It was late at night. I was checking over all the fake accounts I was left in charge with operating on my home’s PC.
In the approximate three days since I had been operating these accounts, I spent most of my time tweeting while making various needed preparations.
But as expected, not all of the students at school used Twitter and there were also those who had no interest in the student council election as well. There were dead accounts and there were many who ignored us. There were also days along the way where the number of retweets would stagger. That was when we created a new Hayama Grassroots account as a preventive measure.
Although we fell short from the 1200 students that populated the school, we were able to break past the targeted number with the help of this new account. This was truly thanks to our gracious savior, Hayama.
With this, I could finally talk with Isshiki Iroha and then that would prepare me for talking with Yukinoshita and Yuigahama after that. We were able to fabricate persuasive bargaining chips that could serve as negotiation material.
But from here on were the final finishing touches.
With the PC left on, I reached for my cellphone.
As I wondered about whether I had his number in my phone, I looked at my contacts list and as I thought, his number wasn’t registered.
That reminded me. Did I not register it because I thought I was probably never going to use the phone? Or maybe I erased it instead…? My memories about those things were fuzzy.
Ah, it might be in my call history.
With that realization, I decided to check my history. The history consisted most of Komachi, but when I scrolled up to just around the time of the Culture Festival, there was an unfamiliar phone number. Aah, I did call him that one time, didn’t I…?
Although it was just a multipurpose alarm clock, I had to give it some praise just for having the cellphone function of having a call history that didn’t easily disappear.
I called that number displayed in the history.
The other party picked up before even one ring could go off.
“It is I.”
Only one person would pick up the phone and respond that way.
“Is this Zaimokuza?”
“Indeed, what is your business with me? I am currently engrossed with a cellphone game, so I hope you could make this quick.”
Right, so that’s why he picked up the call in one ring. I thought for sure he was waiting on standby the entire time for me to call him, so that gave me quite the scare. Well, I didn’t want to take too much of his time. Let’s make this quick.
“Sorry. I just had a little favor regarding the Twitter accounts.”
I couldn’t distinguish his unintelligible response between “yes” or “no”. Not minding it, I told him what my business was.
It wasn’t anything difficult and important. It was to just change some settings.
Of course, even if the proclaimed Great Teacher of computers Zaimokuza had overheard this, he wouldn’t say no. But the words he responded with very really incomprehensible.
“Nfuu, indeed, settings of that level can be easily changed at any moment, but…”
“Then I’ll leave it to you to manage the accounts you’re in charge of. I’ll do the ones I have.”
“That is not a problem, but… Hachiman, is that fine with you?”
He had a considerate tone towards me which was rare for even Zaimokuza. But I asked him back with as much composure as possible.
“….This is not a method that is very deserving of praise… You are treading over dangerous waters.”
After a few seconds of silence, Zaimokuza solemnly spoke. Despite his ridiculous choice of words, I could feel a sense of sincerity soaked in the respiration that escaped the speakers of the smartphone.
As I pondered about how I should respond to him, what followed next was an awfully loud voice.
“But hold it. Do not get the wrong idea. It is not that I am concerned about you, but I am merely uneasy at the prospect that the responsibility may fall onto my hands and furthermore, I worry that I may be the one to carry the blame in your place. But I will state now that I have done my preparations to expose us both should that come to pass.”
“You’re one refreshing scumbag, aren’t you?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Whether he was saying that seriously or whether he was trying to give indirect advice, he was really hard to understand.
“Don’t worry. The only ones aware of the true identity behind these accounts are just us. Even if they did find out, the person behind these accounts doesn’t exist. No one will get hurt.”
“I suppose that may be fine…”
I decided to give some wonderful words to Zaimokuza who was still seemingly doubtful.
“Did you know, Zaimokuza…? As long as you didn’t make a problem out of the problem, it won’t become one.”
“…A scum to the end, Hachiman.”
He told me earnestly.
“I don’t want to hear that from you. Anyways, I’m counting on you.”
“Hmph. I have no other choice then. I ask you of the same to not make it really my fault as well! Like really!”
“I get it already… See you.”
I replied and hung up without waiting for his response. He sounded like he was screaming at the end there, wasn’t he…?
But Zaimokuza’s anxiety was needless. No matter how things turned out, I wouldn’t make it his fault.
When I refreshed my browser, I was able to confirm the changes Zaimokuza had made to the settings of the account.
What was left was just printing these out.
There was a lull as the things were printing. I collapsed onto the sofa and looked at the ceiling.
× × ×
The dawn of Friday. It was the day of the decisive battle.
Then again, it wasn’t like today was the day of the final ballot. In fact, it’s so that it wouldn’t turn out that way. Today was the day in order not to fight. That’s why instead of a decisive battle, it’d be more correct to say a decisive conclusion.
But I could only spout out those cool words up until third period. Once it was fourth period, I couldn’t keep myself from staying cool.
Waiting for me after this was a gamble.
The only thing I could think of during fourth period was how I could increase the likelihood of success. No, “thinking” might not have been the right way to phrase it. I was repeatedly thinking of word plays and logic puzzles to melt away the tension.
The time of restlessness continued. Whenever I glanced at the clock, the minutes of the hour would bother me.
Eventually, that ended as well. Class was over and I left the class simultaneously with the ringing of the chime. I also brought along with me the clear file that I prepared yesterday without forgetting it.
My destination was class 1-C. It was the class Isshiki Iroha was in.
I had no idea what Isshiki’s moving tendencies were. I also had no idea where she’d be during lunch. That’s why, to catch her, the only possible timing was immediately after the end of class.
I reenacted various simulations such as how I would go about calling out to her or how I would ask somebody to call her out for me. It should be fine. I made sure to practice in front of the bathroom mirror at home, so there shouldn’t be any problems, I think… I’m kind of worried…
But as I was submerged in my thoughts, I had already arrived at class C.
I stealthily peeked into the classroom from the open door. Just doing this alone gave me vibes of a suspicious intruder. People gave me furtive glances as if it was rare for visitors from other years to come here… Before I get reported, I better finish this quick!
When I looked around the classroom, Isshiki was just about to eat lunch with several friends in the back of the classroom near the window… Looks like I’ll have to ask someone to call her for me. No problem, no problem, I did do all that practice after all… Hachiman, do your best! (VA: Totsuka Saika). Alright, I can do it.
Near the entrance were three boys with glasses. I called out to that group.
“Excuse me… Do you have a minute?”
In trying to keep myself from sounding excited, a strange, deep voice came out instead.
Although it was just one person who replied, the other two whispered to each other and took a consulting posture. Well, that’s reasonable of them. I’ll go ahead and breakthrough without paying any attention to it.
“Can you call Isshiki-san for me?”
He gave me a half-hearted reply, but after a quick moment of reluctance, the boy went to go call Isshiki. When he called Isshiki, she nimbly looked in my direction. And in that next moment, she had a slightly disappointed expression. Sorry for it being me.
Isshiki cheerfully approached me. She made a proper smile then.
“Senpai, what’s wrooong~?”
“I want your help with something regarding the student council election case.”
After saying that, Isshiki huddled herself in an apologetic manner.
“Haa… Will it be bad if we leave it for after school~? Um, lunch is…”
I knew in advance she was definitely going to reject, so it was an answer I expected. That’s why I emphasized my hesitant eyes and retaliated with a grave voice.
“It’ll be super bad.”
“Super bad, huuuh…”
Isshiki crossed her arms for a little bit and groaned. Eventually, she looked like she made up her mind.
“Okaaay. Please wait a moment then~.”
After saying that, she skipped her way back to her desk, gathered up her bento, and hopped her way back to me.
“So, what will we be doing?”
“Can you come with me to the library? I need you to fill out some paper work.”
“Haa… Well, guess I’ll have to~.”
In just that instant, she made an incredibly, unpleasant expression…
× × ×
× × ×
The library during lunch was dead silent. In the first place, there weren’t many who used it during lunch and especially since it had a rather bleak atmosphere to it during this time of the season.
In the corner of such a quiet library was a rather audible sigh.
The origin of that was right before my eyes.
Once again, she let out a deep, flaunty sigh. And then, Isshiki glanced at me.
“Senpaaai, does it have to be me that does this~?”
“Well, look, you don’t want to be the president, right… Also, there isn’t anyone else that would help me with this, so while we have time, we should do this one by one…”
When I replied, Isshiki made a puffy, sullen look. You sure are pushy…
“…Well, I guess so. But writing these down is really hard you knooow.”
What I asked Isshiki to do was transcribe all the names of the retweets gathered on the fake accounts printed into a listing onto the directory list of endorsements. What a pain…
But transcribing names really was a simple and boring job. I thought that as well while working with her.
Thanks to that, for how boring it was, Isshiki would tip it over with idle chatter. Or maybe it was a defensive measure against how awkward it was to be with me so she figured she had to talk to take control. So it wasn’t like she was having fun talking to me.
Well, seeing that the speed that we were writing had dropped, it wasn’t that bad of a tendency.
“Ah, by the way, was that person you went to fool around with Hayama’s girlfriend?”
“Eeeh, it wouldn’t hurt to tell me, riiight?”
“After this is done, sure.”
“Well, but, if it’s something of that level, I don’t think it’ll be that much of a problem. So it should be okay…”
Those were some scary final words she snuck in at the end there… If she was in front of Hayama instead, she probably wouldn’t behave like this. In many cases, there were a lot of times when a woman who showed an opening to another man was simply because they were not targets for their affection and just letting their guard down instead of actually inviting them (self research). Then there were also many other cases where it wasn’t so much the case that the woman had feelings for the guy because she was acting alert, but rather, she, in fact, just hated the guy instead (self research).
Isshiki continued her chatter to tide over the boredom.
“But like, senpai, you got along with Hayama-senpai?”
“Nope, not at all. That was just a coincidence. I was told by my senpai to be his escort, that’s all.”
“Ah, then, senpai, let’s go out and have fun together. We’ll invite Hayama-senpai too and go together.”
“No, I’m not going to go…”
Exactly how many times were people going to use me as an excuse to go somewhere? It wouldn’t be weird for me to be laid out with kombu and skipjack tuna at this rate.
Still, this was convenient for me since I was going to start up a conversation by bringing up Hayama eventually. With the conversation heading in that direction, it’d make it easier to ask things.
“You know, about Hayama… what do you think of him?”
I reflexively asked in a vague way. For the innocent young maiden Hikigaya Hachiman, it was just a tad bit too embarrassing to say the words “like”. As if the way I vaguely asked was realistically creepy, Isshiki’s mouth hung open and she lowered her head in a fluster.
“Huh? W-What are you doing? Are you making passes at me? I’m sorry, it won’t work out. There’s someone I like.”
The way she rejected was incredibly natural. Instant kill… What is this girl, Ramen Man1? I haven’t even started fighting yet…
“That’s not it… I’m simply asking you what you thought about him.”
“Mmm, what do I think huh~? As far as I’m concerned, he’s very up my alley, you see.”
“Aah, right, up your alley huh, alley…”
“I just think it’d be kinda good so for now I’d make a mov…, I’d want to try holding hands or something, you seeee.”
She was just about to say “make a move” didn’t she…? This sneaky bitch…
But I managed to ask what I wanted to ask.
With this, now I could confidently begin negotiating with Isshiki Iroha.
Up until this moment, I couldn’t get a grasp of the person called Isshiki Iroha. We only knew each other for a short while so that was a reason as well, but the primary factor was how vastly different our positions and environments were. Above all else, I couldn’t see the core that made this girl.
But I was able to gather all the pieces I needed. And those pieces were in the conversations I had with Isshiki up until now and in the life I lived up until now.
Isshiki had a sly part to her that would skillfully use her immaturity and innocence to her advantage. That was a part that resembled my little sister, Hikigaya Komachi. However, her cuteness and charm was lacking. Therefore, I could conclude that Isshiki Iroha was an example of an absolutely uncute Komachi.
As far as outer appearances and scheming were concerned, Yukinoshita Haruno came to mind. But she fell absolutely short of her. Therefore, Isshiki Iroha could be said to be an inferior Haruno-san.
That fluffy aura of hers. That resembled closely to Meguri-senpai, but fundamentally, they were different creatures. Therefore, Isshiki Iroha was a phony Meguri.
That desire to be pampered was probably very similar to Sagami. But unlike Sagami, she was much more skillful. Therefore, Isshiki Iroha was something like a super amplified Sagami.
I also thought that how she made a character for herself and behaved in a way to preserve that was very similar to Orimoto Kaori. Therefore, Isshiki Iroha was a different type of Orimoto.
With the above models in mind, I should be able to derive tendencies and countermeasures towards Isshiki Iroha.
It wasn’t that she had a reckless amount of pride. She would take care to flatter someone when it was necessary and she would do it in a way so that she could be loved forever. However, she would be careful to not damage her own advertising and wouldn’t sell herself short. With all that’s been said, all she wanted to do was protect her brand image.
That’s exactly why she didn’t like the very idea of the vote of confidence. The vote of confidence was a system that she was afraid would damage her brand image. Winning a blatant fight wasn’t anything bad. And appearing in something like that wouldn’t raise her stock at all.
Her train of thought might have been very similar to that of a manager in charge of a conservatively stubborn enterprise.
If that was the case, then she and I could discuss things on a business wavelength.
As I stayed silent, Isshiki spoke with a fawning voice as if bored again.
“Heeey~, senpaaai, is there really any meaning in doing this? Even going through the trouble of hand writing everything…”
“Well, it’s not like there is or isn’t…”
“You’re being very vague…”
Isshiki looked at me with moist eyes.
“Well even if you did do all the work here, either Yukinoshita or Yuigahama is going to win anyway. In that sense, this is pointless… Whatever you do Isshiki, you can’t win against those two.”
“Eeeh, isn’t that kind of meaaan? But well, it’s not like it matters if I lose though.”
Isshiki took it as a joke and laughed it off as she spoke. I responded very seriously and honestly.
“You don’t need to worry. You definitely can’t win. I promise you that.”
When I did, Isshiki’s brow shook for an instant.
“I-I know right~. Buut, it’d be kinda freaky if I somehow won or something.”
I shook my head at Isshiki’s words and continued the conversation in disinterest.
“The one doing Yukinoshita’s campaign speech is Hayama too.”
“Aah, I see.”
“Yuigahama has Miura.”
How she responded to that name made it easier for me. I was aware of the grudge that existed between Isshiki and Miura. I was expecting for her to get agitated and I continued further along.
“Also, Yuigahama gets along pretty well with Hayama and he and Yukinoshita are childhood friends.”
“Right… Huh? Childhood friends?”
Isshiki obviously looked like she didn’t know about that as she let out an overbearing voice at the end.
“You can understand just by looking at them, but those guys are those kinds of people. You can’t win at anything against them.”
Isshiki responded with a sigh and a groan. As for my personal thoughts.
Without a doubt, there probably wasn’t a girl more amazing than those guys. Even if you looked anywhere else.
Noticing that Isshiki talked less and less, I pressed on further.
“Also, I’m sure even the people who endorsed you at first wouldn’t vote for you either, Isshiki.”
“They’re probably all laughing out loud right now too. And once they see you lose, they’ll laugh even harder.”
This time, Isshiki didn’t respond. Even so, I selfishly continued to blabber on.
“That kind of stuff really pisses you off, huh?”
The lead of the mechanical pencil snapped. There were no other sounds and only my voice echoed.
“Even if they were being conspicuous about it, they probably didn’t think it’d matter regardless of what you say to them. They’re just horsing around, making a joke out of it, and just wanted to tease you after all.”
Isshiki’s hands stopped. Her gaze was directed at the pencil at her hand.
“I guess if you’re going to get done in, it’d be nice to get them back too…”
“…Haa, well, that’d be nice if we could do that.”
Those words were spat out with a sigh. I returned it with honesty.
Isshiki’s shoulders twitched. Seeing that, I slowly spoke in earnest.
“The reason those guys are acting like that is because they want to look down on you; to cause you discomfort. In that case, all you needed to do was turn the tables around. Come up with a result that will make them as mad as possible.”
If by chance. If by chance, as a girl, half of the girl population was her enemy. And if by chance, Isshiki Iroha truly liked Hayama Hayato.
I had to gamble on those. I had to gamble on the pride Isshiki Iroha had as a girl.
“Yukinoshita backed by Hayama and Yuigahama backed by Miura. Don’t you want to try winning against those two?”
Isshiki raised her head in response to those words.
But she quickly showed her superficial, business smile once again.
“But I can’t win right? Well, winning would be a problem in itself though~.”
I thought Isshiki Iroha was a rather clever girl. She understood her own worth and conducted herself in a way that people would acknowledge her. As she did that, her attitude would be combined with slyness.
And on top of that cunningness of hers, she came to understand the difference between herself and the two, Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. If I could unfasten those shacklers of hers, then she wouldn’t run away from those two.
“What do you think I’ve been having you write since earlier?”
“A directory list of endorsements, isn’t it?”
“That’s right… Except it’s a directory list of endorsements for Isshiki Iroha.”
“Haa? Ah… Fueh?”
You don’t need to say it over again (good conscience).
I grabbed a different list from the clear file.
On it was all of the retweets printed from the “Isshiki Iroha Grassroots Account”. I laid out each sheet one by one before Isshiki.
“Ummm, I already got my list of endorsements though…”
“The requirement was to get more than thirty endorsements. You can, however, get as much as you want.”
Isshiki grabbed a printout and looked hard at it. There, I told her.
“Just a little over 400. That’s the number of supporters for Isshiki Iroha.”
Was she taking the time to calculate everything? That is, the meaning that that number had. Eventually, Isshiki realized something and frantically let go of the piece of paper.
“E-Even if you tell me that all of a sudden, I can’t do it! I-I mean, I haven’t even thought about anything for the speech either.”
“Do you still have that piece of paper written with what Yukinoshita said for the platform?”
I suddenly brought that up and Isshiki answered in confusion.
“Huh? Ah, I think so.”
“Good, we’ll go with that.”
Isshiki then groaned as she pondered deeply and then spoke.
“Then, aren’t I just a puppet? Or something like that?”
“No, you won’t become one.”
When I answered, Isshiki tilted her head with doubt. Unintentionally, an unpleasant, broad grin spilled out from my face.
“The reason is because you won’t actually go about implementing any of it. You can’t call someone a puppet if they don’t do as they are told. There isn’t anyone who would try to protect the platform let alone expect anything out of it.”
“Isn’t that worse than a puppet?”
Isshiki spoke with shock. But she quickly withdrew that shocked smile.
“…You know, even if I become the president, I don’t think I could do it~. I don’t have any confidence or something. I also have club too…”
Isshiki’s uncertainty was natural.
If she carelessly decided to become the student council president here and ended up failing, her brand image would get worse. She was weighing the risks and returns and they were swaying from one end to the other.
That’s why it was necessary to change those risks, those demerits, so that they would become merits to her.
“Well, certainly, shuffling both would be pretty tough… But if you pull through, the returns would be huge. What do you think those would be?”
“Haa…? Well, maybe something like experience, or something like confidential reports or something. But you know senpai, you’re acting like a teacher right now.”
Isshiki looked at me with apathetic eyes. I could feel her telling me that she didn’t need the boring lecture.
But I couldn’t have her underestimating me now.
“…Nope, you got it wrong. What you’d get would be ‘I’m a courageous person for doing club activities at the same time as doing something as hard as the student council president!’”
I tried to say it as adorably as I could, but “whoa…” was the only thing Isshiki murmured… what was that? Was it unnecessary because the title was already long enough as it is?
But after I cleared my throat, the words that followed after got a proper reaction from Isshiki.
“Since you’re a first year, there are things you would be forgiven for even if you failed at them. There isn’t that much of a difference as far as ability’s concerned between first and second years.”
When I spoke, Isshiki quickly looked at my face. After confirming that our eyes were in contact, I went for one more push.
“And since you were doing both things at once, you can easily use club as an excuse to get away from the student council. The opposite applies as well… These two advantages are something only you would have.”
“B-But, hard things are hard things sooo~… or something.”
Isshiki restlessly moved her shoulders. This was the most positive reaction so far.
As Isshiki said earlier, if she became the president at this rate, she’d be nothing, but a puppet. No, she’d be something lower. Isshiki probably couldn’t do anything by herself. But that could very well be the reason why she would be suitable as the president. Because she would need help and protection, she would be viable to ask for help from various people including Hayama. By doing this, she could get them to favor her and this would be the ultimate merit for her. If I was going to be straightforward to her about explaining this, this would be how it’d come out.
“Times like those are when you can consult with Hayama. If you want, you can get him to help you too. He’ll basically be attending to you for the whole year. You could even talk to him over lunch after club or something and even have him send you home too.”
After I laid everything out in one breath, Isshiki blinked in surprise.
“…Senpai, could it be that you’re really smart?”
But in exchange, I was malicious with a bad personality.
Isshiki suddenly let out a sigh that was a cross between a bitter smile and a regular smile.
“Well… If I’m getting this much support, I guess it can’t be helped~. And your suggestion is pretty charming as well… And I’m not too fond of my classmates laughing at me from behind too…”
Isshiki cut off her words there and showed an extraordinarily malicious smile.
“I’ll get on board with you, senpai.”
It was a mysterious thing.
I couldn’t help but think that this smile was much cuter.
× × ×
I slowly walked down the hallway of the special building. It had been only a few days at most, yet the scenery felt awfully nostalgic.
The rustling noise after school, the commotion of the students, the voices of the clubs from outside, and the echoing of the brass band. Eventually they’d all feel nostalgic at some point.
I stood before the door to the club and placed my hands on it. The door seemed to be unlocked. And the girls seemed to be inside already. I took a small breath and entered the room.
The small fragrance of black tea filled the room.
Yukinoshita and Yuigahama sat at their usual seats. However, they weren’t speaking.
Typically, Yukinoshita would be sitting and reading her book, but today she was sitting up straight silently. Next to her was Yuigahama who wasn’t fiddling with her cellphone and instead was peeking at Yukinoshita awkwardly.
It was reasonable.
Rumors of Yukinoshita and Yuigahama announcing their candidacy were already running throughout the school. There were people who were talking about it on Twitter which I was observing.
Yukinoshita, of course, should have been well aware of Yuigahama’s running for candidacy. That’s why Yuigahama was fumbling over what to say to her.
However, that too would end today and at this very moment only.
“Sorry for making you wait.”
I spoke, pulled my chair out, and sat at my usual seat.
Yukinoshita’s expression was stern up until she looked at me to which she spoke up.
“It’s quite rare for you to go through the trouble of calling us.”
“No, I figured I’d try to get our conclusions out on the table.”
When I said that, Yukinoshita made a slightly surprised expression and she then softly dropped her gaze. She repeated my words slowly as if she was thinking.
When I glanced at Yuigahama, she was looking at me quietly. She was waiting for my words.
“Our methods may be different individually, but as a club, we should have a conclusion. Especially in a case like this where there’s only one chance.”
The student council election would happen only once. Trial and error wasn’t allowed. It was only during that time and moment that there existed a chance. As long as you weren’t allowed to test things over and over, it’d be better to be unified at the end.
“You guys won’t change your mind?”
Although I knew what their answer would be, I wanted to make sure at the very end.
Yukinoshita directly looked at me with a stern glint in her eyes and answered immediately.
“I won’t. This is the best way.”
Her unmoving and striking tone pierced through me directly.
That forceful intensity caused me to choke on my voice. The room grew silent.
In the silence was a small voice that was also soaked with emotion.
“…I won’t either.”
Yuigahama quietly stared at the desk, never looking at either of us. Her attitude emitted a resolute mood that filled the room and Yukinoshita bit her lips.
“Yuigahama-san, there isn’t a need for you to participate…”
“I will. And I don’t plan on losing.”
Her quiet voice was stubborn without the slightest hint of withdrawing. As usual, Yuigahama was facing downwards so I couldn’t read her expression. Yukinoshita questioned the downwards facing Yuigahama from the side with a strained, but quiet voice. Her expression that looked like she was looking at something heartbreaking appeared lonely. Even in those narrowed eyes of hers, there was sadness somewhere as well.
“Why even you as well…”
“…Because if Yukinon’s gone, then we’ll lose it… I don’t want that.”
Yuigahama answered with a shaking voice. Yukinoshita slowly spoke as if remonstrating that.
“I already said it before. That won’t happen. That’s why it shouldn’t be necessary for you to participate.”
Yuigahama raised her head as she was about to object. But when she faced Yukinoshita directly, she lost the words to continue on further.
I took over where she left off.
“In truth, there really isn’t a need to participate in the election… Not just Yuigahama, but you as well, Yukinoshita.”
“…What do you mean?”
Yukinoshita looked at me, finding fault with what I said. Her eyes sharply narrowed.
“I believe I already rejected your suggestion.”
That’s right. Yukinoshita thoroughly rejected my proposal. I was just being conceited if I thought something I did would lead to something. And then, Hayama was the one who told me how other people would force their own selfish opinion on me based on how they saw me regardless of what my intentions were. But there were also people who noticed for me that that wasn’t all there was to it.
“…Yeah. That’s why I’m not talking about that one. That kind of stuff… I’m not doing it anymore.”
Truthfully, it should be different from my methods up until now. I used a risk hedge that took a lot more effort than before. And the imposed conditions were cleared.
Yukinoshita looked slightly confused as she went silent. She was probably thinking that it was surprising for me to unexpectedly back down.
“So… why is it okay for us to not participate?”
Yuigahama asked timidly. She looked at me, worried about what I might say. But my answer was extremely normal. It wasn’t anything important.
“Isshiki is willing to run for the student council president now. That’s why the request itself doesn’t exist anymore.”
After saying that, Yukinoshita as well as Yuigahama looked dumbfounded. And then Yukinoshita spoke with suspicion.
“Why so suddenly…?”
“Rather than suddenly, the premise was just wrong in the first place.”
It wasn’t only my approach that was wrong, but Yukinoshita’s and Yuigahama’s as well.
For someone who wasn’t motivated, you simply had to make him stop. That was one way to do it.
But there was another way. And that was to motivate them. The problem itself would disappear in its entirety.
“It’s not that Isshiki didn’t want to be the student council president. What she didn’t like was being elected as the unsightly student council president who won a vote of confidence in an election where it was obvious who would win.”
People who didn’t listen to others and cooked up their own success stories inside of themselves. There were people who wouldn’t consent to their story if it wasn’t followed to a tee.
In the same way, there were people who tried to preserve the character that they painstakingly created.
Isshiki just didn’t want to act in a detrimental way that would lower her own worth. That’s why you just had to do away with that demerit and change it into a merit instead.
“That’s why if you cleared all those conditions, then she’ll become the student council president.”
Yuigahama looked confused as she listened to my story and voiced a question.
“B-But, if we don’t participate, then isn’t it just going to become a vote of confidence in the end?”
“Yeah. It will. But if the vote of confidence had value to it, that’s fine. It’s a different story if it didn’t damage Isshiki Iroha’s brand image.”
The two looked at me as if they weren’t convinced and shot me stares asking me to explain.
But it’d be faster to present detailed examples than orally explain it to them. I grabbed my bag.
“That’s why I searched for that value.”
I then pulled out a clear file.
The content was the same as what I showed Isshiki. It was a printed list of names of people who retweeted the posts from the account managed by a fictional person.
Yuigahama grabbed one sheet of paper and asked.
“It’s an active grassroots account on Twitter. Well, it’s not just for Isshiki as there are other accounts for other people as well.”
I couldn’t help but be impressed with myself for saying something so natural considering I was the one who did all the work. But I didn’t utter a single lie.
Yukinoshita looked over the printouts and murmured with confusion.
“Collection of endorsements on the internet…”
“That’s not all. Most of the retweets in that list were primarily for Isshiki.”
“So it’ll turn into a substantial primary election…”
I nodded to Yukinoshita’s mutter.
While it may be on Twitter, it being on there would cause rumors to start. The fact that there were other candidates in the running would influence the substantial primary election and getting people to be conscious that they were the ones who supported them as runners of candidates was good. Even if it didn’t work out as smoothly as that, as long as it could satisfy Isshiki’s ego and even be the primary reason for her to move, then that was fine.
Yukinoshita looked through page after page and quickly scanned over the lists. After that, she let out a long sigh.
“I see, so this is… This explains why everyone wasn’t very interested when I spoke to them about endorsements…”
It was possible that the people Yukinoshita talked to didn’t belong to the group of people who retweeted. But the chain of tweets recruiting endorsements should have wiggled their way into their thought processes.
By preparing numerous choices for them, they would start to hesitate.
Even if the time they spent to hesitate decreased from one person to the next, there would be a huge time loss should that kind of atmosphere become rampant. Just like how one vehicle breaking could cause a traffic jam on the highway,
There were sounds of rustling paper.
Yukinoshita held the printout before me and asked. Wrinkles formed on that piece of paper as she gripped it tightly.
“…Did you do this?”
“It’s probably a volunteer. I don’t know who it is though.”
Yukinoshita didn’t ask any further.
She probably realized it’d be pointless in doing so. I wouldn’t say anything and even if you tried to look it up, the information on the accounts didn’t have any personal details to go on.
“This is an amazing amount, isn’t it?”
Yuigahama spoke in a daze.
“Yeah. It’s quite a lot. It’s around 400 or so.”
As I answered, I glanced at the “Isshiki Iroha Grassroots Account” printout.
Hayama, Miura, Ebina-san, Isshiki, Totsuka, Sagami, Tobe, and the secondly added Hayama grassroots account. The accumulated total of all the retweets of the periodic posts from all eight accounts surpassed 400. And Hayama was the most overwhelming. If you calculated at most one post for twenty tweets over all eight accounts, then this number would hold.
Right. The number that all all the accounts summed up to were 400.
Therefore, it wasn’t a number that only Isshiki had.
In the first place, the number of Twitter users at Sobu High was limited and it would be impossible for Isshiki Iroha to amass that kind of support.
That’s why there was one lie here.
You couldn’t change your username on Twitter from English, but you could change the profile name to Japanese.
The displayed Japanese profile name and the thumbnail image of all eight operated accounts were changed last night to “Isshiki Iroha Grassroots Account”.
Whoever it was and whether he existed or not, the person behind the account had changed it.
If you looked carefully, you’d immediately see the difference in the English username. But the English was organized with vocabulary like “kaicyou” and “ouen” which were things they wouldn’t make a personal correlation with. That’s why you could give any number of explanations.
Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were looking at that printout.
If you actually looked carefully, you’d see that those accounts were duplicates. Of course, there were tons of pseudonyms as well.
It was just a simple bluff.
But as long as I could get through this today and this very moment, then that was good enough.
Yuigahama put the printout on the desk and quietly reached for her cellphone.
That posture of hers gave me the chills. Could she be confirming it on the internet?
But Yuigahama’s hands stopped there. As if she gave up on the idea, she only touched the phone and returned it to its original spot.
Just in case, the names of the accounts were left as they were. That’s why even if you checked now, the content should be the same as what’s printed on the sheets.
But this was a risky maneuver as long as the fake account had followers.
But a special characteristic of Twitter was that as long as you didn’t submit anything, nothing would appear on the timelines of your followers.
Because there wasn’t a single post all day today, the name change for the fake accounts shouldn’t have been noticed by the followers. And also, their timelines continued to be updated with new submissions even now. Thanks to that, the posts of the fake accounts continued to drop to the bottom until its entire existence was erased.
Of course, there may have been some followers who noticed the updated display name.
But as long as they could be deceived for the rest of the day, it was just a matter of deleting the account after the fact. Everything would disappear.
There were two reasons for the existence of this fake account.
The first reason was so it could persuade Isshiki Iroha to get motivated.
And the other was to act as a deterrent to Yukinoshita. While it stalled for time trying to get as many endorsements as possible, as long as it could function as data to show that it was possible for Isshiki Iroha to be elected, then that was good. If Yukinoshita was stopped, then Yuigahama would lose her motivation to run as well.
“I see… So it’s passed 400 huh…”
Yukinoshita let out a sigh with a murmur as she looked at the list.
The entire school population was 1,200 people. In other words, given the case that there were three candidates, with simple calculation, to be elected would require over 400 votes.
This would serve as the basis for the possibility that Isshiki Iroha would be elected.
This should be enough for an explanation. I gathered up the printouts, stacked them on top of each other and returned them to my bag.
“In order for Isshiki to become the student council president, all of the shackles that made up the conditions have been cleared. That’s why…”
And then, I looked at the two and slowly spoke.
“There isn’t a need for you two to become the student council president.”
It took a considerable amount of time to just say these simple words. But this was my conclusion. No one would be hurt, no one would be blamed with crimes, and no one would be judged. All those criticisms and pains would disappear along with the data of this account.
Yuigahama suddenly sighed.
“That’s great… So everything’s resolved now…”
She relaxed her shoulders as if she was released from fatigue and finally smiled.
I moved my neck as if the tension in my shoulders were dissolving as well.
At that moment, my eyes caught something.
Just one person.
Yukinoshita Yukino was silent.
She was silent, not making even the slightest sound, as if she was the epitome of a finely, crafted bisque doll. Her eyes had the transparency of glass and jewels, making them all the more so cold.
That shouldn’t have been any different from how Yukinoshita usually is. How she was always calm, always quiet, always composed, and always graceful; her appearance, even against conventional wisdom, was breathtaking.
However, now, there was a fleeting quality in her appearance that would vanish upon coming in contact with her.
“…I see.” She let out a sigh as she uttered those words and Yukinoshita raised her head. However, her gaze wasn’t directed at either me or Yuigahama. “So that means… the problem and my reason to run no longer exists…”
Yukinoshita looked far into the distance outside the window.
“I guess that’s how it is…”
I looked in the same direction as she did, but what I saw was the same, unchanging scenery. The waning sun and the transparent sky. Only the lonely dropping of leaves from the shaking trees were there.
With a short answer, Yukinoshita silently looked away, closing her eyes as if falling into a slumber.
“I was sure it was something you could understand…”
Her voice wasn’t aimed at any one. That’s why, her voice sounded empty.
Those words caused turbulence in my heart.
However, it’s just, as if yearning for something long ago and as if there was grievance over something that had ended, those words of hers wouldn’t allow me to ask about it.
Yukinoshita quietly stood up.
“…I’ll let Hiratsuka-sensei and Meguri-senpai know about the request.”
“Ah, we should, too.”
When Yuigahama nosily stood up from her chair, Yukinoshita gently smiled and stopped her.
“I’ll be fine by myself… You can go on home without me if I end up taking too long. I’ll hand back the key.”
After she said that, she left the room.
That attitude and that smile directed at Yuigahama shouldn’t have changed.
Yet why was I trying to see past it to see if there was anything different?
Again, my heart continued on nosily. The words that Yukinoshita spoke wouldn’t leave my ears.
At that moment, for the first time, it hit me.
What if what she wanted to do was something else?
A thought like that crossed my mind despite how far too late it was.
Yukinoshita understood the minute details of the election protocols. I thought that was just a display of the abundance of her knowledge and her wisdom.
Yukinoshita said she wouldn’t mind if she did it. I thought this was the same display as during the Culture Festival in how she would resist her older sister and how her personality would have her concentrate on a single task.
But what if?
What if her real intentions were there instead?
What if I had averted my eyes from the true intent buried within all those words?
What if I conveniently rationalized her behavior and acted based on my own wishful observations?
There were people who wouldn’t act unless there was a problem they could identify, a reason they could find.
If something was certain as well as uncertain, there were people who wouldn’t be able to act just because of the existence of the latter.
I knew that all too well. That’s why it wouldn’t be strange if there were other people like that as well.
Despite all that, I eliminated that possibility.
Truthfully, I didn’t understand it.
It’s not that I didn’t exchange any words. It’s just that I didn’t understand what I was exchanging.
It’s just that.
Deep inside, there was a lingering doubt that I may have been mistaken.
× × ×
The evening glow of the setting sun shone into the room.
We waited for Yukinoshita’s return, but just like she said moments ago, the explanation seemed to be dragging on. But I didn’t know if that really was the truth or not.
Right now, the only ones in the room were me and Yuigahama.
Despite having a book open, I wasn’t reading it while Yuigahama was staring at her cellphone with her fingers not moving an inch.
I casually took a glimpse of the clock on the wall. The time to head home was nearing.
When I returned my eyes from the clock, they clashed with Yuigahama’s. Apparently we were both looking at the clock at the same time. Yuigahama suddenly spoke up.
“Yukinon’s kinda late, isn’t she…?”
I replied briefly and dropped my eyes to the book in my hands once again.
But realizing doing that was pointless, I closed the book.
I worried slightly about what I should say. I scratched my head noisily and started up a conversation.
“…Uh, sorry about before.”
“…Huh? Wh-Why are you apologizing?”
Yuigahama looked startled as she stiffened up.
“Well, how should I say it? You went through a lot, right? Like, uh, for your platform and speech.”
“Ohh, that’s what you’re talking about…”
Looking convinced, Yuigahama loosened her guard.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
She then showed a relieved smile.
Thanks to that, my heart felt somewhat lighter. Putting aside her personality and popularity, even though she was absolutely not suited for the practical side of things, I thought she really did try her hardest. That’s why letting that go to waste was slightly agonizing. I let out a small sigh.
“You went through a lot too right, Hikki? I mean, just look at how grown out and messy your hair is.”
Yuigahama pointed at my head as she said that and quickly stood up.
“Lemme fix it for you.”
“Don’t need it, jeez.”
Although I refused her, she would say “okay okay” while ignoring me and walked around to behind me.
Her warm hands gently sifted through my hair. Even if I tried to shake my head away to avoid her, she was firmly keeping me in place.
“You really did your best, didn’t you, Hikki?”
As we had that conversation, her hands that were touching my hair stopped and a feeling of oppression tenderly wrapped around the back of my head as if it was being hugged. This surprised me causing my body to stiffen up.
If I were to move now, I’d needlessly increase the amount of contact between us. That would be extremely bad for me. As I sat there unable to move a single inch, a soft voice reached my ears.
“You protected my important place for me.”
Those words were extremely gentle that I ended up closing my eyes. The slight and faint warmth that was transmitted to me caused me to strain my ears.
After Yuigahama let out a small sigh, she slowly continued her words.
“You see… I knew what was going to happen. I probably wouldn’t have won against Yukinon and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to show up to club anymore.”
She spoke awkwardly without the slightest hint of nonsense. That’s why I silently listened.
“That’s why,” Yuigahama continued.
“It’s all thanks to you, Hikki.”
However, no matter how kind those words were, I couldn’t accept them.
“…That’s not right.”
I didn’t try to do anything. I didn’t even know what could be done. But there were people who noticed that for me. That’s why the ones deserving those kind words were them.
“You’ve done enough with my hair already, right?”
I pushed away Yuigahama’s hands as gently as possible. Yuigahama stood behind me for a little bit longer, but after a slight smile, she pulled a chair over and sat next to me.
I couldn’t face her directly so I looked in another direction disinterested.
Suddenly, Yuigahama spoke up.
“Hikki did his best!”
“What’s with you so suddenly?”
She was sitting right next to me, yet her voice was loud. I reflexively turned to face Yuigahama and after she nodded, she exclaimed again in a loud voice.
“Hikki did his best!”
“Stop it. I really didn’t do anything.”
Really, the only things I did were type away on Twitter and talk with Isshiki. I didn’t do anything meaningful of the sort. In fact, I could only think of what I did as hindering the productivity of others.
That feeling of reflection may have been heard somewhat in my voice. Yuigahama weakly nodded and smiled faintly.
“…I guess so. You didn’t do anything. At least, anything that anyone could see.”
I nodded only my head. However, Yuigahama shook her head in response to that.
“But if you could see it, then I think there’d be a lot of unlikeable things that were done. I’m sure even if you wanted to change it, Hikki’s methods are things you can’t change.”
It was as if she understood the things that I did. Or could it be that she knew the truth behind those accounts? Whatever the case was, it wasn’t a praiseworthy method. In fact, it was just that much worse given how it wasn’t exposed.
But if no one could see it or knew about it, then there was no problem.
“If you couldn’t see what it is that I did, you wouldn’t know what it is.”
That’s why let’s put this incident to rest. It was better to dig its grave now.
That was what I wanted to say.
However, Yuigahama didn’t avert her eyes as she continued her words.
“But Hikki, wouldn’t you keep thinking about it even if I couldn’t see it and criticize it?
“…You won’t stop feeling guilty.”
Yuigahama interrupted me halfway through and spoke.
Yeah, that was true. It really wouldn’t disappear.
Undoubtedly, there was always something I had mistaken and I would continue to live on with that feeling of anxiety.
That’s why regardless of what I did, the feelings of guilt would find its way back.
“I… couldn’t do anything, but… Even so, I start to think if this really was good enough. That’s why I think Hikki would think about it even more.”
Yuigahama gently said. She looked slightly sad as she smiled. But even so, she would be considerate of me.
That’s why that kindness was extremely painful. Even though I thought I didn’t want there to be any pain. Even something as simple as that wouldn’t come to pass.
“…We weren’t wrong about this, right?”
That question she asked was something I couldn’t answer. Even though I already knew how to.
As I sat there saying nothing, Yuigahama continued with a heartfelt voice.
“Now we’ll be able to go back to like how we used to be, right?”
“…I don’t know.”
I answered honestly.
Those words Yukinoshita said at that time still wouldn’t disappear.
The illusion of being understood was pleasantly lukewarm. Indulging it would only turn it into an inescapable quagmire. Imagine how comfortable it would be if you could cling onto it for as long as you wanted.
To understand each other was an extremely cruel illusion.
Just how much despair you would have to experience upon waking up from that illusion, I didn’t know.
The slightest of discomfort and doubt would act as thorns and form into unpleasant feelings that would bring everything to ruin.
I was supposed to notice something like that.
What I desired wasn’t to get along with someone just for show.
It was surely the desire for something genuine. Anything else, I didn’t need at all.
Even if you didn’t voice your words, they would still reach; even if you didn’t do anything, you would still be understood; even if anything happened, nothing would break.
It was an illusion so beautiful, yet so foolish and detached from reality.
She and I both longed for something that genuine.
- Kinnikuman ↩