erika’s thoughts.

“If you don’t drink this, I’m sorry, but I’ll take it as you going back on your promise.”

— Hee hee hee hee hee.

The elegant but coarse sneers of the girls were heard again.

Not only that, one of them was filming Yamabuki through her CCC mobile. Although it could be for making the film public in self-defense to prevent retaliation, to be honest, filming a video of forcing someone to drink the liquid dripping from a sock wasn’t exactly a refined thing to do. Then, Erika turned her eyes from Yamabuki to his two henchmen.

 

Deciding that there was no more need to continue focusing his concentration to watch, Kanna moved his eyes away from the tiny window.

(What an unsightly result.)

But Kanna still scanned the situation in the garden: Erika probably delivered some sort of order, but Yamabuki’s two pale-faced henchmen were now licking the black tea moistening the ground.

Kanna couldn’t help but sigh.

(Although I’d predicted the result long since the middle of the matter, as an F-Ranked, I’m unable to help those three… but I don’t have the desire to help them either.)

When an order was given, according to the rules, one could not deliver an order that harmed another’s dignity, and anything more humiliating than kneeling down could not be ordered.

All unreasonable orders that surpassed this boundary would show up as an error and be rejected by the CCC mobile.

Therefore, if someone suffered psychological damage under other’s orders, not to mention an order to lick the ground, it would reach the level to violate school rules, and disciplinary action for the matter wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Therefore, it couldn’t have been Erika’s order; they had done it of their own accord. Since Yamabuki, whom they thought of as their leader, had suffered such consequences, they were probably also aware of their hopeless situation.

As the pack of wolves desiring to destroy the fantasy fairy tale met a counterattack, they were unable to even stand on two feet like humans; like livestock, one of them was sprawled on his back, drool dripping from his mouth, and the others were licking liquid from the ground.

(Good grief… she set her sight on that dolt Yamabuki, so she used him, but I didn’t expect him to be so stupid, which didn’t help at all. The information I’ve gathered this time merely corroborates once more the reality I’m already aware of.)

Kanna did not forget to continue smiling at Nanami beside him, but exhaled a sigh of impatience.

(I went to all that trouble to get Yamabuki fired up. I didn’t expect it to end like this.)

Yes.

Come to think of it, why was Kanna waiting in the PA room to observe Erika?

There were no other reasons; it was he who had gotten Yamabuki fired up (the other two had followed him of their own accord), so he was sure that he was about to watch a good show.

In other words, he was the schemer, the mastermind, the perpetrator.

The private punishments that Erika had exacted upon those three should have been taken by Kanna himself, too.

Then for what reason had Kanna incited Yamabuki?

Because — he wanted to overthrow Erika, one of the [Seven Rulers].

The so-called [Seven Rulers] was the appellation applied to the leaders of the seven cliques of Nanahoshi Academy, and the appellations of the [Seven Rulers] were linked to the Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity.

[Pride] spearheaded the [Urban Lion] faction.

[Envy] spearheaded the [Psychedelic Snake] faction.

[Wrath] spearheaded the [Traditional Wolf] faction.

[Sloth] spearheaded the [Striped Bear] faction.

[Greed] spearheaded the [Navy Fox] faction.

[Gluttony] spearheaded the [Houndstooth Fly] faction.

[Lust] spearheaded the [Loden Scorpion] faction.

Virtually none of the students were aware of the true identities of the [Seven Rulers], and the only ones who did were likely to be their trusted aides. As soon as the identities of the [Seven Rulers] were exposed, they would be targeted by attempted usurpers, doing them absolutely no good, so they would never reveal themselves.

However, in this sort of situation, the leader of the strongest ones [Urban Lion], Erika the [Pride], would instead personally make public her own identity during an all-school assembly.

Erika was probably capable of such resolution because she believed that even if she publicized her true identity, it would not affect her in any way whatsoever. Even if her identity was exposed, no one would dare make a move upon the colossal [Urban Lion]; this was how unparalleled the power of [Urban Lion] was.

Within the Survival of the Fittest Academy, Erika Kagurazaka stood out from the masses.

As such, she was crowned with a title.

[The Absolute Ruler].

Even after establishing such a position, she remained unsatisfied. Knowing Erika well, Kanna could assert that she would go on to annihilate the other factions and absorb them to expand her own power, further strengthening the already hugely formidable [Urban Lion]. Only this would prevent others from seizing any opportunities.

(If matters develop like that, then everything would be too late. Before that, I must take certain action.)

Kanna pressed his barrel-like index finger at his temple.

(I will never allow that to happen; my will is decided, and to achieve my goal, I must overthrow the Absolute Ruler, Erika Kagurazaka. If I do not—)

The index finger twisted against his temple.

(I will not be able to step atop the academy’s summit.)

This had been Kanna’s ambition ever since he had joined the school, never once interrupted.

To achieve this ambition, he must overthrow Erika Kagurazaka.

As to his methods of overthrowing her, the school had readied them long ago.

In Nanahoshi Academy, there existed a system for usurping the positions of the [Seven Rulers]: directly engage the [Seven Rulers] in a ranking battle, and earn victory.

Ranking battles were one of the systems established by the school to evaluate student ability. During the matriculation of Nanahoshi Academy students, each must choose one type of ranking battle from a list of seventeen, never changing it in the process, and during their three years at the school, students must compete according to their chosen type.

During the competitions, participants must prioritize competing in the type of ranking battle chosen by the higher-ranked student. When both participants were of equal ranking, randomization would be used to decide the type of competition (but during a second confrontation, a type not used before would be used that time).

The winner would not only raise their winning percentage, the type of competition would also be lumped together with it and incorporated to raise their score. The higher their opponent’s rank, the more it reflected on their score. Defeat would mean the opposite: if one lost to a low-ranked opponent, there would be an immense score deduction. Therefore, virtually nothing good came from a high-level student competing with a low-ranked student. Maybe it was because of this that higher-ranked students had the right to refuse a ranked battle. Yet if one refused too many times, it would mean lowering their own score. Even though one could participate in unlimited ranked battles, one could not compete against the same opponent more than three times in one month.

Next came the crucial [Seven Rulers]. When one won against the [Seven Rulers], he or she would be able to seize their opponent’s title. For example, if someone won against Erika in a ranking battle, he or she would successfully be able to earn Erika’s title of [Pride].

The existence of this system of seizing the opponent’s title in ranking battles was likely due to Nanahoshi Academy’s frequent habit of promoting competition. If those who earned the title of the [Seven Rulers] henceforth became free of worries, it would stagnate competition. Not just the [Seven Rulers] themselves, the factions they led would also fall from grace. Ranking battles existed to prevent this sort of situation. No matter when, this academy was readying opponents to compete against each other.

(I want to face off against Erika in a ranking battle soon, and to do that, I must first gather intelligence regarding Erika’s ranking battles, which is why I used Yamabuki.)

Within classroom F128, which was Kanna’s, Yamabuki had declared in tones audible to everyone how much he liked Erika. After finding out about this, Kanna had used as bait the fact that he had attended the same middle school as Erika, contacted Yamabuki, and incited him.

He at least wanted to find out what Erika had chosen among the seventeen types of ranking battles…

(Didn’t expect the outcome to be this miserable. That guy Yamabuki: I thought it would be enough to tell him the only way to get into Erika’s good books is to show his strengths as an F-Ranked, and he’d understand that I meant for him to express his strengths through a ranked battle. Didn’t expect him to actually express through violence, which can’t be allowed in Nanahoshi Academy. Is there no limit to his stupidity?)

Kanna then exhaled a lament that had recently become habit for him.

(Simply appalling.)

Of course, Kanna didn’t think that Yamabuki could win against Erika in a ranking battle of wits. In any case, after he lost to Erika, Yamabuki wouldn’t be likely to leave the matter at rest, and eventually through revenge, would dig his own grave deeper and lock himself into the prison tower. From the beginning, Kanna had viewed Yamabuki as a stepping stone… no, a sacrifice.

Yes, a sacrifice. Therefore, this incident did no harm whatsoever to Kanna; in any case, it was a self-presented opportunity, so he decided to try it and see what happened. In reality, Kanna was currently pondering over whether this sacrifice could possibly be used again.

There was no need to be dispirited or depressed; even when faced with a futile result, he must quickly change his strategy and ponder his next move.

To crush the holder of that title, he must immediately step into the next fight plan.

“Nanami-san.”

It was about time to settle things on this side as well.

Kanna faced Nanami again, and put on the intentional look of a top student, which he used ordinarily to conceal his true nature.

“No, I should call you something else, shouldn’t I?”

If Nanami had come to confess, things would be relatively simple, and he only needed to skimp over it perfunctorily. But supposing that wasn’t the case, the two of them were probably enemies.

Kanna gazed at Nanami’s face, and spoke her full name.

 

Nanami Nanahoshi, the academy president’s daughter.

 

Nanami, whom utterly no one was unaware of as long as they were a student of Nanahoshi Academy, maintained her dull smile after hearing Kanna’s words.

“No matter what, Erika-san really is pushing it too much.”

The fact that she was the daughter of the academy president was a truth known not just to Kanna, but to everyone; perhaps it was because of this that Nanami didn’t mind at all, and continued minding her own business:

“She clearly didn’t need to go that far. Erika-san is so horrible.”

Nanami held the lollipop in her mouth and leapt down from the iron pipe chair.

“She didn’t do that to relieve her own stress or boredom.”

“Huh?”

“Erika had used her judgment and concluded that since things had developed the way they had, she must completely annihilate the will for rebellion. Otherwise, a halfhearted humiliation might result in her being targeted by them again. She didn’t do it for fun; if she was someone who acted impetuously, she wouldn’t have become the [Pride] among the [Seven Rulers].”

“Really—”

Nanami made a noise indicating her inability to accept this rhetoric, but whether she had understood the position of the powerful faction [Urban Lion] led by Erika, she didn’t continue to criticize her.

“But the reaction of those girls beside Erika-san had to be because of their bad character, right? They were even making that disdainful, elegant giggling.”

“Wrong, those were likely theatrics as well.”

“Huh? … No, that’s not right, that had to be real, heartfelt laughter.”

“Really? All of them had laughed in exactly the same way, do you not think that they had intentionally pretended to do so?”

“It does look like they were pretending, but…”

“Those girls beside Erika are probably the so-called [Friends 7]. A number of high-ranking girls gathered together by Erika to display her own authority towards common students. Because of that, it wouldn’t be that surprising if their every single move was meticulously calculated.”

“Mm… But why would they want to pretend on purpose?”

“The Friends 7 are all exceptionally outstanding; if it weren’t for Erika, all of them would be talented enough to seize her queenly authority. Therefore, Erika maintains constant vigilance against betrayal, and the Friends 7 are well aware of this.”
“… Huh? Does the ‘completely annihilate the will for rebellion’ that Kana-chan was just talking about not just refer to those bullies, but also those Little Miss Perfects?”

“Indeed, perhaps she’s humiliating disobedient guys as much as possible to let the Friends 7 know that if they make her their enemy, they will suffer the same fate. It was clear that she was warning her Friends 7 that they could only laugh intentionally like that, and no matter what their true inner thoughts were, none of it was important. They can only laugh alongside the others to express that they have no intentions of rebelling. Those who are unable to don’t even have the right to stand there.”

“… You mean, those aren’t natural actions, and they’re only doing it because they understand that they need to?”

“And it is because of that, that they are able to stay in that place.”

That place — the place where the officers of the largest faction [Urban Lion] gathered, was undoubtedly the current peak of the school. In this Survival of the Fittest Academy, where everyone was trying to ascend, those on the peak would naturally think carefully and calculate their every move, as long as they were on top. If you are in the Survival of the Fittest Academy, if you don’t plan ahead, if you lapse in your thinking, and live your days muddleheaded, you’ll be easily devoured by the carnivores. You could not afford anyone any opportunities, you had to have capabilities; if you were unable to adjust to this environment, you would become a stepping stone, a sacrifice, grain, meat.

This was the world of the survival of the fittest.

Kanna noticed that he had subconsciously clenched his fists, and sighed softly.

(Looks like I’d acted impulsively and said too much to Nanami. Whatever, from now on, this can be an intentional performance.)

Kanna crossed his arms, and sat boorishly onto the audio console; that arrogant, obstinate attitude was a complete departure from the top student look that he’d been putting on, but Kanna no longer cared.

Kanna gazed at Nanami Nanahoshi again.

Honestly, Nanami with her childish cheeks and fondness of betraying her own anger, at a glance, seemed utterly harmless.

“… Kana-chan, your attitude seemed to suddenly become really arrogant? What’s wrong?”

“Yeah, because I’m wondering why the academy president’s daughter keeps refusing to state her purpose.”

Kanna decided to get straight to the point, but Nanami kept smiling dully and calmly.

“Oh, I don’t really want you to just remember me as the academy president’s daughter. I want you to properly remember me as a person, I have many other strong points too!”

As she spoke, Nanami retrieved a small mirror from her bag and began tidying up her bangs. He couldn’t tell whether this was an intentionally assumed attitude, but she was scarily unperturbed.

“Ah, I thought of some other strong points right away!”

Nanami brought her grinning face closer to Kanna.

“For example, look, I’m such a beautiful, pretty girl!”

Kanna was unconcerned.

He already no longer wanted to put up with Nanami’s inexplicable, manipulative actions.

“Ah, um… If you want to laugh, just laugh; even if it’s not an honest agreement, I’ll be really glad all the same.”

“And then?”

“Huh?”

“Yes, Nanami-san is very cute, I know that much. But did you not say that you have many strong points? Well, what else?”

“Uh? … What kind of reaction is that… Scary… Y-You’re not angry, are you, Kana-chan? You pretend to be a handsome guy, but you’re actually a sadist…?”
Nanami said “Save me — Skitty!” to the stuffed cat doll on her bag, but Kanna remained fixated on her.

“Uh… Do I have to say my strong points?”
“A-All right… I do! I really do have a lot of strong points! I remember, my, Nanami Nanahoshi’s strongest point is that —”

 

I am one of the [Seven Rulers], leading [Navy Fox]: [Greed].

 

What an explosive declaration.

The [Seven Rulers] would never let others know their true identities, and for the [Seven Rulers] other than Erika, the identities of the [Seven Rulers] were enormous secrets that must be protected.

“────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────”

Nanami was therefore speechless.

“Why didn’t you say so? Nanami-san.”

As this enormous secret was exposed, Nanami immediately became speechless.

The fake smile vanished from Kanna’s face, and was replaced with an unbridled grin. Since the words were spoken, there was no more need to continue concealing himself, and Kanna, fed up with playing a top student, completely threw caution to the wind.

Kanna sat on the audio console, fished out another lollipop from his person, and aimed it at Nanami’s heart.

“You’re a fox, so you cunningly put on an ingratiatingly smiling face. Am I wrong?”

Nanami pressed her lips together, unable to articulate an appropriate response.

Seeing that expression, Kanna exhaled.

(Looks like I’ve successfully got her.)

Actually, according to Kanna’s judgment, the best course of action right now would be to flee this place. He wasn’t sure of Nanami’s true goal, and if it wasn’t something as romantic as confessing to him, but rather to confront him, Kanna planned on sidestepping that.

In all honesty, Kanna wanted to have a showdown against Nanami in a ranking battle as soon as possible, because this was a once in a blue moon opportunity to seize the title of [Greed]. However, unlike Erika who had once been his schoolmate during middle school, Kanna did not understand Nanami at all, and did not know what kind of ranking battle that Nanami had chosen. Maybe that utterly harmless attitude was merely theatrics to make Kanna complacent.

The F-Ranked Kanna must comply with the ranked battle chosen by his opponent in order to compete, and if it were in a situation of which he knew nothing, the probability of him losing was extremely high.

However, the one with more to lose was Nanami, who if by any chance, lost, must submissively offer up her position among the [Seven Rulers]. Therefore, as long as he knew that she was [Greed], he’d directly lay his cards on the table to incite alertness in her and make her temporarily leave this place until their next confrontation, giving enough time to grasp relevant information. Kanna was also anticipating this: he would only overthrow Nanami after making certain that he had grasped the intel. That was his top strategy.

This was Kanna’s current judgment.

(What course of action will Nanami take, then?)

Kanna concealed his inner anxiety, continued smiling coldly, and lay in wait for Nanami’s next move.

“Uh…”

Then Nanami reacted.

She tore off the outer wrapping of the lollipop Kanna was pointing at her, and bit down on it.

Kanna released the lollipop on reflex.

“Ugu.”

Her mouth chewing noisily with two white lollipop sticks poking out, Nanami stared at Kanna. Although he didn’t understand why Nanami was doing such a thing, judging by her eyes, and her sudden bite of the lollipop, she was probably expressing some protest towards Kanna, who had exposed her identity as [Greed]… Sigh, she was staring at him, but that childish face made her look like a docile animal squinting its eyes. Then, Nanami murmured:

“… So annoying.”

Right after she said this, her body trembled and she fell violently backwards, landing face-up on the unkempt floorboards of the PA room.

What a bizarre change… it was as if she had become a completely different person. Nanami gnawed on the lollipops, staring at the ceiling with blank eyes. After finishing one of the lollipops amid her crunching, she took out the white stick, and watched it lifelessly.

“Live…”

She muttered softly.

“Dammit! It’s not candy! I just wanna live off my parents!”

Nanami inexplicably said at random, waving her arms and feet ceaselessly while moaning “Urgh— Urgh—

“Damn — it — ! No matter how hard I try, I’m useless against an opponent this smart! So annoying so annoying so annoying so annoying! Whyyyy do I have to try so hard?! I just want to take a long nap, that’s all! I don’t want a title like [Greed]! If they’re letting me be one of the [Seven Rulers] just because I’m getting special treatment, I’d rather them pull a few strings to let me be on TV and earn everyone’s love and respect! I wanna eat tasty stuff every day, and pretend I’m an artist to draw some worthless paintings and satisfy myself! Lemme live off my parents! Lemme be a leech! I’ve had enough of the Survival of the Fittest Academy or whatever! Why was I chosen to be [Greed] and thrown into the middle of the battlefield?! Daaaaaaaaaammiiit, so annoooooooying!

Nanami went ballistic against the floorboards.

“But if I don’t work hard enough, my dad’ll kick me out! If I’m [Greed], I can’t offer my position to someone else! As long as I’m in the battlefield, I’m forced to join the fight! I have to deal with those who attack me! Aaaahhh daaaaammiit so annooooying!”

(What is with this one… I’m stunned. Rather than [Greed], she straight up looks like [Sloth].)

Kanna indifferently watched Nanami, who didn’t care that her skirt had rolled up already, and was behaving just like a stubborn child throwing a tantrum.

“But… I have to do it even if it’s annoying… When I’m attacked I can only meet it head-on. This is straight up coercion, it’s coercion I tell you… I’m being controlled by the school’s system… But, even so, I can only obey like a good girl. I’m very aware of that, so I can only brace myself and do it…”

Nanami’s waving hands and feet suddenly halted.

Then she turned to look at Kanna.

 

“I have to overthrow Kana-chan, or my position as [Greed] will eventually be taken away by someone.”

 

“What did you say?”

This declaration of Nanami’s couldn’t be ignored.

It was a declaration filled with hostility, a declaration that could develop into a confrontation.

But Kanna cared more about something else.

“Why do you think that I, an F-Ranked, can threaten your position?”

As long as Nanami stayed [Greed], other than Kanna, there were innumerable individuals coveting her position. As much as Kanna considered himself outstanding, just this was far from enough for a reason to raise her guard so much. Objectively, there should be more individuals to be mindful of.

Yet, what exactly was her reason for being especially on guard against Kanna?

“Answer me.”

Slowly pushing her upper body up, Nanami spoke:

“Girl’s intuition.”

“Are you joking with me?”

But Nanami looked dead serious.

“No matter how you look at it, I am the academy president’s daughter. Ever since I was little, I’ve seen my fair share of those famous people or those who will become famous, those powerful people or those who will become outstanding, those dangerous people or those who will become dangerous, like I’ve been educated on how to distinguish between talent and excellence.”

Nanami spoke of things completely irrelevant, greatly confusing Kanna.

“Ever since then, somehow I’ve been able to differentiate, based on intuition, whether someone will become famous, outstanding, or dangerous in the future, with virtually one hundred percent accuracy.”

Nanami suddenly stood up.

“So my intuition is telling me.”

After saying this, Nanami stared straight at Kanna’s face.

“The people most likely to seize my position of [Greed] are Kana-chan and Erika-san.”

“… Erika and I…?”

Relying on intuition without any basis; Nanami’s words weren’t necessarily true.

But Kanna was actually slightly believing of them.

It wasn’t because she had mentioned his name, but because she had mentioned Erika. Although he didn’t know from what perspective Nanami was evaluating Erika, Kanna was certain that if Nanami kept her laissez-faire attitude, Erika would definitely crush her.

“In other words, you’re seizing the opportunity while I’m still F-Ranked and not powerful yet, to first strike down whom you think is the number one threat? High-leveled people are able to force-start ranked battles, and have a showdown according to their own hand-picked competition rules. Not only that, after you win, you only need to blacklist your opponent, and they’ll never be able to challenge you again.”

That was what Kanna wanted to avoid the most.

But reasonably, that would be a very natural development. It was probably because of this that Nanami would come to observe Kanna.

Since things have developed like this, he must make a decision. Kanna’s fingertip pressed his temple and he sank into deep thought: What kind of ranking battle would Nanami choose exactly? Did he have a chance of winning? If he was unable to understand Nanami’s intentions and thoughts, he would probably be defeated.

Kanna paid special attention to Nanami’s next sentence.

Nanami, whom Kanna completely — viewed as an enemy, spoke:

“I don’t wanna, that’s so annoying.”

“Wha-?”

The strength in his finger pressed against his temple suddenly lifted.

“Then what do you plan to do? When will you defeat me?”

“Defeat? What’re you talking about?”

Nanami looked startled.

“I don’t wanna do something that annoying! I! Wanna! Keep being [Greed]! Without! Effort!”

Kanna thought that he should be the one feeling startled.

“That’s a fantasy in this Survival of the Fittest Academy.”
“No it’s not! Do you know why I came running to find you so intimately? I don’t want you to waste my hard work!”

“You’ve never mentioned the reason you came here.”

“Huh? … No, I just told you already!”

She didn’t — But Kanna recalled all of Nanami’s words again, and found the words that could possibly be a good fit.

(… No way.)

If he had guessed correctly, it would explain why she was so docilely intimate towards him. Although he was unable to reciprocate, if he viewed this as Nanami’s rehearsal, that would be understandable.

Because Nanami had spoke this phrase.

(— Future girlfriend.)

“Hey, let me ask you.”

The one asking was not Kanna, but Nanami.

She no longer had a dull smile; her expression was extremely serious.

“Why are you shadowing Erika-san, Kana-chan? Do you want to date her? Or defeat her?”

The correct answer was the latter. But Nanami was in cahoots with the person who would not and could possibly defeat him.

Therefore, if he answered truthfully, Nanami would probably do him harm.

But why did he have to obediently answer with one of her options?

“Neither.”

“What?”

Kanna left the audio console he was sitting on.

Watching the petite Nanami from above, he spoke genuine words from the bottom of his heart.

“I don’t want to defeat Erika, I will defeat her.”

Nanami looked up at Kanna, stunned.

If Nanami, who had originally thought of him as a dangerous individual, decided to immediately stage a competition because he had said this, that could not be helped.

But only this was definitely not a lie.

Because that was Kanna’s pride.

“Heh heh.”

However, Nanami grinned.

“You’re too arrogant! And too conceited! But—”

Nanami suddenly halted her speech, and encircled her arms around Kanna’s body in a hug. Immediately, a whiff of marine-scented perfume came floating by.

“— I’m glad, because Kana-chan is how I expected you to be after all.”

Kanna was unable to comprehend her.

But Nanami’s next words, Kanna understood.

She was his “future girlfriend”, after all.

Of course what Nanami wanted to do, wasn’t to challenge him.

“Kana-chan, please go out with me.”

— But confess her love.

“If you do, I will make you into…”

An incompatibly charming smile floated onto Nanami’s childlike cheeks, and she spoke:

 

“The F-Ranked Ruler.”

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Page 75

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References

1. “C-Triple” is written above CCC in the raw.

2. Meiji-era prison in Abashiri, Hokkaido, used for the incarceration of political prisoners. It has since been turned into a museum.

3. Name of a normal-type Pokemon that looks like a kitten. The Japanese name here is “Eneko”.