{&}

the golden boy
_hex

[7O3X] He comes, meek and timid on his tip-toes, and still the whole world notices. Mikuriya, Sasaki, and Fukami on Koshiyama

{&}

You will be the King of Quizzes, they tell him.

He is spectacular, not only for a first year, but better than any of the other members. The quiz club had never been particularly popular at Miyaura High School, and someone with such a natural talent for memory and tonal recognition had never wanted to join.

Well, Mikuriya is different, and quizzes are a 'fun' thing to pass the time (he says this with a smile full of teeth - he likes to crush small fry with the cruelty only a child can have), so now he is here, and if the quiz club will have him (begging for him to join - on their knees), then he will stay.

It is ironic that he wins after his world comes crashing down on him. The no-name shorty on Buzou High (the one that he had casually bragged to) weakly flutters his way to the contender's seat, manages to scrape by with a ridiculous win through the first round, manages to get so many wrong in the second round that it's ridiculous and still -

Those were casual errors, easily correctable (Mikuriya would know) and what is most important is that, in his second round of competitive quizzes, he managed to catch on to the tonal shift.

(A skill that had taken a week and a half of manic practice on his part.)

Mikuriya is annoyed, and rightfully so, when the unnamed boy learns to dumb his answers down, learns to adjust with the group and the content of the quizzes, all during the actual competition. So he spitefully presses the button, takes away the chance that the other boy never actually had, because he sees the possibilities, sees the ridiculously strong foundation in literature that the Buzou High participant has.

And he is interested, that someone could possibly drag him off his throne, with such a weak demeanor and timid appearance.

{&}

You will be the King of Quizzes, they tell him.

He stands out like a sore thumb because he is only in the seventh grade - privileged and intelligent in his own right, the literature and math clubs are disappointed when it turns out that he's dedicated himself to quizzes of all things.

But he is a Sasaki, and there is one word that their family - even with their century-old history and extensive libraries - does not know: defeat.

So he signs up for the quiz club, passes their prior examinations (such a breeze - not even worth the effort - who do they think he is?) and because he is the only middle-schooler amongst high-schoolers, he expects - no, he welcomes - the attention.

Ridiculous: that people give his young grade a single glance, and then turn away.

Preposterous: that that Buzou High boy with shaking knees and a nervous, haphazard button press would have been able to press the button and get the answer right at the match point.

Unacceptable: that said boy would be able to not only notice, but take advantage of, the slight change in stress in the various questions, effectively stealing the spotlight from Sasaki the seventh grader from Sekigawata.

He comes home from the 'fun and friendly' quiz competition between the various schools, feeling beaten even after a second-place victory. There are others above him, and even those below him will be wanting a chance at his throne. And he will take them on, one-by-one or all at a time, even if they are shaking and quaking - like that Pomegranate-ZettaiRyouiki boy - because that throne is meant to be his.

{&}

You will be the King of Quizzes, she tells him.

And at first, it's out of her own selfish and manipulative desires. There are only two people on the quiz team, it would be shameful to attend any gatherings with only two people. So out of need, she coats her already-sweet voice in dripping honey, tells the new and lonely boy about the fame and glory he could achieve - the fame and glory she wants.

Needless to say, she dismisses his correct answer in the last round of the freshman orientation as fluke and nothing more. Perhaps her guard had been down, perhaps she had not been concentrating - it is a good reason, after all, she cannot go around discouraging other people.

And yet - the truth is: she had been trying. She had pushed her shoulder-length back, trying to listen on to every syllable and word and stress, trying to get a feel for the quizzes that she had spent her entire middle school life obsessing over. And he - the unknown variable, the person that the president had picked out of the hoard of freshmen - he had made her feel the roar of pride, the need to win.

She has spent hours upon hours, boring the sticky questions into her mind, it is impossible for her to lose to a newbie.

The ring of a button - that one-tenth of second, and regardless of the next words out of his mouth, Fukami Mari knows she has already lost, simply in the button-pushing category.

But that's not enough for Koshiyama - that's not enough for the boy who sits quietly in the back of the class and doodles on his math homework and tries to stay out of everyone's way and truly is shy and meek and timid and terrified of the wide, wide word outside (The world which he seems to know so much about). He has to go and answer the question correctly as well.

The lukewarm pain of shamefulness is all washed away when the president cheerily says, "that freshman showed some promise, didn't he?" Her chest swells with pride - because regardless of what hand the president may have had in this, she will be the one to convince Koshiyama to join the club.

And when he gets question after question wrong, she expects him to be disappointed, she expects him - like others, who came just because she said "pretty please?" and batted her eyelashes - to want to stop.

She does not expect his eyes to burn with a passion rival to her own, and she most certainly does not expect her own heart rate to speed up even more.

He recovers, of course, and although he's fallen too far to catch back up, he still wants to play more. And he's already borrowed books on quizzes, and the president has noticed how relaxed his finger's have become over the buzzer. And Fukami sees it - sees the crown of victory, the brilliant, sparkling gold of quiz championship - placed knowingly on Koshiyama's head.

So when she says "you will be the King of Quizzes" again, at the end of the friendly competition that he did not win, she means it.

{&}