Following the end of November, the nights became considerably colder.
Although that was supposed to be the case, I was drenched in sweat because halfway through on my way back, I pedaled my bike with all my might.
While breathing heavily, I entered the house.
I went directly to the bath as I was, threw off my uniform, and showered from head to toe.
The water that I set to hot painfully stung my chilled body.
No matter how much I rinsed, I was unable to wash away my mood, so I gave up and turned off the water.
The only thing reflected in the mirror was my drenched self. As always, I was making the same ridiculous, gloomy expression.
I left the bath, wiped down my body, and changed into my house clothes.
When I went upstairs to the living room, the only one there was my cat, Kamakura. He was sleeping in the meatloaf position on the cushions of the sofa.
Nothing was better than animal therapy when you were tired. I biked way too hard and with the outrageous amount of built up lactic acid, my fatigue was out of this world.
When I sat on the sofa, I turned Kamakura around, stretched him out, flicked his ears, squished his paws, and buried my face in his stomach. Crap, this was super fun.
Kamakura stared at me looking super irritated from being played around with. It was a look that implied nothing ,but “What’s with this punk, meow…?” You totally hated it eh? You’re a funny fellow.
I noticed my laugh turned into a sigh.
“Sorry about that.”
I apologized to Kamakura by stroking him once, but he turned his face away and jumped off the sofa. He went up to the front of the door, jumped up to the knob, and skillfully opened it. He then left the living room. Hey, make sure to close the door, will ya? It’s winter so it’s freaking cold.
With Kamakura gone, I was completely alone.
Usually, this was a valuable period of time where I could relax and pass the time.
However, for how quiet it was, I was thinking of the same thing in my head the entire time.
They were about the student council election. I lost count of how many times I had gone between questioning and answering things about it.
Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. In the event that either one of them becomes the student council president, what problem might occur? That was the loss of the Service Club. That was fine in itself. It was inevitable. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Even if nothing came up, once we graduated, the club would disappear.
Then what was the problem? I already knew from the start that the club would disappear. So where was the problem there?
Wait, no, in the first place, why was I trying to look for a problem?
In fact, the act of trying to look for a problem itself would become the problem; so basically, the L’Cie chosen by the Pulse Fal’cie were purged from Cocoon…1
Whether I was thinking seriously or stupidly, an answer wouldn’t come to mind.
I looked up to the ceiling and let out a deep sigh.
If I didn’t understand the problem, then there shouldn’t be an answer.
What it came down to was that I didn’t have a “reason” that would be the prerequisite.
A reason to just move and to just act. A reason that captured the problem.
If there wasn’t a reason that was the cause, then there would be no problem.
Isshiki’s request was something nearly settled, what with Yukinoshita and Yuigahama running as candidates. You could even say that their plan was perfect with a high rate of success.
In that case, I had no turn.
That’s why, as far as Isshiki’s case was concerned, there was no reason to go against those two.
But even so, there was still this uneasy feeling that I needed to do something left. The question “was this okay as it is?” kept repeating itself. Every time, I would refute it, only for it to be asked again and I would refute it once more, this repetition never ending.
Jeez, what an awful disposition. Realizing things halfway through was quite a problem itself too.
Still, most of the problems up until now were settled just because. In the first place, there wasn’t anyone who I could talk to about my problems, but even if there was someone, I wouldn’t have gone to them anyway.
People should only approach those who they could reach or those who supported them.
If you tried to cross beyond the boundary to rely on them, both of you would meet your end. For instance, it was similar to asking a friend who you had a transparent relationship with to be your cosigner for a loan.
With that reason, the range of whom I could rely on was incredibly narrow.
As long you couldn’t properly be someone’s support, then you couldn’t afford to ask for support yourself.
If we both met our end together, then I would be trampling on the kindness of the person who extended out their hand to me. I’d be trampling on the trust of the person who relied on me.
Living life without being a bother to others was the creed of loners. Not being the extra baggage of others was their pride. Therefore, the things that I normally could do were my pride.
That’s why, I wouldn’t rely on anyone and I wouldn’t let anyone rely on me.
But if there was one exception to the rule, then that would be family.
You could bother your family as much as you wanted. I wouldn’t mind regardless of how much a bother my family was to me.
Your family members would approach you freely with their trust and kindness and extend their hands out to you regardless of the possibility of the situation.
Even if my pops was kind of a super useless person, even if my mom was pretty lively and could be pretty annoying sometimes, even if I was a complete good-for-nothing, and even if my little sister who was cute and a little bit mean-spirited was somewhat shallow.
That relationship didn’t need a reason.
In fact, even the reason “it’s because they’re family” would suffice.
Of course, it was the same when you couldn’t forgive someone or hated someone.
But suppose if I were to rely on someone right now.
Then would that someone be from my family?
It’s just, well, this wasn’t a topic that I could talk about with pops and mom… Some use they were. They only existed to raise me, occasionally scold me, and give me love, didn’t they? Worry about old age and your health before you worry about me, jeez. There were screaking sounds as the door of the living room opened.
Was it Kamakura again? Or so I thought as I turned around. The one who entered the living room was Komachi wearing a shirt bigger than her size.
Komachi looked like she was taking a break from her studies and came down to get a drink as she opened the refrigerator while ignoring me. But apparently there wasn’t anything she seemed to like as she closed the door.
She looked like she only came down for a drink as she was about to leave the living room. I unintentionally called out to her from behind.
“…What is it?”
Komachi moved only her head and looked at me from the side. She’s still angry huh… Maybe this wasn’t the best time to talk to her. But if I just told her it was nothing, it’d probably worsen her mood.
“Aah… do you want coffee?”
I stumbled for a moment before I asked her and Komachi nodded slightly.
I stood up and got ready to make coffee. I poured water in the teakettle and set it. While waiting for it to boil, I took out two mugs and grabbed instant coffee.
Komachi rested her chin on her hands on the kitchen counter, waiting wordlessly for the water to boil.
I stood there wordlessly as well.
Eventually, the water boiled and I poured it into the mugs. The smell of coffee and the warmth of the water ascended. I turned the handle of the mug towards Komachi and handed it to her.
Komachi took the cup and headed for the door. It looked like she was going to go back to her room.
The way she was moving clearly said not to talk to her until things cooled down between us, but not learning my lesson, I called out to her.
Komachi stopped in front of the door. However, she stood there silently waiting for my words without turning to me.
Was she thinking how I wouldn’t give up despite saying something so late? As I worried about that, I spoke.
“…I have something I need to talk to you about.”
“Mm. I’ll hear you out.”
But Komachi responded instantly and rested against the wall.
After facing each other for the first time after a whole week, we both looked at each other and laughed after a long time.
Komachi momentarily stopped her laugh and lightly cleared her throat.
“But before that, there’s something else you need to say, right?”
It was as Komachi said. We were having a fight just moments ago so asking for a consultation out of the blue was too selfish. I scratched my head as I searched for the words I needed to say.
“…Well, you know, last time was kinda that. Sorry for speaking to you like that.”
Komachi then had a puffy, sullen look.
“It’s not just that. Your attitude, your personality, and also your eyes.”
With that laid out before me, I didn’t have a single rebuttal. Komachi continued further.
“Besides, I bet it was your fault that whatever happened anyway.”
“Aah, you got that right.”
There were no words I could respond with. Komachi’s questioning continued on.
“Also, you still haven’t apologized.”
“Nng…. True enough.”
When she brought it up, the words I expressed earlier probably weren’t words you could call an apology.
Just as I was about to properly say it one more time, Komachi let out a small sigh. And then in resignation, she smiled kindly.
“But, well, considering it’s onii-chan, that’s good enough, as far as Komachi’s concerned. Komachi’s your little sister, after all. So I’ll forgive you.”
“Thanks for that…”
While I was the one who made her angry, wasn’t she just being a little too cheeky right now…? I got the feeling my discontent was showing in my voice and face. Of course, Komachi noticed so I looked away for a bit and cleared my throat.
“Also… Komachi’s sorry too.”
Komachi was awfully polite in her bowing. Seeing that, I couldn’t help, but smile sarcastically.
“Nah, you don’t need to worry about it. I’ll forgive you. I’m your big brother after all.”
“Whaaa, this person’s so arrogant!”
We both chuckled as we spoke. And then slowly drank our coffee. The coffee tasted delicious despite not having any milk, sugar, or condensed milk in it.
Komachi placed her mug on the table and asked me.
“So, what happened?”
“It’s a long story.”
When I answered, Komachi moved to the sofa and sat next to me.
× × ×
Narrating the long, long story had ended. I told her the circumstances regarding the field trip and now, the student council election.
Komachi brought back more coffee from the kitchen and placed it on the table in front of the sofa.
“I see… That sounds like something you’d do.”
Her first thought she expressed was that.
“But you know, the only one who would see that would be just me. Because we’ve been living together for so long I can understand.”
I reached out for my mug. Komachi poured milk and a good amount of sugar, making the coffee just warm.
She quietly sat next to me and Komachi put her mug to her mouth. She took a sip and raised her head.
“I’d just think this person’s so dumb and just laugh it off. I’d even think how really hopeless this person is, but… I would be a little sad.”
Komachi lifted her legs onto the sofa and hugged her knees.
“But that doesn’t apply to other people. They won’t understand at all and I think they’ll find it very painful too.”
I wasn’t looking for anyone to understand. That was likely something you would call self-satisfaction. In truth, they were actions that weren’t for anyone’s sake. There was no way they could understand or sympathize.
But the one exception was my little sister, Komachi. However, Komachi had a slightly sad smile.
“You’re kind to me, but that’s only because I’m your little sister… If I wasn’t your little sister, I’m sure you wouldn’t get anywhere close to me.”
“Nah, I dunno about that.”
When she said so, I gave it some thought.
Komachi who wasn’t my little sister… Whoa, what’s with this beautiful, ultra, marvelous girl with such high specs? I definitely could see a future where I committed suicide after getting my proposal to her instantly rejected, so I definitely had to avoid getting closer to her…
I see. But that would never happen. In the first place, I couldn’t imagine Komachi ever not being my little sister. Even so, it probably wasn’t just about getting along with anyone. It didn’t matter whether Komachi was my little sister or not, I hadn’t associated with anyone in the first place…
Komachi was Komachi. There wasn’t any meaning in supposing she wasn’t my little sister.
“Well, putting that supposition aside, I’m glad you’re my little sister though. That just now was definitely high in Hachiman points.”
Komachi covered her face as if trying to hide her wet eyes. She also added a big service by sniffing with tears of joy. But that ended earlier than it should have and in the next moment, she spoke sarcastically with a nonchalant expression.
“Well, for Komachi, if you weren’t my onii-chan, I definitely wouldn’t get anywhere near you, let alone consider you at all.”
…Wait a second? Was this girl still mad? Those words were bordering on the line of domestic violence, so could you please stop?
“Nah, wait, so you say, but even I have some good things to me too, right?”
“None at all. Gosh, I don’t want this. Such a pain.”
You didn’t have to go that far… You just made big brother really sad. Not to mention she had a pretty serious face just now.
She really wasn’t cute at all…
As I clicked my tongue while unpleasantly thinking, Komachi quickly smiled and pushed against my body.
“But this is just how we show our love after a good 15 years together. Ah, that scored high Komachi points!”
Uh huh, the words you said earlier were definitely low on the Komachi points though.
But oddly enough, Komachi’s words were convincing.
“…Well, I guess that’s how it is after living together for fifteen years, huh?”
The time that we accumulated definitely had weight to it. At least to my uncute little sister who thought of it dearly.
Suddenly, my shoulders got heavy. When I looked, Komachi was resting her body against mine.
“Fifteen years from now. No, that’s not it. There’s definitely a longer period than that too.”
That was surely about the possibilities. The possibility that in the same way it took fifteen years for me to get along well Komachi, there might be someone else who I could do the same with.
But for me right now, that wouldn’t be realistic.
“Quit it with the sophism.”
“How long do you think I’ve been listening to your sophistry?”
When I responded, Komachi replied back sullenly. She then poked my cheeks with her fingers.
“There’re things now and things later! Got that!?”
When I answered, Komachi nodded in acknowledgment and pulled her fingers away from my cheeks. She then made a solemn expression.
“…It’s not just you, but also for Komachi. There’re still plenty of things down the road for us. I really like Yukino-san and Yui-san. That’s why I’ll be in a bind if that club disappears. I mean, if it’s gone, then we’ll all drift apart.”
Just because you see each other every day didn’t mean you’d get along. If you didn’t ever meet with the person you got along with, then you’d drift apart anyway. This inversely proportional relationship that the emotions of people had was something I couldn’t explain.
With her head resting on my shoulders, Komachi spoke with a gentle voice.
“That’s why for my sake, for my friends’ sake, isn’t there something that can be done?”
“…If it’s my little sister asking, how could I say no?”
I was a fantastic older brother who would normally do what I could for my little sister.
That was the one answer Komachi had given me.
If she never said it, then I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
The reason that I was always searching for somewhere.
I muttered and Komachi smiled, speaking in a monotone voice.
“Uh huh, it’s for Komachi’s sake after all. Komachi’s super selfish after all. You can’t say no after all!”
I violently rubbed Komachi’s head. While going “kyaaa”, Komachi shook her face along with my hands.
Komachi proudly answered to my gratitude. I moved my hands away from Komachi’s head and looked at the clock.
“Guess we should sleep. It’s pretty late.”
“Okay, good night then.”
Komachi stood up and went back to her room.
As I saw her off, I collapsed onto the sofa once again.
I managed to get a hold of a reason and the problem.
I still didn’t understand what Yukinoshita’s intent was. That’s why I wasn’t able to say anything up until now.
And I wasn’t convinced of Yuigahama’s method. But I could understand it. Because it resembled how I did things.
At some point, my way of doing things wasn’t akin to self-sacrifice. There wasn’t anything mistaken about it.
I dealt out the hand that was limited in number, aimed for efficiency, and did my best. As a result, something was definitely gained.
That’s why, subjectively, I could say it was perfect from my view.
But if an objective alternative existed, then that perfection would crumble to pieces.
Even in the stares of pity and sympathy reflected clichéd narcissism. Pity and sympathy were emotions that looked down on others. Self-pity was the act of humiliating yourself. Both were despicable and completely ugly acts.
But there definitely existed something more objective beyond pity and sympathy.
When it was vividly dangled before my eyes, it was the first time I became aware of it.
I just didn’t want anyone to be hurt.
That feeling was something different from pity and sympathy.
That’s why, I definitely wouldn’t call her actions self-sacrifice and I definitely wouldn’t let anyone call it that.
In order to keep Yukinoshita Yukino and Yuigahama Yui from becoming the student council president.
What is it that Hikigaya Hachiman can do?
× × ×
It was the following morning after making up with Komachi.
I’ve been thinking ever since the morning.
About what it is that Hikigaya Hachiman could do.
But I couldn’t think of a single thing and it freaked me out how serious I was at it. H-Huh? Now that’s odd… I felt like I could do anything last night too…
In thinking about it, in the first place, my current position didn’t have the luxury of a lot of choices to pick from.
For example, suppose I went against them by becoming a candidate for the student council president. So what then? Then, I wouldn’t even be able to do that because I wouldn’t be able to amass endorsements.
Or what if I tried to obstruct their campaign activities? But that also had no meaning if I did it by myself. Besides, libel and slander in the form of fliers was different from hate speech. It’s not like I wanted to trick them or cause them any backlash.
I could only come up with two things and one of them was to obstruct them… It was surprising how little I could do.
In the student council election where it was law that the majority would absolutely win, for someone of my caliber, our compatibility was quite terrible.
But this was my just desserts. There was no one who I could ask for cooperation. The kind of relationship you were forgiven for being a burden to the other person was something I had not forged up until now with anyone.
What tormented me now was my past self. It’s likely my future self may be tormented by my current self.
After getting to school, I continued to think and think, but nothing ever came to mind. Even though I had finally obtained an objective too.
Even in the afternoon, I still couldn’t think of anything. There was barely any time left before the day of the election. The voting would take place next week on Thursday. Today was Tuesday.
Although there was plenty of time given the remaining week of time, I was the only one who could do the job. On top of that, I didn’t even have one plan that could oppose them either.
Prevent Isshiki Iroha from being elected as the student council president as well as not letting Yukinoshita and Yuigahama get elected. I couldn’t help but think how unfeasible this sounded regardless of whatever clever scheme I could think of.
The one and only possibility was introducing a new candidate. But I was the one who rejected that notion.
Postpone the election? Or destroy the very system of the student president council election itself?
But those two approaches just weren’t realistic. I was at a complete stalemate.
Even so, I still had to do something.
I headed to the library to search for things I could do even if I was alone.
The library during lunch was deserted.
Because the library was well off from class and didn’t allow eating or drinking, it wasn’t a very popular place to be. It was only before term tests when the library would be crowded.
I examined the book shelves to look for material regarding civil rights, history books on Sobu High School, and documents that looked like it had rough outlines of the student council election.
Suppose those two were aiming to win the election. They had to think about their campaign platform as well as their campaign speech. If something came to mind while I was searching for these types of documents, then I lucked out. If I came across a loophole in the election, then bingo.
But, unable to find any suitable documents, I made continuous trips back and forth to the shelves. If I noticed anything closely resembling to what I was looking for, I would pull it out.
As I extended out my hand to the highest shelf, my fingers were caught by something and a book fell down.
I reflexively avoided the book by moving my head, but instead, it crashed onto my chest. As I unintentionally hacked out a cough, I choked on the saliva that entered my trachea.
As I stood there coughing violently, a thick book that was sticking out on the shelf caused the neighboring books to lose their balance as they tilted over. This then led to a domino effect with the thin and light books hitting the floor noisily.
The sound of falling books and my violent fit echoed in the quiet library and the few people using the library looked at me with distant eyes. No, no, I understand how you guys feel. I take the same attitude when I see annoying idiots in the library too.
So I somehow kept my coughing to a minimum and worked to restore the original state of the books.
There were scattered books at my feet and collapsed books on the shelves.
Aaaaah, what am I going to do about this? Jeez.
I let out a rough snort and I kneeled down to pick up the books. When I did, an overbearing, high voice called out to me from behind my curled back.
“What a wretched sight, Hikigaya Hachiman. Wahaha!”
I didn’t have to turn around to tell who it was. Zaimokuza Yoshiteru was standing behind me, laughing loudly.
“Don’t go spouting dumb crap. This wretchedness is set to default for me. You need something?”
“That’s a foolish inquiry. During lunch, I usually abide my time here. And then when you showed up, I thought I would express my greetings!”
Damn it, you’re so annoying, so lame, and such a pain. Just this small of an exchange and I was already having this feeling of fatigue. My shoulders dropped even further in addition to its level with my curled back.
Zaimokuza looked at me and suddenly kneeled down and met my eyes.
“…Hm? What’s the matter Hachiman? Could it be that something worries you?”
“…Not at all, it’s just useless musings, that’s all.”
It wasn’t anything to talk about to other people. But Zaimokuza readjusted his glasses and spoke.
“No, I’m good. It’s not something others should be listening to.”
“Don’t say something so foolish. How many times do you think I’ve had you listen to my idle chatter to this day…? I’ll at least hear out your story… Hmph, I, who extend a helping hand to the weak, am super cool.”
Did you get drunk on yourself perhaps? And also, “weak”, you say… Was it that? Were you the type that had the desire of wanting to try and nurse a frail girl back to good health? I could understand that a little.
But regardless of what his intentions were, I wasn’t expecting those words to come from Zaimokuza. A smile spilled out on my face because of that.
“…Maybe if you didn’t add those last few words at the end. So, who are you copying?”
I told him and Zaimokuza proudly smiled.
“No, it was from me.”
“Idiot. Don’t go saying something so cool.”
I was half impressed and half sad.
But still, Zaimokuza, huh… Up until now, there was absolutely no trace of him in my memories, but if it was him, then I might be able to rely on him.
If it’s him, then…
Right. If it’s him, then it wouldn’t make my heart ache at all even if I was a burden on him. I didn’t even need to consider whether he was taking any damage or not because he was already taking fatal damage. He was a man who lived on, unable to take anything back. In another meaning, he was an existence closest to mine.
Jeez, talk about unreliable. However, he was someone you could believe in to destroy the mood whether it was good or bad. Above all else, we had been pairs in gym class for a long time. We’re just a completely, useless pairing though.
“…Zaimokuza, I have a favor.”
“Oh homn, very well. So? What shall we do first?”
I was surprised by his immediate response and I still had yet to think of what to ask of him.
“Let’s see… First, help me clean up.”
“R-Right… Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed after all…”
He was probably expecting a cool development. Zaimokuza suddenly reverted back to his true self and after letting out a small murmur, he obediently began organizing the book shelf.
Sorry to say, but it absolutely wouldn’t turn into the developments Zaimokuza were fond of. If anything, it was going to end badly. Zaimokuza and I would be teaming up. It’s obvious where this was heading.
× × ×
I gave Zaimokuza a quick rundown of the student council election and left the matter of what we were going to do specifically for after school.
In the time during afternoon classes, I gave some consideration into how I could play the piece called Zaimokuza with the current. But should I say that it was unfortunate or that it was obvious? Nothing came to mind. Is there really anything Zaimokuza and I could do, I wonder…?
In the end, I couldn’t think of anything and it was approaching after school. I had to meet up with Zaimokuza afterwards. Although I was the one who asked him for a favor, it was my bad personality’s fault that made me think that maybe this was a little bit of a pain after all.
Once homeroom ended, my classmates left the classroom. Those who went to club, those who went home, those who went out to have fun; everybody headed in different directions.
Amongst those people was a tightly knit group that didn’t leave the classroom. A group with blond, brown, and black hair naturally attracted the attention around them.
Rustling her pink dyed brown hair while looking perplexed, Yuigahama groaned.
In her hand was a mechanical pencil, but there were no signs of it moving.
Sitting in a seat next to her and pulling at her blonde curls was Miura who gasped as if she thought of something.
“Ah, how about casual clothes when coming to school?”
Yuigahama pointed at Miura and immediately jotted it down on her piece of paper. But once again, her hands stopped moving and she began to stutter.
Sitting across from them was Ebina-san who was also combing through her short black hair and she groaned as she contemplated.
“It’d be nice if we could get rid of personal belonging searches! They like to do that every now and then. Having something that really puts me in a bind, you see. I tend to leave the doujinshis I borrow from my friends in my bag after all.”
“That only applies to you, Ebina.”
Miura said that to Ebina-san who giggled amusingly.
“H-Hmmmm, I-I’ll write it down for now.”
“You don’t need to write it down. Anyway, I totally want to eat on the rooftop too.”
“I’ll take that too!”
Apparently, the three were thinking of what kind of platform they were going with for their campaign speech. It was likely because of club that Hayama and the others weren’t present. That said, Hayama was doing the speech for Yukinoshita, so he couldn’t cooperate with Yuigahama either.
Ever since Miura witnessed Hayama hanging out with Orimoto and her friend the other day, Miura would look agitated and absentminded, but since the actual person in question wasn’t present, she was having a good time without having to be conscious of him.
“Also, the bus is too crowded. It’s annoying.”
She twirled her hair with her hands and crossed her long legs as she answered… Actually, she might even be worse than usual.
“Is that really something the student council should be dealing with…? Well, whatever, I’ll write it anyway.”
Yuigahama thought as she listened to Miura and after pressing her pencil against her head, she wrote it down. Following this, Ebina-san quickly clapped her hands.
“Ah, I also want a tablet in the arts room.”
“Tablet… I’m not sure I understand, but I’ll write it down anyway!”
As I watched those three from a distance, I stood up from my seat.
…Yuigahama was seriously planning on entering the election, huh? How she’s approaching it and how she’s handling it was very like her.
× × ×
When I headed for the Saizeriya near the station, Zaimokuza had already arrived. It was times like these that he was convenient since I could easily find him without checking the entire store. I headed to where he was sitting, pulled out a chair, and sat.
“Sorry for making you wait.”
I spoke and Zaimokuza waved his hands indicating not to mind it. His mouth moved as he chewed and on the table was an empty plate. Apparently he was eating something. Judging by the leftover flour on the plate, he was likely eating focaccia. Near the plate was opened gomme syrup. Eating the focaccia smeared with gomme syrup must be pretty good, huh?
Speaking of which, I missed eating lunch this afternoon. I guess I’ll order something too or so I thought when the moment I opened up the menu, I had a sudden realization. Even if I talked it over with Zaimokuza, that didn’t mean we’d come across a revelation so easily. It’s possible that this could take a while. If that was the case, then I may have to consider dinner as well.
I took out my cellphone and called Komachi. An unknown song played instead of the usual dialing tone. Why was it that every time I called her, there would always be some song playing…? As I thought that, Komachi picked up the phone.
“I don’t need dinner today.”
“Just meeting with Zaimokuza, er, well, you know, a meeting of the sort.”
“…Hmmm, where are you eating?”
“The Saizeriya near school.”
The phone cut off. Being able to get the message across in less than thirty seconds with minimal words made it easier for me.
Zaimokuza was watching me from the side while drinking his cola in gulps and spoke up with a motivated tone.
“Now then, Hachiman. Shall we get started…? Although I’m still unclear as to what will get started.”
Despite not understanding the situation, he was still so motivated. Rather than feeling he was dependable, I was feeling uneasy instead.
“Before that, you mind if I grab a bite? I’m starving.”
“Hmph, so you need to fill your stomach, is that it? Eat as you please.”
“My gratitude to you.”
After I said that, I pressed the order button. As a pro Saizerian (customers of Saizeriya), I didn’t fret over what to order. For the most part, most of the regular menu was in my head and the only time I needed to check the menu was for seasonal limited offers and new products. And then, in the time it takes the waiter to come take my order, I review all the combinations and decide.
By the time the waiter arrived, my order was already ready to go.
“Milanese Doria and the Mixed Grill with the drink bar.”
Beeping sounds could be heard as the waiter pressed into the smartphone-like handheld device the order and Zaimokuza reservedly raised his hand.
“Ah, can I also get Spicy Chicken… Ah, also Hayashi Tumeric too.”
You’re still going to eat…? No, that’s fine. It’s pretty good after all. Chicken that is.
× × ×
Dinner took nearly an hour and with our stomachs full, we decided to get into the main topic. I took a sip of my coffee and spoke to Zaimokuza.
“Alright, you got the explanation about the election, right?”
“Indeed. So the main idea is how we will go about keeping those two from getting elected, correct?”
Zaimokuza nodded in exaggeration. But after thinking for a moment, he groaned.
“What is it?”
“Why can’t those two be elected?”
He tilted his head and asked me a very naïve question. Well, that was something typical to ask. In reality, the number of people against those two becoming the president was few and far in between. Or I should say it was more likely that the majority didn’t care who got elected.
I personally had a reason of my own. But saying it to him honestly made me hesitate. I wasn’t confident I’d be able to explain it well either.
Instead, I shot a question back at Zaimokuza.
“If Yukinoshita or Yuigahama became president, what kind of school do you think it would turn into?”
“Hmph, it may very well become a world unkind to someone like me…”
Sweat dripped down Zaimokuza’s brow as he answered.
“Well, that understanding’s good enough.”
But even if Yukinoshita or Yuigahama became president, I don’t think the school would undergo any big changes. Student councils in high school didn’t have the power to change the school from the bottom up. What I said just now was nothing more than sophistry. I didn’t think Zaimokuza would be completely convinced with this, but I had to go with this sophistry to get him on board.
“So, the question is what we will be doing exactly…”
Just as he was about to move the conversation along, my cellphone vibrated. As I thought “what, another mail from Amazon?” while looking at my phone, it was a call from Komachi. I lightly raised my hand to Zaimokuza, gave him an apologetic look for interrupting him and picked up my phone.
“Oh, there he is.”
The voice didn’t come from the phone, but from behind me.
When I turned around, it was Komachi in her school uniform.
“…Huh, what’s wrong?”
“I heard you were meeting with someone… so here I am!”
No, it’s not “here I am”. It’s not like I called you over… or so I was about to complain to her until an unthinkable person appeared from behind her.
“Could it be we were interrupting?”
The person was wearing a familiar jersey with a tennis bag over his shoulders, standing idly. When he made a troubled smile, he looked more angelic than the painting with an angel decorating the wall.
To, Totototo, Totsukaa! Not good, I was too surprised that my voice wouldn’t come out properly.
Since we normally didn’t meet with each other, meeting like this surprised me so much that I thought this was some sort of fated love. But from what I could see, this seemed like something Komachi had contrived so it wasn’t actually love, but a fake love2. In that case, that was a relief. Now that I feel relieved, I could build my Gundam and fight!3
My words were lodged in my throat and I was unable to react properly to which Totsuka sent me a worried look. In order to quickly rid him of that unease I talked on and on.
“Nope, that’s not true at all. Why don’t you have a seat for now?”
I quickly moved my belongings on the chair next to me and pulled the chair out. This was what you call a legitimate plan to get Totsuka to sit next to me. Am I a genius or what?
“Ah, did you want to eat something?”
I showed my true colors as a gentleman as I began speaking to the angel painting on the wall. Whoa, close one! I mixed them up! They’re both angels after all! Still, why was there a painting of an angel hung up on the wall at Saizeriya?
While saying that, Totsuka sat next to me innocently. When he did, Zaimokuza squealed “fumph” and passed the menu to Totsuka. Zaimokuza may have been nervous because his voice wouldn’t come out properly. Surprisingly, my combination with Zaimokuza here wasn’t too bad.
“Maybe I’ll get a peperoncino… Ah, but it has garlic… Hmm…”
Totsuka looked over the menu and began worrying. It was just this time that I didn’t press the button at all. Now, now, please choose as much as you like. Please go ahead and choose whatever you like, whether it was peperencino or Peepee Lotion.
While Totsuka was thinking about what to order, I stood next to Komachi and whispered into her ears.
“Komachi, what’s going on here?”
“If onii-chan’s going to work for Komachi’s sake, then Komachi’s gotta try just as hard, right?”
Ooh, you really did do your best. Just as I extended my hand out to rub her head, Komachi avoided it and took a step back behind me saying “I’ll do that”. She then proudly puffed out her chest.
“So that being the case, I mass recruited some helping hands.”
She spoke in a showcase kind of manner and spread her hands to show something.
And what she was showing was Kawa… Kawaguchiko-san? No, I think it was Yamanakako-san? Well, Kawawhatever-san was good enough I guess. Then again, Komachi, you knew her contact info? I didn’t even know her name, you know.
Kawawhatever-san thrust her hands into her pockets and pouted with a displeased tone while glancing at me.
She grumbled with a small voice. When her eyes met with mine, she would stutter and look away. Well, I’m very sorry about this. Making you come here and all even though you don’t like it.
Well, it’s understandable if Kawawhatever-san was here since she went to the same school as me. She had the right to vote as well so it wasn’t like she was all that unrelated.
But there was one more person who was completely unrelated.
“So, why’s that here too?”
I checked with Komachi and that answered in an awfully energetic manner.
“It’s not ‘that!’ It’s Kawasaki Taishi!”
No, again, why were you even here … Was it that? Were you here to tell me that Kawawhatever-san’s name was in fact Kawasaki? You’re a big help.
But that apparently wasn’t the case as Komachi scratched her head and smiled.
“Even Komachi didn’t have Saki-san’s phone number, you see.”
“Aah, so that’s how it is.”
That made sense.
“Well, now that you contacted her, that isn’t needed anymore, right?”
“I’m not ‘that!’ I’m Kawasaki Taishi!”
Taishi tried to appeal to me again, not discouraged. If your older sister appealed to me in the same way, I don’t think I’d forget her name either. As I thought that, Kawasaki glared at me.
“Did you just say he isn’t needed right now?”
“No, um, he’s totally needed, yep…”
For keeping Kawasaki’s state of mind healthy, that is. I wanted her to stop staring at me with that sharp glare of hers that wavered between whether she was going to kill me or not killing similar to something like Kill La Kill.
“Why don’t we have a seat for now?”
Komachi spoke to mediate the situation and we moved to a table over. Kawasaki and Taishi sat in the inner seats while Komachi sat next to me. She was a woman who could nonchalantly pick the seat on the open side.
After everyone confirmed their orders, we listed down our orders on the book, set our drinks on the table, and Komachi cleared her throat.
“Without further ado, let’s begin the ‘Yukino-san and Yui-san Sabotage Obstruction’ plan!”
Komachi exclaimed and Totsuka and Taishi gave a round of applause while Zaimokuza nodded.
Totsuka and Kawasaki were probably filled in on the details at the beginning as they didn’t raise any concerns. She truly was a capable little sister. However, Kawasaki voiced a different doubt as she rested her chin in her hands while looking away.
“Is there any meaning in calling me out?”
“You’re a student of Sobu High School as well so by all means, we’d like to borrow your help too, Saki-san.”
Komachi giggled with a cute smile as she praised her. Stop rubbing your hands together. But Kawasaki’s attitude stayed the same with Komachi’s sly use of her hands not getting through to her.
“Hmph, I don’t think I’ll be very useful though.”
“No, just getting your opinion would help a lot.”
When I said that, Kawasaki looked at me for a split moment, but quickly went back to what she was looking at earlier.
“…You don’t really need an opinion like mine.”
Kawasaki said that, but considering our positions here, I could use her opinion as a reference.
Since I was a part of the lowest denominator of the hierarchy at school, I was already assimilated with the underlings there. As such, there would be bias on my part towards the candidates Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. The opinion of someone who had a good amount of distance between those two would serve as a better reference than mine. This was one of the necessary criteria when you were evaluating something.
Just as I was about to explain, the food had arrived.
We waited for the waiter to leave, but this caused a temporary lull in the conversation which felt like we had missed the timing. I guess I’ll at least say the conclusion.
“I need it.”
Kawasaki blinked with surprise.
“I-I see… Well, if, you say so…”
As she said that, Kawasaki pulled up her cup with iced tea in it, looked away, and sipped her straw. The sound of bubbling came from her empty cup as if she wasn’t listening. Could she be tired, I wonder?
Making her accompany us on something this troublesome made me slightly sorry for her.
When I apologized, Kawasaki let go of her cup and rested her chins in her hands again.
After she sat there thinking for a little bit, she looked at me and spoke.
“It’s okay. When you’re in that club… it suits you a lot more.”
There wasn’t any particular elements that made me suited with the club. Just the concepts of the words “service”, “work”, and “labor” were things I hated too.
“N-Nothing. Recently, I just thought you weren’t your usual self, that’s all.”
As expected of a loner, her observation skills were excellent. This must be the Buddha Eyes. Human observation was a skill of loners.
“Usual self”, huh?
But if we were talking about my usual self, then what I was doing right now wasn’t very usual of me. I didn’t give up on the club and instead, I wanted to try to protect it. No matter how you thought about it, it wasn’t very like me at all.
But this apparently was seen differently by others around me. Sitting next to me was Komachi who chuckled while smiling.
“I guess onii-chan really isn’t going to try to uselessly struggle this time, huh?”
Aah, that really did fit.
Even if the PowerPoint was cut off and all of our alternatives disappeared, I would still try to do something. That was uselessly struggling. I didn’t mind if I took any damage. After all, if I was just going to lose in the end, I’d at least want to get back a blow or two in to make it unpleasant for the other party.
That was something very like of me.
Then let’s try challenging with a method befitting of me.
First, let’s verify from a nearby successful example.
I faced Komachi. Komachi should be in the student council of her middle school. So that meant she had experience of being chosen at the election. She should’ve participated in campaign efforts as well. That’s why I decided to ask about that.
“Komachi, how did you win your election?”
When I asked Komachi, she moaned for a little bit as she thought and started off with a preface.
“In Komachi’s case, I won with a vote of confidence, so I don’t think it’ll work as a reference…”
“That’s fine. If you had some sort of election strategy, tell me that.”
“Okay… Let’s see. Before I announced my candidacy, I would declare ‘I’m going to do it’ on a regular basis. As long as I did that and nothing major came up, not much opposition would pop up.”
Although it wasn’t exactly the concept of victory going to the one who made the first move, if you went ahead and limited the other party’s ability to act, even if there were other people who wanted to do it, they might hesitate. As expected of my little sister, she was very crafty.
I gave her a look asking if there was anything else and Komachi crossed her arms and began to groan.
“Also… Boys might have an advantage at times like these. Well, this only applies to popular and reliable boys though.”
“Well, it’s that. It might be a bit hard for guys to vote for a girl. If it’s middle school, that kind of atmosphere might be prevalent.”
“Mmmm, well, that’s true too.”
Komachi spoke vaguely and made an unclear smile.
“What is it?”
I asked about where she was leading the conversation and she stuck up her index finger.
“In the case of girls, you make an enemy of half of the girl population.”
O-Oh… I caught a glimpse of my little sister who became a full-fledged member of women society before I even realized it. Onii-chan’s happy about your growth Komachi, but I’m just a little sad…
Sitting across from me was Taishi who was withdrawing a little. He was facing downwards blabbering about something.
“You’re so black… Hikigaya-san, you’re so black.”
“Don’t go telling someone’s little sister that they’re black.”
If anything, the one who was black was your older sister, like her panties.
Whatever the case, there were parts to Komachi’s story that served as a reference.
“Using girls’ antagonism against each other, huh…”
“The ‘Two Tigers Becoming Enemies’4 strategy!”
Zaimokuza suddenly responded. Listening to that, Totsuka tilted his head.
“But wouldn’t that mean we’d get Yukinoshita-san and Yuigahama-san to fight?”
“That’s true… Also, if everyone gets too heated up, then a proxy war would start and that’ll end up influencing things down the road…”
Komachi spoke seriously. That’s just common opinion, right? That wasn’t something that happened to you, right? I’m worried…
But true enough. That was something to be worried about. I could imagine Miura being involved in one of those proxy wars… And then Yukinoshita would retaliate with double the payback and Miura would cry. But having those two taking unnecessary damage was out of the question.
I tilted my head asking everyone if there was anything else and Zaimokuza, also Taishi, raised their hands.
“I propose the ‘Empty Castle’ Strategy!”
“Maybe having someone else become the candidate might work?”
You’re amazing, Taishi. You completely ignored Zaimokuza right there. Not to mention, he contributed his opinion despite being a complete outsider. This guy might be a big shot, surprisingly. But that said, that was something Yukinoshita and Yuigahama had considered and I opposed.
“I thought of that before. Besides, if they’re not up to their level, they won’t win against those two.”
Honestly speaking, the only one who could pull votes from those two would be Hayama. But those votes were now being delegated to Yukinoshita’s side while the girl group of Hayama was on Yuigahama’s side. Any other candidate wouldn’t be able to butt in at all.
Taishi started thinking once again.
“Ah, so maybe you can’t win by yourself, but what if there were a lot of you?”
“Ooh! Chiritsumo, huh!”
Komachi tapped her knees. Chiritsumo was probably the abbreviation of “if you were to amass a bunch of trash”5 or whatever.
So flood the election with a bunch of candidates… If we did that, we certainly would be able to cut down the number of votes those two would get. Could we do it? No, the candidate most likely to get votes would win in the end regardless. That meant either of those two would win anyway.
If going against them or flooding the election was too difficult, then we had to think of another course of action.
“A way to win against Yukinoshita and Yuigahama…”
As I murmured, sitting there quietly while listening, Saki spoke up.
“I don’t really care, but if Yukinoshita and Yuigahama aren’t doing it, then who’s going to do it then?”
Crap, I completely forgot about Isshiki.
Kawasaki sighed in resignation. No, no, I’m ashamed of myself too.
If we kept Yukinoshita and Yuigahama from becoming the student council president, then it would fall onto Isshiki. That’s not good. As long those three were the only candidates, one of them would have to take up the role.
Talk about being backed into a corner.
As I scratched my head, I started thinking again from the bottom up with Isshiki in mind. When I did, an excessively good voice found its way to my ears.
“Homu, now that it has come to this, our last stand…”
I raised my head towards that voice and my eyes met with Zaimokuza’s eyes.
Zaimokuza nodded his head in satisfaction. Jeez, a guy like you… I couldn’t help but smile.
“You have my thanks for a lot of things. I’m grateful for your feelings. It’s just that this is kind of hard to say, but sorry, you’ve been a real bother since a while ago.”
Zaimokuza was taken aback. Well, your Three Kingdoms appeals were pretty annoying… But Zaimokuza was a man who would crawl his way back up no matter how many times you stepped over him. “It’s wheat! It’ll become wheat!”6 which was something Gen would say as I sat up straight.
“Ahem, were you not the one who proposed the idea? Is that not why I am here, laying bare my war tactics, plans, and art of war before you?”
He readjusted his glasses and looked at me.
“Well, they’re not actually things you thought up of though.”
“Silence you! In the first place, Hachiman, your chances of winning against them are close to zero. Just simple strategy won’t procure you victory. Therefore, you have no choice, but to fight with tactics.”
It felt like he was saying something quite natural…
Totsuka who was listening tilted his head.
“Um… Are strategy and tactics different?”
“Eh? Er… I-Indeed. To learn the difference between the two, all present should go ahead and use a dictionary!”
Zaimokuza tried to play the question off fervently as he looked at me again.
“From the start, trying to fight with them is wrong in itself.”
“Well, yeah, but…”
It was mortifying, but I couldn’t give a rebuttal to Zaimokuza. True enough, I wasn’t someone who could fight and win. Just fighting was useless or correctly speaking, I doubt I could even put up a fight. Not only was our difference in battle capacity overwhelming, our party wasn’t standing anywhere on the battle stage.
Not good, the situation was a lot worse than I thought.
As I scratched my head, Komachi called out to me.
“It’s as Chuuni-san said.”
“Yeah, Onii-chan understands that too, but look here Komachi-chan…”
Let me think about it a little more carefully, okay? I spoke to Komachi like how I would to a little child for the time being.
I think “to win without fighting” was a proverb that was left by Sun Tzu. Maybe if I became Sun Tzu, I might come up with something. I’m Sun Tzu, I’m Sun Tzu, I am the one who is called Sun Tzu, Sun Tzu is I… Abiko7? So basically, Chiba was winning without having to fight because we already had Abiko…? I knew it, Chiba was the strongest.
As I went on a tangent while thinking, Komachi pulled at my sleeve.
“It’s not like Komachi wants onii-chan to win the election.”
“Huh? Wait, but if we don’t win.”
If we didn’t win, then one of those three would end up becoming the student council president.
“If anything, you’re not even a candidate, so it’s not even an issue about winning or losing.”
Kawasaki sighed as if she was making a fool of me. What a sound argument… No, that really was true, but come on.
“Ahaha, Hachiman’s the type of person who wouldn’t get tied down by rules after all.”
Totsuka made an embarrassed laugh and spoke to mediate the situation. What an angel. If Totsuka’s going to say that much, then maybe it’s about time we stopped being held down by that rule in the Civil Code of Chapter 4, Section 28.
As I was healed, Komachi forcibly turned my body to face towards her.
“Komachi wants Yukino-san and Yui-san to stay in the Service Club. Frankly, Komachi doesn’t care about the student council election at all.”
“Ah, right… But then there’s Isshiki too…”
As long I had taken up the request, it wasn’t something I could just shrug off. Most of all, Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, Hiratsuka-sensei, and Meguri-senpai probably wouldn’t just say “okay” to it either.
Staying reluctant, Komachi stared at me.
“Onii-chan, is that Isshiki-san person the most important to you?”
“No, absolutely not.”
“Then why are you worrying about it?”
“Well, look, it’s a request after all.”
When I answered, Komachi squeezed my face with both her hands.
“Work or Komachi, which is important?”
“Komachi obviously. I have no desire to work.”
I shook off Komachi’s hands as I boldly answered with lots of love.
“Process of elimination, huh…”
Totsuka looked amazed as he made a troubled laugh. Ah, if it was Totsuka, I would’ve answered “Totsuka” unconditionally.
Komachi pouted as she lightly glared at me, but her mouth broke into a smile.
“I’m totally not happy at you being honest, but… well, fine. So, onii-chan, what are you going to do?”
“I understand what you’re trying to say. But I don’t have any intention of forcing the student council presidency on Isshiki.”
That was what they called being the self-sacrifice. That’s why I couldn’t give my approval to it. Even if there was a reason to it, that reason would’ve just been mine alone and Isshiki Iroha had nothing to do with it. Selfishly pushing the circumstances onto her; originally, no one ever had the right to force someone to be the victim.
“…Okay, I get it. Well, it’s onii-chan after all.”
Komachi looked down with slightly sad eyes, but quickly smiled in resignation.
“Uh huh, as expected, Hachiman’s Hachiman after all.”
Totsuka followed up and smiled.
Kawasaki looked a little bit surprised, but she made a smile that looked interested somehow. But whenever her eyes met with mine, she would quickly look away and bite onto her straw. She then peeked over to me and spoke.
“Whatever’s fine, but… what are you going to do?”
“Let me think for a bit.”
I silently closed my eyes.
I established the setting where I prioritize Komachi’s request and omit Yukinoshita and Yuigahama from the election. Isshiki Iroha would then be the only candidate. Since the chances of other candidates coming forth were low, I could ignore it at this point.
But there, the condition that someone had to take all the heat surfaced.
So what was the remaining problem?
The actual person’s will; it was just that one point alone.
That being the case, I had to think of a way to overturn that.
In other words, I needed to destroy every single thing related to the reason why she didn’t want to become the student council president.
When I reached that point, I opened my eyes.
“So long story short, the way we approached this from the start was completely wrong…”
Not only me, but also Yukinoshita and Yuigahama.
“Well, if that’s the case, I guess the only thing I can do is negotiate with Isshiki.”
“That is only if she is someone open to discussion… The other party is a girl, am I correct? Will your story get through to her?”
Zaimokuza muttered. His reason was kind of weird, but for the most part, I could agree, so it put me on the spot. And sitting next to him was Taishi who was also nodding for some reason. In addition to that, he asked something as if it was out of curiosity.
“What kind of person is Isshiki-san?”
Isshiki Iroha. She would show her gentle and refreshing self, but that was all part of her calculations. The staggering difference between how she acted with Hayama and people not in her consideration like me and Tobe was quite devastating.
Putting it into words was extremely difficult. But how would this work if I said it this way?
“If I were to give an example, then it’d be something like a very uncute and charmless Komachi, I guess.”
“Ah, that might be bad, huh?”
So said Taishi.
“Onii-chan, what ever could you mean by that…?”
A smiling Komachi was scary.
“It’s basically that. It just means you’re very cute Komachi.”
I said something suitable and rubbed her head.
“Well, I’m sure my talk will get through to her. It’ll probably be okay.”
This was close to confidence. If Isshiki Iroha calculated how she would act her character, then you could also say that she was suited for negotiating. If she diligently calculated the risks and returns, then depending on what I say to her, she’d be open for bargaining.
That being the case, we had to collect bargaining chips.
No, it might be more correct to say we had to create them.
In any case, the concept was solid. Now it’s a matter of detailing out our approaches. For that, we’d need a little more information.
“Kawasaki, could you just give me some names of people who you’d think might make a good student council president?”
Kawasaki pointed at herself as if she was thinking she wouldn’t be called on as and blinked in surprise. She then hesitated while moaning.
“E-Even if you tell me that so suddenly…”
“You can take it slow.”
In reality, I just wanted more time to get my thoughts in order.
“If that’s the case…”
After she said that, she tilted her head as she groaned and then she started giving out names.
“I guess Yukinoshita and Yuigahama would work. Also, Hayama, I think his name was? That guy with the obnoxious sparkling aura or whatever.”
Well, that was pretty reasonable. Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were probably beginning to amass endorsements so from the idea I was thinking right now, they were an exception. But still, her image of Hayama was something like that, huh…
Kawasaki began to ponder further.
“Ebina… could probably do the job, but well, it wouldn’t fit her.”
I agreed with that as well. She was demonstrating the very value of being in that free position she was in. But for Kawasaki to bring up her name so fast meant that they had gotten pretty close huh, how earnest of her…
After that, Kawasaki went “ah” and added with a murmur.
“There’s Miura, but I don’t think it’ll work out for her.”
They’re on such bad terms. But the fact that she mentioned her name meant she was conscious of her, huh?
The names she had listed so far were conspicuous individuals in the school. They were people with popularity. This was a convincing line up.
But the next name Kawasaki brought up was unexpected.
“There’s also Sagami too, I guess…”
I unintentionally made a scowl when I asked her back. Kawasaki made a sullen face.
“What’s with that unpleasant face of yours? You’re the one who asked.”
“No, sorry. I didn’t mean it that way to you… But, why her?”
“Because she worked as a committee chairman for the culture festival and the sports festival. It wouldn’t be weird for her to work as the student council president.”
I only had a completely useless image of Sagami, so it never crossed my mind. But certainly, for people who didn’t know what happened behind the scenes, Sagami Minami was someone who took up successive official positions. Putting aside the second years, surprisingly, her record might actually be a hit with the first years and third years.
This was an unthinkable dark horse. Most of all, even if I used Sagami, it wouldn’t hurt at all. In the same way, let’s include Tobe as a candidate since it wouldn’t hurt at all there too. Well, Tobe really was a good guy, huh?
Now, with this, everything should be cleared up. What was left was carefully scrutinizing how we should move forward. For now, just as I faced Kawasaki to give my thanks, she was staring at me and her lips looked like she wanted to say something. I asked her if there was anything more with a look and she added.
“Also… you as well.”
“Aah, that’d be interesting. But I can’t get thirty people to endorse me.”
“I know, just thought I’d say it.”
Kawasaki abruptly looked away. If you knew, then don’t say it, gosh. Saying it like that makes my heart skip a beat, you know.
Anyway, the pieces were all mostly gathered. I verified each piece one by one.
“Hayama, Ebina-san, Miura, Sagami, and while we’re at it, Tobe. Also, Isshiki. We’ll have these guys become candidates.”
After I declared that, Komachi made a dubious look.
“Eh? Weren’t you going to have that Isshiki-san person be the candidate?”
“Yeah, in the end, that is. Well, it’s basically a stalking horse, something like putting up a fight, of the sort against Isshiki.”
Well, there was actually another objective beyond that, but it’s probably better to explain that little by little. Komachi looked like she wouldn’t be entirely convinced with just this, so I may have to do this step by step.
“Stalking horse… I wonder if there’d be anyone willing to do that… Actually, onii-chan, are you going to ask someone to do that?”
“Hahaha! Yeah right. That’s why we’re going to just borrow someone’s name without their permission. And then we’ll try to gather as much endorsements as we can.”
And for that happen, there was one more person whose power I wanted to borrow.
“Totsuka, do you mind if we borrow your name?”
Totsuka blinked in puzzlement as if he wasn’t expecting to get called on.
“Eh…? Even if you say that, I don’t really understand…”
Totsuka squirmed as he looked down. He then looked at the corner of the floor silently for a short moment before looking at me with upturned eyes.
“…You won’t do anything weird?”
I wouldn’t do anything weird, but I might end doing something related to love instead. No, it’s possible I may have done it already.
When I answered, Totsuka warmly smiled.
“…In that case, sure. You can use my name.”
I-In that case, I’ll go ahead and use your name okay… Totsuka Hachiman sounds kind of good! It sounded like a Shinto shrine or something.
Anyhow, with this, all the pieces were assembled. Thanks to Totsuka, it felt like even the peace of my heart was included so all I could think about was how the world was all about LOVE & PEACE.
As I glowed with self-satisfaction by myself, Komachi, who was sitting next to me while thinking, spoke up.
“But even if you borrowed someone’s name, if that person denies it, then we won’t be able to announce that person’s candidacy in the end, right?
It’s just like Komachi said. As long the person in question didn’t give their consent, the notice for announcing their candidacy wouldn’t be complete. Since an incident like Isshiki had already happened, someone arbitrarily turning the notice in wasn’t possible now.
“It’s fine if they don’t announce their candidacy. Rather, it’s not necessary. It’s sufficient enough to just get the endorsements we need.”
Not only did Komachi tilt her head, but also everyone else present as well.
“What if the entire school populace gave their endorsement, what do you think would happen?”
“Well, they’d win of course.”
Komachi nodded as if it was natural. I nodded back.
“Of course they’ll win. Or rather, the other candidates wouldn’t be able to announce their candidacy. Once you already registered your name as endorsement for someone, you wouldn’t switch to another person after all.”
“Hoh, to think there was that kind of conclusion… ‘Above the law’ or something to that effect, I see…”
Zaimokuza spoke with admiration. But it had nothing to do with whether this would be conclusive or not. Also, that Seagal movie wasn’t related in any way either.
“No, I’m not sure if that’s written in the protocols. But I don’t think the average student is aware of these protocols anyway. But once someone gave their signature, I don’t think people would be so willing to give their name to other people afterwards.”
It’s exactly because they didn’t know the existence of the protocols that times like these were where people made their judgments according to their common sense.
If you were only allowed to endorse someone once, then collecting endorsements brings rise to another aspect.
With the exception of the simple process of eliminating weak candidates, then it would function in the preliminary election. That is, you could interpret beyond the phrase that you needed more than thirty endorsements. With this meaning, as long it was above thirty people, then it didn’t matter how many names you collected.
“That’s why we’ll flood the election with applicant candidates and we’ll gather as many endorsements as the possible limit will allow us to.”
“If we can gather everyone beforehand, then other people won’t be able announce their candidacy right!”
Taishi looked at me with gleaming eyes that screamed “amazing!”. But sorry. This wasn’t as simple as it sounded.
“Well, simply put, that’s how it is, but that’s probably impossible. This was nothing more than just stalling for time. If there were a lot of candidates, then people will worry about who to endorse. If that happens, people will be hesitant to give out their signature.”
This was extremely easygoing, but for the most part, this should act as a deterrent to those two. But since this was just a simple deterrent, it wouldn’t become something decisive.
We needed one more move.
As I thought about how to deal my hand, a voice called out to me. When I looked up, Kawasaki had a serious expression. It looked like she was lightly glaring at me, but well, this was something default to her.
“Putting aside whether this will work out well or not, wouldn’t it be bad for you if you get caught using their names without their permission?”
The older sister said while the younger brother nodded in agreement.
“That’s right, onii-san’s gonna get beat to a pulp you know, to a pulp.”
“Don’t call me onii-san.”
I thought about how I would beat him to a pulp instead, but Kawasaki was sitting next to him reservedly and she was scary so I kept it to myself.
Furthermore, Komachi, who sat beside me, pulled on my sleeve again.
Her mouth formed an upside “v” as she groaned. I understood even if everyone didn’t say it. They probably wanted to say to not repeat the same thing again.
“I got it. I won’t put up an appearance or anything.”
There wouldn’t be any meaning otherwise.
In the first place, I was being conceited if I thought I could move the entire student population by just having their hatred directed at me. Indeed, that’s how it is. Even if I added more objectivity to it, I needed to think of a more complete method.
“Then, who’s going to do it then?”
Totsuka asked and I lowered my shoulders.
“I guess we can’t really push this onto someone else.”
I didn’t want anybody taking the full blame for anything. I didn’t want anyone to take over this position either. Besides, it’d be a problem if the place I belonged to was snatched away from me. It was really comfortable for me after all.
“That’s why we’ll have something not human do it.”
When I said that, everyone made a “huh?” face. I had better explain it step by step, huh…
“Wa, no I’m, a human though?”
Zaimokuza declared himself as human while waving his hands in a fluster, clearly saying “no way, impossible, I really don’t want to do that”. His honest reaction made me smile bitterly.
“I know. I just called your name. Are you using Twitter right now?”
“Press, press, press, I possess a surface account, a back-alley account, a locked account, a different account, a policing account. I am in charge of many a things, I should say. Leave Twitter to me, why don’t you? My kin bestow upon me as the Great Teacher of computers, after all.”
What’s with that weird laugh and dialect? Also, your relatives were probably making fun of you, you know.
Anyway, if Zaimokuza was already using Twitter, then this would make things quick. As I explained how Twitter worked to the others, I would use my phone at the same time and search Twitter with an appropriate account on the internet while showing them the screen. I would explain as they looked at it.
“Twitter is basically, well, something like SNS or a mini blog of the sort. I’m not too sure about the details behind categorizing, but you can write something with 140 characters. So, there, you have these followers… basically, you can show stuff to your readers. They can reply to you, essentially responding to you, and you can have something resembling a conversation.”
Well, I’ll leave it up to them to google the rest of the details so I could proceed on.
“What makes this thing amazing is how quickly things can spread. By retweeting something, you can get the content you write to go around.”
After finishing my super rough explanation, everybody looked like they understood as if they already knew about Twitter. As expected of today’s youngsters. Well, it’s been the thing to talk about these days. Things like self-wanted posters, information leaks, or writing something outrageous and brewing up a storm. I talked as if I knew about those things.
“So, what is it that you want to do with Twitter?”
For a regular user like Zaimokuza, it was probably a boring explanation. He urged me to go on.
“We’re going to make a fake grassroots Twitter account. But we have to ensure that it feels like there’s actually someone behind it. That fictional person will collect endorsements online.”
Komachi looked like she understood, but it didn’t feel like she did when she muttered.
I nodded to that.
As an instant temporary measure, it would break the law at most one time.
But that was the one time it could actually be used.
“Is that even possible with the rules?”
Komachi sent me a look of skepticism.
If we’re talking about the rules, then there shouldn’t be anything written about being forbidden from online campaign activities in the student council election protocols. Well, at the time when the protocols were created, the internet was nothing more than a concept and it wasn’t as developed back then.
From the start, this kind of conduct wasn’t limited at all in the protocols.
“It’s not like we’re going to actually turn in anything, so it should be fine.”
I tapped Komachi on the head as she crossed her arms while tilting her head and I continued.
“Well, if even it doesn’t work out, any complaints or criticism will be directed towards that fictional person. We can make it so this fictional person is the one who takes the full brunt of the criticism from the victimized parties; that being, the candidate who was set up and those who supported him. By doing that, they’d be able to save face too. No one will be hurt.”
A world where no one was hurt doesn’t exist.
If there was one, then it would be a world where everyone was equally hurt.
If you were already aware of how a world wouldn’t be logical if no one was hurt, but you detested the notion that someone had to be hurt, then you had to dig up a scapegoat.
You didn’t have to pick someone that existed. All you needed was an existence that would take all the heat. This was probably my one trump card I could deal. It took quite a bit of time and it was inefficient, but regardless, with this, we can get past the hurdle of no one getting hurt.
“Onii-san, you’re amazing…”
Taishi uttered his simple impressions with a slightly stiff smile.
“Hahaha, don’t praise me too much now. Also, don’t call me onii-san.”
When I told him, Kawasaki gave me a warning with a sharp tone.
“I don’t think Taishi’s praising you though.”
Eh? Really? So he was just freaked out instead?
“B-But, that’d be nice if that worked out.”
Totsuka spoke up as if smoothing over the conversation. But Komachi sighed and looked at me with reproachful eyes.
“Well, it’s fine if it does work out…”
Usually when I say these kinds of things, Komachi would reply in a crisp manner, but her reaction had been rather slow since a while ago. That bothered me and I asked her.
“Is this idea no good?”
“Mmm, it’s not that it’s no good… But whether it’s good for onii-chan or not… I’m not really sure.”
Komachi dropped her eyes and spoke fretfully. It looked like Komachi herself couldn’t properly explain it.
Well, even I thought it was an underhanded, cowardly even, method.
“But we won’t know unless we try. There existed no other alternative as well.”
It was as Zaimokuza said. Our hands were limited. On top of that, we had tossed aside the hands that didn’t exist from the start. The duel of the strongest duelists was already inevitable. Even the duelists themselves were the ones who created the act of drawing cards. That’s what it was.
“So, how shall we proceed with this? We can indeed make an account, but just doing that won’t give us an increase in followers and we won’t even get any retweets either.”
“We’ll follow students from our school one after the other. If we find one person to follow the account, then others will come by in succession. And also… if fellow students follow each other, there’d be pressure there. It’d be particularly more obvious for the girls.”
When I explained, Zaimokuza slapped his knees.
“So that’s the game you’re going after. I see your point for the most part. If you replied as a form of greeting indicating you are from the same school, you would be requesting them to follow you. Correct?”
As expected of the Great Teacher of computers. You were very knowledgeable of things.
When you exchanged tweets with fellow students from the same school, then you couldn’t help, but have this realistic feeling of obligation. If someone said they were from the same school and followed you, human empathy would cause you to think “it’d be bad if I didn’t return the follow, huh…” even if you didn’t know the person directly. If they followed the fake Twitter account, then the tweets from this account would show up on their timeline.
“So, the user name and the tweeted content would be something like this.”
I took out a ball pen from my bag and I wrote on the borrowed napkin from the table as it rustled.
USERNAME: __-san Grassroots Account
[Sobu High School Only] This person will become the student council president! Currently, we’re looking for people to endorse him for support! People who enter their names in the list of # endorsements should retweet [Spread the Word]
As I checked with my phone, I made a model slogan like that.
“Basically, we just have to repost this at fixed intervals and build up retweets. People who retweeted will have their names entered into the list.”
We also had to think about the profile for the account. The difficult part was how we should consider presenting information. It shouldn’t be too specific, but that said, we had to aim for something that would at least make someone believe there was someone behind it. Having to create a number of things was a real pain…
For the moment, everyone was examining the model slogan and the actual tweet. Having multiple people check over something would increase precision. I was glad there were a lot of people at a time like this.
Eventually, Taishi, who was looking it over, raised his hand.
“If the candidates saw it, what are you going to do if they tried to deny it?”
I see. It was plausible that the person in question might see it… I thought for a moment and spoke up.
“We can do something like this. We can include in the content “It’s still a secret from the actual person, okay! ♪Sparkle, Kapun♪”. And besides, the support of those willing should be good enough.”
Following Taishi was Totsuka who raised his hand as he looked at my smartphone. Yes, Totsuka-kun.
“Hachiman, isn’t this everybody’s username? It doesn’t look like it’s their real name, is that okay?”
“Yeah. It’s fine if people want to expose their real name, but even if they don’t, that’s fine too.”
When I said that, Kawasaki looked at me with an apathetic look.
“There’s no way anyone would do that.”
Oh my, Kawasaki-san, your guard was surprisingly tough, huh? I don’t particular hate girls like you, you see. After all, my guard’s super tough as well. It’s important to be modest.
Even I wasn’t stupid enough to give my real name when suddenly asked for it. I knew that point.
“Well, to be honest, even a pseudonym would work too. It’s not an official endorsement list after all. We’re not turning it in anyway, so it won’t go public. It’ll make people conscious of who to vote for and we’d even be lucky if people start to think they had to endorse someone else.”
“Is that good enough?”
Komachi asked surprisingly. I nodded.
“This will have the best utility value for negotiations.”
Komachi murmured quietly. Well, I might’ve said that a bit too stiffly there.
The true nature of this fake account existed there.
The risk hedge of putting a figurehead that didn’t exist under the rug and the controlling of the endorsements that backed Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. These were just secondary objectives.
The collected achievements of this account. That was the most important thing.
These achievements would act as the bargaining chip for Isshiki.
And then that Isshiki Iroha would become the bargaining chip afterwards.
After getting everyone’s opinion and laying out the concerning points, most of the uneasy components were gone.
Now the remaining problem was who would go about doing the deed…
Well, that’d be me and Zaimokuza.
“Zaimokuza, can I ask you to do half of the work with the accounts?”
Zaimokuza nihilistically laugh. When it came to doing something of your specialty, you get awfully confident, don’t you? That confidence made it scary instead. That’s why I decided to give a warning just in case.
“Try to avoid at least getting our true identity found out. You just need to fool them for these three days.”
“Leave it to me. Long ago, there were moments of fear that had enveloped me when I tried to break past an IP.”
You had that kind of past… Well, if he was scared at some point, then he probably wouldn’t mess up badly here.
As I thought that we’d be able to get started with this, Kawasaki tapped the table. What, was that Morse code? Or so I thought as it looked like she was calling me. You could at least just call my name. Or could it be that you didn’t remember my name? Kawawhatever-san was so super cruel!
“What is it?”
I asked her and Kawasaki glanced at Zaimokuza and spoke with a low voice.
“Can that even write like a girl?”
“Should be fine. That’s Zaimokuza’s specialty after all.”
When I said that, Zaimokuza gave a thumbs-up with a bingo☆ and a wink.
“Indeed, leave it to my literary talent!”
“That’s not it… Find an appropriate account, copy and paste their sentences with some alterations or at least try to copy their style. That’s your specialty, right?”
“That’s what I thought, I dare say, nin-nin.”
Zaimokuza suddenly laughed with a hint of self-deprecation. Well, that’s a pretty important talent to have, so take care of it okay?
But still, we were past the first stage. I took a sip of my coffee that was already cold. Everyone let out a sigh and the atmosphere became warm.
In that group was just one person who had a depressed face, Komachi.
“What’s wrong, Komachi?”
I asked Komachi with a quiet voice that only she could hear. When I did, Komachi answered again with a fleeting voice.
“Will this really work out?”
“It will. I’ll make sure I get the finishing touches until the end. Leave it to me.”
She answered, but Komachi continued to look down.
She cupped her head with her hands and lightly tapped.
“Onii-chan, make sure to properly talk things out with Yukino-san and Yui-san, okay? Promise?”
Komachi squeezed my hands as she spoke.
“Yeah, I will. But there’s nothing we can do with a story that isn’t convincing enough. I’ll talk to them after I prepare that.”
“Onii-chan can be really reasonable, but I’m really worried that you’ll just blow a lot of things off…”
I’ll do something about it.
It really was a roundabout method, but if it was the only way that could satisfy the conditions, then it was the only thing I could go with.
I had my reason, I posed the problem, and now I had the solution.
The only thing left was putting everything into action.
- Final Fantasy 13 ↩
- Nisekoi ↩
- Gundam Build Fighters ↩
- Three Kingdoms ↩
- Chiri（塵）is for trash and the verb tsumoru（積もる） is pile up or accumulate. ↩
- Barefoot Gen ↩
- He derives the characters of Sun Tzu and breaks it down to the characters that mean Abiko which is a city in Chiba. ↩
- Japan Civil Rights Code – This section in particular outlines the legalities for marriage. ↩