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The final block of the day, sixth period's LHR (long homeroom) was a time slot every student restlessly looked forward to. That's why, if the topic of discussion hadn't been 'seat changes', the air would never have gotten so tense.
Seat changes. Once they were deiced, it wasn't so easy to change. An event that could become the critical junction in one's high school career.
While the teachers seemed to view it lightly, they were all way off. From a student's point of view, you couldn't ask for a more important event. Everyone wanted to secure a good seat, and looking at it the other way, they all wanted to sit away from wo they didn't want to deal with. A 'good seat' had more to do with who was around you rather than what was around you. If someone who picked on you was stationed nearby, you wouldn't be able to get a moment's rest, right? Anyone would want to hang with the people they got along with. Anyone.
Therefore, a discussion on seat changes became a fearsome, passionate whirl of time.
"We've reached an impasse. I'd like to respect everyone's opinion!"
The teacher with authority but no leadership skills, Dorisen grandly declared.
"I've got a proposal," Lord Takahashi stood up. "I'm sure everyone wants to sit with their friends, so how about we arrange seating in group units?"
He didn't particularly raise his voice, but dream soldiers excluded, everyone took to it fabulously. From everyone's eyes, it was a proper idea.
"Looks like there's no objections. Then we'll go with that. Takahashi-kun, will you act as chairman?"
In Dorisen's place, Takahashi stood at the podium. He was mature and dignified, and if he'd only been wearing a suit, I'm sure he could pass as a newly hired teacher.
"Then we should first start by listing out the groups. I'd like a secretary. Yuumin, think you can do it?"
"In your dreams," Yuumin, Ooshima Yumina curtly refused. Takahashi could only give a bitter smile.
She was a queen, even among friends.
"Koba, why don't you go do it?"
"Yeah, I don't mind."
"Hmm, then I might want to give it a go."
With a line from each of the three noble ladies, in the end, the one who came out was Imawano Aki, a mixed-race girl. While she was also an outrageous beauty, I was a little scared of her elusive personality. She gave off the impression of quite the experienced gal, the type that would see right through you if you looked at her face to face. Putting a pause on the file grating against her nail, she let the loosely-done hair bundle of hers sway as she rose to the platform.
"I'd rather not touch chalk. Yuuta, tissue please."
"I don't have one. Should I ask around?"
"Fine then. I'll open a new one."
Imawano promptly ripped one of her own personal pink pocket tissue packets open.
"Alright then—"
"Maybe I shouldn't have done that."
Was it an extra thrown in with some brand-name item or something?
With a tissue wrapped around a piece of chalk, "Go ahead," she turned.
"Then, starting with our group,"
On the blackboard, Takahashi, Yamamoto, Itou, Ooshima, Kobato, Imawano, six names were listed out.
"Next up… Kawai's, perhaps?"
Kawai, Kobayashi, Nakamura, Saitou, Watanabe, five names were grouped all together. A group formed as if all the normal boys in class were gathered up. In the end, Saitou was part of them too. I'd been a member, up to a little while ago.
"Oota, are you good being paired with Kosakai?" The ones Takahashi called out to were the so-called open otaku combo. Not in words, the two affirmed with a shake of the head.
"Yoshizawa, any requests?"
"Outside rim. Near the back."
A silent outlaw with no allegiance to anywhere, Yoshizawa answered with as few words as possible. If anyone in our class was going to kick or punch someone first, it would probably be him or Yamamoto. Takahashi did have an eye on him, and because Yoshizawa didn't talk with anyone, having him on the outer rim was a relief to everyone concerned.
Now then, here's the problem. You'll have to touch what you've kept at a safe distance, what will you do, chairman? That being the case, I had a vague premonition of the development to come.
"Then the rest are… Satou's group, does that work out?"
As expected. You can't defy fate. I gave just one solemn nod.
Conclusion, the group was a large family including myself and seven boy dream soldiers.
"Next, the girls' groups."
That was also an exceedingly simply result. Apart from the three noble ladies, the normal girls were all put together. Ozaki-san was part of that one.
"Umm, now about the remaining girls… any suggestions?"
Takahashi asked gingerly.
"It might be the Double-Satou group," I'm reluctant to admit it, but you're right, Imawano.
"Eh? For reals? All of them?"
And with that, female names were also tacked onto my group. All the nine female dream soldiers, Ryouko included. Add on the boys, and you've got sixteen.
The blackboard spelled out the fact half of the class fell under a single group. The creeper division was the largest power in class. The pressure of numbers, once listed, had a perfect impact. "Waaah," Takahashi whispered a groan.
"What are we going to do about this? The Satou Group is way too large."
"Whatever you want. Put it anywhere," Said I.
The seat change had long since become meaningless to me. Que sera sera, they say.
"R-really? I'll try to put you guys together as much as possible…"
Going around taking requests from each group, Takahashi and Yamamoto began making a seating chart on paper. From time to time, Ooshima would interject. Kobato-san didn't join the conversation. When I thought she was hanging her head despondently, I noticed the copy of 'MariMite' she was covertly reading in her lap. She had some nerve. She was going to be a big shot someday.
"Aki-chan, could you write this one down?"
The notebook seating chart was copied onto the blackboard. As expected, we were fortified and isolated at the front. There were so many people, it was inevitable we had a large border, giving way to many dream soldiers with bystanders as their neighbors. At once, a few screams rose across the classroom.
"Oh god no!"
The one who cried out in tears was my neighbor Ozaki-san. She was set right next to Ryouko.
"I can't do it, I told you, I just can’t."
"But Ozaki-san, you said you wanted to be in the back. There's really no other configuration that works."
"If I have to be next to her, I might as well move to the front!"
Oota raised a hand, pleading in a fine voice that ran counter to his bulky build.
"… My eyes are bad. I have to be near the front…"
"Eh? You should've said so earlier, Oota."
"Didn't I say back outer rim?" Yoshizawa opened his mouth.
Feuding and feuding, how fearsome the seat change. Everyone refused to come in contact with dream soldiers, as the discussion ran into stormy waters. It was rewritten and rewritten, a few cried, a number did snap.

In the end, it came out like this.


55 ■ ■ ■ S

44 ■ ■ ■ ■
22 ■ ■ ■ ■

With the front of the room being to the left, and group names indicated how many people they consisted of. The ■s were dream soldiers. The S stood for double-Satou. As there would be smoke no matter where Ryouko and  I were stationed, we weren’t moved anywhere.
As you can see, the dream soldiers sat in the region usually reserved for those in power, with a monopoly over the back-window area.
This was largely due to the queen bee asserting, "Too much sunlight, I don't want the window". Unable to ignore Yoshizawa's request, the noble group had a slight slant in their deployment. It was quite a rare pattern for the nobles to be losing out.
With more calm deliberation, there was surely a better arrangement to isolate us, but this is a good example of how confusion and conflicting opinions can paralyze rational judgment. Upon receiving their territory, each group was free to decide how they would sit. With desk and chair in hand, the move had begun. In that rattling, boisterous time, Ryouko and I, the only ones who didn't have to move seemed to be in the eye of the storm.
"I'll ask just in case, but you're fine with where you're sitting, right?"
"As long as I am adjacent to Ichirou, the location doesn't matter."
"… I see."
If it was in any way romantic, that would be a wonderful line, but that was a declaration of stalking, it was.
"Ah, a cellphone. Didn't think you'd have such a social item on hand."
When I thought she was fiddling with her staff more than usual, I noticed a cellular phone portion that wasn't there before embedded into the top.
"It is different from the primitive cellphones of this world. An all-purpose device utilized in the Terminal Zone."
"Yeah, let's just go with that."
"Ichirou must submit his contact information."
"Oh, you want to exchange numbers?" I really didn't want to.
"It is necessary for emergency contact, and an order for the exchange has already been issued."
"By whom?"
"Plenipotentiary Power Holder Credétat."
She hoisted up the medal, chain and all.
"And there it is. What does that magic girl toy want with me?"

'The Plenipotentiary Power Holder Petitions Satou Ichirou. Assist in the Construction of the Hotline.'

"I can see your mouth moving, Ryouko."

"You're good at ventriloquism, you know that? You had me completely fooled… at first."

Tsk, she was ignoring me to my face.
"Satou-kuuun, Satou-kuuun."
I noticed I was being called for.
By the time I realized it, Kobato-san was sitting one seat forward and to the right.
"huh? That's where you ended up?"
"That's right. It just naturally worked out. I'll be in your care~."
"… Likewise." My voice rung false. Clearly, fate had a clever mastery of the carrot and the stick. With a slightly nervous face, Kobato-san greeted the mystery sitting to the left of me as well.
"I'd love to get to know the other Satou-san too."

Kobato-san was the sole girl to ever strike up conversation with Ryouko. Not that Ryouko ever answered.
"We'll have to go play somewhere with everyone to commemorate the event~."
The innocent Kobato-san laughed. Even if it was no more than social courtesy, what a reassuring conversation. That was perhaps the first time in my life I found joy in a seating change. That's why the stick had to come next. With how delicious that carrot was, just what sort of sublime tragedy awaited me?

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