Chapter 9:

Debate Night

Pandora's Box

I sat backstage of the school auditorium. It was relatively dark and cluttered with miscellaneous stage equipment. I was the first to arrive with about a half hour to spare.

I peaked out from the curtain to see the crowd.

"That's a lot of people. I'm feeling kind of nervous right now."

Red, who was standing on a stack of boxes beside me, gave me a pep talk,

"Having nerves isn't a bad thing. Just remember what we practiced all week."

"Yep, I got my note cards right here."

"Good, just focus on giving this debate everything you got and don't forget, I'll be right there beside you the whole time."

That put me a bit at ease. Unlike my opponent, I had an invisible devil to feed me talking points. In some regard this might be considered cheating. If Sato hadn't stooped to the level she had, I might have felt a little guilty.

"Yo Kuro! You got this man."

Ryo snuck up from behind. He was talking quite loudly. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the audience could hear him.

"Remember nerves are nothing more than adrenaline. Use that to your advantage. Imagine that you're a lion hunting a gazelle... No, actually a shark... Or actually a T-Rex... Or-"

"I think I get the point, Ryo."

He was even more hyper than usual today. I appreciated his attitude though, at the moment he may be my only supporter.

"Did you watch those motivational videos I sent you last night?"

"Some of them. I have to admit, they actually did kind of pump me up."

"Great, channel the power of those Chad fitness influencers and go out there and show this school the leader that you are!"

Red spoke into my ear,

"Looks like your competition is here."

President Sato, along with Mei, Sakai, and that new kid who's name I'm still not sure about, entered from the opposite side of the room. None of them would look our way, it was like they refused to acknowledge us.

"I bet they're completely underestimating you right now, bro. They have no idea what's coming to them."

Despite Ryo's words of encouragement, I had to admit that Sato looked as poised as always. I doubt she had a shred of self doubt going through her head.

"You're on in five," the stage hand notified me.

"Break a leg!" Ryo said.

I began making my way out to the stage. A wave of confidence suddenly came over me. I wondered if maybe today was going to be my day.

I took my place at the podium...

Instantly, my stomach dropped. The auditorium looked to be at max capacity. There were at least 2000 plus students attending.

The idle chatter from the audience almost overwhelmed me. Everyone's voices at once sounded like a tidal wave. I couldn't help but tap my feet and twiddle my thumbs out of anxiety. It felt like I was about to defecate myself.

Red stabbed me in the leg with a pen to snap me out of my daze.

"Don't get shell shocked on me now! We haven't even started yet."

Sato made her way over to her podium, which was only a few feet to the left of mine. In stark contrast to me, she looked completely comfortable in front of a crowd this size. She didn't even have any note cards or written prompts. Knowing her, she probably had it all committed to memory.

"It's a lovely night for a debate, isn't it Hako-san?" She said with a smirk.

"I-I suppose it is." I managed to stammer out.

A male student took the mic at the center of the stage facing the crowd. He was an average looking guy with spiky black hair, who wore thick black framed glasses.

"Good evening students of Shikaku High School! I'm Jo Ito and I'll be the host and moderator of tonight's debate."

Jo for being a plain looking guy had a very distinct radio voice. I believe he was part of the broadcast club if I remembered right.

He continued on,

"On my left, we have our lovely Student Council President, Sato Shiina. On my right, we have former Student Council Secretary, Hako Kuro. Can Sato-san defend her position as president or will the underdog Hako-san swoop in and steal it from her!"

He sounded like he was commentating a boxing match for a heavyweight title. The crowd went wild. Who knew someone could make a highschool debate so exciting.

Sato gracefully waved to the crowd. Everyone in the audience cheered for her. I awkwardly held my hand up to do the same... Crickets.

"WOOOO! You got this Kuro!"

Ryo started clapping and cheering for me backstage to try and fill the awkward silence.

Jo quickly moved on,

"Alright let's get started! First I'll be laying out the rules of this debate. In just a few moments both of you will be given five minutes to give your opening statements. Then after that, we'll move into the actual debate. I will present various topics and you will both be given one minute to respond. During each others' times, please refrain from interrupting while the other is speaking. Finally at the end you'll both be given another five minutes to make a closing remark. Do either of you have any questions or concerns before we begin?"

"No, I think I'm ready to begin, Jo-san." Sato said.

"Are you good to go also, Hako-san?" He asked.

"Y-yeah, I'm r-ready."

"Excellent, President Sato will be the first to give her opening remarks. Could somebody put five minutes on the clock?"

The projector that hung from the ceiling powered on. It projected a timer for five minutes onto a screen sitting on the stage.

Sato, who looked completely at home, cleared her throat and began to speak,

"Salutations my beloved fellow students. I'm sure almost all of you know me by now, but for those freshmen who may not, I am Sato Shiina, the current student council president.

To be honest with you all, I wasn't expecting there to be any debates this year, but I suppose this is a lesson for me to expect the unexpected.

This past year as student council president, not only have I grown as a person, but I think we've all grown together as a school. Attendance and test scores are up, while behavioral issues are down. Athletic teams have received the new uniforms and equipment they desperately needed and the arts and music clubs had an increase in their funding.

Overall the quality of life at this school has drastically improved and order has been established in place of the chaos that existed before.

Tonight, I hope I am able to make my case to you as to why you should re elect me."

Her speech was incredibly eloquent. She didn't even so much as stutter. An applause broke out from the crowd.

"Alright, now on to former secretary Hako. Please reset the clock for five minutes." Jo said.

"It's showtime. Remember to stick to the note cards." Red reminded me.

I took a deep breath and glanced at the cards. My hands were trembling. Everything around me seemed to fade out. It was like I had tunnel vision. I opened my mouth,

"H-hello e-everyone my name is Kuro Hak- Er... I mean Hako Kuro."

Suddenly, I dropped my note cards. They scattered all over the stage. I could hear some laughter from the crowd. Red seemed to be trying to tell me something, but I was so caught up in the moment, I couldn't make it out.

I scrambled to pick up my cards. Once I got back up I began to speak again,

"S-sorry abou-... Bleeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

I threw up all over my podium. The last thing I saw was Sato gazing at me with a smug grin. After that, I had no recollection because I completely blacked out.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in the nurse's office. Ryo was there. He tried to console me the best he could. Red just sat quietly at the foot of the medical cot. Judging from his expression, he didn't even know what to think.

I didn't think it was possible for a person to feel as low as I did at that moment. I knew that I probably just blew it and not to mention I also made a fool of myself in front of the entire school. The odds of recovering from this were probably slim to none.

Taylor J