Like Hana, Chihiro stood there unconsciously, but came to his senses at the voice of a third-year boy sitting at the head of the table.
「If you are a member of the executive committee, please take a seat by class」
Hana glanced back at Chihiro and went to her seat in first-year class A, which was two rows from Maria. Chihiro too couldn't just sit idly by.
He went up to the third-year student, the head of the school festival committee, and greeted him.
「I'm Izumi Chihiro from Class 1C. I'd like to participate as a representative of the student council」
「Yes, I heard you. Nice to meet you」
As he greeted the other members of the committee, the second and third year executives also gathered.
At that moment, he looked at Hana, but it seemed that she couldn't find the right moment to talk to Maria because there is a student between them. But instead――
『What's with the student council? I didn't hear anything about it』
She looked at Chihiro with a look as if to say this.
And then, the committee meeting started.
As this is the first meeting of the committee, self-introductions and various explanations are the main topics. After the introductions, Chihiro just took the minutes in his new notebook.
...But during the self-introduction, Maria seemed unconcerned.
The meeting was over in about two hours. The students leave their seats and start walking to the door.
But then Hana stopped Maria and started talking to her.
「Thank you for your hard work」
「You're welcome. I look forward to working with you too in the future」
And she greets the head of the committee again and leave.
However, just as Maria parted with Hana and got her stuff together――
Chihiro was about to call Maria, but held his tongue.
...Even though no one is paying attention to them, it's not a good idea to talk so intimately on school. On the surface, they're just classmates. That was his thought.
So, suppressing his nervousness and the desire to ask her about her intentions, he tried to keep his composure and said again.
The dark-haired girl turned around.
「Ah, Izumi-kun. Thanks for your hard work」
His eyes met Maria's, who smiled. He had expected the usual impulse, but the feeling that entered his heart was unexpectedly a gentle affection.
（...I wonder what that means）
That Maria has such feelings in her heart, stronger than her sexual desire?
It was a strange and uncomfortable feeling that struck Chihiro. It was as if the girl in front of him was not the Maria he knew, but a different person with the same face.
Something is missing.
Perhaps something serious has happened to Maria without his knowledge.
It sent a chill down his spine.
But there was no way to find out right now.
He smiled back at Maria, who looked at him curiously.
...What should to say to her?
「I didn't know that Fukami-san is a member of the school festival committee」
His tone of voice was a bit resentful, which was understandable.
However, Maria didn't seem to notice, and smiled wryly.
「That's right. Maisaka-kun asked me directly, and I accepted on the spot. I don't think most people know about it」
"But", she continued.
「I'm glad Izumi-kun is here」
「It's such a relief to have someone from the same class. From now on, I'm looking forward to working with you」
She looks up at him, a little embarrassed.
Then she picked up her bag and said, "See you later", and bowed her head. But it made him feel uncomfortable.
What is this?
This is just too normal.
Classmates who hadn't really interacted with each other before became friends at the school event and had a chance to have a conversation.
He almost reaches out to touch the black hair that is moving away from him.
Maybe he should stop her.
Or should he talk to her again, and ask her about her true intentions in a place where they can be alone.
...But, would that really help?
His head is spinning.
He had no idea what to be wary of, what to suspect.
If Maria had already changed, if she had been changed, wouldn't it be pointless to move together with her to a secluded place?
If Maria has already been replaced by someone else, isn't it possible that their goal is to take him out to an empty place?
Before he knows it, Maria has left the classroom.
He doubts that she will come back to the apartment. If she does, how will Riko feel when she sees that Maria?
Oh right, Hana.
What would she think?
There is no one except Mishuku Hana who knows better when it comes to Maria's condition.
So, he rushed out of the classroom and called Hana's number.
He takes a window seat near the stairs so that he can see the entrance and exit, so that he can follow Maria if the need arises. Fortunately, Hana answered the phone right away.
『Hello? Can I help you?』
「Hana, did you notice anything strange about Maria earlier?」
『Huh? I mean, please don't call me by my first name in the confusion――』
「I'm sorry, but I don't have time for this. I can't be bothered with that」
He interrupts with a hint of annoyance.
And Hana paused for a few seconds, then gave a deep sigh.
She then answers the question in a more serious voice than before.
『I don't know what you're in a hurry about, but... it was normal. Just the usual Maria-chan. I didn't notice anything strange, at least not that I could tell』
Hearing her reply, his strength relaxed from his body.
Chihiro couldn't tell if it was relief or disappointment, though.
But Hana's observation is reliable. Then it was unlikely that Maria had been involved in any kind of trouble.
『Excuse me. Did something happen to her?』
「...I don't know」
『Are you kidding me, you don't know?』
「Of course, I'm serious. Thank you for telling me. I'm fine now」
Hana still looked unconvinced, but she ended the conversation. Well, maybe she just didn't want to talk to him for too long.
And then Chihiro let out a breath.
（...Calm down. If I'm just jumping to conclusions, that's fine. So just do the bare minimum I can do for now）
After some thought, he sent an email to Riko and Aika.
He tried to keep the message short, "If you see or talk to Maria, please keep an eye out for any unusual behavior. If she doesn't come back to the apartment, please let me know".
They soon replied with their understanding.
Now, for the time being, there should be no problem.
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