A rush of air blew in from the direction of the door that was left open.
Hiratsuka-sensei’s long, glossy hair fluttered as the wind blew past her. She annoyingly brushed it away and entered the room with noisy steps.
“I’m here with a request for you guys, but…”
As she said that, she looked at us and immediately tilted her head in puzzlement.
“Did something happen?”
We all sat there without answering her question. Yuigahama looked away awkwardly while Yukinoshita sat there motionlessly with closed eyes.
Thanks to that, an odd silence filled the room which caused Hiratsuka-sensei to tilt her head again. She then looked at me with a confused expression.
“No, nothing at all.”
With a straight look like that, even I wasn’t mentally strong enough to just ignore her, so I calmly answered.
I tried to keep it as short as I could, but Hiratsuka-sensei still smiled bitterly. It looked like she had a faint idea of what was going on. Sure, with both Yukinoshita and Yuigahama dead silent, anyone could guess at what was happening.
“Maybe I should come back again?”
“Well, we don’t mind either way.”
“Either way, nothing would change” was the implied meaning. Whether it was tomorrow or the day after, this stagnating silence would continue regardless.
Looking as if she understood what the nuance of my tone was implying, Hiratsuka-sensei shrugged and let out a small sigh.
In order to avoid the mood from getting gloomy again, Yuigahama tried to smooth it over by asking a question.
“Sensei, was there something you need?”
“Ah, right… You can come in.”
Hiratsuka-sensei turned towards the door and called out. With a softly spoken “excuse me”, a person familiar with the room walked in quietly. She sported front pigtails held together by pins and her forehead was rather adorable.
It was the student council president, Meguri.
The person that followed after her was an unfamiliar girl student.
“We had a request so…”
Meguri cut her words short and turned to the girl student behind her.
With a little nudge, that girl took a step forward.
Her semi-long, flaxen hair swayed in sync with the step she took forward. With the color of her hair being seemingly all-natural, the cuticles on her fingers reflected the evening sun, dispersing the particles of light all over.
With her light hair and the largeness of her eyes, she resembled a small animal, giving her a cute appearance. Her uniform looked slightly worn out and she was slightly squeezing the cuffs of her cardigan that was somewhat rugged.
As I looked at her while thinking who the hell she was, she faced our way with a shy smile.
At that instant, I felt a torrent of ripples beating against my heart. Obviously, this wasn’t love at first sight. This was nothing more than a warning alert.
When Yuigahama spoke up, that Iroha-chan person or whatever replied with an airy tone while slightly inclining her head.
Both of them did a small wave in front of their chests.
After watching that exchange, Meguri-senpai nodded as she spoke.
I’ve heard that name before.
I believe she was a first year serving as the manager of the soccer club. She was the girl Hayama got involved with in that weird Judo tournament event before summer vacation. Speaking of which, I wonder what happened with Miura at the time…
Or so I thought, but this wasn’t the time to be digging into the past.
It looked like the request this time was related to Isshiki Iroha.
But that being the case, why was Meguri-senpai with her?
I looked at Meguri-senpai asking her to explain the situation and with a nod, she began to speak.
“Do you know about the upcoming student council election?”
So asked was the question, but I had no idea what she was talking about. As long school events did not force participation, there was absolutely no reason to give it the time of the day.
I made a sidelong glance without moving my head to check the reactions around me. When I did, Yuigahama quietly shook her head.
Well, it wasn’t exactly an event worth getting excited about. It’s a different story if you had a friend who planned to run for candidacy though. As a matter of fact, it was probably more common for people to go through their high school career without ever getting involved with the student council.
For the most part, the average student only recognizes the student council as “people who do stuff but I don’t know what they do.” Therefore, the election that was meant to choose those people to be members of the student council was along the same lines.
I would’ve been the same if it wasn’t for having been involved in the school festival and athletic festival. I’m sure Yuigahama was guilty as charged as well.
But, there was one person who wasn’t. Yukinoshita Yukino.
“Yes. I believe it was already publicly announced. I think the running candidates should have been as well.”
“You sure know your stuff, Yukinoshita. Yep, yep, aside from the secretary not having a candidate, everything else was announced.”
Meguri-senpai spoke while happily clapping her hands.
“We were supposed to do this a long time ago, but the lack of candidates caused it to be postponed. And without a suitable successor, I can’t retire in peace too…”
Meguri-senpai broke down in tears in jest.
“The school more or less left it up to Shiromeguri, you see. That is, her replacement was supposed to have been chosen by the time of the athletic festival, but…”
“Oh no, not at all! Since the school I was recommended to is set in stone, the exams didn’t really matter all that much.”
Hiratsuka-sensei looked at her anxiously to which Meguri-senpai smiled and waved her hands.
Thinking on it, as obvious as it was, Meguri-senpai was indeed a third year. A few more months and she’d be gone from this school.
As I looked at Meguri-senpai while thinking that this warm, Megurin atmosphere was going to be a thing of the past, she looked like she realized she wasn’t done talking.
“Ah. Right, right, I should explain everything, hm? Anyway, for my last job as the president, I will be working with all of the current student council members in the election administration committee.”
In other words, there wasn’t a single person in the current council running for anything in the election, huh…
Well, I can imagine that the current council members found meaning in their jobs only when they worked together with Meguri-senpai. They all seemed to adore her very much too. Or maybe after they worked with us during the school festival and athletic festival that they thought “I’m so tired of the school festival~!” (without the black background) or something along those lines…
“And so, the elections and the edicts for that are over, but…”
Yuigahama repeated with a small voice, but no one in particular explained it to her. Normally, Yukinoshita would have been the first one to notice, but she was lost in thought with her hand placed on her chin.
“An edict, at our school in particular, is the announcement of the election schedule along with the candidates running for a position. That’s more or less what it is if you think about it that way.”
Hiratsuka-sensei made sure she didn’t let that slide and followed through. Yuigahama thanked her while laughing it off.
“T-Thank you very much. Ahaha… S-So, so that edict or whatever, what’s that about?”
Yuigahama inquired after changing the subject. Meguri-senpai looked at Isshiki.
“Isshiki is a candidate in the student council president election.”
Ooh, so this was running for presidency huh… What a surprise or so I’d like to say, but quite frankly, Isshiki Iroha did not look the type to be interested in student council president activities.
So again, why are you running for presidency? Or so I thought as I stared at her but it looked like she noticed what my stare meant. Isshiki looked my way. She then blinked with surprise.
It looked like she was finally aware of my existence. Wait, no, she totally looked my way earlier… She probably thought I was an ornament or something. Like there’d be a room in this world that had something as novel as a totem pole.
However, Isshiki looked at me without the slightest hint of contempt or disgust. Instead, she looked like she realized something, tapped at her mouth, and smiled.
“Ah, did you think I was totally not fit for the role or something~?”
“Ah, no, not really. No way.”
With that smile directed at me, I stumbled over my words.
Well, they did say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and it’d be silly to drop an anime just on the character designs alone. I averted my eyes from Isshiki in an attempt to throw away my preconceived notion of her.
When I did, Isshiki placed her hands on her hips and leaned forward with an upset and pouty expression and continued speaking.
“It’s because I get told that sooo often that I more or less know what they’re saying~. Like I look dumb or I look super dense or something.”
Ah, this person was bad news, aye.
Her appearance alone suggested a playful attitude and she clearly had the typical adolescence associated with high school girls down. The thin make up that brought out her naturalness with her skirt slightly above her knees, the sleeves of the cream colored, baggy cardigan, and the alluring teasing of her collarbones hidden behind the loose ribbon at her collar that looked like a gap you could peek into.
Despite her fluffy appearance, she seemed to also be over familiar with her senior Yuigahama; amiableness based on something somewhere.
…As expected, she’s dangerous.
Not only was she comfortable with the center of attention focused on her, she was blatantly showing off her status as a “high school girl”. On the surface, she had a gentle disposition along with a humble femininity to her, but it didn’t take any effort to see there was something superficial about it.
With my past experiences as the source of my confidence, the chances of this being a land mine was very high.
In the same way people who called themselves refreshing or said they had a dirty mouth were scum lacking in delicacy, people who went ahead and defined themselves despite no one asking, for the most part, tended to be good-for-nothing individuals. Self-proclaimed airheads followed this pattern.
While I’m on that subject, people who made the mysterious declaration that “I’m the type that makes the retorts!” were idiots who fell in this same category. Those self-proclaimed retorting types yell “ooooooooooooooooooooooawait” in a conversation with a half-smile. They’d also continue on with “and, and, and?” while smiling stupidly. These types really sent chills up your spine. The level of irritation with these punks trying to act in this superficial manner was beyond normal. “Messing with people makes me interesting.” There’re plenty of guys with that misunderstanding, but their special characteristics were not only picking on people but getting incredibly angry. What’s with this redundant explanation?
Well, it’s basically that. There was some contradiction in my impression of Isshiki Iroha somewhere.
But, it looked like no one else other than me had this opinion of Isshiki. Well, maybe I was just overreacting.
“…So, may I ask what the problem is?”
Yukinoshita asked the silent Isshiki. She then unfolded her arms and placed them on the table. She may have gotten tired of waiting, evident in the irritation in her tone.
When Meguri noticed that she hadn’t gotten into the heart of the matter, she quickly spoke up.
“Isshiki is a candidate for the student council president, but, that is, how should I put it…? She wants to avoid being elected.”
Because she was still lost about how to put her words in the right terms, what she said sounded a bit vague. She’s running for presidency, but she didn’t want to be elected. I started thinking about the meaning behind those words.
“Haa… In short, you want to lose the election?”
If I took the facts at face-value, then that was what I concluded. When I asked, Meguri nodded her head. On the side listening was Yuigahama who tilted her head curiously while mumbling “hm?”
“Um… so you don’t want to be the president?”
“Ah, yes. That’s right.”
It might have been because Isshiki was an acquaintance with Yuigahama that she was able to answer lightheartedly without a hint of shyness.
But if you looked at that from the side, you’d realize this wasn’t anything good. Regardless of the circumstances, that wasn’t the attitude of someone who decided to run for presidency in the election.
“…So why did you become a candidate?”
Yukinoshita spoke with a criticizing tone to which Isshiki winced.
“Um, I kinda didn’t want to, er, rather I was kinda forced into it on a whim or something…”
Eeeh, which idol were you trying to be?
For some reason, Isshiki spoke bashfully causing my attitude to grow apathetic. But, Isshiki wasn’t aware in the slightest of my stare, well, my existence actually, and with her fingers placed on her cheeks, took a thinking stance.
“I, like, stand out a looot, you see? I keep hearing about how I get along super good with Hayama-senpai and the other upper classman. And like, since I’m manager of the soccer club, that image is like kinda stuck on me.”
I wasn’t quite able to figure out what she was trying to get at so I tried my best to decrypt her words. And there was one thing that bothered me.
“…Are you getting bullied?”
“I wouldn’t say that, but it’s like it’s getting too overboard or something~. Like when my classmates gather around, they keep poking at me and stuff.”
Isshiki tapped her chin with her index finger and pin as she spoke. As she continued to talk in her excessively long way, my head started to hurt.
So what in the hell was she trying to say…?
“So like, I think this time is the same way or something~”
I totally got you. Nope, I didn’t.
I didn’t get it, but to summarize: “A person like me who gets picked on a lot kinda just got carried away and am now running for the stucco presidency!” It was probably somewhere along those lines. It was like one of those long titles some books were given…
The scenario of getting thrown into an outrageous situation because people got carried away without bother to think about their own actions was quite common. This time, it looks like the errors of youth had brought about this result.
But I gotta say, she was that.
…She was definitely the type to be hated by girls.
Even I get it. Like totally.
She was that, indeed.
She was one of those bitches who tried to hide their goofy, airheaded nature. A bitch that got too comfortable with people. There were plenty of those back in middle school. Yep, the ones that led the guys around by the nose. I thought they were all jugglers at the time.
Even Grander Musashi wouldn’t go after that bait. Rather, the fishing that he did made you wonder what kind of lure he was using.
No matter how carried away they got, it was likely that a good amount of spite was mixed in.
“Then again, can you just randomly run for candidacy like that?”
When Yuigahama raised her hand with a question, Miss Hiratsuka crossed her arms and let out a short sigh.
“When the candidacy papers were turned in, the person in charge didn’t actually confirm it…”
“Erg… If only we election administrators were more alert…”
Meguri groaned with shame. The election administrators were the staff members in charge of managing the election. Mutsu, Nagato, and Kongo1 were all irrelevant here.
Miss Hiratsuka pattered Meguri’s shoulder whose head was hung in shame.
“Well, no one would expect someone to do something like this as a prank. It’d be a little cruel to be blaming the election administration now, wouldn’t it?”
“We even made sure to check the endorsement list too though.”
Meguri spoke with a downhearted tone and within those words, a word I’ve never heard of came up and I asked about it.
“Uh huh. To run as a candidate, you need a certain number of endorsement signatures and that was properly satisfied too.”
Huh, so first, you need endorsement signatures.
But, that was a convincing story. I mean, if you think about how someone with zero popularity decided to become the president, there’d be problems if a bunch of those types of guys suddenly ran in the election. It was a simple system created to eliminate the weaker candidates.
Which means for the side that was taking the applications, this was a must condition. You could also say that as long you had that condition secured, you were eligible to run for candidacy.
Considering the messed up ambitions of the current members of the student council, I imagine none of them thought people would make a prank out of false candidacy applications.
In this world, there were times when an idiot would go beyond your imagination so it was a little scary.
“Still, this is rather complicated. I believe you needed more than thirty signatures to be qualified.”
I wasn’t the only one who shuddered at the thought as Yukinoshita did as well. Her tone also seemed to drop slightly as well.
“That much? I’m surprised they managed to get that much…”
Yuigahama spoke with a half surprise and half scared tone.
But, it wasn’t anything that strange.
It just meant that it was easier to gather signatures with ill intent than good intent. If it was for the sake of lynching Isshiki who was in over her head, then that’d work too. In the same way it was as easy to retweet on Twitter, it might have applied to writing someone’s name down on a piece of paper. Essentially, it was a malicious version of slacktivism if you will.
As I sat there wondering why, Miss Hiratsuka had a slightly troubled expression.
“Of course, we checked it over with the students. Whether it was a fortunate turn of events or not, all thirty names were authentic.”
“Writing their actual names on there, are they idiots or what…?”
“They likely didn’t think it’d turn into something important. A deficiency in their imagination, I suppose.”
Miss Hiratsuka spoke with a bitter smile.
Well, true enough. There’s been a lot of that recently actually. Things like uploading a picture of being inside the refrigerator at your part time job or tweeting a picture of a prank at a food and drinks store. There were also those who published their real name and faces online boasting about their crimes; wasn’t that just making yourself a wanted criminal?
“Um, couldn’t you just invalidate it? Something like a procedure to invalidate the candidacy?”
When Yuigahama spoke, Isshiki took a quick step forward. She then began to speak in a passionate manner.
“The thing is, you see, my homeroom teacher was really into it and stuff so he’s like totally cheering me on and all. When I said I didn’t want to, he ended up encouraging me instead… There wasn’t even a person in class that would do a campaign speech either so I don’t really know, you see~… I mean, for the most part, it was just the teacher cheering me on, that’s all.”
Ah, it was basically that. It’s that same pattern where your boss fervently tries to keep you employed when you said you wanted to quit the job. “Let’s do our best! Together and beyond!” They’d shout this out loud because they didn’t have enough hands on deck and they wouldn’t let this chance slip by. So they’d try to persuade you from quitting in the warmest and nicest way possible. And from there, if you hesitated for a second, halfway through, your boss would get absurdly upset and tell you “that’s a real problem you see, if you’re going to be like that, there won’t be a next time you see?” and start lecturing you.
In the end, you lost the chance to quit your job and you’d end up looking like you were trying to avoid responsibility (distant eyes)…
Next to Isshiki was Miss Hiratsuka who scratched her cheek with a troubled expression.
“I did try speaking with Isshiki’s homeroom teacher, but… well, he’s the type to not listen to other people.”
“Aah, I see…”
I more or less surmised the scenario and acknowledged her words. Miss Hiratsuka had an unpleasant look as she dropped her sight towards her feet.
“Apparently, he had already prepared a moving story to go with the election, you see… By helping a student with no confidence in becoming the student council president with the support of his classmates and teachers, it’d turn into a story passed down the generations…”
Aah, so he was that kind of person… As long as they did something good, he was convinced there was nothing bad about that person.
“So, with that being a problem, she spoke to Shiromeguri about it.”
As such, it went like this: Meguri heard the story directly from Isshiki and unable to figure out a way to deal with it, they went to Miss Hiratsuka which was then brought to us.
“Then, I guess withdrawing your candidacy might be a little too difficult then.”
Isshiki’s homeroom teacher probably wasn’t aware of this either. But that wasn’t the only problem. Meguri played with her pigtails anxiously.
“Uh huh… So… now we’re just wondering if we can withdraw at all…”
I started thinking about whether there was a reason for this. However, Yukinoshita placed her hand on her chin and seemingly put whatever she was thinking about in order, she slowly began to talk.
“Regarding the withdrawal of the candidacy, is it because there isn’t anything officially written about it in the election rules?”
Having said that, Meguri blinked with surprise.
“Yukinoshita, you sure know your stuff… That’s right. There’s nothing written about it in the first place…”
I see. Well, sure enough, people who wanted to go work for the student council were, without a doubt, people full of ambition. I imagine they didn’t even bother to think it would be necessary to write down about how to withdraw as a rule either. But still, that’s the Yukipedia for you. All knowing as per usual.
“Ah, wouldn’t it be enough to say she can’t become the student council president because she’s a first year?”
Yuigahama raised her hand as she spoke.
However, Yukinoshita had a sullen expression as she turned her head.
“Eh? Why not?”
Yuigahama asked in puzzlement. Meguri answered that question with an empty smile.
“That’s not in the rules either… There isn’t anything regarding a restriction of second years only for student council presidents written down.”
“Basically, student council presidents tended to be second years out of custom.”
Yukinoshita added, convincing Yuigahama. She then had a troubled expression.
It was essentially an unspoken rule, but as long as it wasn’t officially stipulated, then it wouldn’t serve as a pretext to get out of candidacy.
If we couldn’t do anything legally with the holes in the protocols, then the only thing left was in accordance with how the election was run.
“If she doesn’t want to do it, then she can just lose the election. Actually, that’s the only way.”
This was the surefire method. It didn’t matter how much you wanted to be the president as long you didn’t have the support to win the election. So the most effective method was to lose the election to avoid becoming the student council president.
But, Meguri dropped her eyes.
“Umm… Actually, the only one running in the election is Isshiki so…”
Yukinoshita continued right after.
“So that means a vote of confidence.”
“Right, so it’s pretty much set in stone…”
A vote of confidence was a system that takes place when there was only a single candidate in the entire running. Unlike the normal system of choosing a person amongst a number of other candidates, this system was simpler in that you simply circle yes or no on a vote ballot in regards to whether you should leave the position of student council president to that one candidate.
With this system, people tended to just circle yes and be done with it. Of course, there were people who circled no for the hell of it because it’d be interesting but they were the minority. As long the majority had expressed their trust in the candidate, barring any extraordinary circumstances, it was more or less decided.
But, even so.
“Well, if it’s just losing, there is a way to do…”
As I let out what I was thinking, Isshiki didn’t like the sound of it and pouted.
“Like, wait a second, losing a vote of confidence would be supeeeer lame! I mean, a vote of confidence is just lame in the first place… That’s too embarrassing. No way!”
Ugh, so self-centered. It’s exactly because of that personality that you were forced into this situation, you know?
Or so I thought for a second, but in truth, Isshiki wasn’t at fault for arbitrarily being thrown into the forefront. Putting aside the silly details of how she managed to get into this position in the first place, being forced into the role of student council president only to lose because of a vote of no confidence would make for a funny story. That’s why, I guess I could understand where she’s coming from. There was no way you could be satisfied with something that the majority agreed on against you.
That’s why just losing wasn’t something she could do.
“Only the names of the candidates will show up right?”
In order to get my thoughts sorted out, I checked with Meguri on some facts.
“Eh? Yes, that’s right.”
“So that means there isn’t a person who’d do the campaign speech for Isshiki.”
Meguri’s eyes met with mine and she nodded. But in that head of hers was a question mark indicating that she hadn’t realized what I meant.
But that was fine. All the information I needed was at my disposal.
“In that case, there’s one quick and easy method.”
“Um, what do you mean?”
Asked to clarify, I laid out the facts one by one.
“At worst, even if Isshiki clearly lost the vote of confidence, as long she didn’t get hurt in the process, then that should be fine. In short, if they understand that the reason she lost the vote of confidence was out of her control, then that should be enough.”
“Can you really do that?”
Silent the entire time, Yuigahama asked a question.
I nodded my head.
“If the campaign speech serves as the reason for her loss, then Isshiki won’t be the center of attention.”
All we needed to do was simply just sidestep the cause of her defeat, why she was rejected, and why she was denied.
With that in mind, we still had some options left.
Before I got into the details of the plan, I cut off my words for a moment.
I wanted to get my thoughts in order. I wanted to catch my breath and take control of the flow of the conversation. But those weren’t the reasons why I stopped talking.
It’s because I noticed that the room was submerged in an uneasy silence.
Yuigahama looked at me with still, painful eyes and lowered her head as if she drank something incredibly bitter. Noticing this change, Meguri rotated her look between Yuigahama and me in confusion. Isshiki seemed to be sensitive to the change in the mood and stood there in discomfort.
And then, there was a small clanking sound.
When I turned reflexively in the direction of the sound, Yukinoshita had placed her arms on the table. It looked like the button on the cuffs of her blazer had clashed with the table when she unfolded her arms.
In this dead silence, that sound was awfully louder than it should have.
Then, in the silent room, Yukinoshita’s cold voice reverberated.
“I can’t agree with that kind of method.”
With a harsh and critical tone, I moved my eyebrows and asked her instead.
“Your reason being?”
I wasn’t planning to sound forceful, but my tone grew sharp regardless. Yukinoshita averted her gaze for a quick moment. Her long eyelashes not only flickered but quietly shook.
But that was only for an instant. She quickly returned to looking at me, but this time I could I feel a strong will behind her eyes.
“…It’s because it’s not guaranteed. It’s not absolutely certain that she will receive a vote of no confidence. Also, you’re only going to cause trouble for Isshiki-san by purposely botching up her campaign speech just so can she receive those votes. In the off-chance that the majority votes with no confidence, do you honestly think they will bother to run another election? Despite there never being such a precedence in the past? And… And also, there was never that much interest in the student council in the first place, so no one will mind if we just publicize only the results… In other words, if there’s enough people willing, it can easily be done.”
As I was caught by her sharp gaze, Yukinoshita spoke rapidly. It was like she wanted to express every reason she could think of.
Having seen that, Miss Hiratsuka chided her with a kind tone.
“…That was rude of me. I’ll take that back.”
As Yukinoshita forced out those words, Meguri lowered her head and shook her head with a smile.
Her words were certainly rude. That is, the intended meaning of “if there’s enough people willing, then the administration and the school can handle the aftermath” was rude to Meguri who was working as one of the election administrators.
A creaking sound from a chair could be heard.
When I turned my head in the direction of the sound, Yuigahama was facing me. But even though we were facing each other, our eyes weren’t.
“Hey, about that speech, who’s going to do it…? I don’t think I really like that.”
It was a weak and delicate tone that unpleasantly stayed in my ears.
“That’s… Anyone that’s able seems fine to me.”
Although I said that, it was clear who was the one most suitable for this job. It was absolutely unnecessary to declare who the person was with the highest success rate of making this plan work.
With the sun coming down, the shadows of the room started to grow in size. The artificially created light from the class lights slowly began to fill the room.
Yukinoshita, who was looking down the entire time, suddenly raised her face.
“Shiromeguri. In the case where Isshiki withdraws from the position, another candidate will be needed, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right…”
When Meguri answered, Yukinoshita let out a short sigh and spoke.
“Then, the only thing left is to find another candidate and support him so he can win the election.”
“If there was someone raring to go with the position, then they should have been candidates already. There’s clearly something wrong there. Don’t tell me you’re going to talk to people one by one for their support?”
“But, um, if we just talk to the people who’d lend us a hand, then…”
Yuigahama answered in fragments while trying to think.
“…Fine. So let’s say we did find someone willing to run for the position. But can that person win against this first year here? I’m sure you’re already aware, but high school student council elections are essentially popularity votes.”
I glanced at Isshiki.
This was a surprisingly high hurdle to overcome.
A quick peek at Isshiki and you’d see that she was cute. Normally speaking, it was fine to even call her a beautiful girl. With a playful, cheerful, gentle, and bright demeanor, it was pretty likely she was a hit amongst the guys in the school.
In high school student council elections, the main issue didn’t lie with the campaign pledge or manifesto.
Regardless of what school system reformations they had promised to make, everyone fully understood that there was a small chance of them ever happening. Things like coming to school with casual clothes or loosening up the school regulations or even freeing up the rooftop were things they’d talk about in the election, but there really never was a precedent where any of these campaign promises actually came to light.
That meant that the name of the game was one of the following: a candidate’s popularity or a candidate’s ability to round up an organization to get voted to office.
With that kind of popularity contest in mind, the ones that came directly to mind that could win these types of contests easily would be Hayama and Miura. But, Hayama was part of the soccer club, president even, and Miura as the student council president just didn’t fit her image either.
So that meant we needed to lower the bar a bit when looking for a capable individual, but the chances of that dropped considerably.
Not to mention, it wasn’t as simple as asking the person and being done with it.
There was still another big problem left.
“Before the day of the election, there are things like picking cabinet members, promoting the campaign, and other election activities. Do you think you can do all of that by then? You have to be doing them with the intention of winning too. If you have something else realistic in mind, then by all means. But given the current situation, I don’t see that being possible at all.”
I spoke with full confidence that it was impossible. The calmer I tried to talk, the deeper the tone of my voice started to sound. I wasn’t trying to come off as critical, but my tone clearly said otherwise.
With a look of surprise, Meguri called out to me. Taking a step back to look at myself, I realized I was irritated.
Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were both silent.
Both of them were already fully aware of what the implications were despite whether I had voiced them or not. A little thinking and a little knowledge of how the school operated was enough to understand what was going on.
Even so, we continued to be quiet because we couldn’t come up with a clear answer to the problem.
The awkward atmosphere lingered in the room.
At the corner of my eyes, Isshiki was sighing in exhaustion. Isshiki was exposing her unpleasant attitude that clearly indicated she didn’t want to be in here.
Watching someone who was tired gets you tired too. I unconsciously sighed occasionally in this silence.
“Doesn’t look like we’re getting a solution any time soon.”
Miss Hiratsuka, who was leaning against the wall the entire time, spoke up and energetically distanced herself from the wall. As if that was a signal, we switched our crossed legs and did a little stretching.
After Yukinoshita corrected her sitting posture, she called out to Meguri.
“…Shiromeguri, could you come back another time?”
“Eh, ah, okay… Sure, no problem.”
Meguri who responded with a mix of bewilderment was pushed from behind by Miss Hiratsuka.
“Well then, let’s continue this another day. Shiromeguri, Isshiki. Let’s get going.”
Just as she was about to push the two out of the room, Yukinoshita called out. Her expression was much colder than the usual, giving you a passionate impression.
“Miss Hiratsuka. Do you have a moment?”
“Ah, then, we’ll be going then.”
Realizing what was going on, Meguri took Isshiki and left the room. After seeing them off, Miss Hiratsuka turned towards us.
“Okay then, let’s hear what you have to say.”
After pulling out a chair, she sat down with her legs crossed.
× × ×
Just a little longer and the room would become darker. In contrast, the sky outside the window was dyed with a crimson red.
As we approached closer to the winter solstice, the evening would inch earlier and earlier day by day.
Miss Hiratsuka waited motionlessly for Yukinoshita to start.
The tea on the table had already lost all its warmth and the candy prepared was left untouched.
The hands of the clock continued to move and occasionally you would hear someone sighing in exhaustion. An unknown amount of time had passed and eventually, Yukinoshita spoke up.
“There was something that I just remembered.”
“Ah? What is it?”
Without answering me, Yukinoshita faced Miss Hiratsuka.
“Has there been a clear winner so far?”
When asked, Miss Hiratsuka blinked. Yuigahama and I did as well. The word “winner” that was brought up suddenly caused us to tilt our head in confusion.
But, thinking about it for a little made me realize what she was talking about.
To us, the winner in this case would refer to the match we had been involved in a while back.
Which of us could solve the most troubles or in other words, who we could serve the most. And the winner had the right to make the loser do whatever they wanted.
It was something I was thrown into the moment I joined this club.
Yuigahama peeked at us as she asked.
Speaking of which, this contest did have a new rule added to it.
“It’s a match of who can serve people the best, in other words, who can solve the problems of others the most. It doesn’t matter who you ask for help in accomplishing the objective. If you win, the other person has to do whatever you want them to.”
When I explained it in simple terms, Yuigahama spoke, half surprised and half confused.
“There was something like that…”
It looked like Miss Hiratsuka didn’t explain it to her. Well, I could guess at why she didn’t do so.
Taking a look at the culprit who started this contest, Miss Hiratsuka was flustered.
She crossed her arms and groaned while twisting her head.
“I-I wonder huh~. W-Well, you know, you guys have been working together for a lot of the requests and all~. Yep. Everyone’s doing a nice job, yep.”
Yukinoshita’s cold expression didn’t falter as she continued to look at Miss Hiratsuka in silence.
Miss Hiratsuka sighed with exhaustion. It looked like she was trying to change the subject, but she gave in to the pressure of that serious look. But, that’s true. Recently, there were a lot of things that came up that made it hard to decide who the winner was. Most of the problems that had been settled were done as the service club and not as individuals.
Even so, Yukinoshita wasn’t going to let this ambiguity continue any further. As Yukinoshita continued with her intensity, Miss Hiratsuka faced her.
“Aside from the first task, you guys have been doing things in places that I wasn’t aware of. Strictly speaking, I’m a little reluctant to give you a proper judgment right now. It’s just…”
When she stopped abruptly, Yukinoshita asked further. Miss Hiratsuka looked at each of us in turn and slowly spoke.
“My bias and my own personal judgment. Those two are factors in what I will have to say. So essentially, it’ll be judgments based on you three alone.”
“I don’t mind… You two are fine with that too, right?”
Yukinoshita looked at us with a side glance.
I didn’t have a problem with it. Yuigahama looked like she wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but nodded anyway.
Having confirmed our responses, Miss Hiratsuka nodded again.
“If we’re talking about just the results alone, then Hikigaya is one step further. If we consider the process and what happens afterwards, then Yukinoshita is ahead. Anyhow, there were also other things that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Yuigahama’s contribution, but…”
That was a surprising evaluation. It was more than I thought.
If I thought about it in more detail, there were plenty of places where I was inferior, but the ruling was quite different from what I thought it’d be.
As I moved my glance towards the other two to see what their reaction was, Yuigahama was lost in deep thought thinking about something quietly.
On the other hand, Yukinoshita sat there straight with her eyes closed and didn’t move an inch. And then she spoke with an emotional, monotonous tone.
“…So, that means the match hasn’t been decided yet.”
“That’s what it comes down to.”
Miss Hiratsuka answered to which Yukinoshita continued to press for more.
“If the match is still ongoing, then there won’t be a problem with our opinions being divided this time, correct?”
“…Um, what do you mean?”
Yuigahama’s shoulders slightly shrunk in anxiety.
In the same way, I didn’t understand the meaning behind Yukinoshita’s words and waited for her to continue speaking.
Yukinoshita looked at Yuigahama but not me and spoke.
“It means that him and I aren’t required to do things the same way.”
It was exactly as Yukinoshita said. In the first place, we weren’t obligated to work with each other. There wasn’t one time where we worked together well. I thought that was just how we were.
“Well, that seems right. There isn’t any point in trying to cooperate out of necessity.”
Yukinoshita replied with a short answer. The conversation was over. Miss Hiratsuka took those words into consideration for a moment, but ultimately sighed in resignation.
“Guess there’s no helping it. You guys should do as you please then. So until the problem is solved, what about the club?”
Once asked, Yukinoshita answered instantly without hesitation as if she already knew what she was going to do with the club.
“You have the freedom to come to the club if you like.”
“…Well, that’s the correct decision.”
Hiratsuka-sensei looked convinced. At the very least, the way we were now, there wouldn’t be any meaning for us to sit in this room silently. If we’re going to be doing things our own way, there wasn’t a need for us to gather in this room. That’s why I had no qualms regarding this decision.
I picked up my bag and left the seat that was always on the other end of the table.
“I’ll be heading home then.”
“Ah, w-wait a second!”
Yuigahama stood up with the chair clattering noisily. I stopped Yuigahama who looked like she was going to head my way.
“…You should think about what you should do too.”
Yuigahama stood there motionless. Does she really know what I mean? I mean, there were other times like this anyway.
More than likely, we had to think about what would happen in the future.
As she stood there, I turned my back on her and headed for the door.
There was a sigh directed at my back.
“We were both supposed to have hated the act of getting along with others just for show…”
I turned my head naturally in response to Yukinoshita’s words.
With no words that could possibly answer to that seemingly sad smile without the slightest hint of self-deprecation, I silently closed the door behind me.
× × ×
I repositioned the heavy, flinging bag around my shoulders and walked down the empty hallway. The sound of footsteps reverberated throughout the hall quite nicely.
Looking at the school campus from the window, you could see the sport clubs still in their activities.
Eventually, they finally started cleaning up along with some after-exercise stretches. The expansive field started to gradually submerge in shadows.
As I continued to walk along while watching that shadow, emotional footsteps could be heard chasing me from behind.
Called out, I stopped at that moment. The owner of the voice was someone I knew. That’s why I stood there in place without turning my head.
Miss Hiratsuka sped up her pace and stood next to me.
“I imagine it’d be pointless to ask but…”
She combed her long hair roughly with a small complaint. That’s the teacher for you, quite all foreseeing.
But, it was something that she had to ask no matter what. We both descended the stairs.
“Did something happen?”
“Nothing at all.”
I wasn’t sure how many times I had said that already.
If I were to continue repeating those same words over and over again, I thought I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. Instead, I’d just end up having doubts about my own words.
As if Miss Hiratsuka knew or didn’t know about that feeling, she smiled bitterly.
“I see. Well, that’s fine. I didn’t think you’d be honest enough to answer anyway.”
And from then on, she never asked another question. Miss Hiratsuka and I continued down the stairs and into the hallway in silence. Around the next corner was the faculty office and straight ahead would be the front entrance.
As we approached the point where we would go our separate ways, before I could say anything, Miss Hiratsuka spoke first.
“You are kind after all… There were a lot of people you saved too.”
I thought that was different. Kindness or saving people were things that were not meant for me. I wasn’t a human capable of that.
Besides, people simply don’t just save people for the sake of it. What they really did was look for someone beneath them and get into a mood to help them. By discovering a meaning behind a person’s actions, they use it to comfort themselves.
That’s why I didn’t do anything at all.
I wanted to deny what she said but with a light wink, Miss Hiratsuka stopped me.
“It’s from the evaluation earlier.”
“…Quite the overestimate, don’t you think?”
I retorted back, but Miss Hiratsuka puffed out her chest with pride.
“I may look like this, but I’m the type to play favorites.”
“Is that what a teacher should be doing?”
“It’s my very own praising policy, you see.”
She said it without a hint of shyness. So that’s how it was… I don’t remember being praised all that much though…
“That’s kind of hard to see …”
I shrugged my shoulders as I said that and Miss Hiratsuka smiled.
“Of course, I make sure to scold just as much.”
The school building that was designed to mirror that of a ship with many windows was illuminated by the evening sun. In the silent hallway reflected was the gentle setting sun. But, the light of the sun was by no means warm.
Miss Hiratsuka stood on the opposite end of where the light shone in, blocking the sunlight.
She began to walk in the opposite direction of the front entrance towards the faculty office. In the moment that she passed me, she lightly patted my shoulders.
“With the way you handle things, when you meet someone you really want to save, you won’t be able to at all.”
The sound of a single footstep echoed in the hallway.
That sound gradually grew farther and farther.
- Election administration(ors) in Japanese is pronounced senkan (せんかん) which incidentally is the same way you pronounce the word that means battleships in Japanese. ↩