Chapter 5:

Test Finale

Slacker Squad: Why Work When You Can Cheat?

‘Sensei, I found this crumpled up near my desk.’Bookmark here

Heads swerved to the source of the voice, the room going into complete silence. Tanaka sensei looked up from her seat, sporting a puzzled look as she got up and walked towards them. Makoto’s heart was moonwalking up his throat even as he tried to keep his cool.Bookmark here

As the ball of paper was handed over to Tanaka sensei, few noticed that certain individuals in the class were sweating profusely, waiting with bated breath. Bookmark here

Tanaka sensei unfolded the piece of paper and put on her reading glasses. Promptly, frown lines appeared on her forehead as she looked at it.Bookmark here

‘This--’Bookmark here

Here it came. Shizuka was looking at Tanaka sensei intently. Fate was hot on their heels.Bookmark here

‘This … is blank,’ declared Tanaka sensei. ‘At any rate, whoever did this, don’t waste paper and make sure to hand in any extra sheets you will not be using instead of chucking them around,’ she announced to the class, shaking her head. ‘Oh, and you may sit down, Makoto. Thank you for letting me know.’Bookmark here

‘Not at all, Tanaka sensei, it seemed a little suspicious, that was all,’ said Makoto in his sincerest voice, earning him an approving nod from Tanaka sensei as she disposed of the paper ball in the trash can and returned to her seat.Bookmark here

Makoto looked at his right hand, which held a crumpled ball of paper. Not having had enough time to process his own actions while in the moment, he replayed the last 60 seconds in his head.Bookmark here

That’s right, unable to think of a solution to save them from being caught cheating on their tests, he’d been wading through the depths of despair. There seemed to be no escape from a future imagining which Makoto could but shudder.Bookmark here

It was then, in times as dark as those, that it’d struck him like a flash of lightning. A thunderstorm brewed, and the downpour would be the tears of those who’d dared to mock him and the boys. Well, nobody really had, but that was not the point.Bookmark here

As Shizuka had spotted the ball of paper, his body moving quicker than his mind, almost instinctively, Makoto had taken the empty sheet of paper in front of him, quickly rolled it into a ball even as she was distracted and as she reached out for it, so had he!Bookmark here

And it was as if it had happened in slow motion. Compared to Makoto, Shizuka’s movements had seemed dull and almost sluggish. The blank ball hidden in his right hand, he’d barely edged out Shizuka, grabbing hold of the ball of answers with his thumb and forefinger. Bookmark here

Then, raising his hand at a speed that would be difficult for the human eye to follow, his fingers deftly performed a switch, pushing the blank ball out even as the ball of answers fell back into his palm, his fingers immediately closing around it. The whole thing had occurred in a fraction of a second, with both Shizuka and Tanaka sensei none the wiser.Bookmark here

Makoto could scarcely believe it, and a quick glance around the room revealed to him certain equally flabbergasted individuals. What was this? What was this power that was flowing within him? Bookmark here

He shook his head. There would be time to celebrate and contemplate later. For now, there was still work to be done.Bookmark here

With the small outline sheet in hand, Makoto memorized the outline and passed it discreetly to Takashi, and began filling in the open response while the multiple choice signals resumed.Bookmark here

But it seemed that the mishaps wouldn’t stop there. Several times other sounds interrupted the signals. And perhaps one too many times, Makoto was unable to look forward in time to receive the head scratching signals, and had to make an educated guess on the question. Bookmark here

Even so, as long as no one was caught, there was nothing to be afraid of. They would move forward, whether by jumping over the hurdles or just straight up running through them with brute force.Bookmark here

And before they knew it, even with all of those hiccups, they had reached and answered the last question! Makoto caught a glimpse of the clock, which showed that they had 7 or so minutes remaining. Excellent. Makoto glanced sideways and Takashi, this time, sagely met his glance. Both shared tiny nods of acknowledgement. Bookmark here

This next move could only be done by adjacent plotters. A legendary technique passed down by Orochi Suto. Makoto, to this day, remained dumbfounded by its skill cap. This would be, by far, the riskiest move they were going to attempt in this quiz.Bookmark here

The smoldering dregs of the same manic energy that had so possessed him the fateful day he’d witnessed it, once again threatened to burn in a blaze. Heart rate pumping up, and fueled by raw adrenaline, Makoto executed a sequence of actions that had been rehearsed countless times prior to the quiz, meticulously polished and synchronized to perfection. With his head looking at his own desk, Makoto flicked his sheet towards the left, his hands moving faster than they ever had before. Symmetrically, Takashi did the same. They both raised their hands, placed their fingers on the opposite sheet, and pulled it towards themselves!Bookmark here

Smooth.Bookmark here

Ladies and gentlemen, you had just witnessed the S-class technique, which Masao had named the Swap Drop!Bookmark here

Makoto could barely restrain a broad smile. But it was not over yet.Bookmark here

Since Takashi had the most complete multiple choice section filled out, he needed to convey that information to Orochi somehow. Now they must employ a technique far superior to the Swap Drop!Bookmark here

Makoto picked up his eraser and started to vigorously erase something off when he accidentally pushed the test onto the floor, just beneath Orochi. Bookmark here

Whoops! Bookmark here

Orochi sat for a couple of seconds, focused on writing whatever he was writing, before he happened to notice the test beneath him. He went down to pick up his test when his own hand shoved his blank paper sheet onto the ground. Orochi reached down to grab the test and the blank papers, giving the blank one to Makoto.Bookmark here

Thank you, mouthed Makoto to Orochi. Orochi just nodded innocently before turning around and resuming his work. Makoto looked slightly to his right, where Shizuka was busy reviewing her work.He then glanced at Tanaka Sensei, who was preoccupied with her gadget. Bookmark here

Bingo, in the clear! Mission success!Bookmark here

After Orochi finished copying the multiple choice answers, he just stayed put. Takashi was busy validating and circling in the missing the multiple choice for Makoto, who had lost track of a couple of questions through the onslaught of incidents that occurred, major and minor. Bookmark here

Takashi had a surprisingly good memory, thought Makoto. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure why Takashi, or rather the whole squad, had failed the previous test. Perhaps he was a bit harsh in thinking they were imbeciles at the beginning. When he really got to know each of them, they were average but capable people, each with their own interests, hobbies, and goals. Perhaps there’s a reason, unbeknownst to Makoto, be it involving something in their personal life or something else, that explained why the group members were not on-par academically. Bookmark here

Ding dong!Bookmark here

The classroom bell rang with its characteristic sharp trill, and Makoto for once felt like he wasn’t being mocked. Orochi discreetly gave Makoto Takashi’s test as the whole class flurried to the front to hand in their exams. As he brought his test sheet to the front, Makoto and the gang made eye contact, all of them having the slightest of conspiratorial smiles on their faces. While the plan had not worked perfectly, it was still to be remembered as a tentative success in their battle against the federation. Bookmark here

Well, tentative because they still needed to know the score. Bookmark here

But Makoto was confident on this one. While it definitely wasn’t 100%, they should get at least above 85%, an improvement to be well celebrated by Tanaka Sensei. Bookmark here

Makoto started to feel a strange sense of camaraderie, despite knowing the group for barely a week and a half. What they accomplished today, well, was beyond his wildest imaginations. Bookmark here

What could stop them now?Bookmark here

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