What started a little rocky ended up being a pleasant meal for all of them.
They brought their empty trays back to the kitchen, and that’s when Ren realized Emma was supposed to clean them up for every student every day.
He headed towards the sink and decided to wash his tray himself.
“Hey,” he addressed the rest of them without turning back to look at them, scrubbing it as clean as possible. “Don’t forget to clean up before you leave.”
“We’re not supposed to clean up after ourselves on this trip, are we?”
Julius asked genuinely.
That was part of the trip’s appeal, after all.
Rika wasn’t planning on cleaning up, either, but she immediately understood why Ren was doing it.
She took one quick glance at Emma, who was also cleaning her tray obediently, and sighed.
“...Yeah, you’re right. No harm in helping our little janitor a little bit.”
Julius directed his gaze at Emma, and it finally clicked.
“You’re the designated janitor, Miss Lovecraft?”
“Don’t sound too happy about it,” Ren grimaced.
“Why not?” Emma looked at him with her big eyes - her hands clumsily working the sponge over the tray.
“Because… it’s wrong.”
Ren sighed, rinsing the tray.
“The designated janitor thing. It’s a cruel tradition.”
“I don’t mind it.”
“If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here, right!? So, I like it!”
Ren was used to her glass-half-full view of life, so he knew better than to keep arguing with her.
He sighed, closing the faucet.
Rika snickered as she set her tray on the drying rack.
“Forget it, Ren. You can’t win against her.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.”
A few steps behind them Julius simply observed.
He was surprised to see even Adam had joined in to wash the dishes, but unlike the rest of them, peer pressure did little to convince him to follow suit.
Rika dried her hands and looked at him, shaking her head.
“What, Miss Dumas? What is that look of disapproval for?”
“Is that so? So you’re not judging me for adhering to the rules of the camp, then?”
“Hmph. I’m truly sorry you disapprove of my ethics, but the rules are set as such for a reason.”
“I said I wasn’t judging you.”
“And yet you very clearly are.”
Emma and Adam’s attention was drawn to their argument curiously, so Ren awkwardly placed his hands on their backs, slowly walking them away from Julius and Rika and towards the door.
The moment they stepped out, Rika crossed her arms, glaring at Julius.
“Why does it matter to you, man? You don’t listen to anyone, right? Or at least, you only listen to authority, even if they’re wrong.”
Julius shook his head.
“I’m sorry you have a problem with that, but is that not how society works? Rules are there to be upheld, not broken. If I broke this simple rule to help Miss Lovecraft, who’s to say I wouldn’t break more rules in the future?”
Rika rolled her eyes, tossing the kitchen towel over the counter, annoyed.
“...Man, shut up.”
Julius took a step towards her, not letting the matter slide.
“Why, Miss Dumas? Ever since we met, you’ve done nothing but antagonize me and every decision I take. It’s not lost on me that you all dislike me, but—”
Rika suddenly whipped her head to look at him.
“And this is precisely why, dude.”
Julius blinked in surprise while Rika huffed a sigh.
With her hands on her hips, she decided it was finally time someone called Julius out on everything.
“Your reason to play the game is simply because Cupid told you to. He’s in charge, so you feel like you gotta listen to him, dontcha? You said you’d play because you don’t want someone to win the targets over first and get spirited away, but there’s no way that’s true.”
Julius said nothing.
Rika kept going.
“I’m sure you think we’re all losers who couldn’t seduce our way out of a paper bag, yeah? So there’s no way you’re afraid of losing to us at all.”
“What? Suddenly you have nothing to say?”
Julius didn’t answer right away.
It almost looked like he was swallowing Rika’s words and taking them to heart.
For a brief moment, Rika even felt a pang of guilt.
Maybe she had been a little too harsh - she knows she can be, sometimes.
Julius opened his mouth and finally answered - his tone calm, but firm.
“...Even if everything you said were true, what about it?”
Obviously, his words were carefully calculated in his mind before speaking, so as to not let his emotions show - as usual.
Rika noticed, of course, and scoffed.
“...Nothing, I guess.”
“Then why bring it up at all?”
“I was just telling you why everybody hates you.”
“...What a rude answer.”
She readied her bag on her arm again, ready to leave.
“But it’s true. You know it, I know it.”
Julius frowned, crossing his arms.
“And what about you, then?”
“Hm?” She looked at him while she pulled at the tips of her messy hair that got trapped under her bag strap.
“Don’t think I forgot what Cupid said about you back in Heaven. That you’re lazy, and disliked by everyone.”
“Ah, right. I am lazy. So what?” She shrugged. “The second part isn’t true, though. He was just mad at me for having a big mouth. I have plenty of friends… unlike you.”
“For your information, I happen to also have plenty of friends.”
“Yeah? How come I’ve never met them?”
“Are you really asking me that?” He gestured with his hand. “It’s because we’re in a campsite far away from our hometown. None of them came along.”
Rika smirked, leaning towards him and extending her hand playfully.
“Yeah? Let me see your contact list, then.”
“The teachers took our phones. You know this.”
“Hmm. How convenient.”
“Oh, spare me your jokes,” Julius scoffed.
She pulled her hand back and adjusted her hoodie, walking towards the entrance.
Julius joined her.
As they were approaching the door, Rika looked at him.
“The truth is, I dunno if the rest of them hate you or not - we all just met, so maybe it’s just a matter of giving their dark feelings time to fester, but… as surprising as this might sound, I don’t hate you at all, Julius.”
Julius’ eyes opened wide.
“That— is surprising.”
“I kinda like that you’re a dick.”
“...I have mixed feelings about that.”
She reached for the door to open it, and right as she did, Julius spoke from a few steps behind her.
“If you were to hate me, Miss Dumas—”
Rika stopped pushing at the door - her palm flat against the wood, turning to look at him with a wry smile.
“Call me Rika already. This Miss Dumas thing is annoying.”
Julius was taken aback.
He never called anyone by their first name, but refusing to do so now would be counterproductive - especially against a girl that likes teasing him over every little thing.
Weighing his options, he conceded.
“Very well, then…Rika.”
It was his response which took Rika by surprise this time.
The playful smile she directed at Julius as she pushed the door open was genuine. She liked to win, after all.
“Good boy. Carry on.”
Julius walked right behind her.
“If you were to hate me, I wouldn’t fault you at all.”
She turned to look at him once outside.
“Yeah? Why not?”
“We are enemies, after all. Or at the very least, love rivals, in a sense.”
“...So? That doesn’t mean I gotta hate you, bro. Besides… Agatha all but rejected me already. She’s clearly not even interested in a friendship with me. She’s all about nerding it out with Emma.”
“...I see. Does that mean you’re switching targets already?”
“Haven’t thought about it yet,” she shrugged. “Adam seems… pretty gloomy. He might be wearing the school uniform, but I can sense an emo goth when I see one, even when they dress as a civilian.”
Julius didn’t know what an emo goth was, but he knew this meant Cupid’s rules were harder to follow than expected.
She tilted her head to look at him.
“What about you? Adam straight up told you he doesn’t like you at all, bro.”
“That’s fine,” he smiled. “I didn’t expect it to be easy, anyway. This is but a bump in the road.”
“Geez, you’re the persistent type, huh. Just so you know, that’s a major turn-off for girls.”
“Then perhaps it’s a good thing my target is not a girl.”
Julius said this with a cheeky grin.
It was the first time Rika saw him being playful.
She couldn’t help but laugh along and pat his back harshly.
“Haha. Can’t wait until you piss him off enough to get thrown down a window, too!”
Julius steadied his feet on the ground to not give in to her strong back-pats.
“...Must you twist every conversation into some form of teasing?”
She looked at him, grinning, and used her most Julius-like voice.
“Indeed. I must.”
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