When morning arrived, Emma couldn’t move.
She could feel something constricted around her body, and eventually she realized someone had tucked the sheets very tightly around her - as if trying to keep her from getting out of bed.
She could still move her head if she tried although her mouth was under the covers, effectively muffling her. When she slowly turned to look in the direction where Agatha had been sleeping by her side, she saw that she was gone.
She wriggled as best as she could, confused and desperate to get out.
A moment later she felt a hand gently tap her on the head.
It was Rika.
“Hey bro, what happened to you? Did you sleepwalk yourself into a cocoon?”
Hearing her voice calmed Emma down, who tried to speak in her usual cheerful tone, but only muffled sounds came out.
“Mmn, mfffh, mhmm!”
“Hold on, I can’t understand a thing you’re saying.”
Rika undid the covers keeping Emma in place, and Emma took a big gulp of air as soon as she was free.
“Rika! Good morning!”
“Heeeey. So… what happened?”
“I dunno! I just woke up like this!”
“Huh. I was sure you had gone out with Airi and Agatha like an hour ago.”
“They’re not here?”
“Nope, they left together earlier. I just assumed you’d go with them, to be honest. I like sleeping in, so I stayed back.”
“Oh… I didn’t even realize Agatha had left… Aww…”
Rika could visualize Emma’s puppy ears drooping with sadness as she spoke, and she couldn’t help but reach to pet her head.
“They said something about leaving to go explore the woods. Today we’re supposed to go foraging in pairs, so I think they just wanted to get a head start or something.”
Emma quickly sat up.
“We should go with them!”
“Uh… I dunno about that.”
“See, I let them go together because I thought you were going with them, too, bro. But I’m thinking something fishy’s going on here.”
“Fishy? I like fishies.”
Rika ignores her weird word connection and continues with a much more serious tone this time.
“I sort of think they planned to leave you behind, and made sure you couldn’t follow them.”
“Eh? Why would they do that?”
“...Honestly, I don’t think it was Agatha’s idea, so it must’ve been… Airi.”
“Airi trapped me in the bed?” Emma tilted her head.
“...It’s very likely.”
“But she’s my friend…”
“Bro… I don’t know how to say this to you in a nice way, but there’s no way in hell that girl’s your friend.”
Slowly, Rika sat on the bed next to Emma.
“Airi seems pretty nice, but you heard what Cupid said. She’s nothing but a cold-blooded snake.”
“Eeh…? I don’t remember Cupid saying that…”
“I think he said she ‘shows her true colors’ or something when she’s in love. That’s code for crazy. We all got it, though I guess I’m not surprised you didn’t.”
Emma’s imaginary puppy ears drooped down again.
“Airi’s been nice to us since we met her…”
Rika shook her head.
“Nooo, it’s all an act, bro. Think about it. No one is that nice without an ulterior motive. She was simply waiting for the right time to make her move. She’s a psycho!”
“I don’t think she is…”
“Well, whatever you think doesn’t change the fact that she’s trying to get ahead of all of us by befriending Agatha. She took her who knows where, and for all we know they’re already doing this and that.”
“This and that?”
“L-Like, holding hands!”
“Ah! I want to hold hands with Agatha and Airi, too!”
Rika sighed, loudly, exasperated.
“Man, you’re hard to talk to sometimes. Anyway, it’s my fault for letting them go.”
She stood up again, pulling the sheets away from Emma in one swift movement.
“C’mon, get dressed, let’s go find them quickly.”
“Oh? It’s morning already?”
Cupid yawned and stretched his arms., removing his eye mask carefully.
He had fallen asleep over his floating bed, which had since turned into an oversized canopy bed. The water from the floor was all gone, instead replaced by a field of beautiful small flowers of an assortment of shapes and colors.
The floating screen was still on, displaying an image of Rika and Emma putting their shoes on in a rush as they quickly made their way out of the cabin.
Cupid smirked at the scene.
“Looks like they finally noticed one of their love rivals is missing, huh. I wonder if it’s time for me to interfere? Or just sit back and observe?”
“Are you talking to yourself, Cupid?”
Jophiel suddenly appeared, standing beside Cupid’s bed.
“Leave me alone, Jophiel, please. I’m very busy right now.”
“Doing what, exactly?”
He extended his palm towards the screen.
“Tending to my children, can’t you see?”
Jophiel kept her eyes on Cupid regardless.
“It looks like you’re just sitting back to watch what happens. That hardly counts as ‘tending’.”
“Oh, what do you know?” He waved a dismissive hand at her. “All you do is report on Cupid duties to the higher-ups. If you’re here to punish me over something, you better tell me how, exactly, I’m breaking the rules.”
“...You revived six people at once instead of one.”
“Ah,” he waved his finger at her, “but that’s not a rule, is it? It’s a suggestion. We’re not supposed to be able to handle it as Cupids, yet here I am, the very image of raw perseverance and unquestionable talent.”
“Pride is a sin.”
“That outfit is a sin.”
Cupid stood up and floated towards the screen, waving his hand in front of it to change the image into Airi and Agatha carefully making their way through the woods.
He gestured towards Airi, zooming in on her.
“Look, see this one here? Her entire life she’s sabotaged her own relationships by coming on too strong, despite her good intentions. More than anything, she craves for someone that understands and accepts her despite all her flaws - the problem is, she herself closes her eyes to her own shortcomings, and never blames herself for the consequences.”
Jophiel looked at Airi for a moment before speaking.
“I don’t think that’s an uncommon problem among humans.”
Cupid never took her eyes off her on the screen, smiling fondly.
“Maybe so, but she’s my human. And I know she wants to open her eyes to her own truth.”
Slowly, he lifted his hand and waved it in a circular motion - an ethereal glow shining out of his fingertips.
“All she needs is a little… push.”