Tomoya slams his papers down on Gakushuu’s desk. “Itona Horibe.”
“Who?” Gakushuu presses his lips tightly together, clicking his fingers at Nat and setting down his pen. Nat scrambles to the floor, gathering up all of the papers that had flown off the desk.
“Itona Horibe. The new kid on the hill. His name is Itona Horibe.” Tomoya shoves the paper forward more, scattering more of Gakushuu’s work on Nat’s head. “His dad owned Horibe Electronics Factory. They went bust.”
“I remember them!” Teppei grabs the top few papers, spreading them further over the desk. Nat lets out a soft groan as a pencil drops onto his head. “My parents loved talking about it when it happened. The state of the economy and all that. Especially as they were planning to buy that fancy new camera the company was working on.”
“Oh, I love that one.” Ren adds, carefully picking through his own work, perfectly uninterrupted by these absolute buffoons. If only Gakushuu could train them like the mutts they are. “Do they still want it? I have an old one at home.”
“That was years ago! Of course they don’t want it!” Teppei snorts. “Anyway, all of this is irrelevant. What do you think, Prez?”
“Don’t call me Prez.” Gakushuu waves him off, leaning forwards to rest on his clasped hands. A boy with a stained inheritance. What could possibly have motivated him to join that class? He hadn’t been through the normal system, so there was no way this transfer was accidental. He had to have been put in because of… the case.
“Well?” Tomoya demands, kicking some girl out of the chair behind him so he could sit. “Any theories?”
He sifts through the paper, finding a picture of the boy. Tapping one finger against his face, he lets an apprehensive quiet rest over them, then straightens to gather the attention to him as he starts to speak. “This boy was placed in that class for a purpose. His transfer was no accident, there is no way he coincidentally managed to find himself there. We need to find his purpose. Ren, do you still have the bug on those students?”
“Sure.” Ren flicks his hair, holding up a tracking app on his phone. The red circle folds in around the Class 3E building. “Their conversations were dull, so I’ve set it to record for now. If our electronics contact is still responding, he could adjust the app to pick up any mentions of Horibe.”
“I’ll send him a request now.” Teppei whips out his phone, fingers skipping over the screen to type out a message. “You’ll have to handle the wording, Ren, we don’t want any secrets slipping out.”
“I’ll attend the meeting once Ren has scripted out responses.” Gakushuu says. Ignoring the unplanned intrusion, this is where his minions shine best. Quick and effective. All he has to do is orchestrate and become their figurehead, seeming to float about effortlessly while the rest work furiously behind the scenes.
“Done. Teppei, create a three-way conversation once he has confirmed. I’ll arrange the date of the meeting.” Ren taps out the instructions into their group chat, adding an alert so each of them remember. “What next?”
“Tomoya.” Gakushuu turns to him. “I need you to corner a 3E student, some righteous weakling who doesn’t think before they speak. Mock Horibe. Make them defend him, and when they do, keep pressing. Make sure to keep it scornful and not like an interrogation. We don’t want them to know we’re poking about yet.”
“Consider it done.” Tomoya’s face twists into a sneer, cracking his knuckles. “I’ll wring information out of the little brats like water from a sponge.”
“Nat.” Gakushuu turns to where he usually kneels, but frowns at the empty space. “Nat?”
“Here, Asano!” Nat squeaks, crawling out from under the desk with paper and pencils in his arms. “I may have accidentally creased your essay on neolutionism. Sorry.”
“Forget about it.” Gakushuu sighs. This was simply his draft, his final work is set to be completed by the final lesson of the day. It doesn’t matter if it’s creased. He can throw it out before his father sees it. “Nat, I need you to create a distraction. I have to access the filing system for the students. I won’t be able to access my father’s files directly, but with our contact’s help, I may be able to shut down the school system long enough to see the digital copies without raising alarms. Your distraction should mean no one notices the intrusion.”
“So… something big?” A grin slides onto his face, hopeful and mischievous. “A sudden lab accident from one of my more outlandish experiments?”
“Minimise property damage.” Gakushuu frowns, but relents at the group's exhilarated expressions. “Although I suppose losing a room or two won’t be too terrible in the long run. Just make sure not to kill anyone, that much paperwork always makes the principle incredibly cranky.”
“Drug which gives someone the ability to breathe fire, here we come!” Nat holds his hand up to Tomoya, who reluctantly slaps him a high five.
“Alright class!” Their teacher hurries in, a total of three minutes late. His eyes flick over nervously to Gakushuu, who offers him a sweet smile. People make mistakes sometimes. That’s how they get fired. “Settle down! Today we’re going over quadratics, so I want to see all of you with your books open and your minds ready to learn.”
As his minions traipse away with beaming smiles and wiggling eyebrows, Gakushuu shuffles his papers into some sort of order. This will be difficult, yes, but the results could bring up endless possibilities. Not only can they learn about this Itona boy, they can also find out who exactly those ridiculously attractive teachers were. The woman didn’t even meet with his father, and the time that Gakushuu had seen the man walking into his office, he had been flanked by government agents. Even if they find nothing on the kid, the teachers should be goldmines of information.
Then… with all the evidence… what should he do? Going public will direct the blame onto the government, and land Gakushuu in mounds of trouble. He needs to twist this onto his father while also casting himself as the hero of the story.
The most obvious course of action would be to kill this supercreature. Then the government would have nothing to hide, and would likely make it all about how they saved the planet with a perfect plan and a plucky young boy. Once that story was spread over the papers, Gakushuu could come forward and talk about his money-grabbing father who risked the life of young students in exchange for the government’s reliance on him. A new villain for the press to target.
Gakushuu shakes his head, filling in the sheet in front of him. If only things were so simple. To kill the supercreature, he needs to be better and faster and stronger than the entire might of the military, whilst also avoiding detection completely. It’s impossible, quite frankly. If he were to go ahead with this plan, he’d have to make sure the first time he tried would be successful. Any more attempts, and his cover would be blown.
For now, he has to stick to his plan. Gather evidence. If he uncovers an opportunity, of course he will take it, but half baked plans with no solid foundations are not what his father would call ‘acceptable’. He must win. Or else he will fall.
“He doesn’t look dangerous.”
“Of course he doesn’t. He’s a child. That’s supposed to be the whole point of child assassins.”
“I wish I was a child assassin.”
“Shh!” Teppei clamps his hands over Tomoya and Nat’s mouths. “Look. That’s the blonde kid. What’s he bringing out?”
“Ramen.” Ren drawls, busy filing his nails in the corner. “It’s a ramen shop, Teppei. What else would he bring out in a bowl with chopsticks?”
Tomoya shoves Teppei’s hand away, pushing himself up to pace around the empty room. “This is a waste of time! We should leave. They’re not doing anything.”
They’d taken over the second floor of an abandoned shop to spy on their target, but so far, all they’d seen was the other group chatting, wrestling, and eating ramen. Gakushuu is starting to agree with Tomoya. Even so, he still has an hour before he and Teppei meet up with their contact, and no amount of schoolwork is going to take his mind off of this.
Teppei sighs, snapping another picture. “What if we leave now, and then they whip out their guns and start talking about how they’re going to kill him? We can’t leave, not yet.”
“We can. I’m out.” Tomoya huffs, scooping his bag up and heading for the door.
Gakushuu scowls. “Tomoya. Sit down.”
Tomoya sits down.
Right. Time for an inspirational speech before the mutiny starts. “We cannot give up now. If we yield and abandon our hopes, what shall we become? What opportunities shall we miss while we wallow in our misery? It may be tempting to take the easy route and leave, but we cannot let them win. We are the Five Virtuosos, best of the best, the cream of the crop, and we will never ever let the weaklings triumph over us! One more hour, and we will claim victory from the jaws of our own mind’s traps.”
“Hell yeah!” Teppei whoops, pumping his fist in the air. “We’ll beat those little scum! FV! FV! FV! F- aahh!”
A shock of white hair appears in their window, Horibe vaulting over the ledge to land in front of a startled Teppei. For a moment, the five of them stare in horror at him, and he stares impassively back.
“Asano?” Nat whimpers, tugging at his trouser leg. “I think our cover might be blown.”
“Why are you here?” Horibe demands, his voice a dull monotone.
Well, shit. Gakushuu needs to dial down how effective his speeches are. “Horibe. I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Asano Gakushuu.”
“I know who you are.” Horibe says. Behind him, the rest of his group are calling up from the ramen shop, yelling for Horibe to tell them what’s going on. “What I don’t know is why you were watching us.”
Ok, this is fine. All Gakushuu has to do is find a reasonable excuse. Something to explain why the whole lot of them were sitting in an empty room in a part of town they never venture towards. It’s fine. He’s good at lying, right?
Slowly, they all turn to stare at Ren. Ren, who’s dropped his nail file and has just blurted out the worst excuse Gakushuu could ever have imagined. Poetry? Poetry?!
“Poetry.” Horibe repeats flatly, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“Yes, poetry.” Ren nods enthusiastically, forcing a smile onto his face. “Our assignment was to write poetry about… poverty. So we, uh…”
“Asked a friend if we could write it in here!” Nat picks up the flow, waving sheets of paper. Gakushuu prays Horibe doesn’t look too closely to find out they’re actually transcripts of recordings. “They used to live in this room, see, and we wanted to get it from their perspective.”
“Perspective.” Horibe’s golden eyes fixate on him, face completely blank.
“Yeah, their perspective, dumbass.” Oh, great, now Tomoya’s joined in. There’s no way Gakushuu is going to untangle them from the mess now. “Are you so stupid as to not understand this? We wanted to write some stupid poetry. You should leave, now, and let us get on with it. Got it?”
“Poetry.” Horibe says, again.
Gakushuu feels the overwhelming desire to jump out of a window.
Instead, he plants a polite smile on his face and steps forward. “Now that we’ve explained our reasons for being here, I’m sure you can come up with a logical explanation for why you barged your way through into our meeting and disrupted our creative flow, yes?”
“No.” Horibe responds. Does he only speak in simple sentences? “I want to write poetry. Teach me.”
Silence. His minions turn to give him horrified stares, out of excuses completely. Unfortunately, Gakushuu has no idea how to handle this either. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Teach me.” Horibe drops to the floor where he stands, crossing his legs and settling down. “We write poetry together.”
That’s how they end up sitting on the floor of some abandoned house, writing poetry for an assignment they don’t have, with a boy they’re supposed to be spying on. It even takes up the full hour, and Gakushuu has to leave Nat, Tomoya and Ren with the target to meet up with the contact. At least they have a prepared poem about poverty, now, if they ever get assigned it.
It’s during lunchtime the next day that Nat melts half of the chemistry labs, leaving the school with a substantial amount of property damage, and leaving Gakushuu with an opening for hacking the school system.
It isn’t hard to do. Gakushuu should bring it up in the next school council meeting, make the principal hire someone to fix that, but for now it works to his advantage. All he has to do is plug in the USB from their contact, type in a few access commands, and he’s scrolling through the list of names.
Horibe… Horibe…. Ah! Horibe Itona.
The page loads slowly, spreading out into the full form down his screen. Gakushuu lifts the curtains an inch, peeking out into the yard where the students are gathering. With the threat of having his constant lateness brought up to the principal, his form tutor should overlook his absence. This gives him roughly an hour to half an hour to scan through everything he needs.
Horibe Itona, male, birthday is March 31st… All the basic things. Wait. Guardian: Yanagisawa Kotaro. That name seems familiar to Gakushuu, but… he can’t quite place his finger on where he’s heard it before. Still, it’s worth looking into, so he makes a note of it.
According to his record, he’s already created property damage by breaking through a classroom wall. No punishment is listed. The boy Gakushuu had met didn’t seem to express any emotion at all, let alone have such strong anger issues to break a wall, so this has to have been part of some assassination attempt, especially if his father covered it up.
Last school… nothing is listed. Was he homeschooled? No, that doesn’t make sense. Yanagisawa is not his biological parent. There has to have been something going on before he came here, just like Gakushuu suspected, but what? The more he finds, the more questions he has.
Then, the date he joined the school. This makes Gakushuu even more bewildered. As far as he can tell, Horibe had joined the school less than a week ago. He hasn’t ever seen him before that. But according to this form, he’s been here for at least a few months. Was this only a technicality? Did they decide to add him and then held back so he could plan and prepare? If so, he didn’t do a very good job of it. The supercreature is still alive.
That’s all he can find out of place on the form. He switches back to the class list, scrolling down and matching names to faces in his head. Akabane, that sadistic devil. Shiota… oh yes, the blue-haired girl. Or boy. He can never tell. Terasaka. Autonomously Intelligent Fixed Artillery.
Autonomously Intelligent Fixed Artillery. The picture is a red-eyed girl with lilac hair, face expressionless.
Gakushuu isn’t even going to bother going through this one. He can already feel the start of a migraine stabbing at his head from the stress of this. They’re trying to assign a machine as a student? How is this allowed? With a few clicks, he downloads her form onto his computer for later. There’s no way he’s looking through it quite yet.
Fifteen minutes left.
He checks through the rest of the list, able to assign each name to a familiar face. Done. Onto the teachers.
First, the blonde woman who cannot possibly be old enough to teach. Her picture is ridiculously seductive, blonde curls falling perfectly over her half-exposed chest, red lips curled coyly. If Gakushuu had even the slightest hint of straightness in him, he might have downloaded the picture for… later use. As it is, he just wishes she would cover up more. It’s incredibly uncomfortable.
Qualifications. None. Current residence. Unlisted. Previous profession. Unlisted. It seems that whoever this Jelavic Irina is, none of her information is appropriate to be put down on a school form. Interesting. She’s no teacher, that’s for certain. Her age means she clearly wasn’t chosen for the sole purpose of teaching these kids to assassinate. There must be far older, far wiser, far more experienced assassins out there the government could have roped in.
Therefore, this ‘teacher’ thing must just be a cover. She was brought in to kill the supercreature, she failed, and now they can’t get her out of the school without paying his father tedious amounts of money, no doubt. Or else she has a long term plan, and is biding her time. Either way, she has to be a true assassin, and the five of them should stay well out of her way.
The next teacher is the serious male. His picture doesn’t do him justice at all. His clearly muscular body is completely cut off by the camera, as is that snug suit Gakushuu would just die for, and his strong jawline and heavenly cheekbones are softened down to nothing. If… ‘Karasuma Tadaomi’ were their age and liked boys, Gakushuu would not hesitate to ask him out. Well… provided that no one else found out, of course.
Ignoring the disgraceful photography, Karasuma’s file is exactly what Gakushuu expected. He was an Elite Soldier at the Air Force before taking the job, and was also a Trainee Instructor. This reassures Gakushuu a little. At least the government is putting some effort into training Class 3E, even if they are shoving the literal fate of the world into their middle school hands. From what he can see, there’s nothing too dodgy about Karasuma (ignoring the dodgy photo - Gakushuu should really look into who takes the staff pictures at this school).
The supercreature is not listed. It’s unfortunate, but Gakushuu should have expected it, really. No way was it going to sit down and fill out a form about it’s entire life. He’ll have to find out the information by himself, poke around, gather evidence. It is what he does best, after all.
Three minutes. He shuts down the computer, pulling out the USB and sticking it back into the private compartment in his bag. As he thought, that was incredibly helpful. All he needs to do now is gather them up for a meeting and share this overwhelming information.
Oh, and look through the machine’s form of course. Autonomously Intelligent Fixed Artillery. What has this world come to?