After a momentary silence, Mayuzumi looked up at Seiji's face. "Thank you so much for protecting me, Haruta-kun," she said, bowing respectfully.
"If it wasn't for you, I… I really don't know what would have happened. I'll remember this debt I owe you for the rest of my life," the manga author told him in a serious voice.
"Please raise your head, Sensei," Seiji said softly. "I've received your gratitude. I actually didn't do all that much; Houjou-senpai, President Yoruhana, and Shika-chan were the ones who contributed the greatest."
"Of course everyone else is deserving of thanks as well, but the one I should thank most is still you." Mayuzumi lifted her head and something flashed in her eyes. "It's truly wonderful that I was able to get to know you, Haruta-kun. You're a truly cool boy." Her face was tinged with red as she expressed the words in her heart.
Upon receiving such honest and direct praise from the beautiful manga author, Seiji's face started to redden as well, and he awkwardly averted his gaze.
Meanwhile, on the other side of things…
"Mommy…" a weak voice muttered.
Of course, it was Reo Tachibana.
She didn't open her eyes. Instead, she was muttering to herself as if she were still in a dream.
Mai, who was still in the process of sealing Reo's powers, furrowed her brows upon hearing this. Shika, who was still standing beside Mai, unsheathed her Demon Blade Muramasa again.
"Mommy… it hurts… I'm so scared…" The little girl slowly raised her hands towards the sky, as if she wanted to grab something. At the same time, tears also started coming out of her eyes. "Mommy… please wake up…"
The black mist suddenly surged out explosively again!
The world before Shika and Mai was instantly wreathed in darkness, and they heard a clamor as if countless people were making noise. To them, it felt as if something enormous and fearsome had suddenly come into existence.
Both of them reflexively tried to escape. While doing so, they were attacked.
They could neither see nor hear anything. They could only instinctively counterattack in the direction that the attack came from, but after doing so, they were attacked even more aggressively than before.
They both instinctively attacked back as they escaped. However, this darkness seemed to have no end, or perhaps it should be said that they had lost their sense of direction and didn't know how to escape.
Seiji saw the black mist suddenly erupt in their area and hurriedly observed the situation with [Astral Vision] again.
He saw many ethereal figures popping in and out of the black mist, as well as… Shika and Mai fighting against each other!
One was wielding the Demon Blade while the other was attacking with both a handgun and a short sword as they fiercely clashed.
'What's going on!?' Seiji was astonished by the situation.
Those ethereal figures were… undead spirits! They were what possessed Shouhei Hirai.
Why did they suddenly appear!? Were Shika and Mai possessed by them!?
A painful groan suddenly sounded beside him.
When Seiji reflexively turned to look, he saw Mayuzumi clutching her head and kneeling on the ground. Light gray mist was seeping out from her body!
"No… this… don't…" she said, obviously in great discomfort. "STOP!!!!"
When Mayuzumi suddenly shouted, Seiji instantly felt as if something had exploded within his brain. His head rung with an enormous sound, and he saw a chaotic scene: countless colors, endless darkness, and an infinite amount of figures…
It seemed like a short yet also long time to him.
He made a strange sound as he exhaled forcefully, and his vision recovered to normal. His head ached, and he felt rather dizzy. His body felt rather light.
He saw that Mayuzumi had collapsed on the ground.
When he looked over to the others, he saw that the black mist and undead spirits had all disappeared. Shika and Mai had also collapsed on the ground.
"Shika-chan! Senpai!!" Seiji shouted loudly.
Then, he saw that both of them started moving.
Shika Kagura grasped her Demon Blade tightly to support her body and barely managed to stand up again.
Mai clutched her head as she stood up rather shakily. Both of them seemed like they didn't know what had just happened, but they had now regained their senses.
Seiji heaved a sigh of relief before inspecting Mayuzumi's condition.
Her forehead was burning up… she had a fever!
'Why is she like this? Just what exactly happened!?' Seiji recalled the earlier situation. 'The black mist came from Reo, but Sensei… stopped her?'
He was unsure.
Seiji picked Mayuzumi up and carried her in his arms as he walked towards Shika and Mai.
"Are you two alright?" Seiji asked.
Shika and Mai both indicated that they were lightly injured, but it wasn't anything serious. Seiji told them about what he had just witnessed—that the two of them had been fighting each other.
Both girls were astonished to hear this.
"I… was under the impression that I was fighting against demons," Mai said in a shocked voice.
"Same here," Shika agreed.
A brief period of silence fell between them.
Mai sighed. "It managed to confuse both of us… her power is rather frightening."
Shika nodded with a grim expression on her face.
Seiji also sighed. "Luckily, you're all okay."
He then explained what happened afterwards.
"I think that Sensei might have stopped something worse from happening, but I'm not sure just what happened… we'll have to ask the president to come and check the situation."
Mai nodded in agreement and glanced over at Reo, who was still lying collapsed on the ground.
Whatever explosive power that Reo Tachibana had used just now… was out of the scope of Mai's powers; she couldn't control it.
Mai took out her cell phone and called Natsuya.
When the student council president heard the maid's summary of the situation, she said that she would come over immediately.
After conducting a detailed inspection and observation of both Reo and Mayuzumi, Natsuya sighed and said, "They've been connected together.
"It's a connection that can't be seen on the surface, as it's in the soul layers. It's just like what I did to Harano-kun and Kagura-san last time. Amami-san and Reo Tachibana are currently in a similar state. And based on Harano-kun's description of the event, the most likely scenario is that Amami-san made a connection with Tachibana and prevented her from losing control.
"So, what that means is that Amami-san's consciousness is probably within Reo Tachibana's soul. In order for Amami-san to wake up, we must have her consciousness return to her body, and in order to do that, we must first locate her consciousness within Tachibana's soul.
"And right now, Reo Tachibana's soul is currently filled with this mysterious power that's been activated. Casting spells in such a condition will be an unknown for me… but if we don't locate Amami-san's consciousness, judging by her current condition… she might not live to next morning."
A cold night breeze blew past everyone.
Seiji frowned upon hearing this. "This is all unknown… does this mean that you won't be able to guarantee even your own safety, President?"
"Indeed," Natsuya replied.
"Is there a method to keep yourself safe while casting a spell to venture within Reo Tachibana's soul?"
"There is," Natsuya replied.
"What is it?" Seiji asked.
Natsuya averted her gaze. "…I don't want to say it."
"It's actually the same method as last time, isn't it? Someone must act as the intermediary to enter the soul and conduct an investigation." Seiji's eyes flashed with light. "In such a scenario, President, you would only have to observe from the side and you could avoid any danger in time."
The president remained silent.
"You don't want to say it, because you don't want me to think of and request to use this method again." Seiji smiled. "Thanks for your concern, President. But I've already guessed it for myself now, and I want to use this method again. I request that you use this method to cast a spell to enable me to enter Reo Tachibana's soul and save Peach-sensei!"
"Stop being stupid!" Natsuya said sharply, looking back towards Seiji. "This time, the risk is on a completely different scale from before! It's the unknown!! Please listen and understand these words!!!"