Stars of Aoba
After orientation, students in Aoba return to their regular school day. But since most of us freshmen don’t actually know where our classes are, the timetable is delayed by an hour accordingly.
Well, at least that’s for the others. I at least have some knowledge about the school map.
The main building in Aoba consists of three floors, each representing the respective school year, from bottom to top. For us first years, this means that our classroom is on the first floor. And on each floor, counting from the entrance to the floor (or the staircase for the floors above us), classes are alphabetically distributed.
Aoba has a set entrance number of 180, so there are 6 classes in total, ranking from A – where the top geniuses reside, to F – the “worst” of the bunch. Well, “worst” is a relative term of course, but then again, I’m not one to need to notice that right now, since my class is neither at the beginning or at the end of this long hallway.
Soon enough, the door to the classroom in the middle of it all, class 1-C, appears before my eyes. But I certainly do not expect the scene before me when I set foot in the room.
Far down at the desk next to the left corner of the class already sits a redhead beauty. With her long hair tied to a ponytail, the girl looks full of life, even if the rest of her body stays relatively motionless as she scribbles in her notebook while having her eyes glued to the smartphone in her remaining hand.
Almost immediately afterwards, however, our eyes meet. Was my entering enough noise for her to notice, or did she just happen to look up at the right place and the right time?
“…Um, hi,” I wave at the girl. The recipient, on the other hand, only looks for a second before dropping her gaze on me once again to focus on whatever she’s writing in her notes.
Rude much? Isn’t it common sense to at least greet someone back when they say hello?
I take a step forward, ready to give the girl a piece of my mind. No matter what kind of genius you are, that’s not an excuse to just ignore people! And besides, since you’re in the same class as me, I bet you’re not even that good, to begin with!
“Get back to your seat, Suzuki Tanaka-kun,” the girl suddenly sounds before I can reach her seat. “The teacher should be here in ten minutes. Better make sure you know where your spot is.”
Hold on. Did she just say my full name? I’m pretty confident that I have never seen this girl in my life… right?
“Uh… do I know you?”
“Nope,” answers the girl. “And I don’t know you either… Actually, that’s not very accurate. I don’t personally know you, but I do know information about you.”
“What do you…”
“Suzuki Tanaka, 16 years old. Previously went to Amagami Junior High. Your test score in the entrance exam was 52, 74, 66, 77, and 51 for Japanese, Math, English, Science, and Social Studies, respectively, for an average of 64, making you rank 90th out of 180 passing applicants. Am I wrong?”
“I can list your background as well, want me to…”
“No, no, it’s enough,” I repeatedly wave my hand to signal the weird girl to stop.
Frankly speaking, the amount of personal info she has just read scares me half to death. Sure, it’s info you can find with a quick glance at the ranking board, but why would someone like her have so much information about someone like me, who she hasn’t even officially met until now?
“Don’t get any wrong idea,” the girl, meanwhile, glares at me with suspicious eyes. “I do this to everyone in school. You’re not some kind of special person.”
“One look at my name and you can already tell that, to be honest.”
“Your name is the most special thing about you, dimwit.”
“What’s with the insult?”
“It’s an objective fact,” the girl raises her voice. “You’re ranked 90th, meaning you’re dead last in this class.”
“Oh yeah? Then what rank are you…”
The moment when I flip out, I realize that after all that smack-talking between us, I haven’t even learned my target’s name.
“Tsunagi Jouko,” the girl quickly answers, looking rather peeved. “ ’tsuna’ in ‘connection’, ‘jou’ in ‘information’.” 
“Well then, Eel-san …”
“Who are you calling ‘eel’?” Before I can make a comeback of my own, Tsunagi’s notebook is already right on my throat. Looking at her fuming face, I can tell that she’s really regretting the fact that whatever is in her hand isn’t a knife right now. Preferably a sushi knife, to cut off the metaphorical seafood in her way.
“Okay, okay, bad joke. I won’t do it again,” raising my hands up to signify a surrender, I answer.
“You better,” the girl finally puts away her notebook. “And about your question, look on the desks.”
Following Tsunagi’s direction, I turn my gaze to the desk right in front of me. In the top right corner, a single number “2” on a small metal plate is drilled into the surface. A way to number the desk? But what would…
Ah, I see now. No wonder this girl has been flaming me non-stop.
“… Well, 62nd isn’t that good of a rank anyway! There’s still someone higher than you in this class after all!”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” an unexpected face of disgust comes from Tsunagi. “Of all the people I’d lose to, I can’t believe it’s that guy.”
The sound of the door opening, and along with it a booming, but cheerful and strangely familiar, voice interrupts our conversation:
“Good morning, everyone! ... Oh wait, there are only two, haha…”
Both Tsunagi and I stare at the white-haired boy with discontent. I know that jocks are usually not that smart, but isn’t this too stereotypical? Monster Brothers aside, everything about Shiraku just screams idiot; really makes you wonder how he got into this school in the first place.
“Let’s see now… seat, seat…” the target of my thoughts, meanwhile, continues to look around to identify his position. And in the end, dumb as he might be, the guy still manages to notice the different numbers.
“Oh, these are in reverse,” exclaims Shiraku. I could figure that out too, had I just looked around after knowing Tsunagi’s rank. There’s no way I can’t figure out something that simple, nope.
To my surprise, however, as soon as the guy notices the pattern, his response is to immediately go down to the corner where I, as well as Tsunagi, am at.
“Ah, there it is! Hiya neighbors!” Shiraku waves a friendly hello at the two of us before going to his supposed seat – the desk in the bottom-left corner counting from the door.
Are you kidding me?
You’re telling me that this happy-go-lucky guy, whose every gesture and word just screams “dumb jock”, is the top student of class C, ranked 61st among the 180 applicants?
“Uh, you do realize what the numbers on the desks mean, right?” I ask. I refuse to accept this.
“Yup, of course, I do,” with a confident nod, Shiraku answers. “They reflect our rank in the entrance exam, right?”
“Uh… yeah. So…”
“Let it go, Suzuki,” before I can add anything else, probably something rude, Tsunagi has already grabbed me by the shoulder. “He’s at his right seat.”
“Oh, I get it!” Facing the weird dialogue between Tsunagi and me, the white-haired boy lets out an even weirder answer – a hearty laugh. “I can’t even believe it myself, I tell you. But it sure was a week of hellish studying I tell you; Nii-chan basically beat me up with a pile of books…”
A week? A week?
I spent the entire last year of middle school to get to rank 90th! Even Rei, who’s at rank 47th, still had to grind for a term! And you’re telling me you studied for a single week and got to rank 61st?
I guess they really weren’t kidding when they decided to call those two “Monster Brothers” …
“There you are, Kuroshi Shiraku!” Another voice interrupts my train of thoughts. Man, what’s with the people in this class? Aren’t they supposed to be geniuses or something? Or is it because they’re geniuses that their emotional quotients are all zero?
I turn around to see another tall, rather toned boy. And considering that he knows Shiraku, it’s safe to say he’s another jock. Although, most other people would be more caught up with his bright, almost neon-like green hair, rather than his muscle mass. If anything, slap in some earrings and this one is the textbook definition of a delinquent.
Meanwhile, the target of his challenge remains as confused as ever.
“Uh… do I know you?”
“Well, I’m pretty bad with remembering people,” Shiraku scratches his head in embarrassment. “So, if I can’t recognize your face, then…”
“I’m your only competitor ever since middle school! Come on, doesn’t that ring any bell?”
“Haha, not really…”
“Runner-up of the Junior High’s Olympiad, Marathon, Track-and-field Tournament, So-”
“Hayato, yes,” Before Tsunagi can finish what I can only imagine as a detailed report of the boy’s background, he has already spoken. “Just Hayato is fine.”
“Your first name?” I ask. After all, we’re not even acquaintances yet. To call each other on a first-name basis, isn’t that too chummy already?
Unbeknownst to me, it’s an elaborate ruse the boy, now Hayato, has planned. “I’ve seen stranger things, right Mr. Last-names-only?”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
“I think it’s better to call each other by first names too,” Shiraku nods in agreement. “I have a twin anyway, so I’m used to being called by my first name.”
“Well, anyway, Shiraku!” The white-haired genius’ joining in on the conversation ignites the competitive flames in Hayato yet again. “Race me again! Right here, right…”
“Alright, everyone to your seats!” An older voice sounds behind us, immediately throwing the entire class into silence. As I turn around, from who-knows-when, everyone has already arrived and is sitting neatly, while standing in front of the blackboard is already a rather plain-looking man in glasses, glaring at me as if to suggest that I hurry up and return to my seat.
 Tsunagi Jouko (繋 情子): 繋 in 繋がり(tsunagari - connection), 情 in 情報 (jouhou - information)
 The word “eel” is read as “unagi”, which sounds similar to “Tsunagi”.
Please log in to leave a comment.