How everything worked
The whole story goes back to Friday, February 11th, when the letters claiming that Ichinose was a criminal were discovered.
After Ichinose had seen the letters and Kamuro visited in my room with her story about her shoplifting past.
I had decided to make my own move against Sakayanagi’s strategy. In order to do that, I called a certain girl to come to my room.
And about the appointed time. A faint knock and not the usual sound of my doorbell sounded in my room.
The door was already unlocked, so, she opened the door.
The scent of flowers tickled my nose as the cold air from the hallway got in.
“Good evening, Ayanokouji-kun”
It was already around midnight, so Kushida’s voice was a tone lower that usual.
“I am sorry for calling you at such a bad time. Please, come in, if you don’t mind”
“Are you sure?”
“It is really cold, standing like this, in the front door”
“Yeah. Thank you, then.”
For a girl to come into a guy’s room that late at night…
And being in a one on one situation. I would not be surprised if she had turned down my offer.
However, Kushida entered my room without any sign of hesitation.
“Ayanokouji-kun. It is a bit early, but I will give you this”
From the pocket of her jacket took out a box of chocolates decorated with a pink ribbon.
“Are you sure?”
“I have a lot to give on the 14th, so if anyone can get it early, I will hand it over”
Since that was the case, I gladly accepted it. There was no reason to refuse.
“So what did you want to talk to me about? It is rather unusual of you to call me so late at night.”
If it was a casual situation, I would call her during daytime. It was natural to feel suspicious.
“There is a matter I’d like to discuss with you”
A bit surprised, Kushida continued.
“I thought that you hated me, Ayanokouji-kun and that you did not want to consult with me any longer.”
“I do not hate you. I rather thought that you were avoiding me?”
“Ahahaha! I see! Well, that might be true.”
She responded, laughing not as the Kushida she showed to the public, nor the Kushida she kept hidden inside, but from somewhere in between.
“But why isn’t Horikita-san, here? She is much more reliable than me, right?”
“There’s no one else, I can only rely on you, Kushida”
“I don’t know if I can help you, but I would like to listen to what you want to say. However, what to you mean that I am the only one you can rely on?”
She tilted her head, seeming to not have the faintest clue as to why I would want to talk to her.
“I would like any personal information about various first-year students. Information they’d be embarrassed about if it became public. In other words, I want you to tell me their secrets.”
“…. What do you mean?”
Her smiling expression remained on her face, but the smile from her eyes disappeared completely.
“You’ve said it before. You already have enough information to destroy the class. This doesn’t just include Class C, but students from the other classes as well.”
Kushida, who constantly plays the role of a popular person with a good personality, would often convince others to talk about their problems to her.
She should have a noteworthy amount of information about the students from the other classes, even if still, she had very little compared to what she had on the students of Class C.
“And why do you want to know of such things, Ayanokouji-kun?”
“Do you know that Ichinose is suffering right now due to some rumors?”
“Yes. Like how today there were those terrible letters…”
“So, it is in order to stop this”
“Hmmm, I don’t really get it. Is that really your intention, Ayanokouji-kun?”
“This has nothing to do with Horikita”
“Hmmmm? You’re quite compassionate. You did help Sudō-kun back then, after all.”
Of course, Kushida knew about the actions I had taken to prevent Sudō from dropping out of school.
“But knowing someone else’s personal information will stop that rumor?”
“I don’t get it. If you spread rumors that hurt a lot of people, won’t the situation become rougher than it is right now? Or is it fine as long as the rumors aren’t focused on Ichinose-san?”
Save one at the expense of the many. It may seem like such a strategy.
While her way of thinking was correct. She was mistaken.
Kushida continued talking.
“I have a very good relationship with Ichinose-san as well. If there’s anything I can do for her, I’d like to do that. Sure, maybe I’ve heard a couple more secrets than the average person. But, that’s also why I’m not able to give them away easily. After all, they’re secrets that I’ve been confided with under the premise that I won’t go around sharing them with others.”
Of course, her response was exactly as I expected it to be.
Not a single person is pleased with the spread of secrets they want to keep hidden.
That being the case, one might think that it’s better not to share anything personal with anyone, but human beings aren’t that simple.
Everyone chooses to share their secrets with family, close friends, and lovers. After all, everybody wants to share their feelings with someone.
“I can’t just betray my friends. Besides, even if I cooperate with you for Ichinose-san’s sake, wouldn’t they find out that I’m the one who leaked the rumors?”
“Of course. In order to not let that happen, we have to choose what rumors we will spread”
Serious secrets, like those that had only been confided in Kushida, couldn’t be used.
However, if the rumors were simple enough that all of their friends knew about them, then they wouldn’t hold any weight. The important point was that some, but not many, already knew the secrets. We’d have to balance it perfectly.
“Do you think that I am going to betray my friends, by cooperating with a plan I do not quite understand?”
“It won’t be easy”
If I hadn’t known about Kushida’s dark side, there would be no room for negotiations.
After all, it was highly unlikely that Kushida, who always played the role of an angel, would want to help with a scheme to trap others.
However, because I had already known the other side of Kushida, there was room for that.
“If you give me the right information, I’ll might be able to prepare a reward for you.”
“I am going to answer your demands, Kushida, to the best of my ability”
“In other words, you will get me whatever I ask of you?”
“Yes, in a nutshell, that’s exactly what I am saying”
“There is no guarantee that you will keep your promise. Ayanokouji-kun, you are on Horikita’s side after all”
“Then you should consider this conversation we’re having right now as insurance.”
“What do you mean?
“Well, I do not have to spell it out for you. You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?”
I drifted my gaze towards Kushida’s pocket.
She was still acting like she was clueless, so I took a step a little further.
“Even if I don’t say anything, you should probably understand. A cell phone… Voice recorder… Maybe even both?”
There was no way that she wouldn’t try to take advantage of our conversation.
“So, you already knew? That I am recording”
“After all, I am dealing with you, Kushida, I kinda guessed that you would try such a thing”
“But you were certain, right?”
At once she tried to change the conversation, thinking that I was trying to bait her with a trick question.
“If you had to cut out the parts that are inconvenient to you, it would lower the authenticity of the recording. Ideally, you would want to keep the data intact as much as possible. And for that to work, it would be necessary for you to keep in check your own behavior.”
Kushida had been carefully chosen her words to be as polite as possible ever since she arrived at my door.
That way there wouldn’t be any fault with her behavior, even in the unlikely chance that something went wrong later on.
“For you to be sure just from that… not bad”
Kushida took out her mobile phone, showed the recording screen, and stopped it in front of me.
“Alright, this was the end of the recording, Ahhh… How uncomfortable”
With that, Kushida completely erased the gentle atmosphere that had been filling the room.
“I am very much aware of something too. It was you Ayanokouji-kun that helped Horikita-san back then, didn’t you?”
“To be honest, I gave Horikita some ideas”
“Well, let’s just put that aside for now. I’ll always be able to hear about it when we’re done with this.”
Kushida returned to the matter in hand and said.
“So how do you intend to stop Ichinose-san’s rumors by using the personal information of others?”
Kushida got to the point by shifting her head and taking a listening posture.
“That will happen by involving the school, who is always watching, but always remains quiet”
“Involving the school…?”
“Currently, Ichinose has been keeping silent about the rumors, refusing to take action against them. So naturally, the school hasn’t done anything in response.”
“Is it okay to make that assumption? It’s possible that the school will still do something to stop the rumors, isn’t it?”
“Kinda. Even if her homeroom teacher knows about her situation, the fact that the school still hasn’t taken action is because Ichinose herself hasn’t been asking for it in the first place. So, we should just escalate the issue to the point where they can no longer quietly sit back and watch. If we do, the school should definitely start to take the situation more seriously.”
Gone are the days when you can cover the foul odors even if you are isolated from the public. At a school where students are chasing stories about other people, there will be some school dropout or the worst suicide. If things go wrong, the school’s position and honor will be lost in a moment.
Schools would never be able to ignore a problem that may turn into a case of bullying.
Naturally, Sakayanagi’s attacks were just barely touching that thin red line.
In which case, I would just have to go behind the scenes and push it over that very line.
The situation then would force the school authorities to steer toward the extinction of the fire.
That was the purpose of my plan.
“Not everyone will be able to keep silent like Ichinose-san, so you’re saying that you’ll have other students go and complain to the school instead?”
“Exactly. Plus, even if nobody else reaches out to the school, the end-of-year exam is just around the corner. The rumors should help create an extremely tense, irritated atmosphere. Small fights or quarrels may end up taking place as well.”
“And as a result, the school won’t be able to sit back and watch anymore… is what you’re getting at?”
Make a mixture of truths and lies about several people of each class and spread them around.
Perhaps more than half of the students targeted by the rumor will claim to be false.
It’s even possible that nobody would end up admitting to the rumors at all.
However, it shows itself that it contains the truth.
“Given the current situation, Class A would be the first suspect if new rumors show up. That would be another advantage for us”
Because the Sakayanagi camp had spread rumors in order to entrap Ichinose, they would immediately notice the approach of a third party.
But even if she noticed it, she could not do anything. They would deny it with all their might, for it is impossible to deny the fact that “Rumors of Ichinose” had been circulated by them in the first place.
As long as it is true, it is inevitable that people will be more suspicious than anyone else.
With this in mind, Kushida appeared to have understood where I was going with all of this.
“But, how do you plan to spread so many rumors? It’s not easy.”
“How to spread a rumor at school? We use the school’s forums”
“By forums, are you referring to the ones in the school’s application? You do know that nobody uses those, right? Besides, if the school is forced into action, won’t they punish the people responsible for spreading the rumors? Even though you can post to the forums anonymously, won’t the school immediately be able to tell who posted the rumors?”
The questions from Kushida came one after another.
“Of course after considering the risk”
“In other words…. Ayanokouji-kun are you willing to take the blame if they find out that we are the source of the rumors?”
“Yes. Should anything like that happen, I won’t say a word about your involvement”
Of course, we had a plan, but at this stage it was not absolute.
However, I had no intention of writing on the bulletin board in a situation where I could be identified.
“There is still a bit of a risk for me, too”
“That’s true. If it’s traced back to me, the fact that I know so much about the internal affairs of other students would seem unnatural. It’s possible that some students will think that I got my information from someone else.”
What is important is that while I was standing in front of Kushida I should not give her the feeling that I was manipulating the whole situation.
It was important to make her feel like I was missing a few things here and there.
“But the rumors must be carefully selected to reduce those fears.”
“… Yeah. Ayanokouji-kun, your goal is clear to me, now. I’ll consider it. My cooperation will depend on our conversation moving a bit forward.”
She was still thinking about it, which means that her decision had not been finalized yet.
“It will depend on whether or not I am going to accept your conditions, isn’t that right?