Apparently, the Ootori family and the Kurohane family have always had a close family relationship.
Hana said that this was probably the reason for the proposal to combine the first son and daughter, and the second son and daughter. And so――
――Yotsuba's fiancée was Principal Ootori.
This fact perhaps is not known to Ayase, Marika, or Lucille.
But then, it makes sense that his scout was first held in the principal's office. After all, to some extent, it is because the two of them were able to communicate with each other easily... or they had a very close relationship.
...Perhaps, at that time, President Ootori's intention was to meet Chihiro directly too.
「I don't know if the engagement of the current principal was before or after the death of the former principal. After all, engagements are not something that needs to be reported to the authorities」
At the time of the former principal's death, Suzu's engagement with him was terminated.
Then, there was a way for Principal Ootori and Suzu to get engaged instead. But the reason why this did not happen, it seems to vary depending on the timeline of the events.
「...It's an important part, but it can't be helped if we don't know」
Maria then sighs.
「Does this "Suzu-san" have a new fiancée?」
「Unknown. Not even sure if she has a new fiancée. Regarding Kurohane Suzu, there was very little recent information about her」
As it turns out, many details are still unknown. Even Hana's father may be at risk if things go too deep. Since the connection is only indirectly through Hana, it is impossible to hope for too much.
However, there are many things that have become clear.
For example, for the reason that Suzu is against Principal Ootori, somehow it seems to make sense.
――He is engaged to another woman, while he keeps Suzu in a tight position under the guise of protection.
Maybe it is a foolish child's logic, but what Principal Ootori is doing is outrageous. It is too pitiful for a grown-up woman to be a caged bird with her wings torn off.
Chihiro cannot agree with it, even if his personal feelings are not taken into account, which tend to lean toward Suzu's side.
「...If Suzu-san's situation is as I think it is, I would like to do something for her. If not, I would at least like to talk to her」
The girls look at Chihiro with expressions of their own.
「I understand how you feel, but...」
「Is there a way? We have more information, but the situation has hardly changed」
Aika and Hana. They are right, there is only a little more information now. Nothing has changed with regard to Principal Ootori's no contact with Suzu. If Chihiro cannot talk to Suzu, there is no way to persuade or negotiate.
Besides, the situation is too dangerous to carelessly break the prohibition.
Considering that there is no point in getting involved in private matters, he was willing to give up and pretend that he didn't know anything about the situation, after all, it's peaceful to do so...
And then Riko opened her mouth.
「...I don't mind you ditching this Suzu girl...」
「But, just listen to me for now... It's fine if you want to ditch her, but even if you do, she still has a hold on you, doesn't she? Isn't that more of a problem?」
That's true. If Chihiro continue to wait, Principal Ootori's relationship with Suzu may be restored.
However, whether or not the two can make peace with each other has nothing to do with Chihiro's treatment. After all, at present, Principal Ootori is threatening Chihiro unilaterally, and what will happen to Chihiro's position depends on Principal Ootori's conscience.
There is no telling when he will change his mind.
Of course, even Principal Ootori does not want to make a big deal out of it. Which is why he could be taking a roundabout way, though it seems unlikely.
But the possibility is there.
Still, the fact that it will remain forever if it is not dealt with, is frightening in itself.
「――Then wouldn't it be better to have this "Suzu-san" as an ally?」
It's not a case of "if you eat poison, you die" but it's better to have many allies in a confrontation.
Aika and the others groaned as Riko summed up the situation.
「Chihiro-sama, I agree with Riko」
Finally, Maria quietly tells Chihiro.
「After all, it is not like Chihiro-sama to abandon a woman who is troubled by her own desires. Chihiro-sama should help "her". I hope you will help her, it's what I think」
「...Maria, what does that mean?」
「It means that the me now is thanks to Chihiro-sama, Aika-san」
Maria smiled at Aika who asked glaringly.
...Chihiro met Maria and gained strength by accepting her desires.
And so it is with Maria now.
Riko, Hana, and Aika too. They are here because of Chihiro's attitude of affirming their desires. They are here now because they have accepted the idea of being embraced and loved by Chihiro.
Therefore, continuing to affirm the girl’s desires is what Chihiro should be.
That is what Maria is trying to say.
「But that's Maria's story, isn't it?」
「Yes. For instance, from Riko and Hana-san's point of view, the story would be different」
「Hmm... Well, it's true」
Riko smiled and nodded, her eyes watered.
She and Hana were initially hostile to Chihiro. Both of them had their own desires, the darkness in their hearts, but Chihiro had destroyed them once. In that sense, they were the ones who were denied rather than affirmed.
Riko, however, turns her wry smile into a smile.
「But you know what? Chihiro is sweet because he lets me stay with him like this after all. In that sense, Maria is correct, too, isn't she?」
「Yes, I agree. Izumi-kun is always so naive」
Hana agreed with Riko, but was harsh as usual.
「...But, because of his sweetness, I can live like this now. Maria-chan can keep smiling, right?」
Aika nods, exhales and falls silent.
After a pause, she looks at Maria and shakes her head slowly.
「I understand. But I disagree. For me, being with Chihiro-kun is the most important thing. If Chihiro-kun is expelled from school, it will be ruined」
Maria, who has some degree of freedom in terms of family relations and finances, may follow Chihiro in some way.
Riko will probably work part-time to accumulate enough money to run away from home in a planned manner if the need arises.
Hana is not in serious trouble even if she leaves Chihiro.
Aika, on the other hand, is not.
If she clings to the best chance of staying with Chihiro, it is natural for her to avoid risk.
「My priority is myself and Chihiro-kun. So, to put it in an extreme way, I would rather save Chihiro-kun than Maria-chan or Riko-chan」
For example, if Maria, Riko, and Hana are separated and return to normal high school students, the possibility of them being expelled from school will probably decrease.
But it is not so clear if Suzu's case alone is a good reason to expel them. After all, they now just indirectly contribute.
As Aika spits out her venom honestly, Maria smiles and nods her head.
「Aika, you've been dyed by Chihiro-sama's color, haven't you?」
「Isn't that right? In the past, would you have chosen such a way, to cut off your friends without mercy for the sake of the one you love?」
Aika's expression changed suddenly.
Just as Maria's desire has been affirmed, Aika has come to be able to reveal the dark side of her heart through her relationship with Chihiro.
While it unintentionally affects Aika's disposition to be kind to everyone, it is not a bad thing for her to be able to say what she wants to say clearly.
After another moment of silence, Aika nodded her head slowly.
「Okay. But let's make sure that we don't fail if we do this. Otherwise, I won't know what to do」
Failure is not an option for anyone.
Feeling a heavy responsibility, Chihiro nodded to Aika.
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