Rika and Emma finished getting dressed for their walk into the woods, putting on their boots, ready to leave their cabin.
Rika was reading the pamphlet the teacher distributed to the students the day before the trip.
“Okay, so they probably went towards the creek. That’s where this thing says most edible mushrooms are - if they really went foraging, that is.”
Emma looked up at Rika as she finished tying up her boot laces.
“I want to pick up mushrooms, too!”
Rika smiled at her.
“Good. Let’s do that. Though…”
“Aren’t you the designated janitor? Won’t the teachers put you to work on stuff early on?”
Emma jumped to her feet, tapping the tip of her boots on the mat at the entrance to make sure they were snug.
“It’s fine! It’s the first day, there’s probably no trash to pick up yet, and I can come back before the real foraging begins!”
“Hah. If you say so. You got everything, then?”
Rika opened the door for them.
“All right, let’s get goi—”
Before Rika could finish her sentence, Emma bolted out like a dog being taken to a park for the first time, with a battlecry to match.
“TOWARDS THE MUSHROOOOO—”
Rika barely managed to stop Emma by the straps of her backpack, and was almost tugged along with her.
“Not so fast! Geez! Don’t just run off on your own, bro. Are you trying to leave me behind?”
Emma, now stopped in her tracks, realized what she did, rubbing the back of her head and giving Rika a sheepish smile.
“Hehe. I just got a little excited…”
“That’s an understatement.”
Suddenly, Emma pointed in the direction of a different cabin, where two boys were exiting through the door just as early as them.
Rika turned to where Emma was gesturing, and recognized one of the figures right away.
“...Oh, it’s Ren and someone else— they don’t look well rested at all, though.”
Emma waved at them effusively.
“Heeeey! Over here!”
Ren, who was more zombie than man at the time, was immediately revived by Emma’s voice.
Half thinking it was a dream, he turned his head to look in her direction.
Sure enough, there she was, brighter than the sun itself.
Ren and Adam, who was walking right behind him, stopped and waited for the girls who were heading their way.
Rika raised her hand to greet them.
“Yo. Couldn’t sleep? You have the biggest bags under your eyes, man.”
“...Something like that.”
Emma held onto the straps of her backpack and tilted her head to the side, trying to look at the boy a few steps behind Ren.
“Oh? There’s someone behind you.”
Ren turned back to look at Adam, who was as stoic as ever, and somewhat away from earshot.
“Ah… that’s… Adam. Adam Stoker.”
Rika raised an eyebrow, putting her hands on her hips.
“Oh… so that’s him.”
Ren looked at Rika, waiting, but grateful that she didn't elaborate further.
He turned his attention to Emma instead.
“We’re going to the main cabin where the kitchen is to get some food before everyone else wakes up.”
Because Adam doesn’t like people, and people don’t like Adam, Ren thought.
Rika rubbed her chin.
“You sure got pretty friendly right away, didn’t you? With Adam Stoker.”
She grinned, stepping forward to pat Ren’s shoulder.
“I’m just messin’ with ya. You said you weren’t playing and I believe you. For now.”
That last part was obviously tongue-in-cheek, but Ren still felt like rolling his eyes.
“And why are you two up so early?”
Emma bounced in place, stepping right in front of Ren with a smile.
“We’re going foraging!”
“A-Ah, right. That’s today’s activity, huh. Isn’t that at ten? That’s… two hours from now.”
“Yeah, well. This one wanted to come early to find Airi and Agatha - and so did I, actually. We’re also gonna get a head start and pluck out all the good mushrooms before everyone else wakes up, hehe.”
“Wait - Agatha Fitzgerald?”
“Yeup.” Rika nodded. “She’s staying with us, actually. Emma and her really hit it off. Like really really.”
A tiny pang of something unpleasant hit Ren for a second.
It was as brief and painful as removing a small piece of duct tape from your body as quickly as possible.
Emma’s face lit up the moment Agatha was brought up.
“Agatha’s great! She knows a lot of things, and she’s very nice! We’re friends!”
Rika smiled at seeing Emma so happy, then shrugged, looking back at Ren.
“What she said. Agatha likes being her friend too, in case you’re wondering.”
Ren doesn’t know what he’s feeling.
Normally, Emma making friends is a great thing, but with this specific person, under this specific situation…
Suddenly a quiet voice from behind him brings him back from his own thoughts.
It was Adam.
He’d been standing there, waiting for Ren to accompany him to the main cabin where the kitchen and the small canteen was.
Ren felt bad he’d been making him wait like that this long.
“Ah, right. Sorry, you can go on ahead, I’ll meet you there in a second.”
Adam nodded, and made his way to the cabin first.
Once he was far enough, Rika, opened her mouth again.
“...Sooo… you’re friends with a target too, huh.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Yeah? So you didn’t tell us you weren’t interested just so you could deceive us and pull a fast one on the rest of us?”
Ren knew she was joking from the big, teasing grin on her face, so he didn’t deem that with an answer.
Although, there was something he had to come clean about to both of them.
He took a deep breath.
“......I told him.”
“I told Stoker everything.”
Rika looked at him, confused.
“By everything, do you mean…?”
“Everything. About Cupid, and about all of us.”
She took a step back immediately, looking at him in utter disbelief.
“Huh!? What? …Why?”
Ren avoided her eyes.
“Cupid didn’t say we couldn’t tell them, and he has a right to know.”
“And he believed you?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I think so.”
“The hell… what kind of person believes a bonkers story like that.”
“All of us, for starters.”
Rika didn’t have a witty comeback for that. It’s true, they all believed Cupid, despite it all. Because how could anyone disagree with an angel, anyway?
Emma suddenly called to them with a sad voice.
She was holding her stomach in her hands as it growled loudly.
Ren blushed, feeling guilty he stalled both of them, too.
“You guys haven’t eaten yet either, huh. Do you wanna come with us?”
Emma’s face went back to its original brightness the moment she heard this.
“Yes! Let’s go eat! Let’s go eat!”
Rika laughed at her sudden mood change.
“You already forgot all about the mushrooms, huh.”
“We can bring our food to where the mushrooms are!”
Ren grimaced after hearing this.
He knew if left to her own devices, Emma would definitely eat on the ground in the forest.
“I think it’s better to eat in the general cabin...”
He thought Rika would agree as well, but instead she looked hesitant.
“Look, I’m not saying I’m not hungry, but… that Stoker guy’s gonna be there too, isn’t he.”
Ren looked at her defiantly.
“Dude… didn’t he, like… you know…”
Ren did know.
He knew exactly what Rika was talking about.
Third floor window.
That’s all everyone thought about when they heard the name Adam Stoker.
And it’s not like one night spent talking to the guy made them friends, but it also felt like no one ever was in Adam’ corner, and somehow that was even worse in Ren’s eyes.
“...He’s not a bad guy.”
“Yeah? And you say this after knowing him for how long, exactly?”
“If you don’t want to come, you don’t have to.”
“No, no. I’ll go,” Rika lifted her palms as a sign of peace. “Besides, he looks twiggy, anyway. If he tries something, I could take him.”
“He’s not gonna try anything.”
“You don’t know that.”
Emma’s stomach growled again, and her mood soured once more.
“I want to eat…”
Rika reached a hand to pet her head with endearment.
“Sorry, Fido. We’ll feed you right away.”
“You don’t have to play along…”
Ren muttered under his breath, then a cheerful Emma held on to his arm all of a sudden.
He was paralyzed instantly.
“Hehe. Let’s go, Ren!”
Let’s go, Ren!
Let’s go, Ren!
“......You know my name…”
He said in a whisper that nobody heard.
Emma meanwhile kept dragging him along towards the cabin to meet with Adam... and one other unexpected guest.
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