[Erika Tojo PoV]
“Please look! Thanks to Erika Onee-sama, my grades have improved!”
“No, it’s thanks to your hard work. Have confidence in yourself.”
“T-thank you so much! Will you continue to teach me?”
“Yes, anytime you want.”
During lunch break, I had a relaxed time with just my junior and me. Even though I didn’t go as far as making tea by hand, I still felt that this time was precious, and I’m sure my junior sitting next to me felt the same.
“Uhm, there’s something I wanted to ask. Who is that person who’s always following Onee-sama? He seems like a dangerous student, and I can’t stand him!”
Pum pum, as I sensed Kumi’s frustration, I immediately understood who she was referring to.
My face tensed up. I clenched my fist tightly and took a deep breath to calm myself.
“Kumi-san, he’s not following me. If anything, it might be the other way around. And he is a dear friend of mine. A truly important friend. Even if it’s you, I won’t tolerate anyone making fun of him.”
Without thinking, a cold voice escaped my lips. I hesitated on how to address the adorable junior who was now looking down. She admires me so much, and I don’t want to disregard her feelings.
She’s done nothing wrong. She was just worried about me. Even if I abruptly scold her, her emotions won’t understand or accept it. It might trigger an outburst.
And if that happens, the one who will be hurt is not me this time, but the person who was unfairly inconvenienced before and now, it will be her standing right in front of me.
In the first place, even in that incident, nothing was made public. Ultimately, only he took the blame. It pains me that people’s negative impression of him remains unchanged.
What he has done has become clear, but my name was not mentioned in that disclosure.
In reality, suspension or even expulsion wouldn’t be unreasonable considering the severity of my actions.
Being able to live in peace like this is also thanks to what he did.
He already stands out enough as it is. Naturally, there are people who don’t think highly of him.
I’m working to restore his reputation, but I can’t actively spread the truth.
However, I can’t run away here. If I were to run away now, I would spend the rest of my life unable to forgive myself. That’s why I must convey the truth.
“Please listen, Kumi-san. He is not the person you think he is. On the contrary, he’s like a hero. He is-“
I speak passionately. What will she think?
She may be disappointed. I may not become the ideal senpai she admires.
Still, I can’t pretend to hide my foolish actions at this moment.
He is my friend, after all.
“People are very ugly creatures. And of course, that includes me. You are so pure and it reminds me of my past self. That’s why I’m worried. I don’t want to tarnish the beauty you possess.”
I want to protect that innocence. In this era where the ugliness of humanity is so vividly displayed. It’s filled with so much malice that it can extinguish one’s spirit.
It’s easy to be swept away by it. The more pure you are, the more you get hurt.
And then you become tired and slowly get stained by it.
But, just for now. Even if it’s only until graduation, I want to remain pure within this closed world called school. I want to stay as the ideal I aspire to be, even if it’s impossible. I find myself wanting to be the “Onee-sama” she seeks.
I wanted to do my best. To be able to always have peaceful moments like this.
Both her and him. I wish for everyone to be kind to one another.
“I cherish you, Kumi-san. That’s why I want you to have many people you cherish as well.”
Not only her classmates, but also juniors, regardless of gender, seek her advice and support, and she gained immense popularity. Her attitude was always kind, approachable, and compassionate.
Eventually, Erika Tojo would also be known as
“Father, I don’t care what happens to me! Please help me! If things continue like this, it will be because of me that Kokonoe-san… That must never happen!”
In a rush, Erika returns home and hurriedly enters her father’s study. Seeing her daughter in a panicked state, Hideomi, while bewildered, calms Erika down and prepares some coffee before urging her to speak. It is an important matter for Hideomi as well.
“What happened, Erika?”
“It’s about Sudou-san—“
Takefumi Sudou, the eldest son of the Sudou family, currently twenty years old, and the person who proposed an engagement to Erika.
Takefumi’s father’s company was listed on the Nasdaq exchange four years ago. Hideomi had met him a few times but didn’t find him to be a desirable partner, giving off the typical nouveau riche impression.
Such individuals often seek social connections. And Sudou had set his sights on the Tojo family.
Hideomi is currently in a difficult situation. He has been stripped of his official status and is in an independent position.
Not only is he seen as a fallen figure by those around him, which is indeed true, but Hideomi has no way to regain his former standing.
While he has been forgiven by Misaki after bowing his head and offering a formal apology, it is only natural for them to distance them from Tojo, who is being glared at by Himiyama. In fact, if another person were to find themselves in a similar situation, Hideomi would reconsider their relationship. The difference in influence is that vast.
Elections require money. With the loss of his party as a backing, Hideomi will face a tough battle. He cannot rely on sheer numbers as he has done before. His current position is precarious, and there are countless candidates aiming for his seat.
Keen-eyed Sudou saw an opportunity there and offered assistance, under the condition that his son Takefumi become engaged to Erika. While Hideomi was outraged and rejected the offer, Sudou’s forceful and increasing pressure is wearing him down. If Takefumi were an outstanding individual, Hideomi might have considered it, but he couldn’t see that in him, and Erika also harbored dislike towards him. As a father who genuinely loves his daughter, he couldn’t use her as a tool.
The Sudou family lacks the pedigree and status, and Hideomi lacks allies.
On the surface, it may seem mutually beneficial, but in reality, it is a takeover of the Tojo family. If Erika were to be engaged to Takefumi, he would inherit the Tojo name. Sudou would obtain history. It was something that Hideomi couldn’t tolerate.
“That man… What a fool. Haha, kuhahahahahahahahaha!”
“Father? What’s the matter?”
“Sorry, sorry. This feeling of relief is just… Erika, there’s nothing for you to worry about. Such obstacle to Kokonoe-Sensei are meaningless,”
According to Erika, after school, she was ambushed by Takefumi and persistently invited to a meal near the school gate. By chance, Yukito Kokonoe intervened, but during the altercation, Takefumi made threatening remarks towards Yukito and his family. It is unclear whether he was enraged or simply deluded himself into believing that Sudou had such power, but it was like provoking a devil.
We’re getting more and more head-over-heels, aren’t we? Erika, cherish this relationship. There is no more suitable person for you to marry, but even if you put that aside, you must not sever your relationship with Kokonoe-sensei.”
“What do you mean, Father?”
“The next election. I will enter national politics.”
A phone call that just came in has completely changed Hideomi’s difficult situation.
He is still filled with excitement, a feeling he has not experienced in a long time. Asked for a response, he immediately gives one.
A shudder runs through his body. The Tojo family’s long-cherished dream, which he once had stolen away, is being brought back, and it is none other than he who is making it happen.
“It seems that Kokonoe-Sensei has recommended me as a successor to Rishu-Sensei. Eventually, he will officially take over that constituency, but until then, he will support me.”
What a bold man. Hideomi is amazed. He doesn’t know the details of how this decision was made, but it is extraordinary for someone who had caused him harm as an enemy not only to be forgiven but to be saved. Erika, too, has been saved by Yukito Kokonoe, and there is no doubt that he will become an outstanding figure who accomplished great feats in the future. If that is the case, Hideomi swears to protect his seat until then.
No, that’s not enough. His mission is to expand his influence, gain support, and strengthen his foothold even more than before for the sake of the country.
“I have received a great favor that cannot be repaid. So, I will repay this debt through my work. I will pioneer the path for Kokonoe-Sensei.”
He is not currently in the position to do so, but it may be decades in the future. Time is plentiful. Until then, Hideomi has decided to devote himself to serving this country.
“…Father, about Kokonoe-san”
Erika was heartbroken that she had ruined the Tojo family’s long-cherished dream. But now she had dragged him into her family’s affairs. She could not repent enough. If Sudou had tried to touch Yukito Kokonoe, she had even been prepared to accept his offer of a fiancée.
But that unexpected development was beyond his understanding.
Hideomi absentmindedly opened his SNS. Looking at the trending topics, he burst into laughter.
“What I understand is that he is definitely not an entity to be opposed to.”
“An entity? What do you mean?”
Hideomi handed his phone to Erika, whose expression became indescribably subtle.
“Father, what is this!?”
“…Sudou is finished.”
The concerns that had been troubling him were resolved, and now Hideomi was filled only with the determination to face new challenges. He made a firm vow to himself: He would never go against him again.
[On the other side]
“What on earth were you doing!”
“What’s the matter, father!?”
Shuji grabbed his son’s collar as soon as he returned from work. It was a terrifying sight, a rage that his son had never seen before.
Shuji Sudou is cold-hearted. He excels at thoroughly investigating his opponents and exploiting their weaknesses. That’s how he expanded his business. Tojo was also one of his targets. He invested money and strategized to eventually take control of their family’s legacy.
Shuji was not the type to raise his voice normally. That’s why this outburst left Takefumi shocked.
“Take a look at this!”
Shuji showed Takefumi his social media feed. Takefumi was unsure of his father’s intentions, but when he saw the trending topics, his face turned pale. The situation was beyond his comprehension.
“Why is my name here?!”
He quickly opened his own phone and checked his accounts. Notifications overflowed.
His name was trending, and his real name, university enrollment, and even his family structure were all identified. But the biggest problem was that a clear video of Takefumi’s threats was being widely circulated.
Following the origin, they found an account with over ten thousand followers.
“Why would a video like this…- Wait, this person!”
Takefumi’s task was to ruin Erika. Erika had no way to escape. Even if she rejected him, once they became engaged, she would just be a high school student, easily disposable in his eyes. Eventually, he would take control of the Tojo family.
If it came to that, Takefumi would be free. There would be no need to obsess over Erika. There are plenty of other women out there. He had no feelings for her and she was just a mere pawn after all.
When he approached Erika to fulfill his objective, there was a guy who got in his way. Just an ordinary, unsophisticated high school student.
Takefumi wanted to intimidate the impudent brat. That’s all he did. He didn’t resort to violence. And yet…
“What the hell is this! Father, why is this happening!”
An account named “Yukito Kokonoe.” Takefumi couldn’t understand why a mere high school student would have over ten thousand followers. The posts causing the controversy were extremely simple.
With the video, there was only one line: “Got threatened out of nowhere by some weirdo. LOL”
Even an emoji laughing while sweating was added. He was clearly being provoked.
Just one line. Only a single line. And yet, it sparked a fatal uproar.
“My name and even the name of the company have been identified and spread around. But that’s not the problem!”
“What do you mean, that’s not the problem! What are we going to do, father?”
Takefumi was about to throw his phone on the floor, but he held himself back. What else could happen?
Despite feeling an inexplicable fear from his father’s words, what his father pointed out were the followers.
“What am I going to do? There’s nothing we can do about this! I’m done for!”
“Wait a minute… This guy is weird! Something’s not right! And father’s company, it’s… “
The followers were not just ordinary high school students, but also major companies with which his father’s company had business transactions, advertising agencies, and even politicians and executives of companies whom Takefumi had never even met. It was a low-quality joke, to put it lightly.
“Himiyama, that’s… That guy who retired, right? And Kyoto’s Touran… It can’t be…”
“This is absurd! How is there such a connection? It’s the result of your reckless actions! You have to fix this yourself!”
Takefumi had followed his father’s intentions. He had just been a bit careless. That’s all. But even so…
He had received education from his father as well. That’s why he understood… This was impossible.
The situation that would unfold from now on would likely be a catastrophe for both his father and Takefumi. Even his own employment prospects were now uncertain. At this point, there was no time to worry about people like Tojo.
Messages kept pouring into his phone one after another. “You’re the worst.” “Don’t contact me anymore.” Fearing that it would spread to themselves, friends and acquaintances were cutting ties. Even the person he had been dating dropped him without hesitation. It was a heartless web of relationships.
“Go and apologize immediately. Don’t come back until you’re forgiven!”
“Wait, Father! I was in the wrong. So, let’s go together—”
“Do you expect me to clean up your mess!? You’re already an adult. Take responsibility for yourself! Don’t come back until you’ve earned forgiveness.”
“Father, you understand, right! I can’t handle this on my own—”
“I’m going back to the company. It looks like I won’t be able to come home for a while.”
With swift steps, Shuji left the house. Takefumi stood there dumbfounded.
What had he done to make himself an enemy? The world had changed as if by some absurdity.
His murmured words carried a tone of sorrow.