The boss’s schedule as a teacher consisted of two homeroom sessions and six classes in total. It was a coin toss between an empty classroom and a statue garden. It appeared Daisuke’s gang had withdrawn for the day instead of facing him again. Meanwhile, the junior classes under Sayaka’s sphere of influence were strangely disciplined.
Throughout the day, the boss had been hoping to catch a glimpse of the third mysterious Jjang in this school but he found no clue whatsoever. It appeared, this Jjang had also adopted Daisuke’s policy and evacuated all his members. This caused troubles to not only the boss but also other teachers who went into full panic mode when two-thirds of the student population had gone missing.
And for good reasons too as it would soon become apparent in the staff meeting at the end of the day.
Mr. Hiragi did not show up in the teacher’s lounge even though he was presented during the morning meeting. Meanwhile, Mr. Morita was hospitalized again, having stood up to the third Jjang during the feud last week. It had been a dreadful sight to behold, the principal—who had to come down himself so that the place did not look so deserted—admitted.
“Mr. Hiragi excused himself during lunch break. He has already told me what was going on. It seems the senior and sophomore students are up to no good again so…everyone, please be extra careful on your way home today!”
The art teacher, Mr. Nishimura, threw a glance at the boss but he did not say a thing. All of them quickly packed up their belongings and hurried home before the students finished their cleaning duties.
Although, as the boss’s unflattering sense of humor dictated, he pointed out simply that these kids would likely shiv their victims first and then clean up both the crime scene and the classroom later. It was, as he put it, more efficient that way. None of the teachers found this sentiment funny as a matter of course.
While they were packing up, however, the last student they wanted to see appeared at the doorstep unannounced.
“Ah, young Sayaka. It’s still a bit early but…come, come!” the boss waved the girl over.
Hearing Sayaka’s voice, Ms. Ishikawa shuddered and immediately took cover under the desk as though a gangster with a loaded Tommy had just entered the mall. And as the girl she dreaded calmly walked to the boss’s lone desk at the other side of the room, the young English teacher tailed behind Mr. Nishimura to the exit.
From the look of it, these two younglings did not get along well at all even though Sayaka’s underlings had been keeping Ms. Ishikawa safe throughout last week’s ordeal.
As soon as the two teachers reached the exit, Ms. Ishikawa leaped out of the art teacher’s silhouette and dashed into the hallway. That was some terrible ninjutsu she was performing there and, needless to say, Sayaka had been watching the whole thing with a raised eyebrow.
Mr. Nishimura’s chuckles drew the boss and Sayaka’s attention away from the fleeing gal.
“Good work today, Mr. Shinoda.”
“Good work today. See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow too, Sayaka.”
The girl politely bowed to her homeroom teacher and saw him off without saying a word.
“Look like you two get along well. Do you think Art useful for graduation?”
“Ya wish!” she replied without missing a beat, “But, it helps with my other subjects so I let him live…for now,” she added.
“It does? In what way?”
“It helps me copy textbooks better.”
“Uh, right…Then shouldn’t English be even more useful? You can learn all sorts of great things from the internet if you can speak English. Plus, it’s a mandatory subject for the national exam.”
This was, of course, a bold assumption that Ms. Ishikawa had been the teacher Sayaka “got rid of” for teaching useless stuff. Unfortunately, his deduction had been a bit off the mark this time.
Sayaka let out a disappointing sigh.
“Ya thought I had Ishikawa pushed down the stair last year, didn’t ya? Nay, that wasn’t me; that was Heiji. If I were to be blamed for anything, it would be that I failed to stop him,” the girl explained
“Ya don’t know? He’s the big boss in Mr. Hiragi’s class. He pulled all the strings and moved ya all around like his puppets. Ya will never face that guy in the open. He’s the backstabbing, trap setting, blackmailing kind.”
He had so many questions he wanted to ask but half of these could be answered by asking Ms. Ishikawa before the morning meeting tomorrow, assuming she was willing to open up her all wounds to him. The more pressing matter, for the time being, would be to indulge Sayaka and gain her confidence.
Thus far, he could see two vectors of attack, both of which involved some sort of transaction on his part. He could target her financial background and pamper her with actual textbooks and maybe a new set of clothes. Or, he could target her graduation dream and actually prep her for the national exam.
He was not a big fan of the first approach simply because he did not want to be mistaken for some small fry kidnappers. Then again, his shame and pride had already cut open their belly at the Koga’s clan house so everything was on the table at this point.
On the other hand, the second approach could backfire spectacularly if she ended up choosing a normal job instead of becoming his lieutenant. That would make some people in this school happy but not the boss; he was not coming to Fukuoka High to raise law-abiding citizens.
“Well, anyway, let’s get on the main topic. I’m guessing you heard about the homeroom in class 12-1 this morning, correct?”
The girl nodded.
“And so, you must also know that I can teach you how to improve your swordsmanship—”
“—I don’t need that…”
That was one speedy rejection. He supposed since she was the type to use squad tactics instead of individual strength to win battles that ought to be expected. In any case, he would need her to take up on his offer. Once she had received something she deemed of value from him, she would be less hesitant to make further dealing with him.
“You will, of course, pick up useful tactics from this discussion as I also will. But, I would like to learn more about this school and I’ll ask more questions outside of the main topic. I feel it would be fair if you receive something of more…personal value in exchange. Perhaps, an item you want to buy, or a question you want me to answer?”
The girl considered the offer for a moment, then, she looked up at him. She had made her decision, he knew it. The determination in her eyes was telling!
“Do you have it?”
“Yes, teach. I have a question I want ya to answer. I don’t know for sure but I have a feeling ya do know the answer.”
“Excellent! Hold on to that thought, we’ll tackle the main topic first,” the boss suggested as a mean of delaying the reward she sought. Simply put, whatever she wanted to ask, she had found something she wanted and the longer she held on to that desire, the bigger it would grow.
Unaware of the trickery being played under the negotiation table, the girl readily agreed to his suggestion with a simple head nod.
“Well then, young Sayaka, I’ll tell you what I think your advantages were in the battle last week and your job is to correct me where I’m wrong. First, you and your friends were employing “defeat in detail” tactics as we talked about in class.”
Here, he paused to buy more time.
Again, she gave a head nod.
“Second, I believe you have the position advantage. You had Daisuke and his jolly friends surrounded and flanked. The group in front of 10-1 would have fought a three-front battle facing your troops on their left, right and from the outside while they are locked in a bottleneck that was the staircase.”
The girl made a slight correction here:
“Uh, ye, but only on two fronts. There were about the same number of members on their side as there were on mine in class 10-1. It’s a bit too far from my class so I don’t have good control over it yet.”
“I see, I see…but that’s still a lot of advantage from in terms of position. I say, this actually makes it even more difficult for young Daisuke to avoid friendly firing since his force has students from all three grades while yours were all in tenth grades,” the boss pointed out.
The girl nodded in acknowledgment on this point.
“I took it into account and had the eleventh graders watch Ishikawa instead of joining in the fight. Other than that, we caught them by surprise and senior Daisuke was not given any opportunity to command his force. Our duel was merely to keep him from leading his gang.”
“That’s the fourth advantage on your side in this battle. No wonder it has been so one-sided. The only improvement I can think of is maybe starting the rescue operation earlier with the sophomore instead of letting them stand idle. This way, you can save more of your own and have time to finish off their survivors. Nonetheless, fantastic tactics,” the boss concluded, clapping his hands to give the girl her well-deserved applause. “Did you come up with this on your own?” he asked.
“No, I and three seconds in command brainstormed the plan together. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she revealed; a hint of pride rose up in her voice.
That was impressive indeed. Unlike young Daisuke’s gang, which revolved around a single leader, Sayaka’s gang was structured around a hierarchy. This opened herself up to betrayals and such but also greatly improved the quality of her leadership.
This information made him even more curious. How did she prevent betrayals in her organization? What kind of check and balance she had implemented? All in all, the boss found discussing with this Jjang extremely informative but, of course, all good things must come to an end and it was about time he granted her what she had been looking for.
“Thank you very much for your invaluable time, young Sayaka. Now, let me hear your question first. What is it that you want to ask me?”
The girl paused as though to recall the question; she made it seemed like she too had been too engrossed in the tactical discussion and had dropped her question somewhere along the way.
“Don’t worry, take your time,” the boss encouraged the girl.
The fearless girl he remembered standing before a stronger opponent, throwing herself into a losing duel so that her comrades could win the bigger battle, showed signs of uncertainty. Her voice stuttered a bit at the beginning but as soon as the mental hurdle had been cleared, her question became infused with urgency.
Like Pandora turning the key to the forbidden box, curiosity overcame trepidation and so she asked:
“Erm…uhm…Mr. Shinoda. What-What I want to know is…I don’t know if it were a dream or not…but I remember hearing ya said…to senior Daisuke something along the line of…”Then you can join Ishii in hell”. My question is…Mr. Shinoda, do you know what happened to Mr. Ishii? Did he die? How did he die? Please tell me, I must know!”