Chapter 3-1: Speranza

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Ayanokōji's POV

The endless summer sea. The infinite blue skies. The perfectly clear air. Here, in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, we didn't feel the intense midsummer heat, and the gentle sea breeze kissed our bodies. Yes, this really was an oceanic paradise.

"It's amazing," Kururugi breathed.

"I've never seen the sea in-person before." Sora said, gazing out over the vast expanse of blue.

"Really?! Is that true?" Kururugi responded in shock.

"I told you on the first day, didn't I? Shiro and I have been shut-ins our whole lives."

Apparently, I was more similar to Blank than I'd originally thought. Like myself, they'd also missed out on many of the things most people would take for granted growing up.

"Whoa! This is the beeeeeeessssst!" Ike Kanji shouted from across the deck of the luxury liner, his hands raised high in the air.

"He's quite the disruptive one, isn't he?" Light remarked harshly.

"Hmm, I don't think anybody really cares right now, though." Lelouch responded, leaning on the railing.

Normally, someone would have grumbled or shouted "shut up" in response. But just for today, no one minded, instead enjoying this moment of bliss.

After overcoming numerous hardships, midterms, and the final exam, we had welcomed summer vacation with open arms. The Advanced Nurturing High School had arranged for an extravagant two-week trip-a cruise on a luxury liner.

"This school is certainly indulgent, though." Ryuzaki stated.

This was certainly no ordinary trip. At our government-sponsored school, there was absolutely no need for us to pay for tuition or other miscellaneous expenses-which, of course, included this trip. We received the best of special treatment. The cruise liner and its facilities were of the highest possible quality. This ship was fully equipped with everything from prestigious restaurants to a theatre, and even an upscale spa. On my own, this would probably have cost me about 100,000 yen, even in the off season.

"Don't hold your breath. Last time we thought that, there turned out to be a massive catch." Sora retorted with a laugh.

"The school definitely has the money though. Would they really pull something during our summer break?" Kururugi asked skeptically.

"I wouldn't put it past them," I said, ripping my eyes away from the beautiful ocean.

"What a pain," Lelouch complained, turning to leave the group.

"Where are you going?" Light asked.

"I'm hungry, so I'm going to drop by the restaurant. Anyone want to join me?"

One by one, each of my classmates agreed that they were also peckish, and joined Lelouch to go and get something to eat. Noticing me with no intention of moving, Sora threw a question to me over his shoulder.

"Not coming, Ayanokōji?"

"Nah. I ate something before we came." I replied indifferently.

"I see. Well, have fun!"

With that, the students of Class D departed from the deck of the Speranza. Speranza was the name of the luxury cruise liner that we were currently boarded on. Its name was an Italian word, meaning 'hope.' I wondered whether that was foreshadowing something or not.

Shortly after I was left alone, someone on the deck which we were currently sharing with Class E turned toward me. It was Kushida, and I could tell that something was on her mind. With the vast ocean and the endless blue sky behind her, Kushida looked even more radiant than usual. Even though I didn't want it to, my heart started to pound. Could it be...?

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