Chapter 4-10: The Flaw in Benevolence

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Ayanokōji's POV

On the final night of the first years' luxury cruise, which marked the end of the two-week summer vacation, a lone girl stood in the dark, her hair swept up by the wind as she leaned across the rail of the ship.

Since she was at the bow of the ship, there was naturally the primary ship interior behind her, and the two paths that ran on each side of this were the only escape routes.

The time was far past waking hours, which meant that even the ship's crew was absent - this girl was the only soul around.

From my vantage point, concealed around the wall on the right-hand side corridor, I had a clear view of the scene before me.

For a while, it seemed that things would remain like this for the rest of eternity.

But then, as expected, a small group appeared from the opposite side corridor, and destroyed the tranquil atmosphere in an instant.

"Oi!! Karuizawa."

Manabe's enraged voice split the silence immediately.

Under the dimly lit night-lighting of Speranza, it was difficult to make out the expression on Karuizawa's face as she slowly turned around.

There was, however, no mistaking the unease that made itself evident in her body language.

"Ma......na......be...?"

An uncertain voice called out to the three silhouettes that confronted Karuizawa.

"Someone go over there,"

At Manabe's command, another girl who was named Yamashita darted over to the corridor that I was hiding behind, cutting off Karuizawa's only other exit.

"W-what are you...... doing.......?" Karuizawa mumbled apprehensively.

"Don't you get it? Bitch?"

Cruelty lacing her tone, Manabe spat such words at Karuizawa, after ensuring she had no way out.

I'm sure that, despite everything, Karuizawa still felt a wave of fear wash over her just then. Most people would've.

Leaving her other friend to stay by the exit, Manabe stormed towards Karuizawa with visible anger welling up on her face.

"Wait, Manabe-san!"

Karuizawa exclaimed loudly, but her plea fell on deaf ears; a disorienting slap pierced my ears as Manabe's palm struck Karuizawa across the cheek.

Karuizawa stumbled backwards, and grabbed on to the rail for support.

"I bet you think you're so good, don't you?"

Stepping into her, Manabe punched Karuizawa, once again hitting her on the same cheek as before.

Karuizawa let go of the rail and fell to the ground. Contrary to what you'd expect, no cries came from her. There was just one definitive expression on her face right now.

She got up once more, and acting just like you'd anticipate, Manabe approached her again, and reached out to grasp a fistful of Karuizawa's hair.

However, her hand never got there.

And that was because Karuizawa had stopped it with a hand of her own.

Manabe hadn't been expecting any resistance, and so her attempt to grab Karuizawa's hair was slow. As a result, even someone like Shiro could've stopped it.

Letting out a yelp of surprise, Manabe stumbled forwards as her wrist was yanked by Karuizawa.

"Who does Karuizawa think she is? Beat her up, Shiho-chan!"

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