Chihiro stood slightly in front of the center of the court and threw the ball.
He gave priority to throwing quickly rather than aiming accurately. The ball managed to fly to Kamishiro's left shoulder, and although he dodged it, he succeeded in breaking his stance.
The ball then landed in the hands of a student in the outfield.
The student understood this situation as an opportunity. So, he immediately threw the ball in his hands and hit Kamishiro, who was slowed down by fatigue.
The crowd gave a small cheer.
The game is now one-on-one.
It's exactly what Chihiro wanted. An out is an out, even if it is not a direct hit. This brought the team's victory a little closer.
And it's a result of quick thinking and doing what he can do.
「Ahaha. It's okay. I'm sure we can win from here」
Riko shook her head at Kamishiro's apology.
She then grabbed the ball, looked back at Chihiro, and smiled lecherously.
Naturally, a tension ran down his spine.
The team, who saw them, knew that there is no way out, after all the difference in strength between them is obvious.
And although Chihiro and Riko's physical abilities are probably equal, Riko had the ability to create illusions. That illusion didn't work on Maria, but Chihiro doesn't know how it works.
It's a simple disadvantage in terms of ability.
Also, he's at a psychological disadvantage.
Chihiro remembered Maria's words from this morning.
[I think there are things that change, even if the ability doesn't suddenly appear]
[You're a little more relaxed about looking at girls' faces, aren't you?]
It didn't make sense to him when she said it, but now he understands a little.
So, he's looking forward.
Although he wants to look away, Chihiro still looked straight into Riko's eyes while resisting the urge to run away immediately.
Instantly, her emotions entered him.
A strong sense of superiority. She was sure that she would beat Chihiro.
In fact, it would be difficult for Chihiro to win.
「What are you looking at? That's disgusting」
What they're doing is dodgeball. They're not training for a fight. So, no matter how much Riko feels superior or disgusted, he won't be hit directly.
And that makes him feel a little better.
So, it's okay.
Even if people look at him with contempt and abuse him, he can at least finish this game.
Riko, who saw him, felt something different from usual in Chihiro's attitude.
But she choked up and threw the ball at him.
「What? I told you it's disgusting!」
As if to reflect her aggressive nature, the ball came straight at Chihiro's face.
However, her speed was not nearly as fast as Kamishiro's. So, looking at the ball carefully, Chihiro timed it well and caught it. He felt the impact on his hand, but it would probably subside in a few tens of seconds.
When he looked at Riko again with the ball in his hand, he took a step back with a faint scowl on his face.
「What is it? Saying disgusting, and disgusting!」
The disgust of the unknown, and then it's gone.
Riko averted her gaze but he spoke.
Her voice is so cold that Chihiro almost shivered, but at the same time, he felt a kind of emotion.
He is able to look Riko squarely in the eyes.
A mere achievement like that made his heart beat faster, and relieved him of a few percent of his worries and pains so far.
[You can fight]
Those words were right.
Riko is strong and confident in herself. But even though Chihiro is terrified of her, Riko is a human being.
She can be confronted and stood up to.
Really, until now, he hadn't even understood such an obvious thing.
But then, many Riko's appeared around the real Riko. The girls mixed up and got into a mess, but if Chihiro had followed the "real" one with his eyes from the beginning, it would not have been a big problem.
And so, Chihiro prepared the ball and threw it as hard as he could.
After two minutes.
Riko caught the ball with all her might, and Chihiro faced an endless barrage of pitches from the outfield and infield, and after running away from them, he was struck down by Riko.
Immediately afterwards, the teacher called a five-minute break.
Chihiro, who didn't have enough energy to move, sat down on the court and looked up at Maria, who is walking up beside him.
「Thanks for your hard work, Izumi」
「...Sorry, I couldn't win」
Chihiro himself felt fine, having done what he could.
But a loss is a loss. It's no different from what his classmates expected.
But Maria shook her head.
「Don't worry about it. I know you tried your best」
Her words made his heart feel light again.
「That was close, Izumi-kun.」
「That was pretty close. Good job!」
Before he could finish his words of gratitude, he is interrupted by voices from Aika and other classmates. A number of students approached Chihiro.
「You can do better than we thought」
This is something Chihiro hadn't experienced in a while.
The content itself is not quite at the level of praise, but still, Chihiro couldn't help the tears that welled up in his eyes at the unexpected acquisition of a piece of normal school life.
Feeling embarrassed that he is in front of everyone, he turns his face to the opposite direction and keeps it down.
But Chihiro did not notice. Riko is staring at Chihiro in the opposite court.
The emotion in her eyes is not irritation or mockery, but a stronger, darker emotion.
It's about to turn into jealousy and hatred.
「...Although it just Izumi, it's annoying」
The low murmur melted into the air and disappeared without reaching the ears of Chihiro.