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Class D: Kushida Kikyou, Hirata Yousuke, Horikita Suzune

First of all, it seems Hirata and Kushida were the ones chosen from Class D for this group. Two honors students to represent our class. Leaving aside the usually solitary Horikita, putting these two together on the same team would most likely form the strongest combination that Class D currently has to offer. I had expected another person to be in their group like it was with mine but seemed to not be the case. Kouenji has an overwhelming power but even if he were to be added to the group, I doubt he would be useful. Honestly I'm not sure what group he was put into or whether he even cared enough to go for the meeting. "I see...looking back I suppose this combination was inevitable" I muttered. Even if I list the names I currently know it'd be Katsuragi from Class A, Kanzaki from Class B and Ryuuen from Class C. These are big names representing their classes. It's almost like a dream team in soccer terms.

"But there's also something unnatural here". If the intention is to gather the big names in one group, I felt it was unnatural that Ichinose was in our (Rabbit) group and not in the (Dragon) group. "You're worried about Ichinose-san in your group, right? Right now, only her class knows just how excellent she truly is. It's not always that the face of the class is the leader" Horikita tells me. "Are you referring to yourself?" I ask her. But I do feel Horikita has a point. We still don't know what Ichinose is truly capable of yet. It may also be that her academic ability is surprisingly low. "From this I can somewhat understand how they've divided us up into 12 groups. Ayanokouji-kun and Karuizawa-san are very similar right? In terms of grades. Perhaps they are grouping us in terms of our current points. But the only flaw in this theory is that Yukimura-kun is also in the top grades and the same goes for Kouenji-kun..." Horikita trailed off. It seems Horikita was trying to come up with a hypothesis for the grouping by going over our mid-semester and final exam results to find a reason for the specific division of students.

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"But you do have a point, me and Sotomura have similar grades as well...then there's you and Hirata". On the other hand, if we were grouped purely based on our grades Kouenji should be at the very top. Naturally, I have no doubt grades are taken into consideration, although there must be some unknown factor playing a part in the grouping as well. If possible, I would like to see the other group lists to ascertain this for myself. "In any case this is a problem, to effectively lead this group and clear the exam". Of course it was inevitable the moment all these people with excellent abilities gather in one group. And then there's the fact that Horikita's compatibility with Ryuuen is like fire and water. Horikita probably won't accept it even if I tell her this so I chose to keep quiet. However, on the contrary, I do believe Horikita will be able to work efficiently with a straightforward type of person like Katsuragi. Their way of thinking, down to the smarter person takes all, means their compatibility is high after all.

"It's about time, I wonder if the mail really will come". Once the clock hit 8:00 AM both our phones vibrated at once without even being a second apart. Immediately we both confirm the arrival of the mail. The moment I finished reading the contents of my mail, Horikita pushed her phone and the mail displayed on it towards me and I do the same to check the details of the mail while comparing it to the other's. It said the following:

After a period of thorough consideration, you have not been chosen as the "target". Please act together as one and challenge the exam in that manner. The exam itself shall begin from 1:00 PM today onwards. The exam will be held for three days from this point onwards. If you belong to the (Dragon) group please come up to the room marked as such on the second floor immediately.

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The mail sent to me and Horikita were 'almost the same'. Except for the difference in the names of the groups the other words in the mail all line up perfectly. "I suppose if we were chosen as the "target" the mail would be slightly different informing us of this fact". "It seems neither of us have been chosen as the "target" for our groups. I don't know whether to be overjoyed at this or sad".

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"If you're the "target", depending on your personal choices, you would be able to lead your group to any one of the four possible outcomes" I said. In other words, being the "target" student in this exam gives said student an overwhelming advantage. If you can keep up a good poker face you would easily be able to obtain at the very least 500,000 private points. "I still don't like it though. It's almost as if they're telling me I don't qualify as the "target" student" Horikita tells me. Even after being placed in a dream team lineup like her group, Horikita still thinks she's the best. I suppose that's expected of her though. "In this exam, there is a massive difference between the student selected as the "target" and the ones not selected. Since all the other students must by default struggle to uncover the identity of the "target" and there is always the possibility that the point gap between classes may be closed after the exam" Horikita says.

That's right. Of course even if Class D fails, our points will not dip into the negative. But the slight lead we gained after the uninhabited island test may shrink or disappear entirely depending on our performance here. I also begin to internally form a strategy to approach this exam. Considering the members of my group and the mechanism by which the exam operates, the goal I must aim for becomes clear. "I don't know how the students whose names I don't even know will act, I'll need to interact directly with them for that. But I have thought of a way to get rid of them if necessary" I admit to Horikita. But it's obviously not a strategy that can be executed on the spot. It needs to first be set up and the timing needs to be perfect. But it is possible.

"I'll be looking forward to your results" Horikita finally tells me. "Me too. I'm looking forward to seeing what direction you will lead your group in" I reply to her in kind. Still. I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling I had. The selection of the "target" is not random, Mashima-sensei's words yesterday only strengthened my resolve of that. There is a certain difference between the ones that would be selected and the ones that would not be selected. "In either case I'll ask you this now, but who in our group are you most suspicious of right now? Judging from the flow most of the other classes should have already gotten the same information we have" Horikita tells me. Horikita has been acting strangely ever since receiving this information, but considering who her group members are, it can't be helped I suppose. "Ryuuen" I admit to her. "What a quick answer". "Because there's no one as suspicious as him" I reply. "What about Katsuragi-kun? It's only because of him that Class A was able to secure the most desirable spot in the island test. That's also something notable. Wouldn't you say we should be suspicious of him?" Horikita asks.

"Of course that is an excellent accomplishment for a 1st year student. So if you're asking me who's the most excellent student in the group I'd say Katsuragi. On the other hand, the most suspicious one would undoubtedly have to be Ryuuen". During the island test, beyond the shadow of a doubt, Class D won. However, Ryuuen also managed to secure a slight victory in a sense. But Ryuuen, because of that fact, made himself easy to read for me. But thinking in reverse, that also means Ryuuen might now be wary of Class D as well. At any cost I would like to avoid revealing myself. He cannot know that it was thanks to me that Horikita achieved all those successes on the island test.

"While the identity of the "target" is something to be worried about after reading the mail just now I was thinking about something. Isn't something strange about the mail sent to us from the school? And the strict..." before Horikita could finish the sentence I quickly silenced her by putting my index finger in front of my lips and making a hush gesture at her. Speak of the devil, a shadow appeared before us. "Nice weather isn't it, Suzune? What are you having for breakfast?". Two people approached us while grinning. It was Ryuuen of Class C and there was also another person with him. "Don't call my first name so casually, Ryuuen-kun. And you, it's quite amazing you'd dare to show your face in front of us again after what you did, Ibuki-san" Horikita fires away at both Ryuuen and the girl beside him, Ibuki Mio who also happens to be in my (Rabbit) group.

Ibuki seemed to be slightly provoked by this but simply tightened her lower lip without saying anything. Ryuuen, on the other hand, was grinning as if he was enjoying the whole situation. In the uninhabited island test, Ibuki infiltrated our class as a spy. Eventually, Horikita discovered her and they had a fight in which Horikita received a direct hit. Horikita insisted that she lost only because she was sick during the test, although I couldn't care less which one of them was stronger. Besides, Ryuuen was already ordering Ibuki to remain silent anyways while glancing at us with a condescending look. "I believe the mail has already arrived, so how was it? Did you become the "target"?" Ryuuen asked. "There's no way I'd tell you, or perhaps you're going to tell us" Horikita counters. "If that's what you wish" Ryuuen said as he sat down on a vacant seat nearby. "But before that please do tell me, how did you manage to achieve that result in the island test?". "I have nothing to tell you" Horikita sharply retorts.

Horikita was completely calm in her response, I could not even detect a quiver in her voice. Indeed, she possess a tremendous amount of acting skill. But Ryuuen did not seem to be provoked by her response at all. "I don't care either way, but according to her report, you didn't do anything much during the island test to allow your class to achieve those results" Ryuuen says while pointing at Ibuki. "I'm not such an idiot that someone like her would be able to figure me out. I was just saving my strength back then thanks to my fever". In response to that provocation, Ibuki immediately stood up and declared "Then let's have a rematch right here and right now, let's fight" she said to Horikita.

Horikita did not rise to that challenge, however, and simply said "I'll have to decline, unfortunately, since violent will be a violation of the school's rules for this exam. If you do happen to use violence on me, however, I will report this to the school. Please do as you wish then" to Ibuki. Ibuki angrily stepped towards Horikita after that, but stopped just shy of actually laying a hand on her. Using violence here will undoubtedly result in penalties laid upon you by the school. And most importantly, Ibuki, as one of Ryuuen's subordinates, had no right to her personal desires here. The talented Ibuki who hates Ryuuen. That was the very reason she was chosen by Ryuuen as the one to be sent to Class D as a spy in the previous test. "Since we're all here, let's have some coffee. It seems to be a good time as any to drink" Horikita surprisingly held herself together and ordered the waitress for her morning coffee. I also ordered the same coffee. However, Ryuuen seemed to show no signs of leaving and instead seemed to want to continue the conversation while silently observing Horikita. Then he finally said "From the looks of it yesterday, Katsuragi was acting quite cautious of you" to Horikita.

"Unsurprising. After all, he never would've thought that someone from Class D like me would be capable of such feats after all. Isn't it the same for you and Ibuki being here now? You're all on your guard against me aren't you?" Horikita replies to Ryuuen. "Kuku. I'm not going to even deny it. I am indeed here to confirm your capability for myself" Ryuuen says while Horikita takes a sip of her coffee. "But you should also know that my methods are different from that Katsuragi's, besides a serious-chan type girl like yourself would definitely not be capable of formulating a strategy like the one on the island test". "I don't care either way, but how would you know what my strategy during the island test was? All that was announced were the results after all" Horikita tells him. Against a calm Horikita, Ryuuen only grinned at her. He seemed to be saying "Katsuragi doesn't know the method you used" which might as well be him saying he knows how the results of the island test were achieved by our class. "I wonder if you can explain how we did it then?" Horikita asks.

Ryuuen simply laughed before saying "At the end of the exam when the leader names were to be written, the only reason why we answered wrong was because the leader had been changed to someone else previously before the exam's end and was no longer you". "That's nothing impressive, anyone could figure something as simple as that out with a bit of thinking, even the Katsuragi you just made fun of" Horikita retorts. "No, no. He thinks you were the one that planned it all. But from my perspective, even you shouldn't have been able to predict you'd be the leader or that you'd have to retire before the end of the exam" Ryuuen tells her. "It's just insurance to prepare for the most basic of obstacles. I took everything into account the moment Ibuki-san infiltrated our class. There's nothing groundbreaking in what you just said" Horikita replies to Ryuuen.

"Anyways, the important thing is that the new leader of the island test, the one who switched with you at the very end. They are the one pulling your strings from behind the scenes" Ryuuen said that while looking straight at Horikita and also quietly observing me as I was standing right behind Horikita. I don't know how serious he was about that statement, but if he figures me out here he'll most definitely attack me at once. "I don't know what you're talking about, I barely have any friends to scheme with anyways. The only one I can consider somewhat close to me would be Ayanokouji-kun here but he's just been holding me back and not being much of a cooperator anyways". By drawing attention to my presence, Horikita was actually able to make me out as someone irrelevant to the grand scheme of things. "Perhaps he's the one pulling my strings" Horikita tells Ryuuen. "I see". Ryuuen gently looks at me once before averting his eyes.

It seems the act we put up worked and Ryuuen no longer paid any attention to me. Believing he has understood my standing in regards to academic ability, physical ability and communication skills from Horikita's act. After all, such parameters can easily be used to assess someone's threat level in most cases without any misunderstandings. Apparently things did not go according to plan in this meeting but Ryuuen still smiled at us without any shame or anger in his expressions. "It's a shame, when I thought I'd finally found someone who schemes just the way I like it. But it's too bad the one pulling Suzune's strings made their move a bit too early. The trump card they used in the island test should have been saved for this exam but they've ended up showing their hand too early into the game. Suzune, if you meet the one pulling your strings later, please pass this message onto him for me" Ryuuen finally told Horikita.