Maria answered Aika's question with a wry smile.
「Because I'm in the way. I'd be an enemy to Takatsuki-san, and I'm sure I can't fulfill my role as a slave now. That would be a problem for Izumi-kun, Riko, and Hana-san」
Love is not something that can be easily controlled.
Especially in Maria's case, her loyalty to her master, Chihiro, and her own overly strong sexual desire, combined with her romantic feelings, are very likely to cause her to go out of control.
It would have been fine if she hadn't fully understood or acknowledged the situation, but the next time, it would surely be an uproar that would not be comparable to this committee's commotion.
「That's true, but」
To a certain extent, she must be convinced. At least, there is no doubt that Maria will become her love rival.
Hana can't say anything either.
She's always been cautious, worrying about her grades and taking a somewhat distant stance from Chihiro and the others, but she can't ignore the concerns about the commotion. However, she doesn't have the strength to deal with it now.
That said, she can't be so heartless as to want Maria to disappear right in front of her.
「Oh, God. You're starting to be a pain in the ass again」
The blonde girl who sighed was different.
「You know, Maria. To be honest, I... and maybe even Chihiro, don't really care about such logic」
Riko blurted out a few words to a puzzled Maria.
Her face showed annoyance, but not disgust or anger, and her voice even showed friendliness towards her friend.
This is contrary to the situation, which was turning serious colors.
And suddenly, she was puffing out her chest.
「Let me tell you something anyway, I love Chihiro too」
Aika blurts out in an unintentional tone.
「R-Riko-chan? I knew it, but...」
And Riko waved her hand in the air.
「Ah. It's okay, don't worry. I'm not interested in becoming Chihiro's girlfriend at all」
Well, Chihiro had heard these words several times before.
In fact, Riko has never asked him to be his girlfriend.
It was becoming a matter of course, but Maria seemed to have a question here and now.
「How can you be so sure?」
Maria, who had been a slave in the same way - or rather, in a similar way - now seemed to truly understand the abnormality of Riko's way of thinking.
「It's because I'm Chihiro's slave. Because that's what I'm supposed to be, that's what I've decided. I'm happy and I enjoy being Chihiro's slave. In my mind, there is no contradiction between liking and being a slave」
「...That's just a bunch of nonsense」
「Well, it's a bit of a mess. When I say "slave"」
While Maria muttered with a complicated expression, Riko kept an open mind.
Seeing this, Chihiro couldn't help but laugh.
「Sorry. But Riko is right」
Continuing the flow that Riko had created, he delivered his words to Maria.
「I don't care if it bothers you or not. I need Maria, and Riko and the others won't be fine without you. Well, if you fall in love, you can't be a slave, that's something Maria decided on her own」
As Chihiro tried to lean forward, his right arm ached and he had no choice but to reach out with his left hand as best he could.
He couldn't quite reach Maria's position, though.
「Stay here, Maria, that's an order」
Maria cried for the umpteenth time.
She looked at Chihiro with wide eyes, and after a few seconds, nodded her head.
With a pained look, she placed her right hand on her chest and made a fist while extending her left hand.
「――I understand. As you wish」
She smiled the most beautiful smile ever.
As expected, Aika did not interrupt her, and Hana did not interrupt Maria.
Riko's mumbling was very small and didn't spoil the atmosphere.
「Really. How much fuss do you have to make over something like this?」
Indeed, Riko was right.
Besides, most of the problems Maria mentioned have not changed at all.
It's a shame to say that this is the end of the matter, but it's definitely the end of something important.
If people have decided what they want to do, they should move so that they can do so.
So, there is no reason for anyone to complain about the process and the conclusion being in reverse order.
...Then Chihiro and the others put pajamas on Maria and fed her.
「You saved me dinner, huh?」
「Yes. I thought you could tell by the sound」
「I'm sorry. I didn't have time to worry about it」
As long as she ate properly, she should be able to recover after a good night's rest.
However, it was too much for her, so she had to take tomorrow off as well.
Although she would have to miss the second executive committee meeting tomorrow, Aika volunteered to go.
「I'll go in your place. ...Actually, I already told the infirmary nurse that I might not be able to help tomorrow」
「...If that's the case, there's no point in holding back. Takatsuki-san, can I ask you a favor?」
「Yes. Leave it to me」
And the girls smiled at each other.
Hana finished cleaning up the meal, healed Chihiro's arm to the point where it could move, and then announced that she was going home.
As Chihiro felt unsafe because the date was about to change, he tried to accompany her to come back, but she insisted that don't worry about it because she had a security buzzer with her.
「Hana, who is "that person" you were talking about earlier?」
Chihiro asked as he walked out to see her off at the entrance of the apartment, and Hana giggled and shook her head.
「Don't worry about it for now」
「Yeah. If Izumi-kun keeps going like this, you'll see him sooner or later. Until then, it's probably best not to have any unnecessary assumptions」
With that, Hana left.
The mysterious "person".
From the way Hana said it, it would be better not to ask Maria too.
But he wondered if the time would really come when he would meet "that person".
Back in the room, Riko and Aika urged him to go to the bedroom.
「Yes, just go」
Chihiro doesn't know what's going on.
But they pushed him out the door and he found Maria sitting on the edge of the bed.
She was dressed in a black negligee, as if she had just changed out of her pajamas.
There was not a scratch on her skin, thanks to Hana's hard work in healing her. Although there was nothing she could do about her deep fatigue, she was still smiling with the dignity of a beautiful lady - no, of a lover.
It seems just the two of them tonight.
Chihiro closed the bedroom door quietly and walked over to Maria.
「Shouldn't you go to sleep...or is that too much to ask?」
She nodded her head.
Her eyes were wild with adoration and lust as she stared at Chihiro.
「Yes. But I really want you to hold me here and now. Otherwise, I won't be able to sleep」
「...Then let's have as much fun as time permits」
While there are still many decisions to be made.
They pressed their lips together as if to forget about everything else.