Chapter 16:

Average Student

Stars of Aoba

I freeze for a moment, trying to process the information I have just received.

What the heck did this guy just say? Student Council? Me, of all people? First of all, why? There have to be loads of better candidates than me, right? I’m dead average in all of my activities, and I don’t have any talents whatsoever. Is this some kind of joke that I’m failing to get? Are there hidden cameras here as well?

“Why me?” In the end, I can only utter as much.

“Why not?” Ryuuro snickers at the question. “Give me a reason why I can’t recruit you.”

“I’m not fit for the job, of course.”

“You don’t even know which job I’m giving you.”

How many times is it that I’ve mentioned I hated the fact that he’s right again?

“Whatever it is, I’m not fit for it.”

“Name one candidate that you think will, then.”

“Easy. Pick anyone in our campaign group.”

I can do a better job.”

“Of course, you can. You’re the damn top scorer.”

“My point exactly.”

“Then how would I do better than anyone else, if you’re just gonna compare to yourself?”

As if waiting for that question, Ryuuro lets out a smile, activating his already sprung trap:

“Tsunagi Jouko, Mikaza Hayato, Origami Kamiya, Michinari Kei. Name the one common thing among those four.”

“Common thing? What are you talking about?”

“Try to think about it. It’s simpler than you expected.”

Tsunagi, Hayato, Origami and Michinari. Obviously, there are boys and girls in the group, so gender doesn’t matter. Age is out too; because literally all of us are the same age, so the question would be meaningless. They all have fields that they alone excel in (well, maybe not in the case of Hayato, considering we have a four-time world record holder sitting right next to us), so the talents are also very varied. This leaves us with the only option of…

“All of them are in class C.”

“Correct. They’re all in class C. Your class, Tanaka. Why is that?”

“Isn’t that obvious? Because I asked them to.”

“Another correct answer,” the smile on Ryuuro’s face widens, sending chills down my spine as if I’m being led to dance to his tunes. “Now, who is it that was competing for presidency again?”

“… Rei,” I hesitate for a moment.

“Who is in class B. Now, why would a bunch of class C students help a class B member with his campaign?”

I finally see where this is going. But you’ve made one big mistake, Ryuuro.

“Because I asked them to.”

“Exactly. They’re your friends, first and foremost. Do you see what you have that others lack, Tanaka?”

“Charisma. That’s what you’re planning to have me say, right?”

“That makes things a lot easier.”

“But here’s the thing. Why are you suggesting that I, an average student in an average class, have more charisma than you, the school’s top scoring freshman and the first ever freshman Student Council President?”

Finally, I’ve got him at his own game. And all I’ve been saying so far is the truth, too. If we’re talking about charisma, I know that Ryuuro has everyone else beat. The election was all the proof I needed. Didn’t he win against us by basically riling everyone up with anger and pride?

It would be stupid for him to think that there’s anyone else that can reach his level, let alone be better than him. Even more ridiculous to think that it’s someone like me.

However, he has different ideas.

“Don’t I already have living proof that my charisma isn’t up to it?”

“Living proof? What do you mean?”

“Who was it that called me ‘faker’ in our first interaction?”

“That was just…”

“It’s the truth, Tanaka,” with a smirk to signal that all of his traps have been successfully layered, Ryuuro continues. “I don’t have charisma. I’m just good at manipulation and taking advantage of others. The school speech, and even now, you’ve probably realized that I’ve always had my opponent in the palm of my hand, right?”

“… You’re right. And I hate that so much.”

“I mean everything I say, Tanaka. I hate this place. The only reason why I ran for President was for me to remake Aoba into something I can use. But that doesn’t make me a good leader; the mask will come off one day if I keep on doing this. And to prevent it from happening, I need another person. Someone with genuine charisma, that draws in others to help them.”

“And you decided on me, and not your brother or friend?”

“We didn’t have any interest in running this place,” answers Shiraku. “We just follow what Nii-chan asks of us.”

“Yup. If Ryuuro didn’t want to run, we wouldn’t even care about the whole thing,” Shizuka adds. “Asking us to take care of the school is even worse.”

“You’ve heard them. These two would never fit the bill for the job, for the simple fact that they don’t care about anyone in this school. You, on the other hand, are different. You’re the only one who cares enough about this place. You draw in others, and you think about how to get them to the best of their abilities. So, what says you?”


“Well, I say all of that, but you don’t have to answer me right now,” seeing my tensed look, the young man in glasses pats me on the shoulder. “You can even wait until the clubs are formed, go around to check everything out, then come back. The Student Council door is always open.”

I leave the Student Council Office with the conversation still stuck in my head, weighing my feet down with each step I take. So much that when I arrive at Sunshine Sweets, the clock has already gone way over five, when it’s only a 10-minute walk from Aoba.

“Ah, Tanaka-kun, what took you so long?” Greeting me is Rei in his usual part-time gig uniform – a pink apron and small white hat over a light green shirt and matching pants.

However, the greeting is only for a moment, as the boy quickly goes to another table for an order, but not before pointing me to one in the far-left corner. “The others are over there!”

When I arrive at the table, everyone is indeed present. Tsunagi, Hayato, Michinari, and even Origami, all share a giant parfait with the diameter of nearly the entire table itself.

“Where have you been, man?” Hayato jokingly asks. “We were afraid that we’re never gonna finish this colossus thing.”

“Did Ryuu-chan finish his business with you?” Origami follows.

“Oh, that,” I can only answer with an awkward laugh. “Yeah, I guess…”

“What business does he have with you, actually?” Tsunagi is the next to wonder. Before I can reply, however, Michinari has already given the correct answer.

“I bet he’s scouting positions for the Student Council.”

“How did you know? Did he scout you too?”

“Nope. But it’s an easy guess. That’s his first job as the new President, after all.”

“Okay, that I get, but surely I’m not one for the job, right?”

As the claim leaves my mouth, all of my companions pause for a moment. Their eyes meet one another, glancing towards themselves, then towards me. Even Rei, who has been off work for just a moment to overhear the conversation, stares at me with a funny look on his face.

In the end, as if all of them were sharing the same brain cell, all five let out the most heartfelt laugh I’ve ever seen them do.

“W-What’s so funny?” My face flushes with embarrassment.

“Come on, I know you try to be funny sometimes, but this is too much,” wiping her tears, Tsunagi answers. “Did you honestly believe we didn’t hear your ruckus back in the classroom?”

“That was so loud we thought you fell or something,” Michinari comments. “And then we saw Ryuuro entering class, so that’s enough evidence already.”

“And even if we didn’t see that,” this time, it’s Origami that points out the detail. “You’re the one who gathered all of us for the campaign, as well as the one who thought of the idea in the first place, right?”

“If it weren’t for you, man, we would never think of helping Rei over there. Oh, no offense, Rei,” Hayato waves towards the young man in question along with a cheeky smile.

“Nah, no offense taken,” answers Rei with a nod. “If it wasn’t for Tanaka-kun, I wouldn’t have met any of you guys either.”

“Face it, Suzuki. You’re the glue that ties us together, whether you like it or not,” Tsunagi concludes. “And you obviously took this election more seriously than any of us here. If there’s anyone in our group that fits in the Student Council, it’s you.”

I can’t say anything else. With everyone believing in me like this, do I even have the heart to disprove them? It might have been their bias talking, all of it might just be false, and I really don’t have any talents, but with everyone behind my back like this…

My mind recalls the last conversation I had before leaving the Student Council room.

One last question before I leave.

Sure, go ahead.

You know, all that stuff you said just then… It’s not really something you would share with even your friends, let alone only an acquaintance. Why did you tell me all of that?

Why, indeed… Because you’re one of the few individuals who could see through my mask, of course. Why would I continue to hide it?

Who were the others?

An older sister no longer in this world… A foster mother whom I lost contact with… My two most important people in the entire world… and then there’s you.

What does that make me, then?

An enigma… and someone whom I believe can be the first ‘friend’ I actually make on my own.

Ei Ruan