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Chapter 122 Festival Act, With Sister and Lover, Part Five - 1


 「...Somehow, I’m convinced」
 
 Murmurs Aika.
 She seems to remember the time when she left Chihiro’s room last night and Kaede dropped her off.
 
「What happened then?」
「I asked Kaede-san, if she was hiding her true feelings from me」
 
 It is hard to explain what is going on here.
 According to Aika, Kaede’s dramatic tone and pompous attitude made her feel uneasy. She felt that Kaede was somewhat "too much" for an excellent adult woman having such obvious and smiling flaws.
 When Kaede was asked about it, she did not deny Aika’s guess.
 
『...it’s really hard to hide』
 
 After murmuring such a thing, she showed her boast to Aika.
 Well, each person pretends to be “himself/herself”. So, it is natural to try to present a better self to others.
 
**a
『Well, Kaede-san’s acting is kind of strange』
『I see. ...You’re watching me very carefully, aren’t you?』
 
 And so, no one can see through her heart.
 Kaede terminated the conversation with these words. It was a short conversation, just as Kaede herself had said. But it was enough.
 Aika’s discomfort with Kaede turned into conviction, and Kaede felt a kind of wariness toward Aika.
 
「Kaede-san, I wonder if she is acting all the time. She’s trying to make herself look good to everyone, but she’s not herself... no, it’s like she doesn’t have a real self」
「...I guess so. I’ve been thinking about something similar. All the time」
 
 Kaede understands how people’s minds work.
 It is, in a sense, an ideal version of Chihiro’s [Mind Reading]. Because vector-based emotion detection does not require eye contact, and there is no need to worry about the other person’s perception. It accurately detects not only the surface emotions but also the inner and complex feelings.
 There is even no danger of being too strongly involved in the emotions.
 And once she knows the feelings of the other person, she can turn them into something positive. Moreover, it is much easier to find out what ordinary persons want to say or do. It is even possible to intentionally guide others.
 However, this is the reason why Kaede seems to have lost sight of her own feelings.
 In her pursuit of "presenting herself" efficiently, she does not have a solid self. She is like a device that only responds flexibly.
 
「When I was little, my sister didn’t know that she could understand people’s feelings...」
 
 The cold and empty eyes that Kaede sometimes showed to him bothered him strangely.
 He wonder what she is thinking.
 He wonders if there is another sister lurking in her mind, whom he does not know. And――
 
 ...Whenever she gets a high score in a test, whenever she succeeds in a difficult skill in physical education, whenever she finds a person in trouble on the way to school and helps him or her....
 Chihiro wonders what those who praise her and say to him, "You should be like your sister".
 Such a thought grew in Chihiro’s mind.
 
「So, I wanted to know what my sister was thinking, and I guess that’s how I got my [Mind Reading]」
「So the relationship between the two of you, sister and brother, had its origin...」
 
 Still, Kaede was able to block even his [Mind-reading] that he had obtained.
 
「...I only saw it once, and her mind was empty. I couldn’t see anything. Ever since then, my sister has been averting her eyes from mine」
 
 She’s on her guard. Toward Chihiro and his [Mind Reading].
 Maria murmurs to the words.
 
「No matter what measures we take, Chihiro-sama is Izumi Kaede’s natural enemy, right?」
「Is that so?」
 
 Well, from that experience, Kaede’s attitude toward Chihiro has changed. She used to be a model of a "capable big sister", but gradually she started to move Chihiro in a forceful way as she does now.
 It is probably because Chihiro now knows a part of her heart.
 In addition, Kaede sensitively sensed that Chihiro was not willing to listen to Kaede’s commands and requests.
 Therefore, she gave up her [Vector Manipulation] and changed to the direct method.
 
 "Hmmm", Hana moaned.
 
「I see. ...Then, the reason why Takatsuki-san senses discomfort is because you were used to Izumi kun’s [Mind reading], isn’t it? And since you are familiar with the person who can read your mind, you are resistant to the power of similar tendency」
 
 For Kaede, this means more difficult opponents.
 So, Maria and the others, if they ever meet Kaede, will be equally wary of her.
 
「Well, I’m just guessing」
 
 There is no way to confirm this with Kaede herself.
 Nor can they ask anyone else.
 So, they cannot know the truth. Maybe it is all wrong, and they are being rolled in the palm of Kaede’s hand, for instance.
 
「...No, Chihiro-kun and Aika’s idea must be correct」
 
 But Suzu said that quietly.
 
**b
「Suzu-san, did you know my sister before?」
「I don’t know her well enough to call her an acquaintance, but I guess we knew each other. We were in different grades, and we talked a few times. I’m sure we’ve heard a lot of rumors about each other」
「Yeah. My sister is just like that, and Suzu-san was the student council president」
 
 Both are prominent students.
 They must have had many opportunities to talk about the other indirectly.
 
「Eh? The president of the student council? Who?」
「I’m the student council president at that time. And, well... I’m the type of person who can tell what kind of girl she is just by looking at her」
 
 It’s her second ability to infer the nature of the other person itself, rather than to read or perceive the mind of the moment. Suzu’s ability, which is also utilized in the secondary assessment of ability, will also be an obstacle for Kaede.
 If her ability works, though.
 
「She’s elusive, that’s my first impression. It is not that she is pure white, or that she has a color that is hard to recognize by name, but rather that it is very difficult to see what kind of color she is. From the second time I met her, I couldn’t even see her color」
「Suzu-san, too...」
「Yeah. I think she was cautious of me and avoided me. Just like Chihiro-kun」
 
 For Kaede, she is a troublesome person with whom she has to deal now.
 What kind of coincidence is this?
 
 Then there is the matter that Principal Ootori asked her to persuade Suzu or get her back.
 
 It was inevitable that Kaede was asked to do so. Because Kaede would be able to find Suzu’s whereabouts from the vector flow, and she would not leak the secret to the outside world, as she has been an outstanding student since her school days.
 Above all, she is Chihiro’s sister, who is one of the parties involved in this issue. There is no one better suited for the job.
 
「However, Izumi Kaede has not shown any serious intention to persuade Suzu-san」
「Yes. Maybe she didn’t want to see you too much.... Neither to me, nor to Suzu-san」
 
 Regarding Chihiro, the reason why he doesn’t want to see her is mutual.
 Because his sister can do anything. For him, she is an object of complexity as he has been compared with her who has almost all the same abilities as him but superior, and he has been expected to do the same. But Chihiro has not been able to fulfill the demands of the people around him.
 
 Toward the end of the meeting, Riko said to him with a downcast look on her face.
 
「In other words, she doesn’t want to see Chihiro much either. So she probably won’t bother Chihiro any more. Shouldn’t this mean that we shouldn’t try to do something about it?」
「I guess so」
 
 Maria nodded.
 
「Actually, she’s a busy woman. This time she was just visiting the school on her free time, but she is usually traveling around the country. Even if she is a potential enemy, she can’t be an immediate enemy」
 
 The word "enemy" is a bit of a buzzword, but it’s generally true.
 In terms of friend or foe, Chihiro would have to say that his sister is more like a foe. Moreover, she is not taking a positive attitude and there is no way to get rid of her.
 But if that is the case, there is no reason to provoke her.
 
「...I’m not convinced enough...」
「Me too. But that’s okay then」
 
 While Riko is discouraged, Aika seems to have changed her mind.
 She smiles at Riko and says a few words.
 
**c
「If we can’t handle it now, we can slap her when the chance comes. With a lot of pain」
「...ahaha. That’s pretty extreme for Aika」
 
 These things seemed to have put Riko in a better mood.
 The blonde girl smiled and nodded.
 The remaining members, Suzu and Hana, also agreed with the policy of remaining quiet.
 
「I think we should leave it alone, too. I don’t want to get involved in any fights or conspiracies as much as possible」
「Well, yes. I mean, to be honest, I’m too busy with the school festival right now」
 
 If they are going to do something, now is not the time.
 That’s how they settled the matter.
 
 ...Shortly, if they are going to make Kaede their enemy, they will put the matter on the back burner, including whether there is a real way to win the war.
 
 After settling the discussion, the group gets ready to leave in a hurry.
 As expected, there was hardly any time left.
 So, Suzu will tell Yotsuba about what they have just discussed. For the future, it is necessary for her to know the details.
 
「By the way, Mishuku-san, it would be nice if you could visit us at the maid cafe in 1-C」
「Oh, yes. It would be a good chance to see "Chisato-chan" for the first time in a while.」
 
 Hana, who has a tendency to treat Chihiro and "Chisato" as separate personalities, replied in this way.
 
「But today, "Chisato-chan" is so busy that she may not have time to take her time to take care of me...」
「?」
 
 Chihiro tilted his head, not understanding the meaning of her words.
 
 
* * *
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