Chapter 19:

The Villain At Rest

My Cute Kohai is Actually My Archnemesis?!

Reyna growled at Reiko and as she giggled incessantly. Pouting hard, Reyna flopped onto Reiko’s couch and turned her head away. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

Reiko’s giggle turned into full blown laughter. “Honestly, Reyna. You sound like a kid who didn’t get their cookie.”

“I came here to relax, Reiko,” said Reyna. She stretched out on the couch, grabbed one of its throw pillows and hugged it. “I just want to take my mind off of my new job for a bit, coworker and all. Can’t you give me that?”

Reyna watched as Reiko sat on the other end of the couch and shrugged. “It’s not my fault Hoshi called me. It seemed like he needed something. I’ll probably call him back later.”

Reyna had noticed it before, but Reiko called Hoshi by his name. Quirking an eyebrow, Reyna asked, “Okay, hold on. Why do you call Michiaki by his given name?”

“He and I are friends, aren’t we?” asked Reiko. “Of course I would call Hoshi by his name. It’s that simple.”

“I mean, that’s true…” Reyna shook her head. “But by that logic, I should be calling Michiaki by his first name too.”

The look on Reiko’s face grew sharkish. “So…why don’t you?”

Reyna blinked at Reiko. “Huh?”

“Why don’t you call Hoshi, Hoshi?” Reiko wiggled her eyebrows. “I know you think he’s cute—mmph!” Her voice was suddenly muffled by the sound of a pillow hitting her face. Reyna’s face had turned red and she tried to grab the pillow to throw it again. Sadly, her efforts were wasted when a grinning Reiko pulled it from her grasp. “Sorry, Reyna, but you lose here. I’m just teasing you, you know.”

Reyna groaned and shoved her face into the couch cushion. “I know! Ugh!” Reyna’s voice was muffled as she began to whine. It’s still frustrating though. And Michiaki is infuriating! He’s the worst teacher ever!”

While Reyna complained, Reiko had begun combing Reyna’s hair with her hand. The effect was visible, as Reyna quickly calmed down. She then turned and shifted so that her head was against Reiko’s side as she looked up at the ceiling. “I can’t stand him, Reiko.”

Reiko hummed. “I’m sensing a ‘but’ here.”

“But he gets things done.” Reyna nodded. “He knows what he’s doing. I learned more watching him than listening to him.”

“Yeah. Hoshi’s like that.” Reiko smiled. “I had another friend just like him, you know. She knew a lot. The smartest of us three, I would say. But she didn’t really know how to express that. Heck, I was there for most of it and even I can’t really explain it.” Reiko frowned at that. “Actually, that doesn’t really work. What was I trying to say, again?”

Reyna stared at Reiko for a moment as the latter puzzled her way through her thoughts and began to giggle. That giggle quickly turned into a good long laugh. “Thanks, Reiko,” said Reyna as she sat up. “That was helpful. I feel better, now.”

“Hrm?” Reiko looked at her with slight confusion. “Oh, you’re thanking me? What for?”

Smiling wryly at that, Reyna shook her head. “Nothing, Reiko. It’s nothing. I was just thinking as well about how I don’t hang out enough with you.”

Reiko’s eyes sparkled determinedly at Reyna’s statement. “You really don’t! As if we could actually call each other best friends with this attitude. You better hang out with me at least every other day, Reyna!”

“Okay, okay!” Reyna acquiesced to Reiko’s demand with a nod and hands raised. “I’ll find more time!”

“Good!” exclaimed Reiko. “This also means we get to talk about boys and stuff too, so be prepared!”

“Yeah, yeah, alright—Wait, no!”

The friendly bantering between them continued, and Reyna was all the more grateful for it. After the morning she had and the long day afterwards, Reyna needed everything she could get to take her mind off of it all. Her first thought after that conclusion was to drop by Reiko’s place, because she knew she could find refuge there, and she was right.

Disregarding all the teasing and the jokes at her expense (Reyna honestly didn’t expect anything less from Reiko), she was the only friend Reyna really trusted; Or, in other words, Reiko was the only real friend Reyna had. And she would never give it up for anything. Especially not when she had so little to her name in the first place.

The night wore on, and Reyna watched in fascination as Reiko prepared dinner for two. In liquid-like movement, Reiko wielded her knife with precision and agility that was unmatched. It almost looked like it didn’t even move at all before the ingredients Reiko used were sliced into pieces. When she brought the meal out, Reyna could only gawk at how fast it had all happened, and silently wondered if Reiko had Power for cooking.”

“If you’re wondering if I have some cooking power, you’re wrong,” said Reiko after a bite. “I’ve just had a lot of practice. It comes with using blades for a living!”

Could she read minds too?! Reyna thought incredulously.

Another bite, and Reiko giggled. “No, I can’t read your mind. It’s written all over your face, Reyna.”

Reyna puffed her reddening cheeks full with food and looked away. “Hmph.”

She heard Reiko snorting with laughter and couldn’t help but join her. “You’re really cute when you do that, you know,” Reiko said. “Don’t do that in front of Hoshi, eh? If you’re not careful, he’ll think you’re cute too!”

“He already says I’m cute,” grumbled Reyna. “Out loud. In public.” Reyna stabbed with her chopsticks and took an aggressive bite. “It’s humiliating!”

“I guess,” Reiko said, “But you have to admit: Hoshi doesn’t mind telling the truth. Honesty is his greatest virtue, and his greatest weakness.”

Reyna thought about that for a moment. It was true, of course. He said whatever came to mind almost without thought of the consequences doing so might have. But, if anything, Reyna appreciated it. For so long, the people around her always wore masks. Always approached her with something or other until their true colours were revealed. Having someone like Reiko as a friend was the first time she really knew what an honest person was, and Hoshi was the second.

Was Rina being honest too? Was she really just a victim in all this, just a piece in a larger puzzle? And did Reyna have any right to complain about honesty, when the person who sat across from Reiko was a mask herself? When, at times, Flare was more real than Reyna?

Reyna barely registered her finished plate being taken as she continued to think. She needed to be careful. She knew that one misstep could hurt her, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And if she didn’t do it right, she would misplace the trust Check had placed in her: The first person to see Flare as something more than a villain. Reyna frowned.

“I need help…” Reyna realized. “I need someone who I can trust…”

Reyna’s gaze turned to the humming Reiko putting dishes away, and stared at her. “But do I trust her…?”