The girl that to both of the students inside of the classroom became increasingly shrouded in mystery was now standing before them, panting- as if she had heard their conversation and decided to put an end to it by arriving at the classroom as soon as possible. That wasn’t the case, however- and from Aria’s perspective, the situation was much more dire.
“Ise-... I mean, Kitagawa-san? What are you doing here?” Aria stated between pants, trying to be as polite sounding as possible. Even though from Chiyo’s perspective Aria’s awkward way of asking that question didn’t seem suspicious, to Isei it made all the sense in the world that Aria would attempt to hide the rude way in which she addresses him whenever no one else was around. After all, Aria was Echo’s honors student, par excellence - and it seemed to Isei like she had some sort of incentive to keep it that way.
Isei looked at Chiyo as if searching for a way out.
“Oh, you see Aria-chan, I invited him to eat lunch with me!” Chiyo stated with a naive sense of innocence that only the other two members of the room could sense.
Aria directed a cold gaze at Isei. Isei understood exactly what she was worried about, and tried his hardest to indicate with his worried expression that Chyio and him hadn’t talked about anything “classified”. Even though it seemed that Aria got the non-verbal memo, for a moment Isei thought to himself that getting that across would have been much easier if he was able to telepath her his thought process. Of course, Isei thought to himself, telepathing was only something that was possible for sending identification information and the like.
“You two look odd. Is everything okay?” Chiyo asked.
“Of course, of course; no issues here.” Aria replied, having regained her breath.
She quickly walked towards Chiyo’s direction and clasped her hands.
“Listen Chiyo… could I borrow Kitagawa-kun for a bit?” Aria asked solemnly.
Seeing Aria this serious about something that wasn’t class or athletics related caught Chiyo off guard. She couldn’t help but wonder what business Aria could have with Isei. Or was it much more… intimate? That idea took root inside Chiyo’s head like a flower that just sprouted. She looked at Isei with an approving gaze.
“Of course!” Chiyo stated, shooting Isei a thumbs up.
Whatever it was that Chiyo was thinking was probably off the mark, Isei thought to himself. Although… I suppose that there is a possibility that I’m on a lucky streak at the moment… yes, it could be the case. Two girls vying for my attention during lunch… hmm, yes, it doesn’t sound half bad, hehehe.
As Isei’s mind was going off the deep end, Aria’s contemptuous gaze brought him back to reality. It seemed that even though Isei wasn’t able to telepath his thoughts to her, she was still able to peer into his psyche whenever his mind veered into the obscene.
“Anyways… let’s go.” Aria stated, grabbing Isei by the collar and dragging him out of the classroom.
“Aria-chan, be careful!” Chiyo said with a panicky tone.…
“Careful miss honors student, if anyone were to see the way you treat a fellow third year, people might start thinking worse of you.”
“I see you are as disagreeable as ever.”
“That should be my line! So… what do you want?”
The two Echo high school students who before yesterday had virtually nothing in common besides the school they went to, were now standing in an empty school hallway.
“I need your help. The DIA, they’ve come for Chiyo!”
“Wait- the DIA?!”
It had been a while since Isei had heard that name. He recalled learning about the Deviation Investigation Agency during primary school, but since all potential violent crime in New Tokyo- which is already scarce- is usually dealt with in a manner that doesn’t cause any commotion, or need to call the DIA manually, the name was like a dusty cupboard that had been neglected by its owners.
“Yes, I was fortunate enough to have noticed them pass through the cafeteria. I became suspicious of their presence so I decided to follow them.”
You have a thing for following people huh? This girl's persecution complex is off the charts. Isei was wise enough to not utter the thoughts that were floating in his mind.
“I don’t know why… but I can’t help but think that it has something to do with what happened yesterday. What if they want to question her?”
At that, Isei thought that it would be best if he disclosed everything that had happened between him and Chiyo on the night where the cyborg decided to attack Aria and him.
“I see… that only confirms my suspicion.”
Aria’s expression turned tense as she continually tapped her right foot on the ground.
“Listen, Isei… you have to help me!” she stated with a desperate tone.
“Wait a minute. I have to help you? Really? Do I look like an indentured servant to you?”
“Isei… now’s not the time to act like th-”
“Act like what? After thinking hard enough I realized that I have no obligation to help you or to pursue this whole “New Tokyo is more than you think” rabbit hole. I don’t care. Plus it’s too much of a bother.”
Even though from the perspective of someone that was keen in negotiations like Aria was she was about to engage in step two , her basis for doing so wasn’t wholly accurate. Aria was used to having people deny doing something that she requested for the hope of getting a better deal. She always started off with the terms that were best for her, but not excessively so as to not blatantly disrespect her negotiation partner, and if her negotiation partner declined the terms, then and only then would she up the amount of benefit that her partner would get. It was a fine strategy that had served her well enough up to this point. However, she hadn’t realized that she wasn’t dealing with your typical partner. Isei was genuinely not interested in associating with Aria because he thought it was too much of a bother. He wasn’t looking to negotiate. He wasn’t looking for a better incentive. He just wanted to not be bothered further- or so he claimed.
Aria had to think quickly on her feet. Time was of the essence if she was to make it so that the DIA agents didn’t interrogate Chiyo- risking her whole venture, something that she has staked her life on, coming to an end in seemingly one of the most underwhelming of ways. What could motivate this unmotivated and irresponsible kid?
Through her frustrations- a troubling thought came to Aria’s mind. Maybe I should have just offed him when I had the chance.
Aria was no stranger to violence. When she had suspected that Isei was spying on her, she saw him as a threat that potentially was worth killing. Even after she found out that he was just a regular student, she pondered whether or not it would be safer to kill him in order to keep her secret under wraps. She soon realized that that line of thinking was too close to the sorts of despicable strategies that those that she hated the most- those that she was trying most to bring to justice- would employ. A part of her was disgusted with herself for even thinking such things.
And then, suddenly she thought back to the day the cyborg attacked. Isei had actually proved to be rather useful. Wait… that’s the key isn’t it?!
“Well, I’ll be going now. Best of luck.”
Isei turned around begrudgingly.
“I think I mischaracterized you before.”
“Honestly, before that day that we were attacked, I saw you as nothing more than some good-for-nothing loser.”
Such a straightforward insult was something that Isei found hard to swallow.
“But, I was wrong. Your actions during the attack proved that.”
She carefully noticed his expression. He didn’t seem particularly shocked based on what she was saying, but he also wasn’t retreating. She continued her attempt at getting him on her side.
“I know that I already sort of mentioned that yesterday… but I think there’s more to it.”
“Hm, what do you mean?”
“Everything you’ve told me. All the aberrations you’ve been seeing… don’t you think there’s a link between that and your actions that day?”
It was a shot in the dark. Perhaps there was no link. It might have just been a stretch, but this was the only thing that she could think of at the moment.
“I don’t see what you’re getting at…”
“I’m saying, Isei… I mean, Kitagawa-kun, that it wasn’t luck that made it so that you helped me that day. It wasn’t a coincidence either. I think there’s something special about you.”
“Hah, you are definitely mistaken. Nice attempt at cajoling me to get on your side, though. You should be a hostess.”
“And that’s why, I want you to join me. I need someone capable by my side.”
By your side? What the hell are you talking about? Just who are you, you damn crazy robotic chick!? You sound like you are recruiting someone to join your army. You couldn’t sound more insane right now.
Aria noticed that Isei was hesitating, so she decided to up the pressure by holding his sleeve and looking at him solemnly.
Erk… this isn’t good. I have a strong feeling that if I don’t do as she says she is only going to make my life more impossible. She has the means to do so… I should just go with what she says, at least for now.
“Really! You mean it!” Aria stated, her eyes genuinely glimmering.
“Yeah, but it’s not because you buttered me up, mind you. It’s just that I know you well enough to take it as a forgone conclusion that if I don’t do what you say you will end up hurting me.”
At that Aria burst out laughing .
“What the hell is so funny?” Isei barked.
“Haha, sure, haha, no I can totally see that.”
Isei grumbled at her unexpected reaction.
After Aria realized that time was ticking, she quickly regained her composure.
“I have a question, Aria, well um, Kanbaru?”
“Why are you even asking me for help, aren’t you two supposed to be friends? How about you tell her about your secret and then figure something out with her.”
“I can’t tell her…”
“I just can’t!”
“So you want me to tell her… or?”
“No dumbass, I don’t want her to find out at all. Ahh, should I take back everything I said earlier?”
“So then what do you want me to do?”
“I need you to let me borrow your place.”
“I don’t follow.”
“I am planning on talking to Chiyo and convincing her that she needs to go into hiding. Obviously she can’t hide inside the school because it is likely that they will find her and also she can’t hide at my place because… well it’s complicated. You’re the only one that I can trust with this matter, plus it seems to me that when you put your mind to something, you can actually be quite sharp.”
“Well aren’t you being so nice.”
“So, Kitagawa-kun. What do you think?”
“Well, since I decided that I was going to help you I suppose that there would be no reason for me to decline. But, I think there’s something that you overlooked.”
“And what might that be?”
“The DIA has the authority to access the database of New Tokyo citizen’s. That includes having access to their neuro-chip data if it is warranted. I presume that Chiyo has already been placed as an important part of a criminal investigation. That would give the DIA the authority to read her neuro-chip’s data in order to see where she is at, in real time.”
Aria’s eyes widened, and her mouth slightly quivered. She had no idea that the DIA had this sort of authority. It left a bad taste in her mouth, one of regret. She started tugging on her long blue hair.
“Hey, you think you are good at convincing Chiyo to do things, right?”
“Huh, yeah, that’s what my original plan was predicated on after all.”
“Well if you are really confident about your ability to do that, then I think I know something that might work.”…
“Oh, you don’t have the contacts that I gave you? That’s a shame…” a familiar voice sounded.
That same troublesome voice continued.
“But honestly Isei Kitagawa. You expect me to comply with your ruse?” the infamous school nurse, Shimao Komari asked as she was sitting on her rolling chair in her usual position - bare legs crossed, biting on the temple tip of her golden rimmed round glasses.
Isei could merely manage a nod. After a couple of minutes of awkward silence, Isei opened his mouth to speak
“Hmm, there’s no need for you to explain why you want me to do this. I will only do this under one condition. If I follow through with this, you owe me one!” Komari said joivally
Isei hesitated a bit, but as if being able to feel the steel-cold right arm of Aria holding him a bit too tightly, he managed to nod.
Aria and Chiyo were standing next to the kid that Shimao Komari now viewed in even more disbelief compared to before. Or perhaps it merely was confirming her suspicions? Chiyo’s expression grew increasingly worried, while Aria was still hoping that this candidate solution would work, as it was now the only card that she had up her sleeve.
Komari cracked a mischievous smile and turned on her rolling chair 180 degrees.
“Honestly, this is why you are my favorite student, mmm, yes. I think I like you a little too much…” she stated in a tone that was way too suggestive for comfort.
Isei felt the allure of that statement to an extent that surprised even him, which led to Aria - ever the reader of lewd thoughts, to smack his back, trying to get him back in line like a general would a private.
Komari started tapping on her console.
“So the fact that you would bring two pretty girls here with you… it kind of makes me feel insecure. A little ticked off, even.”
“Oh my God, could you be any more weird!? Just tell me whether or not you can help me! This is borderline pedophilia”
“My oh my, do you still view yourself as a child? You are 18 after all, I checked your student profile.”
Komari’s words were now making everyone in the room uncomfortable, not just Isei.
“Cold room, no need to take everything so seriously. What a bunch of children.”
“But didn’t you just say that he wasn’t a child?” Aria chimed in.
After 10 minutes of Shimao Komari preparing the solution that Isei and Aria were hoping would yield fruit, the school speaker system sounded again.
“Chiyo Amagi, please report to the front office. The matter is urgent.”
“Oh, Aria I don’t know if I can stay here.” Chiyo said
“No, no, don’t worry about it. Look, as the vice president of student affairs I’ll up in a word for you that you had something pressing to do. Plus… I already checked and the matter doesn’t have anything to do with your family or anything like that that is important to you. I’ll take care of it, don’t worry.” Aria said as she was growing increasingly nervous for the unfortunate turn of events that this part of her venture had taken.
“Okay, it’s done!” Komari stated with a lyrical tone, as if having just prepared a pie that was fresh out of the oven.
Shimao Komari was now looming over Chiyo, needle in hand, as if Chiyo was some sort of lab experiment that she was about to tinker with.
“Um, Aria, what is going on?” Chiyo asked in a tone that was surprisingly calm.
Aria leaned over in her direction and whispered in her ear.
Chiyo took a deep breath.
“Okay Aria-chan. Only because I trust you.” she stated.
Isei was shocked to the core that Aria was able to somehow convince Chiyo to go through with this. Just how high was Aria’s speech skill? Was she the type of broken build who could convince an NPC to sell his wares for extremely low prices and buy her wares for prices way higher than the market price?Was this a byproduct of Aria’s eloquence, or… was this Chiyo’s acquiescence? Isei didn’t know, and it bugged him more than he was expecting.
“Alright, let’s get this over with. I prefer treating young men that act like rascals such as Kitagawa over here.” Komari stated.
With keen precision and faster than the eye could, Shimao Komari injected Chiyo Amagi in the same place that Komari had injected Isei during his apotheosis of FPR.
A hologram appeared directly in front of my Chyio’s visual field- one akin to the one that appeared in front of Isei when he had to go through this process. In large blue letters a message read “Neuro-Chip deactivated ⇒ source: Cerebral Spinal Fluid Manipulation ⇒ danger_level: nil (modification of neuro chip within the bounds specified by system administrator: Echo High School)
“Aria, what is going on with…”
Chiyo’s voice trailed off as her whole body went limp, prompting Aria to react quickly and catch Chiyo before she fell to the floor. Chyio’s eyes were now shut as she had lost consciousness.
“You could have at least placed her on the hospital bed!” Isei remarked.
“Why? Like I said, I don't like dealing with patients other than rascals like you.”
“Anyways, those were quite impressive reflexes, Aria Kanbaru, was it? I’m also quite impressed at myself for getting the dose just right to make sure she doses off… that wasn’t a pun mind you.”
Ignoring her remark, Aria looked at Isei.
“Kitagawa-kun, could you ask her about the other thing?”
“Ah right, Komari-san, is it okay if Chiyo hides here? I don’t know, you can place her on one of the lockers that you have over there, maybe?” Isei said, pointing towards the corner.
“I like men who can take risks but what are you running here boy, some type of body hiding service? Is this girl public enemy number one? Well, not that that matters to me anyway. I’ll do it but only under one condition.”
“Sure… I owe you another one.”
“I love how you are always so quick on the uptake!”Shimao stated, patting Isei’s head as she looked over him, her height being roughly 5 centimeters greater than his.
As the three worked to hide Chiyo’s body, Aria couldn’t help but feel guilt. Isei was able to deduce this when he noticed her expression after they closed the locker that was now containing her best friend. How bizarre could things get?
Both Aria and Isei were about to step outside before Komari stopped them.
“Hey Kitagawa-kun, you want to hear something that’s interesting squared?”
“Rhetorical question, I’m going to tell you anyway.”
“All humans have two cognitive layer modes of thinking and two cognitive layer modes of thinking alone. All other cognitive layer impressions stem from these two modes of thinking. Do you know what they are?”
“Curiosity and fear. Sure, we have drives and emotions, but as a matter of the topmost cognitive layer, that is all there is to it. Those two motivations account for everything else that motivates us when we have enough base satiation. Which one do you think you are motivated by, my dear Isei?”
“What is this, some type of riddle? You fancy yourself a sphinx?”
“Hehehe, I really do love it… I really do love it…” Komari trailed off, tapping away at her console.
Curiosity and fear, huh? Isei thought to himself.
Aria and Isei soon stepped outside of the nurse’s office. The lunch bell rang.
“Honestly, Isei Kitagawa. Suggesting that we inject Chiyo with cerebral spinal fluid so that it can turn off her neuro-chip, and then hide her body inside the nurse’s office? Only you would think of something so risky.”
“That was the best thing I could think of.”
At that, Aria smiled at him.
“Well, maybe I am being too harsh. It was bold, Isei Kitagawa.”
“Isei, on a serious note, I really want you to join me.”
“Ahh, what do you mean “join you”? What exactly are you trying to do? What the hell is going on recently? If there is really a link to what has been going on to me and you, then you have to tell me. It’s the least you can do for what I’ve gone through for you. Explain everything.”
“Normally under such conditions I would ask that you join me before I disclose all the information you want, but since you have done so much for me, I’ll disclose it free of charge. You can ask whatever questions you want. I’ll even tell you things that I think are important to you, and to New Tokyo that you aren’t even aware enough to ask a question about. So… how about it?”
Isei didn’t have to think long about the offer.
Their negotiation was soon caught off by someone that they were both unfamiliar with.
“Hey you two, mind if I talk to you for a bit?” came the voice of Shinya.
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