The default maps app installed on the terminal is quite excellent, allowing even people like me who are a bit lost to get to their destination without incident.
Or at least… so I would like to say.
This dormitory is indeed at the coordinates indicated by the terminal. Looking at this place, not so much a dormitory but a mansion, I can’t help but wonder if the map in question is outdated or something.
This building is a huge mansion the likes of which only appear in manga. Its appearance is high-class and luxurious, relying on white, and it feels like it will become a beautiful painting when rendered on canvas.
“Now I will live in this kind of place… It’s some mistake, isn’t it?”
Because of this unimaginable setting, I hold my breath and repeatedly check the terminal’s screen.
I just thought I’d live somewhere cheaper: I fall into this kind of lower-class citizen thinking and suddenly have an epiphany—speaking of which, this is an island full of academies that relies on the number of stars to determine who has a better life. While Academy Island will guarantee food, clothing and shelter for students, the standard of living also depends on your number of stars. In other words, my seven-stars self cannot be allowed to live in a poor dormitory, that’s all.
“Well, if that’s the case, then, I’ll accept it with gratitude.”
Yeah, yeah, there’s no reason to refuse. With this sentiment, I open the gate and advance into the meticulously maintained atrium heading the entrance. Looking at this door with no keyhole and no bell, I get perplexed for a while, but then I remember the cautions written in the academy’s enrollment handbook.
Actually… on this island where all kinds of identification are done through your terminal, generally, keys are no longer used—they prefer an electronic lock that detects terminals.
“So, like this?” I try holding the terminal in front of the door, and the lock opens with a beep.
So I slowly open this heavy-looking door. The huge space that appears in front of me is more than ample for a hallway or corridor. There is a chandelier hanging from the high ceiling and an elegant carpet stretches across the floor. It feels like the air is much more ‘dignified’ than outside, and there is a maid in front of me.
With a bang, I reflexively close the door… Is it a mistake? I thought I saw a girl in a super cute maid costume that matches these high-class luxuries.
However, if you think calmly, there can’t be such a thing. This must be an illusion, so cheer up and open the door again.
“…I see, it was just an illusion…”
I take a deep breath and place my hand cautiously on the door.
Just like that, the door opens again, and indeed, I don’t see the girl in maid’s outfit in front of me. But…
“…” She is no longer where I had seen her earlier but is hiding in the shadow of the huge pillar on the right side of the corridor. She doesn’t want me to see her? Only a small head peeks out and secretly looks at me. She seems to be being wary of me.
There is no doubt that the electronic lock successfully recognized my terminal. This should be my new home. That’s right… Or did I make a mistake?
“Uh… Miss, can I ask you a question?”
I try to ask a question in a low voice to the maid hiding behind the pillar. She has been watching me silently. Suddenly her body trembles a little. After waiting for dozens of seconds, the girl who is still hiding there, finally stops staring at me and replies:
“…How rude, could you first tell me your name?”
“Ah, um, I’m Shinohara Hiroto. Um… Is this mansion my dormitory? There seems to be a problem…”
“Shinohara-sama… If it’s you, there won’t be a problem. Rather, I did a very rude thing. It was foolish of me to hide in front of the person who is about to become my master. It would be great if you could forgive me,” the girl who showed herself to me says it in an elegant tone that doesn’t reveal her emotions.
Her silver hair looks soft and reaches her shoulders. She has light blue eyes like polished gems. To find a word to describe her, I think it would be ‘cute’ instead of ‘beautiful.’ However, her stunning expression does not leave a childish impression at all. Her height is a little shorter than that of Saionji Sarasa. Moreover, that height perfectly complements her plump breasts.
And what most determines her impression is that distinctive clothing, the maid’s outfit. The clothes are light and fluttery, so her movements are a bit restrained, but the design of the clothes is kind of cute, something that matches the ‘I want to protect her’ atmosphere that emanates from her.
Along with her constant movements and unwavering expression, some parts of this girl remind of a cat.
“Is there a problem, Master?”
Does it surprise her that I’ve suddenly gone silent? She tilts her head, her hair swaying slightly. I quickly stop thinking and return to the subject.
“It’s nothing, I have a few things to ask, though… But, in short, why did you hide? According to what you just said, you knew I was coming, didn’t you?”
“Please don’t be so formal… The reason is simply that the information passed on to me was not complete. It’s a fact that the person I’m waiting for is ‘Shinohara-sama,’ but I’ve never heard of that person before. He is even a man. Ugh… Really, that bitch really tricked me.”
“I was rude. I unintentionally used some vulgar words.”
The girl casually apologizes and makes a deep bow. Her huge breasts emphasize their existence as she leans forward, so I can’t help but look away.
After that, the girl raises her head and points with her right hand towards the depths of the hallway. “If I let Master stay here, I will be disqualified as a servant. I am very sorry, but our discussion will be resumed in the living room.”
…Be it the beautiful hallway stretching from the foyer, the beautifully ornamented staircase, or the large living room with an indeterminate number of tatami mats, as a student, I can only admire it all.
But what the silver-haired girl suddenly says while pouring black tea dispels my admiration:
“Then, let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Himeji Shirayuki. I belong to Sakura Academy in District Three, but I was commissioned by the bitch—no, by Headmistress Ichinose in District Four. As of today, I’m moving here to help the seven-stars student.”
What she’s saying is so absurd that I completely forget about the cup of tea in front of me.
“Wait… So, we’ll be living together?”
“You can’t fantasize that we’ll sleep together, but at least we’ll live together in this mansion.”
“Well, but isn’t it weird? You’re a girl, and living together with a boy…”
“That’s true… I hope you won’t sexually harass me.”
“No, I won’t do that!”
Even without those additional services, just living in the same space with such an exceptional beautiful girl is already too dreamy and even a bit confusing.
However, the maid, Himeji, tilts her head as if she doesn’t quite understand.
“…Hey, why are you so shy? Or is it just that you don’t want to live with me?”
“Why do you think so…? Then, if you don’t mind, it’s okay. I wonder if you’ll find it annoying, though. But I’m not particularly messy, so your job might be a little easier.”
“Ah, that’s no good. If so, I won’t have any work to do.”
“Yes. But I’m not used to being a man’s maid, so maybe I can do something wrong. My previous master was the bitch,” Himeji looks at me sharply and says this… It seems that all her previous masters were women.
In short, Himeji was also a victim of Principal’s manipulation, just like me, who was instigated by persuasive words to declare myself the strongest person in all of Academy Island.
“I suddenly feel a strong resonance with you!”
“What a coincidence. I also think I can build a good relationship with Master.”
Himeji doesn’t look happy at all, so she sighs slightly.
By the way, I don’t know why she’s been standing all this time. Even after serving tea, she stands next to me, still as a mountain.
“…Now, how about sitting down? It’s strange that there are so many seats available, and you don’t use any.”
“No, please, don’t worry. Because I’m your maid, this is my position.”
“Maid or whatever you are, I can’t calm down if you’re next to me all the time. And, since you’re familiar with principal, doesn’t that mean we’re a ‘family’? Don’t be so polite.”
Himeji hesitates for a moment and then nods. While pressing her skirt with her hand, she sits three seats away from me. It’s quite a distance, but I can also understand what she said a bit ago, “I’m still not used to men.”
Well, let’s not mention distance for now.
“So… what did you mean by ‘maid’? Because you’re wearing the uniform, I imagine you’ll be helping with the housework or something, but if that’s the case, Principal doesn’t necessarily have to send you to live here.”
I must behave like a real seven-stars, that explains the reason for me to live in this mansion, but it’s not clear why the maid is going to live here too. If you just want to keep the mansion clean, it’s enough to ask someone to come a couple of times a week. After all, it has nothing to do with my big lie.
In response to my question, Himeji nods. Her soft silver hair sways slightly.
“So, what should I say? Because the contents are a bit long, how about eating first?”
“…Ah, have you already eaten somewhere… I’m really sorry. If so, please pretend that you didn’t hear what I said a moment ago…”
Because of my sudden reaction, Himeji seems to be misunderstanding something, and her ever-neutral expression is slightly disturbed. If you look closely, you’ll find that the expression now looks a bit lonely, so I quickly wave my hands.
“No, no. It’s not like that. Too many things happened, and I didn’t get to eat lunch properly… Aaaaaaaah, I’ve been starving for hours already.”
Partly it’s to comfort her, and partly it’s just my sincerity. Earlier, at the opening ceremony, it was so hard to act that way that there was no time for lunch. At breakfast, I only ate a simple bread, and that was half a day ago.
Hearing my answer, Himeji startles and says with a smile:
“…Okay. In that case, that’s a relief.”
These dishes cooked by the opposite sex—just being able to eat something like this—makes me feel happy. Not to mention Himeji’s culinary skills are comparable to those of professional chefs.
This is probably a reference to the Italian cuisine. The appetizer is elegantly garnished with ham and the spaghetti in the main course do not hesitate to add a lot of unpeeled shrimp and crab. The roast beef on the plate with the colorful vegetables is grilled to perfection. And the small amount of tomato sauce seems to have taken a lot of effort.
“Did you… cook all this yourself?”
“Yes. The budget I got from the island for your living expenses is too much.”
Wouldn’t it be better to save that money?
Well, anyway, it’s an exotic dish prepared for me. It’s basic etiquette to eat it while it’s still hot. Himeji, quiet as before, is finally convinced to sit down (albeit a bit far away), so we start eating.
I roll a mouthful of spaghetti with my fork and eat it—my eyes widen in surprise.
“…? It’s delicious… This is too delicious, don’t you think? How were you able to cook this?”
“That question really makes me feel underestimated to the limit… I think you’ll be eating my cooking often from now on. If you praise it so highly now, it will be difficult to make something more delicious in the future…”
“No, this is really delicious!”
I get caught up in the taste for an instant before continue eating.
Seeing my reaction, Himeji seems to feel a little weird. Then she politely takes a sip of the soup with the spoon. A bit after, with no warning she says something like this to me:
“How should I put it… Master is, unexpectedly, a person who can express his feelings bluntly. From Principal Ichinose I heard that you are a person who is very good at controlling your expressions.”
“Huh? Ah, that’s right. I must say that it’s just the way I am. But I seem to involuntarily reveal my sincerity to the people I trust…” As I say this, I give her a wry smile… When I was in Japan, my close friends would laugh at me.
“To the people you can trust, right?”
Himeji processes my words in a calm tone, as usual.
“I understand what you’re trying to say, but isn’t it too soon? This is the first time we’ve met.”
“Ah… Well, that’s the case. But on this island, I don’t have anyone I trust. So, I think it would be good to get connected with the girl who will be living with me from now on…”
“Yes, that’s right… If Master thinks this is good, I won’t hold any opinion,” Himeji whispers and looks away from me. Perhaps she has been rendered speechless by my thought pure and simple.
Shit… Well, hopefully she won’t misunderstand my words.
Although I don’t show it on my face, I harbor anxiety in my heart…
“So, let’s talk about the main topic.”
After the meal, Himeji cleans up the dining room and brings me to another room with a different layout than the living room; it’s similar to a home theater. The room has no interior decoration, and a huge LCD screen is embedded in the wall to the left side entering the door.
Himeji asks me to sit on the sofa and walks quietly toward the screen. She speaks slowly as she operates the terminal there:
“Everything will be displayed on the monitor here. I could also use my terminal to show you, but now there is a danger of it being hacked.”
“Yes. Although it does not circulate publicly, there are applications that can take a look at other people’s terminal data… Please pay more attention in the future to this, Master.”
Himeji doesn’t seem to be joking at all, so I can’t help but remain silent… Ah, yes. That’s right, I’m running a big fraud. My lies are clearly evil. Once exposed, it will all be over for me.
As I ponder this, the screen that has been black lights up slightly. Soon, photos and files of two people appear on the screen. One of them is me and the other is the Empress, but it is not ‘Akabane Rina’ but her facade as ‘Saionji Sarasa.’
Himeji waits for the information on the screen to be confirmed, coughs, and starts with the topic:
“Master had a duel with the greatest VIP, Saionji Sarasa, at Academy Island this morning—he won with a semi-accidental victory. Headmistress Ichinose, who heard about it, sent for him before the commotion spread. To deceive the leader of the Saionji family, and to deceive the council, she forged a false situation—that is, the transfer student who defeated the Empress is the strongest at Academy Island.”
“Yes, I understand, but isn’t this something we already knew?”
“Please don’t rush, Master. You have just arrived on the island. The surface is not enough, you must understand the most fundamental parts.”
As she speaks, Himeji changes the screen. On the next page, a large equilateral triangle appears. There are several horizontal lines on it, the higher you go up, the smaller the area gets: the so-called ‘pyramid.’
“Stars on Academy Island are used to visually express the class system. It is an absolute evaluation and a clear indicator for the island. Having more will earn you preferential treatment. Also, even if it isn’t plain to see, there is no doubt that with them you amass what we could call ‘authority.’”
“That’s right. While the ‘preferential treatment’ I mentioned at the beginning refers to the removal of various restrictions, ‘authority’ is related to something deeper: power struggles.
“On Academy Island there are a total of twenty academies, distributed one in each district—the exception would be Zero. These academies will be ranked each year, and the influence of this is very important. Each school’s budget, voice, and maximum number of incoming freshmen will be determined by its ranking.”
“Hey… So the ranking also has something to do with the level of students?”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Listening to Himeji’s explanation, I fall into a deep thought…
“So, the academies will enter into a competition to get a seven-stars student?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Himeji nods her head. Her silver hair sways slightly. Then she raises her index finger.
“Then, because of this, seven-stars students will be targeted.”
“…Ah. Well, it should be like that.”
Does that mean I’ll be targeted by students from many academies? Just because they want to increase their star level?
“…But they won’t go up against me so easily, right? After all, there is a risk of losing.”
“Yes. Therefore, there shouldn’t be such reckless people. But on the other hand, it is not surprising that if they find a small weakness, you will be challenged to a duel. After all, the reward for beating you in a duel is too great.”
Himeji sighs and then shakes her finger gently.
“A person who managed to become a seven-stars won’t be challenged just like that; after all, that level represents their strength (intelligence and luck). But Master probably doesn’t possess that strength.”
“What—what basis do you have for saying that?”
“…Have you seen your entrance exam scores? Not to mention Eimei Academy, it wouldn’t matter which academy you applied to, probably none of them would accept you. But at least it seems like that bitch loves you a lot…”
“…? Oh, I’m so sorry. It was rude of me to butt into your relationship.”
“You didn’t have to say that!”
Himeji’s words contain indescribable sarcasm, and I can’t help but cry and reproach her.
“Ahem…!” I deliberately make a fake cough and finally regain my spirits to continue with the topic.
“I know I have no talent. I have seven stars by name, but not really…”
“Yes. Even though you are considered the strongest on the island, Master’s real level is one star. In terms of treatment and authority, you will only receive those corresponding to that level. You will be restricted in many situations… Above all, it is a fatal disadvantage to only be able to set the lowest level skills. You could say that taking the Empress’ Red Star was a blessing in disgrace.”
“Do the colored stars have any function in duels?”
“Correct. There are some skills that only students with colored stars can use, so those who possess them have a slight advantage over regular students in the same rank. Still, although colored stars are powerful, they have the disadvantage of being the first to be lost in a duel.”
“Oh… That’s the reason why Saionji’s Red Star transferred to me.”
“There is no doubt about that. In other words, currently the Master is a seven stars and the holder of one of the unique stars. On Academy Island there is no one with a higher rank. You’re the strongest of the strongest—a legend among legends. The reward for defeating you is unimaginable, and adding your provocation to the world during the ceremony, it has made of you the greatest target in history…”
“…I don’t think I have the intelligence or the fortitude to deal with that.”
The situation is quite complicated, but that’s the bottom line. I’m in a position where duels will rain down on me in droves, but in reality, I’m a one-star, unable to set up any decent skills. To top it off, it’s all over as soon as I lose the first duel.
…Oh, that would make sense:
“This ‘assistance’ of yours is for this? So I can keep winning the duels and keep my lie…?”
“It’s a bit indirect, but yes, that’s the reason I’m going to live with you. Acting and performance is the Master’s area of expertise, but unfortunately, dueling is not based on these things. So, a conclusion was reached—an auxiliary help is needed.
“Please look here.” I follow her order and look at the screen, I don’t know when the pictures of men and women started to be displayed. These people belong to different age groups and occupations. Himeji is in the center of the pictures, but I have no recollection of the other people. At the top of the screen there are words like ‘company’ and ‘auxiliary team.’
After confirming the information, Himeji’s blue eyes look directly at me.
“From now on, during the remaining two years for you as student, our company will fully assist you. Mainly in duels, but also in many other ways. We will provide assistance. For example, if you were to enter a store with a three-star restriction, wouldn’t it be problematic if you were denied entry? In such cases we will help. Such situations often occur, no matter what the situation is, we will follow Master’s lie.”
“Master? What’s the matter?”
I can’t help but feel important.
That’s it, I finally get it. This group that calls itself ‘company’ will help me to keep my lie. And obviously, there’s no reason to refuse help, even if this ‘help’ came from that manipulative woman.
But… even so, there is still a doubt.
“Now, Himeji, duels are one-on-one matches, right? Won’t there be problems if other people interfere?”
“That’s right. There are also duels involving many people, so we can’t generalize, but it’s true that, apart from such exceptions, duels prohibit the intervention of third parties. But—it is a bit difficult to explain in words. Better, I’ll show you.”
At this point, she suddenly stops explaining. Himeji approaches me, stops some distance away, and speaks softly:
“Master, please check your terminal… Look for the ‘Duel’ icon in the center. It must have a lot of duel requests.”
“Huh? Let me see… Wow, forty-two?!”
Just a few hours after my declaration of war, over forty students come to challenge me?
I’m surprised for a while, then I scroll down the list displayed on the terminal screen, just like Himeji said. Himeji keeps looking at the screen (she stares at it), and finally says, “please stop”, and extends her right hand wrapped in the maid uniform.
Her finger touches the ‘Details’ item.
The corresponding level of the duel applicant, the name of the academy they belong to, the contents of the game, and other miscellaneous information shows up… Then, Himeji smiles slightly.
“That is. Let’s take this duel as a debut match, Master.”
“Well… this duel is called ‘50-50.’ The rule is—huh? Guess whether the card laid by the opposing player is face up or face down, that’s all… Isn’t it just a game of luck?”
“Yes, it looks like that. From common sense, there seems to be no room for strategy.”
“This is no good. This is simple luck…”
However, Himeji calmly responds to my concerns:
“Of course, I know that very well. That’s why this duel is the most suitable.”
“Hey… you mean I can win…? How will I guess which side of the card?”
“‘How will you do to guess,’ you still have to say? There is a method by which the Master, who has neither talent nor authority, can definitely reap absolute victory. And this method is…” Himeji utters excessive words very naturally. Then she slowly raises her right hand, puts her index finger to her lips, and says in a low voice with a slightly mischievous gesture and tone:
The next morning.
This doesn’t look good… Not good at all. There are more people gathered than expected.
I accepted the dueling request selected by Himeji and arrived early in the morning at the designated location: a gazebo attached to Gakuenmae Station, the closest to Eimei Academy. This place resembles an island surrounded by rivers of asphalt.
I look around pretending that nothing is going on, just to find that there are about two hundred people who have gathered and surround me. Most of the people are students from Eimei Academy, but there are also people from different occupations. More importantly, they are all watching me curiously, without exception.
Naturally, I am so nervous that my face is cramping… But in fact, this big scene is not at all accidental, it is better to say that it is mainly an intentional result. When I accepted the duel last night, I followed Himeji’s instructions, and used the ‘public setting.’ This is a function for posting your duel’s information on the island’s news website. It is this function that brought so many people together.
By the way, Himeji said at that time:
“You know, Master? The most important thing is the impact. It is true that Master defeated the Empress and became very noticeable, but besides that, they don’t know you at all. At this time, there should be many people who doubt the Master’s strength, so they must get convinced of your strength.”
I sigh quietly, thinking about what she said. To begin with, a duel is already very troublesome, but now that so many people have gathered, the risk of my lie being discovered has become even greater. I won’t be able to relax until this duel is over…
“Oh, it seems I kept you waiting for a long time.”
As I snap out of my thoughts, a boy appears in the crowd. His hair is bright brown, his clothes untidy, and his uniform… I don’t remember seeing that uniform before.
He walks towards me and raises a hand happily.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but it took me a little while to get ready. Let me introduce myself: I’m Shibata, Shibata Hibiki. I’m a second grader at Kagurazuki Academy in District Nine. My level is two stars; besides, I just ascended not long ago. Having a duel with the strongest guy on the island is like a dream!”
“Thank you for that. But are you really confident when you dare to challenge the so-called ‘strongest’?”
“Ah, of course! Even if my level is so different from yours, I still have a chance to win,” Shibata says while clenching his fists. After that statement, the surrounding noise becomes even louder… But this is exactly what I expected. Defeating an opponent who admits defeat from the start can’t be a satisfying thing.
Then I open my mouth:
“Heh… That’s funny. Okay then, you can do whatever you want,” I speak in a provocative tone.
Duels on Academy Island obey several standard rules.
►First, a duel can only be requested to opponents with more stars than you.
This rule is the foundation of the Star Hunting System. You may only challenge people superior to you; the winner gets one star from the loser. If a one-star person loses, they can use the island currency instead of the star to pay the penalty for the defeat. On the other hand, students with five stars or more will not be able to get more stars unless they defeat a higher level opponent. There are also other trivial rules.
►Second, it is the applicant’s side that determines the content for the duel.
In short, these are measures to ensure the robustness of the Star Hunting System.
If the challenged, higher level, were to decide the content, it would be possible for them to choose something in their own advantage, since the extra stars give them additional benefits. For the same reason, the applicant will not be able to cancel the request if it is accepted. If an agreed duel does not take place within a week, the system will execute a punishment.
►And third, up to three skills can be included for a duel.
I have heard this several times before. Students who participate in duels can set up a few things on their terminals that help them win. Only a maximum of three skills can be configured. Also, skills selected before the duel cannot be changed in the process.
Given this, I have seven stars in the system, so I can’t determine the content of any duel. But I’m actually a one-star, so I can only use the lowest level skills… Hey, what kind of crappy game is this?
“Okay, I’m ready! Shall I confirm the content of this duel?” While I’m internally lamenting, Shibata, who seems to have finished setting up his skill, speaks and points his finger at me. It’s a somewhat exaggerated gesture… This guy’s behavior betrays his excitement to participate in this typical manga development in which he challenges the strongest of Academy Island.
As if linked with his right hand rising, the terminal screen starts to project itself.
“The name of our duel is ‘50-50.’ It is a very simple game. First, it will be randomly determined who is player one and who is player two. Player one’s terminal will display a card that must be set to either face up or face down, the other person is tasked with guessing. After three rounds, we will switch positions. At the end of the first set, the player with the most correct guesses wins. In the event of a tie, we will play again with the same number of rounds… easy, isn’t it?” After Shibata finishes explaining, the surrounding crowd goes shocked again. I can hear criticisms of disappointment… Well, I can understand. The game he proposed is actually a game of luck, it’s rather trivial to ponder who will win.
Yet he smiles triumphantly.
“Well, I know what everyone means. You mean ‘this is a game of luck,’ don’t you? And, in fact, most skills wouldn’t work in this kind of game. Like Probability Change and Numerical Manipulation: there’s no point in using them in this game. It’s a game of pure luck.”
“…Hey, you claimed so easily that you wanted to play this game on purpose?”
“Of course, you are the strongest in Academy Island! Do you understand? A small fry like me with two stars, can’t beat you without doing some weird things. Two and seven stars are too different in terms of talent and other aspects… But what about a game of luck? If I play an ordinary duel, I’m afraid there’s no chance of winning, but, if it’s a lucky game, it’s 50-50. Say, isn’t that an overwhelmingly high probability…?”
“Hmm…? Are you one those who think that winning is by luck?”
“Ha ha! What innocent words are you speaking? My goal is not to win. I want to make of this a revolution! Even if I don’t win, everyone will understand that games of luck create the possibility of beating the most skilled and intelligent one! No, not just you! Theoretically, anyone can be defeated! Everyone will challenge you, and, at that point, my reputation will reach the skies!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! That’s reason enough to bet a star!”
So that’s it, have you imagined that much?
This man who at first glance looks shy, is quite the opposite of his appearance. His true self is quite astute. Even if he loses a star, he can definitely make a profit. It’s a two-stage scheme—is it an off-the-board tactic? This is probably the way low-level students fight.
…But you’re actually a little naive. You’re overlooking a lot of other factors.
This is what I heard from Himeji: there seems to be the ability to hack other people’s terminals among the skills of students with five stars or more. So, maybe they can figure out what you’ll use in a game of luck.
There are also several other skills effective in these cases… But these are all skills obtained when you go up the number of stars. As a matter of fact, I can’t set up skills beyond my level; moreover, I haven’t set up any skills on my terminal. In this case, it really comes down to a game of pure luck.
From my perspective, since I can never lose a duel, this is already fatal.
But… Himeji, soothing my worries last night, chuckled and said, “that’s what we’re for.”
…Suddenly, a faint noise comes out of the earphone in my right ear.
🔊: “Hello. Can you hear me, Master? If so, put your hands on your neck,” then comes a clear voice… It’s Himeji. Since she can confirm the answer through my actions, she must have come to a fairly close place where she can watch me. Is she mixed in the crowd?
I just look straight ahead and put my hand to my neck silently.
🔊: “Confirmed. Then, let’s officially begin. I’ve kept you waiting, Master. I sincerely apologize for being a bit late due to agency member Kagaya-san’s drowsiness.”
🔊: “Huh? But it’s not my fault… You know I can’t stand getting up early… Besides, Shirayuki-chan is so mean!”
🔊: “… You look like you still wanna sleep in, Kagaya-san. Would you like to have a second cup of the special coffee I serve?”
🔊: “Oh! Well, I don’t want to undergo the torture of drinking that black liquid anymore…”
🔊: “Then please cheer up. Give up the drowsiness~”
🔊: “Um… Roger…”
I quietly listen to the small talk on the other side of the transmission.
Kagaya-san, the person who is now with Himeji, is a member of the agency. Last night, when I was presented with the images of the members, I thought that this girl would be a reliable big sister, but now I realize my thinking was unjustified.
The opponent finally finished flattering himself? Shibata waves his right arm enthusiastically.
“All right! It’s time to start our duel.”
Just then, the projection screen displayed behind him instantly switches to the duel interface.
🔊: “…Listen, Master. Next, to our instructions, if it means ‘understood,’ raise your right hand over your shoulder. If you mean ‘repeat again,’ raise your left hand instead.”
Hmm… Raise my right hand?
🔊: “Thank you very much… Preparations are complete, so hurry up and start as agreed yesterday. Since this operation is not that complex, I will only be the one in charge of communication. Kagaya-san will be handling all the actual combat.”
🔊: “Morning. Please call me Kagaya-neechan. I’m a bad early riser, but I’ve been forced to wake up, therefore sorry for the weird tension, Hiroto-kun… Correction: Hirokyun~”
What the fuck! Don’t go around changing my name… Well, forget it, let’s just raise the right hand.
🔊: “Great, Hirokyun understood!”
🔊: “…Kagaya-san is a bit of a troublemaker. Please be careful, Master.
“Then, I’ll start explaining in detail. In fact, what Master has to do this time is not difficult. Kagaya-san’s hacking skills will keep the opponent’s card fixed in ‘reverse,’ so you will have to always choose that side when it’s your turn to guess. To prevent others from suspecting cheating, show off your excellent acting skills.”
I’m suddenly dumbfounded, and I don’t even bother to raise my right or left hand. Could they accomplish what they said? Just like that…? But the scene developing before me clearly ensures this conjecture.
Shibata taps the terminal’s screen with his finger. His expression gradually becomes anxious, and he begins to get confused… It’s not hard to imagine that the terminal in his hand is probably no longer reacting to his command. I look at him, uncomprehending, and silently raise my left hand.
🔊: “…? Didn’t you understand? Well… In other words, Kagaya-san is forcibly intervening in the opponent’s terminal. I say it’s an intervention, but in fact, it’s just to invalidate the opponent’s operation, like a lock. The initial image was the back of the card, so his card will remain that way for the entire duel.”
🔊: “Ah, of course this method is completely illegal. The intervention of a third party in the duel is a violation, and such an act as forced intrusion into someone else’s terminal is also taboo. But we won’t get caught, such mistakes won’t happen; after all, Kagaya-san is the one in charge of all technical and electronic things at the agency,” Himeji says in a carefree voice… Oh, cheating is so easy. No doubt, it’s a method used by evil people. But…
Ah… Is this what it feels like to be a cheater?
After realizing this, what arises in my heart is not feelings of taboo or righteousness, but simply feelings of acceptance. It turns out that this is an absolute victory that is actually achievable. There is no room for luck to intervene, and the winner had been decided before the duel began.
Knowing that, I sigh a little and slowly lift the corners of my mouth… It’s time to play!
“Hey, what are you doing? Why so nervous?”
“No, no… No, no! My terminal is not working!”
“Your terminal is broken? Those are mere excuses. The duel continues, the projection behind you is still stable. Which means your terminal is still working. This excuse is really vague…”
“What? Why would I give such a mediocre excuse…?”
“It’s clever… Because you’re afraid, right?”
I walk up to Shibata and intimidate him, tilting my face at an angle where the whole audience can see. Criminally, miserably, and deliberately inciting fear, as the strongest on the island—I speak in a way to make my position clear.
“You were afraid to face me, weren’t you? But you didn’t want to surrender to embarrassment before the public, so you forced that excited performance earlier, didn’t you? You didn’t really want to come. You were late because of your cowardice.”
“No… No, it’s not that… I wanted to defeat you…”
“Hey… So why do I see your hands and feet shaking? …Is it because of this that you can’t operate the terminal properly?”
“How could it…?” Shibata desperately replies as he tries to manipulate the card. However, his hacked terminal is locked, so no matter how hard he tries, the operation will not work. His first round ends like this, letting my reply turn to come.
Of course, my answer is:
… e enters the second round of the set with a pale face, in his movements it is evident that he is losing the will to fight. It is again my turn to respond, obviously, without him having set the card. All it takes is for me to say “reverse” again to easily score the second point.
🔊: “Oooh! Your performance is quite impressive, Hirokyun!”
🔊: “…Indeed. This is the first time I’ve seen it with my own eyes, it’s really a great performance. With so many people watching, you can still perform without any omission… I can understand why the bitch cares so much about you.”
I don’t respond to the voices coming out of the earpiece, I just keep smiling coolly.
After that, I guess Shibata’s card for the third time in a row, completing a full round. When the role-swapping stage comes, suddenly Shibata kneels down in despair.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Forgive me, I won’t be able to bear this anymore! Have mercy, please! Let me go!” his screams tear the air apart… It seems the horror has overtaken him and driven him to a dead end. Well, that’s a wise choice in this situation.
As a result, with Shibata’s ‘declaration of defeat,’ the audience’s enthusiasm has increased.
“Thank goodness I didn’t challenge him!” says a reluctant voice.
“Wait, what’s going on…” someone is still confused.
“Two in a row. Nice work!” There is a person so belligerent that he says it in whispers.
Their murmurs are varied, but the amount of people suspecting my ability must have lessened with this.
This will make a big impact—cheating is the best!
I let out a sigh of relief and quickly leave the scene. I pass through the crowd, moving away from the station, and walk down the avenue towards a lonely road. After confirming that no one is around, I wearily lean against the wall.
I put my hand on my forehead and say to myself, “Okay, that was terrible!”
… Just to be precise, I didn’t say it, but screamed it in my heart.
Oh, I don’t really know what will happen next. Keeping up this act and lie is kind of annoying.
In that sense, the support team, the ‘agency’, eased much of my worry… Depending on the opponent’s intentions and circumstances, this overwhelming cheating method can overcome anything. To carry out my lie, Himeji and the others will undoubtedly come in handy.
“I thought I was in an impossible situation… Thanks to them, it looks like I’ll be able to relax a bit” I rub my forehead with my hand as I say so.
Just then I receive a call from Himeji. This time it’s not a headset communication, but a normal terminal communication. I check the surroundings once more, control the volume appropriately, and answer the phone.
🔊: “Yes. How are you, Master? How did you feel about the real operation now?”
“Don’t even mention it, it was too intense…! You were totally above my expectations. To be honest, yesterday I was half convinced, but now there is no room left for my doubts. Thank you so much for your help.”
🔊: “…That’s great, it looks like I have received your approval. That’s the best.”
“Yes. sorry for getting you in trouble, but from now on I will bother you with a lot of things. please give me your advice from now on!”
🔊: “…Really? If you say that, I… No, nothing. Please forget it… In short, you have to go to school today. If anything happens, I will do everything to help out. For the time being, go to the academy.”
“…? Ah, oh. Yes.”
Himeji halted what she was going to say for some reason, then regained her spirits and continued talking… Is she a bit shy? Hmm… It’s true that no matter how much you trust someone, it’s still hard to speak openly.
I should pay attention so I don’t put Himeji in a lame situation, I shake my head and warn myself, then sigh and activate the map app.