Horikita took Kushida up the stairs to the special wing, which was probably empty.
“This area should be private for now.”
“For the time being, this area shouldn’t attract any attention,” she said, seeking Kushida's approval.
“Well, you know.”
Kushida sighed, probably not even wanting to follow her.
“It's a safe place. If anyone comes near, you'll know right away, right?”
“You really follow me everywhere, Amasawa-san.”
“I'm curious if you’ll join the student council or not.”
She probably wouldn’t leave until she knew how it concluded.
“Horikita’s annoying, but you’re three times more annoying.”
Kushida, who was now out of the public eye and no longer needed to remain reserved, seemed to be insufferable. Without warning, she began showing her true colors.
It was quite a feat to be called three times more annoying than Horikita, who was the most aware of just how much Kushida hated her.
Kushida, without hesitation, targeted her cold eyes at Amasawa. Meanwhile, Amasawa smiled the most she had all day.
“I love seeing that look on your face~”
Instead of being timid, Amasawa clapped her hands together in joy, as if it was finally time to have some fun.
“I'm happy for you~ Now that you have more people you can expose your true self to, like Ayanokōji-senpai and Horikita-senpai, you aren’t afraid of me anymore!”
“I don't know if you're trying to mess with my state of mind or what, but why don't you stop wasting your time?”
“I won't stop. If you want, I can cause trouble for you again.”
Amasawa made the decision to stay in school. I wonder if she was going to find pleasure in making fun of Kushida.
Was she really looking for Kushida when she visited the second-year students?
“Are you the type that’s convinced you’ll never drop out of school?”
“What~? Who could expel me? I'd like to see if there is-.”
“Stop it already! Amasawa-san, your teasing is too much,” Horikita said.
It's true that Amasawa was being unusually obnoxious today, provoking Kushida to engage in hostility.
I didn't want to be involved in the student council member selection for too much longer.
“If you continue, Horikita will be in trouble. Please stop doing this.”
“If you say so~, Ayanokōji-senpai. I'll be a good girl,” she said, holding up her hands to indicate that she really won't make fun of Kushida anymore.
“Kushida-san, let's forget about her for a moment... Will you reconsider joining the student council?”
“Not even if I insist?”
“I just don't want to. Can I go now?”
Seeing Kushida trying to get out of this situation, I decided to move a little.
“I think we should give Kushida a more straightforward incentive, don't you think?”
“...A straightforward incentive?”
“It’s true that Kushida-san would benefit from joining the student council. But at the same time, you’ll similarly benefit. It’s inevitable that the person who’s invited to join the student council may be a little dissatisfied with it.”
“Well, you know...”
Kushida looked at me and glared, but somewhat brusquely let her gaze wander away.
“I think it's naive to ask for a free favor.”
Kushida threw such words to Horikita as if taking advantage of my guidance.
“If I make you an offer, would you consider it? Obviously, I'm not going to withdraw from school. So don't request it like last time.”
Kushida might’ve been considering it, but of course, there were realistic limitations to the conditions. What kind of offer would make Kushida agree to join the student council?
“If you really want my help, prostrate yourself and ask for it.”
“Yes. If you show me a ‘please, Kushida-san’ attitude, I will consider it… No, I will definitely join the student council!”
Instead of giving Horikita an evasive answer, she assured her that she’d join the student council.
Of course, this was a statement made under the assumption that there was no way Horikita would prostrate herself in the first place.
Horikita, however, wasn’t as prideful as Kushida.
Kushida would never prostrate herself in this situation, even for the sake of the class.
“Yes, prostrating… That's your condition. I understand.”
Horikita muttered and sat down on the cold floor of the hallway.
“What? You're bluffing, aren't you?”
“If I do this, you'll join the student council. You promised me just now, didn't you? Ayanokōji-kun and Amasawa-san are both witnesses. It's now or never if you want to take it back...”
It was as if she was actually going to do it to get Kushida to join.
Horikita was giving off such a serious vibe that Kushida, who was supposed to have the upper hand, was at a loss for words.
“...You're bluffing, aren't you? You’d never do that for me.”
“I don't know why you think so, but I don't hate you as much as you think I do. If me prostrating is beneficial for the class, then it's worth it.”
Horikita replied earnestly—her eyes sharp from a low position.
Having promised that she wouldn’t interfere, Amasawa quietly watched the situation and seemed to be enjoying it.
“No, you can't do that! You can't!”
The conclusion that Kushida came to, despite her hesitation, was, ‘You won’t do it.’
“So… just prostrate myself and ask you to join the student council?”
Saying this, Horikita slowly began to stretch out her hands as if she was going to put them on the floor.
But before she could touch it, the movement stopped.
And after a few seconds, she didn’t move beyond that point.
“What’s the matter, Horikita-san?” Kushida called out happily. She thought Horikita had stopped moving because she couldn’t bear the humiliation any longer.
“May I go one step further? Are you satisfied with me prostrating myself in such a trivial manner?”
“You'd be working for me just for doing this. I'm the one who benefits from this, not you.”
If this happened, It would be possible to burn the momentary image of Horikita prostrating into one’s eyes.
But at the same time, Kushida would pay the price by supporting Horikita, who would lead and manage the student council above her. It wasn’t a cheap exchange.
“I know you don't like me. I understand that you want me to get down on my knees. But I think the real joy and pleasure will come when you make me feel obligated to bow to you, not when you force me to do so. Am I wrong?”
This was Horikita’s tactic.
Horikita definitely didn’t want to prostrate herself for Kushida.
In other words, Kushida's reading was correct. However, Horikita was putting on an exquisite air and didn’t seem to be afraid to do so right here.
“I don't understand. If you're okay with prostrating yourself, why don't you just do it quickly? Forget about pleasure or enjoyment, just lower yourself and I’ll join.”
Evidently, Kushida wasn’t easily convinced. She wouldn’t have joined the student council in the first place without a condition in exchange, so it was only natural for her to emphasize that point.
“If there’s any resistance to me prostrating myself, it’s because you’re sure to regret it. If I bow down to you here and now, you’ll join the student council even if you don't want to. I don't want you becoming a member with such low motivation.”
If she was going to join the student council, Horikita would want to make full use of Kushida Kikyō's abilities. That meant her joining couldn’t be realized unless she genuinely wanted to join.
“It's hard to make me bow down to you if you keep your distance from me in your personal life. But if you join the student council, you’ll have more time to interact with me, and you’ll have more opportunities to show your competence. When that happens, I’ll have the opportunity to rely on you. If that happens, I may have to bow down to you more than once or twice.”
Instead of Kushida forcing Horikita to prostrate herself, she could create a situation where she herself would feel obligated to bow down to Kushida.
Such a provocative remark seemed to have stung Kushida more than she expected.
“I'm still going to work for you, right?”
“You seem to think that you’d work under the student council president, but you're wrong. It's not the position that determines one's true standing, but rather the relationships between people. It's just a matter of building a relationship where the vice president has more real power and influence than the student council president.”
Horikita continued to box Kushida in from a lower position.
“A new member suddenly becomes vice president and has the ability to make me, the student council president, her plaything—I'm sure that's a great image to satisfy your need for approval.”
Since we had already dissected Kushida, we knew what she was looking for and what she wanted.
From that point of view, it was clear once again that Kushida was the right person for the student council.
“I don't like it.”
“It's okay if you don't like it now. It's a trivial matter.”
Kushida turned away from Horikita, who was ready to prostrate herself at any moment, with a grim look on her face.
“My position will be higher if I join the student council. That wouldn't be such a bad thing.”
“Yes, that's right. It isn’t an amusing idea to impose conditions.”
“I hate being swayed by sweet talk, but you're suggesting that I’d be able to use you the same way you’d use me?”
Horikita smiled thinly and tried to withdraw her outstretched hands, but...
“But you know, Horikita-san, I'd still like to see you prostate yourself here!” Kushida replied as she turned around with a full-bodied smile.
“...That wouldn’t be me doing so out of obligation, would it?”
“Don't worry. I'll accomplish that some other time. Prostrate yourself now.”
Horikita's plan was going at a steady pace up until this point, but her calculations went awry at the very last minute.
Kushida, now more resolute, had turned the tables on Horikita, revealing more of her bad-natured personality.
“What are you going to do? Refuse? Then I won't join the student council.”
When Kushida saw that she had the upper hand, she proceeded to push the game forward at once.
It was a disadvantageous situation for Horikita to try to get Kushida, who was originally in conflict with her, into the student council for free.
If she avoided prostrating herself, Kushida may throw away the offer.
Maybe the game was lost from the start.
“Ayanokōji-kun and Amasawa-san…”
“I'm sorry, but could you excuse us for a moment?”
Horikita, who was clearly in a bad mood, asked us to leave.
She didn’t want more than one person seeing this humiliating display.
I took Amasawa with me as we left the scene.
Horikita had succeeded in her goal of getting Kushida to join the student council without coercion.
But at a cost.