Chapter 36:

Artistic Rendition

Cupid's BLAME!

 When they exited the cave, it was already sunset.

They had no idea how long the cave was or how long they were in there, but none of them felt like they spent more than a couple hours inside.

Agatha was waiting for them as soon as they walked out, looking more nervous than usual.

She immediately got excited when she saw them, waving at them with relief.

They all greeted her back and she quickly ran to Emma’s side to give her a big hug and tell her how worried she was.

Emma laughed with her and told her about the bat.

It was a touching moment for them all, until Ren realized that something—rather, someone, was missing.

“...Fitzgerald, where’s Stoker?”

“Oh… he went back a while ago.”

“On his own?”

“...Um… Yeah…”

She looked away from Ren.

Ren looked into the woods where they came from, worried.

Adam didn’t strike him as the survivalist type, and the woods were dangerous at night. It’s possible he might have gotten lost, too, then they’d have to start another rescue mission.

Thankfully, his face betrayed his dark thoughts, because Agatha smiled at him and gestured with her hands towards a tree with a small piece of red yarn tied on a branch.

“D-Don’t worry, I marked our way here. I just told him to follow the string. He should be okay.”

“Oh, my,” Airi blinked. “You’re so resourceful, Agatha.”

Agatha sheepishly twiddled her fingers at the compliment.

“Very clever of you, Miss Agatha Fitzgerald,” Julius nodded. “It’ll make our return back to camp much easier.”

“C’mon,” Yusei said, making his way towards the broken fence. “We gotta go back before dark or else we’ll really be in trouble.”

“Bold of a delinquent to say that,” Rika teased. “Though I guess you’re not wrong. Teach’s gonna be pissed we missed out on all the ‘fun’ activities.”

“Not to worry,” Julius smirked, “I am part of the student council. As long as I’m with you, we shouldn’t get in too much trouble.”

“We should still be careful about mentioning we went out of the designated area, though,” Airi said as she made her way behind them.

“I’ll race you!” Emma yelled before rushing over, immediately detained from the straps of her backpack by Rika.

“Oh, no, you won’t! Took us long enough to find you the first time. Stay, Fido.”

“Hehe. Okay!”

Emma obediently did as Rika said.

After a long way back, they reached the camping grounds again.

Apparently, the entire camp had been in chaos: friendly apple-bobbing competitions and three-legged races had become bloodbaths between the delinquents and the top students, and the few faculty members present were having a hard time keeping up with them.

In short, their absence was barely noticed.

They were all exhausted, and more than anything, they wanted to take a bath.

In a shoddy place like this, the only good thing was the hot springs, and while the rest of the students were playing the last of the ‘fun’ events, the seven of them decided to go dip in the water first.

Everyone headed over except Ren, who decided to look for Adam.

He wasn’t in the cabin, and Yusei and Julius just wanted to go, so Ren told them to go ahead.

Once they left for the hot springs, Ren had a weird thought.


He looked over at their shared bed.

Then he crouched down and lifted the covers to look underneath.

But Adam wasn’t there.

Ren sighed with relief.

It’s not like he was expecting to find him down there, but if he had, he wouldn’t have been surprised.

Adam was a strange guy, but not a bad person.

Ren had no idea where he could be beyond that.

It all came back to him not knowing enough about Adam to make an educated guess, and it was all because he didn’t listen to Adam.

He was too pressed about letting his situation with Cupid be known to even attempt to know him as a person.

I’m such a jerk.

He shut the door behind him as he came out, wondering if maybe he should go look for a teacher and ask them about him, but as he did, something compelled him to circle around and look behind the cabin.

Adam was there.

He was sitting over the grass, drawing on his sketchbook while the big horned beetle he got from Emma rested comfortably over his shoulder.

Ren didn’t like bugs of any kind, so he hesitated to get close at first.

Eventually he took a deep breath and told himself to suck it up, marching over.


He stepped close to him, lifting a hand to greet him.

Adam never looked away from his notebook or stopped his pencil.

Ren didn’t know how, since Adam never changed his expression, but something told him Adam was upset.

“Sorry the whole thing with Emma took longer than expected. I didn’t mean to make you wait that long…”


No response.

Ren rubbed the back of his neck.

“The cave was deeper than we thought, and it led to a pretty strange place.”


“There were some giant crystals, and glowing lights.”


“Somehow Emma tamed a bat, and she was dancing with it. Not sure how she did it.”




“Are you upset?”


Ren sighed.

He didn’t know what to say.

He didn’t know what made Adam tick, or why he was acting this way.

The part of Ren that always wanted to please people was anxious about getting the cold shoulder from someone he was on good terms with the last time they saw each other.

He didn’t want to force Adam to talk if he didn’t feel like it, so he started to turn on his heel to leave.


Adam suddenly said, and Ren stopped in his tracks to turn around and look at him.

Adam kept talking while sketching.

“Why do you still have feelings for Lovecraft?”


“.......You told me you weren’t allowed to like anyone other than me or Fitzgerald. So why do you still have feelings for her?”

Ren’s face heated slightly, and he awkwardly averted his eyes.

“...’Why’, huh. …I wish I knew the answer, too.”

Adam finally stopped his pencil to look at Ren.

“If you truly wanted to save her, wouldn’t it be easier to kill your feelings?”

“Um. Th-that’s…”

“I’ve been thinking about this since you told me,” Adam interrupted, “but if you stopped loving Emma Lovecraft, you’d be free to follow the rules.”

Ren relaxed his shoulders, shaking his head.

“Even if I didn’t have feelings for Emma, I wouldn’t want to take part in something so messed up under such arbitrary rules.”

“So you’re not doing this for her, but for yourself? To uphold your own ideals?”


“If it wasn’t for this game, would you have ever talked to me?”

“Hey, what are you—”

“Would you have ignored me like everyone else? Would the others?”

Ren lifted his palms to try and stop his myriad of questions, overwhelmed.

“O-Okay, I can see you’re heated, but… let me be as honest as possible.”

Stoker looked at him with what could only be called a frown on his almost completely inexpressive face.

Ren thought carefully about what to say.

He had told himself from the start that he wouldn’t lie to Adam.

Slowly, he lowered his hands.

“I… probably wouldn’t have tried to get too close to you, it’s true.”


“I don’t speak for the rest, but, judging by their personalities, I doubt any of them would have, either.”

Adam’s face didn’t change, but he looked away and back onto his sketchbook, adding a few more lines.

“...I see.”

He sounded disappointed.

Ren hesitated.

“...Except for Emma.”


That got Adam’s attention. He looked at him expecting Ren to elaborate.

Ren looked away into the distance.

“Emma’s kind to everyone. She would have talked to you no matter what. In fact, she would have wanted to be your friend from the start—especially after she found out you had a dragon for a pet. Mostly because she didn’t know they’re a type of lizard, but…”


The air around Adam felt less hostile.

“Stoker. I’m sorry,” Ren sighed. “I always try to do what’s best for everyone, but at the end of the day… I’m not a good guy. I’m human, after all.”

“...I understand.”

Ren felt like he somehow got through to Adam, even if he was as taciturn as always.

“I’m heading towards the hot springs now. Do you want to come along?”

“When I’m done,” he responded without taking the pencil off his sketchbook, drawing with a little more conviction this time.


Ren was about to leave, but right then he caught a glimpse of the sketch he was drawing.

Short hair.

Half-heart barrettes.

Big bright eyes and an equally bright smile.

Adam’s rendition of Emma was impeccable.

It made Ren’s heart sink to his stomach with a terrible, ominous feeling.