"How'd your debate go last nigh-... Uh are you okay, Kuro?"
My shift had just begun at the 11/7 and I was laying face down on the counter, completely depressed. Akari had just come up front from the back room.
"I take it that something happened last night."
She nudged me, trying to get me to respond. All I could bring myself to do was pull out my phone and hit play on a video. I turned it towards her to see.
"Oh... Uh... That's...um... not good."
I had shown her a clip that was being shared around social media of me from the night before. It was of me botching my opening speech and throwing up all over the podium and passing out.
"Maybe it's not as bad as you think."
"That clip has over a million views and #pukeboy is trending." I said, still refusing to lift my head.
"Well you know they say all publicity is good publicity."
"Come on Kuro, I hate seeing you like this. Let's at least talk about what happened. You might feel better."
She wouldn't just leave me be. I ended up giving in to her because I didn't have the energy to resist.
"As soon as I got on stage and saw the crowd, my self-confidence shattered. Then President Sato gave a flawless speech. I realized that I couldn't compete. When it was my turn to talk, I had a panic attack and basically self-destructed in front of the entire school."
She put her hand on my shoulder.
"When is the actual election being held?"
"There's still about three weeks until then. One more debate is scheduled the day before ballots are cast. Honestly, at this point I think this whole thing is hopeless."
I wondered maybe if I should just forget about this campaign and just spend these last few weeks living my life to its fullest. Finding a girlfriend in the next few weeks is probably just a delusional fantasy at this point. It's probably inevitable that I'm going to spontaneously combust.
I hadn't seen Red all day today. I wondered if he had abandoned. If he did, I wouldn't blame him...
"Don't give up just yet, Kuro.”
"What can I even do? President Sato pretty much had the whole thing rigged from the start. I think last night was the nail in the coffin for my campaign."
Akari paused for a moment as if she was in deep thought. After figuring out whatever she was contemplating, she spoke,
"Have you ever heard the myth of the phoenix?"
"What does Greek mythology have to do with anything?"
"When the phoenix is destroyed it rises from its ashes and is reborn."
"Is this analogy supposed to make me feel better?"
"What I'm trying to say is that you still have a lot of time left. If you take a different approach, maybe you can turn things around."
"I wish I could, but with President Sato's ruthless tactics, there's no way I'll get ahead."
"What if you could though? You'd just have to out maneuver her."
She put her index finger under her mouth and pondered for a moment.
"Hmmm... I got it! What if I became your campaign manager," she said.
"How would that work though? You don't go to my school."
"That doesn't mean I can't help you and believe it or not I'm actually quite cunning myself."
I will admit she always seems to know the solution to my problems. Having her help me wouldn't be a bad thing.
"You know what Akari, I think I'll take you up on that offer. I don't really have anything left to lose."
"So you're not giving up anymore?"
"I suppose not."
"Great... Oh, but there is one thing I'd like from you in return."
"Sure, what do you need?"
"I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend."
That caught me a bit off guard.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Remember when I mentioned last week how guys at my school try to confess to me on a daily basis? It's getting kind of annoying, so if I can just post some pictures of you and me pretending to be a couple to social media, word should get around my school that I have a boyfriend and I'll be left alone."
Personally I think this is a bit extreme, but I guess these are the types of problems pretty girls like Akari have.
"That should be fine, I guess."
"And don't worry, if there's another girl you like or something, I won't mind if you go out with other girls. Our relationship will be pretend after all."
It's a shame that it's not real, that would solve part of my problems. I knew though that there was no way I'd ever be able to get a girl like her for real.
Red was laying on his side on a shelf eating a bag of chips like he was last week.
"So you finally decided to quit moping around. I hope you know I was on the verge of abandoning you. What kind of story ends with the protagonist just giving up? I thought my manga was ruined, but it seems like I'm about to get some more material."
I couldn't speak to him right now, but I turned my palm up to acknowledge him.
"So, how is this all going to work considering we go to different schools?" I asked.
"My school isn't that far from your's, at the end of the day I'll just head over to help you."
"Alright, sounds good to me."
"You know, when I'd hear about your student council stories every weekend, I'd get a little jealous. The people at your school seem like a lot of fun. I'm actually a bit excited to see your school on Monday."
"Yeah, this should be fun. If anything, if things don't work out, let's at least try to end this campaign with a bang!" I said, feeling optimistic.
Akari and I high fived each other to signify our agreement. Monday we're going to have to hit the ground running because It's going to be an uphill battle.