After returning home from school, Tatsuya immediately walked towards the conference phone.
The first number he dialed was one he called earlier today.
The voice came from a young woman (not a young girl) and used words that seemed two centuries out of date.
Not only the image, but even the volume quality had been boosted, but he could tell that the slightly murky image came from the phone on a mobile terminal.
"Aya, it's quite rare for you to call twice in one day."
A clear, frank voice accompanied the image of a smiling woman wearing a suit like a young secretary from a large corporation that was displayed on the monitor.
She intentionally disguised herself inconspicuously, but her mundane cosmetics and ordinary wardrobe only served to intensify her moving features.
"My apologies, are you in the middle of a date?"
Fujibayashi, wearing clothes that perfectly suited that sort of nightly encounters, let out a professional, dazzling smile.
"Alas, this is work. Besides, the Casanovas are only welcome at this time. Since there aren't any good men around, oh wells."
Her tone was quite different than usual, which implied that she drank something containing alcohol. Of course, Tatsuya (on the other side) was never going to be caught dead saying something moronic like "you're in the middle of drinking".
Even though cars were now controlled by the central control system in the city proper, drinking and driving was still a punishable crime. To be precise, sitting in the driver's seat after imbibing constituted a crime. Social norms dictated that one must be able to maintain accurate judgment and normal mobility while operating a motor vehicle.
On the other hand, Fujibayashi's work wouldn't involve a normal car. As usual, she would be driving her modified car with boosted intelligence gathering functions. So, she was on her own car and was drunk. In other words, someone else besides Fujibayashi was currently in the driver's seat.
"Ah~...... I wonder where there's another handsome man like Tatsuya-kun."
Maybe she realized that Tatsuya was thinking about pointless things, Fujibayashi started flirting with Tatsuya in a sultry tone. Even after she spoke, she mischievously sent amorous gazes at Tatsuya.
"Is that so. I actually had a few things I wanted to talk about, so I guess I'll call back tomorrow."
Tatsuya only said this because he was absolutely certain that Fujibayashi was joking around with him. On the other side of the screen, Fujibayashi's coquettish expression was exchanged with an elated smile.
"How calm of you...... Well, that makes you worthy of the title 'man with most free time'."
"Somehow I feel that calling me the one with the most free time seems a little overboard...... By the way,"
"Relax, I'm alone right now."
Fujibayashi cut off Tatsuya before he could signify that he was concerned about information security.
"So, you can say anything you want."
Then, she urged Tatsuya to cut to the chase.
Even Tatsuya, who was a proponent of sticking to his own guns, would be pulled along at another's pace if his opponent was Fujibayashi.
Tatsuya waved the white flag at someone who seemed to be able to switch between expressions like an actress before cutting to the heart of the matter.
"Actually, there was a burglary on campus today."
"Burglary? You mean the incident you mentioned this morning? They actually went through with it?"
"Yes, and they used sleeping gas as well."
On the other side of the screen, Fujibayashi wore an astounded expression that said "So they actually dared".
"Fortunately, it ended in an attempt."
"Sorry, I know we've restricted your side on our end......"
"This result isn't entirely because of my duty to the military."
Fujibayashi bowed her head in apology because Tatsuya was restricted to certain magics because of classified military secrets, so Fujibayashi was apologizing because Tatsuya had to unnecessarily go the extra mile.
Even if Fujibayashi's words were true and Tatsuya's words were only an excuse, repeating them was necessary to grease the wheels of this conversation.
Neither the apologizing side nor the receiving side truly meant what they said.
"I have a video recording at the scene of the attempted robbery."
"Eh...... How did you manage that?"
When planning to steal information, cutting the video feeds was the basic of the basics. Also, there was no way he could be just sitting in that room waiting for the crime to occur.
"It was recorded by an independently running robot."
"Oh, the 3H, so you have that kind of interests."
"Negative, the location is the room belonging to the Robot Research Club and the 3H was an accessory within."
Since the 3H boasted refined features, some people believed that individuals who utilized the 3H had a certain sort of fetish.
Knowing this, Tatsuya tried to use "independently running robot" to muddle through, but it looked like that didn't work on Fujibayashi.
There was no way Tatsuya could clear his name if it got stuck here, so he forcibly moved the conversation forward.
"I managed to save it, so can you investigate?"
"What did you get?"
Honestly answering at this point was likely one of positive sides of Fujiybayashi's personality.
Although this degree of interaction was normal, there was still an equivalent rating system. At any rate, in Tatsuya's social circle, this was already a "pleasant personality".
"The tool used during the attempted robbery includes the logo for the CAD containing the hacking processes."
"I see. Tatsuya-kun, looks like you've got the fox by the tail."
"That would be an exaggeration, but that would be the gist of it."
At Tatsuya's expressionless face, Fujibayashi intentionally replied with a robust voice. Truly a pleasant personality, indeed.
"The captain said it's about time to get started, so we've already been keeping tabs on logos. We should be able to narrow it down in the next day or two, so just sit tight and wait for the good news."
Mysteriously, Fujibayashi made this prediction.
Nothing more needed to be said after Tatsuya thanked her. Afterwards, he passed the data to Fujibayashi's terminal.
After finishing the call with Tatsuya, Fujibayashi let Inspector Chiba Toshikazu and his sergeant back onto the car. —Although she did drink wine, Fujibayashi was still sitting in the driver's seat, which more or less coincided with Tatsuya's estimation. Anyway, Fujibayashi was one of the individuals in the Independent Magic-Equipped Battalion that fell outside the norm.
Still, from Toshikazu's perspective, this movement was filled with an interesting aura. In order to continue the case where the trail had gone cold, he wanted to purchase information from the intelligence vendor who knew everything across the world, "the owner of Rotbart".
This was why he was acting in concert with the beautiful young woman he ran across in the Cafe Rotbart.
He originally wanted to borrow her strength, but now it looked like he was doing volunteer work. Even though he privately asked himself "How did it get to this?", he still hadn't arrived at a satisfactory answer. Earlier, he had believed that he was immune to her womanly charms, but upon repeated reflection, he was no longer so confident in himself.
"My apologies, Mr. Chiba, that was a private call."
"No, that's quite alright."
Toshikazu was wearing a high-class casual suit that matched Fujibayashi very well, though the fact that policemen still received a paltry pay from past to present was a headache for many people. However, from his perspective, he received an extra stipend from his family in addition to his policeman's wage, so his wallet was considerably more corpulent.
"So, what clues did your private informer give you?"
In order to avoid breaking the relaxed atmosphere, Toshikazu stepped lightly into the issue. In response, Fujibayashi's face lighted up with a delighted smile the same way she smiled at Tatsuya earlier.
Emphatic men were always welcome. Fujibayashi was highly irritated by slow-witted opponents, so she appeared to think highly of Toshikazu's quick wit.
"A poor mouse that was used by the fox, as well as the picture of the tail lent to the mouse."
"......So it's a recording of the collaborator and the hacking tool?"
At Inspector Chiba's somewhat bewildered guess, Fujibayashi smiled and said "Correct" as she nodded.
"Inspector, do you know the first step to hunting foxes?"
Afterward, she watched the man in the passenger's seat with serious eyes.
"I don't know...... Unfortunately, although I carry a gun...... I've never been a hunter."
Unable to keep up with the swift change in topic, the young inspector was unable to fluidly answer the question. The smile that masked his identity as an elite lieutenant fell away as he murmured with a solemn expression.
"Hunting foxes starts with finding the foxhole. Once the den has been destroyed, the hounds can be let loose to shoo the fox from the bushes."
"......So we should look for the den?"
"I'll leave the recording of the high school collaborator to you. Start by investigating this person's movements through the street cameras. If there was hardware that cannot be obtained normally, then it would mean that the student must have made contact somewhere."
Investigating the camera recordings without a warrant was unquestionably illegal. In addition, since the target was an adolescent, a search warrant wouldn't be granted easily. Still, Toshikazu had another question in mind.
"Compared to location, how long will we have to look? It would not be an exaggeration to say that there are nearly unlimited locations for one person to visit within a short one to two months. Trying to find a suspicious contact within this time frame is......"
"There are 32 locations within Tokyo proper. Among these locations, pick out the locations where the collaborator has visited in the past month."
Fujibayashi's answer nearly forced Toshikazu's mouth to drop open in shock.
"......Thirty two locations...... You've already narrowed it down so much."
"That's because the inspector isn't aware of data for other collaborators. While you're still thinking "Wow, now I'm going to be busy" and are at your wit's end, we got our hands on additional information."
"......Other collaborators? Why wasn't the police informed?"
"Naturally, that's because the other collaborator is a girl."
Toshikazu was struck speechless at this concise answer.
"I cannot leave a girl with her future ahead of her on the police's blacklist."
"......So it's OK if it's a boy?"
"That's their own responsibility."
Toshikazu had no words for Fujibayashi's declaration.
"I believe in a patriarchal ideology, so I believe that men are supposed to work harder than women. Thus, men must learn to discipline themselves and take responsibility for their own actions."
At Fujibayashi suddenly using these archaic principles to stuff the conversation, Toshikazu could only continue to stare at her for a long time.
It was already the second day when the wounded tiger returned to its lair after being wounded against the foxes. (Of course, they believed themselves to be the hunter.)
Seeing Lu's injury, surprise flooded Chen's face, but he didn't ask how the man suffered his injuries. He had already made his report on the mission. Before returning, Lu proposed another surprise attack, but Chen rejected that approach. Lu was supposed to be responsible for the failed assassination attempt on Hirakawa Chiaki, but Chen chose not to do so. The cause of the failure and especially Zhou's activities during this time weighed heavily on Chen's mind. They might fall into Zhou's snare if he prosecuted Lu's responsibility now. In addition......
"The situation has changed!"
Another emergency had occurred. In order to handle this situation, Lu's strength was imperative.
"Our allied collaborator, Sekimoto Isao's mission in First High has ended in failure. He has been arrested and is now being held in the Hachi?ji Special Detention Center."
Forget the hospital, there was no way to breach a special detention facility designed to hold (or protect) magical adolescents without serious firepower. Additionally, Sekimoto had personally made contact with Chen and company, so he naturally stood at a higher priority than Chiaki, who only met through Zhou.
"Set aside Hirakawa Chiaki's mission for now. Concentrate on eliminating Sekimoto first."
Although the mission difficulty had spiked several levels, Lu still blandly accepted his orders. It was impossible to tell from his expression that he had been injured.
While waiting for Miyuki to descend from the bus, Tatsuya found a pair of classmates sitting together in the back.
They must have felt his gaze. The man and woman sitting next to one another both formed an "Ah" with their mouths.
"Onii-sama, did you find something interesting?"
Gracefully descending from the bus, Miyuki asked when she noticed her brother's expression. Upon following the direction of her brother's gaze, she covered her mouth with one hand with an "Ah!".
Before the siblings' gaze and across the windows for two rows of seats, Erika and Leo stiffly smiled back in welcome.
Today, there were four companions going to school together from the station. Although it was rare that all eight of them were together, it was equally infrequent for four people to be together.
The reason for this was obvious.
"......Hey, why are you guys so early today."
Leo asked in displeasure.
However, although Leo appeared to be venting his ire, Tatsuya wasn't someone who walked on egg shells in fear of others.
"Since there's only one week left until the competition, there are all sorts of arrangements starting from the morning."
Right now, they were an hour earlier than usual.
"Leo too, why are you here so early?"
Tatsuya had a legitimate reason in next Sunday's Thesis Competition. Objectively speaking, it was more perplexing for Leo to show up at this time than Tatsuya.
"Erika seemed to have gotten up really early today too?"
Tatsuya wanted to continue asking Leo, who seemed to be at a loss for words, but Miyuki beat him to the punch and asked Erika instead.
"......I usually get up really early."
Erika's answer seemed a little guilty as she replied back to Miyuki's innocent, refreshing smile with her pace noticeably picking up towards school.
"Is that so? So that's why Saijou-kun got up so early today."
Still, hearing Miyuki murmuring to herself, Erika finally stopped in her tracks. There was no way she would be able to stand aside and let a comment like that pass by.
"Hold on, Miyuki! If you say it like that, doesn't that sound like I get up every morning to wake this guy up?"
"Yeah! Seriously, I should be the one who got up earlier!"
Yet, Erika's counterattack was horribly derailed by Leo.
Erika, Tatsuya, and Miyuki wordlessly glared at Leo. (To be precise, only Erika was glaring, the other two wore innocent expressions)
"......Eh? What's with this mood?"
Leo was the only one who could not comprehend the situation (that he caused).
"......Why isn't anyone saying anything?"
Although Erika's tone remained biting, her face was completely flushed and tears appeared in her eyes.
"Oh well...... The early bird gets the worm."
Tatsuya was no scoundrel, so there was no need to continue asking at this stage.
In truth, Tatsuya wasn't very capable at changing the conversation.
By his side, Miyuki's bewildered smile and Leo's confused tilt of the head were, on some level, a perfect comparison.
Tatsuya arrived at the classroom just before class to find Mizuki frantically trying to comfort the sulking Erika in the room.
The one who struck up a conversation was Mikihiko.
As usual, Leo sat with his back to him and a scowl on his face.
Mizuki must have stepped on a landmine, with Mikihiko pouring oil on the fire.
Tatsuya immediately grasped the situation.
"Erika, it's about time to let it go."
Tatsuya said as he brought up the soft drink can and lightly tapped Erika's face.
Erika jumped out of her seat in surprise.
"What are you doing?"
Tatsuya put the can of cola into the hands of Erika, who was 50% more aggressive than usual.
Erika said this in an odd tone like someone catching a hot potato while directing a confused look at Tatsuya.
"Drink something sweet to change the mood."
"......Hmph, don't think you can get back into my good graces with this."
Erika said this as she popped the cap, though her face had relaxed somewhat. Tatsuya's smile reached her eyes.
Upon seeing Tatsuya's expression, Erika was forced to ask. Still, though there was still some resentment, her overall tone had softened.
"You borrowed the Chiba Family's power to train Leo and teach him new magic, right? I didn't intend to tease you guys, so relax."
These words were originally intended to soothe Erika, but they brought an entirely unexpected result. Pure astonishment suffused Erika's face.
"......Is Tatsuya-kun really clairvoyant?"
"No, I am not clairvoyant. I speculated that was the case after gauging Leo's energy consumption and, in conjunction, the fluidity of his magic."
The magic that Tatsuya spoke of was something that combined psion fluidity and phenomenon rewriting in order to invoke magic.
Fluidity of psions impacted Magic Sequence construction speed, precision, and scale. Yet, just this alone was unable to affect the Eidos. All of these had to be combined with the power to rewrite phenomena in order to constitute magic.
"No, energy this and magic that, you said it so naturally...... No, at this point."
Magicians were adept at perceiving psions and judging interference strength. However, Erika was getting tired of being constantly surprised by the depth of Tatsuya's knowledge. —Speaking of getting tired, Erika definitely wasn't the only one.
"Now that you mention it, Tatsuya, how bad was it yesterday?"
Seeing the storm pass, Mikihiko spoke with a much more relaxed expression on his face.
"Yesterday? Ah...... The news spread quite quickly."
Tatsuya paused for a moment not because he was playing dumb.
Regardless of whether it was Hirakawa Chiaki or Sekimoto Isao, he had handled both incidents yesterday, so it was hard to use "how bad" to describe them.
Given that Fujibayashi said "one or two days", the hackers would be captured today or tomorrow. This was as good as a fact for Tatsuya.
The Electron Sorceress — "Electric Witch".
Fujibayashi Kyouko's two titles not only signified her talent in electronic interference magic as a Magician, but also her ability to see information gathering on the Net as child's play.
Compared to manipulating the phenomena of the world, she was more adept at altering information on the network.
Just as Tatsuya could read the information that was written into an item in the past, so too could Fujibayashi Kyouko retrieve and reconstruct information that had been copied over from magnetic and optic memory units. And, unlike Tatsuya, she had no time restriction. In place of that, she had a limit where she couldn't retrieve the data if it had been physically deleted, but in an age where computers had linked the entire globe, completely eradicating data that had been recorded was practically impossible.
In other words, for her, so long as any trace of the electronic signal remained, she would be able to find it no matter where it hid.
Fujibayashi was the one who taught Tatsuya how to work the network, but in this field he had no chance of catching her in this lifetime. In Tatsuya's estimation, there were only a handful of network specialists who could rival her ability.
"Ah, the perpetrator has already been arrested, so there's nothing to worry about."
Hence Tatsuya answered Mikihiko in this manner.
Still, Erika and Mikihiko were unable to relax because they remained in the dark regarding Fujibayashi's movements.
"Just because we caught the perpetrator red-handed doesn't mean we're in the clear."
"This doesn't sound like a solo act, maybe there's some sort of organization behind this......"
Mikihiko also had similar concerns.
"How about we go interrogate him?"
Then, Leo abandoned his role of quietly listening to everyone and interjected with his normal overly optimistic tone.
It wasn't that simple. Setting Chiaki aside, Sekimoto was in the special detention facility. Nonetheless, this time Leo's comment didn't invite the usual retorts and backlash.
"You're right...... We should seriously pursue the individual's responsibility."
Even Erika, the one who usually retorted the most, expressed her complete assent.
"Really? But Erika-chan, Sekimoto-senpai is currently at......"
"He's probably held at the special detention facility. We can't just simply walk in there and meet him."
Mizuki's hesitant words were quickly supplemented by Erika's own. Of course, she wasn't going to change her mind simply because Mizuki was against it.
"It's not that we're completely out of ideas. Barring further options, we could just sneak in."
Hearing this, Tatsuya finally couldn't hold back any longer.
"Even if we don't do that, we can see him so long as we have a permission slip from the school. Currently, Sekimoto-senpai is still a student at First High."
Accidents were unavoidable during the course of magic training. Every year, several magic high school students would withdraw from school owing to accidents in training that led to the complete loss of magic. In a similar vein, so long as the perpetrator did not commit a heinous crime, expulsion was not a punishment granted often. While the crime Sekimoto committed was malicious in nature, it still remained at the attempted phase. Thus, Sekimoto's punishment was dependent on how repentant he was. Parole officers keep members of society with unique skills in the special detention centers to evaluate their progress, but students are still able to visit them.
There was no way Erika was ignorant of this.
"That permission slip rests in the hands of the Public Moral Committee, I believe."
It was because Erika didn't want to use the legal methods that she proposed an alternate method that smacked of criminal activity.
"Regardless of how you put it, it's easier than trying to sneak into the detention facility."
However, Tatsuya frankly vetoed Erika's proposal.
Thus, after school in the Public Moral Committee HQ.
Kanon simply and clearly rejected the proposal to visit Sekimoto.
"......Can you give a reason?"
Since Kanon's reply was too concise, Tatsuya wasn't even sure where to begin.
"No is no."
Kanon stubbornly stuck with the word "No". Maybe this was her being emotional, but she appeared to be afraid that if they got into a debate she would be persuaded in the end.
"What I want to know is, why not? The permission slips for visiting the detention center are evaluated by the Chair of the Public Moral Committee or Student Council President, but the ultimate decision rests with the school. There's hardly any persuasive strength in just handing down a unilateral no."
Hearing Tatsuya's reply, Kanon furrowed her brows, a clear sign of her irritation. Her chilly attitude until this moment was blatant enough to cause people to wonder "if something had ticked her off" or some other ulterior reason. Yet, she couldn't just simply back down before Tatsuya, so Kanon's strategy seemed doomed from the onset.
"......Because this is going to be very troublesome."
Seeing no possible way to continue, Kanon reluctantly replied.
"Based on what...... First, what would be troublesome?"
Of course, this excuse wouldn't fly with Tatsuya. It was only natural that he would ask Kanon.
"Can you guarantee that nothing will happen with you guys just running around!?"
For some reason, Kanon's reply was a shrill question of its own.
"Seeing as you guys are all ignorant, allow me to put it bluntly! Shiba-kun, this sort of trouble always appears in your surroundings, yet you are either unaware or believe that you are blameless, but trouble still finds you on its own. With how busy we are right now, please stop creating trouble for everyone right now!"
Despite the stretch in logic, Kanon's words bore an indomitable force. —Also, Tatsuya was aware that Kanon's words weren't entirely wrong.
"Kanon, saying that about Tatsuya is going too far."
At this time, Mari, who had rarely popped into HQ due to her hectic schedule, arrived to break up the dispute.
"At any rate, Tatsuya-kun is still involved with the issue at hand. It stands to reason that he would want to understand the comings and goings."
"Well, OK, Kanon, it's not like I don't understand what you're driving at."
Do you really understand? Tatsuya thought. Nonetheless, since Mari was helping him out, he wasn't going to actually complain.
"Fortunately, Mayumi and I planned to visit Sekimoto tomorrow, so we can have him accompany us."
"Well...... If it's with Mari-senpai."
Looks like Kanon isn't someone that is overly stubborn as she reluctantly agreed with Mari's proposal.
"Is that OK, Tatsuya-kun? Coming along with your senpais, that is."
Truth be told, he wasn't satisfied completely, but seeing as this was Kanon more or less backing down, Tatsuya expressed his agreement in the end.
In a room with no windows, Chiaki sighed.
Honestly, she was quite bored.
Despite her status as an invalid, she wasn't injured. No, though she did suffer injury, it wasn't to the extent that warranted a stay in the hospital. Within the extent of her own feelings, she didn't feel that she was injured to the point that required bed rest.
She was stuck in this sickroom not because she was injured or ill, but for other reasons.
For her, this was like a luxurious prison.
Of course, she knew that her presence here was entirely her fault, hence she didn't complain about her loss of freedom. But this was simply too boring. Naturally, she wasn't demanding television, wireless terminals, models or other luxury items, even unconnected cheap e-books would do. Even if entertainment was out of the question, even physical activity would do. Anyway, she couldn't just sit here doing nothing.
Earlier, about two hours ago, the nurse who checked in on her said "visiting hours are canceled today". Supposedly, this was because someone attempted to break in yesterday. Likewise, it wasn't the fire alarm but the riot alarm linked to the police that rang out yesterday, so it must have happened.
Regardless, it wasn't like anyone was going to visit her — her older sister must hate her because of this — so canceling visiting hours didn't affect her much, so there was no need to worry. In reality, Chiaki surmised that the target of the "break-in" was herself because the door to this sickroom had been damaged. Obviously, she wasn't asleep during that time, so she knew this even if she didn't like it. In Chiaki's eyes, "those guys" were trying to silence her. However, there was nothing she could do about that and Chiaki had already given up. She was only their collaborator and not one of their companions. Since Chiaki understood this, the other side must think so too. It was perfectly understandable that they would silence her in order to prevent a leak.
In truth, her mood had already reached a "do as you will" phase. Right now, she wasn't even sure why she bore such intense enmity towards "that guy". Maybe rotting away in this empty, white sickroom was the best ending for her, Chiaki ridiculed herself.
At this time, someone knocked on the door. In spite of Chiaki's muddled state, she still had a grasp of her mental facilities. The afternoon check up was already over and she hadn't pressed the button for a nurse. There shouldn't be anyone coming to see her, and didn't the nurse say today's visiting hours were canceled?
The knocking continued despite her amazement, so Chiaki frantically — without thinking much — pressed the remote door control.
"How are you feeling? Miss Hirakawa?"
The one who came in was thoroughly unexpected — but she had a premonition, if someone was to come see her, it definitely would be this person.
Once, Chiaki was unable to keep watching her sister wallow away in pain and despair, thus forcing her to flee onto the streets one night. At that time, it was this person who comforted her with kind and gentle words. The person who told her that they shouldn't have suffered like this and reinforced her dark thoughts. The person who prodded her to vengeance, not through murder, but to right a wrong. The person who allowed her to vent those pent up feelings. The person who gave her the tools of her vengeance.
The savior who saved Chiaki's fragile heart stood before her with a bouquet of flowers in hand.
"Why...... did you come? Visiting hours are canceled today......"
Gifts were no longer necessary, as there were a mountain of things she needed to apologize for. Chiaki utterly loathed how she was bound by these tedious emotions. Especially after saying those words, she wished she could slap herself.
"I used a few tricks."
Saying this, Zhou winked in a childish fashion, but his action wasn't particularly irritating.
"Tricks...... As in magic?"
"No, no, it's a little different than magic."
Based on her own understanding, Chiaki interpreted trick to mean magic.
Yet, Zhou shook his head at Chiaki's question.
"Even without magic, humans are still able to pull off a few miracles. Well, calling it a miracle is a bit of a stretch."
Zhou smiled once more and Chiaki finally managed to recover her wits (according to her).
"Then, Mr. Zhou, I...... You helped me so much, but I couldn't do anything."
Before Chiaki could get started with her apology, Zhou dropped the bouquet before her.
For some reason, the bouquet was filled with a mesmerizing beauty that managed to capture her attention with its brilliant luster.
"All of that is unimportant."
Zhou's voice seemed to come from far away.
Chiaki stared blankly at the bouquet and lent her ears to Zhou's words.
"If you feel regret."
Chiaki's eyes were glazed.
"If you feel the burden is too heavy."
Her consciousness was entirely dominated by Zhou's voice.
"Then just forget about me."
Chiaki involuntarily spoke these words; she wasn't even aware what she was saying.
"Yes, just forget about me."
"Forget...... Is it OK to forget......?"
Under Zhou's guidance, Chiaki allowed herself to forget.
"Yes, all you have to do is forget."
"Understood...... I will forget......"
Chiaki gave herself the order to forget.