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Chapter 44 Is the destination of awakening... Shuraba? - Part 2


 For dinner, they ordered a pizza. 

 One large and one medium. They ordered that because Aika was eating just before noon, and they sat around the table together. They sat on cushions instead of chairs, but Aika’s dress had a long skirt, so there was no need to worry about her underwear showing. 


「Umm」


 As soon as the meal started, Aika opened her mouth hesitantly. 

 She took a bite of a large pizza with four different ingredients, chewed and swallowed it, and then continued. 


「I wonder where we should start...」


 Riko replied, taking a bite of a nugget from the side menu. 


**a


「...But I’m sorry, I don’t want to talk too much about Izumi’s collapse」

「I see」


 Aika finished her slice of pizza and nodded slowly. 

 She looks up and stares at Chihiro. 

 The girl’s lips pursed as he accepted the probing, word-seeking gaze, unable to escape it. 


「Then, I’ll ask you something else」


 With a blush, she shifted her gaze from Chihiro to Riko. 

 She asked a reserved question. 


「Are Izumi-kun and Riko-chan dating...?」


 ...Okay, I understand what you’re saying. 

 Even though she didn’t know the circumstances of his collapse, it was true that Riko had asked Aika for help with Chihiro. And in the process of carrying and caring for Chihiro, Aika must have noticed. 

 Riko knew where Chihiro lived. That she knew more or less what was going on in the room. 

 Then, it was inevitable that Aika would come to that conclusion. 


「No way. Why am I with this guy?」


 Riko was the first to answer. 

 And she continued to say, "That’s impossible" while taking a bite of the pizza in her hand. 

 Aika then stared at her for a while, and then said quietly. 


「Earlier, when you took out Izumi-kun’s pajamas, you didn’t hesitate, did you?」

「No」

「Besides, Riko-chan and Izumi-kun smelled the same. You took a shower earlier and carefully wiped Izumi-kun’s body too」

「...Ugh」


 Really, she is sharp. Very careful. 

 By the way, Maria also pointed out the smell. Riko must have been concerned about it, but taking a shower might have had the opposite effect. 

 ...Well, maybe there’s no more cover. 

 If that’s the case, how much should she know? 

 She won’t believe it if Chihiro says it’s a Master-slave relationship... 

 So, he glanced at Riko. 

 She met Chihiro’s gaze and gave a small nod. 


「...It’s true that I’m not dating Izumi. And I don’t have any plans to go out with him」

「So, is it just a physical relationship?」


 Aika’s guess is correct in a way. 

 But Riko shook her head. 


「No. I don’t want to go out with Izumi, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for him」

「Eh?」


 The two looked at Riko curiously as she raised her voice. 


(...I never thought Riko would say that much)


 From the way she’s been acting lately, Chihiro knew she didn’t hate him. At the same time, he didn’t think she really liked him. 

 After all, it’s normal, considering how the two of them have been together. 


「Sorry, I don’t understand」


 Aika dropped her hands to her knees and looked down. 

 The relationship that Chihiro, Riko, and Maria had developed is completely different from that of a normal relationship. It would be difficult for Aika, who walked in the sunshine and light, to understand if he explained to her about training and SM. 

 Still, Riko said without stopping to eat. 


「It’s okay if you don’t understand. Just remember, I’m not forcing you. As long as you understand that much」

「...Riko-chan」


 Chihiro did not know much about the relationship between Aika and Riko. 

 From what he’s learned from them, they don’t have a very deep relationship. For Riko, she is just a classmate, and they are incompatible. 

 To Aika, Riko may be a friend, but... 


「Izumi-kun...」


 Aika’s gaze turned to Chihiro again. 

 The expression on her face was one of confusion rather than disgust. Perhaps it was because she hadn’t fully understood the conversation yet. 


「Yesterday, when you told me you liked me, was that a lie?」


 Chihiro felt a stab in his heart. 

 Yes. It was only yesterday that Chihiro had made a sort of confession to Aika. 

 So many things had happened that he had forgotten about it - although he’s sure Aika had been in a similar state of mind just now. 

 But Chihiro opened his mouth to answer Aika’s question. 


「Eh, what? When did he say that?」


 Riko stared at her. Aika quickly answers. 


「We met in the corridor after school. To be precise, when I asked him if "he liked me", he said "it was too late"」

「Hmm, I see」


 For some reason, Riko was instantly in no mood to respond to Aika. 


「So, what did Takatsuki-san say?」


 Riko asked, tilting her glass of malt tea. It was girl talk, or frank talk, or something like that, but to Chihiro, it was a needle in a haystack. 


「Well...I haven’t answered. I was so surprised when he suddenly told me that, so I just ran away」


 Aika’s cheeks puffed lightly. 

 Chihiro got a reproachful glare from her. 


**b


「It was tough, you know. I couldn’t concentrate on anything after that. I couldn’t even taste my dinner」

「I-I’m sorry.」

「It’s true, you know」


 Chihiro apologized and he sighed. 

 ...So this is the kind of girl Takatsuki Aika is. He thought she was the type of girl who would never say bad things about others, but apparently she can be quite outspoken. 


「I thought you were troubled all night, but you collapsed in the park. I told you not to do anything rash. ...But now you’re acting like this out of the blue, I don’t understand anymore」

「...I’m sorry」


 Chihiro didn’t have any words to reply. 

 He stepped back a little from the table, put his hands on the floor, and bowed his head. 

 He apologized for confessing so suddenly, for bothering her with the treatment, and for the confusion he had caused her. 


「But, what I said yesterday is true. I like you, Takatsuki-san」


 This is the first time he has ever said this. 

 Of course, he’s embarrassed, but it’s a little late for that. 

 After all, right now is the only time he has a chance to say it. 


「......」


 There was no reply from Aika. 

 He wonders what expression she has on her face. 


「Okay, stop, don’t look up」

「――-」


 Chihiro doesn’t know why Riko said that to him. 

 But she’s right. Chihiro has no right to do that now. 

 Just wait. 

 He has to wait until he gets some kind of answer from Aika. 


「It was my first time. That’s the first time someone’s said that to me」

「Huh? But, what about Kamishiro?」

「That was just, "I like you and I want you to go out with me", right? But the first time was when you just said "I like you"」


 It’s true that at that time, Chihiro didn’t expect anything in return. 

 He simply didn’t have the psychological capacity to do so. The main reason was that Chihiro was not looking for a relationship with Aika, but Aika seemed to take it differently. 


「What does Izumi-kun want with me? I didn’t know what Izumi-kun wanted me to do, and the more I thought about it, the more it became all about Izumi-kun.」


 ...It’s like... 

 It’s as if she’s saying she didn’t disapprove of Chihiro’s words. 


「You know, Takatsuki-san is the type of person who would fall for a bad guy」

「But, Riko-chan, what are you thinking? I mean, is he saying mean things to me on purpose?」

「No way. I don’t care what happens to Takatsuki-san with Izumi. Even if I realize it now, it’s too late for me」

「Too late, huh?」


 Unable to look up, the girls exchanged words with Chihiro in the background. 

 And then. 


「Hey, Izumi-kun」


 Aika looked at Chihiro, who looked up, with eyes filled with mixed emotions. 


「Why don’t you show me what you do with Riko-chan?」


 It took a few seconds for Chihiro to understand the meaning of what was said. 

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