Prologue: Graduation Trip

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Spring.

The coming of spring symbolizes many changes.

First, the changing of seasons; the moment when the snow melts and the sakura bloom. The spring breeze that flows through Japan makes it seem like the coldness of winter was nothing more than a distant memory.

Second, the changes in relationships. Over winter break, many couples would get together or break up. For those that got together, they enter spring as a new couple. For those that broke up, after the cold of winter fades, new hope can sprout and they can hopefully move forward with their lives.

For us, spring symbolizes a change in our lives, the beginning of a new chapter. Kindergarteners become new grade schoolers, grade schoolers would become new middle schoolers, and middle schoolers would become new high schoolers. And for us, a new journey awaited past high school.

Of course, for each new beginning, there is also a corresponding end. For us third year students in the Advanced Nurturing High School, spring spells the end of our three years of competition. Three years of hardships, of uncertainty, of victory and defeat, of changing relationships.

Ever since we had entered the school in April three years ago, we've been locked in fierce competition with each other to reach the final goal: to graduate as Class A and obtain all the benefits that being Class A entailed.

We've endured numerous struggles, prevailed over countless challenges, and we even had to say goodbye to some of our classmates in the process. But in the end, here we are, at the end of it all: the graduation ceremony.

In this ceremony, it all came to a head. The winner of our three years of battles would forever be engraved into the annals of this school's history. At the end of the final special exam, all the classes had class points so close to each other that no one was guaranteed to win. Not only that, the results of the final special were not even released, so nobody knew who won.

"Next, I want to invite the students who, after three years of hard work, have graduated in Class A up to the stage. Class A's representative...."

This was it, the moment of truth. Whoever would be called up to the stage as the valedictorian would spell the victor.

Would it be Horikita, who struggled for victory with the class after having been placed at the bottom? Or maybe it was the genius Sakayanagi, who had kept Class A at the top since the beginning? Could it be Ryūen who had used tricks and deceptions of all sorts to reach this far after having been beaten in first year? Or would it be Ichinose, who held her class together throughout it all even after having fallen so far?

At this point, it could be anyone. Tensions were high. Everyone was on the edge of their seats. Then... the next words decided it all.

"Horikita Suzune, please come up to the stage."

The moment that name was called up, various expressions could be seen. Some people were overjoyed. Some had tears in their eyes. Others had expressions of regret and bitterness. Still others had congratulatory looks or looks of contentment, recognizing the hard work and effort that the winning class had given.

However, whether it be joy or sadness, regret or contentment, the feelings that everyone experienced in these past three years would always remain precious to us. Our time in this school would soon be over, but the memories we had made would accompany us into the future and whatever it may hold.

"Still, it really was quite a short period," I whispered.

Three years had passed so quickly for me. It felt like I had only passed through the school gates just yesterday. When I first entered, I thought that these three years would be my only years of reprieve before I went back into a cage.

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