For the second time in the last month, I was standing backstage in the school auditorium. It was nearly time for Sato's and my final showdown in front of the entire school.
"Ain't nothing can stop you bro. I know you're going to knock this debate out of the park." Ryo said, hyping me up.
Beside him was a girl with bespectacled red eyes and long straight black hair. She put her hand on my shoulder.
"You're going to do great. Just be confident in yourself and don't get intimidated. I know you’re going to do great."
The black hair girl was actually Akari, who had disguised herself in a wig and glasses. Thanks to President Sato's dumb rules, outside students weren't allowed on school grounds anymore. I wanted Akari to still be able to come, so we devised a plan to disguise her. I even managed to get Kanna to lend one of her extra school uniforms. Granted, I didn't actually tell her what I was using it for. If she knew I was lending it to another girl, she probably wouldn't have agreed.
Despite my nerves, I couldn't help but smile at the two of them.
"Both of you really are the best friends I could have ever asked for. I would never have been able to make it this far if it wasn't for either of your support. Thank you so much."
Ryo looked like he was tearing up a bit.
"Darn it bro. You're making me get all emotional. I couldn't be more proud to have been selected as your running mate. When you win, I promise I'll be the greatest VP this school's ever had."
He suddenly wrapped his arms around me and Akari, forcing all three of us into an awkward group hug... That lasted much longer than it probably should have.
Red, who was standing on a pile of boxes, suddenly chimed into my ear.
"Give it everything you got. Make sure that whole make up sequence we did last chapter wasn't for nothing."
I couldn't speak directly to him now, but I flashed him a hand signal to acknowledge him.
Over the last few days him and I drilled harder than we did for the first debate. I managed to memorize all my talking points this time, so I wouldn't need flash cards. Also now I should be able to speak in front of all those people without stuttering or throwing up...However, the most important thing was the flash drive that was in my pocket. That was hopefully going to be my nuke button against President Sato.
After a bit longer my opponent enters from the opposite side backstage. She was followed by Mei, the lispy kid (Thuko, Fuko, or whatever it is), and Sakai.
I noticed as Sakai entered she glanced over towards us and gave me a subtle nod, making sure none of the other student council members noticed. At the moment Sakai was essentially a double agent.
"You’re on in five." A stage hand said to me.
"We're here for you, Kuro. Go and give it everything you have!" Akari said.
"Yeah bro. Go out there and break a leg... Not actually, but you get what I mean." Ryo added.
I smiled at both of them.
"Thanks again you two."
I peeked out the curtain, waiting for my cue to enter the stage. Red stood beside me.
"Just a heads up, I'm not going to be on stage with you."
He had a mischievous grin.
"I don't like that look on your face. What are you planning on doing?" I whispered.
"Don't worry. Let's just say I have a trick up my sleeve to help you.”
"The last time you tried something like this you got knocked out."
"Yeah and your point? Just trust me, I won't let you down."
"Fine, just don't cause too much trouble."
"I'll try, but I can't make any promises. I'm a devil after all."
He laughed as he scampered off to do whatever he was planning. I probably should have been a bit more concerned, but I had a debate to focus on right now.
Jo Ito, the moderator, suddenly took the mic, center stage. A stagehand signaled me to take my position behind my podium on stage. Sato did the same.
"Good evening Shikaku High School! I'm Jo Ito and tonight I'll be moderating the rematch you've all been waiting for. On my left we have our charismatic incumbent student council president, Sato Shiina. On my right we have the persistent former student council secretary, Hako Kuro."
The crowd cheered.
"Woo, Hako Senpai! I love you!" I heard Kanna obnoxiously shout from the front row.
"Will President Sato have another decisive victory or will Hako make the comeback of the century? Let's get right into opening statements. Hako-san, you can begin."
I looked up at the crowd and cleared my throat. Unlike before, I wasn't as nervous. It was more excitement I felt rather than anxiety.
"Good evening everyone. Thank you all for being here. I'd like to start by addressing something right off the bat. I know last debate my performance was horrific and I'd understand any doubt people have about me. I hope all of you will at least hear me out tonight with an open mind and let me make my case to all of you."
"Puke boy!" A few random students shouted from the crowd.
I didn't let the handful of miscellaneous comments get to me. So far I was doing fairly well. I've already made it further than I did last time.
"Alright, thank you for that Hako-san. Now let's go to President Sato for her opening." Jo said while pointing to her.
Like last time, Sato confidently looked towards the crowd. She looked as if she didn’t even have a bit of nerves.
"Salutations once again fellow students. Thank you all for attending tonight's event. I genuinely love every opportunity I have to address my peers.
I'd also like to thank my opponent Hako-san for seeming to be a bit more prepared tonight. I very much am looking forward to being able to have a fair debate this time around.
Like Hako-san just mentioned, I hope you all listen tonight with open minds. I believe I can convince all of why I am the best choice when you cast your votes next week. Once again thank you all for your time."
As expected, she delivered her opening flawlessly. However this contest wasn't going to be determined by opening statements. It was going to be determined by content and hopefully the bombshell I'm going to drop later.