Chihiro could not move an inch.
His whole body is filled with a sense of loss. He is not fatigued by the loss of his ability, but he felt a heavy weight on his mind.
After all, he couldn’t read people’s minds even when he made eye contact with them.
But when was the last time he felt this way? Well, he had avoided his own ability toward people countless times, but he had never imagined that he would truly lose it.
（What should I do now?）
Shout for it back and grab Hana? ...No. Even if the rooftop is deserted, this is still a school. There will still be people on the roof, and since it’s outdoors, they can hear him. If he assaults her and Hana screams, it’ll be Chihiro who gets the blame.
Besides, if he killed Hana, there is no guarantee that his powers would return.
「Now, let’s get down to business. Izumi-kun, if you want your powers back, please do me one favor in return」
「Yes. ...Oh, it’s not about the sports festival. That was a lie. It’s true I want to win Class C, but that’s not what I want」
Then, Chihiro is confronted with a request from Hana.
「Give me one of the people you’re close to」
He asked back, not understanding the meaning.
Give someone close to him to Hana. That means,
「Give me a slave, that is」
Thanks to her straightforward answer, Chihiro finally understood. It may be incomprehensible to the average person, but to Chihiro, it was a word he had heard frequently lately.
Hana is saying that she wants to own and control people.
And she’s not asking Chihiro to be her slave, she’s asking him to provide her with a slave.
「Do you have the right to refuse?」
She flatly refused to answer.
But the least he can do now is get some information. Information is absolutely necessary to understand the situation and to overcome it.
At the very least, his mouth and head are working, thanks to Maria’s words and actions.
「Even if I give you a slave, I need to know what kind of slave you want」
「...That’s true. Don’t worry. I already know who I want」
"It’s a person", Hana said.
That means she has already identified a specific person, rather than specifying conditions.
The word "slave" reminded Chihiro of two people.
「Fukami Maria, you know her, don’t you?」
Fortunately, the name is within the range of his expectations.
Then, here comes the important part.
He’s not very good at tricks, but he knows she can read minds. At the very least, Chihiro tries to keep his composure while avoiding eye contact with Hana.
「Fukami-san is indeed a classmate, but why?」
「Oh, you don’t need to tell me that」
She said firmly, holding out the screen of her phone in front of him.
It’s a picture of Chihiro, Maria and Riko coming out of the apartment. Did she take the photo on purpose, aiming at the time when they were on their way to school?
「Here are some photos from other days. All of you come out of the same apartment every day. You can at least manage to give her to me, can’t you?」
Chihiro hoped she would slip up, but Hana only raised her eyebrows faintly.
「I don’t have to tell you. Just tell me yes or no, do you accept or not?」
After some thought, Chihiro replied.
「...Let me think about it. Even if I try to persuade her or something, it will take time and I can’t say yes right away」
「...Okay. Fine. But if you can’t accept the price, I can’t give you your ability back, so don’t forget that」
And with that, Hana left without a care in the world. The blouse and skirt of her summer dress looked like an extravagant dress, perhaps because of the mental gap between Chihiro and Hana.
Then, as he left the rooftop too, he found a small card stuck in the entrance.
He picked it up and found a phone number and an email address written on it. The handwriting is the same as on the letter.
「...How did this happen?」
Chihiro walked back to the apartment with heavy steps.
At the door, he held his tongue as he tried to say home. He wondered if he had the right to say those words now.
In the end, he kept silent and went down the hall.
In the living room, Maria and Riko are looking at their laptops and arguing about something.
「How can you call this underwear?」
「It’s underwear to show off, so it’s no wonder there’s not much fabric. It’s just a difference in purpose... Oh, Izumi-kun. ...What’s wrong?」
「Eh? ...Izumi? You don’t look so good」
When they saw Chihiro, their color changed and they got up and walked over.
He doesn’t know why. As soon as he saw them, he felt both relieved and heartbroken. He was under a lot of pressure and choked up, wondering how he should explain what had just happened.
And then suddenly his body wobbled, and he is supported from both sides by Maria and Riko.
Both of them looked into his face,
「...Master. What’s wrong?」
「Izumi-kun, really, what’s going on?」
Their eyes met and they seemed to sense the abnormality.
Their expression changed from one of concern for his body to one of urgency.
Without saying a word, they took his bag and took off his uniform and made him wear clothes. He is then carried halfway to the bed in the bedroom and forced to lie down.
After the series of actions, Maria and the others did not leave the room, but got on the bed from the side and sat beside Chihiro who lay down.
He felt sorry for them, as they would have started preparing dinner.
And more than that, he feels ashamed.
「I met a person with an ability. Someone with the ability to take abilities, [Looting].」
Chihiro explained the situation to them, organizing the information as best he could.
That he had been called by Mishuku Hana in a letter and had talked to her on the roof. About the double-dealing lie. How his ability was taken from him, what she said about [Looting], and what she offered him as a condition for returning his ability.
「... there’s someone that dangerous in our year?」
It’s a miscalculation on Chihiro’s part.
He had expected that violence would not occur in the school, but he had not been very careful about non-violent schemes. He also did not have enough information about the "B rank of A class". He even vaguely thought that the B rank was a boy until Hana introduced herself to him officially.
However, even Maisaka did not know about Hana’s ability. It might have been impossible for him to be aware of Hana’s ability, since it had never been used in school.
「...What are you going to do, Izumi?」
Chihiro couldn’t answer.
For one thing, it’s not something he could decide on his own.
The other thing is that Maria is sitting there in silence.
Her deep jet-black eyes seemed to be staring somewhere other than here, and seemed to be somewhat unfocused.
- Revised on 03/02/2022 : revised some words
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