The punishment/prize camp for the top students and the rowdiest delinquents had been a tradition at Arrowheart High since its foundation - one faculty and students alike abhorred, yet never did anything to abolish.
Most delinquents who came to the campsite as punishment knew each other - some on good terms, some not so much, so the teachers always had a hard time separating them to avoid any fights.
The top students weren’t any easier to handle, either. Nerds harbored in their little geek hearts copious amounts of competitive rage and disliked each other out of envy and pettiness, and their ugly feelings, usually bottled deep inside, tended to burst during this three-day trip.
These were the reasons finding someone to room with usually took at least an hour, so the girls weren’t in a hurry to find whom they were looking for.
They were scouting the area with their eyes, staying together to show they were a group to the other girls looking for roommates.
Girls were seen talking to each other, usually one on one, so Airi, Rika, and Emma had to walk around and look at every pair they ran into carefully, from a distance.
Rika leaned in Airi’s direction.
“Do you see her anywhere?”
“Well… we don’t know what she looks like.”
“I mean, she’s a nerd. We kind of already know what she looks like.”
Airi looked at Rika as if she had no idea what she was talking about. But she knew. She knew exactly what Rika meant.
She decided to not respond, and instead focused on two pairs of girls ahead that were talking to each other.
“There’s a group of four girls over there… they must be deciding who to room with.”
Rika looked in that direction. She rested her elbow on Airi’s shoulder, making fake binoculars with her fingers to look at the group.
“Let’s see what we got here… Okay. So that tall one is a delinquent, and the two short ones are holding each other terrified of the tall one, so they must be top scorers.”
Emma and Airi looked at Rika, surprised.
“Oh, my. How do you know all that? Do you know them?”
Rika simply shrugged.
“Nah, I’ve just always been good at reading people. You could say it’s my superpower.”
“Wow, Rika! You’re a superhero!?”
Emma looked at Rika with big, bright eyes. Rika laughed.
“Hehe. Hell yeah, I am.”
Airi gently moved Rika’s elbow away from her shoulder.
“What about the fourth one?”
“Ah, right. Let’s see… she’s short, with glasses and long braids…”
“She seems a little shy…”
“Yeah, she’s not standing too close to any of the other girls, so she probably doesn’t know them.”
“Dumas, do you think maybe she’s…?”
“...Agatha Fitzgerald? Very likely.”
Emma gasped, looking at the girl with braids they were both staring at, whispering her name under her breath.
It was hard to see her properly under only the moonlight and a few lightbulbs from the entrance of the cabins, but Airi could still tell how uncomfortable this girl looked among the others.
“Look at her, poor thing. She’s holding the straps of her backpack so awkwardly, trying to join in. I bet she needs someone to room with.”
“She looks skittish as hell. This should be a piece of cake.”
“Hm? Why do you say that?”
“Because, look at her. She’s probably the type that always gets picked last when the teacher asks the class to pair up.”
“There’s people like that?”
Rika gave Airi the dirtiest look she could muster, with a sneer.
“...Wow. Girls must hate you so much, huh.”
“Anyway, we need to find the right way to approach a girl like her. She’ll most likely say yes, but she’s gonna try to keep to herself once inside unless we show her we’re friendly. We absolutely can’t come off too strong.”
Airi couldn’t relate to this girl from Rika’s words alone, but she still agreed.
“Do you have something in mind?”
Rika rubbed the back of her neck with a groan.
“Man, I don’t like being treated like a leader, y’know?” She sighed. “Well… I guess I do have a few ideas. Lemme explain them first, and then—”
Thump thump thump thump!
They both looked over to the figure that rushed past them— a certain redhead running straight at the group of four girls standing in the distance at full speed, waving her hands maniacally.
“AGATHAAAAAAAAAAAAA! OVER HEEEEEERE!!!”
“Noo! That idiot! She’s gonna scare her away!”
Before they could reach her, Emma had tackled the girl with braids to the ground, straddling her like an excited dog returning a tennis ball.
The girl looked absolutely terrified, but her fear seemed completely lost on Emma, who was beaming with excitement.
“Are you Agatha!?”
“I’m Emma Lovecraft! Do you like 2.5D actors!?”
A few seconds later, Airi and Rika reached them. The other three girls that were with her had gotten out of the way and wanted nothing to do with whatever was going on.
“Hey! Sorry about our friend, dude! You okay?”
“Do you need help?”
Rika stepped in to peel Emma away from Agatha, picking her up from under her arms like a child and tugging her away.
Agatha felt like she could finally breathe, adjusting her askew glasses back to normal on her face, her voice breaking with nerves.
“W-Who are you…? How do you know me?”
“Cupid told us about y—mmph!”
Rika covered Emma’s mouth with her hand, looking at Airi with a shrug.
“Seemed to work when Dahl did it.”
Airi was surprised, but shook it off before turning to Agatha, offering her hand to stand up.
“Good evening. I’m Airi Carroll, and this is Rika Dumas. I believe you already met our friend, Emma Lovecraft. We were wondering if you’d like to room with us, if that’s okay?”
Emma took a big breath the moment Rika pulled her hand away from her mouth.
“Don’t mind Emma, she gets a little excited sometimes. Think of her as a puppy. She’s harmless, but she’ll jump at you. Literally, apparently.”
Agatha took Airi’s hand, pulling herself back to her feet and dusting her uniform off.
“I… I see…”
She adjusted her glasses once more, clutching her chest with one hand, trying to get her heart rate to go back down to normal.
“Are you sure you want to room with me? If you’re all friends, I wouldn’t want to impose…”
Rika blinked at her response.
“Huh. I did call us friends earlier, didn’t I…”
“Actually,” Airi interrupted, “the three of us just met on the ride here, so you wouldn’t be imposing on anything. If you’re comfortable with our company, we’d love for you to join us.”
To their surprise, Agatha actually smiled brightly.
She looked almost relieved, playing with the end of one of her braids nervously as she spoke.
“I-If it’s really okay with you, I was struggling to find roommates for our stay…”
Her words immediately made Emma reach for her hands and hold them tightly in her own.
“So you’ll do it!? You’ll share a cabin with us!?”
“Y-Yes, I’d love to!”
Rika and Airi looked at each other with a smile.
“Yay! Let’s rush over to get a good one!”
Emma let go of one of her hands, only to use her grip on the other one to tug her along in the direction of the cabins.
Rika placed her hands on her waist, shaking her head with pride.
“Look at that. She’s stealing my target right from under my feet.”
“Fufu. She’s so lively.”
"We have a looong night ahead of us," Rika sighed.
It was almost an hour past midnight. She stretched and yawned, turning to look over to where the boys were standing.
“...I wonder how those losers are doing.”