[6th Discussion ~ The Playing Student Council]
“What’s important isn’t whether you win or lose! It’s whether you try your best!”
Just as always, the president stuck out her little chest and spoke arrogantly as if she were reciting a passage out from some book.
However… this time, her words didn’t faze anybody.
Why, you ask?
“Aka-chan. That’s just painful to watch.”
The president stiffened at Chizuru-san’s cold treatment. And quite expectedly, she couldn’t argue back today.
The president sent an annoyed glare at the mountain of playing cards on the long table… When she did this, she really seemed like a child. It was pretty rare to see someone in high school with so much childlike innocence that they would still get so frustrated after losing a game.
Usually, the implicit understanding was that the person who lost would collect and shuffle the cards. But since the president seemed to have become completely crippled, I took it on myself to collect the scattered cards, and I began to carefully shuffle them. We were playing Old Maid (1), so because the game ended with a bunch of pairs getting clumped together, we had to shuffle the deck well or else it would have a negative effect on the next game.
I neatly cut the deck into two and then used my fingers to combine the two half-decks back into one. As I was doing that, Minatsu began to speak. “Are we still doing this?”
“Yes… we’ve definitely done a lot already…”
“That’s true. Because of a certain someone who just hates to lose, I get the feeling that we’ve gone through almost every major card game in existence. We even ended up playing Old Maid, which might just be the oldest card game in the world…”
After Chizuru-san said that, everyone turned to look at the president. And the president just let out a small moan.
How did we get to this point, you ask?
Well, today there really wasn’t anything that could count as real work, and nothing worth putting on the agenda. We probably would have just made small talk like usual, but today was one of those days where Mafuyu-chan just happened to have brought a deck of cards, so we decided to chat while playing with those…
But we were still in the student council room. And the president, the prototypical “serious person,” objected to the idea. “No matter how not busy we are, it seems just a bit inappropriate to do that here…” she had said with a hesitant tone. However, I retorted with a casual suggestion. “Well, what if we keep on playing until Prez wins a game? Then we’ll stop.” But because of that, we had been trapped in this endless sequence of card games.
Let me just start from the end.
“… You’re just desperately bad at this, aren’t you Prez…?”
At my muttering, the president hung her head, seeming even more depressed.
For some random reason, the president was just terrible at card games. Well, no, there were definitely some realistic reasons. She had a terrible poker face, and she didn’t ever think about strategy, for example. But even when you took those into account, she was really bad. Even if we tried games where luck played a major factor, she would come in dead last every time.
So at this point, considering how much she hated to lose, the president had already forgotten about her original objections against playing games. And each time a game ended, she would just end up saying something like this:
“O-One more game!”
And then, my harem members would all wearily look at the president, even though they didn’t dare show their weariness on their faces. No matter how much everyone liked to have fun, there was just a point where people got sick of playing cards. And also, the more the president lost, the more a weird sense of tension would linger in the air during a game. It really wasn’t an environment that was conducive to having fun.
“So… what should we do next…?” I asked without much energy as I continued to shuffle the cards. Sitting next to me and hearing me say that, Minatsu began to poke my butt under the table. I could interpret this as a sign of her going “I. Love. You!” but I don’t think Minatsu and I can stay like we are no matter how many years pass, so that was probably wrong (although, I’m a bit worried that the younger readers might not get that reference). (2)
I took a look at Minatsu, and we began to have a hushed conversation.
“(Hey… shouldn’t we just let her win already?)”
“(Chizuru-san and I already thought about that, but…)”
But the result of my “Eye Contact Meeting” with Chizuru-san was that we probably shouldn’t follow through with that plan. I told that to Minatsu, and she looked clearly displeased.
“(What? Why not? I’m getting tired too, ya know.)”
“(Just think about it Minatsu. It’s fine if it goes well, but if we get found out…)”
“(…………… She’d be in a really bad mood for a long time, wouldn’t she?)”
“(Exactly. And Prez is really stubborn when it comes to stuff like this. So which would you pick? Suffering through all the card games today or tolerating a few weeks of gloom with Prez in a bad mood?)”
“(I definitely would choose the card games.)”
“(So just give it up. Pray that the president wins even as you exhaust all your strength!)”
“(U, Uuuuu…… This makes me kinda sad. Almost like a soldier in love with someone in the enemy army.)”
“(So you finally realized it, Minatsu. This classroom… it’s a battlefield!)”
“(I really can’t tell who’s on the good side and who’s on the evil side anymore….)”
“(That’s how the world works. Each and every person fights for their own sense of good!)”
“(Ahh, to think this novel would go into deep issues like that!)”
“(This is the destiny of light novels. Just accept it, Minatsu!)”
“(Ku…… being an eroge character is bad enough, but living in a light novel is pretty bad too!)”
“(Perhaps. But Minatsu… in light novels, even if the world is destroyed, there’s a high chance that the hero and the heroine both survive. How does that sound? Getting nice and cozy with me…)”
“(Absolutely not. I’d rather just be destroyed along with the world.)”
“(Why are you treating that as so much of a bad end, my love?!)”
After that, Minatsu seemed completely intent on focusing on the battle at hand, and began to prepare herself for the next game. Finding no other choice, I continued to shuffle silently.
On the other hand, the president, Chizuru-san, and Mafuyu-chan began to discuss what game to play next.
“Mafuyu… doesn’t want to get too worked up. M, Maybe we can go with something relaxing like Daifugou.” (3)
Ah, right. If we played Daifugou, then we could let the president win (without her getting suspicious) if we enacted a Revolution (4). It was rare to see Mafuyu-chan giving an opinion on things, but the president was uncooperative.
“Daifugou huh…? That’s certainly a game that’s hard to get tired of, but… I just can’t be satisfied by something like that right now!”
“Ah, eh, umm… w, why is that?”
“It’s just too relaxed! Daifugou… that game is just way too much like ‘let’s all play together in harmony and get along’!”
“M, Mafuyu thinks something like that is nice…”
“No! I mean, Daifugou is a nice game… but it just doesn’t fit my mood right now! Right now I want to… you know, match skill against skill, see strategy battle strategy in showers of sparks, include a component of luck that adds a nice flavor to the game and a sense of chaos… I want to emerge triumphant in a heated battle like that!”
… The only reason we were in a situation like this right now was because the president had such bad skill, strategy, and luck… but the person herself seemed to not have noticed that fact… What a bothersome person this Sakurano Kurimu was.
As expected, this was an obstacle that was far too heavy for Mafuyu-chan to move alone. “S, Sorry…” apologized Mafuyu-chan as she shrunk into herself. I felt sorry for her… she had completely withered away.
Perhaps she couldn’t just stand by and watch all this, but Chizuru-san, the one person in this universe that might be able to stop the president when she was running wild like this, moved to action.
“Well, Aka-chan. How about poker?”
Poker? The president and I both cocked our heads to the side in confusion. Why poker, Chizuru-san? I don’t think with the president’s current luck that poker would get us anywhere.
It’s not like we were betting any money in our form of poker, and so we couldn’t fold our hands either. It was just normal poker. The person with the strongest hand won. That was all.
Because of that, there was almost no point in trying to read your opponents’ hands. You did have to choose which card in your hand to switch out… but the game was pretty much all luck. Considering how terrible the president’s luck had been today, her chances of winning were zero to none. So why in the world would Chizuru-san pick that game…?
… Wait, don’t tell me… this is…
“(Is that why you’re doing this, Chizuru-san?!)”
As time flowed on lazily in a fashion that reminded me of Ka*ji (5), Chizuru-san sent me a nod back with her brow running with sweat.
… What a gambler this Akaba Chizuru was! What… what a man’s man!
I understood what was going on. This was… this was a Copernican revolution! (6)
We wouldn’t make the president win!
We just wouldn’t win ourselves!
Yes, it was simple! If it’s poker, all we had to do was to make sure our hands were useless!
We could have cheated with any game! We could have just tried to get Prez to win with Daifugou as well! But… but! There was a huge difference in terms of which swindle was easier to detect! For example, if we played Daifugou, just one look at your starting hand and you would more or less be able to guess how well you were going to do! If all you had were weak cards in your hands, and if you couldn’t aim for a Revolution, then you might as well just give up.
Considering how the president was now, there was a high possibility that she would get crappy cards. But… if we were clearly trying to hold back on our good cards… if we tried to make the president win… Daifugou was a long game. There was quite a large chance that we would get caught. There were too many opportunities for her to get suspicious!
However! Poker was short and lasted a single round! There was a very low chance that she would figure us out during the game! After all, by our rules, we didn’t check what cards every player threw away!
To sum up, it was like this: we would do everything in our power to destroy our own hands.
Of course, there was no way to predict what cards we would draw, so there was a chance that we would accidentally make a hand. But even then, at most we would get one pair. Most of the time we would get a completely useless hand. (7)
But, if the president at least got a somewhat useful hand like a pair, she could win!
However… this was still a gamble.
Even if it was poker, if we played too many games, the possibility that the president would realize something was strange would go up.
If nobody could get anything higher than a pair for game after game after game, eventually even the childlike president would get suspicious. And then if she decided to check which cards we were throwing away and figured out that we had been trying to destroy our own hands, it would be game over.
It was a dangerous gamble. But even then… Chizuru-san proposed it.
Hm… I think I’m in love, Akaba Chizuru. I… I entrust my life to your capable hands!
And so, within a second, everyone excluding the president came to a mutual understanding. Mafuyu-chan and Minatsu nodded silently.
… The trap was set.
And in that student council room, the biggest battle ever fought was about to begin.
However… we weren’t fighting to win that battle.
Yes, this was a sacred battle waged to allow our opponent to win.
Has there ever been a sadder battle than this in human history?
We knew all too well.
If this president… if she won, she would definitely get cocky about it.
And, considering she was a child inside, her bragging would definitely get on our nerves.
She would endlessly praise herself, and would treat us like small fry.
No matter how mature Chizuru-san and I were, those were magical words that could easily make us unhappy.
And faced with this ecstatic but completely oblivious president, we would only be able to clench our fists under the table.
We had chosen to walk down that path!
I looked at Chizuru-san. Her eyes were firm with determination. Those were the eyes of a commander who was prepared to face our childish president’s harsh words.
I looked at Minatsu. Her eyes were fierce. Those were the eyes of a warrior who was willing to sacrifice herself for the good of mankind’s future.
I looked at Mafuyu-chan. Her eyes overflowed with love. Those were the eyes of a saint prepared to die for her cause.
I saw everyone’s determination.
Time was flowing lazily onwards (my thoughts and our eye contact meeting had taken less than a second), but I broke the silence and backed Chizuru-san up.
“Let’s play poker, Prez.”
“Sugisaki… also, what’s wrong Sugisaki?! Why do you look so dramatic right now?!”
“Don’t worry about it, Prez. Well then… let the battle begin.”
“No, let nothing begin! Why did it suddenly become a battle?!”
This was painful. Unconsciously, I averted my gaze. Looking next to me, I saw that Chizuru-san and the Shiina sisters were also looking down with pained expressions.
This was… what kind of battle was this?!
All of us have gone through such suffering here… and yet without knowing anything, the president still responded like this?!
This… what kind of injustice was this?!
Life… life was unfair. God, why have you forsaken us?
The president and the president alone stared at us in bewilderment. “E, Everyone, what’s wrong?”
Ugh…… just tough it out, Sugisaki Ken. It’ll all be alright.
It was poker. If everything went well, it would all be over in a minute. A single minute. Just bear with it for only a minute!
The One-Minute War. (8) I am sure that this battle will be dubbed that, and its legend will live on from student council to student council.
Alright then. Let’s show them what we’ve got. Show them the potential of the current student council!
“My turn! Draw!”
“Wha-, Sugisaki?! Why are you starting the game so suddenly?! Also, poker isn’t that kind of game!”
“… That was merely a greeting. It is common courtesy for one who was a duelist long ago.” (9)
“I, I see… w, well, alright, I guess poker is fine.”
The president seemed to be the only person confused. I shuffled the cards carefully one more time, and took a single deep breath. And then, I took a look around at all the other members… and began to deal the cards out with emotion filling every flick of my wrist.
The student council room was filled with nothing but the pleasant sounds of the cards being dealt. As for the president, she seemed to have already switched off of being suspicious of this atmosphere, and was now mentally steeling herself for the next match. She would immediately check each card that she was dealt, and then sit there with a serious expression, waiting for the next card.
I finished dealing out five cards to each person. We each began to check the hands that we had been dealt.
By the way, the rules of this game were simple.
We looked at our hands, and then we had one chance to exchange cards with the cards in the deck. There was no turn order. If we looked at our cards and wanted to switch some out, we could do so immediately. We threw away the cards we don’t want, drew the same number of cards from the deck, and that ended the game.
The president acted without delay.
She threw her entire hand away.
Everyone else immediately looked nervous.
(What… what was the meaning of this?!)
She changed all her cards?
Was she making fun of poker?
Considering how the president usually was, to think that she couldn’t see any patterns in the hand she was dealt was… it was hard to imagine.
An idea popped into my head, and I timidly spoke up to the president.
“What is it, Sugisaki?”
“Well… just for my own information, could I see what cards you threw away?”
“Hm? I guess it’s fine. Ah, you’re not trying to cheat, are you?”
“N, Not at all! Actually, let me play my hand first!”
I said that and hurriedly exchanged a few cards of my own. After making sure that my hand had become complete trash, I checked the five cards that the president had thrown away.
And then… I finally realized exactly how terrifying this war was.
“Wha-… this is… this is impossible… God… how could you let such a thing happen…?”
I crumbled in despair. The other members seemed startled at my response, and snatched the president’s hand away from me. “Show me!” “Me too!” “M, Mafuyu wants to see too!”
And then… each and every person reeled from the shock.
“Huh? W, What happened?” the president questioned, seeming puzzled… but we had all already been reduced to empty husks.
We… we had not been prepared for this. Not for this kind of war.
To think… to think war could be such a cruel and heartless mistress…
How… how could something like this be allowed to happen?
Each and every one of us had been knocked down cold.
Mafuyu-chan was the last to take a look at the president’s cards, and they slowly fluttered down to the table from her hands.
I didn’t want to look at those cards anymore… but I couldn’t help myself.
A, A, K, K, K.
A full house.
She had gotten a full house on the first try.
This president had thrown that away.
All of it.
And I could guess what was coming next…
“Alright, let’s show our cards!”
The president announced that loudly!
And then, all of us showed our hands to the others.
Trash, trash, trash, trash, trash.
Everyone had trash.
Everyone. Yes, including the president.
And then, the president said the one thing she shouldn’t have said… the one thing that hit us with the force of a nuclear bomb.
“Hm. I thought I would hit it… a royal straight flush.”
Everyone was thinking the same thing.
(This girl… she’s just a genuine…)
We finally realized it.
Realized that in this world, there are things that are absolutely true.
For example, even if there should come a day when the sun did not rise…
Our president would absolutely never win a card game.
I looked at Chizuru-san. Her eyes were filled with despair. The enemy… the enemy was weak way beyond expectations. No matter how much we went easy on the president, she would never win… it was like telling a level 99 hero to attack a single sl*me (9) but to not beat it. It was impossible. We just couldn’t bring ourselves down to that low a level.
We were… we were powerless. No, that wasn’t it. The president was powerless. Too powerless.
As we all were being enveloped by despair, the president began gathering up the cards of her own accord. And then…
“So, what should we do next?”
Shiver, shiver, shiver. (11)
Our terror was almost audible.
Mafuyu-chan and Minatsu’s eyes trembled from the force of her question. Chizuru-san seemed to be calm on the outside, but she was grabbing her chest.
And I… I looked at the president with a frightened expression.
What… did she say? Next? The next game, she said? And she also asked what it should be… so we’re not playing poker anymore? That’s… that’s so…!! We had fought that war with such determination, and then… and then… she wanted to lay that war to rest and start a new one?!
“Fu… Fuha… Fuhahahahaha”
I suddenly began to laugh. The president stared at me blankly.
“Nothing. Nothing is wrong, Prez. No… Berserker.”
“I have no idea what you mean! I’m not a Berserker!”
“Hmph… well then, let me try again. Shura.” (12)
“It’s Prez or Sakurano Kurimu! How did it become Shura?!”
“Shura, how is it that you can like war so much?!”
“I don’t like it! How in the world did you come to that conclusion?!”
“It’s fine. If you are so thirsty for blood, then we’ll happily be your human sacrifices!”
“I have no idea what you’re saying or why you’re getting so worked up!”
“Alright, everyone! To war! To war!”
“Why is everyone joining in?! What’s with this unpleasant atmosphere?!”
The president saw Chizuru-san and the Shiina sisters jumping in to back me up, and her face twitched.
Like that, we embarked upon a long, long battle.
It was the start of a war that would later come to be called “The Crimson Tragedy.”
(1) The Japanese variant on Old Maid, called “baba-nuki,” is played with an extra joker in the deck. Whoever gets left with the joker at the end loses.
(2) And he should be worried. This is a reference to the lyrics from the song 未来予想図II, from the band Dreams Come True. The album was released in 1995, and the relevant lyrics approximately translate to: “After you let me off (the motorcycle) and watched over me until I turned the next corner, you would always blink your brake lights five times. It was a sign of you saying “I. Love. You” (note: “I love you” in Japanese has 5 syllables). // I’m sure that no matter how many years past, I will be able to live with the same feelings which will never change, because I’m with you.” I had an epic battle with Google to find this one out.
(3) Literally “Big Millionaire,” but it is quite similar to the Western game Asshole/President, or whatever you prefer to call it.
(4) A “Revolution” occurs when someone plays a four-of-a-kind, thereby reversing the value of all the cards.
(5) Kaiji, a series about gambling.
(6) For those who need a refresher, Copernicus is most famous for postulating that the earth revolved around the sun.
(7) It’s interesting to note that a completely useless hand in poker is literally called a “pig” in Japanese.
(8) Most likely a reference to Kidou Senshi Gundam (Mobie Suit Gundam), with original as the “One-Year War.”
(9) A Yu-Gi-Oh! reference. Sugisaki says “Ore no taan! Doroo!” (My turn! Draw!) which became sort of a Yu-Gi-Oh! meme of sorts. Also, the actual line was “I was written down as a ‘keitousha’ but called a ‘duelist.’” Duelist is the English word, while keitousha is just the Japanese word for duelist. In a lot of Japanese works, the kanji is used in print but the pronunciation is changed deliberately to the English or quasi-English pronunciation, and that is what he is referring to. It’s something that is impossible to translate into English.
(10) Dragon Quest reference.
(11) Another Kaiji reference.
(12) Reference to Asura, an Indian ogreish God.