I knew it, too.
Ayai didn’t have any bad intentions. It was all caused by my petty jealousy and stubbornness.
Still—I couldn’t stand it.
I couldn’t allow myself to think that you looked at me that way.
—You know, Irido-kun.
—There’s a girl in our class who reads books. And when I told her about Irido-kun—
Oh, come on.
Didn’t you get mad because I had a little obligatory conversation with another girl?
Why would you say something like that?
Are you feeling sorry for me? Because you have a friend?
Are you saying—that I’m pitiful?
—Don’t do that, please.
—I’m not interested in having friends.
I knew, I knew.
There’s a better way to say it.
No matter how betrayed I felt, no matter how much I wish you hadn’t treated me that way, I shouldn’t have done that
Ayai was being thoughtful for me in her own way.
She felt that things went wrong because her friends were involved, and assumed that things would improve if I was included in that circle.
I knew, I knew.
And I also knew something else.
I shouldn’t have flared up then, and just faked it instead.
I should have chosen my words.
In my head—I knew that should be the way to go.
I entered the meeting room for the first time, and found the committee members for the culture festival, selected from each class, seated in rows, divided by grade.
The room was buzzing with chatter, and I could see people who seemed acquainted gathered together across classes and grades. The atmosphere wasn’t much different from that of a classroom during recess.
Yume and I walked into the meeting room, blending into the relaxed atmosphere, checked our positions on the whiteboard, and sat at the seats for class 1-7.
“(…It feels surprisingly casual.)”
“(Well, even though it’s called a committee, it’s actually just gathering of a bunch of losers in rock-paper-scissors.)”
“(You don’t say.)”
It’s not like anyone would willingly volunteer to be part of the committee. It’s no wonder morale was low, especially when the teachers were nowhere to be seen. If we weren’t careful, this stagnant mood might continue on even after the meeting starts—
—Or so I thought, until she showed up.
The door opened.
And then, leading a group into the meeting room was a small girl.
That was the moment. The conversations between the second and third year students instantly quieted down, and so did the area where the first years were.
In the rapidly tense conference room, one boy and one teacher followed her into the room. The three of them, including the first girl, settled down at a long desk in front of the whiteboard.
Sitting in the center was the girl who had taken the lead.
I called her a girl because of her innocent appearance. She’s shorter than Yume, and slightly taller than Minami-san. She wore the school’s cardigan instead of a blazer, and her asymmetrical hairstyle with different lengths on each side left quite the impression.
But most importantly.
What defined her impression was her overwhelming presence, unbefitting of her small stature. If a great genius like Osamu Dazai or Alexandre Dumas were in front of me, I might feel this way too.
The clock on the whiteboard pointed to the start time of the executive committee meeting. Instantly, she announced.
“It’s time. Have a seat.”
The girl’s voice was like a spinning bell, one that echoed proudly with vigor, and the students who had been standing around were quickly seated like a well drilled army.
Good kids, so she seemingly implied as she smiled.
Then, she opened her thin lips.
“First, let me introduce myself. I’m Suzuri Kurenai from Class 2-7, vice president of the student council. This is the treasurer, Jouji Haba. And this is the student council advisor, Arakusa-sensei..
The boy sitting to the left of her, Suzuki Kurenai, made a small bow, and Arakusa-sensei, sitting to the right, said in a thick voice, “Nice to meet you.
The guy who was introduced as the treasurer—Jouji Haba, was it? For a student, he had quite the faint presence, and I forgot his name over such a short time. The only thing that caught my attention was his messy hair and dull glasses. He was the opposite of the vice president.
“Let me begin by explaining something. Every year, the culture festival is the last event of our Rakurou High School student council’s term. For this reason, the current head of the student council works behind the scenes as a handover, and it is customary for a person nominated from among the board members to take charge of the executive committee. Well—long story short, I’m (boku) going to be the head of the student council in a month. There’s no harm in remembering that, right?”
No one responded to the light-hearted remark of the next student council president.
Instead, the whole group—especially the freshmen, were buzzing about something else,
“…Boku… ” “Boku?” “She said boku…”
She addressed herself as boku, first person pronoun.
It was the first time I met such a girl, except for Yume whenever she got carried away.
Suzuki Kurenai’s face slowly turned toward the first-year students. That was all that was needed to calm the buzz, but the vice president smiled and said,
“Don’t be shy just because I’m a girl. It’s just a difference in chromosomes, that’s all. Boys, girls, and everyone else, please feel free to talk to me.”
It was a dignified thing for her to say. She didn’t have a complex about it, nor was she overly self-conscious. She simply stated that she feared no one—just from the way she stood and declared.
It’s clear she’s not an ordinary person…so I thought, and Yume whispered to me discreetly.
“(Kurenai-senpai is said to have been the top student for the past two years. Not only that, she might be the best student of all time.)”
“(Of all time…wait, I’m sure there are a lot of politicians and famous scholars among our graduates, right?)”
“(At this point, she already obtained A grades from both Tokyo University and Kyoto University.)”
What the? That sounded like a bad joke.
…She’s a real genius, huh?
If I could ask her for help back then, I wouldn’t have to show Isana such a terrible novel.
“Well. Now that we’ve introduced ourselves, let’s move on to today’s agenda. The other day, I asked all of you to submit your proposals suggestions for the festival—”
As soon as the Vice President began to speak, the initial languid atmosphere disappeared without a trace.
I felt inexplicably distant from her dignified demeanor…and Yume next to me seemed to have a look of admiration in her eyes.
“I knew this would clash…”
We’re back in the classroom, and shared the details of the committee meeting with Minami-san.
Minami-san promised that she would present if our planned item for the festival clashed with other classes…yep, her appearance was basically confirmed.
Vice President Suzuki Kurenai, who was also the chairman of the culture festival committee and a member of the management team, announced that this would be narrowed down to two classes depending on the presentations.
I wasn’t really surprised since I expected it. However, the timeline to present was a little tighter than expected, so we had to hurry and finalize the content.
“For the presentation, I just need to read the manuscript, right?”
“We’ll decide on what’s to be presented…I guess?”
“It’s troublesome, but it’ll be faster.”
It would be nice if a certain person who’s very popular in class could be a little more dependable.
“What do you think I should tell them, that Yume-chan is really cute and adorable? Or maybe~?”
“Akatsuki-san…that’s a bit ….”
“But In the first place, we won’t be in class since we’ll be working during CulFes. That would be false advertising.”
“Then what do we do?”
“Well, if we think about it normally, the first thing we need to discuss is the impact of the project… From the management’s point of view, the last thing they want is for someone to try something reckless and get everyone into trouble.”
“That’s true, I guess…how about we keep the menu simple?”
“That’s necessary too, but it can also be seen as simply cutting corners. That’s why I think we should push for thorough countermeasures in case of trouble.”
Minami-san tilted her head,
“What kind of trouble, for example?”
“Well, there are a lot of things that can happen, and since we don’t have any experience working in a restaurant, there’s a limit to what we can expect, but … the most likely thing to happen is for people to start wooing.”
“Woah, now that sounds likely. It’s an invitation-only event, but outsiders will be here…alright, I’ll put up signs all over the classroom saying, ‘anyone trying to woo our staff will be killed’.”
“That would ruin the atmosphere of the restaurant. Also, people will come up with excuses like ‘I’m not wooing, I’m just talking’.”
“If they’re stupid enough to use that excuse, we should surround them with all the girls and intimidate them!”
“And you’re going to explain that to the entire student council and PTA?”
“Woah! That’s too much work!”
In fact, the simulated store was our home court. We could use numbers to shoo out those malicious ones trying to woo our staff. The question though was whether or not this will improve management’s opinion.
The three of us got our heads together and pondered. It’s still difficult without experiencing it…
“Why don’t you try a simulation for now?”
Suddenly, Kogure Kawanami, who was standing elsewhere, interrupted us.
Was he eavesdropping on our conversation? Well, it was nothing to be surprised about at this point.
Looking at his frivolous face, I said,
“How would you react if you were actually wooed? If you try acting it out, you might come up with a better idea.”
“What? Acting like one—”
“Good idea! I like that!”
Minami-san got baited, hook, line, and sinker.
What now? She’d usually complain about everything Kawanami said, but—
“Yume-chan, you’ve never been wooed, right? If you practice with your family, you won’t have to worry if that moment actually comes!”
“What? What? With family….”
“Oh, that’s right. You should practice with your family first. It’ll be easier for you, right Irido?”
Kawanami turned on the jets, and Yume glanced at me.
Something strange was going on here.
I couldn’t stop the flow of the conversation, and Minami-san nudged me forward.
“Here, Irido-kun! Just do it! Give it a try!”
“A try, you say—”
Even if it’s acting, I didn’t know how to pick up girls.
I was troubled, and Yume was in a waiting position, facing me, her hands clasped in her lap…Yeah, she went along with this way too easily! I couldn’t just boycott the event.
Damn…woo her? How do I talk to someone? The impression I had from most manga and light novels was that most of the attempts were flirty and rude, but the ones I saw on the streets were usually polite, to the point where people use formal language…
“…Shall we start?”
I was nervous as hell, and began to woo as I had imagined in my head.
“Where are you from?”
“What are your hobbies?”
“What you’re wearing today—”
“Is this a blind date!?”
Minami-san stoked the flames vigorously.
What the hell. I was acting as they wanted.
“What’s with this weird distance when trying to woo something!? ‘Where are you from’!? What is this, a job interview?
“Don’t they say stuff like ‘where do you live’ while wooing people?”
“Don’t be so polite! And Yume-chan, you shouldn’t be so frightened!”
“B-But…! If you’re so sure, Akatsuki-san, you should try it!”
“That’s right. If you’re going to complain about it, you might as well do it yourself. Right, Kawanami?”
“I’m playing the guy…?”
Of course, isn’t it? Don’t you know of the rule that whoever suggests has to do it first?
“Good grief…looks like I have no choice. Well, I’ll show you a good example. See? Look, Kawanami!”
“Yes, yes, ….”
Kawanami replied in an annoyed tone, but then his expression changed.
“Hey you~! You’re so cute! Can you give me your contact information if you want?”
“Hmm~, what should I do~? Will you ignore my messages?”
“No, I won’t. I’m a quick responder.”
“Huh? How many seconds is a quick response?
“Two seconds? Two seconds, right? You said two seconds, right? I heard you. You have to answer me within two seconds, okay? I don’t care if you’re eating, using the bathroom, or bathing. You know, you better reply within two seconds, okay?”
“I’ll keep sending messages until you reply, okay? I’ll keep going until you reply, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever, okay? Do you understand, right? You won’t lie to me, right? You won’t betray me, right?”
Kawanami’s frivolous smile gradually turned blue, and he finally cupped a hand in his mouth.
“Hey, are you alright?”
“I need the toilet…”
And then the guy acting as the one wooing, Kogure Kawanami, left the room.
Minami-san watched him go, and pouted her lips,
“Don’t pick up girls who don’t want to be with you, you idiot!”
“…I’ll try not to ignore your messages…”
“Actually, I think that might work…”
This café might end up with a different concept coffee shop though.
“If you were to be wooed, how would you get out of it?”
It was after school. Isana (I still couldn’t get used to calling her by this name) joined me at the usual place in the library, and I asked her this question.
Isana looked up from her book and widened her eyes,
“What? Wooed? Can you eat that?”
“I’m relieved that we live in a peaceful world.”
“Jokes aside—well, I guess I’ll run. Maybe.”
I guess so. I could imagine her wandering off in silence and then running away in a flash.
“In a certain sense, this might be the most legitimate response. But you can’t just run away when you’re serving a customer—no…?”
When a girl encounters a troublesome customer, it’s not a bad idea to quickly switch to a boy. But either way, the girl still has to go out there and serve…the best situation would be to avoid it altogether though.
“In novels and manga, the main character charges to the rescue heroically. Unfortunately, there’s no such main character in my life.”
“I don’t really like that, though. It’s like the world is made stale just to make the protagonist stand out.”
“Isn’t it an easy event to make people feel like princes and princesses? You’re the kind of person to note how the plot unfolded so nicely, Mizuto-kun.”
“I don’t mind if it’s to make the story more exciting, but I’ve seen too many wooing events in too many stories to get excited.”
“That’s harsh of you. I don’t care how many times a good romcom event gets repeated, what kind of wooing isn’t cliché from your point of view, Mizuto-kun?”
“…Wait, is that it? Actually trying it out?”
“Ueheh, feels like we have a manzai routine.”
I never thought I’d have to do this kind of imitation twice in one day.
The last time I tried to act polite, I was asked if I was on a blind date. It’d be fine if the other party was soft-spoken, but this time, I should expect someone aggressive who wouldn’t care about what the other thinks and be very forceful. If that’s the case, I’ll…
“Ah, yes. Has it started?”
“You seem free all by yourself. Come here.”
“Eh~ I’m not bored. ……”
“I don’t know. Don’t talk back to me.”
“Ehh…you’re not the ore-sama type…?”
“You saying you won’t accept my invitation?”
“E-erm…i-it’s a little, well, inconvenient…”
“What’s inconvenient? Tell me.”
“…Ah! It’s different! You’re not being an ore-sama, but a power-hungry boss!”
Isana had been fidgeting for some reason, and rapidly came to her senses.
I did my best to retract my ore-sama vibe,
“It’s really tough…”
“No no no, you’ve got talent, Mizuto-kun! It’s like in the previews of romantic movies. Quickly! Hurry up!”
“What are you going to do if you meet a nuisance?”
I sighed as I pushed Isana away from me.
“A real nasty customer won’t act like this…”
“The fact that you can’t be nasty, that you’re a good person at heart, that’s a good thing for me.”
“I’m sure a real douche will say more sexually harassing things like, ‘Aren’t your tits super big? Can I squeeze them?’ or something like that.”
“That’s just what you want me to say.”
“I-I hope you can say that when we go home…”
“Don’t start a conversation in your own brain.”
Sexual harassment. Well, that’s certainly one of the possible troubles.
“By the way, why are you thinking about picking up girls, are you going to date Yume-san?”
“No, I’m not. It’s just a countermeasure of a possible situation in our mockup stall. Best case scenario is that it doesn’t happen at all.”
“Fueehh~. You’re thinking of something tough, aren’t you?”
“Isana, I think you’ve been living your life avoiding many things in the world…”
“What bias do you have? What do you know about that? Well, that’s right!”
“What is the first thing you do when you want to avoid trouble that could happen at any moment?”
“I’ll look it up on a strategy wiki.”
“………We’re not talking about a game, you know?”
“I only encounter such troubles in games! I’ve never had that kind of trouble! Please don’t underestimate my lack of life experience!”
I guess I asked the wrong question. When we think of a strategy wiki, we’d think of a site where users share their game strategy, right? In reality, there is no such thing as…
It’s not impossible, right…? In a culture festival, of all times…
“……Isana, you’re my go-to character.”
“I don’t feel like I’m being complimented much!”
“In return, I’ll do what you asked for earlier.”
“Hyawa!? Auauauauauauauau! “
I got the idea. Now we just need to fortify our defenses.
“Yo, Irido, I got what you wanted. Took a picture and sent it to you on LINE.”
“Thanks. Let me see the real thing tomorrow, just in case.”
“Sure. What are you going to use it for?
I called Kawanami and checked the picture that was sent to me.
It’s a photo of a general admission invitation for last year’s culture festival. And the list of visitors.
The former belonged to some outsider who attended the culture festival last year, but the latter is supposed to be managed by the school…while I asked for it, how did he get it?
“General visitors must present their invitation at the entrance reception and enter their name on the admission list. Am I getting this right, Kawanami?”
“Yeah. Just to be blunt though, it’s impossible to check every name on the list. I only got this picture because one upperclassman happened to have a spare form.”
“No, it’s fine.”
The important thing wasn’t the name on the paper, but the note on the top of the paper.
It stated that any trouble caused on campus was the responsibility of the student, and that the school would take photographs of its premises for the purpose of publicizing the school and proper administration. Anyone writing their names on this paper would be agreeing to these terms.
The same statement could be found on the invitation letter. It’s unlikely that this statement will suddenly change this year.
“Looks fine to me…”
“What are you up to, Irido?
I picked up the book I was reading.
“Just one more annoying task to complete.”
It was midnight when I finished the book.
It was almost time to brush my teeth and go to bed, so I left the room. Dad, Yuni-san, and Yume were usually already asleep. I thought I’d go down the stairs quietly so that I wouldn’t cause noise, but—
I could see light leaking out.
Yume’s room next door was slightly ajar…and there’s light from the room shining into the hallway.
I was basically lured in as I peered into the door gap.
I saw Yume looking at her desk.
She had a serious face, and was reading a book that was neither a textbook nor a novel, but a notebook that might have something written.
I knew immediately that those were materials she gathered…
I was in charge of trouble-shooting, while Yume was to finalize the plan. We thought of adding some Taisho-era elements to the menu and interior to make the Taisho-Romantic Cafe more attractive, so we started investigating the customs back then.
I knew that she found some books from the library that might be helpful.
But…I didn’t expect her to stay up until this late at night to work on this, even though it was imposed on her.
…It seemed a wonderful sight at first glance, but it’s not.
It’s really an old-fashioned approach to try and get results by burning the midnight oil. I wasn’t going to overlook the fact that she failed many times because she pushed herself too hard, the physical test for example. She was going to repeat the same mistake.
I opened the gaping door completely and knocked on it.
Yume noticed, and looked at me,
“Same goes for you.”
I was quietly dismayed by her seeming lack of awareness,
“It’s good that you’re so serious, but don’t cut back on your sleep. Don’t you remember the last time you collapsed?”
I must have said it with utmost disdain and sarcasm, but Yume gave a faint smile.
“What, you’re worried about me?”
“Who do you think is going to clean up your mess?”
“If it means more work for you, I might as well collapse.”
What kind of physical threat is that?
Yume giggled in a funny manner.
“Don’t worry. I’m going to bed. I think I’m almost done here.”
“What about you? How’s it going with the troubleshooting?”
I looked away from Yume, who blinked at me in surprise.
“I got all the materials. All that is left for me is to write it down.”
“I’m jealous of you…just like when you studied for the test. I’m jealous of how decisive you are.”
“I don’t have the time to spend on trivial school stuff after all.”
“Isn’t that usually the other way around?”
“No, it’s not. Not for me.”
My life wasn’t centered on school, but on reading books. Unlike you.
“Hmm…well, it’s good that you work fast. I wonder what kind of reaction the management people will have to your weird ideas though?”
“I don’t care.”
I truly felt so.
I didn’t have any other purpose, so I turned to head for the stairs…but before I left, I remembered there was something else I had to say.
“About the trouble-shooting, if it’s well received, just pretend it was your idea.”
Yume was surprised again, and she blinked.
But this time, the nature of this surprise seemed a little different.
She was doubtful—and repulsed.
Even though I noticed it, I left Yume’s room.
“Wa-wait a minute! What’s going on?”
I walked down from the second floor, turned around, and put my index finger at my lips. Our parents were asleep on the first floor.
Yume hurriedly closed her mouth, and spoke with a hushed voice this time,
“(…… What do you mean? Why are you passing off your achievements as mine…?)”
“(Because it’s way too troublesome.)”
That’s all I said, and I walked down the stairs.
Yume couldn’t follow me because she was concerned about our sleeping parents.
And that’s how I could safely slip into the pitch-black first floor.
It’s the day of the presentation. After class, Yume and I changed into the costumes we borrowed from Madoka-san, and went from our classroom to the audio-visual room with Minami-san.
“Well~ it’s really a big hit! We can do this!”
“…It feels surreal to have so much hype…”
“But you’re really cute! Be confident! I’ll get angry if you don’t!”
“Why are you angry…?”
“Well, it’s not just Yume-chan, but Irido-kun too. That’s how good it is, though I feel conflicted about praising him so earnestly though!”
I really hoped she wouldn’t cause such a ruckus though; it’s obvious how many people would be looking at someone strutting around school in a hakama. The only blessing in disguise was that it was already after school when there were few people around.
…Me aside, Yume’s appearance was decent. Objectively speaking, I felt that her long black hair, calm face, and gorgeous and delicate physique matched well with the Japanese style costume…Well, not all girls in the class look this good, so maybe it’s a bit of a hyperbole, but it should be quite impactful. And then there’s—
I nonchalantly whispered to Minami-san. “Hmm?” she turned around.
“(I have a favor to ask.)”
“(Eh? What? That’s unusual.)”
“If anyone asks you who came up with the idea for the troubleshooting, please tell them it was Yume, not me.)”
Same reaction as Yume. Minami-san gave me a suspicious frown, and I explained,
“(Only if the reaction is good. If it’s not, you can pin the blame on me.)”
“(What’s that? Are you trying to hide your competence and make others look good?)”
“(I just don’t want to toot my own horn. I’ve already talked to Yume about it.)”
Yume glanced back at me, as though she heard what I said.
Well, I did tell her, but merely as a passing remark. Yume seemed unhappy about it, but anyway, I just didn’t want to openly show my accomplishments.
“(…Well, that’s fine for me. I’ll only do it when they ask me, okay?)”
“(Yeah. Please do.)”
That’s fine for me. I should be able to watch the presentation as a casual observer.
We arrived at the audio-visual room.
We opened the door, and there was a rather strange atmosphere in the dimly lit room.
The other classes had gathered in costumes that they would be using that day. The class that wanted to go to the haunted house was wearing make-up that resembled a zombie, and the class that wanted to do an escape game had scary masks that looked like they’re derived from Munch’s The Scream. The first thing to do was to have an impactful appearance—but I guessed everyone thought the same.
It was the same for the other four classes who wanted to hold cosplay cafes. By looking at their appearances, we could tell what plans they came up with. Of the four classes, two were dressed as maids and butlers. As expected, there was a clash here. The other two classes were dressed like they’re straight out of a fantasy anime…and the other one is, what? Dracula? Looks like it’s a café that’s going to serve only tomato juice.
Some classes did stuff that I didn’t expect—but we should be fine.
As soon as Yume showed up in that gorgeous Taisho-Romantic costume, I noticed that all eyes were on her.
As I thought, this costume really captured attention. Both guys and girls were looking at her, and I was certain we made the right choice when it came to planning this event.
“(…Looks like I’m not the only one being watched though…)”
“(Irido-kun is very oblivious about himself, isn’t he?)”
With attention gathered on us, I moved to the seat assigned to me.
I looked around, and it seemed that the judges from the student council and PTA haven’t arrived yet—
While I was thinking that, the entrance door opened.
Leading the way was Suzuki Kurenai, Vice President of the student council.
The overwhelming presence didn’t just stress the atmosphere.
Suzuki Kurenai, who looked like a petite girl, drew the attention of everyone.
She was in cosplay.
Suzuki Kurenai showed up in a military-style costume.
A gothic lolita dress designed as a military jacket—that seemed to be tailor-made for her, with its combination of regal charisma and feminine charm.
Yume mumbled to herself, she’s not easy to deal with, and thus was my reaction.
That’s what she meant, right?
—Folks, this is the bar you have to clear.
With the other judges seated in the front row, only Vice President Kurenai stood at the podium in front of the screen.
“Now then, everyone.”
She tapped the walking stick on the podium. She really looked like a real soldier.
“The culture festival is one of the most important educational events at our school. Its purpose is simply to develop your abilities. What are these abilities? The answer is simple, to become what you want to be—the ability to reach for the ideal. That, I believe, is what we call human ability.”
Her dignified speech echoed through the quiet audio-visual room.
“You don’t have to be perfect. Show me your ideals. Show us your ideals, how wonderful your dreams are. How are you going to get there? As long as you show us the ideals you have in mind, we promise to give you our full support.”
The Vice President proclaimed with an impish smile that one would not expect from a second year high school student..
“—Now then, let’s get started.”
“I don’t know much about this field, so I’m afraid this is an amateur question.”
After the first team presented—a class that wanted to do a maid café, the Vice President immediately took the microphone.
“You say ‘maid café’ in one breath, but what kind of maid café is this in particular?”
“There are various kinds, from classical to Akihabara. From the description of the store’s interior, it seems that you’re inspired by Akihabara, but your choice of costume is Victorian-inspired with long skirts and few decorations, and it does give a slightly inconsistent impression. I’d think this is a matter of…having longer skirts to please the PTA….no?”
The presenter couldn’t do anything but squirm at the rapid fire attacks.
Woah, Minami-san moaned. This was a surprising turn of events for me too. I hadn’t expected her to go so deep into it.
“(Hey hey, Irido-kun…! I’m starting to get scared! We’re going to be okay, right? I’ll just need to talk based on the script, right!?)”
“(…it’s fine. It’s just a small question.)”
But the Vice President…was really quite the tough cookie. She might expect what we’re expecting and throw out some curveballs—
The next two classes presenting were torn to shreds by the Vice President’s barrage of questions, and finally it was our turn.
“—Our concept is to use the café and provide an experience of the culture during the Taisho era, which is still relevant today.”
It started off well initially.
Minami-san’s presentation was calm, not too fast, not too slow, and her pronunciation was easy to understand, a textbook example. All the judges were taking notes with grim looks—except for the Vice President who was leering away, and the treasurer who had absolutely no presence.
I stood together with Yume as a model, and sensed that it was working.
The research that Yume had been doing late into the night improved the accuracy of the project by several notches, and it was a powerful weapon to show how appropriate the Taisho-Romantic cafe was for the culture festival. This woman’s diligence, which usually ended up futile, was unusually successful.
Compared to the other class presentations, this was by far the most ‘proper’ project. Even from an outsider’s point of view, it seemed justified that our project would be accepted.
If there were no problems, the judges would probably accept our plan.
Right—if there weren’t any problems.
And it was my job to resolve them this time.
“Next—I’d like to talk about how we’ll resolve any potential trouble that may occur during our operations.”
Minami-san said, and as soon as the slide on the screen changed, the judges’ expressions changed.
Until this point, none of the presentations had delved into it.
“We’ll have general visitors on the day of the event, and there’s a possibility where our class students will be called out excessively while serving customers. Basically, staff with part-time customer service experience will be called in to serve these customers—but the problem is that we won’t be able to know who they are. Thus, this is the system we propose.”
The slide changed.
The moment it appeared, the judges and students who had gathered to give their presentations began to buzz.
“During the culture festival, we will be able to share in real time, via the cloud system, the physical appearance of visitors who caused trouble in our school, and use this information for quick response in each class. In this way, we will be able to prevent the occurrence from happening and avoid having to follow up on them.”
It’s really a strategy wiki.
What do the troublesome visitors look like, the location, and how to get them to behave? With modern IT technology and a smartphone that everyone has nowadays, we could easily build up a simple and free database. It wouldn’t just be for individuals or classes, but the whole school can band together to deal with individual troublemakers—this was the idea for the countermeasure inspired by Isana.
Of course, it was a flawed idea.
However, the success or failure of this presentation would be determined by how well we could fight on.
“That’s it for our presentation. Do you have any questions?”
When Minami-san said this, that person immediately moved.
Vice President of the Student council, Suzuki Kurenai.
The genius of the school took the microphone, and spoke to Minami-san on the stage.
“Sharing troublemakers with the whole school in real time to prevent trouble from occurring—I see that’s a great idea, but I think there are a couple of operational concerns.”
“What is it?”
Minami-san quickly replied. It’s fine. She only needed to read the manuscript.
“First, I’m worried that there will be delays in customer service. We’ll have to check if the visitor is a problematic person before we serve them, no? The more tasks we have to do, the more work we have to do on site. I’m a little hesitant to ask for that level of operation from a temporary stall that will be a little less refined than the original.”
Minami-san flipped through the manuscript. She was looking for an answer from the list of questions I had made. Next to her, Yume watched on with an anxious look.
“…Oh. We have countermeasures in place for that!”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ll cut down the number of seats by a little. That way, we can reduce the burden on the staff.”
“Hmm. That’s a reasonable measure, but if there’s a sudden influx of visitors, there will be a long queue. What about that?”
“We’re going to have this queue on purpose.”
“By creating a queue, we can check for any person that needs watching. If the waiting line exceeds a certain number of people, we’ll set a time limit on their stay and speed up the turnover.”
“So you’ll be killing two birds with one stone—or rather, three birds with one stone. They say queues get people interested. There is a risk in forcing customers to wait, but it’s a pretty clever idea. ……”
The judges muttered.
But the Vice President didn’t stop her attack.
“Now, let me share my next concern. This idea won’t prevent the first issue, will it? Since this is a method of marking those who have caused trouble and keeping a watchful eye on them, there will always be one person who is the first to get into trouble. Is it correct to say that this is acceptable?”
She’s going that far? Well, I guess I could oblige here.
“…No. We have a countermeasure for that too.”
“In past years, general visitors were required to check in with their invitations at the entrance reception and write their names in a register. At that reception, we mark in advance those who are a little buoyant or somewhat arrogant to the receptionist.”
“Hmm. You’ve done your research well. Indeed, we have a receptionist every year who checks the invitations. I don’t think it’s impossible—but by that standard, a large number of people would be listed as targets to watch out for. Do we really want the students to memorize these people’s looks and characteristics? It’s going to be a lot of work to fill out the database, isn’t it?”
“No, there’s no need to memorize them or fill them out.”
“We’ll take pictures of everyone. It’ll be a souvenir of their visit to our culture festival.”
The Vice President’s eyes sharpened, and her lips were raised slightly.
She looked as though she had found her prey.
Minami-san was oblivious to this and continued to read out the response I had prepared.
“We will take photos of all visitors at the reception desk, and those who seem to have behavioral problems will be sorted into a database according to their hairstyle and physique. This will allow for a quick screening process.”
“Do I understand then that we shall trick innocent visitors into creating a blacklist?”
“It’s not a trick.”
“The school premises are filmed during the culture festival for the purpose of publicity and proper management of the school. The general public will agree to this by signing the form. We believe that this is not only for use in the school newspaper and website, but also as a way to make people aware of the presence of the cameras and to prevent problems from occurring. Our proposal is just an extension of that.”
Except for the Vice President and the Treasurer, the judges widened their eyes at that answer.
I got last year’s invitation and list through Kawanami to confirm it. Photos are the quickest way to share a person’s appearance. But taking pictures without permission would be a problem, so I wanted to have a reason to assume that we had permission.
Looking at the website, there were plenty of pictures of people with their real faces on them, so I knew that they had to have permission from somewhere, but that was just for publicity. It didn’t justify a reason to use the photos to maintain public morals.
The word ‘proper management’ in the admission list would thus solve that problem—and the moment I saw it, I was convinced that the idea was at least logical.
“Hmm…that’s a sophisticated way to argue.”
But it made sense.
Even under the sharp gaze of the Vice President, Minami-san stood strong. She sure had a lot of guts. Thank goodness Yume wasn’t the presenter.
“I understand what you’re saying. I see, the flaws seem to have been eliminated—but this is not a system that can be built by just one class. It’s more the domain of management—well, I don’t know if the school will give the go-ahead, but I’ll take it as an idea.”
“Thank you very much.”
That’s enough. It doesn’t matter if this system will actually be adopted or not. It’s important to let them know that we’re thinking this far ahead to prepare for trouble.
It looks like we’ve crossed the hump…
I took a little sigh. Thank goodness I thought this far. I had a feeling that the eccentric Vice President would go into places we wouldn’t normally think of…
“I just have one last question—”
It was then that I noticed that the Vice President hadn’t let go of the microphone yet.
“—Who came up with this plan?”
Minami-san turned her gaze to Yume. To say her name.
That’s right. I was expecting that question, too. That’s why I nipped the bud beforehand.
For me, the extra light was just annoying.
I was prepared to blend into the shadows that were beneath the big light hitting Yume. The shadows were my solace.
Right when Minami-san was about to say Yume’s name—
Just before then,
Yume shouted, leaning forward.
I was stunned and looked at Yume next to me. Yume instead nudged me in the back.
“He—thought of it.”
What are you …… thinking about, you!
See? Minami-san chuckled as if to say that she knew this would happen. But why…? Why? She had a chance to take that achievement—
There was no time to deny it.
The Vice President’s eyes turned to me.
In that case…I had no choice but to give up.
“…I just thought of it.”
“I have a favorite quote.”
I raise my eyebrows at the sudden conversation.
“Miyamoto Shigeru of Nintendo, known as the creator of ‘Mario’—said ‘A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once.’ Don’t you think that’s a pretty clear definition?”
…What’s she saying?
While trying to gauge her intentions, the Vice President continued.
“Your idea solves three problems at once: poor staff skills, how to attract customers, and how to prevent problems. It needs to be tested to see if it works—but it’s definitely an idea. Do you know ……? The English word ‘idea’ can be derived into the adjective ‘ideal’.”
“Thank you. You’ve shown me your ideals.”
The Vice President clapped her hands.
The other judges and students waiting for their turn began to clap as well.
Everyone—was clapping towards me.
Yume and Minami-san clasped their hands happily. Ah yes. The presentation pretty much succeeded. It’s natural for them to be happy.
It doesn’t resonate with me.
It didn’t matter how much applause I got, it didn’t move me at all.
Ideal, ideal—ideal, huh?
I don’t see any of that, Vice President.
The ones who got to run a cosplay café were us, class 1-7, and the last class that presented the maid cafe.
Apparently, there was a fearsome maid otaku in the class who rambled about the place of maids in the history of culture, and how maid cafes were an appropriate event for a culture festival.
“Alright!?” “Nice going!” “You beat the upperclassmen!” “Wow!”
Our classmates showered us with praise when we returned to class with the result.
Yume and Minami-san shyly accepted the praise and were happy to share it with everyone. Somehow, they knew that I had been praised by the Vice President, “You’re good!” “That’s great!” and I was swept away in the muddy stream of praise.
We unite for the same purpose, and when we succeed, we rejoice hand in hand and congratulate those who have done well.
I wonder if this was what they call youth.
If so, then—
After the onslaught of praise was over, Yume approached me without saying a word.
And then, she said.
She beamed away as though she had a secret to share.
“It’s not so bad sometimes, is it?”
At that moment, I remembered something from the past.
When we were on bad terms, you tried to get closer to me, and I always answered you sarcastically.
I said something completely unintentional.
That’s how far I had grown, I guess.
I finally escaped the school building and staggered towards the school gate, only to spot a girl who was leaning against a pillar. She stood uprightly, and gave me a small wave next to her chest.
It was Isana Higashira.
I didn’t remember making an appointment with her though…? I walked up to her, wondering why, and she looked into my face with a grin.
“Good work, Mizuto-kun.”
“…Didn’t I tell you to go home first?”
“You did, but I wanted to wait for you…fufuf, do I sound like a girlfriend?”
“I don’t think that’s appropriate from someone who’s currently trying to hook me up with another woman…”
Kawanami’s fears might not be as far off the mark as they seem.
Well, she’s free to have fun with this situation.
I started walking, and Isana went alongside me. The distance between us was pretty much that of a lover, but it’s normal for us. We walk along the familiar route to school at a pace we’re both used to.
Normally, we’d be talking about the latest book, but,
“Mizuto-kun, I heard that you were very successful in your presentation?”
Isana started to talk about something different than usual.
Instantly, I found myself feeling a little disappointed.
I had thought that Isana wanted nothing to do with the culture festival….well, there’s no way I could escape from this when the whole school’s in that mood, huh…?
“Who told you that?”
“It’s from Yume-san! She said you’re trying to hide your achievements and be the mastermind?”
“…Well, yeah. I failed though.”
I said, self-deprecatingly.
I had done many times before though. The thing about human interaction is such that when people talk about stuff like this, the natural response is to go, ‘that’s not it’. It’s like a robot.
Isana Higashira laughed exaggeratedly.
As usual. It was like she was in quite the mood.
“You tried to hide your abilities, but you made a mistake (LOL). You failed to be a LN protagonist (LOL).That’s so lame (LOL).”
“…… Hey. Don’t get too excited. You’ll get struck by karma.”
“You’re the one getting exorcised—unyyaaah!? My temples! Please don’t gouge my temples! That’s old! That’s an old-fashioned way to punish me!”
Ahh—I really am hopeless, huh?
I felt much more comfortable with her rubbing it in on me instead of being praised by my classmates.
I can’t help it—I’m a youth outcast.