Basically, I've been in the mood to write something, but lacking ideas. I took a look at the last things I wrote (the last 2 chapters of 'The Drinking Contest') and I realised, not for the first time, that it didn't realise its potential. At all. I rushed those chapters due to fears of letting people down by making them wait any longer, and so they don't read particularly well, and there are so many places I wanted to take it but didn't. I really liked the idea, but not how I executed it. So, I'm rewriting it, changing and expanding the plot to make it more realistic and so that it's something that I actually feel proud of.
So without further ado...
The After Party
As he surveyed the student council office, with its recently acquired brightly coloured decorations of balloons and banners, not to mention the many used paper plates and cups that now littered its surfaces, Koji wished fervently that this really was the end of the party. Officially, of course, it was; this was all he had given permission for, after all. When Niwa approached him with the idea of throwing Keita a birthday party, he had envisioned something along the lines of his welcoming party – a little rowdy, but nothing that could not be dealt with by a firm assertion of his authority as dorm manager.
However, he had not factored in the ‘after party’ that was apparently starting, and he had definitely not factored in the large quantity of alcohol that had mysteriously appeared now that most of the guests had drifted away, leaving only Keita’s closer friends present. He had no idea how it had been acquired, and quite frankly did not want to know, although he heavily suspected Nakajima. He had often sauntered in, long after curfew, with alcohol on his breath and cigarette smoke clinging to his clothes, much to Koji’s chagrin.
Whoever’s fault it was, the issue was that alcohol had been produced, and a drinking contest had been suggested. Koji acted instinctively, horror evident on his face.
“Definitely not. Most of the people here have not had much, if any, exposure to alcohol, and I for one am not prepared to deal with the repercussions of drunken teenagers.” He folded his arms with an air of finality.
“Ah, come on, Shinomiya! It’s just a bit of fun!” protested Niwa immediately, sitting up from where he was lounging on the sofa. “I’m sure we can take our alcohol. Right, guys?” He grinned around the room at the others. Several of his companions were nodding their agreement, obviously confident in their drinking abilities. Koji was happy to note that at least a few people seemed slightly uneasy, that is, Keita, Takuto, and interestingly, Naruse. Perhaps he still had a chance of averting this contest.
Shunsuke had started to discourse about all the alcohol he had consumed at some party or another, but Koji hastily cut him off before he got into his stride. He didn’t need them all to compare histories, or they would force him to let the contest go ahead just so they could see who was lying.
“That’s enough. I did not give permission for this, and I doubt that more than a handful of you are serious about it anyway-”
He was interrupted by a soft voice from the corner of the room, where Shichijo was sitting with Saionji, away from the central mass of people.
“Perhaps we should ask Itou-kun what he wants. After all, it is his party,” Shichijo suggested pleasantly.
All eyes turned to Keita, who sank down a little in his seat, looking startled and somewhat embarrassed. He seemed to be trying to figure out the best way out of the situation, that is, the one that would offend the smallest group of people. That was Keita all over, really – always desperate to please. Koji usually admired his diplomacy, but for once he really wanted him to take sides. His side.
“I… I’ll do what everyone else wants to do,” he said finally. “You’ve gone through enough trouble as it is, throwing this party for me!” He smiled winningly, obviously hoping that someone would make his decision for him.
“So, it’s settled, then,” cried Niwa, jovially. “That’s,” he performed a quick headcount, “nine people versus you, Shinomiya.” He looked triumphant.
Saionji sniffed disdainfully. “That’s just typical of you, Niwa, assuming that you’ve won before the votes have even been cast. Only four people have actually agreed directly – you, Nakajima, Shunsuke and Endo. In case your ability to count has failed you, that leaves four to be persuaded onto Shinomiya’s side, and of course Keita, who will reserve his vote until last.” Koji’s heart lifted. Perhaps there was at least one sensible student in this school.
“Okay, then, Kaoru-chan. Which side are you taking?” replied Niwa easily.
Saionji glared at him for a moment in silence before deliberately turning away and addressing Shichijo. “What do you think, Omi? I suppose there is nothing more amusing to do.”
Niwa grinned in elation, while Koji’s heart sank back down. He glanced at Shichijo, who looked vaguely surprised at Saionji’s decision. He appeared hesitant to reply. Koji thought he was probably torn between following his friend’s example and looking out for Saionji. As he was considering this, a deep voice resonated from the other side of the room and interrupted him.
“No doubt the Treasury’s dog will follow its master,” Nakajima smirked. “Unless, of course, he is too, ah, afraid to engage in a battle that does not allow a computer to do the work for him?”
“Naturally, Nakajima-san, I would be delighted to take part. Let us hope that you put up a fight that meets my expectations.” The two smiled icily at each other, sending a wave of unease over the room. It felt as though the room temperature had dropped several degrees, and Keita glanced nervously at Endo, who smiled reassuringly back. The exchange student still hadn’t quite got used to their constant quarrelling. Saionji merely rolled his eyes and moved on to the next person to cast their vote - Naruse.
“If it’s something my honey wants to do, how could I refuse him?” A smile and a wink in Keita’s direction accompanied his answer, which made Keita blush and Endo scowl.
“It seems that the majority is in favour of the contest, but we still have one more person to ask,” Saionji continued, ignoring the new scuffle threatening to break out. He turned to Takuto, Koji’s best friend, who had been sitting quietly, observing the scene unfolding before him.
Koji smiled to himself. Here, at least, he had an ally. Although Takuto did not generally put himself forward in a debate, he was intensely loyal and would come to his friend’s aid if enough urgency was conveyed. Koji raised his eyebrows at the artist, willing him to get the message.
Takuto, however, looked away apologetically and said softly, “I don’t see what harm it could do, Koji. It doesn’t have to get out of hand.”
Koji was taken aback. Takuto was usually shy and retiring, so normally parties were something he had to be persuaded into. And as he was voluntarily offering to stay on... Surely this newfound confidence and sociability should be encouraged? But then again, Takuto was naive to think that under Nakajima’s guidance, a contest would be any but out of hand. Nevertheless, Koji’s steely resolve was starting to dissolve. His affection for the artist and concern for his friend’s happiness were always a weak point.
He knew he had lost when he made the mistake of meeting Takuto’s eyes – the earnest expression in them clinched it. He began to suppose that some sort of compromise might be possible to arrange. After all, he didn’t like being a killjoy.
Koji sighed. “It seems I’m overruled.”
“All right!” Shunsuke punched his fist in the air.
“May I have a word with you, Nakajima?” Koji turned to the vice president, gesturing at an area free of people, his words stilted with forced politeness. Nakajima, raising an eyebrow, inclined his head and followed the dorm leader to his chosen spot.
“Listen. I am allowing the consumption of alcohol, but on several conditions. Firstly, do not force anyone into something they don’t want to do. Secondly, if this contest is an excuse to attempt to ‘one-up’ Shichijo, which I suspect it may be, do not involve any of the others in your petty squabble. If everyone wants to drink, I can’t stop them, but at least let them get it out of the way in a more... relaxed way. Recreational, if you will. I don’t think a shot-for-shot contest is a good idea for inexperienced drinkers. You and Shichijo can do whatever you want after they’ve given up and gone to bed.”
Nakajima looked thoughtful. “So, what you’re saying...” he began slowly, with a glint in his eye.
Koji rolled his eyes. “Yes. Some sort of a drinking game. But make sure it’s-”
Nakajima was already heading back into the centre of the room. “We’ve had an excellent suggestion from our dear dorm manager. What do people say to a little drinking game before we start the contest proper?”
From the rise in noise level in the room, it seemed as though this was a popular idea. People had started to discuss their opinions of various games ranging from ones that Koji had vaguely heard of to ones that he had even participated in (and some he wished he hadn’t).
Eventually, they hit on one that even Koji felt that he could handle. It even sounded as though it could be a valuable bonding exercise. After all, it would allow the participants to find out more about each other, perhaps leading to less friction and fewer misunderstandings in the long run, he thought optimistically.
Niwa, impatient to begin, concluded the discussion in his most presidential voice. “So, ‘Never Have I Ever’ it is, then?”
Not too much has changed from this chapter because this was the one I was happiest with. Next time, however, the action takes a completely different direction.