Chapter 11:

A Game Of Numbers

Stars of Aoba

“Social game?” The notion of social media isn’t something I’m completely unfamiliar with, but to see it as a ‘game’ of some sort is a novel thing to me, to say the least.

The bubblegum-flavored bumble of joy, however, seems to have expected this result.

“Suzuki-kun, what do you think makes people Internet famous?”

“Internet famous?”

“Y’know, famous on social media… actually, let’s put it this way first: what do you think ‘famous on social media’ actually is?”

“Well… a lot of people know about them, I guess?”

“Define a lot.

Just three words, but they bring an entirely new perspective to me. Something that I’ve been taken for granted this whole time, and yet when I think about it, makes perfect sense.

“What is a lot, actually?”

“Here’s an example; you watch stuff on WeDuct, right?”

“Of course. It’s the most popular video platform.”

“Would you call a person with ten thousand subscribers ‘popular’? How about a hundred thousand? A million?”

“I guess… a hundred thousand would be the mark?”

“But what if I told you that ten thousand subscribers would actually be up in the top 2% of all channels?”

“Wait, is it?”

“I don’t know, is it?”

“What do you…”

A flash of idea runs across my mind, stopping the questioning words from coming out of my mouth just in time.

“I get it. It’s perspective, isn’t it?”

“Bingo,” Michinari forms a grin and snaps his finger towards me. “Numbers don’t lie, but the way you use and manipulate numbers can make the world of difference. In that WeDuct example just now, I didn’t even mention the prospect of domain-specific channels – would a DIY guide be as popular as a Let’s Player? Would a politician have the same grip as a virtual idol? And that’s just one platform; what about others like Bodynote, Enwire, Chirpin? You see where I’m going with this?”

“Well… kind of. But what does it have to do with our situation?”

“It means we first need to understand the platform we’re on and the way for us to do it. We’ve already established that getting on every community in Aoba is impossible, right?”

“Of course. That’s why you said to use the school’s forums.”

“Well, then it means we should narrow down our targets. Aoba has 180 students per grade, but I think we can safely rule the 3rd years out of the equation.”

“The university entrance exam, right?”

“Exactly. So that leaves us with 360 prospective voters. And now we focus on getting support from these 360 targets, which leads us to the following question: what do you think is the best way to gather attention?”

“… I don’t know, show them your good sides and be friendly?”

“That’s only a part of it,” expecting an answer like that, Michinari chuckles. “You can’t win anything based off of charisma alone.”

“Then what would you suggest?”

“What time do you think Aoba’s students are able to use their phones?”

I can see where he’s going with this question. The correct answer to the problem Michinari posed would be to match our activities with the student body’s activities for the most traction. However, the answer to that problem is…

“How am I supposed to know that?”

“Teehee, you’ll know if you just think about it for a bit. Aoba, like any other school, starts at 8:35 AM, then continues until 3:30 PM. Around 40% of Aoba’s students live around Shibuya, so the time for them to return home would only take half an hour at most. For the rest, the average time for them to get home by train is one to two hours, so we round that to 1.5 hours. Which leaves us with the range of 4 PM to 5 PM.”

“Then are you suggesting…”

“Nope,” a quick shake of the head from the pink-haired boy signals a brief pause in our conversation. “Even though Aoba doesn’t have any extracurricular stuff, it doesn’t mean that we’re banned from having fun. Taking into account our nature, a better estimation would be around 5 to 6 PM when they actually go home, and 7:30 to 8 PM when they’re at home. Knock out another half an hour or so from dinner time and such, and we have our range at 8 to 9 PM.”

It takes all I have to understand all of his estimations, but even I can see a peculiar error within those words.

“What’s with the extra 30 minutes?”

“Room for error,” answers Michinari. “But I digress. That’s the time we should have the most traction among members of the student body in the evening…”

“You’re suggesting we do the same within the day?” The idea forms a question in my head immediately. “But don’t we have school for the whole day?”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Sure, for the 40% within the Shibuya area, the morning is a dead period. But for those who need to take the train, that’s an extra 1.5 hours that you can exploit to your benefit.”

“Then why didn’t we count the time in the afternoon?”

“One, people would be more tired around that time, so it’s less likely that they would use their phones and tablets. And two, if we did that, we would be alienating the train users from the Shibuya crowd even more, which is a big no.”

“I… I see,” now I can understand why Michinari said it was a game. Every detail, everything we do could be used as a piece of the puzzle for the bigger picture, and when they all connect together, we’d have a complete strategy, or in another word, a path, to the problem at hand.

“Well, that should be…”

“Not so fast, my friend,” the pink-haired genius playfully pats me on the back. “That’s still a corner piece – it helps you see the overall shape, but its contents are still missing. And, well, that one’s on you. What do you think you should be posting there?”

“If it’s Aoba…” following his advice, I rack my brain trying to find an answer. With no extracurricular and the fact that we can’t possibly understand all of Aoba’s students’ personal lives, then it leaves us with…

“Small talks and homework help, right?”

“Exactly. Luckily, our candidate seems to be quite smart, considering he’s in the mid-range of class B, so I’m sure you wouldn’t have too hard of a time to integrate into the forums.”

The plan has been set, and the path for us is clear. Excitement swells in my stomach (or is it the acid from all those energy drinks), making me clench my fist with a grin on my face.

“Yes, this is gonna work! I can feel it!”

However, to my surprise, the boy doesn’t reply to my reaction. Instead, turning around, Michinari calls out to the back with an enthusiastic voice:

“It’s a great idea, isn’t it… Tsunagi-san?”

Right on cue, the redhead approaches us with a slow clap, but without the trace of irony usually seen in the act.

“I only gave a general idea, but I’d never thought you would be able to exploit everything to almost perfection. Then again, I should have expected more from the National Mathematics Olympiad’s gold medalist, Michinari Kei, one of the only two freshmen with a perfect score in math from the entrance exam.”

“Oh, please. You already knew that the plan I just gave had a major flaw, didn’t you?”

Okay, that was a lot more information than what I could normally take in. So you’re telling me that this guy that looks like a girl here is supposed to be some kind of math genius? I mean, sure, it’s within reach among Aoba students, but isn’t that still jumping the shark too much for class C? But enough of that, the important part in all of the things they’re talking about is that…

“Huh? Flaw? What are you talking about?”

“Yup, a big flaw,” answers Michinari. “In that, it would be easy for someone like your friend to integrate into the forums. An unknown person, without the kind of ludicrous talent like Ryuuro or Shiraku, could never hope to make a splash in a community.”

“But… then what would we do?”

“W-well, looks like you have no other choice!” Tsunagi is the one to pick up the ball for this question. “You can count me in your campaign!”

“I thought you told me to not ask for your help?” As much as I appreciate her gesture, I can’t help but throw out a teasing grin in the end.

“You didn’t ask, so it doesn’t count! I’m joining whether you like it or not!”

“Uh… thanks anyway,” filled with awkwardness and confusion, I answer. “But what kind of help would you bring?”

“Hah… you’re really slow sometimes, huh Suzuki-kun?” Patting me again is Michinari, shaking his head in (pretend) disappointment. “Didn’t I just say that Tsunagi-san is the daughter of the head of Tokyo Hour? I’m sure her connections have spread all over the freshmen classes already.”

“Well, that’s one part,” nods Tsunagi. “But another part is something that even you can do, and I’m just here to remind you again.”

What could she mean by that?


“You’re the class rep, remember? Use your connections within our class, as well as the reps from other classes too. That’s how you survive in the digital world.”

I can’t believe I forgot this simple, yet important detail. Now that I think about it, that’s what support is all about, isn’t it? Connections with others… to fight against the geniuses at the top, we average people have to use all we have in our arsenals.

Okay, now everything is in place. Game on, Ryuuro. Our campaign is finally getting started.

Ei Ruan