Chapter 19:

Journalistic Integrity and Cookies

Pandora's Box

As soon as class got out, Ryo and I spent the first hour after school with public outreach. Ryo badgered people in the halls by handing out flyers, while I stood I'm the courtyard giving an impromptu speech about adding new vending machines on campus. It wasn't the most interesting topic, but I could tell my public speaking improved a bit more from last time. I did throw up in the bathroom right after again though, but that's besides the point.

Afterwards, I started making my way over to the school press room with Red sitting in my backpack as usual.

"I have to say, things have been going pretty good today for once." I said.

Red chuckled.

"Looks like you're finally starting to grow a pair."

"Uh... Well I wouldn't put it that way exactly, but I definitely am feeling confident."

"Yeah Yeah, whatever. Just keep this up. When you enter that press room, I want you to barge in there and confront those media sellouts head on."

"I gue-"

Red suddenly got intense with his pep talk.

"Be a man, not a boy, Kuro! Don't let the press get away with slandering your name."

He was right. I couldn't just sit any longer and let lies be printed about me. I needed to go in there and be assertive with these people.


I threw open the door to the room.

"Hey, careful with the door! What the heck is it with you and that friend of yours, aggressively opening doors." An energetic black haired girl with pink highlights said, confronting me as I entered the room. Her hair was worn up with two buns on each side.

The press room was directly across the hall from the student council room. She was probably well aware of all the times we've burst in over there these past few weeks.

"Nevermind the door! I'm here to have a little talk with you and your the way, where is he?"

A tired monotone voice came from under the table his sister was sitting at.

"Why are you being so loud, Hako-san? Some of us are trying to sleep."

The person talking was an emo looking boy with long black hair and blue highlights that swept over one of his eyes. He was currently laying inside of a sleeping bag he had set up on the floor.

The girl with the odango hair style's name was Hori Yori and the emo boy's name was Hori Ori. They were the twin duo that ran Shikaku High School's student newspaper.

"I think you two are well aware why I'm here." I said.

Yori spoke,

"I'll have you know that WE don't know anything about that article that WE wrote about yo-."

She paused for a moment.

"Ha ha... I mean... I have no idea why you're here Haka-kun."

She tried to laugh off her blunder.

*Crinkle* *crinkle*

I pull out a crumpled up newspaper from my bag.

"Maybe this will jog your memory."

I placed it on the table.

"...oh... yeah... I think that article was submitted by... one of the other members of the paper."

I pointed just underneath the headline.

"It says right here 'written by Hori Yori'"

Her eyes darted nervously back and forth.

"That must have been written by the... uh... other Hori Yori."

I gave her a doubtful look.

"There's another girl with your same name?"

I pointed to the picture that accompanied the article.

"Then what about this unflattering image of me that was edited to look like a mugshot. It says right in the footnote that it was provided by Hori Ori."

"Yeah that was me." Ori said, completely emotionless.

"What the heck, Ori!" His sister snapped.

He looked completely indifferent.

"I don't have the energy for social interaction today. I just want to go back to bed."

"So you admit it!" I said, pointing at Ori.


He fell back asleep.

"ORI!" His sister shouted.

He lifted his head and didn't even open his eyes. He mumbled,

"Huh.... Yeah... It was us...Zzzzzz."

I turned to Yori and glared at her.

"...Fine, you caught us! I wrote it, but it's not like it was printed as a factual article. There was a disclaimer in the footnote that said it was an opinion piece."

"That disclaimer was printed in a tiny font. I doubt anyone even noticed it. Besides, either way that article was meant to hurt my reputation. Was Sato the one who put you up to it?"

"My lips are sealed."

"Then let me ask you this, what exactly did you have to gain by printing that article?"

"That's confidential."

I noticed as she said that, she suspiciously glanced at a tin of cookies on the table. That pretty much told me everything I needed to know.

"Are you serious? You sold out your journalistic integrity over cookies!"

She grabbed the tin of cookies and caressed it in her arms as she teared up a little.

"You don't understand Hako-kun, these are foreign sugar cookies from Europe. Our mom is really strict about sugar at home. I can only eat sweets here at school. So yeah, I took a bribe from Sato... Er... I mean an anonymous individual, but how could I resist?"

"So Sato paid you off with cookies. You do understand I've been recording this whole conversation on my pho-."

She held out her own phone with a cold expression on her face.

"Listen Kuro, I didn't want to have to use this, but you leave me no choice. I can't have you exposing this little scandal. I was promised more cookies and I'm not going to let you ruin that for me."

She hit play. It was a video of what appeared to be me talking to an imaginary person in the hallway.

"Aren't you a little old to have imaginary friends?"

"That's... Uh... It's not what it looks like."

"It would be a shame if this leaked to the public. People might have some questions about your mental state. I doubt you'd want to jeopardize your campaign."

She actually wasn't too far off from the truth considering I have a little invisible devil that follows me around all day. Unfortunately, I had my back against a wall. If that video got out, there would be no way I could give a reasonable explanation to it. I had no choice but to give in to her.

"Fine, what do you want from me?"

"Unlock your phone and give it to me."

I did exactly as she said. She went through and deleted all my recordings of her speaking.

"Alright, as long as you don't try anything else I won't release this tape. For the record my brother and I are the only ones that have this recording."

Red suddenly chimed in and spoke in my ear,

"She seems like the type to easily be manipulated and her brother doesn't seem to care about anything. Maybe you can convince her to switch sides."

I turned my palm up to indicate to Red that I heard him.

"Hey Yori-san, what would it take to get you to write a retraction of that article from a few weeks ago."

"I already have these cookies, so... hmmm...there is maybe one thing."

I had a feeling I knew what she meant.

"Let me guess, does it involve going on a date with me."

"... No, not at all. Everyone thinks you're a pervert. I wouldn't want to ruin my reputation."

That was ironic considering she's the reason everyone thinks I'm a perv.

"To be honest with you, I was just going to ask for more cookies."

I was kind of anticipating another date trope or something, but this worked too.

"You just want cookies?" I asked

"Well, not just any cookies. They have to be tastier than these European ones."

"Can I try one to see-?"

She instantly cut me off.

"No, I'm not giving up any of my precious cookies. You're just going to have to guess or something."

"But how am I supposed to gauge if something is better if I don't know what it tastes like."

She clutched the cookie tin even tighter.

"I guess you'll just have to figure that out if you want positive press."

I left the press room. Somehow confronting the press about a false article turned into a scavenger hunt for cookies.

*Crunch* *Crunch*

"I'll admit, I'd sell out my integrity for these cookies too."

Red was eating a cookie while sitting in my bag.

"Where did you get that?" I asked.

"I stole a few while no one was paying attention. Don't worry I have one for you too."

I reached over my shoulder and he handed me the cookie. I took a bite.

"Shoot... This is going to be hard to beat. She mentioned they were from Europe. How am I going to beat this? It's not like I could travel the world for cookies."

I didn't necessarily have to do this, but getting that retraction would be a big boost to me in the polls. I was going out with Akari and her friends this weekend anyway, so maybe she could help me look.

N.J. Ecalus
Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64