Chapter 0:

Prologue: Is it possible to befriend a genius?

The Talents of Kaino High

“Come onnnnnnnnn… Look out the window! The view is gorgeous!”Bookmark here

“No. We should be studying as much as we can right now.”Bookmark here

“Relax, relax. We have a few hours to spare. You two should join us for a card game.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, we’re missing two people. Do we have to praise you until you yield like we did with this guy here? Hmmmm?”Bookmark here

“Hey! I’ll have you know I was actually the smartest in my year all throughout junior high.”Bookmark here

“Relax, we heard you the first time.We know, we know.”Bookmark here

“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH. Look! The waves are white outside!”Bookmark here

“In fact, if you weren’t, you wouldn’t even be here, you stuck-up nerd.”Bookmark here

“Am not!”Bookmark here

It may seem like an unlikely crowd, but here I am, watching them - the people I will spend the next three years of my life with.Bookmark here

At first, I felt like an outcast.Bookmark here

I was just barely passing all my subjects until, a few months ago, my parents took away my freedom, my life, my phone, my… and my phone. They had me exactly where they wanted me. Bookmark here

I spent a few days devising a plan: operation get-my-phone-back-now. Bookmark here

It failed. More than once. And I thought plan Z would work too.Bookmark here

With no other choice, I studied like I’ve never done before with all the time I would’ve spent enjoying the fruits of the internet, and managed to place pretty high in my year throughout all the subjects. Bookmark here

Unfortunately for me, the top students in each subject in my school were just one trick ponies, and I ended up taking the top average in the year. That result gave me unnecessary attention from everyone, which only wasted the rest of my free time.Bookmark here

Time is a useful tool, but only if it is used to produce satisfaction. And the greatest form of satisfaction is found in the small electronic device that I got back as my reward.Bookmark here

Not long after my unexpected result, my mother got a phone call from an unknown number.Bookmark here

“Oh! That’s splendid! Which institute is this? Oh! Ok. Ok. Ok.”Bookmark here

I couldn’t tell whether the news was good or bad from the expression on my mother’s face. It was an awkward mix of a smile and a worried expression. Bookmark here

No matter what people say, when those two expressions mix, I get the chills.Bookmark here

“Th-”Bookmark here

“No no no, let me guess.” I put on my best detective voice, waving my hand to stop her from continuing. “A prestigious, well-known high school has accepted me, but the tuition is too expensive so you’re worried?”Bookmark here

“You’re close, as always. They sound prestigious and formal, but I’ve never heard of them. They’re even giving you a full scholarship.”Bookmark here

“F-full?????”Bookmark here

“Yes, but it is far away on an isolated island in Kobe.”Bookmark here

That meant I could escape the grasps of my parents, who always threatened me with my phone, to an isolated island in the middle of nowhere? This was like a dream come true! The time I spent investing in studies actually paid off! I could only silently cheer as my mother continued.Bookmark here

“Assuming these people won’t kidnap you, will you be okay alone?” My mother asked worriedly. She made an attempt to stroke my hair to comfort me, or maybe herself, but stopped short after realizing I was too tall for that. Bookmark here

“Of course!” No matter the troubles, I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.Bookmark here

“Katsu. You’ll have to work hard there, do you realize?”Bookmark here

I didn’t plan to. Just passing by a little bit would be fine for me. I would have plenty of time left over.Bookmark here

“Yes, of course I do.”Bookmark here

And so, here I am. On my phone while my classmates squabble endlessly. I’ve never had a single good impression of a top student, and none of them were ever approachable. All they talked about was work, work, and boring work. Bookmark here

However, the ones in front of me are different. Bookmark here

They’re fun. They tell jokes like normal students. They laugh. They play card games.Bookmark here

I can’t imagine how they could’ve gotten accepted into this school, but they probably can’t imagine how I got myself into this school either. From my detailed analysis of the situation, they’re all probably secretly sizing each other up right now, determining each other’s strengths and weaknesses and ranking themselves on top of each other-Bookmark here

“Katsu-kun, look! It’s a bird! A pretty one too!” Bookmark here

Huh. Bird? Bookmark here

“Argh, again? How many times am I going to lose to you, Tomoko?!”Bookmark here

“Relax, Tomoki...”Bookmark here

“You might be good at card games, but I will school you in anything else. Mark my words!”Bookmark here

“Alright, alright… we get it, Jisen...”Bookmark here

I digress. They’re obviously way too carefree.Bookmark here

“Please, I’m trying to focus here. Can you all just quiet down?” the boy reading retorts.Bookmark here

Maybe my analysis skills are wearing off, or maybe they’re just not effective against actual geniuses? I guess I have to join the conversation again.Bookmark here

“Tomoko and Tomoki? Are you two actually twins? That’s an unlikely coincidence isn’t it?” Bookmark here

“Ah, well, I still lose to him. What can I say?” Tomoki sighs. Bookmark here

“I think we didn’t get along very well according to my dad.” Tomoko put his finger on his lips, recalling the scenario. The two of them are almost exact replicas of each other, the only differences being his slightly smaller eyes and shorter, though equally black, hairBookmark here

“Mhm. Mom said the same.”Bookmark here

“So you two ended up going to different high schools? Top students too? Well, I’d be surprised if you two weren’t twins.” I find myself laughing at the end. It’s a sign that I am enjoying myself.Bookmark here

“That doesn’t matter. I’m the smartest here. I’ve always been the smartest, so don’t leave me out of this!”Bookmark here

“We get it Jisen, just relax… I’m not sure what happened back then, but she’s alright with me now, so I guess we can be twins again?”Bookmark here

“Not until I beat you Tomoko!”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes…”Bookmark here

I chuckle. They had a story that could probably form the basis of one of those stories on the internet. Speaking of which… the internet’s gone? Have we left shore for so long that the signal cut? On this ship, I can hear students conversing happily, but there are also quite a few isolated ones. After all, we are on a huge ship that carries 150 select students from the 10,000 junior high schools in Japan. Bookmark here

I wonder what the bar for passing is here.Bookmark here

I glance over to Toshiro, who’s had his head in between the pages of his textbook ever since he’s gotten on this ship. Then at Maya, a girl with two brown, child-like braids kneeling on the window seat who’s been interested in everything to do with the boat and whatever appears outside the window. Bookmark here

This small group that I was now a part of formed in the head of the ship and had been together since the boat departed. I get slightly motion sick, so I rest in a seat beside the people that are playing card games and occasionally join in.Bookmark here

It’s been a breeze so far. The school let us on a gorgeous ship for no cost at all and we’ve been having a splendid time. I’m starting to look forward to my time here.Bookmark here

Suddenly, a loud voice came on. Bookmark here

“We can see the island from here, so it is time for your first task at this school. Please listen to this task carefully. You will have the rest of the time on this ship, and we expect you to be finished this 5 minutes after we dock. Listen to this clearly. The 25 of you with the lowest scores will not be expelled on the spot. I repeat. The 25 of you with the lowest scores will be expelled on the spot.”Bookmark here

Mayhem. The ship dissolved into mayhem.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.