Almost all of the classes and groups were planning to clean up their messes tomorrow, on Sunday. It is said that in some years, classes that required extensive preparations spend almost the whole day for cleanup, making the day a "holiday" in name only.
Well, even if that is the case, it is human nature to want to go home and sleep today.
「It’s strange to go back with this group」
It was Yotsuba who muttered as she looked up at the evening sky.
She walked diagonally behind Chihiro, looking around at the people with her and smiling.
「I wonder if this kind of thing will happen more often in the future」
「Haha...well, I think today is special」
Chihiro replied with a wry smile.
「Well, that is true. I usually don’t go home with Izumi-kun」
Hana, walking at the far end, replied in her usual tone.
――Now, in addition to the three who opened their mouths, Maria and Suzu are present. Suzu is only visible to Chihiro and the others due to [Cognitive Obstruction]. Everyone is present except for Aika, who is away for the medical course, and Riko, who has left earlier, all of Chihiro’s associates are present.
For the note, Yotsuba has a permission to stay overnight at the apartment. It is not a very frequent thing to do, but the situation of the school festival helped her to be allowed to do so.
As Hana says, the reason why the members who usually go back separately are together today is that Yotsuba is going to Maria’s apartment, where she has competed with Maria in the final round of the Miss-Con.
Chihiro is an acquaintance of Yotsuba and also a participant of the Miss Contest. Hana is walking with Maria as her friend.
And of course, the real purpose of the trip is to wrap up all the stories that they couldn’t talk about during the school festival.
Maria’s expression has been somewhat listless since Kaname’s arrival.
She is also diagonally behind Chihiro, in the opposite position to Yotsuba, but she has been unconsciously going ahead and slowing down her pace repeatedly since a while ago.
She is in a hurry.
She wants to talk quickly. She wants to get rid of her worries.
Chihiro, however, is not in a hurry. He is tired, and most of all――
「I’ve been waiting for you, Izumi Chihiro-kun, and Maria-chan and Hana-chan」
Somewhere he had a hunch that this would happen.
At the entrance of the apartment, leaning against the wall by the glass door, a punk Lolita girl――Ibusuki Kaname――was waiting for Chihiro and the others.
She said with a beaming, deliberate smile
「Come on, let’s talk in the room, shall we? I’m sure there are things you don’t want to talk about here」
* * *
「...And this is how it happened...」
「I wanted to talk with Kurohane-senpai as well」
Upon returning home with the whole group plus extra, Riko and Aika roll their eyes when they see them.
Riko looked at them with a mixture of astonishment and alarm, and Yotsuba nodded to Aika who looked puzzled.
「...Umm. I think we should hear what Ibusuki Kaname-san has to say first」
「That would be very helpful. I’m off today, but I’m quite busy」
Kaname, with a smile on her face, sits down in a chair without being encouraged to do so. Of course - although Chihiro himself is not that particular about it - it is, after all, the top seat in the arrangement.
In other words, she sits far from the entrance. Assuming positively that she does not intend to run away, Chihiro sits down opposite to Kaname.
Yotsuba willingly stood behind Chihiro, near the entrance, although there were not enough chairs for her. Suzu, maintaining [Cognitive Obstruction], stood behind Kaname. The rest of the girls take their extra seats.
Riko brews iced tea for the group and brings it to Kaname, who promptly puts her hand on her cup, saying, "Don’t worry about it".
「So, what do you want to talk about?」
「Before that, may I introduce myself?」
Chihiro’s question was interrupted by Kaname, who smiled at him.
She made sure no one said anything before continuing.
「My name is Ibusuki Kaname. I’m a first-year student at Shibatsuru Academy in Sapporo, ranked C. And I’m an associate member of [Absolute]」
This is the second time Chihiro had heard the name. From what Kaname said, it seems to be the name of an organization, but what exactly is it?
Kaname noticed that Chihiro’s reaction was not good.
She tilted her head and looked at Maria.
「What is it? Are you sure Maria-chan and the others haven’t told Izumi kun anything?」
Maria is silent at the sound of the agitated voice.
Instead, Hana answered Kaname.
「I didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Unless, of course, they come to us like this」
Chihiro could guess where the conversation was heading.
The things that Maria and the others had been keeping from him, or rather, had thought they could not tell him. There is one thing that fits the description of the events he has encountered so far.
「Is it related to "that person" Maria and the others were talking about?」
Maria’s face was distorted as she answered.
「[Absolute] is a group of "Lost Item" abilities whose main members are mostly women. And its leader is Fukami Kaito. He is my own brother」
「Kaito-sama… Master is a wonderful man. All members of the [Absolute] are loyal to Master」